Goddammit May

May, for those of you who don’t know, is one of the major characters in my book, Tallulah. About 50% of my internal commentary while reading, writing and generally considering the mere existence of Tallulah is taken up with repeating this phrase to myself. May is quite possibly my greatest creation, in many ways the character of whom I am most proud out of all the characters I have invented over the years, because she is an embodiment of weaponised angst and neurosis to a level I have never experienced in fiction before. I love her, because she is the purest incarnation of the part of my writer persona that wants nothing more than to inflict pain upon his characters and readers alike – fun pain, mind you, the kind that makes you wince and squirm and enjoy it; not pain out of malice, but because it’s just so validating to elicit an earnest emotional response out of people. Mind you, I don’t know if I’ve succeeded in that attempt – I just know that that’s the exact effect that she has on me.

I’ve missed this.

I am revising Tallulah again. I said I wasn’t going to make notes unless I felt the need to; I felt the need to tonight, so I made some. Either taking a few months off has changed my mindset with regards to revising this book, or I misjudged the extent to which note-making was interfering with my ability to commit to this revision. Whatever the case, I have fulfilled my solemn oath to myself to return to this revision endeavour and get it moving again, and re-acquainting myself with May and the squirm-inducing suffering she still inflicts upon my psyche, I’m glad that I did. But for the next revision, I might make myself a printed copy and print it on something smaller than A4 pages so that I can read it in bed rather than having to sit at my laptop. And make it feel more like a real, published book.

As for Nanowrimo – you know what? I got something out of it. I don’t need to finish this year. I also can’t be fucked finishing this year, but that’s not the point. It got me moving again, and I’m grateful enough for that that I feel satisfied to not try and work myself up to go on a writing sprint. Then again, I have finished marking and have nothing left to do for the rest of the year except revision …

And reading. Lots of reading. I have taken the opportunity to punctuate my continuing-with-increasingly-diminishing-returns Urban Fantasy kick with a detour into Historical Fantasy Fiction, with Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories series, this being the fourth book in the series, Valour and Vanity. This series belongs to a genre and tone I would quite comfortably say is “not really my thing”, and is also a series I will quite happily count among my very favourites. And it is rather a breath of fresh air after the grittiness and holier-than-thou sanctimony that pervades a fair portion of Urban Fantasy. It’s part of the charm, but a part that can very quickly become grating. I highly recommend it to anybody who – actually, I just highly recommend it, full-stop. It’s not my thing, and I really like it, so I encourage you to give it a go, whatever your readerly inclinations.

But I am glad that I made this decision to just read Tallulah without having to feel obligated to make notes, even though I’ve ended up doing it anyway. These are some of the more fully-developed characters that I have, characters I’ve spent years with not just in my head, but on the page. I’m familiar with these characters in ways I’m not with characters that I’ve had for longer, far longer in some cases. I still think of Tallulah as being a new story of mine, even though the initial concept was something I came up with in 2010 and I didn’t actually start writing it until 2012. I guess it’s a testament to how much your relationship with a story changes once you’ve actually written it, when you have something … literal to work with, something actual, instead of abstractions and hypotheticals sustained by however much memory you can devote to them. These characters exist beyond my imagination now, and that makes the relationship different. I see these characters and think of how much still need to change for this story to work, but it’s no longer a matter of just changing my mind; I have to physically delve into their inner workings and rearrange them. I am actually transforming them into something that they were not before every time I decide something has to change, rather than just thinking a different set of thoughts about them, because they are no longer just my thoughts. It’s more … consequential.

I had forgotten there was this much gravity in writing.

I’ve missed it. I’m glad I came back to it.

Advertisements

Starting Today

  1. Always commit absolutely
  2. Always reserve the right to change your mind, at any time, for any reason, with no judgment
  3. Always keep everything you write

I said when I started this blog that I didn’t want it to be an advice blog – well, that’s only mostly true. There are three pieces of advice I will always give, always stress the invaluable importance of, because they’re the kind of advice that I need, and I know a lot of other people do as well. And I definitely need them right now.

I have not been following rules 1 and 2 for a very long time, and when I do that, I find that I very naturally fall into the “hypothetical writing” trap, where all my writing is “what if this happened” or “you know, I could do this“. And I even found a counter to it: turn it into a conversation instead of just a huge rant – but I haven’t been doing that, either. I’ve just let myself keep writing in the hypothetical, not committed, not torn myself away from my myriad distractions so that I can actually write effectively, and it’s taken its toll. I need to stop.

