Two Years Well Spent

Yesterday, I met up with a friend of mine, and did some writing.

Is it 2012 again? This is a strange feeling. I … like this. I feel good about this thing that happened that I did.

Weird.

Not just writing; Writing. And by Writing, I really do mean that capital “W”; this was Writing in the purest sense of the word, where I spent the majority of the time reading in order to make notes, said notes intended to be minimal but quickly swelling into miniature rants about whatever trivial detail I inevitably fixated on every few paragraphs, and then completely switched to making notes about a new project that I had come up with on the spur of the moment.

It was awesome.

And the best part?

The thing I was Writing was Tallulah.

It was important to me – and still is – it was serious work that I wanted to get done, and I just couldn’t help it. I had to be a Writer.

It was glorious.

And it feels great to get back into the zone, which is not only where all the things happen, but where all the things happen. Work will get done; work will be put off. Procrastination will happen, get overcome and happen again. Progress will build momentum, and to celebrate said momentum every single distraction that could possibly take place will, in fact, take place.

It’s a thing of beauty. I have said, over and over again, that I am no longer a Writer. But that was then, and this is now, and I realise that either of those extremes is, well, too extreme. I am and am not a Writer, because while that’s not all I am, it’s definitely something that I am, and it is an all-consuming something – until it’s not.

It’s like that one cardinal rule of writing, the one that I have held to from the start of this blog and continue to hold after so many of my beliefs, habits and attitudes have been challenged and changed over the past five years: you have to commit absolutely to your plan, and you have to reserve the right to completely change your mind about it at a moment’s notice. It’s both. There is no middle-ground; there is no synthesis. It’s both, at once, all the time. And that, I now realise, is how I feel about being a writer – I am until I’m not, and I’m not until I am.

Also I’m really kind of excited about this random new project; it’s more werewolves, but because I’ve been reading all those urban fantasy books, this is a shitty urban fantasy werewolf novel, as opposed to my shitty YA werewolf novel, which technically was also urban fantasy but whatever. What I’m most excited about was simply how easily and quickly ideas for books came to mind almost the second I came up with the premise; there was almost nothing to think about. The only issue that, honestly, I will never write it because I don’t have the energy to put into it – whereas I’m starting to backtrack on my stance on my shitty YA werewolf novel, which might actually become a Thing now. It would be started over from scratch, my main character would either be pretty heavily altered or just removed altogether because he’s an insufferable piece of shit, and … I dunno. I think I might actually shift it a little more towards what I’ve heard referred to as “mid-grade” books, like young adult books – Animorphs comes to mind most readily, and Tomorrow When the War Began. Even though I wasn’t the biggest advocate of that second book, I did like the dynamic of having a relatively large cast of core characters who all go through the Inciting Incident together, as opposed to what generally happens in heroic narratives where it’s just one orphan farmboy who receives the Call to Adventure. I’m feeling an ensemble, in other words, and I think this werewolf thing could work really well in that regard. Much better than this random urban fantasy thing that I like thinking about and planning but feel absolutely no passion to actually write.

Also – I do actually want to continue working on Tallulah, now that I’ve finally picked it up again after 2 years. I made not very much progress the other day, but it was a start, and a start is all I need to get going. I think the best way to go about this is to not think, at all, about what comes next. I’m just going to make a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, because that’s what I’m currently doing – and then, we’ll see.

Either way, I do think that I needed those 2 years for other things. Something wasn’t working, and now – well, something is. I don’t know what; I don’t think it’s the thing I was hoping would start working when I decided to take the break initially, but it’s enough. I’ll take it.

And I’ve also realised that, if I’m going to make mistakes and learn from them, I would actually rather do it with things that I care about, instead of “safe” options – Tallulah is something that I care about a lot, and part of the initial reasoning behind writing my shitty YA werewolf novel was the idea that I could use it as my “test” book, the one I’d actually shop around and go through the process of finding an agent, writing query letters, all that stuff. But it’s not the thing that I care about, and if everything does go well, it’s not the kind of work I want to be known for – not at first, anyway. I’m honestly not sure that Tallulah is that work either, but I do care more about it, and out of the two projects it is the one that I would most like to be published. I could fail with either of them, and it would be kind of heartbreaking either way. But if I succeeded, there’s only one of them that I really want to make that journey with. So I’m going to give that my best shot.

And the next time I decide to take a 2 year break from something I really care about, I at least know that I can have a lot of fun doing something that I don’t really care about in the interim, which I might end up caring about after all. I feel that’s a valuable lesson.

2 years well spent indeed.

