Saturday, 27 May 2017

On Measuring Progress and Being Kind

I'm not really writing at the moment.

It's kind of hard to admit that. Writing is such a huge part of me that sometimes I feel if I'm not writing I don't really know who I am. It's also one of the major ways I measure my own success, and if I haven't got any words down this week/month/year then what am I doing with my life?

I'm trying to get out of that headspace. It's okay not to be writing. And to be honest, with the way things are at the moment trying to force myself to write would be a bad thing. The writing would suffer, and so would I.

Let me explain.

I'm just about to finish off a thirty eight hour work week in what is supposed to be a part time job. Part time so I can work on writing as well. But a few people out sick has left us extremely short handed and I've been helping cover some of the hours. Which would ordinarily be absolutely fine but a) it's been hot as balls this week and b) I'm in the middle of moving house.

So yeah, not a lot of writing been done this month at all. But a much lower word count isn't just a thing for this month, it's something that's been haunting me all year.

So far for 2017 I've managed to write around 25,000 words across original fiction, fan fiction, nonfiction and poetry. And that feels like a failure because in previous years I've managed that in a single month. And I am trying so hard to be okay with fewer words this year, but it's hard. It's hard to be kind to myself, to acknowledge there's a reason my writing productivity is so low.

That reason is my shitty mental health.

Granted I've been depressed and anxious for a long time now, but over the last seven months it has been so much worse than usual. To the point where the time and energy I usually allocate to writing has been taken up with trying to managed my asshole brain. Which, if you've suffered from mental illness yourself, you'll know is a full time job in and of itself.

I'm still recovering from that, still waiting for therapy, still adjusting to new medication. And that's ok. This stuff takes time, time I wish i could be using for other things, but it's important.

The myth that mental illness is good for creativity is just that, a myth. My depression makes it so much harder than usual to write. The fact I'm writing at all is incredible, and I need to remember that. I need to be kinder to myself. I'll get back into the swing of things eventually. I'll get back to my monster word counts eventually.

That's not to say I've been completely idle on the writing and publishing front. I published the paperback version of my first novel. I set up a Facebook page, and a more official website is in the works. I'm formatting my next novel and working on a third. I'm still writing. I'm still publishing.

I had a plan for this year. One that did not include a slight mental breakdown, but that's what I got. The plan will still get followed, just a little more slowly than expected. And that's okay.

I have time.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Untitled Poem

I was thinking of trying to sell this one but I feel like a lot of people need this right now. So here it is, freely available, my gift to the world.

Untitled Poem

Remaining hopeful in an increasingly hopeless world is a radical act
They want us hopeless, bent and cowering; that's a fact
But hope is hard to find when there's something wrong with your brain
Chemicals chasing round and round, driving you insane
All the more reason to cling on tightly to hope
And love, when you're at the end of your rope
It's hard work, beleive me, to keep fighting when your brain wants to die
Takes every ounce of energy just to keep your head high
But I soldier on, keep living out of spite
A fuck you to those who want me out of the fight
And though I may not live to see the end of the bad times
At least I know I did my best, refused to toe the line
When those in power want me dead, or worse
I can say I stood tall, my mouth full of curses
I did my best and fought the good fight

That's all anyone can ask of me; to do what's right.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Obligatory 2016 Round-up Post

As we limp towards the start of a new year and 2016 gurgles its last few desperate breaths (hopefully without taking any more beloved public figures with it) it is traditional to sit back and reflect on the arbitrary period of time we have just completed. To think on everything one might have accomplished this orbit of the sun; which things one wanted to do and didn't, which things were a surprise etc. You've read year-round-up posts before, you know what to expect here.

Despite my initial instinct to say that 2016 has been a complete and utter dumpster fire (and in many respects it really has been) on a personal level this year has actually been the opposite. Productive. Good, even.

That's not to say that 2016 has been an easy year for me. It's done quite a number on my mental health. Apparently getting to the end of something as huge and intense as a PhD with no clear idea what happens next can take its toll on a person. I've had to learn that it's okay to take time for myself, to reboot and recharge the old brain. And initially I thought that when looking back on 2016 it would be the post-PhD funk that dominated by memories. I was wrong.

First of all I'd like to acknowledge the fact that I finished and graduated from my PhD because holy crap that is not a small thing. It's pretty fucking impressive, if I do say so myself.

