Tag Archives: blah

Down Cycle

I’m pretty low energy again this week, and feeling like I’m struggling a bit. Through my work as a teacher, I know that many of my students are doing the same, and so are some of my friends. I don’t believe any of my students read this blog, but perhaps someone like them will, and maybe they will find it helpful.

This is what I’m reminding myself these days. Everyone struggles sometimes. It’s ok to not be at our best all the time, and there are times when it’s enough just to keep going. Take care of yourself, reconsolidate your strength, and be back to being brilliant another day.

It’s ok to have times where we’re not at our best, it’s ok to admit that, and it’s ok to ask for a hand when we need it.

I read a little Taoist thought before I go to bed each night, even though I don’t really have the discipline to do it properly. There’s been a lot lately about how everything is cyclical, including our strengths and capabilities, and that it’s wise to recognize when we’re in a down part of the cycle, and wait to act until circumstances change.

That’s what I’m reminding myself to do this evening. See you again next week.

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Deep Snow

If you follow me on Twitter (first of all: my condolences) you’ll have seen that I’ve been feeling a little less than my best self the past few days. I don’t want to make this into a Therapy Blog but, whatever, there might be something worthwhile here.

Part of the issue is likely to do with the time of year; apparently late January is one of the points of the year when lots of people feel a bit down. I’m sure I’m not immune to that, and I had kind of a rough day following the news over the weekend. Basically I read what felt like an unending succession of different stories that made the world feel like a pretty rotten place, both in the sense of ‘unpleasant’ and ‘ruined beyond saving’.

(Yes, I know that on the most important level this is a very special kind of whine. I know that if the problem I have is reading about bad things happening to other people I’m doing all right. At the same time, pointing to someone else who has it worse than you doesn’t instantly invalidate whatever difficulties you’re experiencing yourself. Things can be hard without being the hardest.)

(That was a very long paranthetical.)

I’ve also just been a bit tired and having to adjust my routine to fit a changing schedule, and and and. All of which to say, I have been feeling fatigued, and discouraged, and kind of down on my ability to accomplish the things I want to. The temptation to say ‘ahhh, fuck it’ and just … stop can get very real, sometimes. We’re in the deep part of winter, where I am, and it’s very easy to get stuck in deep snow, literally and otherwise.

Perhaps fortunately, I have some kind friends, one of which took some time out of their day to give me a bit of a boost. Also fortunately, this is a person who I find genuinely inspirational, basically because they never stop. They’re always plugging away at something, usually a bunch of things, and the (seemingly) tireless effort is at least as impressive as the results. The one thing I guarantee this person will never be doing is nothing, and that’s a pretty good model to have.

Anyway. I have long known that I am very fortunate in my friends, and this was Exhibit 726, or something. The people who will take some time out of their own busy goddamn lives to give you a hand up when you need it – those are your real friends, and you hang on to those.

Also a good reminder. We can always do something. Maybe it doesn’t seem like what we can do will be enough (in whatever sense), but it’s always better than not doing anything at all. It’s the one thing that we’ve always got – we can do our thing. Whatever that is. Whatever that does. Literally no-one else can, and by whatever degree, the world is different because we did it.

So, I’m both allowing myself a little time to be a bit in my blues (which I think is also important; pretending that we’re Fine 100% of the time is not helpful) but then also to make sure that I write, talk about what I want to talk about, and spend some time with people who lift me up when I need it. Hopefully I return the favour, at least some of the time.

Thanks for reading.

Keep doing your thing.

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Tools

Not much of an entry again this week; I’m still swamped at work and now also sick into the bargain, so this has been a far-from-productive last few days. I guess the only significant Writing Thing I did recently was taking the plunge on buying myself a copy of Scrivener. (Let no-one say that I don’t do retail therapy, at least a little)

At least in theory, I think it might be helpful for me. As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, I tend to write my stories out of order, doing whatever scenes I feel inspired to write or have clarity on as they come to me. Then eventually I stitch them all together. I am given to understand that Scrivener will make this a bit easier as you can have parts of your overall document defined as scenes and then easily shuffle them around. Sounds good, if I can teach myself how to use it.

A lot of emphasis is sometimes placed on tools, and sometimes we attach identity to them. I have seen various people say something along the lines of ‘if you’re a serious writer, you must get Scrivener’. I’m sure that’s not accurate – obviously lots of people thrived as writers before it existed, and many still do. I wrote King in Darkness and Bonhomme Sept-Heures on nothing more complicated than Open Office, and although Heretic Blood is probably not in its final form, I’ve created it the exact same way.

More importantly, I’m not sure it’s *helpful* to suggest that in order to be taken seriously at any particular craft, you have to use a particular tool or set of tools. For writing, all you really need to do is write. It doesn’t matter how you do it, and you should probably look around at different options and try some different things to find what you’re most comfortable with, but as long as words are ending up on the page, nothing else matters. Getting a tool doesn’t get you anything if you don’t use it, and you can do a lot of work done with really basic stuff as long as you just keep at it. I suppose I’m just a little tired of seeing suggestions that people are Doing It Wrong.