Options

I finished reading my shitty YA werewolf novel last night, and have come to a pretty solid conclusion: no way in the hell am I ever, ever going to try and make something out of this thing.

It began life as a glorious writing exercise passion project, and that is how it should end its life as well. Especially having read it. There’s so much that’s set up and then never paid off, so many unfulfilled promises, and it’s not like they’re even good promises to begin with but it just hurts. The ridiculous awfulness of those first early chapters was pretty great, and throughout the manuscript there’s a few moments here and there that I legitimately think have potential to be part of something actually pretty decent. But once I got to the chapters that I wrote during Nanowrimo 2015 – the ones I skipped ahead to write instead of slogging through the info-dump chapters I didn’t feel like writing at the time – it all just kind of descends into garbage.

And it’s salvageable. I just don’t want to salvage it. Not for any reason, really, other than that I simply don’t want to. I mean specifically it’s because the central conflict is so weak and ever-shifting, the central relationship between the main character and his best friend so indecisive and self-contradictory, that it is both very simple to fix and incredibly annoying to fix. It’s a lot of pedantic busy-work, hopping between chapters and trying to match up two different continuities so that it all gels together. If I actually gave a shit about this thing, it would be easy enough.

But I really, really don’t – other than as what it currently is, which is a testament to a year and a half of my life being spent in the pursuit of starting and finishing a book, proof that even after the passion is gone, I can get the work done (and in this case, done better than when the passion was actually there). It’s proof that if I just write, no matter how I feel about that writing at the time of writing it, I can actually produce something pretty decent.

Having said that I don’t want to salvage this thing – there are some ideas that I’m actually pretty into, lore and shit that I came up with for this world that I’m a little bit sad to let go of. Not that it was particularly good lore, but still, I did put some time and energy into it. I liked how it all fit together. I liked the overarching plot that I had for the next 4 books, and I’m also kind of sad to let that go.

On the other hand, now that this is done and dusted, I now have the opportunity to write the original idea that I had for this werewolf passion project, which was very different to this – the core premise (werewolves) was the same, and the broad plot points were as well, but it was a very different story. Most notably it was not a YA story. I’m honestly not sure I’m cut out for YA. But maybe that’s something for revisions to take care of.

On the other other hand … I did what I set out to do. The book is finished; the writing exercise is completed. I think it’s time, at last, to get back to business. I needed this reprieve from serious work, and a more frivolous counterweight to my MA, and it served both of those purposes well for a long time.

But in the end, it was a distraction from the work I’ve been putting off for 2 years now: finishing Tallulah. I was going insane trying to wrap my head around the second revision; I think now is at least a good time to test the water and see if I’ve had enough time away from it to come back with a fresh perspective. I have a solution to the biggest plot issue I’ve been having with Tallulah from day 1 as well, and I would really like to put that into action.

It’s just that it’s so much work. It was enough work to put me off for 2 years, to start an entirely new book just to take my mind off it. I’m kind of dreading starting it up again.

So, actually, maybe I could just go and fix a couple of typos in this shitty YA werewolf thing first.

And I guess, really, those continuity errors wouldn’t be too hard to sort out. A day’s work, maybe, once I have a solid idea of which continuity I actually want to pursue.

And I guess I could add in a couple of scenes that feel like they’re missing. I mean there is potential here. It could be something relatively solid. It would just take time. And if there’s one thing I definitely have these days, it’s time.

So maybe I’ll do that. Maybe I’ll just touch it up a bit, and then get started on Tallulah again.

In fact, why the rush? I wanted something to submit for publishing by the end of this year, but it doesn’t have to be Tallulah, does it? I mean maybe I can put Tallulah off for another year, get this thing out the door and then use the time to polish Tallulah to the standard I’ve always wanted it to meet.

And hey, maybe I’ll start another new book too. I mean, you can never have too many things going on at once creatively, right? Hell, maybe Tallulah was just a writing exercise too, I mean the entire reason I was motivated to write it was because it was unlike anything I’d ever written or even thought about writing before; that’s weird enough to count as a writing project instead of an actual book project in retrospect, right?

I don’t actually have to go back and get started on the third draft that I don’t know where to start with, right?

Right. I can just write about werewolves some more. Werewolves today, werewolves tomorrow; werewolves forever.

