Three days seems to be my limit

It appears that I can just about go three days without writing. I’m currently on day four, and beginning to loathe the sight or idea of anything to do with writing (a bit of an issue being as I’m out to writers’ group in an hour!) and I’ve already condemned my writing skills to the scrapheap. I suspect that if I leave it any longer, it will become harder and harder to get going again, and the reason for feeling bad will become more and more murky and disconnected.

Kind of like when I go out running. I’m in the habit now of running three days a week, but if I start skipping runs, it becomes harder and harder to pick up again. Thankfully my routine makes it easier to run/exercise than to skip. I guess I need to get that way with writing.

So – writers’ group tonight, with lots of inspiring chat about writing, and then pick up the figurative pen tomorrow night and get going again. My issue is that I’m debating what the game world is like, and rather than getting on and trying out one or two ideas, I’m waiting until I know exactly what it’s like, and that’s not how things work. Well, maybe when I’m more practised in the art of planning and writing, but right now maybe I need to experiment with one or two options and figure out which goes best. And in the meantime, there are plenty of other sections I can be working on.

So enough of the excuses, it’s put up or shut up time. Because if I ignore my writing then the urge will go away eventually, but will leave me feeling the poorer for it, just as avoiding exercise might make me feel better in the short term, staying in the warm, but will make me feel worse overall.

Ever pick up a book and try to figure out why events happen? Why events¬†are in that order? Or does it always feel that it happens because it’s right? Because on the author end of the deal that’s not so straightforward. There’s a deep down feeling that there’s a “right” way for things to happen, the “correct” story to tell, and I’m just trying to chip away and find it. But is there? Would it work just as well another way? Am I making up the story or am I just telling it?

 

 

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Looking back, looking forward

Participant-2014-Square-ButtonNanowrimo is rapidly approaching – only around four weeks to go now. I’ve been suffering my usual logjam of loads of ideas fighting for attention, freezing me into paralysis of indecision. A couple of people suggested that I could work on more than one, and that I should make notes on all my ideas and see if anything jumps out at me.

So the other night I sat down and read through some of my old stuff, as a couple of my ideas already exist as openings, with the rest of the story either buried in my head or gone completely. I also received, as I occasionally do, an email alerting me to the fact that someone has favourited one of my fanfiction stories that are published online. These two actions had their usual result, which is to remind me of how much I enjoy writing and how I can produce things that are worth reading, if not yet the most polished and well-structured of work.

Writing down my ideas brought me to the realisation that actually two of my ideas are very similar, but one is the world story and the other is the story of a specific set of people set in that world. So that immediately caught my attention, and I decided that would be my aim for nano, to work through idea 1 and build the world, ready to tackle idea 2 using that world for nano.

Then tonight someone made a comment that set me off on a tangent, heading to youtube and finding a whole collection of videos of me and a group of others having fantastic fun, and this reminded me of story idea number 3.

So the only conclusion I can come to is that after working for a year on other people’s writing and stories, and seeing projects through to the finished product and cheering them on all the way, I want my turn. I can do this. It’s not that I have only one idea and will then be finished. I’ve even noticed a theme running through my ideas. I want to get on and get finished and then start the next project and finish that, and…

So which one do I start with? I start with the original nano idea for this year, the world story/people story combination, and when that’s done I get back to my babies story and finish writing that, and then I go on with this other idea, and then back to this year’s nano for editing, and then… and then…

It doesn’t matter, in the end, which one I start with. It matters only that I start.

Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing the videos that sparked all this off, you’ll have to go to youtube and search for valkyrien guard, and watch those videos. You won’t recognise me though – I’ll be heavily disguised as a warrior by the name of Leyton. And there’s a remote chance you’ll even see me in one of the videos in another disguise, that of a priestess called Emmylee, which is where I first used the name that I now use – with various spellings – as my writing name.

 

My writing dilemma

Standard lore has it that your first novel is never any good. That it can take two or three or even more novels before you really get into your stride and master your craft.

My brain’s standard reply to this is: why, then, should I waste my best ever idea, my most burning plot, on a novel that I know beforehand won’t be any good? Isn’t it better to write a couple of “disposable” novels first, to hone my skills, and then return to my passion?

