January – Your Future Author Bio

So last year I managed a sum total of 2 blog topics for WriYe (January and December). I am aiming to do a little better this year. I probably won’t write all of them because some of them don’t speak to me, but I have made a note of the ones I think I could write a post on, and I intend to do a post for all of those.

Anyway the topic this week is to “write your future author bio / FAQ page” and I honestly laughed when I read that. Back in the day I had one of those pages, during my first attempt at publication. I got somebody on Fiverr to write it because I found it so awkward. Now I could cheat and just look in the depths of my hard drive and post that one, but I think I will make an honest attempt myself. It’s been… well lets not think how long its been, but a while, and I’m older and maybe want to say different things I don’t know.

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Goals for 2024

Look I’m actually making the post! I’m not sure I have done this ‘properly’ in a few years so let’s do this. What do I want from this year?

Now goals need to be SMART because when it’s intangible, how do you know when it’s been achieved? I can want inner peace, contentment, some amount of happiness etc. but that’s a feeling and an end result. Maybe I will get it one day, maybe I won’t, but I need to target things I can actually do something about.

This is the time of year I usually get an infusion of hope/optimism – wishful thinking – and I hope, hope with all my heart that the upcoming year will be different. I want it to be better, I want to feel better, so badly and then it never works out. It’s always a disappointment and I hate getting to my recap posts and going “well that was another sucky year”. It always seems like there’s some kind of external reason, but a lot of that is just excuses. I have depression, I have intense anxiety. I am autistic. I have physical symptoms even if I am unsure if I have actual physical issues (the mind likes to screw with the body). Life can be hard but I need to make choices that serve me.

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WriYe 2023: Year in Review

So here we are again.

To be honest I could copy and past a lot of last years ‘year in review’ and it would apply. I’ve got to the end of another year and I feel like I’m no further forward towards my dream.

I started the (2022 goal post) by saying that in my review of 2021 I had put “that I really didn’t want to get to the end of the year and be disappointed again – but I was.” – that is the dream and it is yet to be obtained.

2022, Year in Review

And as I said – here I am again. Another year, another disappointment.

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Victory Number Ten! (of a sort)

So I ‘won’ NaNo.

The inverted quotes are because I got the 50k (and for the 10th time in November) but if I look back at my intentions post, I didn’t really get what I wanted.

“my primary motivation this November is to try and find my joy again.”

“I wanted to feel excited to write it, I wanted to obsess over it, to have my mind wander to that world – like it used to years ago.”

That’s what I wrote. That’s what I wanted. That is NOT what happened.

NaNo usually follows a pattern of sorts. I have zero days, and then I have high word count days to make up for it. While there was some of that this month the graph was actually more stable than I think I have ever seen it – consistently a little below par. Usually when I approach the end I get a real whoosh and my final day is a downward hurtle to the finish line. I’m pretty sure on almost all NaNo’s I finish before Day Thirty due to that headlong whoosh. Well it was Day Thirty and it was a double day (3k) because that’s what I needed to scrape the 50k and so that’s what I did.

It was a total slog, and the only thing similar to the downward whoosh is when I got a “fuck it” mentality and just embraced the crap. There wasn’t any moments of joy, there weren’t any moments where I felt it flowed well. I had one brief moment where I felt I might have captured one characters voice, but that lasted for a single writing session and hasn’t repeated.

The only moments where I felt any kind of ‘magic’ were when I had to plan. I did like the idea generation for the episodes. Starting with nothing and then coming up with the episode plot and I think I came up with some cool stuff. It’s implemented very badly but there’s some cool ideas there I think.

I ended up with basically discovery drafts of the first three episodes, plus the first couple of scenes and half an outline for episode four. So I have something to build on I guess.

I knew going into this that joy was a state of mind, and that my lack of it isn’t really related to the writing – it’s me. So I know I shouldn’t be surprised at this result, and I’m not I mean I flat out said in the intentions post that I doubted it was possible to find the joy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed. I really would have liked to enjoy this month. I really, really, REALLY, wanted to remember why I do this writing thing, to feel some smidgeon of hope again.

