Weekly Words 11-17/05/2020

Last month, I came just short of winning Camp Nano at around 48k words, written over the span of that entire month, spread across various different projects. I thought that was a good effort – because it was. I’m still very happy with what I accomplished in April. It was a marathon effort for me, the likes of which I only really associate with intensive novel-writing crunch-time. It’s the kind of result I’d only expect of myself while really pushing myself, having every circumstance line up – motivation, time, energy, vision – to create the perfect environment to facilitate my writing process.

Then I decided to write crossover fanfiction and have written over 50k words in the last fortnight.

Writing: 28,348

That’s this week. More than last week.

Together, it’s 52,220 words.

In a fortnight.

Okay then.

So, for the past two years that I’ve stuck to my Weekly Words regimen, I’ve clocked in with an annual total of around 320-50k words. This means that, in the past two weeks, I’ve met roughly one-seventh of my estimated annual word-count.

By writing CROSSOVER FANFICTION.

I try not to give writing advice on this blog, preferring to let my experiences speak for themselves, and for you, my fine readers, to glean from them what you will. I’m going to break this rule today, because every now and then I learn something about writing that seems to work, and I want you all to benefit. Thus, here is my advice.

WRITE FANFICTION.

HOLY FUCKING SHIT WRITE FANFICTION.

Okayokayokay – let’s be rational now. This is awesome. This is unspeakably awesome. This is so much goddamn writing, I don’t know how I still have the internal reserves to produce this writing after doing all of that fucking writing. It’s been the kind of effortless labour that you fantasise about as a writer, where the words flow freely (sure there were a few hiccups but I’ll get to that later) and the energy you use doesn’t seem to get used up, instead just continuing to flow and fuel your efforts into infinity. It’s so ideal, I don’t have the words to adequately describe the reality of it. This has been a fortnight of virtually perfect writing.

Naturally, the first thing I want to know is: “how do I only do this forever now?”

And this is where a younger, more self-loathing Jason would fall apart. After reaching such high highs, how can I possibly ever settle for less, or make excuses for any effort that does not result in a similar outcome? Well, now that I’m a little older and wiser, the clear answer is “to stop from going insane”, and also “because productivity is not the sole measure of your worth as a human being”. That second one in particular is something I think us writers find really hard to get behind, because without numbers, how else can we measure our legitimacy as writers?

Well, here’s my thinking right now, where this project has, in fact, kind of stalled. Hindsight has kicked in, and after realising that I could have done things in such a way to set myself up for a much more interesting narrative situation to write from than the one I’ve ended up with – and the fact that this is fanfiction and, no matter how hard I work on it, there will never be any kind of value added to my amateurish pursuit of a career as an author – yeah, that’s given me a lot of self-doubt and frustration to work through. It wasn’t too good to be true, just too intense to be realistically sustainable. It was real. Hell, once I get my head straight it probably will continue to be real. But I have a working brain, and eventually I was going to start thinking outside the glorious, blissful box this process had put me inside. I was always going to trip up on this particular issue.

The thing is, though, that I already thought this stuff to start with, and it didn’t stop me. I don’t know how to keep it going, but I do know what got it going – so that’s what I’m going to outline here today.

Step 1: Get Primal

I’ve gotten really backed-up with all the things I want to say about my experiences of delving into Romancelandia. I have a lot to say, and I’ve been planning to try to say it all in an ever-lengthening hypothetical blog post. I realise now that I’m going to have to tackle each topic on its own, maybe start a new series of posts – maybe start a new blog altogether, or a podcast or something. I can’t summarise; it’s too much, too interesting, too involving. And honestly, I’m not sure if this blog is the place I want to recount my experiences.

However, one thing I will talk about here is one of the massive benefits that’s come from reading romance: learning how to suspend my judgement for the sake of engaging with a primal fantasy.

The entire romance genre seems to be predicated on chasing, expressing, and otherwise experimenting with primal fantasies. I really should have taken better notes, but the various romance novel-based podcasts that make up my current podcast diet discuss this concept in greater or lesser depth – they also refer to the “Id” in this context – and the Fated Mates podcast goes into particular detail about it in several episodes. I’ve taken their discussions and run with it to come up with my own concept of the “primal fantasy”, which is basically a fantasy, idea, or feeling that resonates on a base level – often one that is hard to “justify” with words or reason, though in theory it doesn’t have to be that at all. Basically, in terms of writing, it is the thing that inspires you in the moment, something that you crave to express, one way or another.

This won’t help you if you do what a lot of us writers do when we confront these primal desires, which is to start analysing it. These tend to be the kinds of desires that manifest in fantasies and thoughts that we will immediately deem “problematic”, or “basic”, or “toxic”; there’s overlap with “cliche” and “generic” and “predictable”, even “regressive” and “archaic”. And, it’s not like those labels aren’t deserved int he context of social reality. It’s good to be aware of these things and their consequences.

But for writing a zero draft, the trick is to know how to enjoy these primal fantasies, and know that enjoying the fantasy is not the same as endorsing or even desiring the reality. It seems like such a simple thing, and one that we’ve probably already worked out – yet it was precisely this moral conundrum that was tripping me up when I set out to write this fanfiction project. I knew, intellectually, that there was a difference between a fantasy scenario and a real one, and that finding some kind of primal appeal in the one did not equate to necessarily feeling the same appeal for the other. I had to learn how to not judge myself before I could even take advantage of the primal fantasy – and that’s where reading romance, and listening to people discuss their own reactions and thoughts about it, came into play.

If you need help identifying your primal fantasy, try this: think of something, some example in some media that you’ve engaged with that sticks out when you think of the word “basic”. Try these words, too: “cliche”, “derivative”, “exploitative”, “generic”, “problematic”, “regressive”, “trite”, “toxic” – you get the picture. Then, take those words and replace them with the word “primal”, and just see how it feels to do that. Do this as an exercise in suspending judgement of your fantasies, for the sake of accepting them for what they are at an emotional level. Follow that fantasy thread; give yourself permission to imagine yourself achieving success. If it resonates, congratulations! That’s a primal fantasy for you.

There are issues that I have with romance, and they’re all to do with the flipside of suspending judgement, which is that sometimes shit slips under the radar. I had this moment of realisation with the novel I’m reading right now, where a conversation between the heroine and hero that I would have instantly labeled as “gross” before I started learning how romance novels are best read for enjoyment, I instead reacted to with an only half-joking “aww yeah”. I realised that this had happened, and I’ll admit, it’s made it hard to get back into that book – though only because I wanted to expand upon this experience, and couldn’t put it into words, and it all just kind of snowballed and I ended up getting nothing done for a while.

