Apropos of nothing

Fireflies

If you have ever seen Grave of the fireflies, you’ll know what the perils of waiting too long might be.

It has come to my attention that despite my best promises, I have not come up with any content in quite some time. As much as I would love to say that despite my absence without leave from the world wide web, I have been very productive in the real world, I’m afraid it isn’t so.

Yes, there were the holidays to tackle, and they were a rather hectic period.

Yes, I have made some drastic changes to my life, which of course took up a lot of time as well.

No, I don’t believe I have a valid excuse for my creative blank page.

I am not “being my harshest critic”, I’m just being honest. There were moments aplenty for me to get my act together and write, as I always claim that I want to do.

Sure, I’m against constantly blogging apropos of nothing and ending up just cluttering the information stream with exercises in self-aggrandizement, as I have found so often to be the case. I still believe in quality over quantity.

But I do admit that it is a fine line between being fussy about doing things right and being downright lazy, and I have crossed it over a million times. It’s far too easy to just say, “Nah, I can’t write today, I’m too distracted and nothing worthy could ever come out of it.”

I have been making excuse after excuse for not being able to get down to business: my working hours were too tough, I didn’t have a computer of my own, I didn’t have anyone motivating me. That’s exactly what they were: excuses. A metaphorical note from my mom to excuse me from class today.

I may be well in my thirties (hint: yes, I am looking for responses such as “But you don’t look a day older than 25!”) but there are still many sides of me that are… unfinished.

Do I think I should be all-knowing and wise by now? Of course not. I don’t expect that to happen when I’ll be well in my nineties. But I did expect to have developed a more graceful way to deal with the awkwardness and self-loathing I developed when I hit puberty and that I had since then clumsily mishandled.

It was rather disappointing for me to realize that I hadn’t progressed much from being a “little girl lost” in my mid-twenties. It was even more disappointing to notice how even that metamorphosis hadn’t really changed me much from the dazed and confused teenager I used to be.

Suddenly, it hit me that the name of this blog, which I thought I was using as a punchline developed over 10 years ago I had simply grown fond of, was the most honest and appropriate thing I had produced. I am still waiting to happen. I don’t consider myself a woman in my own right.

I see women, often younger than me, and I admire them. They’re in a world that still hasn’t figured out what to make of them, that still questions them. But despite how insecure this might make them feel, they stand there, determined to feel comfortable in their own skin.

And then I see overgrown children, of any gender, my age or older. They often put up a front but when push comes to shove they just huddle in a corner of self-indulgence and do nothing. They just wait for life to happen to them.

On October 1st 2015 I handed in my resignation letter from the school I had worked for since September 2002.

Sounds dramatic enough? OK, so here is some background.

I had just turned 20 when I started working there, and throughout the years I had let it become the new authority figure that would determine my life’s opportunities and limitations. As a teenager, you blame your parents and your teachers for “ruining your life”. After that, it usually is your workplace.

It’s a comfortable lifestyle. You practically never have to be responsible for yourself because you always have someone else making those hard calls for you. And when the outcome is unpleasant you rant about it for a while and then wait for things to blow over. But you’re stuck in limbo.

I was young when I started working, and I’ll allow that to be my excuse then. Most people my age were in university extending their leave of absence from adulthood, getting acquainted with it in small doses. I thought I was “being real” instead, but in the end I just allowed my emotional growth to be stumped, having replaced the parent to please or rebel against my employer.

I am not unique in this behaviour. As a matter of fact, this accusatory finger could be pointed to every other person in the western world: overgrown babies across the internet, take a pledge to grow up with me! (I’m giggling as I type this, please take it in that spirit.)

So what about that letter of resignation, then?

I’m now doing exactly what I used to do, I teach English as a second language. And I still work with the school I resigned from, naturally. But I’m a freelance now, so everything I do is all up to me. My mistakes. My victories. My responsibility.

It’s scary, and I must admit I’m not entirely sure of the timing. As mentioned in my previous post, I have a wedding ahead of me. That will probably be followed by the messy business of setting up a family, eventually. I’m not sure it was the right choice to make.

But it was my choice and I’m not making any more excuses for myself.

My working hours are the ones I make for myself, so I can easily fit some writing in there.

I have both a working laptop of my own and a working tablet, so I can easily write wherever I am.

I have had people who have been preciously encouraging my efforts and motivating me for years.

I’m very excited about this new year, let’s see what it will bring.

But I’m not waiting anymore. I’m good and done with that.

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You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need.

Boo, remember me? Until you don't.

Boo, remember me? Until you don’t.