I wish I had something more positive to say in this NaNo wrap-up but right now this is how I feel. In December obviously I need to think about my goals for 2024. Finding joy is likely to be my top priority but I really don’t know how to do that. It’s not about what I write, it is about me, and I don’t know how to change me. I really wish I did.

I forgot what I remembered

Simply put this October that’s what happened. I had been joking a few different places about “All Hallow’s Eve” and I’d been trying to plan my NaNo story. It wasn’t that I didn’t know November was approaching like a freight train, but it took me by surprise anyway.

I forgot to make my standard “it’s that time again” pre-NaNo post. I also didn’t properly finish planning my NaNo story. I had a lot of the character and world details locked down, but the actual plot itself? On Monday I realised I had to throw most of it out and start again. Talk about a last minute scramble to have something that worked to start writing on Wednesday.

Anyway, what am I writing?

This year I am attempting a serial. My history of writing short is not successful so I am highly sceptical but we shall see. I didn’t finish the revision I started over the summer because (and this is the thing I should talk about most) I realised that I hadn’t had any joy really in writing since 2016. Oh there have been moments here and there. I didn’t write much of anything for a few years, until I picked fanfic back up and dove into a new fandom (Sanctuary). However, fanfic is a little different as my brain sort of accepts whatever spews out for the most part, and as a lot of things are familiar, it is easy to skate on a lot of foundational parts of writing. Also even then it could be a slog.

Writing is hard. And I’m not romanticising how it was back pre-late 2016 – it was always hard. I remember countless days of staring at the screen and not getting anywhere, of frustrated tears, and a lot of anger at myself for not getting on with it. I remember feeling like I wanted to burn it with fire, as my drafts were so terrible that’s all it deserved – none of this is new. But it was balanced by the times it went well. The times I had a brainwave, everything fell into place and I felt a spark of magic. The times the words did flow and it didn’t feel constantly like pulling teeth. The times I remembered why I did this writing thing.

I know that writing requires discipline. I’m not advocating chasing new shiny stories, as ultimately they do all end up in the same place – as writing is hard work, it’s a slog to write tens of thousands of words to draft a novel – but my primary motivation this November is to try and find my joy again.

It’s a difficult problem because the reality is I don’t have joy for anything. It’s not a problem exclusive to writing, it’s just that writing bears the brunt quite often as it’s the thing that matters most to me. Yes I know that sounds like depression (and it is). I also have intense and dehibilitating anxiety (I can’t leave my house alone anymore), and the sensory overwhelm is a real problem. It’s depressingly (ha!) easy to just drift, to give up. Every now and then I get a burst of energy which motivates frustrated anger and self-hate at how much time I’ve wasted, how I have things I want to do and time in which to do them, but do I? NO! But it rarely translates into much of a burst of actually doing the things, and even if it does it doesn’t last because I mentally tear to shreds everything I attempt – there is no joy to be found there.

So how can I find joy again this November? I suppose I do doubt that it’s possible. Indeed I am currently writing this on Day Two, and I haven’t done my words today. I did yesterday. But today I had an appointment first thing, and I had an awful nightmare last night, and I’m just permenantly on the edge of tears, and I feel so out of the mental energy to push myself. To actually make myself start. I have opened everything, I am sitting at the desk, and I just feel more like crying than writing – the very opposite of joy. It’s not that I hate what I’m writing (even if I do hate how I have strung the words together). I do like my idea very much. I like all my ideas. I joke that I want to have them done, rather than actually do them, but that’s the truth really. I want them to exist but I don’t think I have the skills, and I am struggling to find the spoons, necessary to make that a reality.

When I picked my new shiny project I tried hard to pick something that hit all my like buttons. I wanted to feel excited to write it, I wanted to obsess over it, to have my mind wander to that world – like it used to years ago. As I said I do like it very much but that’s the only tick off that list so far.

My word count goal this NaNo is obviously 50k, which I think should equate to about 2.5 ‘episodes’ of this serial. My real goal is to enjoy the process and that leaves me conflicted because I am definitely not enjoying it today. But I know I will beat myself up if I don’t write, as then I will be ‘behind’ pace. But then again I’m not exactly getting anywhere just sitting here either. It’s an eternal dilemma. I wish there was an answer.

