Weekly Words 19-25/11/2018

19/11/2018: 1457

20/11/2018: 1458

21/11/2018: 1457

22/11/2018: 1458

Well, that’s unusual.

This week, I have not been working on my werewolf novel, or my Suicide Squad fix-fic-inspired dark fantasy satire parody, or my co-writing project, or any of the three completed manuscripts that I could be working on revising. It’s not that I’ve been avoiding them actively; it’s that I’ve been so consumed by the thing that I have been working on instead that it’s been difficult to get myself to even think about any of those projects.

So, what have I been writing?

A book review.

Book reviews are, for me, a strange enterprise. They’re for me, primarily – I mean this entire blog is primarily for me, but even more so are book reviews. They’re for me to vent, to analyse, to process my thoughts and feelings about what I’ve read and try to come to a satisfying conclusion for myself. It’s difficult because more than anything else I’ve done with this blog over the years, I feel the least certain about whether or not anybody else cares about my book reviews. I can’t imagine many people do; I know my friends who read my blog have been interested enough to start discussions about those books, and that’s been cool – but people I don’t know? Not that this blog is huge on “engagement” to begin with, because I have no idea how to do it without coming off as horrendously disingenuous, which I would be because yay social anxiety – but that’s just even more reason for me to feel unsure about whether or not it’s worth writing book reviews.

But I think that’s just because I have imported my mindset from my Tumblr days, where I would actually usually get most of my likes and whatnot from my film reviews, so I just got used to doing that for validation. It’s different with this blog, and I figure I just need to get with the program.

Which starts by counting this book review as a thing I’ve been writing, which I wasn’t even going to do until today.

And the reason I decided to count it is not because I feel, sincerely, that it “counts” towards the writing that I am counting, even though I am pretty sure by my own standards that it should. I am counting it because I just want to know, after all of my self-worth angst is laid out for me to get a clearer picture of, just how much writing is produced as a result of this process of self-inflicted emotional turmoil. How much effort, in terms of words written, actually goes into this enterprise that I have elected to invest myself in?

So far, it’s about the same as my writing ratio for the past few months.

It feels wrong, given how much more turbulent my mindset has been while working on this review, how much more intense and chaotic my feelings, how much self-doubt and second-guessing goes into this process. The word-count is deceptive – but it’s also eye-opening. All of this effort yields about the same result, words-wise, as the relatively comfortable process of working on things that I find less confrontational on the level of my self-esteem. Mindset is so important for writing, not necessarily because of how much writing you do, but because of how much work goes into producing the amount of writing that you actually get done on a regular basis.

I mean, that’s my thought. Although to be fair, those daily word-counts are a mathematical average, not the specific daily word-counts I accrued over the week up to this point. Who knows how much I’ve actually gotten done on a day-to-day basis. Maybe on days when I felt less stressed I did more writing; maybe I did more writing on those days. Maybe it wasn’t about stress, but what time I started writing, what my mindset was going into my session, that sort of thing.

Anyway: the book I’ve been trying to review/analyse/snark on is The Wereling by Stephen Cole. It’s the first of my pile of library-borrowed YA werewolf novels that I read through to completion, and I have some thoughts about it. Very few of them are charitable; but I will say that it was definitely valuable for me in terms of my own lycanthropic literary aspirations. It’s not the first one that I tried reading; Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter was the first, and after I think three rather short chapters full of slut-shaming, sex-shaming and general holier-than-though misogyny and virtue fetishisation I gave up. It’s not even about a werewolf; there’s just a werewolf in the love-triangle. For all its faults, at least Wereling doesn’t have a love-triangle – not yet anyway. There are two more books to go, and while I actively dislike The Wereling, I am kind of morbidly fascinated to see how it turns out. I can’t imagine it will be particular pleasing.

Well, this was good. I feel motivated to get back to work on my writing that “counts” after this – and a little less disheartened about my choice to write stuff that I find a use for, even if nobody else does, and to let it “count”, too. I am here to write, after all. It shouldn’t matter too much what kind of writing it is.

23/11/2018: 2549

Werewolves ahoy!

I realised today that I’m actually putting quite a lot of effort into this werewolf project. I’ve borrowed library books to read examples of similar stories in the same genre/marketing niche; I’ve been consistently working on this project for the past month and a half or so; I keep pushing myself to continue working on it …

How did this happen?

Well, it happened because I made it happen, and am continuing to make it happen, and I am forced to acknowledge that I am now committed to this shitty YA werewolf novel – and that makes me want to take it a bit more seriously. I mean, I really like werewolves. I am still enjoying writing this thing. It’s not what I thought I’d be working on; I thought I’d be done with my werewolf infatuation when I finally finished the original shitty YA werewolf novel almost two years ago. And yet here I am, working on a reboot that I actually care about, still considering doing a PhD focusing on werewolves and why I find them interesting in our current historical moment, and I wonder what this story might look like if I started thinking about it … seriously.

But honestly, I think that would hurt it.

