Weekly Words: 09-15/09/2018

09/09/18: 2596

To continue in my new strategy of cheating I mean counting my word-count a bit more purposefully, I have counted these words that I wrote approximately half of – because, today, my friend and I finished the final scene in our co-writing project of 10 months!

We wrote it together, which was an interesting (and fun) experience, as up to this point we have written this entire show either episode about or scene about, so this was new territory for us.

We also watched a bunch of intros to old ’90s TV shows, and our show definitely needs one. Particularly one like Animorphs or Big Wolf on Campus. Which is to say like any of the predecessor shows to the likes of The Vampire DiariesShadowhunters, and of course Teen Wolf. We are continuing a proud tradition here. We will do it right.

12/09/18: 924

Why is freewriting so hard?

Oh well, at least it’s getting done.

13/09/18: 0

Seriously, why is it so hard?

I did get stuff done today though, and important stuff. Mostly paperwork. But I also finished The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee, after putting it off for, what, 3 weeks after going out of my way to get it from the library? Not because I didn’t enjoy it; I actually put off reading the other two library books I got out, before this one, just to read it. I enjoyed it. To be honest, I enjoyed the first 50 or so pages quite a bit more than the next 450, but that isn’t to say that those 450 pages were bad. I still enjoyed myself – I guess I just thought that the story was going to be about something other than it was, and skimming Goodreads reviews tells me that I’m not alone in this. As for what it was actually about – basically, it’s a very modern, overtly liberal Bildungsroman, replete with diversity and empowerment and calling out problematic behaviour …

Which is my bag, baby, even if it was a bit less, I dunno, meaty than I would have liked – the diversity and ethic of acceptance that drives this book was great to see, but it was a little … uncomplicated. The main character, Monty, is a privileged white boy (also bisexual, and that is explored regarding how it intersects with his privilege in other areas), and serves as, if not quite an audience stand-in, a privilege stand-in. Of the three central characters (Monty, his BFF/longtime crush Percy, and his younger channeling-Hermione sister Felicity), Percy is the most privileged and the most self-centred, and the various facets of diversity are represented through the lens of his percpective on them. In that sense, there is definitely some exploration of the problems people can face when, for instance, they suffer from a disability and/or social stigma and their privileged friends don’t understand, in the slightest, what it is like to actually have to live with these imposed social burdens, and that is good. But perhaps because it’s a YA novel, perhaps because the author just didn’t want to “go there”, or perhaps because whatever other reason, that’s about as bad as it ever gets. Percy and Felicity are much more likeable than Monty, but they’re also much more boringly perfect, the kind of Strong Character that gets criticised more and more frequently these days for not having much in the way of depth or complexity – although having said that, this book is all from Monty’s POV, and since Felicity is getting her own novel I am definitely keen to be proven wrong about my reading of her as a character who endures hardship as a substitute for having character flaws/depth. If Percy also gets his own book, I will be similarly eager to get my hands on it. Whether or not a character gets to take the perspective spotlight in a story can go a long way towards establishing their character, so while I’m not overly enthused about Felicity and Percy in this book (though I still liked them!), I would definitely be interested to see if that would change if I got to see things from their point of view.

And despite my quibbles, Gentleman’s Guide has well and truly validated my choice to swear off urban fantasy for a while and bring YA back into my life. While I wish that perhaps there had been more depth and complexity in this book, it was more depth and complexity than I’ve had the pleasure of reading for a good little while, at least more of the kind that I’m particularly interested in.

Weekly Total: 4702

This has not been a writing week. Just putting that out there.

It has, however, been an important week where I got some important stuff done, and having written this much at the same time is quite gratifying. I have more thoughts about Gentleman’s Guide than I initially thought so there may be a proper book review at some stage. Morning pages are just … maybe if I wake up in the actual morning they’ll be easier? I like the idea, I always feel better for having done them, but I think I need a more structured approach to them right now. I do think pen and paper is the way to go; typing means that you can type more or less at the speed of your thoughts, whereas pen and paper means your thoughts skip ahead to the next thing while you’re still writing the last one, and having to just pick up wherever your thoughts currently are is part of the reason that freewriting works. I actually think I need to differentiate between morning pages and freewriting, and that doing both is a good idea. Morning pages to get in touch with my thoughts, and freewriting to break out of over-thinking.

Tools. It’s about tools, and having the right ones for the job.

It’s also about me not stressing about how much I write so that I can focus on reading and the reading just isn’t happening. So that’s next week’s primary focus. The year is almost out, and I had a plan at the start of this year to have not only re-read and made revision notes on Mark and Jessie, but to actually revise it and have it read to submit to publishers. Short of finding a time-machine, I don’t think that’s a realistic goal anymore – but I may be able to do one revision pass on it this year. It just depends on me picking up the pace, and having a revision plan ready to roll.

One step at a time. I haven’t read it all yet; I certainly don’t have good revision notes. I don’t even know if I’ll have workable revision notes this year, if I’ll have to read this pile of hot garbage again before I can parse it clearly enough to do so, or what. I just have to finish this read-through and see where things stand. Which means finishing this read-through.