Then the other half of my brain rebels and says that it can’t write unless it’s passionate about what it’s writing about. And that there’s nothing to say that the first novel has to be useless, and that the skills learnt can be applied to improve it rather than moving on to another project.

So the two halves of my brain fight it out, each insisting that they have the most logical approach, and in the meantime I write no fiction at all.

At writing group last night I took in the opening of what I’d planned as my disposable novel. Yes, I decided to take a standard, overused plot and see what I can do with it, and yes that was spotted and commented on immediately. Does that matter?

I love the story of the origin of the Codex Alera series (and oops, didn’t realise my world name, Aleria, was so close to an existing fantasy one; that will need to be changed!) in which the author took on the challenge of taking not one but two lame ideas and seeing if anything can be done to make them worth reading. Who’s to say I can’t do the same thing with a standard trope? After all, there’s no truly new ideas in the world; every story is part of the same small library of plots. Star Wars and Kingdom are two movies that have very similar plots and both in their turn are similar to Lord of the Rings.

So, do I find passion for my disposable story, and plough on with that, for the benefit of the learning curve it provides? Do I work on my main novel, knowing that I don’t yet have the skills to do it complete justice? Or do I concentrate on writing exercises, to build up those skills?

All of these appeal, but not enough, and all of these have drawbacks, but not enough. And so I bounce between ideas, never settling on one and making the progress I should, as I do so often in my life. Time to make a decision and stick with it.

Suggestions please?

 

Gearing up and getting nervous

Just over four hours until the official start of nanowrimo. I’ve planned, I’ve thought. I’ve built up a timeline. I’ve generated some random names to help me out. I know I have a sound, well thought out idea.

So why am I getting nervous?

Having made the decision a couple of months ago to write the first draft for nano, I’ve had a good excuse for not writing. But that excuse ends tonight and the pressure is on.

I’m worried that I won’t do justice to my idea. That my characters will be wooden and flat, my dialogue stilted, my descriptions non-existent, my ending trite.

And yet – it’s nano. It’s the first draft. It’s allowed to not be good. That’s what the rewrites are for – all of them. However many it takes. Because this isn’t just for the next 30 days; just as it started months ago – years ago – it will not end until I’ve taken it as far as I can possibly take it. And then I start enlisting others to help out.

I’m at a coffee shop for an hour tomorrow having breakfast, between my morning swim and a dance exercise class. I intend to use that hour fleshing out settings. Because the planning doesn’t stop just because the writing starts. I still need to consider as I go through, check I’m on target with content as well as word count and keep my planning ahead of my writing (I still don’t know exactly how the second half will go, but maybe the first half will take 50,000 words by itself!).

 

It’s not fear of failure

A thought suddenly occurred to me today as I tried to figure out why I was sitting around wasting time. I always thought that the reason I’m afraid to make the effort sometimes is fear of failure, but that’s not it at all. I’ve attempted some things in my time that have failed, and I’m quite happy to admit they’re a failure and move on – just like another way not to make a lightbulb, it’s just another learning point on the road of life.

What I am afraid of is ridicule. Of failing spectacularly and being laughed at for it, or for thinking I’m doing well and then having others laughing at my pathetic efforts.

I’ve been thinking back to an episode at school, where I’d made an effort for once to present my work properly, only to have the teacher ridicule my efforts in front of the whole class and encourage them to laugh too. I would never join in team games with the youth club, because I was afraid not only that I’d muck up but that I’d be laughed at. I think this could be a reason I avoid writing groups as well.

This is also the reason why I’ll sit and watch someone else doing something rather than take over, unless I’m sure they can’t do it. However much I think I can do a good job of it, I’d rather not take the risk unless it’s necessary.

