Weekly Words 8-14/17/2018

08/07/18: 513

I have identified some Issues.

In my search for a story that feels like it’s “mine”, I often come up short. I have also had trouble identifying what it is, exactly, that is lacking. I have ideas that I like, but besides being anxious about possibly getting them wrong if I start writing them and then being somehow locked into that wrong direction because you can never change your mind about any decision you make ever, apparently … yes I need therapy why do you ask … I also just feel reluctant to invest in them. Like, they don’t feel worth my time. I can feel the failure before I even get started, and it’s not just low self-esteem. There is something in the premise itself that puts me off. And today, I feel like I’m one step closer to identifying what that something is.

This is due, in no small part, to going back to re-reading some of my older new stuff, ideas that I liked but didn’t stick with in terms of turning them into bigger projects – a sign, I think, that maybe a small, more focused project would have worked for me. One of them was Mark and Jessie, which I am still not done reading. I have finally gotten to the chapter where one of the major antagonists is introduced, and it’s taken so long to get to this point that it’s just frustrating to see it. But this is my perspective as the writer, not as a reader – I don’t think I really can have that perspective on my own work, but this stuck out to me as I was reading it. Why did it bother me so much? I can just shuffle that introduction around to have it come in earlier or something. It’s not a big deal if we’re talking revision, and with this project that is exactly what we’re talking.

The obvious answer was that, well, this is an important character who is meant to be pretty front-and-centre throughout the story, and they’re only showing up about at the start of the second third of this story. It feels like the focus is wrong. It feels like the pacing is wrong. It feels like this character actually doesn’t matter. Now to be fair, this is not a bad thing – this is a character I’m pretty ambivalent about the existence of to begin with, and not one I’m at all sure I will be keeping in subsequent versions of this book.

But what stuck with me was the fact that they were supposed to be relevant to the story all the way through, and instead here they are, making their first appearance – not even appearance; their first mention – 239 pages of the way through this 622 page book. And that’s when I realised what the problem was, and the problem I’ve been having with reading this manuscript since the beginning.

It means that I didn’t write what I set out to write.

I have been feeling really aimless with this read-through, not sure why I’m doing it, what I’m taking away from it – yeah, there are parts of it that I think are neat or interesting, but they’re not things that I actually necessarily think need to be in the story. They’re neat out of context, and that context has actually been lacking up to this point with my read-through. I haven’t had a context, a reason, to read this thing, except for the vague thought that, well, if you’re going to pick up an old project and try to revise it, it’s probably good to be somewhat familiar with it, and because it’s what I did with Tallulah when I was making revision notes.

But now, I have a context – I am reading this manuscript not to see “what works” or what I want to keep going forward. I am reading this manuscript to see where what I wrote diverges from what I wanted to write, from the vision that I had in mind.

And that changes everything, because now it’s about identifying my weaknesses as a big-picture writer, my ability to stick to my plans. The obvious issue with Mark and Jessie is that I had a vision, not a plan, and writing from a vision is writing from passion and conviction in the moment – it just so happened that this “moment” lasted for about a year and a half, judging by the “details” tab on the Word documents of the individual chapters. Mind you that’s slightly unreliable because the dates are screwed up by all of these files having been transferred from older computers and stuff – but it was at least a year, I’ll put it that way, I remember that much. A year-or-more-long passion project with no plan, no outline, no clearly-defined – or even vaguely-defined – plot-thread to follow, that has resulted in this chimeric monstrosity of a story that involves everything from fairytale creatures to genetically modified household pets with military application, and to be fair that doesn’t sound like a bad mash-up.

But it’s not what I was trying to write.

And that is the most disheartening thing about reading this manuscript: I know that it’s not what I wanted it to be – but it’s also proven to be the aspect of this project, as it currently stands, that has given me the most clarity and purpose to continuing this read-through. I’m not just reading it because I said I would, now: I have an agenda.

And it means I need to start taking better notes. I’m trying to find my story here, because while I know this isn’t what I wanted it to be, I also know that what I wanted was not a plan. It was not a robust enough foundation for me to begin writing from. I’m glad I wrote it anyway, don’t get  me wrong, but I wish I had identified that this was a weakness in my approach all those years ago …

Almost exactly 12 years ago, actually.

It’s a sign.

So sayeth the Ubermensch!

… anyway – the point is, while it’s not what I wanted, what I did want was not particularly well-define. I had a premise for the plot, which I still love, and I had a feeling. And I realised today that I need more for a story to feel like “mine”.

What this boils down to, for me, is that when I have my premise, the story and the characters and the world, all of these supposedly separate elements, have to feel like different aspects of the same whole for me. I used to want to write big books, long sagas; I used to start by planning to write X number of books, and then try to think up ideas to fill that quota. I can see now that this approach is leaking over into my more recent idea-generation process, where I’ll have what I call a “premise”, but it’s actually a setting, or a world-building feature, or something that is only one part of what, I now believe, a proper premise needs, which I then try to fill with the other features that this idea-seed did not come with – and it hasn’t been working. I realise that the reason I have been having issues coming up with ideas that feel like “mine” is because so many of the premises I am working with are not complete. So that is what I need to work on.

And also probably why the co-writing project has been going so well for the past almost-a-year, on top of all the other reasons it’s been going well. It’s a complete premise, and it fucking works. Also why Wolf Gang got written, which the other night I … realised? Seems like a long time coming, but yeah, I realised the other night that, fuck, I wrote that garbage zero draft, I put those ideas down in writing. I did that.

And I do want more of that feeling – only this time, with ideas I actually give a shit about.

So, on top of all of my other ambitions writing-wise, I am actually going to spend some time de-tangling my latest project, all of which have that quota-filling aspect to them, me trying to jam together new and old ideas to make something whole. Not a bad practice, on paper, but in practice it has not been helping me at all. I’ve blocked the progress of some really cool ideas that I’ve been really passionate about by doing that, and while it may be too late to salvage my momentum, I want to give it a try. I owe it to those ideas, and to myself, to give it a try.

10/17/18: 605

God I’ve been off these past couple of weeks, writing-wise.

I am just starting to realise how much shit I need to take care of this year – in fact, before the year is out – and I’m not going to lie, this and last week have suffered in terms of not just writing, but general life shit, as a result. I am losing focus on the things that I want to do and need to do; I am procrastinating and self-distracting to a very large degree; I am panicking, leaning on my back foot, excavating large portions of the sandbank so that I have multiple options for a head-hiding-spot – I’m not in a great space right now.

Which is fucking annoying, because on the other hand, I’m kind of excited by how much super-important shit I need to take care of. I’m a little bit hype about it, truth be told, which is strange and alien to me and perhaps that’s part of why I’m going so far off the rails. But I need to focus my efforts on those tasks. I need to think not of the tasks themselves, but how to do them, because if I think about the tasks themselves I’m going to freak out and not get any of it done.

And writing is not one of those things.

I was considering taking last week off, during the final sprint of the last round of marking, and while on the one hand I am kind of sad that I didn’t decided to do that, I am also glad that I have continued to force myself to continue writing every day. It does feel like I’ve fallen off the wagon, and I am disappointed in the level of commitment I am showing to writing – and other things – in general right now, but by the same token I have to acknowledge that, at the very least, in this week’s downward spiral of anti-productivity, I have still forced myself to write, and it got done. Not a lot, but it got done. And that’s a good thing, one that I can build on.

Which I really need to, because holy shit I have things to do. I’ve got a scene to finish for the co-writing project; I’ve got a psychologist to set up an appointment with; I’ve got morning walks to get back into the habit of because all of last month was, relatively speaking, a wash in that regard; I have writing projects to de-tangle and rationalise; I have Mark and Jessie to read and reflect upon with regards to my vision and passion for the project versus what I actually have written to work with; I have Youthline classes starting up again this week that will run from now through to November; I have asked my masters supervisor if I can have a chat with him about potential PhD topics; I have voice-developing exercises that I don’t want to do but have fantasies of making myself do for my own good; I have books to read about writing that I am really apprehensive about for some reason it feels like a big commitment; I have to figure out how to do self-care properly and without resorting to games and youtube all the time because it’s fine some of the time but gets really out of hand really easily; I have to figure out what the hell I’m going to do for money from December onwards …

Basically, I am going through my own personal Ragnarok right now, and I am not handling it as well as I would like to. But, at the same time, I do feel this weird, seemingly irrational excitement, and it’s not the challenge or anything like that; it’s the prospect of being able to give myself evidence of my ability to handle my shit.