Am I Getting There? It doesn’t feel like it right now. I guess I’ll just keep going until it does.

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Weekly Words 02-08/09/2018

07/09/18: 1445

I guess I’m having a reverse weekend this week in writing: I’m taking two days on, rather than two days off. Today and tomorrow I will do writing, and for the past five days, I will not.

Time means what I want it to mean.

As does my writing progress, and I have come to a decision. Since I am not writing for a living, yet would like to, I need to get into the habit of doing things that writers do for a living. This would include focusing on my priority projects – and writing. Not always the same thing. It so happens that I find myself in such a position right now.

Mark and Jessie is my writing priority, and I have been neglecting it. I think it’s because of the word-count thing; there is no way for me to measure my progress with the Mark and Jessie project, because right now it is a reading and note-taking project, not a writing project. That’s fine, but what’s less fine is the way that I’ve been trying to force myself to only write projects, to contrive reasons for why I “should” be working on a project that I can measure in word-count, as opposed to the project that I’m actually supposed to be – and interested in – working on and moving forward.

At the same time – measuring the progress that I make in terms of regular writing has been very rewarding, and has helped me get perspective in all areas of my life, not just writing. I want to keep benefiting from this, but the way I’ve been trying it – well, it worked out for the first 3 months, and then for the next 3 it’s been pretty dire. The novelty has worn off – this is stupid.

But that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to write every day.

The solution is elegance itself – successful authors who write for a living write every day. Specifically, I have heard, they do this thing called “morning pages”, which is not only writing, but writing that helps them to do more writing. They keep focus on their work; they maintain their skill and focus, their discipline.

So, from next week on, my Weekly Words count is going to be, first and foremost, a count of my morning pages.

Because it’s still writing. It’s the exact kind of writing I want to get better at, too: writing without a filter, without worrying about making it “good” or it having to “count” – just writing. It keeps your hand in; it’s regular exercise.

And it’s not a project.

Which works well for me. In fact it works perfectly, because 1) I don’t want to focus on any writing projects other than Mark and Jessie right now, 2) it allows me to continue to benefit from the perspective that Weekly Words has given me, and 3) it enables these two things without forcing me to spend more time than I want to writing, or feeling guilty about not writing. It frees me from some of these ridiculous mind-trap constraints; it gives me a clear reason for why I have to focus on the things I think I really do need to focus on, for both my own well-being and that of my current main writing project …

And it means that, the rest of the time, I can use this energy and motivation that I have to do other shit … doing that other shit.

It’s crazy, but it just might work.

08/09/18: 916

Well, it didn’t happen in the actual morning, but it did happen, and that was in 10 minutes. So that’s, what, 91.6 words per minute? Of utter nonsense, sure, but not as much as I was expecting – or hoping, honestly, I kind of need to loosen up more – and that is a lot of words per minute as far as I can tell.

It’s hard doing freewriting digitally; the urge to go back and spell words correctly is amplified significantly by the fact that you are so used to having autocorrect step in to pretty up all the uglyinvalid spellings you do that when it doesn’t happen it throws you entirely off-balance. That’s one of the reasons I was hesitant to do it on laptop, but at the end of the day this is where I write, and I simply don’t have the physical space to house non-digital morning pages, or pages of any kind for that matter.

It’s given me some insight into “real” writing, too – so much of what I write, and what I assume most people write, during a first or zero draft is waffle. One of the reasons I’m looking forward to the end-of-year wrap-up of Weekly Words is to see how many words I wrote overall, and to think about how that could have translated into a Thing. But, the thing is – would it have? I did write a full draft of a novel – Tallulah – in about 8 months, and that was roughly 120k words long. But I cut it in half and wrote another 28k new words to fill it in again over the course of the next roughly 8 months. Word-count only means word-count; it doesn’t mean “progress towards getting a manuscript ready for submission”. That is something I learnt the hard way with Tallulah, and it was a valuable lesson. Right now, I’m appreciating the valuable perspective that today’s freewriting session has given me: yes, I can write a lot of words, and it’s fun to see how many I can write, and how quickly. Like, if I kept up that pace, I could have about 5.5k words written in an hour. If I wrote at that pace for 8 hours a day, treating this like a job, that’s about 44k words. That’s 6k words off a Nanowrimo’s worth of writing.

But while I could produce that number of words, how many of those words would actually matter? The first time I try out a story – and part of the reason why I’m so hesitant to get started on new projects – most of what I end up writing is story-math. I’m writing out my computations of my world-building and its consequences for the plot I want to have; I’m writing out my improvisation and revision of characterisation and motivation and foreshadowing; I’m over-explaining things for my own sake because all of the ideas are new to me and untested and I want to feel secure in my understanding of them. And while I think that’s fine and natural, it also translates into a lot of filler. Such as the filler I’m finding takes up about half of the total 160k word-count of Mark and Jessie. Having a whole bunch of words written does not mean you’re close to having a story told, no matter how fast you write them.