But, again, you’ve got to trust yourself when you know the difference between fantasy and reality, instead of insisting that because you feel one way about the one, you therefore, consequently feel the same way about the other, and that makes you a bad person. Maybe this is a problem limited to arts majors, but I feel in this day and age where all creatives – and people, of a left-leaning-ish persuasion at least – are in a state of perpetual self-consciousness about how “woke” we’re being and what attitudes we’re “perpetuating” without realising it, it’s so very, tragically easy to get lazy with it and start judging yourself and others based on fuzzy criteria with little to no actual critical consideration behind it. And this, to me, is one of those situations. It’s a matter of moral accountability, and while accountability and self-reflection is most definitely healthy and important because putting bad shit out into the world is not good, it’s also important to be honest. And if you honestly do not mistake fantasy for reality, then you need to own it.

And if you can do that, then you can benefit from the primal fantasy. I managed it – quite a feat, but like I say, romance reading and podcast-listening really helped me out – and embraced the fact that, hey, you get a house in Blood and Wine, and you never really get to do anything with it; and also, like, Succubus Blues is a great book, there are things I would have changed about it but I really love Georgina as a character, I like the sexytimes, it’s romance, I’m about it – I am into both of these things.

I should put these things together.

That’s a primal fantasy to me: something that moves you. And the benefit of being able to not judge yourself for being thus moved is that you will be moved.

And if you can be moved, you can write about what moves you.

Step 2: Just Go With It

I’m not here to say that the 52k words I’ve written over the past fortnight are any good. I’m just here to say that I wrote them all over the past fortnight, and that’s more important than trying to measure their qualitative value.

The primal fantasy isn’t just a fantasy; it’s every feeling you have that moves you to express it. Now, importantly, and helpful for clarifying the boundary between fantasy and reality if you’re still feeling self-conscious: the expression we’re using is writing. Nothing more – and nothing less. These ideas will be written.

And what if they’re not ideas? What if there’s no vision; what if you can’t even find the words? What if it’s a nebulous feeling, vaguely, perhaps tangentially linked to some ideas or thoughts or whatever that may not actually have anything to do with it?

Just go with it.

I wanted to realise this fantasy of owning and maintaining a house in Blood and Wine, and while I was thinking about it in terms of the parties and balls and whatever that you could do with a house, to be honest, the main appeal was the feeling of those thoughts that drove me, not the specific thoughts themselves. And I think that’s the most primal of fantasies: the one that is hardest to put into words, but resonates so clearly on an emotional level. Same with Succubus Blues; that entire series just gives me a feeling, that feeling you get when a beloved series ends and you know, rationally, that it can’t be extended without ruining it, but you still crave more. I wrote 52k words based on two feelings with no rational way to gain closure for them – except writing, something, in the direction of those feelings.

That’s enough. We’re being primal here, guys; this is not where we need to start enforcing three-act structure or the MICE quotient. This is where we feel and write, and it doesn’t matter if the words aren’t perfect. This isn’t even really about what the words are, just that they get written.

If it was about the words themselves, then I’d have lost heart pretty early on. To be honest, it still trips me up, because as much as I’m going on about this great new philosophy of writing to solve every writing problem ever, old hangups die hard. And that’s fine; that’s normal. Nothing unexpected. But this is where, again, you suspend judgement, and just go with whatever comes to mind while engaging with that primal fantasy. This isn’t freewriting if you don’t want it to be; this is just what you feel moved to write, when you feel moved to write it, and the reasons themselves don’t matter. If you have a reason – even if that reason isn’t something you can or want to put into words – then that’s all the permission you need.

Step 3: Get A Writing Buddy

Because seriously even with all of this fantastic primal fantasy shit I mightn’t have written half this much if I wasn’t writing alongside B while she worked on her own novel.

We were both being driven by our respective primal fantasies, which was great, but the really big thing was that we were helping each other remember that it’s okay to embrace and express ourselves through them. I think that if it had just been me, I might well have chickened out after the first few days and fallen into a judgmental rut. But, because writing buddies are the best thing ever, I wrote 52k words in a fortnight. Did I mention that already? Because I wrote 52k words in a fortnight.

And I didn’t do it alone. B hit 60k words on her novel today, which is amazing and awesome – it is impossible to not only overstate, but even really describe how much of a help it is to have someone to share in the process with, someone else who is in the energy, to give you support and someone who you can support in turn. I think one of the really simple reasons the writing buddy system works is because it’s a reminder of why we tell stories – to connect with each other. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the stereotype of the tortured, isolated artist is bullshit. Lonely artists don’t create good art because they’re isolated and/or mentally ill; they create good art despite being isolated and/or mentally ill. It’s a damaging, toxic narrative (and I do mean toxic in this context, not “primal”) (though if that’s a primal fantasy for you then hey you’ve got something to work with) that needs to die a death so quick it’s like it never existed. Get ye a writing buddy! Or just write around other people, even if you don’t know or want to interact with them – or, I guess, just know that it’s a valid option. Nothing wrong with writing on your own if you want to, but I just want to put it out there that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Rant Over

I didn’t write my fanfic today. I’m not sure if I will pick it back up – at least for a while.

I was so … numb. Not bothered or upset, just kinda … meh. I also felt kind of like a failure when I tried to get this whole “primal fantasy” thing to work – because, quite simply, today I couldn’t find my primal fantasy. Then B suggested I might be tired, and some more “reflective” writing might be an idea. I gave it a go – and realised that I was scared of getting things wrong. Not any specific things, just an old and recurring fear that has yet to loose its hold over me.

So, in writing out my feelings, I wrote out what I wanted. It wasn’t a specific goal or task, or even a feeling.

It was to always win and never be wrong.

I don’t think there are enough uses of the word “basic” for that, throw in “self-absorbed” and “indulgent” for good measure – it all fits. But that was my primal fantasy; in this moment of fear and doubt, this was who I wished I could be. You have to be honest to find your primal fantasy, and that’s why suspending judgement is so important: it gets in the way. It cuts you off from acting on your primal fantasy. In many contexts, this is a good thing – like if it’s stopping you from acting on it in a way that affected other people, for instance. And it’s so, so hard to learn, to train yourself to recognise on a base level that not all situations are the same, and that it is okay and safe to discriminate between them.

In this situation, I was just identifying what I wanted, while ostensibly looking for something to move me.

And it did. So I took a trip down dead horse lane and picked up my old, sprawling high fantasy epic that teen Jason spent way too much time and emotional drama over. Way too much judgement. Specifically, judging the author-avatar self-insert main character of this story for being too good at everything without earning it.