Because I have a tendency to take my serious projects a bit too seriously. At the very least, I can’t give this project the same kind of “serious” treatment as I’m used to giving my other projects. I either need to just keep doing what I’m doing, not thinking too hard about it and just muddling my way through for fun and hoping it turns out well, or I need to find a new way of being serious, one that builds on what I like about a project and gets me excited to do it rather than leading me to think that there’s no way I could ever do it justice. I want my excitement for my projects to help them, not turn into over-thinking and perfectionism that makes me too nervous to even try writing them.

But most importantly, I think I just need to keep writing this thing, because I want to. I feel that’s probably enough of a plan for now.

24/11/2018: 1102

And the book review is finished. It’s not very good, but it’s finished, and hey, as an aspiring author I should be able to accept that nothing I write will ever be perfect and I need to put it out into the world sometime, right? And that goes for 6k-word-long snarky, uncharitable book reviews written for my own pleasure/emotional venting purposes too, right?

Well, whether or not I publish it I’m still counting it, because it’s what I spent most of this week writing. And because it was valuable – it made me see part of my review-writing process and attitude that I find makes the end product suffer, and I’ve had some ideas about how to improve that in future. Because, I mean, I do run a blog. I like sharing my thoughts and opinions; I’d just like to be able to do it in a way that I’m happy with, rather than one where I never quite feel like I’ve made my point but do manage to be really harsh and pedantic.

Part of that is just time, though, the opportunity to write it all out, look at it, and then see what works and what doesn’t. Revision, in other words; and as with novels and essays, so too with book reviews. It’s so energy-consuming. The actual time I’ve spent on this review, trying to organise my thoughts and synthesise my arguments, is probably not that much more than the amount of time I’ve just been winging my way through my werewolf novel reboot. But it feels like it’s taken so much longer. Maybe that’s just the tunnel-vision speaking, which I always get when I’m grappling with my thoughts and trying to turn them into articulate sentences that link together coherently. It’s really hard, so hard that it’s discouraging to think that, after all this work I’ve done, there’s still so much left to do before it’s what I’ll be happy with it being.

I guess I think of book reviews in terms of online “critics”, who deliver their arguments through some mixture of irony, outrage, snark, sarcasm, and overall meanness. It’s certainly catchy. I certainly enjoy indulging in it in the moment. But afterwards, it’s still there for me to deal with – and I really just don’t want to. I think I need the opportunity to vent, but I’ll only be happy that I’ve got a decent analysis if I then take the time to think through my ventilations and get to the heart of the matter. When I’m able to do that, I always come up with a more concise way to make my point, which becomes more well-developed. I occasionally even change my mind.

All of which is a very roundabout and redundant way of saying that you should think before you speak, and especially before you hit “publish”, but it’s hard and I don’t wanna.

Except that I do wanna. That’s what all of this week’s words have taught me, so for that alone they were well worth writing, and absolutely count.

Weekly Total: 12439

I keep saying “that’s more like it” or something whenever I break 10k these days. But I don’t really try very hard to replicate it.

It certainly is cool, though.

And a lot of it came from this freaking Wereling book review, which I have found so exhausting and nerve-wracking, but I also know that I’ve only even started to get to the bottom of where I stand on it. As I was saying to my co-writing friend today, I find that there’s a point when I take on a difficult project where, if it’s too hard initially, my reaction is to bounce off it like a rubber ball off a hard surface. It’s too stressful, I need less stress in my life, I need to step away – makes sense, right? This is compounded by me wanting to be better about self-care, but it’s also definitely stemming from my long history of avoidant behaviour. I’ve realised lately, though, that what I actually want is to do the opposite: to keep at it, because however long it takes for me to break through the crust of my own disorganised thoughts, feelings and random spontaneous decisions, there is a point that I’m trying to make, there is a goal I’m reaching for. It’s just that reaching this goal requires me to persist, and that goes against years of ingrained habits.

I’m seeing how this affects my more “serious” writing, too. This werewolf novel could be a “serious” project of mine, and yesterday I thought I needed to redefine what a “serious” project looks like for me. Now, though, I think it’s just that I haven’t been serious about a project for a really long time. I don’t know how to make myself serious about a project either, how to get myself to the place where I’m excited to try things out and see how they go. Maybe it just eventually comes with commitment; maybe it doesn’t come all the time. And I already know for a fact that my mood doesn’t affect how well I write. But it’s not just about the writing; it’s about my thought process, my ideas, the way that I think while I’m writing. For the longest time it’s felt so hard to even find ideas that feel appropriate to what I’m writing, to the point where I’ve tried to train myself to adopt the “write now edit later” approach that so many authors swear by. I know that it does “work”, as in “you get something written”, if you stick to it. But it still just feels … wrong. Like I’m settling for something that no amount of revision will fix without completely changing things – like I’m cutting myself off short before I even try to reach for better ideas, more ambitious attempts.

And more fun, too.