But.

It also tells me that shifting my focus to freewriting is exactly what I need to to.

Because that’s about as meaningful as any of my writing is going to be at this stage with most of my projects; and for those that are farther along, like Mark and Jessie and, when I eventually return to it, Tallulah, word-count is going to, well, count for even less. In fact I wonder now if it’s even something I want to keep track of. It’s taken the pressure off when it comes to getting writing done, because I now have a clearer perspective of what words are “worth”, I guess – the one exception to that is the co-writing project, but I feel that’s a clear exception because it’s not just my project, and the level of investment from both of us writing it came with a fairly comprehensive planning phase for me to refer back to. Also, external accountability. Mainly external accountability, actually.

Get a writing buddy, guys.

The point is that since I know now that word-count is not actually a measure of progress so much as it is a measure of commitment, as long as the things that I am using my word-count for are meaningful, the word-count itself doesn’t matter. I can just check off my “I did writing at all today” box every day I do it and be done with it …

But I spent a good portion of last year revising the ranger class in D&D 5E for my own … entertainment? Well I did it, anyway, I hope it was entertaining. I grew up with Dragonball Z. I like numbers. And big numbers, numbers that I made, I like especially.

Should I keep track of my word-count going forward, now that I know that word-count is basically pointless?

Weekly Total: 2361

Oh wait, this blog post counts, too. Because for one, I wanted to count my blog post writing when I started Weekly Words, and for another, if I’m just counting my commitment to making words appear on a computer screen, I have no excuse not to. This is like how much I bench-pressed today.

With my mind.

Actual Weekly Total: 3868

I have discovered the future, folks. And it’s looking pretty okay to me.

Monthly Words: August 2018

Monthly Total: 21865

I’ve gone through a number of emotional states this month. I mean, it’s been a month, hopefully my emotional state would not have remained exactly the same for a whole month – but it’s been more up and down and various other directions than I’ve been used to experiencing of late. Reading back over the weekly entries for August, I saw a lot of soul-searching, and an important recognition: that I tend to second-guess my reasons for deciding to do things. I’m used to knowing that I second-guess my decisions, but realising that the rabbit hole goes that much deeper has been a revelation. Also very disturbing. Like, I feel you have to be some special kind of fucked up to not just question whether you made the correct decision, but whether or not you can actually take credit for making the decision in the first place.

Naturally, I only go through this toxic determinist mantra whenever I make a decision that I agree with and feel like I’ve benefited from. If it’s a bad decision or one that causes me some kind of upset, there’s no credit I won’t take. It’s just the useful, helpful, contribute-to-my-mental-wellbeing decisions that I have to disavow any part in actually making.

It’s not okay.

But that’s okay. Because throughout this turbulent month I have made good decisions, and have even started to feel like I am actually responsible for them, because I can see how the process works a bit clearer. My own mind is less of a mystery to me in terms of how it is that the mechanical components coordinate in order to produce decisions – because I’ve started thinking about it less. It’s that simple.

In terms of writing, I covered a lot of ground this month, and that’s exactly what I want to be doing. Not as much depth as I’d like, but it’s more scope than I think I’ve explored up to this point with Weekly Words. I also did some life stuff that I am very happy I did, and happy I got the opportunity to do, with the people I did it with. It’s left me with a strange feeling, one that I haven’t felt for a long time.

Purpose.

I haven’t had this feeling since I was 20 and came up with Mark and Jessie’s Christmas, a story that truly felt like it came from me. I don’t have a new story like that right now, but the feeling is there – I feel like there’s a point now. To being. I’ve realised that, for a long time now, I’ve just sort of been coasting, not really having a sense of purpose or intent or anything. Which I think has been good in some ways, like getting into reading again and starting to be able to just do things without them having to serve some kind of larger purpose (though I’ve still felt like that), but I definitely wanted a sense of purpose a while ago. Having it now … I feel refreshed. Reminded. Of who I am, or can be.

Which I’ve wanted to feel for …

Well, it’s nice, and it’s what I’ve got to work with, and I’ve got plans for what I want to work on with it. I think that sets me up for something pretty good.

And the writing wasn’t bad, either.

Weekly Words 26/08-01/09/2018

26/08/18: 1712

That’s a bit goddamn better!

I do actually have a bit of a plan for this week, the remainder of this month, to get the things done that have not been getting done and need to have been done long, long ago, for my own personal well-being. I have said before, numerous times, that I suck at self-care, and this week I had the astoundingly obvious revelation that I think about self-care in a very narrow sense, and it’s been fucking me up. I tend to think of it as “chilling out”, relaxing, doing nothing – but that’s not at all what self-care means. Self-care means making sure that we meet our own personal needs, whatever those are – and in my case, it actually means doing stuff. Lots of stuff, actually, specifically stuff that I know I’m likely to just sit on and let never get done, because anxiety.