There are some aspects of my personality that are like the Silence. I don’t remember they exist as long as I don’t lay eyes on them, but when I see them – shit! They’re just terrifying. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and as a teenager I often found I could exorcise my darker self by writing down whatever she thought, whatever she wanted, whatever she wished for. Once on paper, I was free. My evil twin would be trapped in the pages of my diary and not dwelling in my heart any more. But the downside was that my diaries were really hard to read, the words on there would sting my eyes. It’s good to get rid of the filth that accumulates in your stomach when you’re upset, but then you come across one of those notebooks months, years later, read them and it’s a sucker punch. On balance, it’s probably better seeing your darkness on a blotted piece of paper than it is having it stare back at you from a mirror. So tonight’s lesson is that I probably need to start keeping a diary again.

I’ve written a lot again, even though I still intend to just put the minimum necessary on-line tonight. A lady must have a contingency plan! Part of me is a bit surprised by how much I seem to have to give to this latest project. Unlike any of the previous pieces, the events described aren’t drawn from my life, only the feelings are. When I wrote about Eskarena’s walk, I was just describing a moment from a holiday I’d had a gazillion years ago with a former boyfriend. The fictional direction the story took was what took me by surprise then, I didn’t expect it to become science fiction and as a result, despite being terribly thrilled at the idea of writing something of that type, I was stuck. There were vague notions of what I wanted to do in that world, but it had been so sudden, so unexpected, I got lost. I didn’t actually know anything about it.

When I started writing yesterday, I didn’t have anything clear in mind either. I started making up scenarios from scratch, and somehow ended up dealing with stuff I knew all too well. I feel so familiar with this piece I almost feel I should put one of those disclaimers, you know, all events and people hereby depicted are fictional and any resemblance with actual people yada yada yada. So yes, that.

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And then the first shoe dropped

You just can't trust yourself when you don't sleep - apparently it turns you into a sociopath with dissociative identity. And an obsession for making up rules.

You just can’t trust yourself when you don’t sleep – apparently it turns you into a sociopath with dissociative identity. And an obsession for making up rules.

So I had promised myself I would write every day this month, but to be honest, on Wednesday I was knackered. Technically I’ve skipped also Thursday because it’s 3AM on a Friday now, but I don’t believe in technicalities. Day isn’t over until I go to sleep. Which I’m going to do right now, otherwise it becomes a slippery slope. I’ve pulled this kind of bullshit before, I stay awake all night working on something and I’m like, yeah, just one night, no biggie. Then the day after I consume ridiculous amounts of caffeine to keep myself in an upright position and by the time I should be going to sleep again I’m too supercharged to even consider it. And then the thing goes on until I collapse or something, which I hear isn’t super healthy.

I’m off to bed now, which is kind of a nuisance because I’m totally on a roll and haven’t finished my piece yet. But whatever, I’m sleepy and if it’s good it’ll still be there tomorrow. And if it’s bad, sleepless minds are not the best judges so I wouldn’t be able to notice it and this would be a waste of time. So goodnight, and if you want in the meantime you can read the first 500 or so words. Yep, it’s happening, I’m cheating by posting only the first part of what I’ve written and keeping the rest for tomorrow so that I have backup in case I can’t get anything more down. It’s my blog, I can make my own rules!

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Roar!

I wonder if today's weather might have in some way influenced my story...

Wonder if today’s weather might have influenced my story in any way…

I think it’s become pretty clear that my day job is becoming a hindrance to my writing. At least when the objective is to write a minimum amount every single day. I guess I could just quit my job and become a full time writer, but then again I would probably find some other excuse, like how difficult it is to write when it’s cold and rainy and you live under a bridge.

I actually had a couple of classes cancelled today so I ended up getting home pretty early and on my way here I thought how lucky I was! Today I won’t reduce myself to writing at midnight and being super-cranky! So I got home at about 5:30, turned on the computer, sat myself on the sofa and began procrastinating. I read a couple of interesting New Yorker articles, an old interview of Terry Pratchett by Cory Doctorow, checked my Facebook news feed, checked my Twitter notifications, read some other blogs on WordPress and all in all managed not to write a single word for three full hours.

Then the love of my life got home and I admitted that a) I was feeling uninspired and b) I was hungry. We ended up having dinner watching last week’s Doctor Who. And I thought, this is it. I’m actually going to sink the project this time. So I went anachronistic, grabbed a notebook and a pen and locked myself up in the only room in the house that provided no distractions: the bathroom. There I sat, pen resting on my lips, cogs turning in my head, just the sound of the rain and passing cars to keep me company

I wasn’t surprised by the outcome. Just like yesterday, I apologise in advance for the lack of editing. I’ll try to fix these over the weekend.