The thing is, I feel like I can do it, so the fact that I am not doing it has been really contributing to how kind of unfocused and antsy and self-distracting I’ve been over the past few days. I think it’s a sign. I am craving this experience of being fucking competent at doing shit.

So I should give myself that experience.

And writing – I don’t want to think about it. I’m not giving up on it, but I’m just not going to worry about it. As I’ve said once or twice before: I can always write 1 word a day. I have in fact done that before. But this other stuff is just more important, and it’s as simple as that. I can write any time, but this stuff, not so much. It’s kind of a now or never thing. I would really love to be able to load up an older save-file of my life right about now, to stop things from getting this out of hand to begin with – but, time only moves one way, and like it or not we all move along with it. I’ll just have to try and use it to my advantage.

And the thing is, when everything else is going well, the writing ends up going well too. Without me having to think about it.

That is the plan for this week.

11/07/18: 451

12:07/18: 33

It’s always too late, goddammit.

But that’s fine. Learning things that you need to know too late – in this case, it’s just too late to put into practice for this week for writing. Writing is easy to make up for …

Or, in this case, not make up for, because this week I needed to be not writing, and I did not realise that until today. I needed to be reading.

And here’s the thing: I actually did a bit of writing, yesterday, that I have been wanting to make a start on for a while now, one of those new projects that I’m too anxious and self-conscious to make a start on because I don’t want to “get it wrong”. So there’s been some good stuff going on.

But what I realised tonight, sitting down and trying to make myself focus on writing, is that I wanted to read Mark and Jessie, not write, and all this week I have been agonising over when I would fit in my writing for the day and what I would write with it. I have said that I feel “aimless” with my writing, searching for an idea that feels like “mine” – but I’ve already got that project. It’s Mark and Jessie. And the issue with that is the fact that it’s already been written, so measuring my progress with the project with Weekly Words is … I mean, I can’t. End of story. Weekly Words is not set up for that.

And that’s okay, too.

What I realise now, too late to be ideal but definitely not too late to be useful, is that I should have addressed this issue way earlier, because it’s seriously not a big deal. All I had to do, honestly, is say that this week, I might not write at all, because I have this other important thing to focus on – which is still “writing”, in the sense that it is all in the service of getting to the end of a writing project. It’s just not putting words down on the page. I guess I could measure in terms of pages read or something – actually a very obvious solution – but it still doesn’t work for Weekly Words. Weekly Words is really here for me to have a way to motivate myself to power through writing, rather than keeping track of a writing project, which only really needs a consistent word-count schedule until the first draft is done. Once you move into the revision phase of things, words written per insert-time-measurement-here just doesn’t mean anything, unless you’re completely starting over from scratch or something – in which case it’s not part of the revision process anyway.

You get what I mean.

This week, I was very invested in my stories, but writing was not the best way for me to engage with them and follow through with that investment. But because I have this commitment to Weekly Words, I spent all of this week obsessed with fitting in writing so that I would be “onto it” and “responsible” and, of course, a “good writer”. This week, what has been an overwhelmingly positive and useful tool in my life turned into another way to facilitate one of my oldest bad writing habits: getting bogged down in guilt and negative self-talk, and judging my self-worth pretty much solely based on whether I did any writing that day.

I have completely lost perspective this week, in fact these past two weeks, where my writing is concerned, and it’s affected everything else.

But that’s fine.

Next week, while Weekly Words will continue as per normal, and while I still have a commitment to write every day, that daily writing commitment will be 1 word. No less, for sure, but no more either. If I do more then that then that’s fantastic and excellent and it’s not my priority right now. I’d like it to be. I’d like to be excited about writing right now. But, yeah, when I say I have other shit I need to do, in future I need to actually not just acknowledge that but act on it, manage my time around it. I need to get used to my own tells, I guess. Get those brain-hacks rolling.

Weekly Total: 1602

I wrote this week. I should have worried about it less, but I’m glad that I at least did it.

But next week, I want to be glad that I did what I needed to do, whether that involves any writing or not.

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Weekly Words 1-7/07/2018

01/07/18: 529

A nice little start to the week, co-writing again, and looking to try my hand at writing Teen Drama.

I was considering just not writing this week at all, but I think instead I’m just going to shift my priority from writing in a general sense to focusing on a few specific writing exercises – and reading. I need to finish Mark and Jessie this month, and to move on to revision time. At the moment, it’s really seeming like I can’t take much away from this manuscript story-wise, at least not stuff that I want to keep. There’s plenty that I’d want to change, but even more that just shouldn’t be there to begin with. It’s also making me see, in quite graphic detail, how utterly wretched my two leads are, how insufferable my “cool” character is, and overall I’m astounded that I ever thought that what I was writing in any way matched up to the vision I had for the story. I went into this sort of vaguely intending to take a story away from the reading experience, one that I’d have to alter and refine but would generally work out to be something that I’d want to work on. I’m not sure that that’s what I have, and it mostly comes down to the characters. I have one character who I actually like, and I’m glad that I like them, but they’re not one of the two main characters, and that is a problem. And honestly, I don’t know how to fix my main characters, or if they even can be fixed. I wonder if maybe I should not even bother reading the rest of this manuscript and just start over from scratch.

But on the other hand, having something to work against kind of makes it easier for me to come up with a revision plan. Hating what I’ve got drives me towards identifying the things that I want but don’t have, and I want two new writing habits, which I am going to focus on this month: planning instead of pantsing, and planning based on things that I actually, actively want to write, instead of what I think is functional in a structural way. So, in that sense, I think continuing to read and make notes on this manuscript is a good idea.

This is also a way for me to meet my goal of having a more structured routine in general, the feeling of having work to do, only in this case work I set for myself. Writing I find I can’t really treat like work, because it’s a hobby. But a book project could be a bit different, and that’s because it doesn’t just involve writing. It also involves reading, revision, consideration, taking notes, making adjustments, doing research – and I think I can treat that as a job. At least the reading part anyway, to start with. It’s pretty easy, and I’m actually glad that this book is so long now, where I was complaining about it before – it’s long because I changed the margins and page size when I converted it to a PDF file, and while that means there’s a high total page count, it also means that when I sit down to do a reading session, I have a sense of getting a lot done, like 20 pages in a session or something, and somehow this distracts me from the potential discouragement that comes with looking at a page total of 622.

Related to this, I also want to spend some time this week reflecting on what I managed to accomplish, versus what my expectations were, going into this last round of marking. Setting goals is important, as is sticking to a plan, both of which I feel like I failed at in this case – however, the deciding factor, which I did not really consider until after the fact, was how realistic my expectations were. Or, as I’m starting to suspect, unrealistic. And as someone who historically has a lot of things they want to do and a bad track record of actually getting them done, these particular data categories are important to me.

So, I’ve got some goals for this week. The word-count is being de-prioritised – quality over quantity. And in terms of writing – there’s the writing exercises that I want to do, starting with taking that whole “show don’t tell” idea and just blatantly flipping it, making it so that I have to tell and force myself to do it in a way that is engaging and satisfying to read, but there’s also wanting to follow my natural inclination to edit my writing as I go, rather than forcing myself to “just write”. I do think I need to emphasise the “just write” part for, like, first drafts, but as I identified last week in the midst of an emotional dumpster fire, I need to care about what I’m writing, and tweaking it as I go so that it makes sense is part of that. I think this is probably just because I take everything way too literally, and “just write” to me is basically an instruction to freewrite all of my first drafts, which I do not think is a good or productive plan when I frame it like that. So yeah. Going to experiment a bit with that, too, just pull things back on track instead of letting them veer off into the distance just because it’s a first attempt – I don’t want to do so much on-the-fly revision that I get stuck, but I don’t want to stop myself from doing it just on principle either. Just like I want to find my voice as a writer, I want to find my style of writing, too, and I think this is part of it.

Or maybe just a shorter draft-revise cycle, like a couple of days – write a big piece, leave it for a bit, then come back and tuck it in a bit more snugly – maybe after getting started on the next part, if it’s part of a longer project.

Ideas. I have ideas, and that’s always a good space to be in.

Definitely a nice start to the week.