Just because I don’t do it, don’t assume I can’t. In secondary school we had swimming lessons in an outside pool. It was freezing cold, and it would always take me a large part of the lesson to get into the water. As a result, I would be one of those at the shallow end, and I’m sure my teacher thought I couldn’t swim very well. In the end the thought consumed me until the point I threw a major paddy because I would miss the last swimming lesson of the year because of a piano lesson. To this day I don’t know how they knew or why they helped, but someone offered to swap with me, and I went to that swimming lesson, went to the deep end and got right in and was swimming and diving with the top swimmers. I don’t remember the teacher’s response at all, but I had proved that I could do it and I felt pretty satisfied over it.

This is where this business of “everything comes down to you and how you handle it, not down to other people” becomes dangerous to me. Because I usually interpret that as the other person always being right unless they’re proved wrong, and I can take a lot of convincing that the other person is in the wrong before I’ll stop blaming myself and start thinking maybe I just have to let things go. When you’re permanently convinced that if anything goes wrong it must be your fault, it’s hard to want to stick your neck out.

Now I’m about to start heading off into my own business, I need to get over this and be prepared to put myself out there. I need to be convinced myself that it’s something I can do well (most of the time I am), and I need to be prepared to convince other people as well. And before I can get down to that properly I have six weeks of work, followed a couple of weeks later by a week’s booked holiday, which makes it very hard to do anything until they’re out of the way.

I’d like to use the next few months to get back to studying, as well, to finish off a qualification I’m halfway through and which would look good on my personal description for my business. Trouble is, that would take a lot of money, which I really don’t have to spare right now. So I’ve bought a couple of lottery tickets, and will be looking for other ways to magic up two and a half grand over the next couple of months. Not seriously, because it’s not essential – if it were, I would be able to find the money somehow – but if such an exact lump of money does miraculously fall into my hands I’ll know how fate wants me to use it, put it that way ūüėČ

So there’s plenty to be done, I just need to figure out my way into it. Which means that if I’m tempted to sit doing nothing I’ll get a notebook or keyboard out instead and start writing until I’ve figured out what to tackle next. I think I’ll make that my shiny sink, something to focus on to help organise my mind. (Shiny sink is a flylady reference: focusing down on one task and doing it thoroughly, rather than panicking on everything around you and getting nowhere).

I also need to remember that if people do laugh and mock at me failing then that’s them being out of order, not me, because the best type of people will be along side me helping me, or cheering me on. Only the nasty ones will take any kind of satisfaction in my failure.

 

 

Someone kick me hard please

I’m full of ideas. I’m even good at starting to act on those ideas.

Where I hit problems is when it’s time to follow through to completion.

I don’t understand what stops me. Trouble is, so often the idea itself is enough to satisfy me. I’ll think of a story, and I’ll know exactly how it goes, but I know that I’m not able to write it in good enough quality to live up to my idea, and I know how it goes so what’s the point in actually writing it anyway?

It’s like there’s something inside me that’s decided that whatever it is won’t work so there’s no point trying. ¬†It’s less painful to fail because I didn’t try than to try hard and fail anyway. If I’ve decided for myself that I won’t succeed, then it’s less painful than having someone else tell me.

I do recall one time when I tried my best. When I played World of Warcraft regularly as part of a guild, I was constantly struggling to increase my damage output, and failed miserably. I spent many an hour researching and practising, to no avail. Then in the end I changed from damage dealer to healer, supporting the others in the team, and to my surprise I found I was actually good at that, so I suppose in a way I did succeed.

In many other ways, though, I will get bored partway through a project and give up. I’ve even done it with a lot of books lately – if it doesn’t hold my attention enough, it will drift from my awareness and I will end up abandoning it in favour of a different one.

Will I eventually come across something I can’t abandon, that I will feel an overwhelming urge to see through to the end? Or do I just need a massive kick to make me break out of this cycle and actually follow a project through to the bitter end?

It’s back to this constant fear of wasting time on the wrong thing, which just ends up with me wasting time on absolutely nothing.

I have an idea for a novel. At least, it’s an idea for a setting for a novel. It needs a lot of organising and polishing. Will I ever get it done? Is it worth it? Maybe one day I’ll figure out the characters and actual plot, and I’ll be interested enough to get going properly, but at the moment it’s just brewing, and flares up every so often.