But that is a primal-ass fucking fantasy right there, and while I’ve tried to key into this before, it hasn’t worked for me until today. I only wrote 890 words of a random scene I pulled out of a figurative hat – but damn did it feel good. And, more than that, it’s gotten me thinking about that project in a new light, and I’m starting to see that, actually, maybe adult Jason can make it work.

I don’t know if I’ve explained this whole “primal fantasy” concept very well, but I hope at least the gist of it comes across clearly. I hope it helps, or at least gets you thinking, if you’re in a bit of a creative rut, and especially if you’re warring with yourself on the grounds of not wanting to be “problematic”. It’s a valid thing to be concerned about, and I am specifically talking about what will help during a zero draft – after that, then it’s helpful to be critical, and stop using the word “primal” to replace those other words as a rule.

But, still, keep it around. It might just help you understand things in ways you might not otherwise be able to wrap your mind around. Use it as a tool, rather than a divine edict. Use it if it works. It’s definitely working for me.

And when it doesn’t? Then do something else.

Stay safe everyone.

Monthly Words October 2019

Monthly Totals

Writing: 18458

Manuscript Readthrough: 19 hours 44 minutes

PhD Research: 3 hours

Revision Notes/Planning/Brainstorming: 39 hours 40 minutes

Caring Too Much: maybe it’s time to move (even further) beyond DBZ memes

This “totals” format I have is super messy and I am definitely shifting focus next year. Progress and “place”, I think, is more important to me than just making a number really big. By “place” I mean a “where I’m at with project X” sort of thing, which I probably don’t need a whole categorisation system to record.

But do I want one? That’s the real question.

Writing this post after yesterday’s report on the pitfalls of having my brain for a brain, I have a sense of anticipation and dread, waiting for the floor to fall out from under my feet when I finally come fact to face with everything I’ve been doing this month – because I think I screwed up a good thing. I had momentum, I had a plan, I had a freaking vision for what I was going to do with myself, and then I had to go to stupid therapy and learn things that changed my perspective on my life and values for the better and it ruined everything.

Or did it?

I was hoping to get perspective with this post, and looking back over the past five weeks – yeah, I can see the problem.

There isn’t one.

This was a fucking great month! There were frustrations along the way, yes, and I must acknowledge them because it would be disingenuous not to do so and being disingenuous harms my soul; but seriously on the whole I did so many things this month, and they were all things that I cared about doing. They didn’t all work out the way I might have liked them to – but thankfully they also didn’t do any harm by virtue of not working out the way I might have liked them to; and hey, some of them did work out nicely.

Like going to see my old masters supervisor and hearing that 1) my PhD topic sounded “very interesting” and 2) he’s very interested in being my PhD supervisor based on it.

Like re-reading both Bad Guys and Wolf Gang, even my thought-to-be-hopeless revision notes on Mark and Jessie, and finding that, hey, there’s some really good, promising stuff here – and also, more importantly, finding which of these projects I do and don’t care about right now.

Like finally, finally completing my revision notes for the co-writing project, which I was in fact hoping to accomplish before the end of this year – and would you look at that, I fucking did. Go me.

And like learning this whole “means and ends” framework which has been equal parts useful and infuriating, just like everything I’ve gotten out of therapy so far; but each time I learn more and more about the “frustration” side of things and how it comes from me more than anything else, and through learning this I’m also learning how to make things less frustrating for myself.

Also, as I found yesterday – sometimes it’s kinda fun to be frustrated. Sometimes, mind you; but during those times I think it’s important to just acknowledge that, hey, it is one of those times, and everything’s okay.

The big problem of this month was tunnel-vision and stubbornness, and not being able to see my stubbornness because I had tunnel-vision. Bad Guys in particular has suffered from this over the past few days; in trying to focus on getting ready for Nano, I moved farther and farther away from what I learnt during the zero draft, about what worked, how I got through that zero draft, which threw plenty of its own obstacles at me – obstacles that, as it so happens, are pretty much the same ones I’m facing now.

And the most important one for me to remember right now is that, however much I can think of solutions to problems that I can see with the story … at this stage of the project, both the problems and the solutions are all in my mind. They’re not on the page. And if they’re not on the page, then there’s actually nothing I can do about them, because they’re not there to have anything done to them.

In a sense, the way to solve these problems is to cause them – but the more accurate way to put it is that I have to write, risk causing these problems, trust that I will be able to handle them if they come up …

And actually acknowledge that there is such a huge gulf between thinking of a story and holding it in my mind and actually writing it down that, for all I know, these problems won’t even come up at all.

Also, on the flipside, while I definitely got stuck in the prep/planning phase over the past three days due to a combination of taking my latest therapy lesson a little too far (again, it’s been fun, regardless of how frustrating it’s also been) and prioritising my speculation about what this story will be over what it currently is … I’ve kind of enjoyed getting so speculative, opening up new possibilities for where I could take it, how I could mash things together. I think I’ve actually come up with some new solutions to problems that do actually exist by doing so.

I think, while it hasn’t solved the specific problems I intended to try and solve, this process has actually helped me get a better handle on this project.

It’s helped me to realise what it is that I actually care about with Bad Guys. And how so much of that stuff has yet to be written.

I think it’s time to write it.

Monthly Words April 2019

Monthly Total

Writing (20332)

That’s mostly just on the blog entries for this month.

Looking back over the past four Weekly Words posts, I think April was the Lowest Point in my Hero’s Journey this year – so far at least. Or maybe just Crossing the Threshold, answering the Call to Adventure after Refusing it for a good long while. My writing year started slack this year and, up to this point, that trend has held.

On the one hand, that’s fine. I stand by my conclusion that writing, as in working on pre-draft writing projects, just isn’t where my energy is going to be best spent right now, and continuously trying to make myself do it out of obligation autopilot has led to this April being one of the less-fantastic mental health months I’ve had in a while.

Which is also fine, because considering how relatively fine this month was mental health-wise, shit’s looking up for me. I’ve come a long way if this April is something I’d consider bad. I mean I wouldn’t care to repeat it, but at the same time … yeah. It could have been a lot worse.

On the other hand, I did a lot of complaining last month, and I feel like I’ve done a lot of complaining this year in general. If it wasn’t that I wasn’t doing enough writing, it was that I hadn’t made the psychologist appointment; if it wasn’t that, it was not feeling motivated; if it wasn’t that, it was feeling ashamed of not being able to make myself write when I proved with Wolf Gang that I can write the most self-debasing garbage and have the time of my fucking life with it, never mind actually putting in any goddamn effort … if it wasn’t one thing, it was something else, and that feels like what my year has been so far. One third of 2019 taken up with being very negative about myself.