And just to be clear: the thing that needs to get done is that I need to get my paperwork filled out so that I can finally get some fucking therapy for said anxiety, which has been ruining my life for the past 16 years, at least. It was probably ruining my life before I turned 15 and discovered that socialising is hard, and I just didn’t notice because I was a kid and my life was peachy. In any event, this shit cannot go on any longer. I need to do something about it.

So I will. This week.

And also this week I will continue writing, and as I did today, I will get it done by just making myself get started. Ready, Player One gave me the start of some ideas on how to approach one of my projects – my big author-insert self-fanfic high fantasy epic, to be specific – and that seems like the direction that I want to go in the most right now, so that’s going to be my focus, along with finishing up this co-writing episode that is supposed to be done by the 1st of next month. So at the end of this Weekly Words. Convenient.

And most important of all: I know now that I need to be doing things as part of my self-care as well as just for the sake of getting shit done that needs to be done. This also means that, when one thing can’t get done or doesn’t get done, I don’t stop doing all the other things as a result. These are my goals for this week.

So sayeth the Ubermensch!

29/08/18: 3085

Betterer and betterer.

It’s a razor’s edge, the difference between a productive week and a non-productive week for me. That’s what I’m taking away from my progress this week. The last two days I got nothing done: not writing, not my Plan, nothing except some gaming and half-hearted self-pity. Then today, I finished a very long scene that really needs to be broken up into 2-3 scenes when we get around to revising this co-writing monstrosity, took some tangible steps towards completing my Plan, and even got started on a bit of potential PhD research. What was the difference?

Decisions. Not mood, not mindset, not attitude. I just made different decisions today.

It doesn’t feel reliable to me, and that’s the part that bothers me. I don’t feel reliable to myself. But, regardless, I made good decisions today, and tomorrow I can continue to do so. Pep pep pep. Positivity and shit.

Anyway whatever it was a pleasing day and it is over now! Time for sleep.

30/08/18: 1368

THE PLAN.

IT IS HAPPENING.

HOLY FUCKBALLS WHAT IS LIFE.

Why yes, I am rather pleased with myself this week so far, if you must know.

I have watched all 2 seasons of Lucifer available on Netflix in NZ; I know there is 1 more and then a 4th being produced by Netflix, and I assume at some point or another I will get to see them both, though I have to be honest I don’t know if I can be bothered, regardless of how much of a trashy, problematic fave of mine it has become. Much like Wynona Earp, it’s basically an Urban Fantasy novel as a TV show, and that’s exactly what I want out of my television right now.

Partly because I have sworn off it in my books, at least for the time being. I am currently reading The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, and I have ambitions of writing a book review of it … somehow. I don’t have the energy to make notes as I’m reading – mostly because I don’t want it to disrupt my flow of reading, or to feel like the only reason I’m reading is so that I will have a book review to show for it – especially not on my computer. But at the same time, I do have things to say about this book, even though I’m not even 50 pages in yet. They’re good things. It’s a good book so far. According to Goodreads, I am correct in this assertion. I guess I could just write a from-memory review and not take notes at all … or write them with pen and paper …

Or I could just read the damn book and enjoy it.

31/08/18: 444

I could end the writing week here, but I think I’ll push on. Not least because tomorrow is when I am supposed to have finished all of my scenes for the co-writing project. Although that’s more a personal goal than anything; and I’m almost done, so it feels like something to strive for.

01/09/18: 969

And it is done.

Weekly Total: 7578

Not bad! Especially given my recent efforts, writing-wise. I feel much more enthusiastic about writing at the moment, actually. Amazing what a bit of positive reinforcement based on personal experience can do for the old morale.

Also, getting onto my mental health “plan” this week, after well over a year and a half of agonising – I’m still not quite all the way there yet, but I’ve got momentum, and it feels good. All around, I just feel pretty good about where I’m at right now.

Not a bad way to close out the month.

Weekly Words 19-25/08/2018

19/08/18: 667

All right. Back to writing.

My friend and I set a deadline for finishing this current (final) episode of our co-writing project, which happens to be the 1st of September – it’s a full 2 weeks, true, but as I well know a lot can not happen in 2 weeks, so I’ve made myself get a start on it. Today’s been a bit of a restart in a few ways: I got this writing done, I went for a walk this morning after three weeks of serious slacking …

Also I watched Ready, Player One at long last and it inspired me.

Not, like, the actual story or anything. The film is decidedly mediocre, though I also did not hate myself forever after finishing it. More the premise – the opening narration has the line: “The only limit to what you can do in the OASIS is your imagination”. This premise has been used in stories before, and it’s impossible to follow through on to a satisfactory level; but something about it made me realise that it’s actually exactly the premise of one of my own projects. I had thought it was something else; I thought it was about playing with high fantasy tropes, even though looking at high fantasy never really gave me inspiration for it, and then I saw Ready, Player One and realised that high fantasy is just the setting, and instead of looking at high fantasy for answers to my various issues with narrative and genre, I instead need to seek out stories within this “genre” of “anything you can imagine is possible because I the author wish I was making a videogame instead of writing a book/making a film” for advice. And while that seems like it will take effort, I find it a kind of exciting prospect, rather than an offputting one. Personal growth? You decide.