03/07/18: 1089

On the other hand …

For all my talk of experimenting, shaking up my established order, finding my voice, all of this new shit – and I do want to do it – I cannot overstate how comforting it is to know that on any given day, I can just hit up google docs and put some writing into me and my friend’s co-writing project. It’s just so gratifying to have that resource. In the same way that I value urban fantasy novels for the fact that they make reading easy when I just want to read, I value our co-writing project for the fact that I can always get some writing done when I want to write.

And yes, as has ever been the case, I wish I felt that sense of ease with my own personal projects – but at the same time, I just love how easy and enjoyable this one is.

On that note, I am actually very eager to get back to the established schedule that I had before this month – technically I’ve had it this month, I just let it slip. I want to get back on the wagon. I went for a walk today, which was my official starting-point, so it’s back to daily exercise and co-writing as my go-to, regular habits, but not the extent of those habits. I want new stuff, and I want to get used to it – but I also want the old stuff back. I’ll have to work on finding a balance between new and old, and also short-term and long-term. There are a couple of short-term things that I need to do this week, that I actually wanted to get done today and didn’t – part of that is just having the old habits to fall back on, letting myself go on autopilot and allowing the newer priorities to just kind of fade away. Gotta keep perspective. It’s all about perspective.

But right now, it’s about returning to form. That’s the most important thing, and today it felt like that was happening. A good start.

04/07/18: 203

Got some other stuff done today, stuff that needed to get done – well, got started on it at least.

But yeah, I wanted to do more writing than this. I have a lot of distracting habits that I need to cut down on. That is the lesson for today.

05/07/18: 2543

Now that’s a bit more like it.

Today was still more distraction-filled than I’d like, but I also took care of two important, priority tasks for me out of the three that I’ve set myself for this week, so that just leaves one to take care of tomorrow. Feels good.

And yes, the writing feels good, too. Yesterday, while I didn’t do very much writing, I did start writing something that was important for me to get started on – moving beyond the Chapter 1 doldrums that I historically get stuck on. As with Wolf Gang, I solved the issue of a clunky opening and not getting to the ideas that I actually care about by skipping ahead; I tried to keep the momentum going today but it scared me off. That’s okay, though. I have a clearer sense of what exactly has been scaring me about this writing process, which in turn is giving me insight into pretty much every new project I feel uncertain about, and it’s just the fact that, once I actually start writing, I start second-guessing myself. Not with the co-writing project, though, which is what I worked on tonight. I mean, there’s still some, but I find it so much easier to push through with. I wonder if that’s just because I’ve already written so much of it now – maybe that’s all it takes. Which, I mean, it’s kind of a catch 22, but at least it’s something.

But come Sunday I can put some more work into what I started yesterday – I feel more able to override the panic I feel at not knowing what to write, how to start, not having a “voice” to fall back on. I feel a bit more confident in my ability to just write and not care about the quality of that writing, and since that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to train myself into feeling for the past couple of years, I am eager to get started on that on Sunday …

While for now, I am looking forward to not having any self-imposed writing obligations for the next two days. I needed this week to re-establish a bit of equilibrium, and I’m still getting there, but I think it’s been a good start.

And as for what I have to show for it:

Weekly Total: 4364

Hey, it’s a start. And right now, that’s all I need.

Nah, No WriMo (this time)

One aspect of Weekly Words has been the opportunity for me to gauge my writing productivity. Obviously. I have a weekly-word count and everything. But the reason I thought this could be a good thing initially was doing Nanowrimo. Nanowrimo is, as far as I am concerned, a wonderful invention that any writer who wants to test their productivity and self-discipline – or just wants to get some damn writing done – should try at least once.

To be honest, though, it’s never really worked for me as a source of motivation. It’s worked for me as a tool for organising my motivation into achievable, measurable goals, but that’s assuming I am already motivated to do some writing in the first place. Nanowrimo itself has never instilled within me a sense of urgency or purpose – I’m not saying that it’s supposed to, or fails as an experiment because it doesn’t, just noting that, without that motivation, Nanowrimo has never helped me to be more productive than I would have been without it.

And yet.

Every time Nano or Camp Nano rolls around, I totally buy into the fantasy – this time, I’ll get my shit together, power through a month of hard-core, intensive, hyper-competent-author writing, and have something to show for it at the end. This time, I will get an entire first draft done in a month. And every time, what stops me from doing this boils down to one simple question.

An entire first draft of what?

I love the fantasy of having a project I’m so over the moon about that I can’t wait to write it every day. I’m pretty sure I’ve only had that experience five times in my life – I can literally count them all on one hand. It may be that this goal is far too idealistic. But even then, there’s nothing that I actually want to devote that much time to writing. I have no passion project, no burning curiosity to explore, no experiments just bursting to be conducted – I’m out of juice, and Nanowrimo seems like the kind of undertaking that requires a lot of juice, because that is a pretty tall order to fill.

And in fact, that’s probably the main issue – it’s not so much that I don’t have anything I’m interested in writing at all. It’s that I see the 50k word-count goal and think: I do not have the energy to hit that target. I may be perfectly wiling to try out certain projects that I’m less-than-certain about, but not with that level of commitment. The issue with Nanowrimo is that it’s very all or nothing, and if you decide that the project you’re working on isn’t working out halfway through the month you’ve just wasted however many thousands of words of effort in terms of hitting the Nanowrimo quota. I suppose the idea is that you make yourself commit to it anyway, which is not a bad thing, but it’s also not necessarily a realistic thing – for me, anyway, not in the place that I’m at with my projects. Again, if you have the motivation, I think Nano is a great way to channel your energy productively.

But without it, I think there are more productive things that can be done.

For me, that’s been Weekly Words. The weekly word-count goal was something I had to get used to easing up on, not be so pedantic about – it’s good to have the motivation and sense of urgency and I do think I will try harder to reach that 10k/week average going forward, but I’m also glad that I was able to take a step back and have it as an ideal, rather than a bare minimum standard of productivity or success. And the fact that it’s not any one project that can count towards those 10k words is also very liberating. I think, having opened it up so much, I should definitely take advantage of it – more so than I have been doing. I think that’s partly the week-to-week mentality being quite restrictive in its own way, and reminds me that setting longer-term goals – goals over a month, or even a year – is something I have said numerous times I would try to do more consistently, to alleviate some of the pressure and hopefully make it more likely that balls actually get started rolling.

But overall, lacking the motivation to commit to any one single project, Weekly Words has given me a way to measure my productivity and, importantly, commitment as a writer without having to put all of my eggs in one basket. I used to spend a lot of time agonising over the fact that I wasn’t writing – which I still do, though a bit less so since starting Weekly Words – but more than that, I now realise, I agonised over the fact that I wasn’t working on a specific project. I measured my success and progress as a writer in terms of whether or not project X was getting any attention, and Nanowrimo only exaccerbates that kind of judgmental tunnel-vision for me – there are so many other ways to measure one’s writing capacity than judging based on how much we work on any one single project. I mean, we’re writers. Most of us have a few irons in the fire at any given time, whether we want to admit it or not, and while I think Nanowrimo has many strengths, accounting for that reality is not one of them. And that is reality for me right now.

For anyone who is doing Camp Nano this July – best of luck! Write hard, practice good self-care and, above all, honour the promises that you make to yourself (as long as they are healthy and achievable). As for me, I will wait until the day that I do have that one perfect project that I can’t keep myself from writing to take advantage of what I think Nano has to offer. For now, though, I have too many options to play with right now for me to want to pick any one of them over any of the others – so, I won’t. I don’t need to. I’ve got time, and I’ve got a system that seems to work pretty well for how I want to spend it, even if I do constantly wish I took more advantage of it. But I think it’s going pretty well.

Although having said that, if I was in the position to be revising Mark and Jessie by now, my perspective might have been a little different, so come November this year … watch this space.

Monthly Words June 2018

Monthly Total: 15089

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

But, y’know … life.

That’s really all there is to say.

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

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

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

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

And that’s just a bit sad.

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

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

Weekly Words 24-30/06/2018

24/06/18: 361

It’s time for some changes.

I did actually write out that idea from the other night, in the end, and while first drafts really should not be judged on whether or not the writer “got it right”, I have to say that it certainly felt like I got it pretty right.

And this, I think, was due to the fact that I was having major angst about it.