I wrote nothing (nothing that counted) yesterday and it didn’t feel good, but mind you not much of anything yesterday felt good, it was just kind of a shitty flat day where I wrote a bunch of crap that didn’t count because it was all hypothetical writing and let’s just say that this is why I am Starting Today. I am pulling out that old cliche because right now – starting today, in fact – it’s exactly what I need to get back on track.

So Starting Today, it’s all for real. No hypotheticals. Aaalll the stress of “getting it right” the first time, so that I have the perfect excuse to get back to actually following my own cardinal rules of writing. I tend to not write because of my stupid perfectionist streak that ruins everything in my life. One of the reasons I keep coming back to those three rules – and in particular the first two; the third one is easy enough to follow, though no less important – is because it seems to be a brain-hack of sorts, a way to trick my inner perfectionist into thinking it’s getting what it wants – which is to criticise, not to make things better – while at the same time completely undermining its efforts. Rule 1 – to commit absolutely – means that whatever it is I’m doing, I’m doing. I am writing that shit, I am sticking to the plan, I am doing it the way I said I would do it, even if it doesn’t work.

And this is vitally important, because Rule 2 – to reserve the right to change your mind at any time for any reason – means that when it doesn’t work, you can immediately fix it. Immediately. None of this “wait for revision” shit; you just get in there and make it work right now. Do these two things seem completely at odds with each other? Yes, they do. But it’s much less about taking those rules literally, as instructions, than it is about taking them on as mindsets. As attitudes. Doing most things in life is about your attitude when you attempt them. Thinking “I can’t do this because I’m not good enough for X and Y reasons” will get you nowhere in a hurry. Thinking “this is the plan and I’m sticking to the plan no matter what because it’s the plan” will give you drive, determination, a sense of purpose to your endeavour; and thinking “this is shit I can do better than this and I’m going to do it now” will give you a sense of mastery, of flair, of showing off how brilliant you are and basking in the afterglory. We human beings are complex, and we are capable of thinking and believing seemingly contradictory things simultaneously.

Might as well use it to our advantage.

 

Part of the commitment I’ve been feeling the lack of ties back to these two principles. I have been permitting myself to just take it easy, and I did need that. I’m going to keep needing that every now and again, because everyone needs a break, and in one form or another we take that break, whether it’s by doing sloppy work because you resent still having to do it, procrastinating until the last minute because you’re so used to working non-stop that you don’t know how to regulate your time in a healthy way, or having a nervous breakdown because you’ve pushed yourself too hard for too long, refusing to look at the reasons why you thought you had to prove that you could.

I might be projecting slightly here.

And that’s an area where my three rules don’t help me out, or not in an obvious way at least. I guess a fourth rule, which was birthed when I let – and made – myself watch Stranger Things last year because I realised I was distracting myself when I literally had nothing to distract myself from, and not even enjoying it. That rule doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s also about being conscientious – just not about work and work alone. I guess it’s Rule 1, just applied to recreation – if you’re not working, then you’re not fucking working. Enjoy it, because now that’s the plan. You aren’t allowed to work when you’re Not Working, so don’t even think about it.

And, of course, Rule 2 still applies, or so I would think – it didn’t have to apply when I was watching Stranger Things, though, because I really enjoyed that show and am very glad, even grateful, that I made myself take the time to indulge myself in watching it.

So I guess maybe I’ve been a bit better about following these rules than I thought – just not with writing. I applied Rule 1 very hard to reading The Dresden Files this year, for instance, and other assorted Urban Fantasy pastries (I’m up to book 5 in the Kate Daniels series and have finally made myself begin the Anita Blake series), and did not let guilt stop me from said indulgence, and I genuinely feel that I’ve become a slightly better human being for it. So that’s good.

But I need to re-apply it to writing. And, I think, take something else away from this: when it’s not being applied to work, Rule 1 will very easily overrule Rule 2 if you let it, because if you’re doing shit you enjoy, you’re not going to want to change very much.

Or maybe I just need a Rule 4: take reasonable time off and have some fucking fun, dumbass. That seems much easier.