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First world problems

Evidence A of the subject's absolute lack of dark, depressing thoughts

Evidence A of the subject’s absolute lack of dark, depressing thoughts

So today didn’t go quite as well as yesterday. I was really hoping to get so much writing done I would go on right past midnight and end up having also enough material for tomorrow too – see, it’s not cheating, it’s being exceedingly precise about time. Now despite whatever I may have written in my ramblings yesterday, I did consider trying to get a novel out of that piece. I was ready to set up a whole world around the Imaginarium, with Eskarena and Haikand’s walk in the woods as a prologue. But try as I might, today I just couldn’t delve any deeper in it. I stared at a mostly white with some dark symbols screen for hours at end. Hadn’t been doing that since the days when I was playing KoL. The staring at a mostly white screen, I mean.

Great, now I want to play KoL.

So anyway, after hours of being snubbed by every muse in the area, I just ended up with a writing exercise. Describe an absolutely ordinary situation as if it were extraordinary. And when I read what I wrote I figured out what might be the problem. I’m really, really happy. I know, I know. Woe is she, so happy that she can’t write, some people have real problems yada yada yada. I know that. But for most of my life I had planned an Eleanor Rigby scenario for myself, and in a way my writing drew from it. I don’t write about happiness, it tends to be far too conclusive for my taste, like a Disney spin on folk tales. Now, if I could just direct your attention to that picture  in the top left, that’s me when my head is filled with flying ponies and marsh mallows. And writing in those moments can be a bit challenging. It’s not that it’s impossible, I was happy yesterday too. It’s just that it tends to be a lottery, some days I’m having wild ideas erupting from my brain so fast I can barely get them written down on time and others, well, they’re more of the “hearts and arrows” persuasion.

Trust me, I’m not complaining. It’s the type of problem I can live with.

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Challenge not accepted!

Time to get creative

Time to get creative! Time to do stuff! Time to dig out your crayons and doodle!

See, in films there comes a point, approximately 65% into it, that the protagonist just knows they have to push further, overcome their insecurity and do what they’ve never dared do before. And it’s easy to see it coming. First of all, it’s a freakin’ film, which means you can see how much time has passed and how much film is left. Secondly, there’s a series of key factors that have been popping up since the very beginning, then by the X hour there’s a crescendo and the character’s change of heart or sudden boost of confidence or whatever becomes inevitable. Seriously, after that many hints it would be like trying to stop evolution. And finally, for those who need a more in-your-face clue, the music tells you. (Perhaps that makes it more, like, in-your-ear?)

But I digress. I started this blog three weeks ago and I have only written the one post. Which makes this my very second post. Don’t get me wrong, that is an extraordinary accomplishment for me, two posts in less than one month? Crazy talk! Two posts in the same year? Phoooey! Yeah, I’m over my average, but the whole point to this enterprise was to change my nasty habit of starting something and not finishing it.

So I was flipping through the pages of my work diary to see if I could “pencil in” being creative and writing something on here. I figured on Tuesdays I finish work early, and on Mondays and Thursdays I have long breaks between one lesson in a company and another. With a tablet I could be super-productive and write loads, loads I say! Except I used to have a tablet and my productivity was close to nil. There were so many other things I could do that took up all the precious time I should’ve spent writing, so ha. Anyways, as I was saying, flipping through my diary I was when I realized we were nearing the end of October. Which meant next month is November. And you know what that means: NaNoWriMo!

What better way to force myself to finally stop piling excuses and trying to write the friggin’ novel I’ve always meant to write? Last time I took part to a writing challenge I actually did get stuff done! Granted, it was flash fiction, the theme was winter and I practically ripped off a classic myth, but the words were pouring out, and I did finish it! And just to brag a little, I also won the challenge. And just to brag a little more, here’s a link if you want to read it.

But then my instincts kicked in, and I started piling excuses. At the end of the day, I really do have too much going on at the moment. But here is my plan, I will NotNaNoWriMo! (If that hashtag doesn’t exist, it totally should.) 1700 words a day is not realistic for me, not at this stage of my life. Look at me, I’m struggling to get this post online and they’re what? 600 words? So here’s my objective: I will write at least 500 words a day for the entire month of November. They may or may not be all tied up together in a novel. They may or may not just be plot outlines for 30 short stories. They may or may not be a bunch of crap. But I’m doing this. I’m writing the hell out of November, or at least I’ll be writing more than I have in any of the past Novembers of my life.

And that must count for something, right?
Right?