Which reminds me why Weekly Words is so important, and the fact that I feel this past month has been maybe the worst for me thus far this year has highlighted the importance of reflecting on what I’ve done with my time, and acknowledging it for what it is rather than what it feels like it’s been.

Because I’ve done some stuff this year, and this past month, even, that I’m proud of. I made a plan to organise my week to account for both getting shit done and making the most of my downtime; I made a plan for making the psychologist appointment; I started getting back into regular exercise; I completed a complete set of revision notes for Mark and Jessie, after starting, what, 8 months ago?

And by the way, today I actually did call the psychologist. It took me a good 20 minutes to psych myself into it, and when I eventually got around to it I had to leave a message, but fuck it, I made the call. The ball is rolling. After 2 fucking years of anxiety and existential crises, I fucking did something about it. The saga is over. Now for the sequel saga, hopefully with better writing and continuity than some others I’ve seen.

It just goes to show, not for the first time, that my mental and emotional state does not necessarily dictate what I’m able to manage. While it’s a lesson that I still don’t seem to have learnt yet, a process that I don’t quite trust, at the very least I can wrap up each month by looking back at the fruits of my labour and be forced to acknowledge that, yes, actually, I did get some shit done. I might feel like everything was a waste of time and I’m a worthless sack of shit, but that’s not what the evidence shows. Holy shit do I need that feedback, and I need it from myself. Anxiety and depression and low self-esteem puts me in a mindset of filtering out anybody else’s positive opinions of me and reinforcing every negative take on the state of my life that I come across, which mostly just comes from myself, so it has to be me that shines a light on that and exposes the lie. I wouldn’t believe it from anyone else, even if they were right.

Well, that’s not quite true anymore these days, which is also an improvement. I’m able to accept at least some measure of positive feedback from other people about myself. I don’t automatically go into that elitist self-hate mode where nobody’s opinion but mine is worth anything, where my opinion is that I lack any form of value whatsoever. Last year at Youthline did me a world of good, and even though I’ve fallen out of sync with most of the lessons I learnt and the skills I was getting into the habit of maintaining that made it that way, at the very least I’m still more resilient now than I was before Youthline. Something stuck, and while I wish it was more, it’s better than nothing.

This is a writing blog, right?

Well, writing-wise, if there’s a story that I want to tell because somebody should, I can’t think of it, so I’ll just work on my manuscripts for now I guess. I have a couple of ideas that I sort-of like, but they’re just premises. I find that if I have an idea that begins with a character and their motivation, or a scene where shit is actually happening that naturally leads to a “what happens next?” kind of curious energy, that’s when I’ll end up with something I can work with. I have nothing like that right now. And I think that’s okay. That whole concept of finding “my story” I was giving a lot of attention last year is sort of coming up again now, and this time I am just going to wait and see. I have other stuff to do in the meantime that is Writing – it’s just not necessarily writing.

Like, since I’ve finished the revision notes for Mark and Jessie, making a plan for the first revision/total reboot of Mark and Jessie. Which I was supposed to be doing today but leaving that voicemail really took it out of me because yay mental illness I’ve done fucking nothing today.

Except for get a bit of perspective back. I keep lamenting my lack of learning lessons on this blog. I also keep lamenting the fact that I keep lamenting my lack of learning lessons on this blog. I’m starting to think it’s more of a tug-of-war between moving on and maintaining good habits. It’s not so much about a lesson being good or meaningful or having an impact when you learn it so much as it’s about just continuing to put that lesson into practice. I could have done that with Youthline; I could have done that with daily mantras or reminders or whatever for my various writing epiphanies. Maintenance is something I suck at as a general rule.

What was the goal for this year? Keeping a good thing going? “To continue the way I intend to continue”, as I wrote in my Yearly Words post for 2018. When I went back and read that, my first thought was “I sure as fuck do not intend to continue like this”.

But that’s only half of it. I do not intend to continue berating myself, refusing to set limits or take responsibility for myself when I know that I need to manage myself in certain things quite strictly to avoid going off the rails, or setting ridiculous expectations of myself that I can only possibly fail to live up to. That’s the part I can live without. However, the part where I continue to stick to my plans, more or less, even when I am having a shitty time of things – that can definitely stay. I do absolutely intend to continue doing that.

And hey – I made the call today. That’s been the fucking bane of my self-esteem and day-to-day ability to focus on doing things that I set out to do for the past 2 years. I still haven’t had a call back, but I will get one, and if I don’t I’ll call again because I’ve broken the ice and it’s no big deal now. That shit is done. I’m sure I’ll find some new bullshit to stress out about because that is a very finely-honed skill of mine that I have most definitely continued to practice, but at the very least this one source of life-derailing stress and self-doubt is being put to rest. I’ve got my weekly routine, which has been working relatively well so far and, while I could be doing it better, it’s still early days, and even if it’s not as amazing as I’d like it to be the work is still getting done.

It’s been a rough couple of months, and I don’t feel any more hopeful right now than I did yesterday, but at least I know for a fact that the things that get me down aren’t keeping me down. I’m still going. And this year, that’s all that matters.

Keep on keeping on.

Monthly Words March 2019

Monthly Total

Writing (27021)

No matter how the last week of a month turns out, no matter what my overall emotional impression of the past month might be, the one thing I can always rely on with Weekly Words is the monthly recap. In looking back over the past month in blog posts, I always find it easier to think clearly and critically about what happened, how I felt and the reasons why. I can always draw a conclusion based on this newfound perspective and head into the new month feeling confident and refreshed, and if there’s a fog of negativity hovering around me, it is dispelled, leaving me with optimism and clarity of purpose going forward.

Not this time.

I was dreading writing this recap because I thought the amount of inconsistency with my weekly word-counts would disappoint me. Well, it didn’t. What disappointed me was the amount of anxiety and indecision I felt throughout the month, the prominence of self-doubt and distress that filled my posts over the last four weeks. Yes, there were some good points – writing almost 20k words in one week was one of them, for instance – and it took me reading back over last month’s posts to remember that the Christchurch terror attack happened only three weeks ago. I thought that I didn’t feel as affected by that horrific crime as many others probably do, but maybe the anxiety was my way of coping with it.

Maybe it’s this psychologist appointment that I am terrified of making because if I see a psychologist it’ll either force me to change in ways I’m not prepared to change yet, even though I know that they’re ruining my life and have been since I was 15 years old at least – or it won’t work, and absolutely nothing will change. And I don’t know which of these doomsday predictions is worse, but because I’m living with a maladaptive brain I don’t have any strategy that works to make them go away, or power through them, or whatever would actually work to allow me to cope with them healthily. Which is why I need to see a psychologist in the first place. Yay.