But I need the rules, whatever the number, because I actually am starting to miss writing. Yes, I did say recently that I hated writing, but sometimes you just need to say something, get it off your chest, and once you do it loses its power, because it’s no longer relevant. I said back when I discovered I was Not A Writer Anymore that I still wanted to act like I was a Writer, because it worked for getting writing done, and writing – rather than Writing – was something that I still wanted to do with my life. It still is. And I see now that one of the reasons it hasn’t been working so well for me is this lack of commitment, and lack of conscientiousness around my writing habits. I have some good ones. I committed to those good habits while I was working on Tallulah the first time, and again when I was working on the revision. It fought off the “hypothetical writing” trap. I haven’t been able to make myself do it for anything less “serious” than Tallulah yet, but I want to work out the trick to it. I think it’s just commitment.

So, coming back to Nanowrimo commitments – they’re still on. It just might not be 50k words by the end of the month, but it’ll be something. And more importantly, it will be something every day. Because what I’m starting to realise is that I’m actually much more disciplined than I think I am – not because my habits reflect it, but because what I miss right now is the discipline. Because that’s what commitment is: the foundation upon which discipline is based. Discipline, when I think of the word, is just what happens when you turn your commitment into a habit.

Which – I can hardly believe I’m saying this – I think I’ve actually done. Because I feel a distinct urge to get back to it. I’ve re-wired myself to want discipline – not so that I never fall off the wagon, but so that I notice when I do.

want to keep doing it. If that’s not a sign, I’m not a writer.

Which I guess I am.

But not because I have nothing else going on. Not anymore.

Speaking of which look forward to a totally off-topic Justice League rant coming up next time because sometimes when you get something off your chest you realise how much more you had left to say and boy do I have some Things To Say about this movie …

 

 

Returning

Once again: “Well, that didn’t happen.”

I saw Justice League, it was about as good as I thought it could have been, pretty thin but enjoyable.

The notable thing for me, and I’m sure a lot of other people because I’m a narcissist, was the change in tone. It’s corny in some places. It’s not ham-fisted in a good way; it’s genuinely awkward because it’s just kind of flat. The whole film is pretty flat, to be honest, but far from irredeemable. And I did enjoy it. Not as good as The Avengers, but I don’t think anybody dared hope for that.

Maybe Age of Ultron.

I didn’t like Age of Ultron.

But what I did like was the theme – or what I thought was the theme at least. It’s a stark change from the previous two DC films helmed by Snyder, which are gritty (ineffectual) deconstructions of the Superman mythos, how “unrelatable” he is because he, I dunno, has a fucking conscience and cares about humanity, like most decent people, but unlike them has the power to do something to actually help humanity where it counts. It’s about the greater good and the banality of hope and the fact that justice and goodness are for little kids or whatever. I don’t mind taking the more heavy-handed elements of superhero narratives to task in general, but Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman were wanktacular to a degree that even the Nolan Batman films didn’t reach.

This film does a complete 180 on all of that. It’s about hope. It’s about goodness. It’s about truth, justice, and – actually – the American Way. I can’t help but read into this, and the timing is interesting. Bruce Wayne has been set up as kind of a deconstruction of the post-Frank Miller characterisation, with his hardass, reactionary, and pretty damn trigger-happy ethic being taken to task. As for Superman – I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that at a time when America (and subsequently the world) is going through a very dark time where a reactionary man is the leader of the free world, the message of hope and how to find it in this film seems very pointed.

That’s not to say that the film is good. Again, it’s pretty flat, and while the themes are potentially interesting, they’re really not developed very much. In fact that about sums up the whole film: potential for greatness that is never realised. But I will say that at least DC is now proving that it can make its villains just as unremarkable as those churned out by Marvel. This Steppenwolf was not born to be wild.

This totally relates to my writing, hang on.

The other day, I realised that one of the main ways I’ve developed bad writing habits is by writing about my stories instead of just writing the stories themselves. The word I came up with was “hypothetically”. I wrote – and thought – about my stories “hypothetically”. Because a hypothetical doesn’t require any commitment.

What I found while I was watching Justice League was that, for the first time in years, I was comparing the story to my own. I was comparing these ideas to my own. It was not a hypothetical comparison. It was direct, literal, felt consequential. And I realised that I really, really want my ideas to get out into the world.

I haven’t felt like that in a long time.

The “fun phase” – well, it’s been fun. That shitty YA werewolf novel was incredibly enjoyable to write for the first half, and I don’t begrudge the shitty second half, though I do think it could have been so easily avoided. But that wasn’t a story I ever wanted to share with the world. I just wanted to write it to prove something to myself. And I did. Not in the way I’d hoped, but all the same, I proved to myself that I can write a whole story without thinking very much about it and have it feel like a story, and that I could do it while meeting other, time-intensive obligations, such as completing my MA.