23/08/18: 43

Look, whatever, it’s not about the word-count anymore, or at least it really shouldn’t be considering the past couple of months.

I do want to write more this week, but I’m now starting to think that maybe Weekly Words needs to morph into Monthly Words. Part of this is the “perspective is good” element of Weekly Words; having the ability to look over things that I’ve done with my time across an extended period is definitely useful, but I’m now thinking that the focus on what I’ve done, focusing solely on past-tense, is also quite narrow, and that if I shift gears into planning my goals within the context of the span of a month as the window of time in which those goals can be achieved, it might help me to develop more robust forward-planning skills, which would be nice.

Especially since the main reason I haven’t been doing much writing lately is because I am very upset about things that I keep meaning to do and never get around to doing, and the despondency just leaks out into every other aspect of my life, especially something as self-directed as writing. I don’t have to do it, I have no obligation to do it, and so if anything’s going to suffer it’s going to be writing, because it’s just so easy to not bother when there’s other shit on my mind. I had a pretty major wake-up call at this week’s Youthline session, in a good way, but that’s just with this particular thing that I’ve been trying to get done for almost two years – lack of follow-through, and lack of sensible planning, is one of my long-term learning edges (a strengths-based term for “thing that you’re bad at”). Weekly Words has helped me a lot this year, but perhaps it’s reached the end of its usefulness …

Or just needs to be supplemented with something. Perhaps I just need to get more serious about my more long-term goals – such as writing goals for the month, for the year, etc. I think that this thought is a step in the right direction anyway, even if the exact plan is not quite there yet.

Weekly Total: 710

WHATEVER.

The thing is, I really do have so much shit that I need to sort out, and until I get it sorted out I’m not going to want to write. Which sucks, because I like writing, and I like wanting to write. But it’s my own fault; I’ve put it off and put it off again, and it just keeps getting in the way of everything else I want to do, not just writing. It’s time to focus on making sure it gets done.

But the writing is not going to stop. I don’t want it to be a matter of hitting pause on every single other thing in my life just because one big thing isn’t happening for me; I want to get used to making things happen all at once, managing the balancing act. It’s what I wanted while I was marking, and I didn’t get it – but I made a start. And I intend to keep the ball rolling, or get it rolling again, or whatever momentum-based metaphor is applicable to my current situation.

I don’t want to let one shitty ongoing obstacle be an obstacle to everything else in my life, yet I’ve done exactly that for the past … I don’t even want to try to count how long. Long enough. Sometimes you need a break; I needed a break last week. But this week I didn’t need a break – I just needed to do other things as well as writing, and those things didn’t get done.

Well, it’s time to get them done, and time to try harder to make my writing work for me in the way that I want it to. I hate this week. But it’s over now. On to the next one.

Weekly Words 12-18/08/2018

Weekly Total: 0

I haven’t written anything this week, intend to continue writing nothing this week, and it feels very correct indeed.

I’m not sure quite what the trigger was for me making this decision, but I actually think it was less of a trigger and more of suddenly realising that I’m really fucking exhausted. Like, okay, a bit embarrassing, I life about the most sedentary lifestyle it is possible for a person to live without being forced to do so by morbid obesity, but ever since that first panic-induced marking frenzy earlier this year – to be frank, I don’t think I’ve recovered. Not my energy, but my habits, my focus, my stability. I haven’t really taken the time to actually re-settle myself, get back into a healthy groove. I spent all of that time doing things that I was obligated to do, and since then have spent pretty much no time on myself.

And no, moping and feeling sorry for myself and fretting and procrastination does not count as “me time”, for what are hopefully obvious reasons. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am shit at self-care, and that is what this week has been about – or, it has been since yesterday, when after Youthline I realised I had gone 4 days without writing and that it felt good, and I was so tired after Youthline that I slept in until 12:45 PM this afternoon and it felt even gooder.

Which tells me that, at least for a little while, this is what I need.

And I’ve done some other things, anyway, important things. I completed my first mentor shift at Youthline, where I answered texts sent by real-life people and everything. No phone calls, because I probably would have had a heart attack, but the experience, while exhausting, was also incredibly empowering, and if I wanted a change from the morbid doldrums of last week then this was definitely a good start. I’ve spent this week feeling pretty optimistic, though also more aware of when I get tired; I can feel myself starting to nod off around 7 PM, and I’ve decided to start rolling with it – not to sleep, but to chill.

And by doing so, I finally finished Graceling, a book that I bought for myself 5 years ago (to memory) and, after reading 1 chapter, refused to finish it, despite having paid money to own it. Well, I’ve read it now, and while I can’t say I’m richer for the experience or that I’ve experienced any personal growth directly attributed to the content of the story itself, I do feel better about myself – and more competent at the whole self-care thing. After all, while I think my Urban Fantasy kick is well and truly over, it did put me back in touch with my love of reading, and I have to say that Graceling was actually a bit more of a challenging read than most of the UF I’ve read so far. Well, challenging in a way that I like. There have definitely been UF books that were more challenging, but not in a way that made me think so much as a way that made me recoil in anguish and horror and want to throw them across the room but stopped myself from doing it because they’re library books and also I don’t want to destroy my house because I read a shitty book.