Not the angst itself, obviously, but the reflections that came out of it: I realised that a huge issue for me for the past few years has been an issue of voice as a writer – namely, I don’t know what mine is. I don’t come up with an idea and think to myself: “oh, I know how I would write that”. I don’t have a set style; I just have ideas, and then clunk around trying to articulate them. I guess this is all just conjecture, but I imagine having confidence in one’s voice is feeling certain about your use of language, secure in your own tropes and idiosyncrasies, having certain turns of phrase you fall back on. I imagine it’s like having a set of tools that you are very familiar with, so familiar that you don’t even have to think about which one to use. And maybe this is completely and utterly wrong, but that’s what I imagine it’s like, and it’s not like that for me. When I say that I don’t know what words to use, I think it’s more that I don’t know what words I would use. I don’t have my go-to phrases, I don’t feel like I have a particular way with words. I feel very blank as a writer, like a really lazy chameleon.

But I guess that’s also good in a way. More room to experiment. I definitely don’t want to get so set in a certain way of writing that it means I can’t branch out with my ideas – I just want my writing to read like it comes from me. And I don’t know what that writing looks like.

So, going forward, the word-count goal is remaining, but the purpose is changing. This isn’t just publishable words, the way it used to be – because honestly, if we’re going by that logic, then I actually haven’t written nearly as much as I’ve recorded.

Going forward, this is counting all the writing that I do that is designed to improve or build upon my skill as a writer. My craft, I suppose. Because I realise now that it’s something I care about quite a lot, and I want to invest in it more.

And I also know that I do have a voice as a writer, but it’s a first-draft voice. It doesn’t come across as confident, comfortable, stable – it’s all over the place, uses too many words and doesn’t really care what any of them are. And I do think that’s useful for first drafts. But part of my semi-breakdown the other day over my writing style was recognising that, actually, this method of writing I’ve been trying to perfect doesn’t quite work for me. I can’t just churn out a first draft in a month and not care what’s going on the page while I’m writing it. I definitely want to get faster at writing, and I know that the reason I’ve been trying to re-train myself to write this way is because I have a very bad habit of writing first chapters over and over and over again, until I’m so stuck on the start of a story that I don’t even care about writing the rest of it anymore. I think trying to not do that anymore was a good idea, and I think it’s been fairly successful, too. But with that said, having to wait until I’m finished with a first draft before I start acting like I give a damn about what it is that I’m writing while I’m writing it – that’s not me. As yesterday’s existential crisis proved to me, I like caring in the moment; I take energy from caring in the moment, and I think that’s something I need to look at as a potential strength of mine, rather than a weakness.

Also, all of those stop-and-start first chapters?

They were almost all the first chapter of Realm of the Myth.

It is entirely possible that this was a problem with the source material, rather than me as a writer, is what I’m saying. Although I still could have handled it better – by ditching it the first time I decided to ditch it, and not spending the next 17 years agonising over how I just couldn’t get it to work. That is also a writer skill I wish to develop.

This also leads me to a great segue in to my final point of today’s rant: planning. I need to figure out what the difference is between plans that work for me and plans that don’t. Obviously, Weekly Words is a plan that works pretty damn well. But in terms of writing projects … well, in the case of Mark and Jessie being written without a plan – it shows. It shows very painfully. It’s hard to read not just because of typical first-draft filler, but because it doesn’t seem to have a clear direction that it’s heading in. Nothing that’s happening feels important, none of it feels like it has a purpose – none of it feels like it’s leading up to anything.

But Realm of the Myth, for all its 17 years of flaws, was the first and only draft of a novel that I have ever written using a plan, and I stuck to the plan. Yes, it turned out that once I finished it I was done with it, but again, that’s a problem with the source material, not the process I was using to write it. I’m almost tempted to go back and read it, just to see if it’s appreciably different to Mark and Jessie in terms of readability. Maybe it’s not. Maybe planning is not the answer …

But, there’s also the co-writing project. We have a plan for that; we concocted our plan before we even started writing. It took, like, a month of planning, maybe even two. And it was worth it. Even though we’re already making tweaks in anticipation of the revision process, it was worth having the plan to work from, and not just for the obvious reason of having to coordinate our storytelling efforts. It’s purpose. It’s getting the cool ideas down and making them attainable as goals. It’s giving ourselves things to look forward to.

And maybe that’s it. Having something to look forward to. Caring. I haven’t really cared about a lot of my story plans for the last … ever, honestly. Wolf Gang was so basic it didn’t need a plan; Tallulah definitely could have benefited from a plan, although it’s still in much better shape than Mark and Jessie, despite only being written 4 years after. But a lot of my plans are very … functional. They’re not fun. I don’t look at them and go: “yeah, can’t wait to write that”. They’re me trying to link events together in as practical a manner as possible, but practical only in the sense that it’s moving the story along the narrative track from point A to point B, and not only is that not motivating, it’s also not actually practical, because it’s not working. So what I want out of my plans going forward is motivation. If I’m going to plan something, it has to be a plan that I want to execute, heading towards a goal that I want to achieve, not just something that seems like it’d probably work if I did it.

Because this is my personal time and energy. I’m not getting paid for this shit, and nobody is waiting on me to finish. So it’s got to be for me.

And that is what Weekly Words is going to be here for, going forward – I still want to be writing a lot, but from here on out it’s about working on being a better writer, which absolutely includes actually making myself sit down and do some damn writing, the “functional” stuff – I still think it’s important – but it’s also writing exercises I might set myself just to experiment, to test my voice out on different material. Vocal exercises, I guess is what this metaphor is heading towards making me say.

Okay. That’s enough ranting for one day. There’s housekeeping stuff I want to do as well, format tweaks regarding Monthly Words in particular – calendar months are not neatly arranged into 4-week chunks, sadly, so it makes keeping track of my word-count over the months a tad annoying – but I’ll see how this Monthly Words goes. I like the big numbers at the end of each month for morale purposes, but maybe just shifting my expectations away from seeing my monthly word-count as a precise calculation and more just an indicator of general achievement will be enough.

In any case – I feel renewed in purpose. I have some old stuff to continue looking over, and some reflection on the origins of many of my writing habits to continue reflecting upon. I only just realised tonight, writing it out, that the entire reason I’m paranoid about my habit of lingering on first chapters and not progressing anywhere with projects is because of Realm of the Myth, and that’s gone now. Sadly, the same thing is happening with some new projects as well, so I’d better nip that in the bud – I will allow myself to edit on the fly, a bit. But I think it’s got to be editing past chapters while simultaneously writing new ones. I think that could work – it’s how I wrote my masters, and hey, that got written.

It feels like a plan is coming together. And I do love when that happens.

25/06/18: 0

Again, normally I don’t write on my days off, but today has just been shit. One thing happened that threw me off and upset me, and the entire rest of the day was ruined because of it. Feeling pretty pathetic right about now.

It’s life stuff, stuff that I feel completely unprepared to face – I’ve been going on about being prepared lately, but it’s been in the context of things that I actually feel capable of being prepared for. This stuff, for whatever reason, is not included in that stuff category. Ask whoever developed my brain, and programmed it for maximum anxiety and depression sensitivity. Then shoot them. For me. I would appreciate it.

As a result of this one tiny thing that threw me entirely off my game, I have been feeling particular animosity towards my writing today, because where has it gotten me? Am I making a living as an author? Have I taken any realistic steps towards doing so? Have I entered any writing competitions, taken any writing classes, submitted pieces of writing to magazines or journals or even blogs? Nope. Of course not. Because it’s my writing, and only I get to judge my writing, because I wrote it. What does your fucking opinion matter? It’s just an opinion, everyone has one, so keep it the fuck to yourself. This is mine. You don’t get a say.

And being 31 years old living at home with less work experience than most people half my fucking age, I can see the benefits that I have reaped of living with this attitude for, I dunno, my entire life. It’s great.

No, it’s not fucking great, but at least I have a bit of perspective now, seven and a half hours after the inciting incident.

For instance: writing doesn’t have to be how I make a living. That idea was naive and uninformed, and honestly not remotely serious. I just wanted to write because I wanted to write. I wanted to write books for friends and family to read in between Harry Potter installments. That’s the entire reason I got started. I had a fucking market cornered and everything; I was onto it when I was 13, dude, naive and uninformed or not.