What I didn’t realise was that it also shifted my storytelling priorities. I haven’t felt the importance of any of my ideas pretty much since I started writing that project, because it wasn’t about the ideas being important. It was about getting something written. I think I definitely needed that shift in perspective, because I had forgotten how to have fun with writing. But in giving up my super-serious, eternally-suffering perfectionist artist douche bag habits (or fighting valiantly against them at least), I also lost that spark of vitality that drove my writing. Nothing was important to me anymore. I let myself rip things off, and that’s a good thing to do – but it also led to me only looking to rip things off, and losing the thread of my own creative urges. I lost what made my writing personal. It had become, in a different way, hypothetical again.

Until, for some reason, tonight, while I was watching this decidedly mediocre film, and thinking not so much “I could do that, but better”, and more “this is a story that has been put out into the world for people to experience. And it’s not as good as one of mine.”

That’s not arrogance. That’s conviction.

Saying that is probably arrogance, though, but you can’t win them all.

And this isn’t about truth. This is about belief. I truly believe that my ideas are worth the effort, and I’d forgotten that – I have not cared about that for about a year and a half. But it’s back now.

And the idea I was thinking of?

Tallulah.

Goddammit, I love Tallulah. I miss it. I want to be done with it. I think I’ve dragged it out for too long and it’s doomed to be less than everything I want it to be, but fuck it, it’s there, it’s real, and I need to finish it, to let it go. To move on. I have never moved on from one of my stories. That’s so weird. I’ve drifted away from concepts, but I’ve never gotten to a point where I could be finished, because I’ve never finished.

Well, except for the shitty YA werewolf novel, sure, but that was more of a writing exercise.

No. You know what? It counts. I wrote it, I finished writing it, and I move on. I want to know what that feels like for something I actually care about.

Whatever I was doing with this last round of revision notes – it wasn’t working. Last time a revision attempt took this long for me, I gave up on it, and that turned out to be the correct decision. I didn’t let myself give up on this one, and I think that’s what’s driven me away from it. But I can’t leave it.

So I’m just going to read it. I’m going to read it until I don’t need notes to think about everything that needs to change. I’m going to read it until I’m so familiar with it that it feels claustrophobic, and then I’m going to read it again. I don’t need notes. Or, rather, I need to not make notes right now. I will probably go back to them eventually. But right now, I just need to know the story. I think also a problem with the notes I was trying to make was the inclusion of ways to fix what was wrong, and while that’s obviously a useful thing to do in a lot of ways, I was making the notes in order to make changes – which is ostensibly what revision is. But it also distracted me from the story itself, and I think that’s a big part of why I got so disheartened. I got so caught up in what it wasn’t, what I didn’t want to wait for it to be, that I didn’t pay enough attention to what it was. If I do that, I think the obvious solutions will come to me, and I may not even need to make notes at all.

I’m not saying I will not allow myself to make notes; I’m saying I’m going to wait until I have a compelling reason to make them, rather than looking for excuses to make them and distract me from the story as it is.

I’m saying that it’s time to finish this. It’s been too long already, but I can’t give up on it. It’s too important to me. It’s the story I want to commit to, because I am already committed. I’ve just been distracted.

If nothing else, I can say that Justice League made me appreciate my own ideas more. It really is not a spectacular movie. But it does some things quite well.

Just not as good as I can do them – but enough talk.

Time to write.

13211

The inevitable has happened.

I have finally found that trying to simultaneously work on 3 different projects and keep up momentum for all of them is, um, hard. It’s hard. It’s a lot of work, guys.

It’s hard.