Or maybe it’s because, like always, I have tunnel vision and get fixated on the things that immediately effect me, like all the revision notes I’ve been trying to make and the discontent that goes along with that, the feeling of being completely stuck and unable to do anything about it. That’s been the theme of this last month: feeling powerless. I feel like Katniss in the second and third books: like I have no agency and all the decisions that matter are being made by other people, and I can’t get out of the situation because I’m being written by an author who decided that this was the story I get to be a part of, and this is the part I get to play in it.

Weekly Words has always made me feel like no matter how bad things get, there’s always a reprieve at the end of it. That I’ll look back over the past month, come away with a fresh take on things, and move on. This time, I feel like nothing’s shifted at all.

And it’s just a lot of feeling. I feel stuck. I feel powerless. I feel like I can’t and won’t do anything I set out to do because, well, it keeps on not happening. I write this knowing full well that I do in fact get shit done sometimes, and can think of several key instances in the recent past that support this conclusion. But I don’t feel that way, so what does it matter?

I run on feelings, and it’s fucking me up.

Well, if I can’t find perspective or a silver lining from the past month …

No.

I wrote almost 20k words in a single week last month. I started organising my goals into manageable chunks that I can tackle over the course of the week, setting clear boundaries and allowing for time to do other things with – I could definitely stand to be more clear about those boundaries going forward, but it’s a good start, and so far I’ve stuck to it relatively well. I took some small steps towards making this goddamn psychology appointment that I very clearly need and have needed for the past 17 years at least. I started on a whole bunch of shit this past month; and no, most of it did not take off like a rocket like I might have hoped.

It’s not just feelings; it’s the need for instant gratification, an instant result that I feel was worth the effort, and this entire month I haven’t gotten any of that – but no, even that’s not true. That Wolf Gang prequel novella; it’s still not finished because as soon as I hit the home stretch I started shifting my own goals on myself and it’s totally fucked me up, but when I started off writing it I felt really positive about it. The scene I wrote for my Suicide Squad totes-not-fanfic project – I wrote that all in one go, and yes it’s horribly basic and problematic but it got done, and it gave me some ideas to springboard off. I finished making revision notes on the first episode of the co-writing project; yes there are still 9 more to go, but hey, one down. I’ve started revisiting my manuscripts in an attempt to achieve my goal of having a manuscript ready for submission by December 24th this year. I’ve taken on a lot of stuff this past month. I should probably take stock of just how much, and consider how long it might take for any of it to start having the results that I’d life – as well as considering what those results actually might be.

Maybe that lack of clarity is why I’ve felt really down this past month. Really incapable. It’s affected everything I’ve done and tried to do, and it’s still affecting me now. If I was a Pokemon, I would be double-vulnerable to self-doubt-type attacks, and that’s what’s been hitting me for what feels like all of July, making it hard to focus on and appreciate the things that I have actually accomplished. Even then, it’s not a lot, and it feels like too little to be worth celebrating. But I know I’ve done some things, put some really big things into motion. I made a start. That’s good.

But I can’t leave it at a start. What do I want out of this Wolf Gang readthrough anyway? I’ve already read through it a couple of times; I already have a pretty good idea of what needs changing. I don’t even know if making notes is in any way helpful; it’s just what I assume you should do if you plan to revise a novel, to build a plan out of. How about Tallulah? Last time I tried this out I gave up on it for the time being because it was just not my kind of story anymore, and so far that doesn’t seem to have changed, even after taking over a year’s break from it. Mark and Jessie seems like the most useful place to put my energies in terms of getting that submission-ready-manuscript done – but is it? It’s a huge manuscript, and I’d have to change so many things, basically start over from scratch, and just thinking about it puts me off. Then there’s the PhD thing, the psychologist thing, the stuff-other-than-writing part of my life thing …

I’ve made a start at breaking these things down and thinking about what I want to get out of doing them. I’ve made myself a plan – a number of plans in fact – so I’ve got something to work with. These are good things, but they’re also not the sorts of things that provide an instant feedback loop of “yes this is working”; these are long-term plans that need to be treated as such. So not only do I need to break them down even further and be extremely clear and specific about my goals for each of them, but I also need to make sure that I’m getting some sort of instant positive feedback from somewhere. I’m not a Spartan, and I don’t intend to start being one. It’s all well and good to have that fantasy of being super hard-working and not needing validation beyond the satisfaction of a job well done, no matter how long it takes, but that’s a goddamn fantasy unless you love the job while you’re doing it. I haven’t loved it this past month.

But to be honest, I also haven’t been putting the time in. I’ve got the plans now. I’ve got the structure. This past month I’ve felt like shit – you know what? The past twelve months before that have all ended on a high note. This one month not ending like a party is nothing in the grand scheme of things. I’ve been thinking about real shit this past month and it’s brought my mood and perspective to a dark place. But I’ve given myself at least a few ways of dealing with it: things to do.

I think I’ve had a hard March because I’ve been pretty hard on myself, and because I’ve made things harder for myself than they needed to be. Seeing as I made the big bold mission statement at the end of February for March to be my “experiment and see what happens” month, this is quite disappointing. But it’s April now, and there is only one thing I want to do for April: make it work. To do the things that I know I need – and want – to do, and to make sure that I’m making it easy for myself to do them. For April, I want to end the month seeing the results of my commitment to my goals: to resolve the questions raised by my three manuscripts in terms of whether or not these are projects I want to continue with; to get words written for the projects I’ve been excited about for ages but too anxious to make an earnest attempt at getting written; to take care of my outside-of-writing life needs in a responsible manner; and to see myself investing time and energy in these endeavours, rather than spending time distracting myself and feeling bad about it afterwards. At the very least, the distractions need to be things that I genuinely get something out of. After the month I’ve had, I need some good vibes.

But I think that will come from committing to my goals anyway – and hey, there’s no reason I can’t distract myself during my down-time. I do need to set some limits around how much time I commit to all of these manuscripts and other work-type projects; I do need some chill time. And it needs to be rewarding.

Looks like April is set to be an ambitious month. Let’s get to it.

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.

lot.

I am the FUCKING MAN HOLY FUCK I WRITE SO HARD EAT MY WORDS WORLD I DID THAT I CAUSED THIS TO BE I AM THE ALPHA

… 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 …

Monthly Words June 2018

Monthly Total: 15089

That’s less than some good weeks I’ve had.