I DON’T WANNA WRITE A THIRD FUCKING DRAFT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND IT’S SO FUCKING HARD IT’S LIKE I’VE FIXED ALL THE BIG OBVIOUS PROBLEMS AND NOW IT’S ALL TINY SUBTLE PROBLEMS THAT ARE HARD TO IDENTIFY AND FIND SOLUTIONS TO AND JUST ALL THE OTHER THINGS I COULD BE DOING WITH MY TIME I CAN’T FUCKING TAKE IT I CAN’T GO BACK THERE DON’T MAKE ME GO BACK THERE PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME

So Bright, So Beautiful

So I’ve decided to continue reading over my shitty YA werewolf novel manuscript. The description holds. Oh boy, does it hold.

But because of the order in which I wrote the chapters, two of the earlier ones are also two of the newest ones, and the change in tone and style shows quite strongly – the writing is better, the focus is clearer, and while I wrote these chapters in a real creative slump when I had no particular passion left for this project, these are, so far anyway, the best chapters in the book.

Especially the one I’m reading now, the Diagon Alley chapter, if you like, where our hero learns about the new world he’s stumbled into. It makes me really proud of this festering mound of refuse I have shat out of my brain, because it reads almost exactly like every other bad YA paranormal novel I’ve ever read …

Because I’m rooting for the bad guy.

And it’s exactly the same as actual published books I’ve read; this is of publishable quality, in that sense, and yes that is a real moral concern. But it’s also genuinely beautiful to behold, and for the first time makes me really feel proud of what I’ve accomplished here. In particular, I adore the fact that the bad guy, who is supposed to come across as domineering, arrogant and bullying, instead comes across as completely in the right for doing everything he’s done up to this point. Specifically, everything he’s done that has upset the main character, who is a whinging little shitstain that I want to see run over by a car and smeared across the highway like a tub of paint. Sure, the bad guy could probably do with some honest feedback about some of his behaviour, but all in all he’s not the one coming off as the problem. And that includes him shooting the main character with a gun at point-blank range.

I am that fucking good.

It’s awful; it’s despicable; and it’s the best fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life. I am so, so happy. I can’t even.

I might actually consider revising this book and, like, doing something with it, turning it into an actual writing project instead of just a writing exercise that got way out of hand. There’s something here. Passionless though I may have been during the second half of the time it took me to finish this thing, I think my writing might actually have improved because of it. And that seems like a valuable lesson that I shall strive to actually remember for future reference.

In the meantime, back to reading. I genuinely hope that it gets worse from here.

 

An endless cycle

About an hour and a half ago, I was settling in to write a big ranty post complaining about how there was all this shit I hadn’t gotten done that I’d said I was going to get done. In there would be some kind of resolution to get it done as soon as I’d finished said rant, but even the thought of that felt like another failure, an excuse on top of excuses removing me from the sense of obligation I have been trying to instill within myself.

So instead, I didn’t write it. I deleted it, and went and did the things that I was going to complain about not having done. Making a doctor’s appointment and writing, to be specific.

It feels a lot better than writing that post would have felt.

I mean the doctor’s appointment isn’t until next Monday, and the writing I’ve done is bad writing at a time when I’ve fallen out of touch with whatever magical, utopian psychology I was operating under while writing my shitty YA werewolf novel that let me embrace and even enjoy writing badly – but still. It got done.

And finally, it feels like I’ve started the year.

Not a moment too soon, either, because it’s my birthday tomorrow and I’m turning 30 and holy FUCK I’M GOING TO BE 30 YEARS OLD HOW DO YOU EVEN DO THAT WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL.

Like, I’m supposed to have a couple of kids as part of an unsatisfying marriage, secretly but predictably engaged in an office affair equal parts sordid and banal, trying to get a promotion so that I can use a bigger paycheck to compensate for my untenable desire to live a life that I actually choose to live rather than being forced to adhere to societal expectations just to pay rent and be accepted as a real person. That’s 30 to me. I’m pretty unimaginative when it comes to 30. Probably because that is nothing like what any part of my life had been like, let alone 30.

I mean I’m glad that isn’t going to be 30 for me, but at least it’s intelligible. What I’m doing right now … it just isn’t. It doesn’t feel real to me. Or maybe the better word is “official”. I don’t feel like an official human being; I haven’t quite filled out the form yet.

But hey, there’s opportunity in that, right? I can still be a real person without wedging myself into a cultural stereotype that, I mean fuck, just read that shit. I should be over the moon that that isn’t my life, that nothing up to this point has set me up to live anything remotely like that life.

Grass is always greener, I guess.

And anyway, I guess I am actually enjoying what I’m doing right now – now that I’ve started actually doing it. It’s been a shitty couple of days in particular. After trying to set up my alarm to wake me up super-early so that I could fulfill the spontaneous, romantic promise that I made to myself a couple of posts ago about writing for seven hours every morning, I actually ended up waking up around 1pm both today and yesterday. Which was very demoralising; and then my back went out, and it’s better today but still not great, and it’s happened twice in quick succession and it’s been 11 years with this fucking injury and, yeah, a shitty past couple of days overall.