But I think that’s okay. Nothing has quite grabbed me yet: the urban fantasy project is probably the one I find hardest to apply myself to, simply because the tone is so important and I just don’t seem to have it down; the Hero’s Journey Deconstruction has been pretty much superseded in appeal by the story-within-a-story I made up on the spot to put in it for metaphor duty; and this story-within-a-story that I have started writing is pretty fun, but it’s also just so fucking basic. And not even good basic, not yet anyway. It’s basically just a straight-up Hero’s Journey, because it’s supposed to stand in for the fantasy of The Good Old Days that I’m sure we all have – nostalgia. But I’m going through it too quickly, skipping over things that I need to develop more to set the proper tone and establish the themes – it’s basically The NeverEnding Story meets The Last Starfighter, or what I know of The Last Starfighter, which is not a lot. Kid lives in the normal world, gets transported to a fantastical other world because he’s the Chosen One, eventually returns to the normal world and makes things better but with enough potential to return to the fantastical other world to justify sequel-bait in the last scene. An old classic. And I like the idea of telling this kind of story; it’s something new for me, and like Star Wars and The NeverEnding Story, it’s just a very pure kind of story, the kind that opens at maximum Joseph Campbell velocity and never lets up.

It’s unironic, too, as opposed to the Hero’s Journey Deconstruction project, which is all irony, all the time. It’s self-referential, self-reflexive, self-aware and self-absorbed. And I like that, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just so much effort, all for the sake of being a bit of a smartass. I don’t think I am that much of a smartass. And there is something so appealing about a totally earnest story, something that isn’t trying to critique, deconstruct and/or subvert established tropes, but rather trying to be as strong of a story as it can possibly be.

The two aren’t incompatible, and that, in fact, was what my Hero’s Journey Deconstruction project was an effort to prove, in some ways at least. But being wry is just so … mean, in a way. There’s an inherently condescending aspect to it that this new story doesn’t have, and I”m craving that.

It’s just a shame that it’s not that interesting.

And it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a metaphor for, essentially, Star Wars, but also the general idea of A Simpler Time, that mythic narrative that justifies dismissing everything new because it’s Not As Good as how things were Back In My Day.  And most importantly, it’s not supposed to be a full story in its own right. It’s supposed to be a metaphor for a story.

I’ve bought into my own hype, basically. That’s how I feel right now.

Then again, good ideas can come from anywhere, and I like a lot of the ideas that I have for this thing. But I am going to make the effort to work on something else for the next few days, because this is not the kind of story that I really think has much of a future in its current state. It’s got the potential for cool world-building, but as I’ve said before, I’m not much one for world-building as a reader, and as such I don’t want to spend a huge amount of time on it as a writer.

But regardless, the word-count continues to climb, and that can only be a good thing.

 

A very writer moment

So part of my 3k-word voyage this evening involved me making up a fictional film franchise, on the fly, to serve as an allegory for nostalgia for the Good Old Days, and of course a thinly-veiled criticism of how Hollywood has a history of adapting or rebooting beloved, nostalgia-real-estate IPs to disastrous effects. It’s not a dig at any franchise in particular, and honestly probably doesn’t quite do what I want it to do yet – that’s for revision to fix.

But the actual fictional film franchise that I’ve started making up …

I’m starting to think maybe I should write it.

I mean, it’s not remotely well-developed, and the ideas are things that I’m not sure how to do justice to – but that’s also part of what I like about it. It feels very new, almost too new, and a lot of my ideas don’t have that feeling anymore – they tend to get quite a bit of development before I start even thinking about working on them. Of course, that’s also because a lot of my new ideas are intentionally based off or adapted from older projects of mine, or are ripping off existing stories that I have come across and think are cool enough to blatantly copy. There’s a lot of work already done with them, whereas with this … there’s almost nothing. I don’t even know how it would play out; I can’t even think of an ending, a middle, or a hook for the beginning.

And I kind of really want that.

I kind of want to start wading into a mess and seeing what comes out of it. I want to fill some space with ideas that I think might work because they’re all I can think of, not because I have a clear and perfect vision or a moment of clarity that tells me “THIS is the thing to do”. I want something clunky to grapple with, to try and manipulate and master.

I want something original. And I’m not talking about the ideas themselves not bearing any resemblance to other ideas, because they intentionally do. I’m talking about the feeling that comes with setting out to write something and having no idea how it’s going to turn out. Everything I’ve set out to write over the past decade-ish has been at least somewhat premeditated, but this – this is pure spontaneity, and I’m kind of afraid of missing this chance to see where it leads.

Fuck it. I’m doing it. This Nanowrimo was all about writing a bunch of different things anyway, and I want to get into the habit of writing out my ideas when I have them, as opposed to over-thinking them and killing my momentum with perfectionism. I want this.

It’s mine.

God I feel so giddy what the fuck is going on with me lately …

10085

It’s getting up there.

I’ll still need to pick up the pace if I want to hit 50k by the 30th, but at this point, considering that I started on the 4th, I think I’m doing pretty well.

