November 16th, 2019 – 416

Yeah I think if I had tried to do a full on campaigning day today I’d have regretted it, I am still not on my feet again yet. I don’t feel too bad about that if only because I mean, what can I do? If I push myself too much I’ll get ill again and won’t be of use in the last week. The last three weeks are the real impact ones, because you have postal votes arriving for people and undecided voters are starting to engage more and the like. There’s no sense burning myself out before that comes to pass or I’ll end up being of no use at all.

My writing, well that’s not going great so far today. On the one hand, it’s not like I’ve written before 3PM in weeks now, but still. Given I have no solid commitments, it’d be nice if my motivation could kick in sooner rather than later so I don’t have to stay up to write. I’ve been wondering whether publishing half my chapters on Saturdays – and thus reminding myself in stark terms how few people are reading my work – is behind my lack of willpower. In spite of myself I am starting to get a bit too hung up on views. It doesn’t help that I haven’t done a review binge or writing contest in weeks given work has taken up all my excess energy.

Whoops forgot to hit post on this at 12, my bad.

November 15th, 2019 – 415

It’s been a busy morning, so I decided rather than breaking my flow, to write this when a natural window appeared. I’ve been listening to Writing Great Fiction as part of ‘The Great Courses’. I do not know why I didn’t buy this audiobook sooner. I love learning, I love writing, and my love of combining the two is exponential. Already I have pages of notes on what I need to work on, including giving my dialogue more emotional oomph. 

There are times I worry that by having my strict-ish schedule, I lose time for this kind of CPD and reflection. As I now have an approach of “3-4 new novels a year”, I am busy with a story at any given time. I should stress, that is the way I want to have it. I used to have yawning chasms between projects that stretched to years at a time at my worst. That made the first decade of my writing ‘career’ miserable, and I never want to go back. I do think I needed that slow approach. I tried all other avenues to peace, and as gruelling as it can be, writing alone works.

But I do need to learn more. I want to be more than a successful writer. I don’t actually care if I succeed in financial terms or not. I want to be a great writer, the kind that inspires people to do more, be more, that helps people in their darkest moments and pushes them to new heights. If I want to achieve that, I need to make sure I’m using my addiction to lifelong learning to its full effect. I’m closer than I’ve ever been, and so far from that goal that it may as well be like the expanding universe, getting further out of reach. But I’ll never reach it or come close to it if I don’t both practice and study.

Bringing things back down to Earth a bit, I am hoping that when I get home tonight a small delivery will have arrived. If it has, I would like to go to the shop, but even as that urge empowers me I can’t escape that – even on 9 hours sleep – I’m shattered. I’m doing better now I’ve worked coffee back in as a habit once more, but I’m still under this strange affliction. I have the sense of unseen leeches pulling the lifeforce out of me, even as my mind remains oblivious. I’m feeling good, cheery, but as if I am going to keel over at any moment. And, well, I’m sick of it. I’ve given up getting any medical appraisal for it, but I have to figure out something.

Paragraph five seems as good as any time on this writing blog to talk about my here-and-now writing. TSS if I write today will have chained 20 days, and close to 22,000 words in the course of that streak. This is great news, and a bit of a concern in the same breath. When I make long chains like this, the crashes are, it seems a lot of the time, dire. I end up ill – please not again – or so tired I slip into late night 1K, a vicious cycle. So what I have the feeling I should do, is take a break and do a fun aside for a day, or even two. That wouldn’t cause any problems on my current schedule.

Except, one. It’s not so much a ‘problem’ as a missed oppotunity. When I was sketching this out, I moved my goalposts to New Years from December 13th. Thank god I did so given the date of the GE is the day before now. I moved it before the migraine-chest-infection-malestrom hit, and lost a week and a half. By the time I finished hate-poetry about migraines, I had about a week too few days, and that assumed I’d write each day. So I said to myself ‘stop on New Years, resume after WHT has a typed draft’. Simple right?

Ah temptation you vile mistress of my demise, you yet again sully my creative endeavours. Because, of course, I proceeded to not drop a day between that time, and today. So in other words, if I don’t drop a day, I could finish TSS by New Years. I know I’ve moaned about this before on here but it is a contentuous issue for me. If I drop a day, this all becomes immaterial, as I am not repeating 1K+ again. But until that point, is it right to aim for that goal? I have not strained myself to keep this streak going yet, so I guess that will mark the real decision.

If I keep writing this I could go on for hours weighing what to do when that moment comes. I have already written so much here, that my full word count for today will be over 2,000 words, and I have work to do. So for now I’m going to put it out of mind, go with the flow, and try to ignore the issue until it becomes an issue. Right now to be fair to this streak, it’s not a bad thing. 

November 14th, 2019 – 414

This week has been about as smooth as a week can be. It is almost as if the mess of sick leave and annual leave taken to try and prevent sick leave rested me up. That’s not true at all, because before this week I was a wreck. It’s all because I have gotten enough routine sleep each night. Shows that if 1K is my bedrock, then enough sleep is, well whatever is the thing right above bedrock. Don’t shame me I’m not a geologist. Bedrock to me is that annoying block that makes killing the Wither in Minecraft a heck of a lot easier.