Though to be clear, saying that Graceling made me think is a bit … strong. More accurately, Graceling proved to me that even a book that doesn’t quite successfully tell a story and has a truly toxic “romance” at its core can still have good points, and how frustrating that reading experience can be. It also proved to me that, yes, I really do love reading, because even reading Graceling was satisfying enough.

Okay I’m being a bit mean, and reflecting on most of my book reviews, honestly, I am quite glad that I haven’t done many over the past few years. I think I have the training – on paper at least – to be conduct critical analysis on texts, but not the temperament. I want to be harsh and shitty and make jokes at the author’s expense, because I’m just a bit of a tool. And I think that’s okay, honestly – I just don’t think, knowing this about myself, that I absolutely need to publish these personal expressions of my opinion to the internet.

Also there’s just not much I’d want to say about Graceling. I read it, it wasn’t great but there were good parts – I particularly liked Bitterblue, and if the whole book had been about her I would have been rather more enthusiastic – and at the end of the day, I feel satisfied that I not only got a book read and unlocked today’s downtime achievement, but also that I honoured a deal that I made with myself to start reading through books that I actually own before continuing to binge on library books.

However, I do rather enjoy the snarkings of other critics, and have been revisiting Reading With A Vengeance, which I used to frequent much more often when I actually, like, did things online, instead of just blogging and drowning out the noise in my head with endless DBFZ videos on Youtube. This has been another part of my downtime activity since I decided literally yesterday that I needed more self-care time, and it reminds me of that time I declared that I wanted to embark on an “internet world tour” some years ago – basically, to explore the internet and see just what, exactly, is out there. To be interested in things again would be an awfully big adventure. Also potentially a way to combat my rather uncurious attitude – I’ve always been aware of it, to some extent, the fact that I hear about all these writers who are known for being observant and getting really excited about little interactions that they happen to observe, people’s tics and patterns of speech and whatever other minutia us writers are supposed to be fucking junkies for, and I’m just not. But it extends to every area of my life, not just writing, and let’s just say that depression and social anxiety have not helped this habit to abate, exactly.

And as happy as I was to finish a book today and hop into bed when I felt myself drowsing out, I also want a wider range of self-care options to choose from than just “read something” and “play games I don’t really enjoy until I finally give up on finding any scrap of enjoyment at around 4 AM and fail to sleep due to over-stimulation”.

I think the main issue is that I tend to want to have multiple forms of stimulation going on at once. For instance, as I write this I have a Spotify playlist playing – I almost always have music playing, no matter what I’m doing, and a couple of years ago it was podcasts instead. I think this stems from growing up when “the internet” was a new and exciting invention, and particularly how much stuff I could find there – music in particular. I could find it, hoard it, yes I was a teenager in the early 2000’s you can figure out what I was doing. The point is that I was presented with this glut of stuff to do with as I would, too much to know what to do with, and I imagine that much like people who suddenly come into a lot of money they just want to use it all, because it’s so new and exciting and theirs, and they want to indulge in the sheer sensation of their ownership over it. All restraint goes out the window, and before you know it some very unhealthy, and potentially lifelong habits have been formed. I listen to music not because I always want to be listening to music, but because back in the day the way I tried to cope with the overwhelming availability of music was to find as many ways as I could to fit it into my everyday life, driven by a strange “use it or lose it” anxiety brought on by the fact that I could never actually run out. I dunno, brains are weird.

But that can go on the self-care list: one thing at a time. One thing that I enjoy as a downtime activity at a time. So rather than music and a book, one or the other, that sort of thing. Because I want to enjoy things more. I want to appreciate them more. And I imagine that requires focus, mental bandwidth that I have been trying to stretch between too many things at once. To the point where, like, the very idea of listening to a podcast and not doing something else at the same time gives me fucking anxiety.

All of this and more is why this week off writing is so important for me.

But also, I feel like I’ve gotten to a place with my writing where I don’t need Weekly Words every single week in order to keep up momentum – I feel like I’ve got a good enough foundation with it that I can fit in breaks and not have it completely demolish my momentum. Not so much that I feel confident about taking, say, 2 weeks off, but 1 I think will be not only perfectly fine but also pretty damn advisable, given that there are a lot of things that have been happening with me this year that I know I haven’t really made the time to properly, responsibly process.

As for saying that there will be no writing this week – that’s how I feel right now. It could change. I might mark it up next week or something; but for this week, my aim is that getting writing done is not the goal I want to have accomplished by the end of it. My goal is to get centered again, find a bit of the clarity and focus that I feel like I’ve been missing for a very long time, and make a list of all the things that helped me get there so that I can replicate the results.