But, y’know … life.

That’s really all there is to say.

I had a bad month this June, looking back over the Weekly Words entries that I had. I do think part of it was a lack of commitment, like I recognised, particularly in the last week, but there was also a very strong theme of just not feeling confident or capable in any of the goals I had set for myself, or just myself in general.

I think this came down to three key points. The first was the issue of not having a project that “felt like mine”. I still don’t feel like I have that project, and I do think that commitment is the thing that I’m lacking – but, I also now think that committing to the projects that I have going now is only going to help get me there by eliminating my current projects as possible contenders for this ideal project that “feels like mine”. In other words, I already know that these projects aren’t working. Which is a shame, and there’s stuff about them that works and that I like, so while I’m not willing to give up on entire projects I am willing to take the good parts and find something else to do with them. This was also exaccerbated by having marking to do, which was the exact opposite of a project that felt like “mine” yet had to be my number one priority (and to be fair, I did keep on top of it pretty damn well), and I don’t think I accounted for how much that impacted me emotionally either, or my sense of accomplishing my personal goals that I tried to set and, consequently, felt ashamed for not meeting. TL;DR: work is hard, and that’s not a sign of personal failure.

The second issue – and these are all related, because problems often are – was not feeling like I had a distinct or identifiable voice as an author. I think a huge part of this, bigger than I was able to see at the time, was going back to read Mark and Jessie. I think it never occurred to me that doing this could even be potentially problematic for me, because it was something that I had made a priority for me to get done. But it’s so old now, so outmoded compared to the kind of stories that appeal to me in more recent years, and I think I have not done a good enough job of keeping that huge temporal gulf of not just writing style but writing values in mind. I’m essentially doing time-travel when I look back at that project, and that’s a perspective that I need to maintain while reading back over it – this is not the kind of writing that I would have produced if I had written Mark and Jessie, say, last year, or even five years ago, and I wrote it ten years ago. I think it led me to drawing conclusions about my lack of voice that are not necessarily, like, accurate, at all. So that’s a pitfall I need to be aware of going forward, and the age of this project is probably the biggest indication that, yeah, a reboot rather than a revision is the way to go in this case, if it’s something I still want to stick with. The vision that I have for Mark and Jessie does still feel like “mine” – not as strongly as it did ten years ago when it became pretty much my life-raft and defining existential purpose, but I don’t think losing that particular sense of importance is, like, a bad thing. I love the ideas, but at the end of the day it’s just a book. I can have a bit more purpose in life than just writing a fucking book.

And the third issue was just how much stuff I had going on, and how badly prepared I was to handle it, and that honestly is just a matter of experience – which, I have found upon looking back over these past four Weekly Words, is something that I have been getting. It’s just that experience takes time, and this month has been very valuable in terms of the experiences that I’ve had. I pushed myself – and allowed myself to be pushed – to try things I thought was too scared or incompetent to try, and even though I immediately went back to being scared of them after I was done, in the moment it felt not just doable, but enjoyable. And that was a bigger step than I think I acknowledge it to be. I also did get some me-time in; yes, it could have been better, but in a lot of ways, honestly, it was a first try. The last time I really took care of myself and gave myself permission to just chill – well, before I discovered UF novels anyway – was when I got the flu about eight or nine years ago and was forced to remain in my room for about a week. And besides the fact that I had the flu, that was one of the most comforting, contented weeks of my life.

And that’s just a bit sad.

This month was shit, and I don’t feel like that’s too harsh of me to say – because it was the kind of shitty experience that you need to have, and reflect upon, and come to recognise for what it was, so that going forward you understand a bit more about yourself and where you’re at. I tried a lot of new things this month, and it all felt exhausting and disappointing after the fact because I didn’t immediately find it easy to continue doing those things, plus having to prioritise marking over these various self-project experiments – but fuck, man, I tried stuff this months, and even if it was only in snippets and shorter-than-I’d-like jam sessions, it got done. I did write that difficult scene; I did just kick back and chill the fuck out and enjoy it; I did get all of my marking done and still managed to get some writing done.

Ultimately, I’m coming away from this month starting to recognise that I really do have as little experience juggling work and personal goals and R&R as I’ve always thought that I did – but, also, recognising that not only can I do something about that, but that I’ve already started doing something about it. I’ve said that I want more regular perspective check-ins, but I don’t think I could have come to these conclusions if I hadn’t stuck it out and played the long game, taking in this whole month in its entirety – or at least what I recorded of it on this blog. I did commit to doing new things and pushing my boundaries – it’s just that I don’t have experience with any of those things, let alone committing to them. I know that now. And that self-understanding is certainly worth the price of a shitty monthly word-count.

Monthly Words 03-31/03/2018

And the first monthly total is: 39702.

What am I doing?

What am I even thinking letting myself be so negative about not hitting 10k words a couple of weeks in a row? I mean it wasn’t even that negative, but it was nowhere near positive enough because holy fuck I have done so much!

This is incredible! I wrote so fucking much this month! And that’s just the writing I’m counting!

Holy shit, this initiative is already worth it. I didn’t finish a Nano’s worth of writing this month; I didn’t even hit 40k with that super-awesome writing week. But goddammit, I wrote a lot, in terms of both volume and frequency. And in fact, the frequency is the key thing. Volume comes and goes, but a habit is for life. I should know, considering how many bad ones I have been suffering the ill effects of for what feels like but has definitely not been my entire life up to this point.

My point is, this initiative is working. I had to go back and look over my previous Weekly Words posts to figure out how much I’d written this week, and in doing so I realised just what a freaking monumental effort this has been, and how well I’ve done considering the fact that, well, this is the first month. The first two weeks – I’m not counting the first Weekly Words in this monthly round-up because it was mostly just the end of February, although it was certainly a good week – have been golden, the second two less so, but that’s just because I have a 10k word-count goal per week. If it was instead 1k words per day, which I’ve found a goal too daunting to even attempt in years previous despite trying to work up the nerve to commit to it, I’m getting an E on my OWLs for Weekly Words, y’all. It’s amazing, from that perspective, to think of what setting a weekly goal as opposed to a daily goal can do. And, as I opened this post with the sentiment of, it is amazing what looking back on your progress to take in the bigger picture can do for your sense of accomplishment.

I have needed something like this so ridiculously badly for even more ridiculously long in my life. This is going great. I’m still keeping the word-count goal at 10k words per week, mostly because it’s motivating me to try and get writing done, regardless of how much of it I actually do get done. Doing it is more important than doing a lot of it – but, again, I have done a lot of it. I haven’t met my own expectations, but looking back over the month and considering the even bigger picture of my history with trying to impose discipline upon myself and my habits …

This has changed my life.