New Year, New Start?

The January blog topic for WriYe is quite open to interpretation I feel. The prompt is:

“(Re)starting fresh, for a new year, new story or after a writing break.”

Now I am both late to this topic and perfectly on time. You see the new year is a boundary time, it’s where you can put the past in the rear-view and ‘start again’. Obviously you can do that at anytime but with the turn of a calendar, and potentially millions of other people doing the same thing, there is a certain weight to it. If 2022 didn’t go well, then that’s ok because 2023 is a fresh start! That kind of thinking.

I struggle with boundary times as they make me reflective. I get torn between the hope of the possibility that maybe the future will be better/different, and being depressed and hopeless over how the past hasn’t been what I wanted, and that another year has gone by and I’m still no closer to my dreams etc. So I guess essentially what I’m saying is the whole “new year, new start” thing is something I feel very keenly. If life is about chances, then I guess psychologically speaking a new year does feel like a new chance. Every year when I do my retrospective and then my plan, I say that I want the upcoming year to be different.

So why did I say I am both late and on time?

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WriYe 2022: Year in Review

This is December’s blog topic but honestly it’s something I would do anyway. Retrospectives are a bit of a thing for me. The prompt is simply to “sum up your year” so I will endeavour to break it down and not just ramble.

In January I did the usual goals post which can be found here – WriYe: Impossible Year.

I started that goal post by saying that in my review of 2021 I had put “that I really didn’t want to get to the end of the year and be disappointed again – but I was.” and that is the dream. Ultimately really that was the dream for this year when I get right down to it. What I said in that goal post was that I was really searching for some confidence, to have some hope again, to feel like I can actually do it.

So did I get that in the end?

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Some thoughts about consistency

I kept saying in my NaNo Retrospective post that I would continue the point in another post – mostly this one! Because I suppose ultimately I didn’t have much to say about this years NaNo on it’s own. I will cover a lot in context with my yearly wrap-up post, and I also knew I wanted to write this post which would talk about some of the problems (or are they problems?) that I experienced.

In life we are surrounded by habit trackers. I have an apple watch and I love that thing but the “three rings everyday” thing just isn’t realistic, at least not for me. I have a 4thewords account and there are other sites (750 words is one I think?) that encourage streaks of writing every single day. If you google about productivity it says instituting habits is a good method, as it takes the decision process out. You do the task because you are supposed to do the task and it’s automatic and requires less willpower. Daily habits are a good thing and they are supposed to help! But are they realistic?

I have struggled with consistency forever. It has been a problem and something I have wanted to work on and ‘fix’ for years. I feel like if I could conquer the consistency problem then I would be able to be on track and ‘win’ at what I need to do. How many times have I lamented about my lack of focus? Bemoaned having good days and “why can’t I do that all the time?” It’s misery making. I want it and it just doesn’t happen. But should it?

The ‘standard’ work week of Monday-Friday 9-5 has a lot wrong with it but it does leave the weekends. These are often not for relaxing but for other tasks but the tasks are different and for the purposes of my point that is enough. Even in the gruelling ‘standard’ 40 hour work week there is a mental break with the weekends from that kind of work at least. (I know a lot of people work Saturdays, or 7 days a week, or multiple jobs, and the 5 day a week 9-5 grind is no picnic anyway, that’s not what I am saying). Wait what was my point? Right my point is doing the same thing every single day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, might be like a nirvana goal but is that even healthy?

My dream life is to be creative for a living. To earn money through writing, maybe even through art (unlikely but hey that’s why it’s a dream). I remember with NaNo for the first couple of years I did the “midnight start” and it was exciting, it was like a party, and the whole ‘literary abandon’ thing of prepping your month, reducing other responsibilities to throw yourself into writing – that’s not reasonable longterm. I know as far as back 2012 I decided if I wanted to do this thing year round/with a view to being professional I had to stop treating NaNo like a special holiday and be more reasonable about it. No more midnight starts, life continues mostly as normal etc. And the thing with normal life is that shit happens.