And read. Lots. Hopefully lots of good stuff.

Weekly Words 05-12/08/2018

06/08/18: 3206

I really wasn’t going to write today. I watched the EVO DBFZ Tournament Top 8 for most of the day and have very strong feelings about it, and I was pretty sure that was just my writing efforts well and truly sabotaged for the day. Oh well, I thought to myself, it’s not like I can’t make up for it tomorrow – and hey, I can always write 1 word a day, right? After all, consistency is the main thing, not word-count.

Which is why I’m not bragging that I wrote 3k words in under 2 and a half hours, which to memory is faster than I usually write, I should really try timing myself properly more often …

And it was all one of my own projects. Mortal Foil, to be exact. My co-writing buddy and I did not work on our co-writing project yesterday, and instead I read over one of my more recently completed projects while she worked on her YA dystopian novel, and she was on quite the roll. It was incredibly inspiring, and at the same time made me so frustrated with myself for being such a smartass with my own writing, destroying all of my own momentum by giving in to my awful arts student habit of having to fucking solve everything, especially when it’s “problematic”.

Lindsey Ellis, the whole reason I became interested in watching youtube, made a video regarding this issue, discussing the way it ruined (for her at least) Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. It was a really valuable watch for me – I’ve been aware for some time that just because something in a story is problematic doesn’t mean that it isn’t still working in service of that story, and hearing her put it so succinctly and in-depth really hit home how much I get in my own way when I’m trying to write something in a genre that I associate with particularly problematic tropes. I generally highly recommend Lindsey’s videos, but this one in particular I recommend for any other writers or creatives out there who struggle with this problem and want to be able to put more coherent words to it, as I did until I watched her video.

Of course, the way I framed it to myself back in the day was something to the effect of “ripping shit off is fucking fun”, which is only part of the story, but an important one, and one that I’ve been depriving myself of since deciding to return to this story. I think part of the problem is that I just don’t really like the tropes I’m ripping off, they do legitimately bother me – but it’s also because I just can’t tap into whatever kind of attitude, feeling, or mindset I need to write it sincerely. Which tells me that I may have to go back and read City of Bones again for tips.

Or, if I need something new – well, I never did finish Graceling, did I …

07/08/18: 1788

It was going to be less than this – and I was going to go to bed before 3AM – but fuck it, I watched The Kissing Booth today and actually kind of enjoyed it in a non-ironic way, all bets are off.

Although full disclosure, I am indeed That Guy and mostly find the film an invaluable new source of so-toxic-it’s-hilarious glee and joy in my life – sarcasm aside for a moment, I found myself liking Joey King a lot in the lead role, and sincerely hope that she goes on to bigger (and better) things from here, but fucking seriously, this film

The reason I persisted in writing more than I planned on today (I was going to stop at 247 and like it) is partly because of this film, and what it’s given me to reflect on regarding why I’m finding it so hard to get back into writing Mortal Foil. Here’s the thing: I found writing Wolf Gang to be one of the easiest and most enjoyable writing experiences that I’ve ever had, and to start off with Mortal Foil was the same. But ever since I came back to it a couple of weeks ago, it’s just been kind of a slog. It’s also been pretty rewarding, but only in the moment – the next day, or sometimes even just a couple of minutes later, I regret everything and see no way out.

And it’s because of the tropes that come with female-led YA stories.

And no, it’s not because the stories are all girly and I, a manly man, cannot stoop to the level of writing such drivel.

It’s because, as a man, I lack the emotional fortitude to withstand some of the shit – most of the shit, let’s be real – that female YA protagonists have to endure. And that’s just when I’m reading it. So when I try to write it …

I mean, I can’t. I physically cannot bring myself to do that to myself; I can’t take it. It’s too damn much. I can’t write about how shitlord fuckboys sneak into my protagonist’s bedroom, “for her own good” because of some kind of even-creepier paranormal threat that wants to get into her pants that makes their actions acceptable and justified and even necessary; I can’t write about how the such-a-nice-guy platonic pal slut-shaming the main character is just because he cares about her so much and could’t live with himself if “something happened to her”, which she would be too stupid and naive and stubborn to take any measures to protect herself from and, even if she did, it would still ultimately be her fault for trying to be too empowered or whatever; I can’t fucking do it. I can’t write it and make myself believe that the given explanation for this atrocious, abusive fucking behaviour is the actual explanation; I cannot suspend my disbelief. And it’s driving me crazy, because that’s what the tropes are in this fucking non-genre, and the joy that I take in aping tropes has driven me into this catch-22 creative cul-de-sac, and until tonight I haven’t been able to see a way out of it.

But then I realised – I don’t only like aping toxic horseshit tropes.

Honest.

So rather than trying to force myself to write these abominable cliches and plot contrivances that end up with me steering the story so far away from them, for the sake of “deconstruction” and “critique”, that the story goes off the rails, I decided I’d try to think of some tropes to ape that don’t make me sick to my stomach.

And as it turns out, I actually could think of some.