This year was also the year I self published my first novel. Like an entire novel that I wrote with my own hands is out there in the world for people to buy. Which is a thing I try not to think about too much because otherwise it blows my mind.

I also sold my very first short story to a publication, which should be going live sometime tomorrow (the 31st). This joins the dozens of stories available for free on this very blog and the ones I've self published.

I got my first freelance paychecks this year,  and when they didn't quite make ends meet I was adult enough to go looking for a seasonal job to earn extra cash. It ate into my writing time initially but I'm better at balance now, and I'm hopeful I might be able to make it permanent.

At the beginning of the year I set myself the goal of writing a quarter of a million words and I hit that sometime in October. Right now I'm at just shy of 300,000 words, which was the stretch goal I set myself. Do I feel bad for not hitting that goal? No, because that is still a metric crap tonne of words.

I also set myself the challenge of reading 50 books (of any length) which I've missed by about four books. Again I'm not mad about missing that goal because on top of those 46 books I've read easily a couple of million words of fanfiction.

And speaking of fanfiction, this has pretty much been the best year I've ever had fandom wise. More hits, more Kudos, more comments, more subscriptions. Which isn't necessarily a surprise since I've posted more words, more stories than before. My fandom performance this year makes me hopeful my approach to self publishing will pay off long term.

I didn't think I'd say this, but I'm excited to see what 2017 has in store for me.

I tend not to make resolutions because often they're about changing something about yourself you don't necessarily have much control over in order to make yourself feel less shit and I'm not about that. I believe in attainable goals that can be measured, so what are they?

1. Pet more dogs.  Not really measurable but I don't care. Dogs are great and make me happy, so I'll do more of this.

2. Keep creating an putting art out into the world. I want to write 300,000 words across all the mediums I write. I will keep posting my short stories here,  and on Medium, and keep submitting to publications. I want to aim for releasing five novels next year, digitally and in hard copy, because I want so badly to be able to hold an actual book I wrote.

3. Continue to be unrepentantly, obnoxiously, unabashedly myself. I will keep talking about my mental health, my sexuality and issues that are important to me as much as feel I can. Because pretending to be someone I'm not is too much hard work.

4. Make a dent in the book pile they lives next to my bed. There's like 25 of them just sat there. I want to read about half in the next year.

5. Survive and be happy, even if it's just to spite those who don't want.  me to. Sometimes this is the hardest thing, especially when you live with depression, but meeting the rest of my goals will be impossible without this.

I hope you all have a safe and happy 2017, and I look forward to sharing my adventures with you. Have a good one, and take care.

Friday, 11 November 2016

#whimword - console

Poetry again from me. I can neither confirm nor deny this was inspired by recent world events.

No Consolation

When the shit hits the fan it's tempting to hide,
batten down the hatches and ride out the storm.
Grief hits the heart hard, tears it apart
And makes it feel like every beat is bleeding.

But here's the thing:
This is the moment where we get back up again,
Broken and beaten but still strong
This is the part where we go on and win.

I will wear my scars with pride
But I won't let them see me weak
They don't get to see me bleed
I will not cut myself for them

This is far from over
I will not accept defeat
Don't talk to me about consolation prizes
I'm sounding the drums of war

I'm done with hiding,
Through with hurting for someone else
This is the moment, this is our time
Let them see what we're made of

I swear on every bone in my body that this isn't done
I swear on the blood in my veins they haven't won
we're on the right side of history;
Let's go raise some hell.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Novel Birthday To Me!

Well folks, today's the day. My debut novel is now available to purchase in electronic book format from (most) good retailers. Please to have some links:

Barnes and Noble

It's almost surreal to finally have this book out there. I started work on this book almost ten years ago, finishing up a complete draft in time for Christmas 2007. Spent a pretty penny printing it off at the University library too. It was the first novel I'd ever finished and I was super proud of it, because you're allowed to be proud when you accomplish something you've wanted to do since you were six years old. And then I put it aside to focus on getting a couple of degrees. But the story never left me.

Finishing it up allowed me to see where the biggest issues lay. The story stayed in my head for ten years, evolving and changing. I kept writing, kept learning about writing and stories and fed all that into what was happening. And then last year I sat down and started the version that is now available to buy. Does it have much in common with that other version? Well the characters have the same names. Believe me when I say this is so much better.