I got stuck with my Hero’s Journey Deconstruction project, and so stopped working on it for a couple of days, but I was wary of just leaving it in its unworkable state until I ran out of momentum, so I took five minutes before writing and just paced for a while, thinking of how to solve it. And it helped, a lot. It helps to just get away from distractions, even if only for a couple of minutes, to make the transition into writing-mode easier and firmer than just trying to jump in after numbing your brain with constant distractions all day. I have a hook now, and I didn’t before, and it feels good to be heading in that direction.

I’m not super-excited yet, but I’m definitely invested, and that’s all that matters. It’s not about how it feels; it’s about getting it done. And, I mean, I did just write for two straight hours. It felt good enough, let’s say.

And today’s been a pretty productive day overall. Marked some essays, did some exercise, made some progress on my mission to start controlling my eating habits, and wrote over 3k words. I call that a clear win.

More like this, I think. This is good.

 

6512

That is my current Nanowrimo word-count. I’m pretty pleased with it; and I’m even more pleased that it’s 1027 words more than it would have been if I hadn’t forced myself to do some writing just now. Which I did. And it felt good. The voice isn’t quite what I want it to be, but that’s just a distraction at this point; the first draft is just there to get written, not to be good, or even decent. It’s not about worth. It’s about existing. And now it exists 1027 words more than it would have if not for my following through with my resolution to write something every day during Nanowrimo.

Which I actually have managed to do, since starting on the 4th. The first two days were my Hero’s Journey Deconstruction/Metacritique projects; tonight – well, last night as of 6 minutes ago – was my NZ Urban Fantasy project. Like I say, the voice is off, because I want to go for that dry Kiwi humour that everyone seems to love so much and really doesn’t come naturally to me, further cementing my sense of being an outsider in my own country, not that I really mind. But the point is that it’s getting written.

What is not getting written is the weird flash of inspiration I had earlier today, which came to me in the form of the sentence: “an Urban Fantasy version of Garden State“. I had spent the previous night thinking of all the things I wished ST2 had done differently – including how the showrunners treated Sadie Sink, which makes me pretty fucking reluctant to watch season 3, TW for what might not be sexual coercion of a minor but sure seems a lot like it and for the love of god don’t read the comments – and came to the realisation that, actually, I have amazing ideas and deserve worldwide recognition for them. Then I thought of Garden State in a remotely positive light, and consequently felt that I may have to retract that praise.

I mean, it kind of already exists. It’s called The Magicians by Lev Grossman, which after reading 15 books of The Dresden Files I have finally realised is nothing special. I should go back and re-read those books, though, because after suffering through the bad aftertaste of The Magician’s Land it’s hard for me to remember that I actually liked the first two. Though upon reflection I’m not at all sure that I should have liked the first two.

Speaking of not liking things upon reflection – yes, I have read all currently-published The Dresden Files books, and yes, I have enjoyed them immensely (with one or two nearly-fatal exceptions), but after coming to the end of Skin Game I realised I needed to find something else to fill the void. I tried Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, and gave up when I uncovered this gem: “It was strange to hear a black man shout a Confederate battle-cry. Hey, whatever worked” (138).

Yeah no. Really no.

Oh wait this is the guy who started the Sad Puppies bullshitREALLY no.

And that kind of leads into my point here: up until this sentence, I was happy to suspend my disbelief, my dread, my general sense that Larry Correia was not one of My People (it is really quite scary to me that I did not know about his being responsible for the Sad Puppies until I googled him just now). The pacing was night and speedy; the tone was very similar to the blockbuster tough-guy-telling-it-like-it-is vibe of The Dresden Files, and its treatment of women (or woman, I should say) was about on-par, if not actually a little better. Or maybe just different.

And then that line happened and I discovered that Larry Correia is a festering pile of regressive dogshit, and it made me reflect on my time with The Dresden Files, and …

I mean, here’s the thing. I know that I’ve been suspending my disbelief and critical faculties with the series. Deliberately. It’s part of the joy I take in reading it. It’s a fun series if you can get into it.

But those similarities got me thinking about … other things.

Like how Susan died.

Like Molly’s role in the series, namely the fact that her role in the series revolves entirely around her relationship to (and decade-long crush on) Harry.