So I’ve thrown out the last 2 chapters I wrote (they still exist, they’re just in a different folder for discarded drafts, never throw any of your writing away) and started over, taking things in a new, better, and honestly more YA direction than it was going in before. That was the other revelation: stepping away from the problematic tropes actually makes this story feel more like a recognisable YA novel than trying to stick it out with them.

Besides, the main reason for me officially restarting my YA kick – I started reading Graceling again last night after 5 years off and, seriously, I must have somehow read an entirely different book the first time where I gave up on it after the first chapter, it’s actually pretty okay so far – is because there is so much good YA out there, and I can take inspiration from (read: rip off) those stories and tropes, too. The more challenging, self-aware, progressive stuff, not the basic, unapologetically problematic Urban Fantasy mush I’ve been binging on for the past year. It goes down easy, but so does McDonald’s. Now I’m not just looking forward to reading it, but writing it, too.

All because of a kissing booth.

Like seriously, I might have to write a review of that film just to process all of my reactions to it, it’s fucking wild. And by wild I mean so grossly cliche and generic and artless that it’s both utterly redundant and one of the most important artifacts of popular culture of our generation. It’s the next step in the trend that started with Twilight, and whatever you think about that franchise (which Lindsey Ellis also has some very important commentary on), it has defined our cultural landscape to an extent that I truly feel we have only begun to scratch the surface of, because it continues to do so, not least through the likes of 50 Shades of Grey and, now, The Kissing Booth.

Or I’m just still reeling from the psychological trauma resulting from willingly subjecting myself to this viewing experience – but I still don’t regret it. Hell, I’m going to watch it again on Sunday with my co-writing friend. I would recommend this film to everyone. I do recommend this film to everyone, just because I don’t want anyone to be deprived of the response that they will have to it.

Life’s too short not to watch The Kissing Booth for yourself. That’s what I’m saying. For some reason.

09/08/18: 1496

A bit of a flail day today, but I am very aware that the writing is going better this week than it has for a little while, and that is nice to be able to take credit for.

I had kind of a shit day yesterday – I have noticed that I feel particularly anxious and low on days when I have Youthline lately, and yesterday it was as bad as it has been so far. Had a chat with my facilitator today and feel like I have a few more options, a bit more perspective – and this year I’m all about dat perspective – so it’s looking up, i guess. I have to say that, because I have to acknowledge that it’s true, even though it doesn’t feel like that, because feelings just kind of do what they do, regardless of whether it’s helpful or not. But you can feel shit and still get shit done.

And in the midst of dealing with said shit, you can get writing done, too.

10/08/18: 876

Good enough!

And if I do about 3k words tomorrow, that’s 10k for the week. Possibilities.

Needed a self-care day after the past couple of days, and probably more to follow, honestly. I have the beginnings of a plan, though, for all of the life shit that I need to address. So, overall, this was a good day, a day that needed to happen.

11/08/18: 0

Slightly less than 3k words today – for a grand total of:

Weekly Total: 7366

Overall … well, overall I’m glad that there was more than just this last week to judge my life by. I had some tough weeks this year, not just writing-wise but life-wise, and arguably they were objectively more difficult – I had more that needed to be done, I felt the time-crunch really keenly, I had to work around circumstances beyond my control to meet deadlines – but this past week, I think, has been the worst one I’ve had this year. For a few years, honestly.

And, I mean, if this has been the worst thing that’s happened to me in a few years, then my shit is trending upwards. What was hard about this week was reflecting on not just things that I had to deal with, but also having to deal with myself in the midst of it. The things that I fret over, my anxiety, my exceedingly unhealthy tendency to distract myself into a stupor whenever I have anything even remotely thought-intensive on my to-do list – having to experience my own psyche this week was harder than I can remember it being in a long time. Like, there have been one-off days where it’s been hard, quite a few of them, but they are days. They’re isolated, spaced out, and on the whole those shitty days are not the norm for me. But this week, it was very much the norm.

I do feel a bit more motivated to make changes as a result of this week’s general awfulness, but it’s not even about motivation. Motivation is not what gets me to do things. I get me to do things – or not. I have done things without motivation and found it along the way; I have (countless times) ignored motivation when I had it and felt like a failure afterwards. I’ve had days where I’ve felt sad, angry, hopeless, ashamed, and I’ve been able to ride all of them out to wake up the next day able to laugh about it. It’s never been a week. Not since I was a teenager, and fuck knows I ain’t going back to that …

Actually, maybe I should.

I did have a plan to revisit some of my old journals, just to mine them for material/hilarity. I don’t know if it’s “been long enough” for me to read them safely, but it may have been long enough that I don’t care that much anymore. I just need to get my head out of this week.

Not that this was all bad as far as weeks go. In fact, some stuff that happened this week was more noteworthy – and good – than other weeks I have had. Highs and lows this week, I guess, but of course mental illness and perhaps human nature dictate that it’s the negative I have to fixate on.

But yes – this week is over, it needs to be over, and I need to get over it. As quickly as possible.