These werewolf books are opening my eyes to something: most of the werewolves I’ve encountered in literature just aren’t fun. The lore is sometimes cool, but being a werewolf just never feels like an appealing prospect. I’m not so much talking about it from a character perspective, because different characters feel differently about their own lycanthropy (or that of others). I’m talking about, as a reader (and writer), I don’t see the appeal. It’s not something I want to imitate, or even play around with, on my own time. There’s a focus on pack dynamics and hierarchy – and often sexual politics – that is often interesting, but is also often really unpleasant to deal with. It’s a fascinating example of how these topics can be explored through allegory and metaphor, and the fact that I find it hard to deal with honestly is part of the appeal – but beyond it being different to the kinds of stories I generally gravitate to, werewolf literature just doesn’t feel like it’s for me, in the same way that Fantastic Beasts isn’t for me, even though it seems like it should be.

But in a way, that’s heartening – it means that, at the very least, I’m probably not running the risk of stealing anyone else’s ideas. Not that taking inspiration from the ideas of others is something that I think is wrong or bad; I’ve said multiple times that “ripping shit off” is not just fun but vital to the creative process, and I stand by that. But it means that, in the world of YA werewolf novels, shitty or otherwise, I might actually have something new, or at least novel, to offer.

If my plan is to make this werewolf novel a publishing option … and to be honest, much as I love werewolves, I don’t think this is the vehicle I’d use if I did want to introduce my own strain of lycanthropy into the canon. I’d want something a lot more original than “teenager becomes a werewolf and has to deal with it”. I’m sure that might be part of it, but right now it’s the only part.

And maybe that’s why I’m finding it hard to be excited about this story – it’s just not that exciting. But that’s fine. I think if I haven’t already come up with my own take on werewolves after spending the past two years being pretty infatuated with them, then it’s not a problem that I need to worry about solving.

Although there is also the fact that I have not one, but two co-writing projects that involve werewolves. Besides the one I’ve been co-writing all of this year (for which we’ve come up with some very cool werewolf lore that I am very proud of, mostly the awesome idea of my co-author), I have another one with my best friend that, while we haven’t worked on at all since coming up with the concept, we are pretty excited about. I don’t know if we’ll ever work on it, but the fact that I have two other werewolf-related story commitments makes it that much harder for me to think of a unique take on the subject. Then again, they are both co-authored ideas, so I am still free to come up with an idea that’s all my own.

In any case, this week was a good week for writing, even if it felt like a slog for most of it. It’s gotten me looking forward to next week’s writing … which is my last chance to hit those Nano numbers on my word-count for this month, too. I doubt I’m going to really make the attempt to hit 50k words; that would be, like 30k words at least this week, which is 6k words per day. I could do it, but the words wouldn’t matter. And I’m realising more and more that I need the words to matter when I write them, and that that’s okay. Even if it takes a little longer than “right now” to get there. And I’m looking forward to exploring that.

If there’s anything that I ought to have learnt from Weekly Words by now, it is that it’s all about commitment, and ow important it is to be able to look back at where you’ve come from. It makes the path ahead that much more exciting to start walking.


Monthly Words: May 2018 + about a week of overlap between April and June

Monthly Total: 39993

There is an irony with these monthly recaps, I find, which is that the entire point of doing them is to give myself perspective, encourage me to think of my progress as something to measure over an extended period of time instead of just when I’m feeling particularly self-critical – and yet whenever I do one of these recaps, it’s kind of like I’ve never done one before. The sheer sense of accomplishment – yeah, the novelty I think has worn off, but that just leaves me with this clear sense of satisfaction for what I’ve gotten done, and the fact that I’m continuing this process of keeping track of it.

I did a lot last month. It should be this month, but honestly this past week was murderous, life happens, we’re doing the recap for last month this month.

Mostly, and I’m very grateful for this, I focused not just on my ability to write, but myself as a writer. Because speaking of perspective, I needed that “detox” weekend, I needed to reconnect, check in with myself, all the self-help tropes – I still need more, honestly, and I’m starting to get some ideas about how to continue with that work. But while I did get a bit melancholic about not being able to re-create the existential bliss of that weekend for the rest of the month, looking back on it now, I realise that I need to be focusing on moving forward. Having perspective on the past, acknowledging how I’ve spent my time and giving myself proof that I am not the living embodiment of the void and never get anything done – these are good, important things for me. I feel like with Weekly Words, I’ve got that part covered. But the forward-looking part is one that needs developing.

This is something I learnt from the last three days of intensive, almost traumatically so, marking that I did. It’s nothing that anybody who’s ever marked for a paper hasn’t experienced; honestly I’ve lived a charmed marking life. But in being forced to confront a tight schedule and make it work, I realised a couple of things.

  1. Fuck am I glad it didn’t go on any longer than it did.
  2. Fuck did I need to get my shit sorted long before this event forced me to do it.

Like, this hasn’t cured my anxiety and depression or anything, but it certainly gave me a new perspective on what I have the capacity to do. Here’s the thing: as difficult as the last three days of marking were, they were difficult partially because of how haphazardly I approached the first four – basically, I didn’t approach them at all, I just kind of winged it, and lo and behold it didn’t work. I was not prepared, and coming to that realisation has made me aware of how prevalent that theme is in all of the areas of my life where I feel the most anxious, the most helpless and clueless and weak. It is something that I need to address.