But still, it wasn’t a commercial market, and I wasn’t submitting anything for publishing. These would have been printed out using either my friend’s printer or, I dunno, I would have worked out that I could go to some stationery store and get it done there; that was the extent of my ambition. I did want to be published, because I thought it would be cool to be published at 13, and when Christopher Paolini came out with Eragon – which I still haven’t read – that was the first hint I got that something wasn’t quite connecting between what I said I wanted and what I was doing about achieving it. But before then, it never bothered me. It was less a literal mission statement and more of a general sense of purpose: I was writing so that I could be read, accounted for, impact others in some way, not so that I could pay bills or feel a sense of financial independence. Because I was 13.

Also because writing is an unstable career choice I should have gone to med school well too late now guess I’d better find a nice patch of pavement to get real familiar with in the coming years …

Even to this day, thinking about making a living as an author, of having that be my job, I can’t actually imagine what it would look like, how it would feel, what kind of life that would actually be to live. It’s not real to me. How could it be? And tonight I’m wondering, not for the first time – why should it be?

Weekly Words was started in part so that I could make this year into a project, setting myself up to try and realise this dream. But now that I think about it, I don’t know if it’s something I’d even want if I got it. Maybe self-publishing is actually exactly what I need to be aiming for, the same goal that I had at 13, because honestly my aspirations have not actually evolved since I made that on-the-spot decision to Be A Writer at 13. I want people to see my work, read it, and have a reaction. And I have done a whole lot of nothing in terms of achieving even that simple goal.

At the beginning of this year, I had my epic wake-up call, and I really wish I was still in that headspace, because I was taking things very seriously. I had plans. I had goals. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity that this year would afford me in terms of actually having the time to focus on my writing, and see what I could make of it, and it’s so fucking hard. My own writing is so hard to do; my own ideas feel like shit, I don’t give a fuck about any of them, how the fuck did I think this was ever going to work.

It’s been one of those days.

But I think perhaps the solution is pretty simple.

I just need to write something that I want to share.

That was what got me started, but for so long now it’s just been about my ideas, my process, this insular little bubble containing my private workshop. I found that showing people my first drafts with Tallulah was not a good move in the long run, because it made me want to write to please my readers, rather than to please myself. And at the end of the day, it’s my story. But at the same time, storytelling is meant to be an interactive process, as far as I’m concerned. And I miss that aspect of my own process. I think that’s probably why the co-writing project has gone so well, and for me personally definitely the reason I’ve stuck with it for so long: it’s nice to have somebody to share ideas with, especially story ideas. It makes the ideas matter. And I think that is what’s been missing from my ideas lately, the reason they haven’t been doing it for me. I don’t want to just write for myself.

Or by myself.

I think I’m onto something here. Not a bad resolution to a garbage-ass mental health day.

26/06/18: 1858

Wow, I was in kind of a dark place yesterday, wasn’t I …

Today was much better, thankfully, and I am right back to being as unrealistic and short-sighted in my approach to life in general as ever. Ignorance is bliss, folks, don’t forget it. Or at least an effective short-term coping skill, and right now I need some of that.

I wasn’t going to write today, but I started at 11:59 am and finished an hour and a half later, with almost 2k words to show for it, and you know what? I’m calling that a win. A big win. Because this week I’m still feeling a little destabilised. It’s a better week than last week, and my marking access has finally been restored – I even got right back into marking today, and it was easier than it was last week! – but I took most of today to just play some games and recover emotionally from yesterday’s existential clusterfuck, and I needed that.

But I’m glad I also made myself write, and the ease with which I find myself continuing to commit to the co-writing project suggests to me that something in my huge life-upturning rant last night was on the money. Making a living out of writing – that can remain a fantasy that I’m not particularly realistic about, because why the hell not? There are so many published authors who can’t make their living from writing – but they’re still published, people still buy their books. So for me, that’s the part I want to focus on going forward. I just want my work out there, and I want it to be work that I’m proud of. As for making a living – well, I do have a kind of neat PhD topic I could look into pursuing, become one of those fabled rockstar academics, and bemoan the state of modern America like it’s going out of style. Not that you need a PhD to find problems with modern America …

But yes, today was a step back towards emotional equilibrium. And that’s all I wanted.

27/06/18: 23

This week is almost over, thank fuck. Not that it’s been a bad week; it’s been an average week with one shitty day and a few big personal revelations. I need a comprehensive life-plan, and that’s going into my weekly and monthly goals initiative.

As for writing – yeah, this month has been pretty shit all around in terms of productivity on my part. But I think it’s good that I’ve had this month – the first 3 were pretty good, after all, and reflecting back on everything I’ve had to deal with this month I’m happy enough with what I’ve managed to get done. No, this round of marking was not the identify-forging, habit-refining inferno I hoped it would be, but it has taught me that I need my down-time, I need to respect and appreciate my need for it, and I need to organise myself better so that I can take advantage of it when I have it, and get my shit done in a way that I can cope with healthily the rest of the time.

It’s also the last week I’ll be marking, if everything continues to go well – this week has been miles better in terms of marking than the first 2, and I’ve learnt some valuable lessons about how to do it better in the future.

This sounds like a wrap-up for the week, and honestly it kind of is. I might just do some writing tomorrow and not write about it, unless something noteworthy happens – I am seriously out of energy, and I think I need to put my lessons into practice for next week and participate in some hardcore fucking R&R. I also didn’t realise how much energy Youthline was taking out of me until I didn’t have it this week, and seriously it feels like I gained a whole extra day, even though it’s only four hours a week full told. I’m looking forward to it starting up again, but at the same time I am grateful as hell for this reprieve.

Next week, I might actually take a week off Weekly Words just to recover. I might still do some writing, but not with the goal of recording it or having something to blog about. I need to chill out. It will be bad for me not to. But we’ll see – maybe by the time next week rolls around, I’ll actually feel really energised and have tons of things to report writing-wise.

For now, I’m just thankful that the end is in sight.

28/06/18: 8

That did not go as intended but.

But.

It’s over.

The marking is over. The other shit that I have to do is over.

For the rest of the year, I get to write.

And also panic about having no plan for basic survival beyond next year, but hey, one thing at a time.

I feel very good right now, because I am free to do other things than what I have been doing lately. I know that I did not get the experience that I hoped for with this round of marking; my habits did not get better or stronger, and I did not come away from this round of marking feeling more confident, empowered, or capable.

But I think that’s because I’m in the moment right now, just basking in the relief of knowing that I don’t have to do anything anymore. And I think I can afford to do that for a bit. But I am also definitely going to do some reflectioning over the weekend, and put into perspective what I did get out of this rather stressful past couple of weeks. I know I had a whole bunch of life-changing revelations that didn’t really end up changing a hell of a lot, but such is stress for those who do not know how to handle it I guess. At least I did some writing every day, even if it was just to rant morbidly on this blog.

No point standing on ceremony; I did better than last week, so that’s something. This week’s grand total is:

Weekly Total: 2250

And, in fact, I have some plans, and they involve writing.

First of all, of course, I will continue the slog of reading Mark and Jessie, though I am starting to think that I need to skim-read it much more than I need to in-depth analyse it.

Second of all, I have one project in particular that I had a whole bunch of energy for a couple of years back, when I was really big into Critical Role (still pretty big into it), but it never took off like I wanted it to. I have identified a potential issue with my ability to plan stories: the plans work when I am planning stuff that I want to write, rather than trying to make it “work”. So, that’s the idea here: plan for fun, and work out the logistics in revision. Mostly, I just want to move past the point of writing and re-writing the first chapter over and over again. I need that.

And third of all – I had big plans for what I was going to do with myself this round of marking, and those things did not happen. But I also had big plans for what I was going to do with myself after marking finished, and those are the things I’m going to be focusing on this next week on, with some tempering from the past week’s experiences. I’m glad this is happening at the end of the month, feels like a good old-fashioned the-best-ending-is-a-new-beginning sort of situation. I’m down with those.

The plan going forward is to apply these two fundamental principles to everything that I do and plan for:

  1. Have a list of priorities to meet
  2. Take time out to recharge

And that’s it.

Though I feel that’s underselling the significance of this initiative a bit: these are the two things that I am historically the worst at out of all the things that I could potentially be graded on regarding my performance. I suck at meeting priorities once I set them (if I ever set them, definitely part of the problem), and I suck at self-care. And I think it’s because it’s just me handling these things – nobody else cares, so why should I care?