I’m working on an idea for a game. Trouble is that I don’t know enough of all the different technical and creative skills I need yet to complete it properly, and struggling with both coding and gameplay is proving challenging. It is an enjoyable challenge, however, and I intend to keep going for now.

I’m just going to make a concerted effort in future to recognise this trait in myself and keep up the pressure. If I start something, I should be prepared to keep going. Conversely, I should not be starting something without an intention to see it through.

I’ve decided that I’m worth more, and my time is worth more. I deserve better than to always sit on the edge watching and wishing I was in the middle. It’s time I acted in my own interest and stood up for myself. I know what I would like, but I’ve got a habit of stepping back and letting others take over, and this needs to stop. I keep having the same lesson in life thrown at me again and again, and I’m getting bored with it. Maybe if I learn it properly it will go away?

You know what? I’m getting fed up with using the same tags over and over again – indecision, inaction. I’ve given myself another tag, determination, and that’s the one I want to use in future.

I have two ideas for novels (at least: more flash in and out, and if I encouraged them to stay I’d be inundated with ideas!) and two ideas for games, as well as another coding project I’m working on which is much more defined. I also have my art that I enjoy working on, in all its various forms.

So as long as I’m doing something, anything, I’ll consider that progress. If I’m trying out different things, then even if some of them drift to the side and become ignored, there will be others that I’m continuing with, and I’ll be achieving something, even if it’s just finding out more ways that things won’t work.

My motto is going to be “I deserve better, and I’m capable of better, so why settle for less?”

Let’s see how that goes.

 

I dreamed a dream

toilet cubicles, all engagedIn this dream, I was about to go on a trip with a bunch of kids. They were all lined up waiting for the coach to go ice skating, and I was invited to go along with them. I thought that was a great idea, but first I needed the toilet. We were just outside this huge amusement park, so I popped in there to find a public toilet to use.

When I got there, they were all occupied, so I ran on to the next block, to find them occupied too. I was running all round the place, and everywhere I went, there were no free cubicles. As a result, it took ages, and by the time I was finally successful and ran back the coach with the kids had gone and I’d missed the trip.

As I stood there, disappointed, a voice said to me, “You fool. You were so impatient, not willing to wait, and so you missed out. If you’d just chosen one and waited there, it didn’t matter which one, but eventually you would have been successful and it would have been far quicker than refusing to wait and always moving on too fast, wanting success to just drop in your lap.”

That dream has haunted me for the last couple of days, as I ponder the sense of it and wonder how far it applies.

You see, I’ll jump around between interests, and if one isn’t productive I’ll move on to the next. Maybe if I were to choose just one and stick with it, no matter which one, then I’d make progress far more quickly than this always moving on.

And yet a part of me refuses to accept this as deeply as it could. Because it’s not a case of getting something out of the way before I can progress, the choice of which to choose is far more important, and by jumping around from interest to interest I do make progress with each and can relate each to the other more successfully. Rather than knowing more and more about less and less, I know little bits of a lot of things, and so can get an overall view. And that’s just as important in its own way.

However, I will bear the dream in mind, and make sure that if I do decide something is worth doing and I want to do it then I’m not wasting time looking for the easy way instead of pushing on through the impatience at hard times to the point where I can be successful.

 

 

Impasse

At the weekend it was just great to do normal weekend stuff that didn’t involve work in any way.

Yesterday being the first day of the holiday week I could do all those things that I can’t normally do during the week – go for a long run, work on a software project.

Today being that much further through the one week that I have off, the tension between relaxing and working has begun to build. I know I have work that needs to be done this week, but I don’t want to do it, and it’s not urgent enough that I have to, but it’s enough that it nags me and makes me feel guilty about not doing it.

The way I see it, I have three options here: I can plough on with the work and allow the resentment to build again. I can ignore the work for a little longer and allow the guilt to build until I give in and get the work done, in the meantime having wasted time. Or I can find myself something really constructive to do in order to feel justified in not working, on the understanding that I’m making good use of my time and will be fully prepared to get on with work tomorrow, and then a little bit each day until it’s time to go back.

So I’m intending to go out and get some fresh air, and then do some writing, and then start working on another software project that’s been sitting in my head for a while.