And, in this situation, it is also something that I did address. It is frustrating to not be able to pinpoint the moment where the change occurred between the paralytic self-disgust of the Tuesday where I got almost nothing done and the following Wednesday where suddenly I just had a plan somehow – but I did. I got a plan. And it fucking worked. I prepared myself, on the fly, and without going into too much detail it went exactly as well as I hoped, in my wildest dreams, it might go, in less-than-ideal circumstances that were not part of those wildest dreams.

What I’ve taken away from this is that I can actually deal with difficult situations that I’m not necessarily prepared for better than I give myself credit for. I can trust myself to get shit done, even in a bind. Which, obviously, is very nice to know about myself, and I’m still kind of still processing it and getting used to it.

The other thing is that I really like having a schedule to organise myself around, actually. I was totally consumed with just marking, but I worked breaks into that schedule to do my own thing, and after it was over I missed the clarity of that structure – and felt frustrated that I hadn’t taken better advantage of it to get more of my own shit done. I just watched a bunch of YouTube (not all bad though, I do want to get better at chilling out); I didn’t have much brain-power left over for writing (though I did get some done, as you will have seen from the last post), but I wanted to get some reading done, and more than that I wanted to do plenty of stuff that was purely recreational. I wanted to watch some shows; I wanted to mess around with some fun things, and it didn’t get done.

So when I realised that the next round of marking would be coming in less than a week after finishing this round …

I got pretty excited.

And I think that’s deeply messed-up, but I am owning it, sticking to it, and intending to use it to my advantage. I need to test this out more. I need to see how effective I can be at organising my time to get my shit done, both the stuff that I am obligated to do because I’m being paid to do it, and the stuff that I want to do because I fucking want to do it. I am too accustomed to putting off my own wants and curiosities – I need to break that habit. And I think now that committing to a schedule of some kind might be the best way to do it.

Because, after all, that’s what Weekly Words is all about, albeit in a quite flexible way. It’s not organsied down to the hour, which is why I think it works, and I don’t think I could ever make that work for an extended period of time without getting paid for it. But looking back on those three glorious days of intensive marking, and after talking to my co-writing friend (as in the friend who I happen to co-write with; she’s not just a co-writing friend) about it, she pointed out that, actually, that plan didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere. It felt that way to me, but I’ve been doing Weekly Words for 3 months now, and I’ve seen the results. I’ve proven that I can organise myself – I just haven’t really thought about applying the same principles to anything other than my personal writing projects.

But it’s clear to me now that that’s exactly how I can break out of my years-long rut of denying myself basic pleasures of being a living organism, like doing shit that I want to do because I want to fucking do it. So, as I’ve brought up a few times in Weekly Words, I am now giving myself other goals across the weeks and months besides writing – time-off goals, the “day off” idea re-imagined in more concrete detail. Just like I don’t judge myself (or try not to) for how much I do or don’t get written in one day, I’m going to be making goals for myself that don’t have to be done on X day, but rather sometime during a longer period – a week, as I have already established – because sometimes the day just runs away from you, or other obligations come up and you have to deal with them. This way, I can be committed to taking care of myself while avoiding being needlessly pedantic about when, exactly, it will happen – just that it needs to happen within a certain time-frame. It seems to be the system that best works for me, and what I can control, I find easiest to control with this method.

And these are all ideas that I’ve had and talked about before, but not until now did any of it really feel … well, real. I was unprepared, and then I was, and now I know that I can be, and that’s very new. So new I’ll probably have to talk to my therapist about it, when I eventually get one. I now have a clearer understanding of my capacity to do things, and how much my mindset affects that capacity. I went from panicking and self-loathing to a purely task-oriented mindset – again, not sure how that switch happened, but it did, and it worked. And it’s given me perspective, too. I know now, looking back, that as well as things ended up going, they could have gone so much better if I had been more prepared – I probably couldn’t have been, but I’ve had the experience now that gives me the opportunity to get it right next time. And I’m craving that.

But there’s another element to why I’m so excited to throw myself into the grinder again, test my capacity further and see how far I can push the principles I’ve learnt and the better habits I’m still developing through Weekly Words when the next batch of marking comes around. What I’ve got now with Weekly Words is good. It works. But it’s becoming too safe – it’s still effective, but I’m feeling myself settling into it, leaning back on it, and consequently not reaching out for anything else, not pushing myself to continued developing my capacity. I think there’s definitely something to be said for acknowledging and being content with what you have – but for me, that contentment often becomes a trap, a crutch that, if I’m being honest with myself, I know I don’t need.

Yet the fact that this ability to get my shit organised has become such a fast habit of mine – that makes me optimistic that I can build other good habits as well, with the same process. I am looking forward to the next round of marking because of what I think – what I hope – it will do for me, and what it will do to me. How it will change my habits into habits that I’m happy to have. So that when I’m done with marking, I get to benefit from having more focus and structure in my life. Because I have shit that I want to do, that I keep myself from doing, and I realise now based on those disastrous first four days of marking that it’s because of how unprepared I feel for it. I think that kind of sums up all of my various neuroses and anxieties in life: I don’t feel prepared for life in general. But I know now that a lot of that has to do with me not doing anything to try to prepare.