I finished a whole episode of my co-writing project in, like, 2 weeks, when the first episode took me about 3 months. I did writing 5 days a week for 5 weeks in a row, and other parts of my life improved at the same time. I went back to Tallulah and found that, actually, I can totally make it work; I even found a way to make Realm of the Myth work. There are things I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped – reading through Mark and Jessie’s Christmas in the two weeks I allotted to doing just that, for instance – but what I tried and failed to do I also learnt from. That was too tall of an order with the lack of experience in time-management I have, and it’s motivated me to get better at it going forward. I’ve started identifying the things that make me want to write, and how to make them happen for me, rather than just relying on my mood for writing-fuel.

And … just … this is good. This is very good. What an amazing idea this has been, already, only one month in. It’s ridiculous how negative I was being in the last post in retrospect; I’ve done so much this month, that even my negativity-steeped psyche can’t abide the thought of downplaying it just because the past couple of weeks have seemed like a downward spiral. They’re weeks. I’ve been alive for almost 31 years. I’ve got weeks for days.

I’m a writer, I can use words how I want.

And god, the fun I’ve had this week, too, just writing. I’ve done other fun things as well, such as playing D&D, but the joy I’ve gotten out of writing has been beyond what I could have even imagined, and I’m very grateful that I gave myself a reason to go back and remember it by writing this monthly wrap-up. It’s working. This initiative is working. I’m kind of blown away by the fact that I actually believe that, instead of finding some way to convince myself that it’s too good to last or some other angsty maladaptive bullshit like that. That’s what I’d expect.

I guess I’ve changed.

I am looking forward to continuing that trend. And more writing. God, I’m looking forward to writing. It’s been a while since I could honestly say that. Sometimes in life, you’re just too awesome to possibly not admit it. And for me, that time is now.

I’m the fucking man.

Not that I support the perpetuation of gender roles, but you get what I mean.

16232

I’m calling it.

I already called it, last time, but there was still about a week to go at that point. Now there’s today and tomorrow, and ain’t nothing happening in either of those two cases.

I have finished Nanowrimo 2017 having written 16232 words out of 50000. And that’s fine.

What I think I’m going to do, though, is actually look at everything I’ve written during this month, even the stuff that “doesn’t count”. Just as an experiment. I feel that differentiating between writing that “counts” and writing that doesn’t is in some ways important; it’s a kind of accountability, distinguishing between the writing that gets you to where you’ve made plans to go, and the writing that gives you an excuse to circle the block one more time. But lately, I’m starting to think that this distinction has not always done me a lot of good. Because writing is writing, and if we’re just talking writing – if we’re just talking about how much I’ve done, regardless of what that “much” consists of, specifically – I think I’ve done quite a bit.

Let’s have a look.

  • Game Notes

Every now and then, I like to indulge in the making of games. Well, “making” is perhaps a strong word, but making notes and rules and mechanics for games that I would like to exist. Since I have recently given myself permission to write things that are not just books or essays, but also include things like screenplays and panel treatments, I’ve decided to include games in this new phase of my writing career as well.

Good thing too, because it amounts to (approximately) 26185 words.

I say approximately because there’s a lot of copy-and-pasting of words that have to do with categories of things – characters, abilities, etc. – that I have been working on and modifying over the course of this month. I went over them once briefly in each instance, and reduced my word-count in those documents by an approximate figure. Even so, I reckon that total number is somewhere closer to 24000 words – but that’s still 24k words, on top of my existing 16k words. Already, I’m at over 40k words written this month.

Off to a good start, then …

  • Experiments

There’s some stuff that I write just for myself, stuff that is not meant to be shared with anybody else. Nevertheless, these are earnest writing exercises, and I would normally count them, even if they’re only ever meant to be private. Another 5257 words there.

  • Book Planning

My most detested writing habit, the main reason why I even bother to differentiate between what writing “counts” and what doesn’t. But I’m going to count it now, because it takes time and energy and is, ultimately, in service of creating a story, even if it often does more harm than good. I’m also counting here because I want it to do good, so perhaps if I account for it, I will shift my attitude in that direction. Add another 5687 words.

That alone is more than 50k words written in November. Hah!

But I’m still not done.

I am not going to count my academic writing, because that’s writing I had to do – I’m only counting writing that I elected to do. That may change in the future, but for now I’m sticking to it. Also it would take forever to count.

So instead, let’s talk co-writing …

  • Co-writing project

I never counted this one towards my Nano goals because it was a co-writing venture, and I wanted to keep it separate from my own personal goals. Also, screenplays take up fewer words, generally speaking. But it’s all still writing that I did, so …

Make it another 2510 right there. That’s just the screenwriting itself, not the planning notes – mostly because I wrote those notes with my co-writing partner (who honestly did most of that writing anyway, as well as most of the writing that has been done full-stop on this project), and I am not prepared to try and figure out which words exactly were mine and which were hers right now. And again, I’m not the only one responsible for that writing, and it seems silly to try and extract my portion of it just to add towards this total (especially since it’s now past 52k words, yeeeeeeeeah boiiiiiiii)

And no, I’m still not done. There is one more category of writing that I must add to the tally, and I’m pretty sure you know what it is.

No, it’s not my revision notes for Tallulah, because I just don’t think it’s useful to count words written in the service of revision, because it’s not about the number of words produced, but the purpose of those words. And that’s something you can’t really measure quantitatively, or if you can I don’t know how.

No, the final category is …

  • Blogging

11994. Not including this post. Also not including drafts I wrote but didn’t complete this month.

My point is …

I’ve actually written way more than 50k words this month.

In fact, judging by this, it’s safe to say that I write way more than 50k words every month. And that’s something to think about as well.

Okay, let’s be all officious and shit with this; my grand total is: 67865, holy fuck have I written more than 50k words this month. And that’s cherry-picking, too. Hell, take away the game notes and that’s still just over 40k words. I didn’t do too badly at all.

And I think I’m going to use this as an exercise in rethinking my priorities in terms of what writing “counts” and what doesn’t. Yes, there is the point that all of this is being very generous to myself (I am totally updating my word-count to include it though because I’m an adult), and that part of the reason we count words is to identify progress on one specific project. But this Nano, it was about a bunch of projects anyway. It was about getting myself to write. And again, even without the game notes, I did a lot of writing this month. A lot of writing. And it was writing with a point.