Until just now. Because something as simple as making a phone call to take responsibitlity for my own well-being, and doing some writing for the sake of breaking out of a rut, can make such a ridiculously huge difference that it’s almost embarrassing. In fact, it is embarrassing, but only if I look at it from the outside. From the inside, I’m reaping the benefits of having gotten some momentum back, and everything before this point just doesn’t matter anymore.

And this is the perpetual cycle of life, I think: you complain about shit you haven’t gotten done and feel really down and hard on yourself, until you actually take steps to start getting it done, at which point it’s almost like you were never even upset about it to begin with. It’s pathetic, even despicable, from a certain moral vantage-point. But it also works. And while there will always be problems that take a little more effort to deal with – or a lot more, often more than you can manage on your own – there will also always be these little, niggling problems that always feel insurmountable because of how guilty you feel for not having confronted them, until you actually confront them, and all of that guilt and angst and shame just rolls off your back, like water off a duck’s wing.

It’s oil, you guys. Oil is the solution to all life’s problems.

And the thing that I wrote is bad, and I like it, and it’s so bad that I’ve left myself a note in the document itself to rewrite it as part of a conversation rather than an info-dump, and I’m actually looking forward to spending some time tonight or tomorrow making the last thousand words I wrote utterly redundant, because that’s also bad writing. And I’m excited about it.

In every endless cycle, there is always an upswing, and right now I’m in the middle of one.

 

Baby Steps

It’s happening. Ish.

I’ve actually sat down and done some writing today – not proper writing, mind you, but reading over a few older projects and coming up with some new insights and ideas that are getting me excited to actually get around to proper writing. That whole D&D-inspired thing has shifted to being more of a reboot of an old premise of mine, because for one I can’t actually write a D&D-inspired story set in a D&D-inspired world without running up against copyright issues, and for two I don’t actually want to write D&D. But it was a good launching-pad, and that’s really all I need right now: momentum. And slowly but surely, I am getting some of it back.

I’m considering changing my strategy for waking up earlier by incrementally conditioning myself to wake up slightly earlier every morning until I’m ideally waking up really early. I might just set my alarm for 7:30 and see what happens. Though I predict that what will happen is that I’ll go right back to sleep, so maybe not.

But I am craving a bit of a writing marathon right now, and while I can do a lot of writing in the evenings I much prefer the idea of starting off the day with writing. I might look into getting 2 lots of writing done, one in the morning and another later in the day, if things go well with this experiment.

In any case … I really haven’t done very much writing this year, and it feels like a very long time since I’ve put writing off for this long. And things have changed. I don’t feel like I have to write anymore, but I do feel like I’m missing out on something by not choosing to do it. I want to write. Not necessarily because the ideas that I have are filling me with passion, but more because they are ideas that I have and I want to express and work with them. It’s not so much about what I have to say as it is that I have the opportunity to say it. It’s a big change to how things used to be. A lot less pressure, for one.

It’s going somewhere.

I think I will set my alarm earlier. I’m in the mood to dive in.

Statement of Intent

Oh my GOD I need to start getting things done again.

Around the end of last year, I was getting close to having panic attacks around the very idea of going out into the world and looking for a job. Thanks again, social anxiety. Thus I have been on a sickness benefit for the past few months, and while anxiety has definitely been easier to manage as a result, shit gets pretty stagnant when you don’t have to do anything. I’d also love to not be on a sickness benefit and actually be able to have the capacity to deal with reality on a daily basis, something that my unschooling background didn’t exactly prepare me for. Unfortunately, getting help dealing with these lifelong issue means a lot of paperwork and emails and phone calls, all of which are kind of hard to do when you have social anxiety. Funny old world. What I’m saying is that, while I more or less know what the process of getting out of this slump should be, it doesn’t make it any easier to actually do it.

But it’s okay. I have a plan. Sort of a belated New Year’s Resolution, but it’s still a good plan. And my plans always work. So sayeth the Ubermensch!