And then tomorrow I’ll be that much more refreshed and that much more prepared to get on with the work, in the knowledge that I’ve not wasted this precious time agonising over it beforehand.

 

Why can’t I have it all?

I keep thinking about how I can’t do everything, and so hold back because I’m not sure where I should commit my effort to. But who says I can’t have it all? ¬†Oh I know I’m very unlikely to become a published writer if I’m not devoted to writing and spending all my spare time writing. ¬†But that doesn’t mean I can’t write – in fact I’ve just published the start of my first fanfiction story in a few years. ¬†Time will tell whether it gets many readers, but I can still enjoy writing it. ¬†Not all writing has to be with financial gain in mind. There are many ways to make money. ¬†There are fewer ways to get the buzz that comes from writing.

I’m also unlikely to create a best selling game, but if I can inspire others to develop their ideas, and can provide enough of a nudge to get them started, then it’s worth developing my skills. ¬†And again, the challenge is enough to provide satisfaction, however far I get.

My art work is unlikely to make it to any gallery. ¬†But it can provide a chance to relax and unwind, and of all the different media I try I’ll figure out what I enjoy best.

I’m never going to be an electronics expert, but I can learn enough to understand how things work, and have fun doing it.

I’m never going to be an olympic runner, or win races, but I can take part in group runs and solo runs and enjoy the feeling of my fitness improving.

All these things can be enjoyed without worrying about being able to achieve at a high level, and will offer pleasure, without ruling out any of the others. ¬†Sure, I won’t be an expert in any of them, but as time goes on, I’ll start working out what goes best and I’ll gradually drop one or two to the benefit of what’s left, and in that way I will figure out for myself where my efforts should be committed best.

I have a couple of quotations I found on my desk today – The path to our destination is not always a straight one. ¬†We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. ¬†Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark. … and…. Because you are in control of your life. ¬†Don’t ever forget that. ¬†You are what you are because of the conscious and subconscious choices you have made. ¬†Both quotes from Barbara Hall.

I was drawn to these because they seem to be saying the same as my heart is saying right now. ¬†It doesn’t matter so much what you do. ¬†What matters is that you do something, and preferably do it thoroughly. ¬†It’s far easier to correct a path that’s going wrong than to tell whether a path is right or not before venturing out on it.

My favourite way to make a decision is to toss a coin. ¬†Not because I’m happy to leave decision making to a random act of fate, but because having allowed the decision to be made I can allow myself to respond to the reaction I feel to that and change it if needed.

I’m not going to make new year’s resolutions about posting a picture a day for the year, or writing 100k words in 100 days, or writing a blog post a day, or drawing or painting a picture every day. ¬†But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do any of those things. ¬†I’m just not going to make a public commitment that I then fail to keep and abandon completely. ¬†I will, however, resolve to continue with anything that interests me and develops my thinking and creativity.

One thing that does mean is that I need to make the most of my time. ¬†If I want to be able to do all these different things, I can’t also waste time staring at the TV, or idly surfing the web, or any of the 1001 things that tempt me away from constructive use of my time.

My main intention this year is to learn the lesson that life keeps throwing at me – maybe if I prove I’ve finally learnt it, then life won’t keep throwing it at me again and again and again. ¬†I am in control of my own destiny, and if I don’t direct it then I won’t get where I want to be. ¬†I once read a book called the Case of the Backward Mule, which focused on a statue of a man riding a mule sitting on it backwards, because it doesn’t matter where you go, it just matters how you travel. ¬†But sometimes it does matter where you go, and you just need to turn round, sit properly, take the reins and stop allowing others to control your life for you.

 

Not playing any more

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!
What can you do when your good isn’t good enough?
When all that you touch tumbles down?
‘Cause my best intentions keep making a mess of things
I just want to fix it somehow
But how many times will it take?
Oh, how many times will it take for me
To get it right?

Somehow other people’s words seem to say it far better than mine tonight. ¬†Story of my life, to be honest. ¬†Normal service to be resumed when I’ve had a decent night’s sleep. ¬†However long that may take…