When a story has been part of you so long its tempting to keep it with you, let no one else see it as you keep polishing and shining it. But a writer doesn't make a living that way. A writer doesn't move forward that way. And at some point a story has to stand on its own merits. Is this book perfect? No. Is it the best book I could have written right now? Yes, I really believe it is. And was it ready to be released to the world, to stand or fall on its own? Yes it was.

So that's what I did.

This feels like a hell of a milestone in my writing career, probably because it is. I'm proud of this book, proud of myself for getting this far. The launch of a first novel is important, and tonight I'll take the time to step back and enjoy my success, but what's more important is what comes next. Tomorrow morning I have to get up and start writing something new (or continue writing, since I'm about 50,000 words into my third ever novel, which is exciting in its own way).

And there's still so much to do with this book. Ideally I want to have a print version available before Christmas, for all those people who are still working in analogue. Also because physical copies of books are lovely and it's gonna be so great to be able to hold that in my hands. And there's a sequel that needs writing as well.

There are other projects coming too. More novels, more stories. Keep an eye out for announcements on those. This is a hell of a day for me, a great achievement, but I really am only just getting started. There is so much more to come, I promise.

Friday, 28 October 2016

#whimword - Labyrinth

In a shocking departure from the norm, I did a poetry for this week's whimword. In news that will surprise no one, it's not very cheerful. Oh well. You win some...


My feet take me down an untrod path
that twists and turns which way and that
I cannot find my way.

No time! No time!

Is it left or right?
I cannot remember
there is nothing other than this maze I'm in.

Goblin King, Goblin King
take pity on an old sinner.
Let me out, leave me be.
Don't take my brother from me.

The Goblin King heeds not my words
My throat is raw from screaming,
the air is dusty with the dead;
no one gets out of this labyrinth alive.

The string is too short, too short
I am out of time.

Like the others, I become dust.

Friday, 21 October 2016

#whimword - Minute: The Slightly Ridiculous Adventures of Pocket Sam, Part 1

So, I may or may not have written a slightly ridiculous story about my husband waking up one morning to find himself inexplicably shrunk. And I may or may not plan on writing more because 500 words just wasn't enough... But you can't prove anything.

The Slightly Ridiculous Adventures of Pocket Sam, Part 1

Sam had never been a particularly tall person, but from the moment he woke up that morning he knew something was wrong. Perhaps it was the ocean of duvet he was wrapped in, or maybe it was because the ceiling was just a little bit too far away, but something was definitely different.

Being a little short was one thing, but being only three inches tall was definitely new.

In the absence of a better plan, he decided to go about his normal routine as best as he could. It was easier said than done.

Sam almost killed himself falling out of bed, what had been a surmountable drop now like a great yawning chasm. It was after that he decided it was probably best if he called in sick to work, though using his phone was an adventure.

When his wife got up she almost stepped on him. Until he let out a loud, and very much human, scream.

"Sam? What the fuck? What are you doing down there?" Her voice boomed loud in his ears, and Sam could tell he was going to end up with a headache.

"I don't know what happened," he shouted back up to her. "Please don't step on me."

"Oh," she said, sounding surprised. She crouched down and scooped Sam up, depositing him on her shoulder. The motion made Sam feel a little bit sick. "Is that better?" she said, quieter this time, as though she was mindful of both his tiny eardrums and the fact he was close to her mouth.

"Much," he said, snuggling into the side of her neck. It was warm and smelled familiar and was really comforting when his world seemed to have gone topsy turvy.

"Any idea how this happened?"

"Nope. I'm just hoping I'll turn back at some point. What do i do in the meantime?"

"I'll look after you," Tonks said with a smile. "You hungry? Imagine how much of a feast one slice of toast is going to be!"

Sam couldn't manage a whole toast slice in the end, but he was grateful he had someone to look after him during his... predicament. When Tonks got dressed that day she put on a shirt with a pocket so she could carry him around, keep him safe. Sam ended up in clothes meant for an action figure twice his size, but he managed.

He could use his phone at least, which meant he wasn't bored, and Tonks made him coffee in an egg cup, which was basically a bucket for Sam now. He was fed, and snuggled and generally looked after, and even if it was a bit weird being three inches tall, Tonks made it feel okay.

"Thank you," he said as he climbed back into bed that night. "You've been great today."

"I try," Tonks said, and went to sleep.

It had been nice today, but he hoped that tomorrow he was back to his normal size.

If you enjoyed this story feel free to purchase one of my books either here, or here. Or you can buy me a coffee here.