While working towards getting financial and contractual stuff regarding finding a therapist over and done with, which is my main short-term goal, I have some long-term goals that need taking care of as well, and those are what I’m planning to work on. For starters, I’ve been waking up later and later for the past couple of months, and that needs to change. The last time I successfully changed my waking-up point was by gradually setting my alarm clock earlier and earlier until I reached my limit of earliness, which was around 10 a.m. I’d like to push that up to 7:30 a.m. so that I can eat and shower and then settle in to write for a long-ass time, like until 3 or 4 p.m. There will be an hour-long-ish break in there on most days for exercise around noon, which I haven’t exactly been slacking on in big-picture terms but has definitely dropped off a bit specifically for the past two weeks. And I need to get back into walking regularly, because I’ve been substituting it with going to the gym and, while gym is definitely good, they’re different kinds of exercise and I think I need both. Also exercise helps with sleeping better and holy shit I need to sleep better.

This is the long-term goal: better sleeping habits, getting back on-track with exercise, and starting to treat writing like a job in lieu of actually having a job, while I have the opportunity. And who knows, it might one day turn into something. I know what I’m writing, and it’s my D&D-inspired high fantasy thing that doesn’t quite work yet but is still a fun enough premise that I want to do something with it. I think I need to indulge in a little high fantasy of my own, rather than reading the stuff other people write that I generally don’t like. But another part of this plan is to get shit done that is not just working, and I have a massive backlog of books and computer games that I haven’t even started, let alone finished. I’m thinking about keeping journals for each, because I miss journal-keeping, and I think it would be good to write about things that I’ve actually done, rather than writing about all the things I feel like I’m missing out on. But regardless of said journals, reading and gaming is going to get done.

And World of Warcraft is not going to be one of them.

My subscription runs out in 2 days, the day before my birthday, and that’s too conspicuous for me to pass up – and even if it wasn’t, I think sticking with it for three years is about enough. I came back at a weird time in the game’s history, and while Legion is supposedly a sorely-needed return to form, at the end of the day it’s grindy as hell, and there’s the more general issue of WOW being, at its core, a social game, and having social anxiety keeps me from really getting into it the way it’s meant to be enjoyed: with other people. Also, I’ve gotten to the point with WOW where I’ll actually feel anxious about playing other games. I don’t think I need a therapist to tell me that shit isn’t healthy. So yes, definitely time to kick the habit. Again. I don’t need more of this experience, and I could probably have done with quite a bit less.

Also, WOW is very much the kind of high fantasy that I’m not really into. If it were a book series, I would not have stayed with it for as long as I have. Although I may well have made it up myself, and enjoyed it just because it was mine. That’s something else I’m finding recently, most notably after having written my shitty YA werewolf novel: I’m quite content, and even excited, to write things that I would never actually choose to read, just because I’m the one writing them. I wonder how much of a universal mindset this is for writers, because if it’s not just me then it explains a few things.

Indulging in my own high fantasy world is only one part of my writing plan, however. That’s just to get used to writing my ideas while I have them, even if in this case I’ve been holding onto them for a little too long already. The other part of my writing plan is that whole get-a-book-ready-for-publishing thing I talked about a little while ago. And it’s Tallulah, and I’ve finally worked out the super-obvious solution that was staring me in the face since before I even started writing it, and I just need to fucking finish something. Like, properly finish, the way I’ve been fantasising about for the past 17 years, my god I have been trying to Be A Writer for a long time. I don’t know if it’ll result in Tallulah actually getting published, but going through the process, I imagine, will be valuable experience for its own sake. As for working this into my new-year-new-me plan as outlined thus far … weekends? And it’ll just be reading to start off with anyway, reading and note-making as opposed to actually writing, so it should be easy enough to work in.

Okay. It’s written down, which means … I don’t know. Sometimes it means it’s more likely I’m going to do something; sometimes it means I’ll never get it done. But I’ve set my alarm, I’m uninstalling WOW tomorrow, and I have the manuscript for Tallulah sitting beside my bed. I’m about as ready as I’m ever going to be.

I say it’s getting done. Ubermensch out.

8145

Okay.

NOW my shitty YA werewolf novel is finished.

And no, this was not the writing that I was excited to get done that I mentioned in the last post; this was just gruntwork. I’m glad that I did it, though. It gave me some ideas about what I might do if I ever decide to revise this thing – stranger things have happened, and I did after all devote a year and a half of my life to writing it, dear Christ I had better things to do – and there’s nothing quite like the underwhelming satisfaction of actually being done-done with a writing project.

And it’s only ever underwhelming, at least in the moment. The fact that I’ve finished a first draft. The fact that I’ve finished another first draft. The fact that, once again, I have proven to myself that I do have what it takes to at least get this far in the writing process, and even with a project that I burnt out of passion for fairly early on in the process. But eventually it sinks in. And after a lot of consideration over the past week or so, I have decided that I am in it for the long game.

NOW for the next thing.