I didn’t pick up Scrivener for any reason other than that I am at the start of a new project and now is the time to try it out. (Well, also that retail therapy thing) We’ll see how it goes. My guess is that at first it’s going to slow me down as I learn to operate it, but hopefully down the line it will make things go more smoothly. And if not, well, Open Office is still always there.

That’s it for this week; I hope to have a little more to talk about next time. Thanks for reading.

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Doldrums

Short one this week, as I have been neither very productive nor feeling very inspired the past few days. Some of this is purely ‘real life’ related: we’re in the busy part of term for me and a lot of my energy is going to that. Some of it is a bit seasonal in another way; it’s cold and wet right now, I’m not doing the long outdoor runs that I enjoy so much through the summer, and while I’ll adjust, it’s a bit grim just now.

It’s also true that since I have more or less stopped work on Heretic Blood (or at least, the work is now in the ‘find someone who would like to publish it’ phase), I don’t have a go-to project that is sitting and waiting for me whenever I have some writing time. I’m in the process of figuring out what that next project is going to be, and I have a few ideas I think might be cool, but nothing that I’ve really gotten a lot of traction with yet.

I could probably sit and force myself to grimly pound out some stuff that I wouldn’t be feeling too excited about, and would probably read exactly like something that I really didn’t feel like writing. I’m not convinced it’s a worthwhile investment of time, though. Some people will insist that you gotta grind out stuff regardless of context, and while I do think it’s important to keep working on my writing as often as I can, I also think it’s basically fine to recognize the times when I’m not going to do good work, and put my energy elsewhere. Clean the house. Run the errands. Read some stuff that might get me excited to get back creating.

So, while it’s fair to say that I’m in a bit of a writing doldrum right now, the best thing I can do for myself is keep in mind that this is ok. I’m never going to be equally productive all year round. There will be periods where I write a lot, and times where, for a variety of reasons, things don’t go as well, or I may be needing to put my energy elsewhere. It doesn’t really mean that anything is ‘wrong’, it’s just part of the respiration of my creative process. Some times are not the right time for me to create. That will change, and what’s important is to take advantage of the times when I do have the energy and inspiration to write stuff that I can take pride in.

Or so I keep telling myself.

Hopefully I’ll have gotten back into a bit more of a creative mode, and have a meatier blog for you, in another week.

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Characters, Still

Yet again I struggled to know what to write for this week’s blog. The last while I have been tired and ill and feeling generally uninspired. I don’t write this fishing for sympathy, but more as a reminder for myself that these things happen. Everyone goes through down periods where they’re not their best and don’t accomplish all that they might like to. Some people are just better at concealing that shit than others.

However that may be – what I decided to write a little about was that I created a new character this week. I always have a lot of fun doing that, and this time it is a little different because this one is for a role-playing game. I wrote a bit a while back about the Star Wars game I’ve been running, and that’s still going. Now, one of my friends is starting up a D&D game and I get to be a player (something I haven’t done in a long long while) this time, so instead of creating the whole setting, I get to concentrate on one imaginary person.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, although the process of making an RPG character is a little different than my usual writing process, because my natural impulse is to start making this new person the star of the story. However, with an RPG, they really won’t be. My character won’t be any more (or less) important than any of the other players’ imaginary people, so what I have to do is create more of a supporting cast member – someone who can fit easily in with a bunch of other narratives and the overall tale our DM has for us.

I think it’s going ok.

Of course I’ve written some bits and pieces of story to go along with this character – because, honestly, what else would I do? – and this also got me thinking about all the characters I’ve created in and for unfinished stories that float around the nooks and crannies of my hard drive, their worlds partially created and their tales only somewhat told. I am just odd enough to feel a little bad about these stranded creations of mine, and also to wonder what it must be like to live in a partly-written world.

There’s probably a story in that, as well, and if Neil Gaiman hasn’t already done it, maybe I’ll write it one of these days.

——

There was a bit of a kerfuffle on Writing Twitter yesterday when an almost-certainly-well-meaning literary agent offered up a fairly broad brush piece of Writing Advice that drew a digital hailstorm of criticism. I was going to write about that a little, but I don’t really have anything to say that I haven’t already – I don’t put a lot of stock in Writing Advice, and certainly not in there being one or more Rules that are the path to Good Writing.

Good writing is, fortunately or unfortunately, something that isn’t about what rules you did or didn’t follow, it’s about whether or not you can write your ideas down and make it work. Different things will work for different people, and for different applications. Ultimately, the wonderful and terrifying truth is that you just gotta write well, and there’s no magic trick and no step-by-step for that.