A quick Google search showed me that I am not alone in that, which makes sense. You know in real life bedrock is pretty darn breakable, even if it puts up a fight. I should pick a different substance to represent absolute. Strange matter springs to mind: it’s dense enough, and we suspect it consumes all it touches. 1K does that and then some. It does not cause an apocolypse though so, eh. Is that such a bad thing? As you can tell I’m in a bit of an airhead mood today.

Writing TSS today would make 19 days in a row of that project for target. What I am about to write is the kind of thing that messes up the best laid plans, but here goes: I can finish TSS by New Years Day. There, I said it, now it won’t happen. It feels a bit odd to lay it out there like this, but I analysed my structure, and there’s no avoiding this: TSS should be 80K. This does mean that it will be less chapters than my other stories, but act one ended at the 24K mark. I will cut the story back to be more lean. If act 2 is the same length as 1 and 3 combined, my normal model, and I cut the drudge back near the start, that makes 20K. 20 times 4 is, well you get the idea.

That may fall apart if I redo my story points, or weight the events in a different way. But it’s nice to have a plan. Plan for now is the same as every day this week. I’ll work till 5, switch to writing at 5, and try and finish before I have to leave the building. Here’s hoping. Back to it.

November 13th, 2019 – 413

My mental health is not being all that nice to me. Even while I start climbing out of the ditch I’m in, it’s still using every hook it can to drag me back down again. I am managing to work more coffee into my routine, and that’s my most effective antidepressent. I’m tempted to go grab some food, because I skipped actual dinner yesterday as I was cleaning. It’ll eat into my budget but I should still be ok. Now I give this some thought, no wonder I’m feeling shakey today. I’m not the best on picking up on my own signals.

I am on a 17 day streak of writing TSS as 1K, so have banked in the process including the extras, around 19,000 words. That is decent given my usual hurdle of 10K roadblocks. In a way, typing is helping my mental process a lot too. Hand writing is tough, laborious, and on the whole is more difficult. There’s merit in handwriting, but I should experiment. I may type the first draft of The First Stroke, to see if that affects the quality. It’s important to challenge my assumptions about what works best. It also means I will get the story done sooner. 

I’m gonna go get some food. Here’s hoping it helps.

November 12th, 2019 – 412

It’s weird. November is a month that in the past has broken many a positive streak. In 2018, I spoke in my journal about how certain I was that November would break me. And yet, based on two years of data now, it is becoming clear I pointed the finger at the wrong month. It seems like October is the specter I’ve let slide under the radar. That makes more sense than I thought that it would. When TUS and TSS were first written, both had the bulk of their work done in October. But in both cases, doing so broke me.

For a long time before 1K, I thought that the act of writing itself broke me down. Looking back, on TSS, TUS, and though I loathe talking about it, The Service to Ore, intense Octobers went sour. But a lot of the time, the roil hit at the end of the month. So, I looked at November for years, and thought it was somehow cursed. My superstitious nature got the better of me. And to top it all off, I ended up attempting 1K+ in October of all months. No wonder I got the worst migraine of my life. 

So now what? I have to post-mortem this, and pre-mortem 2020 well in advance because I do not want to go through that again. The obvious plan is that I need a holiday mid October 2020. That much is a given, and I’ve taken one every year that I can think of now I dwell on it. The only difference this year is I didn’t plan to do so. So next time, that has to get locked in well in advance. It’s not about getting away from work – work was fine in October for the most part. It’s about my pattern of burnout, and who knows, seasonal affective disorder? That doesn’t hold up because why am I fine now?

I’m going to steer far, far away from self diagnosis. That is a rabit hole as a teenager – as many do – I jumped down into an abyss of more confusion. Let’s shift to another topic, that being I have a new book in my top 3 nonfiction. Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill” is such a powerful book. It has the strongest narrative of any book, fiction or not, I’ve read in years. I know this is so off topic with the rest of this post but read this book. It’s terrifying and unnerving, and so well captured. From a pure narritive and writing quality point of view, it is stunning, and it is so much more than just a narrative.

I forgot my noise cancelling headphones today, and that’s confirmed to me how much they help. Not having them feels like a whole different workspace, one I struggle to zone into. This post has taken twice as long per word as yesterdays. To be frank, I may bolt home at lunch to grab them. Either way, for now I am getting back to work, best I can. One thing is beyond doubt: I need to make sure to keep those on me at all times from now on. Yet another thing for me to figure out. But, I like problem solving.

November 11th, 2019 – 411

There’s a common trope of “Monday blues”, of being back at your desk first thing with the weekend gone in a blur. Those who know me well the the only ones not suprised to hear I am quite the opposite. I dislike how rudderless I get on weekends. Then, when I sit at my desk on a Monday, I go through my Trello and before long, I am back in control. What I need to do is capture that urgency at home, but for one huge problem: fatigue.