Today I am writing blog posts because I am fighting against the blackness of depression that just wants me to curl up in a dark corner and disappear. I need a distraction so I don’t spend the day sobbing and feeling worse and worse, and I am trying to do something semi-productive rather than just video games. I have a metric-ton of writing I need to do to finish the draft by the end of the month. I have a lot of art I need to do for some deadlines around Christmas, but today it’s just not happening. I hate myself for that as I am then another day ‘behind’ and also it makes the streaks look sad.

I want to be the type of person that works hard on a consistent basis. I think for anybody every single day is a bad idea as rest is important. My ‘ideal’ is 6 days a week which hurts with those streaks because they are all designed for 7 – everyday. There is no give in them for bad days, for illness, for family events, for holidays, for doctors appointments etc.

I got my NaNo 50k by writing 18 of the 30 days. That wasn’t an even spread of words. Some days I got a few hundred, other days I got several thousand. It was as opposite to being consistent as you can get really – and yet in the end I had the same amount as someone who wrote the 1,667 every single day. I don’t like my approach because I always feel like I could (and should!) have done more but perhaps my approach exists because that was the limit of my capabilities. I did what I could, when I could, and the amount varied because of my mental state/outside factors. That’s life, that’s practical, that’s dare I say, reasonable?

I’m someone that is never really satisfied with what I have done. Even if I make my goal I feel I should I have done it better/faster etc. and a big part of that perpetual disappointment in myself is my lack of consistency. Despite everything I have said here, it’s like a habit – ha! – that I can’t unlearn. It feels like it’s necessary even though I have reasoned out that perhaps it’s not very compatible with reality. I’m not quite sure what the answer to that is. Logic brain says consistency might not be all that, but emotions say otherwise.

NaNoWriMo: The 2022 Retrospective

I know I should have written this post on the 1st really but hey it’s only the 5th so that’s not so bad right? A little bit indicative to be honest of how the month went. I have another post in the works dealing with the thorny issue of ‘consistency’ so I’m only going to touch on it here.

My goal for NaNo 2022 was to win (obviously) but I ideally wanted 75k/a complete first draft of my novel. Did I get it?

Well no.

I ended the month with 51,891 words, so it was a win in terms of the NaNo 50k and I did indeed make it before the end of the month (Friday 25th actually). Even if I had got the 75k that wouldn’t have been the complete draft as it looks like it will be my longest first draft ever at around 100k.

My dream goal of 10k on Day One wasn’t reached as I got 6,703 which was a semi-ok buffer for the 50k but inadequate for the higher goal which is perhaps why that flopped almost immediately.

I wrote on 18 days out of the month. I did a 15k/3 one weekend to catch-up and then get ahead a little. Hit 40k on the Sunday, and then the 50k the following Friday.

I didn’t take part at all last year. 2020 I was both more consistent and wrote a little more (nearly 67k) but that was fanfic. 2017-2019 didn’t really happen, 2016 was a high word count but a mixed mess. I have to go back to 2015 before I reach the last time I hit the NaNo 50k with an original draft. So from that POV the month was very much a success.

I remain disappointed that I am so far away from finishing the draft and December isn’t going well thus far (but more about that in another post).

The one last thing I said I would do is budget 3 hours to get my words in the morning, so I could do art in the afternoon. That did not happen ever. I never got the words I wanted in the morning, I often procrastinated so much I didn’t really start until after lunch. I tried to do sprints but it’s like there’s a switch in my brain. If it refuses to ‘turn on’ then I couldn’t start the sprint. Even if I did a sprint I then wasted so much time not starting again after the sprint ended. I did not make good use of my time. I did not focus how I would have liked. I despaired sometimes that I would sit there and get next to nothing one day, and then somehow that aforementioned ‘switch’ would be thrown in my brain and I would do 5k the next day. Why can’t I do that on demand? It’s so frustrating. But again more about that in another post.