Like the fact that pretty much every woman who isn’t Karrin, Charity, or Harry’s geriatric landlady is characterised first and foremost in terms of their relationship to sex and sexuality, generally with regards to how Harry feels about it. Yeah, you can say “that’s because Harry’s a chauvinist it’s supposed to be a character flaw”, but it keeps happening and it’s gross. It doesn’t matter if it’s supposed to be bad, because it is bad, and it is bad repeatedly, and that outweighs whatever intention is behind it because, spoilers, that “character flaw” never actually gets treated like one. (Though aside from Harry’s POV, the series does improve on its depiction of women, as I have stated previously.)

Like the fact that there is a First Nations character in the series who is affectionately referred to as “Injun Joe”. By people who respect him.

Like the fact that Thomas is overtly framed as a good guy.

Like the fact that Harry always, always finds a way to not be responsible for the catastrophic trail of damage he leaves behind him.

I was not unaware of these things; they just didn’t matter to me. And you know, I’m actually glad that they didn’t matter to me. I enjoyed myself. I’m grateful to this series, because goddamn I have not had that much fun reading a book series in, like, maybe ever.

But now that it’s actually been a couple of weeks since finishing that book, I think I’m done. I don’t actually want to suspend my critical faculties for the sake of fun anymore. Not when the parallels between it and the writing of a racist, homophobic, misogynist bigot are so very similar. That was the last straw.

And it’s kind of a shame. I have definitely learnt the value of suspending judgement for the sake of just having some fucking fun, and I don’t regret any of the time I spent with The Dresden Files. But I also feel justified in feeling that nothing I want to spend a great deal of time and emotional investment in should remind me so much of something I abhor and detest. Right? Not just me?

I’ll admit, I was enjoying MHI up until that one line, and it probably only convinced me to stop because, unlike The Dresden FilesMHI had not established enough of a rapport with me for me to give it the benefit of the doubt that it would make up for it, at least in terms of being broadly entertaining. But even if it had, I wouldn’t want to be entertained by it after that. And I figure that if I have this much of a problem with MHI, it would be a tad hypocritical of me to not also finally start getting my critic on with The Dresden Files.

Although to be fair at least The Dresden Files doesn’t try to redeem the fucking Confederacy. Perhaps I’m overreacting.

Ironically, I feel decidedly less stressed out in terms of being exposed as Problematic for writing my own UF novel. I think that’s definitely a good place to suspend critical thinking: your own writing. At least for the first draft. Bring it back for revisions, though. It could also be the fact that I’m just reminding myself that making myself write actually feels good. It’s a bodily reaction; I feel more relaxed, more energised – more intent. I feel ready and eager to progress. And just yesterday, I felt so stuck. I couldn’t have foreseen this; in fact I’ve never been able to look into my future and find myself caught up in the flow of writing. It’s a really hard emotion to recall. I think it’s because it’s not just an emotion; it’s a whole network of states of being, including emotion, but also thought, physical stamina, balance, location, and feeling your progress without being conscious of it.

It’s made me think about that shitty YA werewolf novel I finally finished this year. I did that. I got that shit done. And I got it done mostly while working on my MA. I’ve been trying so hard for so long to prove to myself that I have what it takes to write a book while fulfilling my academic obligations, or whatever other obligations that I had, and it dawned on me today that, actually, I have proven that. I’ve proven it – and just didn’t count it, for some reason. Maybe because it wasn’t a “serious” writing project of mine, never mind that I devoted one and a half years of my life to writing the first draft, the bulk of which was written while I was also working on my MA. I did it.

It should be proof.

And I realised, then, that it actually is proof. It doesn’t matter if I don’t believe in it; it’s still proof. Incontrovertible proof, in fact. I can write a full novel while working/studying. I have done it.

My job now is to start treating it like proof, and stop waiting to feel like I can do it – I’ve done it already, for fuck’s sake. What do I need to feel anything for?

Further support for my intentions to get myself used to doing things because I want to, rather than because I feel like doing them in the moment – or feel like I can do them. There’s more to it than that, and more to me. And it’s time for me to start acting like it.

Also I have read almost 50 books this year holy shit. I know that’s not a lot for some people, but that’s more books than I’ve read in some decades. And I’ve only had 3 of those.

I feel good. I knew that I would. I just didn’t feel like I would, but it seems like I’m slowly learning to put less stock in what I feel like I can or can’t do when I’m on a mission.

On a mission. I like the sound of that.

So sayeth the Ubermensch!