So I’m going to get used to preparing myself, whatever it takes – and I’m realising that, actually, it doesn’t take as much as I seem to think that it does.

But I still have to do it, and today as I write this, I reflect on that. I got almost nothing done today (the 4th) writing-wise, or anything else-wise for that matter; I just watched YouTube all day. It felt all right; maybe I still need to recover a bit from the intensity of marking. But it’s definitely not how I want to be spending every day. Not anymore. I want something more now, and that’s new too.

I definitely want to get used to it – and used to following through.

Weekly Words 20-26/05/2018

21/05/18: 5596

So. New plan.

The weeks of Weekly Words are currently Sunday through Friday with an optional day off. I’ve been thinking of changing it for a while now, and I am going to stick with that; Sunday is now the optional day off, because I can always write one word every day, and don’t really need one during the week. Friday and Saturday are now my “weekend”, because I do want two days in a row where I can focus on other things than writing, leaving Monday through Thursday as my “work week”. And the word-count goal is still the same at a nice, round 10k because it’s the ideal that drives me, not necessarily the literal results. I’m going to try it this week, see how it works out …

And that’s that – now, on the topic of results: co-writing is back in action, and while at first it was quite daunting to step back into it after finally starting to hit a kind of stride with my own projects, I finished a whole scene today and it felt great, and then I went on and finished a scene for one of my projects, the one I’ve been working on-and-off on for the past couple of weeks, and that felt great.

I am getting writing done, y’all.

No, the scene of mine that I finished is not exactly how I want it – but that’s what revision is for. My new resolution for writing my own stuff is to get used to revision, so this scene is getting revised. I keep saying that I need to get used to writing a whole story before I go back and revise it, and I do think that’s true. But I also think that this scene is a whole thing; I’m not really sure it actually belongs in the project I want it to belong to, because it’s so long and involved and is supposed to be the introduction to the characters and the world. Such a huge set-piece should be the climax of an act or something; I do like a big, bombastic opening, and I think some of it can definitely work as an intro – and perhaps the whole thing. But that’s not certain. What is certain is that this scene was honestly written to stand on its own, and given that, I can treat it as a stand-alone project – one that I have now finished, and am therefore free to go back and work on to my heart’s content.

Of course, I may choose to move on and do something else instead, which is honestly feeling like the better, healthier option. I’m not sure what that thing is, but I’m finding myself a bit more open to exploring my options after my ‘detox’ weekend, which I think I really need to incorporate into my regular weekly schedule. That’ll be the plan if me taking between 2-3 days off this week doesn’t pan out the way I want it to; I want to try it at least, see what giving myself the extra time off does for my perspective and self-awareness. I’m a little worried it’s too long of a break, but I can always go back to the regular schedule and just make more of an effort to work the other stuff into it. I just want to get myself used to using my ‘weekends’ in a satisfying way, because life skills are good to have I hear, and oftentimes life requires that you don’t have much free time outside of your weekends. Not my life, because mental illness is fun like that, but hey, gotta live your dreams right?

22/05/18: 1215

More brainstorming today, exposition “practice” – and starting to realise that I’ve been pushing myself in the wrong direction. Or maybe clinging to the progress that I’ve made in the wrong direction.

A while ago, I had a little rant about “million dollar ideas”. The Harry Potter ideas, the Pokemon and Star Wars and Twilight ideas. The game-changers, and how much I wanted one of those ideas.

The problem was that I actually did have some of those ideas, or at least they felt that way to me, and I guess I am perhaps very slightly biased. But I just didn’t want to work on them. I couldn’t be bothered. And it frustrated me that I couldn’t make myself care about them.

One of the ideas I returned to after my detox weekend was one such idea, and I still really like the idea. The reason I am allowing myself to work on it right now is partly because it’s just a way for me to practice my world-building prose, which I need to remind myself of, because I still feel that frustration of not having the desire to turn it into a book series or something that “actually matters”, instead of a self-soothing hobby. I have my inner voice admonishing me for not having the ambition or drive or discipline or whatever it is that would make me take this idea and turn it into “something more” – something “worth” doing.

What’s cool about it is taking ideas that I am familiar with that involve a lot of unquestioned norms – tropes and cliches – and asking those questions. It’s a very generative idea, the kind of idea that leads to epic speculation debates. It is nerdy as fuck, and it is a very nerdy kind of appeal that I take form it. Deconstruction.

I hate deconstruction.

As an arts major, I live and breathe deconstructing ideas, asking the obvious, unasked questions, challenging the status quo, inflicting critical analysis on any hapless media product that dares to cross my path. But that doesn’t mean that I like it. Yet I’m forcing myself to stick with it in this case, because I feel that sense of obligation to “do something with it”; it’s such a good idea, and I feel like if I don’t work on it and “do something with it”, it’ll go to waste, and it’ll be my fault for not taking advantage of it – especially if somebody else has the same idea and runs with it one day, and I end up kicking myself for being so unambitious.