But I should care, and I think if I stop to think about it I do care – so, that is my strategy for making these two things happen: stopping, and thinking.

My “detox weekend” was life-changing, and ever since I have been trying to recapture the clarity of purpose and perspective that I found while committing to those two days of reflection – not just passively reminiscing, but actually taking stock of what I’ve been doing with myself up to this point, and why.

Weekly Words has been great for perspective – at the end of every month. I’m going to lean on it a bit harder for more timely perspective updates, but it’s still not enough. I know, as everyone in this day and age knows, that most of the things that we do with our time are distractions; social media is the popular culprit here, but I’m going to just say that it’s anything to which we have ease of access with no emotional commitment necessary. If you don’t have to commit, you don’t have to care, but then what I find is that not having to care often means that I don’t care – and as I discovered last week, I want to care. I want to care really badly.

I failed at my Ubermenschian goals of crafting a powerful, virile identity of an unstoppable one-man labour force during this last round of marking, but I know that there’s a lot to reflect on regardless – maybe in the moment it was too much for me, and maybe my goal-setting has not evolved that much from when I was 13 and more or less just doing it because it felt good to do in the moment, plus I had no idea what the fuck it even meant so it was just what it meant to me. And that’s fine – but I want something more, I dunno, consequential now. All of these things I’ve identified in myself over the past month or two – wanting to care, wanting to commit, wanting to get my shit done instead of just thinking about it, wanting to have a more structured routine – it feels like I’ve failed at doing them. But, stopping and thinking about it now – that’s just a problem in attitude. It’s the same problem that I have with approaching new writing projects, or even just writing projects in general: I always look at them in terms of “getting it done”.

When really, what I want is to get starting doing them.

Because when you’re done, you’re done, and some things are definitely good to be done with. 17-year-old passion projects that never seem to really get off the ground, for one. But I think I’m starting to understand now that it can’t be about that, and the words that we use do matter – even if they’re the words “I’m going to be an author”, uttered at age 13 when it doesn’t actually “matter” to you what it means, in a literal sense. It’s still shaped the person that I’ve become, entirely, and I honestly don’t like that.

But it’s what I’ve got to work with – and I can work towards other things, too. I had that revelation for the first time at age 24, that I didn’t have to be a writer, despite pushing myself and judging myself based on whether or not I felt like a writer up to that point. And I was right.

It’s just that now, I feel like I have laid some of the groundwork that I need to actually follow through with that, while also accounting for the fact that, as evidence by spending the next 7 years continuing to write, I actually like writing. I just don’t like it as much as I should, or could, and while some of that is because, to this day, I still lean on it way too heavily to find a sense of meaning for the entire scope of my existence, the rest of it is because I haven’t taken it that seriously.

I need a balance of 1) committing to my writing,  and 2) committing to doing other shit that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with writing. I want to have a revision of Mark and Jessie done by December 24th this year. But I also want to have more to show for this year than only having a revision of a book done – because I think I can do more, and more than that, I need to do more. Writing is important to me, but going forward I need to make room for other things that can also be important to me, that I haven’t been acknowledging or even recognising up to this point.

So, basically, this is the end of the second act where the protagonist gets their shit together and begins the arduous task of taking the consequences of their actions and turning them into a lesson for overcoming the final narrative obstacle. In this case, my obsession with Being A Writer. And as I’ve felt for the past several years, that’s not something that I want anymore.

But I do want to write, and I want to write well.

So, let’s do that.

Distressful

So after a stressful week, I was hoping for a more chilled out weekend. Yesterday had ups and downs. The ups – well, there was one up: finally getting myself, sometime in the evening, to finally kick back and just play some Rise of the Tomb Raider, which was very satisfyingly blobtastic The downs, on the other hand, included thinking I would be able to get some marking done only to find that I couldn’t access any of the assignments online (lecturer is working on a solution) and that fucking up my plan for the day, feeling unable to relax until around 6pm when I started playing Tomb Raider, which was a monumental effort that made me write a huge ranty post that has now been deleted about the suffering I experienced just trying to figure out why the hell it was so hard for me to relax; feeling sick after playing Tomb Raider for about 3 hours (actually kind of a good thing as I did want to do something else but was forcing myself to stick with the game, listen to your bodies readers); and generally just not knowing what the fuck to do with myself all day.

Today has been some more of the same, but with less guilt-sickness. Still couldn’t access the assignments, still had no clue what to do with myself – and then, I had an Idea. A really powerful idea that I really liked, thought about for a good half hour just concocting this story around it that felt organic and natural and powerful …

And I just can’t fucking write.

Like, yes, this is perfectionism speaking. But it’s more than that. I actually feel like I have lost the ability to write. I can put words on a page, but I can’t write. I can’t find my way to the word that make sense, the important words, the ones that tell the story of this idea in its particulars. I have my ideas visually; I think in terms of movies in my head. They say a picture is worth a thousand words – well, right now that seems particularly true for all the wrong reasons, because there are a thousand ways I could take one of those images and put it into words, but there aren’t a thousand right ways to do it. There’s a tone, a feeling, an aura if you will to this idea, to every idea, and the wrong words will fail to convey it. And it feels like all I have are wrong words.

The solution that I can think of is just to write and not care about how it turns out. Practical, aspirational in a utilitarian sense, a skill that I have been desperate to develop for the past couple of years.

But the problem with that is that I already care about this idea. I care about it quite a lot, actually, not so much for the idea itself but what it represents to me, as a writer and just as a person.

I miss caring.

Reading Mark and Jessie has been a revelation, and a really upsetting one upon reflection. It’s been all the things a first draft can and probably should be: bad, sluggish, overwrought, over-written, under-developed, flat, morally abhorrent … it’s shit. And it’s the necessary kind of shit, the shit that fertilises the grounds upon which better storytelling can be done. I’m working very hard right now to bear this in mind.

Because I’m reading this 622 page monstrosity, thinking about returning to it as a project to start revisions on, and I can’t see my ideas anywhere in this manuscript. I can see the vague, basic premise of a setting and plot, and I recognise the characters’ names. That’s it. But that’s all. I can’t understand how I let myself write 622 fucking pages of this thing that isn’t my story. That is the part that is so upsetting to me; when I read back over Tallulah for the first time, it was frustrating, dense, inconsistent, embarrassing – but at least it seemed somewhat similar to the idea, the original concept, the story-seed that inspired me to spend 7 months writing it to life. Whereas this thing … I just don’t get it. I do not get it at all.

So when it comes to this new idea, this one that I find myself caring about, I am terrified to start writing it for fear of not just fucking it up like any normal writer does during a first draft (something I’m also trying to convince myself is perfectly normal right now), but of that being proof that I lack the ability to write my ideas down the way I have them in my head, beyond the normal difficulties of translating imagery into text. I am afraid that I will start writing, and discover that I do not have this skill that I have been exercising for the past 18 years. And what this tells me …

Is that I need to see a therapist, for the love of god I need that sweet sweet therapy, fucking hell just chill the fuck out for a second dude.

Because this is ridiculous. I care about an idea for a story, not even a very clear or developed idea, just one that I care about, and it’s scaring me to care about it. If that doesn’t scream unresolved emotional issues, I don’t know what does. It’s not even a person that I’m afraid of caring about or something; it’s an idea, it’s my idea, and I can’t even just fucking enjoy it, I can’t let myself even interact with it for fear of discovering that I am somehow inimical to it.

The one good thing that happened yesterday – this morning, to be precise – is that all of that stress brought me really close to the wall. As in the one you hit your head against sometimes when you’re out of options, hoping to stir a few nascent brain-cells into action from the impact, never mind how many others you destroy in the meantime. And I think I need to hit that wall hard. I remember writing Tallulah and finding that hitting my head against the wall, over and over, actually was a really good way to figure out what I was doing wrong, and how to go about finding a solution for it. I feel like I’m close to that breakthrough here, writing about this ridiculous existential fear.

And anyway, I wrote this thing like a goddamn decade ago; all of my recent writing has been, like, awesome. Maybe I just need to not write for a week or something and go back and read over some of my stuff. I did want to keep reading over my older stuff and just never got around to it; I think maybe it’s time I read some of my newer stuff again, and just give myself a bit of a morale boost. Yes, Mark and Jessie is dogshit in its current written state, but I haven’t touched it since 2008.