I am trying to reframe things into positives. I got halfway into the draft – progress was made! But the fact that it wasn’t the level of progress that I wanted, and that the draft feels like the worst draft in the world, weighs heavily on me. I just perpetually disappoint myself.

BUT! I did win NaNo and it was with an original novel. So that is something.

Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

This is the WriYe blog topic for the month of November. I mean let’s face it as a writer November is one of the bigger events on our calendars so it’s a fitting topic. This isn’t about my NaNo exactly. I did a post with my plans, and I did a post talking about how it was going, and I will do another as a retrospective about how it went. This post isn’t any of that – this is about the event itself.

I first took part in 2007. I have a vague memory I might have heard about it before that but it didn’t register, so 2007 when I was 17 was when I got my start. It was a well established event by then and I do still feel a slight envy for people who were around at the beginning (I feel like I’m always late to every party). I don’t believe I have any rambles from that actual time to look back at what I actually thought, but I know what I remember of it now which is the lesson it taught me. I went into that NaNo with a story that had been evolving in my head for years and what I found was I had characters, and they had lives, but there was no actual plot to say ‘hey the story starts here’. I think I got about 20k and then gave up but it was useful due to that lesson learned.

2008 and I managed to scrape 50k with what was technically a complete draft and the lesson from this NaNo was a thrill of typing ‘The End’ really, of having written ‘a novel’. This really is what gave me the taste. Now I have recapped my history with NaNo multiple times and I am not going to go through every single year again.

The point I am trying to make is NaNo = experience. This was my 13th actual attempted November event (I have also done various Camps) and it’s still worth it to me. I remember visiting my Grandma in 2013 I think? And I said I was doing NaNo and it wasn’t going well and her response “haven’t you already done that?” and I was taken aback because my gut reaction said it all.

“NaNo isn’t something that can ever be ‘done’ and finished.”

Me

NaNo is very much a ‘get out what you put in’ and ‘take what you need from it’ type of event. Some years I have learned lessons about writing, getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t through practice. The old ‘learn by doing’ applies because unless we put the butt in chair no progress is going to be made. NaNo is ALL about that butt in chair. Other years I have learned lessons about how much I need to plan, or about project/time management. Some years I don’t necessarily learn anything but writing is a lonely gig, and in November a lot of writers come out of the woodwork. That community spirit is a magic all of it’s own, even if I don’t participate much. I haven’t done anything with my region, I haven’t been on the NaNo forums etc. but simply knowing it’s November helps throw the ‘I should be writing’ switch in my brain. I am terrible for focus and having even a slight external deadline is a good push.

It’s the latter that I got out of it this year. After so many events and so many words written, it could be argued I don’t ‘need’ NaNo anymore. I try and write year-round now, it’s not like NaNo is my ‘once a year sojourn to the land of words’. But I still resist the idea that it is unnecessary. I suppose I could say for me it’s become more of a bonus a lot of the time but that isn’t true for many other people.

What does NaNo say? “30 days of literary abandon” – it gives people a gift, permission to turn one day, into today, and write their story. I believe so much in the power of story. It might be naive but I think that by imagining a better world, we help to actually create one. NaNo has literacy programs, like for Young Writers, and they send materials into schools and I believe in that. Give children the gift of stories, and let their imagination grow.

I guess I could say I believe in the ethos behind NaNo. That’s my main thought on NaNo really, that it’s incredibly important due to the power of story. Allowing people that wouldn’t otherwise have their voice heard, to perhaps start a journey to creating something magical which could win hearts and minds, maybe even change the world. Yeah, I know, that’s perhaps unlikely but there was a quote on Leverage: Redemption. I won’t quote it word for word as it’s from the new episodes and #spoilers, but basically it boiled down to individuals can’t tackle the worlds biggest problems. I can’t fix global warming. But what people can do is help others, who can then help others themselves, and then in ten years a lot of steps down the road, people can look back and see that progress has been made and it started with that little thing they did – that one person they helped. We don’t know what seeds we are planting for the future, because that sort of stuff takes time, but those kids that NaNo opens up a world of ‘literary abandon’ too, those seeds could become something amazing.