But none of these are reasons to like this idea, or like it for reasons beyond the ones that I have. And that is why I feel I have been pushing myself in the wrong direction by pursuing this project, at least in the way that I’ve been doing it: because I’m trying to force myself to like it when I don’t. And that’s pretty gross.

I have an idea, though. While I don’t like deconstruction, I do like mashups, and while there is a mashup aspect to this project, I think it’s not the kind of mashup I’m really invested in. So I’m going to brainstorm a bit more this week, and see if I can find the mashup that I give a shit about.

And if not, I’ll just use this idea for writing practice, because honestly I get too hung up on “doing something” with my ideas (i.e. turning them into novels) instead of just enjoying them for what they are, and I want to get better at the latter. Enjoying things seems to be one of those things that requires practice, even though it seems really unintuitive, because why the hell would you need to learn to enjoy something? Don’t you just, like, do it?

Not if you stop yourself constantly because you’re a pedantic freak. So, let’s try to un-learn some deeply ingrained pedantry, and see if we can’t start having a bit more fun.

23/05/18: 1012

More co-writing fun tonight; I’m going to rewrite it tomorrow because I had an idea and forced myself not to follow it and well that’s not how you write a first draft now, is it?

It is if you’re sticking to a plan but the thing is the plan I have is thiiinnn and there’s basically nothing to stick to so I may as well play around and have fun.

Tonight, I decided to try something that I am a little surprised I didn’t think of before. I decided to go back and revisit Realm of the Myth – the old, old-ass documents of plans and ideas that I still have, gathering digital dust, in the spirit of revisiting old ideas of mine, because while I’ve been working on it for the past 17 years and in that sense it is always a “relevant” idea of mine … it’s an old fucking idea of mine. The third book idea I came up with after deciding at age 13 that it was my destiny to be the very best author like no-one ever was.

So I did. I went back and read through a few documents, and while I can remember some of my world-building stuff being kind of interesting, in terms of story, characters, and just the general purpose of the project …

It’s so fucking bad.

Like, yes, to be fair I was 14 at the time, but that’s no excuse; I came up with some dope fucking ideas when I was 14, and for that matter I came up with some dope fucking ideas while I was still in single digits.

Realm of the Myth is not one of them.

And discovering that has been quite liberating. I’ve wanted an excuse to just kill this fucking project, ever since it came back from the dead after I thought I killed it in 2012, and this feels like the nail in the coffin. Because the version that I came up with in 2013, that was the new version, the one that cast off its shackles and history of failure and pedantic, procrastinatory world-building and all the other toxic roundabout bullshit that had defined its existence since I was 14 years old. But it didn’t quite take. It’s still tied to that legacy, and I’ve come up with some pretty cool ideas while trying to resuscitate it, ideas that I now realise are much more my ideas than Realm of the Myth ever really was. Which is the main reason it was bad: it was just so … bland. Every single idea that I ever came up with for it was borrowed from somewhere else; I have sung the praises of the art of ripping shit off on this blog and I stand by those sentiments, but there’s a difference between ripping shit off because you get excited about an idea and want to make it your own, and ripping shit off because you have no ideas of your own because you don’t give a shit but have this nonsensical sense of obligation to do something with the pathetic excuse for inspiration that you do have and thus snatch at any ready-made idea you can find that might possibly be able to fit in with what you’ve got.

It’s a bad project, has always been a bad project, and what makes it a bad project is the fact that, as was the issue yesterday, I just do not give a single flying fuck, and never have. I’ve put in time; I’ve thought it would be cool if only I could make myself do it. I’ve enjoyed the fantasy of this book, this story, this marathon of creative one-man circle-jerking coming to fruition in the form of a series of novels, or films, or a videogame. To be fair, it could still totally work as a videogame.

But it’s bad. And while I’ve tried to convince myself of it over the years in the same way I’ve tried to convince myself to like it, there really is nothing quite like cold hard empirical evidence to sway an opinion at the end of the day, and I have been fucking swayed.

I’m done. I’m done with this legacy of trying to force my passion for projects that I am not passionate about; and while I absolutely think that being able to work based on discipline without passion is a completely valid and useful skill in so many different situations, spending my own free fucking time to write books that it is quite likely nobody else will every read is not one of those situations. I now see that the way I worked on this project, for almost two goddamn decades, has almost destroyed any good writing habits that I did cultivate in my youth, and still holds a deathly grip over my current writing habits, and I have had it.

I have had it!

So sayeth the Ubermensch; and so therefore, starting tonight – I need to plan a funeral. A funeral for this useless, toxic, awful fucking book that I was absolutely correct to give up on when I was 14 about a month after I came up with it, even though I just brought it back when I was 15 and made it about killing dragons and collecting their souls to make a super-dragon that, I shit you not, granted a wish to the person who gathered them.

Fuck Realm of the Myth. Never the fuck again. Only good ideas from now on.

Life is too short to read bad books, they say – and given how much longer it takes to write a book than it does to read one, I’m going to go ahead and say that it is definitely too short to write them.

Especially if they still aren’t written after 17 fucking years.


24/05/18: 1880

I can’t believe I was worried that it would be hard to get back into the swing of co-writing after a couple of weeks off. I just sit down, and an hour later it’s just … written.