And actually, that’s not entirely true; I did read back over some of my newer stuff, it’s kind of crap but it’s a hell of a lot better than Mark and Jessie.

I need more perspective. That’s what I need.

So sayeth the Ubermensch!

And right now, the Ubermensch is going to do some fucking writing, because it’s been too fucking long since I fucking cared about an idea of my own this much. Fuck this inane neurosis. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly, and if I’m destined to do it badly then hack powers fucking activate. Shit’s getting written tonight.

Weekly Words 17-23/06/2018

16/06/18: 367

This “week” starts on Saturday because of scheduling stuff, and there is no way I am getting my weekend off this week. Next week, though. The sun sun will come out next week.

However, this week I have clearer goals than I did last week, where I was scrambling to fill up my list of things I wanted to get done just for myself. This week, I didn’t have to scramble; with a little prompting, the answers became obvious. Following up on my theory that the “new project feeling” I’ve been chasing for the past couple of weeks actually might stem from a lack of commitment to my current projects, this week I am committing to those projects anew. I finished that big scene last month – I think it was last month, maybe it was early this month – for one of my projects and haven’t touched it since; I finished that difficult scene last week and haven’t returned to that project since; I have a few other ideas that I’ve been really motivated to work on over the past couple of years and just haven’t done it; I put the final nail in the coffin of a 17-year-old project and have all sorts of creative opportunities that I’m not taking – starting this week, I am taking these opportunities. I have a list of things to get done creatively this week; I am still working on my monthly goals, but honestly, all of these are projects that I want to persist with over the rest of the year, most likely.

And I am still re-reading Mark and Jessie, and persisting through the painful over-explaining of my 20-year-old self has proven fruitful in a couple of ways, the most validating being that, yes, I need to reboot this project to make it work. Reading what I’ve written, comparing it to the vision that I had to begin with, it doesn’t even remotely match. I don’t know how I didn’t pick up on it, except for the fact that that’s just what happens when you get that writing tunnel-vision. There is nothing better for a writing project than actually writing it, but sometimes it is the worst thing for your vision for your project.

I definitely think part of that is the fact that this was written entirely without a plan. This was pantsing of the highest degree; I was so driven by my emotional investment that it more than compensated for any insecurity I might have felt (but didn’t, that much I am sure of) over the fact that I had no plan going in. I’m quite proud of that accomplishment – but the actual result is … a first draft. It’s shit, but there are ideas worth keeping and expanding on; it’s hard to read, but it’s instructional; it’s hard work, but that’s because there’s a lot to take in – and a lot I would do well to completely abandon. So much filler. Like, it’s almost surreal how much filler there is in this manuscript.

But it’s going good. And it feels like things are going good this week. Today was good, perhaps that’s why. Hung out with my co-writing friend and mostly just chatted, then had lunch with her and her sister and sister’s husband, shared some entertaining and embarrassing family histories, and even got some marking done after all that. It’s been a long day, and tomorrow will be another long day – the final weekend session at Youthline for this course – and I was feeling fatigued tonight, thinking about it. But now, listing out my goals for the rest of the week, I’m actually feeling pretty energised. Motivated. This is all stuff that I want to get done – no, stuff I want to continue working on. And I am looking forward to spending my time working on it.

All while getting all of my marking done in a timely fashion.

Looking forward to it …

18/06/18: 313

I felt like shit today. At first I thought it was because the past week, especially the weekend, was super exhausting – enjoyable and rewarding, but exhausting. I thought that the answer would be to just chill, take the day off, let myself just blob out. Surely, I thought, that would give me the recuperation I so needed.

I learnt a valuable lesson from this, continuing to explore Tomb Raider 2 after starting on it last week after letting it sit on my shelf since around Christmas last year: no matter how exhausted your schedule makes you, going cold turkey on it will fuck you up. You’ve got to stick to it – unless it’s just an awful schedule that was unhealthy to begin with, which mine is not. But even in that case, it is really quite traumatic to suddenly stop doing something that you’ve been doing for long enough that it’s become a habit.

So that’s good, in the sense that I’m getting good at creating the kinds of habits that I want to create for myself. And also that I now know that sticking to the plans I make to sustain these habits is good to so – and important to do, for my own well-being. It took me about half the day to work this out, which was not ideal, but once I figured it out I was able to make up for some of it, doing some things I thought I had written off for the day. It did feel quite bad, because it meant I wasn’t taking care of these responsibilities when I had planned to initially, but that’s all the more reason to stick to your guns.

But also, I definitely should have planned to take today off. I should have realised that the weekend would have really taken it out of me. Because I do think that I needed a day off after the weekend – hell, I still feel like that – and managing my energy levels and acknowledging my limits is something I need to be more pro-active about.

This led to my choice of writing material for the evening. After all that talk of having so much energy for writing but marking getting in the way of actually doing it, today really messed me up energy-wise. But I still think that commitment is the key, more than any particular idea or project that I have going right now. That is one thing I felt very strongly over the weekend, and was sort of the theme for today: things work out for me when I stick to my guns. So today’s writing focused on one of my current projects, one that I’ve let sit for a while – I couldn’t do energy today, but I knew I could do commitment. Well, no, that’s not entirely true: in retrospect it was in keeping with my commitment to … commit … to my projects, but at the time it was just “oh hey it’s on my list for this week better make myself do it.”

Which is, really, the same principle. I made a plan, and I stuck to it. No, it doesn’t feel good, but that’s because today has been shitty in general. I still feel that it was the right thing for me to do, the helpful thing, and if it doesn’t fill me with existential glee right this minute that’s fine. It’s a process, and I believe it’s a good one.

20/16/1: 829

And now for something completely different …

Well, not completely different, just the exact opposite. I had a plan today, didn’t stick to it, and the end result was the sense that I wasted an entire goddamn day. Lesson learnt.

However, I did get some important stuff done. For starters, my marking speed on this assignment has finally started to improve, and quite substantially at that. I have also begun working on a screenplay version of one of my projects (and trying to find out how the fuck you format a screenplay), another idea that I never thought I would actually manage to make myself get to work on, so that’s a plus. That is also where the entirety of today’s word-count comes from, and I had so long to actually do it. Tomorrow can be a really damn big redemption story, because I have more things to do, which means that to maximise the use of my time I’m going to need to, well, maximise it. There is shit that I want to do, so I had better fucking do it.

And having started this screenplay, it turns out that this project is one of those things. I am quite glad to have discovered this. Actually, this week has been good for discovery in general, discovery through experimenting and pushing myself to do things I have promised myself I would do. The part that bothers me is that I just haven’t done very much of those things – but then again, it is the type of stuff that I never thought I would actually do at all, so I should acknowledge this as a win.

Also I’m still marking, which makes everything harder to do in general. At least I’m on top of that aspect of my time-management, even if it’s not as on top as I would like to be. But oh well. There’s still half the week to go, and that’s a lot of time I can use to make up for some of these personal disappointments.

I am really feeling the lack of the extra day in my writing week this month, since I added Fridays to my weekends. I’ll see how it all feels after the monthly wrap-up – gotta remember the big picture, the shot of pure perspective heading my way. I need it more often than just once a month. I think that’s what I can use my fridays for: a proper weekly recap, rather than the summaries I’ve been writing lately on my final day of writing. That might help a lot actually.

Today hasn’t been as bad as all that, but I really wanted it to be better, and had a plan to make it so. I just have to commit. Commitment is the key. That seems to be the theme for me recently. Time to get with the program.

21/06/18: 1

This week has been traaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaash.

Trash I tell you.

But you know what that’s okay. It’s okay because it’s also been a really big week, a big, distracting, disorienting week where I made some rather large life decisions and am still kind of sitting with their weight on my shoulders. It’s been an understandable week, and to be honest if this was anybody else’s week and I was hearing about it, I’d be pretty sympathetic to a little lack of focus/productivity.