Writers are great at undermining themselves, particularly in terms of how productive they are, how much effort they’ve put in, how much of what they’ve done with their time is “productive” or “real writing”, etc. And there’s good reasons for that. But just in terms of writing itself, regardless of what project it’s in service of, I think it’s good to keep track of that every now and again, just to remind ourselves that, actually, we writers are very goddamn productive. As in we produce vast quantities of words – and as everyone who has ever given writing advice has said, more than once: at the end of the day, the only thing that matters, and the only thing that works, is actually sitting the fuck down and writing something.

And apparently, I have done that. A lot. Just this month.

So all in all, I think there are worse ways to end Nanowrimo.

67865.

Camp Nanowrimo 2016: Discipline

I went back and rewrote the beginning of my project; it felt better, but it was also about 350 words, which does not quite make up the 3500 or so words I have in the version I don’t like. And given that this is essentially the halfway point of Camp Nanowrimo … I mean any way you cut it I am behind. Very behind. And it’s nothing I can’t come back from, but considering the amount of time it’s going to take, the question now for me is whether I want to.

Nope.

That’s the simple answer. And it’s not a big deal. This is a busy time for me in general. I’ve got my MA to focus on because I’m about 3/4ths of the way through that in terms of time and less than halfway in terms of actual writing. I need to focus on that more than I need to finish Camp Nanowrimo. And, of course, I’m not enjoying this story. Yes I like the concept, yes I am narcissistic enough to believe that it is a concept so good that upon completing Camp Nanowrimo I would receive no less than 17 movie deals from which to take my pick. But I just don’t care about writing it. The idea is cool, and I enjoy the idea, but writing it out? Not so much. And on top of all the other things – not getting paid to do this, not having any kind of obligation to do this beyond my own satisfaction, of which I currently can’t get no amount of – there is no downside to me giving up. I mean if I really want to I can always try again later. Camp Nanowrimo, while a fantastic idea, is ultimately just a month. And the only reason it worked for me last year is because I had a project that I actually wanted to work on. I tried it the year before that and gave up, not because there’s anything lacking in the Nanowrimo formula, but because part of that formula is what you bring with you, and I didn’t bring a project that really gripped me. This year is much the same, even though I feel like it should grip me because, when I mull over it in my head, it does. But for whatever reason those same emotional connections are not being drawn while I write it, and since I can’t think of a solution to that, I may as well just call it a failed attempt, put it down while I focus on my MA chapter for this month and then come back later when I feel more energised.

Except.

While I no longer wish to identify myself as a Writer, one whose entire existence revolves around the process of writing, I still want to write and I still want to cultivate the skills it takes to do so beyond it just being a hobby. Why? Because. And the thing is that, even though this story does not grip me, I also know that I can make it work. I can finish it. Maybe with a reduced word-count; maybe not with the goal of even finishing a draft, but just a solid chunk of writing that could be added onto later down the line to make a complete draft. But I can work on it for the rest of the month. I can make myself do that. And rather than an exercise in fun, which is what I was hoping for, I can make Camp Nanowrimo this year an exercise in discipline, an experiment with myself to see how much I can push when I don’t feel it.

What’s the value in this?

Discipline.

And that’s really it. Again, I have no obligation to do anything this Camp Nanowrimo; it’s just for me. But just for me, I really would like to push the parameters of my discipline and ability to motivate myself, which is not the same as making myself feel enthusiastic. And I also know that a lot of what’s going wrong with this project is that I’m not treating it like a first draft. I’m trying to get it right. I’m trying to force myself to use the cliches and tropes that I keep thinking were what made my YA werewolf novel so much fun to write. But what was fun about that was just writing fast; the tropes and cliches, while they did get used a lot, were just part of that process of speed. They were a result of the plan I had for writing it, rather than the plan itself. I’m doing this all backwards, and maybe I can switch that around. Even that takes discipline, after all.

Even if I don’t enjoy the actual project, though, I have the feeling that I could actually enjoy the discipline for its own sake, just knowing that I have that ability. Much like I feel I’d get a lot out of knowing that I can finish a draft of a novel in a month.

So this is my final attempt to make Camp Nanowrimo work for me. Maybe I just needed a bit of perspective on how I was writing and what wasn’t working about my process; maybe that will be enough to loosen things up. But if not, then it’s time to power through. Time to develop the ability to persevere when I don’t want or need to, even if it’s just for the sake of being able to say that I can.

Cutting Room

So today I did some work, and it was productive and stuff, as work should be. My third-time’s-the-charm experiment with Realm of the Myth is … well, today was the first day, and considering that it’s actually been going pretty well.

My goal today was just to take this one idea that I really liked and write down that I was not going to use it in Realm of the Myth, that it belonged somewhere else. Darlings don’t need to be killed all the time; a lot of the time they just belong somewhere else, or as the start of their own thing. This was one such instance, and once I did that I found that there were more of those ideas. A lot more. And the closer I got to the core of this story, the more I realised that not only is this a horrible, thin, shitty story, but it’s also more than one horrible, thin, shitty story. Which I already knew, but it’s one thing to know something and another thing entirely to find out that it’s actually true.

But this is good, because I’ve managed to assign some darlings to new homes, homes that I’m very happy for them to have, and I’m whittling down the mess to find the underlying pattern. I predict it’s going to be a case now of not only assigning ideas to different projects, but of splitting this project up into individual projects as well. And by the time I’m done, I think I’ll only have individual projects left, and nothing of Realm of the Myth will remain at all.

It’s kind of funny, actually, making this happen. I put so much time and hope into this thing, put it on a pedestal, imagined how it would one day be my magnum opus if only I could get it right, and now that I’m actually going through the trouble of killing/relocating darlings in order to try and find a story worth telling I’m finding that it’s other stories that are worth telling, not this one. Which makes sense. Because this is a story that I came up with when I was 14, starring characters based on me and my at-the-time best friend and our families and friends, where we could do magic, summon magical creatures to fight for us, and would have exciting adventures. It was a story I made up because I was fucking around. Which, when you’re 14, you should be doing. I don’t regret it. I just regret making more of it than it could sustain, and insisting on doing it for 15 years.

But even then, not really, because if it means I get to finally learn what it takes to take something seriously enough to give up on it, then it’s been worth it. 15 years – most people waste that much of their lives, probably, on something or other. At least this wasn’t a marriage or a business deal or a university degree. It was just some impulsive, heat-of-the-moment, wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if-this-happened self-indulgence.

And for that, it was pretty great. It shouldn’t be anything more than that. It doesn’t need to be.

And I don’t need it to be. Not anymore.

Still gonna spend the next 36 days playing around with it though because who knows what else might turn up. And because, so far, leaning in has been the most effective way of making myself realise that it’s time to finally give it up.