And people say there’s no such thing as magic.

Well, maybe I’ll hold off on being quite that saccharine, but it feels good. What feels less good is learning that my next batch of assignments to mark came in today, instead of next week when I thought they were coming in for … some reason. I was wrong in any case. But, upon reflection, since they have to be done by the end of next week, it is actually quite nice to know that, one way or another, I’ll be done with this round of marking pretty quickly.

Also, the last assignment I had to mark was done after I started Weekly Words, and I got even more writing done while marking than I did without that extra restriction on my free time. Creative constraints, y’all. Obviously there’s a balance that needs to be struck and it is entirely possible that I might just call the next week a wash, depending on how things go, but for the moment at least I am quite optimistic.

And speaking of optimism …

Weekly Total: 9703

And that’s with my new, four-day writing week. Well, five-day writing week with an optional day off during those five days, which I did take this week, on Sunday. Writing was done, but it was planning for the co-writing project and thus does not count.

And still I hit almost 10k.

I’m still thinking about other writing things, and I may well do writing during my “weekend off”. I’m wondering whether it’s actually maybe a good idea to count that writing towards my weekly total, but the next week’s total – a bonus word-count goal that doesn’t “count”, in the sense that it was extra and not part of the routine I’m trying to establish and maintain for my writing, but that I can still count in terms of, hey, I did actually do a bunch of writing, even if it was outside of my routine.

My justification for not counting it is just because I want to get better at taking my time off seriously, instead of just using it to distract myself from … well, there doesn’t even have to be a thing that I’m trying to distract myself from; I just do things to distract myself out of habit, and it’s a habit I want to break. Want a bit more intentionality, as I keep saying.

So this weekend off, I’m going to continue with my project of going back over my old ideas and looking at things about them that did and didn’t work for me, in terms of my actually working on them – or getting what I wanted out of them, at least. I’m including ideas that aren’t books, or stories, or even projects; sometimes ideas are just good in and of themselves. And I’ve decided, after yesterday’s long-overdue realisation about how bad Realm of the Myth has been for my writing habits and probably other habits as well, that this continued self-excavation can’t be about trying to get myself to come up with new books to write, because when I have those ideas, I’ll know about them. This is about checking in with myself – and, in the spirit of Weekly Words, broadening my perspective by reminding myself of things I’ve achieved. Or just done. They don’t have to feel like achievements; it can just be stuff I’ve actually done, to remind myself that I do that sometimes.

Also, this week I’ve been quite keenly aware of how my self-image and identity as an adult is largely based on the fact that I have spent vast amounts of energy on repressing my teenage self, who I am thoroughly ashamed of. Not because I was awkward and embarrassing, but because I was ruled by fear and couldn’t help myself. Which I know now, as an adult, sometimes happens, and it’s shitty, and it’s part of life. I’m not there anymore, though, and however horrible it is that I used to be there, I think I need to make more of an effort to put away this coping strategy that doesn’t need to be used anymore. I think – I don’t know, but I think – that maybe my past actually can’t hurt me anymore. So it might be all right to start digging back into it.

And I’m not going to lie, I also think it’ll make me a better writer. I’ve always been curious about what makes people tick, and that’s part of why I started writing to begin with – but that curiosity sort of died with my disconnection from my past and its traumas. I want that curiosity back. And I think I have to do some retrospection in order to find it.

Only one way to find out.


And so this is Christmas

Or rather it was Christmas, because I live in New Zealand and we get every day first. Time begins in New Zealand. That’s a little depressing if you actually live here, but oh well it’s nice to have something.

Whatever you’re celebrating around this time of year, I hope you have a wonderful time surrounded by loved ones and good food and all that jazz. I myself marathoned the original Star Wars trilogy with the siblings and then watched The Dark Knight for the first time in a few years – still good, but I am hella disillusioned with Christopher Nolan’s storytelling chops. Also how he writes women. Or woman, as is the case for the most part in this trilogy. I am also of the opinion that while his Batman trilogy was what we deserved after the campy ridiculousness of Joel Schumacher (which, let’s be honest, is still pretty enjoyable), it’s still not what we need. It’s so clinical and “smart” and just kind of … rigid. The symbolism is heavy-handed, the two huge plot-hinging-upon moments in The Dark Knight make ZERO sense, and while the ensemble is possibly the most impressive to be seen in a Hollywood franchise this side of Harry Potter, the original Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, when you get right down to it, they mostly don’t have an awful lot to do. It’s not bad, but it’s not brilliant. I’m not too sad losing that illusion, though. Holding out for something better gives me something to look forward to.

I mean not with Zack Snyder in DC’s cinematic universe’s cockpit, but y’know. After that.

There will be an after that, right?

It’s Christmas after all.

Batman is, in my mind, a gritty, Gothic noir thriller. It’s not Imax and explosions; it’s not about action and choreography, but about psychology and the line between sanity and insanity. That’s what the whole Batman/Joker thing hinges on; that’s what the whole Batman/Bruce Wayne thing hinges on for that matter. And it’s not like that wasn’t explored in these films, but it just wasn’t done my way.