Also, to be fair, it’s not like I’m behind on anything. I have plenty of time to get done the things I need to. The big, disheartening disappointment for me this week has been not getting done the stuff that I want to. It’s hard to break old habits, and it’s those old habits that are holding me back right now – primarily, self-distracting habits as a way of self-soothing during times of stress of exhaustion. And, like, some good old-fashioned blobbing as a recreational practice is fine by me, and I daresay even a healthy way to just reset every now and again. It’s just that it feels like an inevitability, not something under my control. A compulsion rather than me making the conscious decision of “I don’t really feel like doing anything today” and then following through. And that’s what needs to change.

The big issue behind that is that none of the things I’ve set up for myself to do … actually appeal to me very much. I honestly just don’t know what to do with myself that I enjoy. Oh shush, you know what I mean. Yes commitment blah blah blah it’s not enough.

Well, I’ve proven that I can do it, at least a bit. I have gotten some things started this week. I can feel myself falling off the wagon though; I have felt on the back foot for all of this week, and that’s only partly because of self-sabotaging behaviour. The rest of it is … well, the new things I tried out this week and last just don’t feel like things I am capable of continuing with. If I think about it, what I’m experiencing currently is a serious lack of faith in myself. Which is nothing new, mind you, and I guess the fact that I’m even aware of this is a step forward for me. But part of the fact that my planned, written-in-my-notebook activities to do in my down-time so that I feel like I’m using it in satisfying ways are not appealing to me is because I don’t think I’m good enough to do them well. It’s all work, for the most part, and if it’s not work I feel guilty for wanting to do it because I haven’t done any work.

How the hell did this happen? I used to indulge, man. I used to have nothing but free time. Maybe that’s the problem – I’ve gotten too used to compensating for all the years of a complete and utter lack of self-discipline or initiative to do anything productive or socially valuable. I feel like I have to make up for all the time I spent not giving a fuck about anything other than what I felt like concerning myself with.

Although having said that …

When is that ever not true?

I mean, the feeling part. Obviously we all have to do things that we don’t necessarily want to – but do we have to care about them? I think not. We don’t have thought-crime – though if a certain world leader gets a second term I could imagine that changing – and even if we did, who would be cowardly enough to go along with it? To not stand up and say that it was going too far? Why am I fixated on this extremely specific and completely hypothetical example? Because that’s who I am, goddammit; I fixate on shit, for better or worse, and for the past I can’t even put a number to the years I have been fixated on myself as a carrier of external expectations. A horribly cliche kind of identity crisis, one that I had a perfectly good solution to when I was younger – to not give a shit. And I don’t think going back to how I was at that age would be anything resembling a good idea, but that part of it? I think I was on the money.

I don’t know what to do with myself, because what I’m allowing myself to choose from in terms of things to do is so horribly, artificially, pedantically limited. And yes, a big part of that is fear, anxiety, lack of self-esteem, the usual suspects. But the rest of it is just me being fucking weird. And don’t get me wrong, I like weird, but there’s healthy weird and unhealthy weird, and this is unhealthy weird.

So, what was working? The schedule was working. I have been off-schedule all week, and that was because of decisions I made to go off-schedule. It did not work.

Solution 1) stick to the fucking plan. It’s not that hard to do. It feels hard, especially this week, but I know it’s not hard to do. So, yeah.

Solution 2) specifically for my free-time activities …

No more planning, for the rest of the month.

Instead, I am going to record it.

No, not as in twitch, because not only do I not have the equipment for it but also I do still suffer from social anxiety and this is me trying to de-stress myself rather than the opposite. As in something like Weekly Words, but for my free time doings. I really want something a bit easier to record these observations on than my laptop, and something a bit more convenient to navigate than a paper notebook. Maybe I’ll get a folder and make different sections that I can fill with exercise paper, instead of using a diary where all the pages and their order are set. Basically what I want is a physical notebook with digital tags and links. Get on that, science.

The plan with recording it is for me to not dictate my free time to myself, which is horribly … horrible … like seriously I don’t know why I thought this would or should work if I was trying to tell somebody else how to spend their free time by getting them to schedule it all I would hope they would tell me to fuck off – but anyway, the point is that if I instead leave myself a free slate but with the intention of keeping a record of it, then I will find things to do that I actually want to have a record of.

It’s a bit of an experiment, but the current experiment isn’t working, and hey, revision fixes everything. The problem is that I don’t know what I want to do – so, I should find out.

And then solution 3) I guess is to take the work things that I’ve been trying to force myself to do and use them as the replacement for marking, like I said I was going to do but feels less doable right now. I think I just need to rationalise it a bit – continuing reading Mark and Jessie is going to be the main thing for the foreseeable future, so I might just limit it to that, as well as probably re-committing to the 10k words per week goal that I started off with. I’m not mad about the lower word counts that have been happening lately – not anymore anyway – because there are good reasons for that and the important thing is that I’ve at least been writing regularly. But I do want the personal satisfaction of putting in a lot of work with my writing.

And instead of wrapping things up here, I’m going to save that for a proper wrap-up tomorrow, with a final word-count of …

22/06/18: 1510

Hahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhaha …

It’s okay.

No, seriously, having actually read over this Weekly Words and seen what I was dealing with this week – it’s fine. It’s very fine that this is the outcome that I had. I had a week, personal-life-wise, and the lessons of planning down-time for myself after intense shit and keeping up with my habits even when taking that down-time are lessons that I did not realise how right I was about until just now, reading back over those realisations. I’m kind of amazed I got anything done this week. I was constantly drained, didn’t get enough recovery time in after a super-intense weekend (by my standards), didn’t realise how worse it would make me feel to not keep on top of my habits/plan for the sake of what recovery time I did manage to get – I didn’t commit, because I couldn’t commit, because I wasn’t prepared, and my frustration with this combined with not being able to identify what the problems were in a systematic kind of way, where I could provide a solution, led to me making decisions that resulted in me spiraling a bit out of control this week.

However, I also managed to improvise at points in good ways, making up for lost time on some days, and while yesterday was a wash, it was sort of inevitable. My goals is to put stuff in place to make sure it is less likely to happen again – not so that I’ll never crash, because that’s a ridiculous, kind of fascist goal, but so that I’ll have an easier time bouncing back when I inevitably do. So that I’ll be more able to identify my options.

As for all of my angst yesterday about not enjoying the stuff I had planned to do …

Here’s the thing.

Thinking about it, the entire reason I even made these things plans instead of just, like, doing them, is because these were things that I did want to do, but wouldn’t make myself do them. I wouldn’t commit to doing them, and yesterday’s little rant about low self-esteem and alluding to my ongoing struggle with perfectionism exposed the reasons for why. This is an instance of identifying a problem, coming up with a solution, and finding that solution to just be another kind of problem. I think it may be because the logic of this solution was, pretty much: “hey, you know that thing you feel like you can’t do? you should do it”. And there’s all sorts of implied benefits to doing this, but hey, I’m me, I can do a bit better than just imply shit to myself.

So what I’ve realised today, getting up at 8:15 am because obviously this is a blessed day of destiny that will dictate the rest of my life from this point forward, is that making plans to do things that I want to do is good, but when I started Weekly Words because I wanted to keep more perspective on my life and not get tunnel-vision, I had no idea how right I was, or how little perspective I have been able to keep on my life up to this point. Forgetting why I made decisions in the first place and dealing with their consequences without that context is annoying. So keeping perspective has to be part of the plan, more so than it has been for me already – I still want to keep records of the stuff that I do in my down-time for that reason, though I probably won’t make a whole goddamn folder for it.

What I will do is re-commit to doing the things that I want to do when I want to do them. That problem, leaving those things too long and losing my motivation, was the entire reason for why I started jotting those things down in my notebook and trying to push myself to get them done. Well, for one, “getting them done” is not helpful; doing them is what I’m aiming for, with the possibility of continuing to do them after I’ve gotten myself started. But these are also new things, of which I have tried a few this week and also need to acknowledge is a good thing, so I need to be open to that reality. New things are unpredictable – they’re hard to prepare for. But they’re also exciting, because there’s the element of discovery. I may have thought about doing something for, let’s be real, years sometimes, but until I actually get around to doing it I have no idea what it’s going to be like, how to fit it into my life, or whether I even want to. While I want to be better-prepared, I also need to be okay with the idea that I can’t possibly prepare for everything, and especially not things that I’ve never tried.

Openness. That’s the lesson for me here. Also that waking up at 8 and starting my day around this time actually feels pretty good. I’ve got time now, and there is stuff that I want to use it for.

So I will go and do that.