That’s it for this week. Next week I hope to be a bit more out of my doldrums.

(But Brandon, these entries are getting shorter, huh?)

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Therapeutic Purposes

If you’ve spoken to me much over the past while, or indeed read very many entries on the blog, you will know that the past few months have not been that easy for me. I say this being very well aware that, comparatively speaking, I live my life in paradise and that there are plenty of people who would be absurdly grateful to switch places with me for a while. I really do try to keep that in mind.

Even so, the winter/spring have been a bit of a rough ride and I am content to admit to Struggling With Things. I’m not sure what that says about me, but there it is.

The point is though that I have been profoundly grateful to have my writing during all of it. Writing is one of the only things that completely takes me away from whatever ridiculous bullshit the world is currently trying to subject me to and really gives me a break from the endless grinding of my mind’s gears on the problem(s) du jour. Reading kind of does it, but not as completely and not for as long – a good book provides some shelter for a while, but eventually I can feel reality bleeding back in around the edges and the time has passed.

Writing, though. Some days it takes a minute (or a lot of minutes) to get the ol’ writing cortex into gear (and there is very nearly an audible thunk when it finally drops in) but once it does, man, I am gone for a while. There’s a Sherlock Holmes story (I think it’s Hound) where he spends the day working on a problem, entirely mentally (well, he’s studying a map) and “comes back” to be dismayed at the amount of coffee and tobacco his body has consumed in his absence. (He’s kicked that cocaine habit by then) Subtract the tobacco, and I know that feeling, except that instead of solving a crime I’ve been writing about people who aren’t real doing things that didn’t happen.

Sometimes they turn into stories that I want to do something with. Sometimes the results are a pile of utter crap that I try to forget ever existed. In either case, though, I get that break from whatever problem I was gnawing on. I sort of expect that other kinds of artistic endeavour might provide a similar time-out effect, but I can’t do more than conjecture, there. I know it works with writing.

Maybe it’s as simple as the amount of concentration it takes to do it well. Maybe I could learn to do it with any kind of task that was sufficiently difficult to require that level of focus and that I liked doing enough to keep at it for a long time, at that level of concentration. Maybe there is something kind of special about the process of Making Stuff Up that is particularly helpful. I kind of prefer one of those explanations and I’ll let you guess which one.

The idea of writing as therapy is far from a novel concept (ho ho ho) so there may be no particular insight here. Heck, I don’t even know why it works aside from a vague idea that writing must engage some of the same grindy mind-gears that I would otherwise be using to fret about things. Probably someone with one of those brain scan things could point to “well, this is the exact moment where your ‘tearing yourself to pieces’ lobe stopped lighting up.”

I guess a) I’m just very glad that it does work in this way, and I have a vague idea that maybe it’s worth suggesting to anyone who may happen to read this and might like to give it a try. I don’t have a psychological or biological scientific explanation as to why, but I know that taking some time to create different people, to follow them around for a while and see what they get up to in the strange worlds they inhabit, helps me settle things down.  I know I’ve been very glad to have the work on The King in Darkness (which progresses very well, thank you very much indeed) and the New Project (and also the, ah, Distracting Project) to keep me from grinding the gears too excessively much.

So thank you to everyone in my life, parents, teachers, and friends, who have ever encouraged me to write and keep writing. It’s a gift to have in my life.

Possibly you’ll find it the same.

—–

Over the past few days I have sometimes felt like I should write something about the massacre in Charleston. To say it was absolutely horrifying, although the words are correct, doesn’t quite cover it. More people were killed there than at the Boston Marathon bombing that caused international grief and an immense public reaction. I do have strong feelings about it.

However, I am also acutely aware (despite my bellyaching above) of my privileged position in society and I realize that approximately the last thing that is needed at such a moment is the perspective of another white dude. It is much more important, right now, for people like me to be listening rather than speaking, and so that’s what I’m trying to do. (Well, also with the reading. Always with the reading.)

Beyond that I have only the same reaction I have after the shooting attack in Ottawa last fall – to suggest that we go out and be wonderful to each other. Obviously that doesn’t magically fix all the problems in the world, but in the end I think it’s how we win against the people out there who have nothing to offer but hate and division.

Love is stronger than hate. Go be wonderful.

I’ll try to do better the next time.

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Update in name only

I don’t have too much to write at the moment but need to get a weekly check-in done, so here it is.  I have been back writing, but haven’t been able to build a lot of momentum – I’m really having to work at it right now.  I have had a couple stretches like this through the summer so I imagine this too shall pass, but I also imagine that breaking the process and missing those days didn’t help either.

As I have put pieces into the places they might logically go, I did find (and fix) a couple of continuity errors, so that’s a positive.  I also wonder how many more are lurking there, though…

Anyway, I’ll try to do better the next time.
Word Count: 82.329

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