Yadda yadda. I still like it. You can only harbour so much resentment for something with Gary Oldman in it.

As I try to force myself to work on this gender-flipped Twilight project for some reason, after all those realisations I’ve had about how fucking unproductive and generally awful it is when I try to force myself to do creative things, I decided to go read through my Christmas-themed novel first draft, completed way back in April 2008. It’s … actually way better than I was expecting. I mean it’s still a first draft, but that’s a moot point; there’s good stuff there that I’d actually want to use, and surprisingly clear and well-developed given that this was me writing seven years ago. At that point I was still surfing the waves of emotional upheaval in the wake of parting ways from Wickham, so I guess that could be where the clarity comes from – you get pretty real with yourself at times like that. This is vintage stream-of-consciousness earnestness here, albeit far more refined and, like, narratively sound than one might expect. As I did. I exceeded my own expectations seven years ago; imagine what I’ll do tomorrow.

I dunno. I can imagine quite a bit.

MAN Star Wars is good.

The storytelling, as in the clear-cut, tightly-knit structure and lack of gimmicky crap does certainly take a dive after A New Hope, but it’s not really noticeable until Jedi. I think Lucas wrote my favourite of the three screenplays (A New Hope, although he did have some uncredited help with the final draft), and it just makes the failure of the prequels all the more – bah. It’s 2014, almost 2015. There’s about to be a sequel trilogy. It looks really flashy and not anything like the Star Wars I know and love, but at least it’s something new to occupy the portion of my brain devoted to fandom business with.

This has been a busy year for me, and I barely remember most of it. I moved house. Like, holy crap, six-ish months ago I was still living in the cramped, messy house I’d been living in since I was 3. I can’t imagine being anywhere but here now. It’s got room. It’s so welcoming it makes me want to remember it. I also had, one right after the other, the absolute worst and absolute best semesters of my student career this year. In that order, happily. I discovered that I could, absolutely make plans and stick to them. I discovered that sometimes you have to scrap all of your plans because they’re absolute fucking shit and start over from scratch. I discovered that I could write the story I’d been trying and failing to complete for 13 years. I discovered that I could do no such thing and, well, it’s really not a big deal. I discovered that I still love being a writer, despite all the setback. I discovered that I am not and never have been just a writer and that I’ve been holding myself back for the sake of clutching onto a stable identity label. I discovered that it’s a bad idea to try and force creativity. I discovered that sometimes you have to force creativity, not because it’s a good idea but because otherwise you might not get any momentum from anywhere else. I learnt that momentum is a bad word to use to justify your actions, because you can apply momentum to all sorts of things, not all of which are good. Some balls should never be gotten rolling.

I discovered that I hate laptops with a burning vengeance, but that they started it. I discovered that I am terrible at university. I discovered that I am am a baller-ass bad motherfucking boss at university. I discovered that I was right when I thought I’d been treating myself unfairly all these years for my teen angst, that that angst was a lot more than just being grumpy and impatient and that I actually had severe mental issues, and that no matter how hard it was for me to treat myself well, it was what I deserved. I discovered that I know how to Go To A Counselor, and that it is a skill. I discovered that it’s a really fucking bad idea to borrow exercise routines off YouTube performed by somebody who looks like they could benchpress six of me, when I myself can hardly do 30 pushups in a row. I discovered that I remember how to ride a bike, and that yes, you can actually forget – a bit, anyway. I discovered that I really enjoy writing snarky, ad-hominem critiques of crappy YA paranormal romance novels, and that I feel really bad about it afterwards. I discovered that I could never write High Fantasy again because it’s iterative and dry and boring. I discovered that I fucking love High Fantasy and can’t wait to get that Great Story rolling, just as soon as I actually know what it is. I discovered that I’m becoming more like my parents and that it bothers me a lot. I discovered that 27 years old is fucking nothing and angsting about how old and decrepit and socially irrelevant I am since I was 17 years old is hilarious, not sad, because seriously, 27 is NOTHING.

I’m sure I learnt more than that and, much like everything I learn, I’ve misplaced it somewhere in my memory banks. Perhaps it’ll come back to me. Perhaps not. But hopefully if it doesn’t, it’s because I don’t need it yet, and it’ll come back when I do.

Mostly I’ve learnt that I don’t know who I am or who I want to be, and that the habit of insisting that I do is really hard to shake. And to make sure you remember what your automatic payments are so you’re not paying for random crap. And I have learnt that, no matter how much you discover about yourself, the important thing is that you’re doing what you can in the moment, because memory is a fickle thing. We don’t remember things that seem like priorities; we cling to unhealthy half-truths that only look convincing because we don’t see the scaffolding holding them up at the back. And yet we also remember that we were happy Then, what happens to us for the next few years, all the lines to The Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition). We remember. It’s a function. There isn’t much we can do about it either way. And, well, that’s just how it is.

So live in the moment, because it never ends. Do what’s right to do now. Be aware of the worst, hope for the best, and just be here. It is, in the end, the only thing that’s certain, whether we like it or not. May as well do it as well as we can.

May your days be merry and bright, and may you discover all, and then discover it all over again.