I get tired a lot. This has been a problem for most of the last twelve or so years, starting in the time after I left college. Looking back in hindsight, I can spot a pattern: when I had less life structure, my fatigue got worse. When you do a bit of reading into contempory psychology and medical research, that is no suprise. Focus is key. Staring at a screen is not the greatest thing for mental faculties, but having a strong day structure? If you have that, almost nothing else matters.

So what do I do to transfer that to the weekend? Well, long time imaginary readers will know this is a long way from the first time I’ve asked that. The best I can do is rehash the old approach and try to tweak it. That does not sound like a fantastic way to go about it, but in my current state that’s all I can do. If I push my weekends to be workfests too hard when I’m already going to lose a lot of time to the election, I’ll get ill. Of course, that takes me going to help with the election. I need to do that this weekend, I don’t care if I’m well enough or not.

If I can nail weekends, I can start transforming my life for at least a day a week into what I want it to be going forwards. I get up, go for a 20 minute walk at half 8. I get to a desk, at home, or wherever. I start to work, on my writing, and do an 8 hour work day. I write, but I also plan, and do social media engagement. That is my goal. If I can ever afford the desk at CoHub that’d be where I’d go. I work six days a week, and if I make £200 a month as a writer, that becomes four days a week at the college, two at my writers desk. That’s still pipe dream right now, but it’s not impossible. 

I spoke to a friend this weekend about where I draw my motivation from. It sounds silly, but a big part of it is living in my imagination, on what would happen if a book took off, or got an adaptation. It’s a bit childish, but it also gives me a pinch of that validation many writers crave, and few are lucky enough to find. Even when it’s a little dream, like that paycheck changing my hobby into a job, that’s what gets me up in the morning. Now, I need to figure out how to do that at the weekend. One step at a time.

November 10th, 2019 – 410

Know when you have those days where it takes your phone dying on you twice, and your Switch dying on you in between to get you to knuckle down and focus on what you should have done about three hours ago at least? Yeah well today is still one of those days because there is way more than one thing I should have done today. My weekends are not bastions of productivity at the moment and it shows man. Doesn’t help that – funnily enough – feeling down and medicating that with alcohol is a recipe for a lack of focus. It does not take much for the mind to wander, and my hope is the coffee I’m about to brew is going to set it right.

The good news is I now have over half of my Christmas shopping sorted, and only really 2-3 people who I have no concrete present ideas for yet. That’s going to take some thought, but I hope to nail down the gaps in my plan over this week. Yes I am aware it’s only double digits November as of today, I do not care. If you want a less stressful December then you do this stuff now, and then you don’t have it looming over you at the last minute. I may do top up presents at the last minute, but I want the main gifts nailed and gut-checked in the same way I would when uploading a new chapter to WattPad.

I almost said “Stress Free” December. There’s two problems with that of course. Stress free is not a concept that exists unless you have no ability to focus on any task due to a severe medical impairment, and of course even if it were possible I still have the actual specter looming over me on December 12th. I have not done one bit of leafleting so far and that really irks me. I feel like I am not taking this seriously enough, and well I kinda am not. In reality I’ve been doing the last of my recovery from the chest infection fiasco, but that feels like a weak justification.

So here’s a funny note: If I were, you know, insane, I could still turn this into a 50,000 word month without too much added effort. I have written TSS every day so far and as of today it’ll be 10.5K once I finish. If that’s my average then I’m already on track for 31.5K. That’s still 18.5K off, but I could hit that if I wrote 2,000 a day. Spoilers: screw that. I know this sounds hypocritical for a guy who bases his life around a daily writing goal picked for no other reason than “four digits”, but NaNoWriMo feels quite, arbitrary. 50K is a novella, not a novel, so it kinda feels off from the get go. But that’s not to deride people who enjoy it, and I know people find great satisfaction and joy from the challenge.

I guess plenty look at my 1K mantra in the same light, which is fair enough. I think it’s also though that I feel if you get stuck, your brain is telling you one of two things: I don’t know where to go with this, or I don’t like this. Either way it’s saying “give me a minute will ya?” I think if my brain does that, I should abide by it and write some extra nonsense to give it time to mull the main story dilemma. That said, if it weren’t for the combo of chest infection and election, I think I might have gone “ah screw it” and gone for it. My worry is by December I’d be pretty sick because of that.

On TSS itself I still have pacing concerns. I haven’t felt any kind of wall yet in my writing, which is kind of impressive as it’s about to clear 20K words. I do feel a subconscious “is this dragging its feet a bit” nag, and I think it is doing that, albeit with 2K chapters that I’ll trim down later, but this was always one of the most challenging stories in the series to get jazzed over. The other one is, joy for me, The First Stroke, or the next original story I’ll be starting in about March. But for me I think any writer worth their salt has to make potential mundane pace gripping. It’s easy to throw twist after betrayal after cliffhanger. To get the pulse racing when a character is running their fingers through their hair to abate a headache because they feel stuck, and cannot see what we as the reader do though, that’s far more engaging.

I’m shattered, and the longer I leave this, the harder it’s going to be to get the words out. All the same, I find myself thinking with full awareness of irony, that I need a serious holiday. Question is, from what?