19 February 2018

Overthinking, Overthinking

[Photo by Orlova Maria on Unsplash]

I put this post off for a week (more, now) because I couldn't settle on anything to write about. I'd start, run out of words or thoughts, then time, then come back the next day with a 'better' idea.

I've been overthinking my story, too.

In short: there's a woman, a magic house, a spaceship, and a portal to fantasyland. At first I thought she should go into space. I really, really love space. But it just wouldn't fit. Then I tried to push her into fantasyland. Strangely enough, it felt forced.

I couldn't have her stuck in a house for a whole book.

Then (after much angst and despair at my writing ability) I remembered that was exactly what I wanted.

Well, I wanted the hosue to be an adventure.

Folks, I spend a lot of time at home. I work from home. Going out costs money and takes social energy; my home is my Fortress of Solitude. I've put time into making it comfortable and practical, and quirky and interesting. My home, my family (of pets) is my life. And I am not alone in any of this.

We can't all go marching off into the woods or mountains at the drop of a hat. Or conveniently stopping time in one world while we visit another. Ever since I was . . . a lot younger I've been making up stories where adventuring is the characters' job. I think I wanted it to be available to anyone (i.e. me), not just a 'chosen one' (i.e. not me).

Not that any of that stops me reading any and all speculative fiction I can lay my hands on. Just to be clear.

Anyway. Lesson number I've lost count: Don't write the story you *think* it should be (especially if it's based on what's currently trendy because that will all change in one to a few years).

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08 February 2018

Read These III

[Positive pineapples! Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Unsplash]

The vague theme this week is hope. Or something. Positivity, maybe.

It started with an intro to 'Solarpunk.' (I actually began writing this post a couple of days ago but got sidetracked into reading all I could find about Solarounk for a whole afternoon.) Anyway, my first thought was "Yes! This!"

Sci-Fi Doean't Have to be Depressing: Welcome to Solarpunk by Tom Cassauwers on ozy.com

It's just an introduction. If you like it, there'll be a link [here] at some point to a post with a bunch more links I've found.

A bit later, Maria Popova posted Hope, Cynicism, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves on her endlessly fascinating website Brain Pinckings. It's not a quick read, there's too much detail for that, but here's a little extract:

Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.

Finding fault and feeling hopeless about improving the situation produces resignation — cynicism is both resignation’s symptom and a futile self-protection mechanism against it. Blindly believing that everything will work out just fine also produces resignation, for we have no motive to apply ourselves toward making things better. But in order to survive — both as individuals and as a civilization — and especially in order to thrive, we need the right balance of critical thinking and hope.

A plant needs water in order to survive, and needs the right amount of water in order to thrive. Overwater it and it rots with excess. Underwater it and it dries up inside.

Finally, this twitter thread made me stop and think about how and where I spend my time. Especially the ones about books and beaches and laughter.

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01 February 2018

Keep Reading

[Photo by Jack Reichert on Unsplash]
I've been reading a lot this week. Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett's whole Long Earth series was just £12 in The Works (a discount craft/book shop here in the UK) so I'm halfway through that now. I also re-read Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell because it was lying around and looked easy when I was tired. I bought the rest of those, bar the newest two, for £20 from ebay, and am halfway through the first trilogy.

I remembered why I'd let this habit peter out.

It reminded me I wasn't writing. Now it reminds me I'm not as good at writing as these authors, or anywhere near as imaginative, and if not what's the point? There are so many great books and stories out there, what's the point in adding any less-great ones? You could already spend every day reading and not even scratch the surface of published stories.

I'm looking at the wrong goal posts. Well, I never was good at sports. Commercial success is the publisher's goal and I'm not a publisher, I'm a writer; a writer's goal is the end of the book.

And writing?

Writing, storytelling, is art and art is subjective. Personal. No two people will read exactly the same books throughout their lives. And can you have too much art? I don't think so.

Stories and art and creativity and imagination make us who we are and change us and teach us. That's what smarter people than me say. If you go to BrainPickings.org and start reading, maybe from here, you might begin to find yourselves encouraged, and believing again, in the importance of your story, whatever it is. Just in case, like me, you were having doubts.

Who am I writing for anyway, a bunch of strangers, or myself?

So keep reading. Keep writing.

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27 January 2018

Depression Days

[Photo by James Douglas on Unsplash]

Depression is kicking my ass this week.

It's tidal.

Sometimes the tide is in and I'm sinking, sad, empty, numb. I sit on the sofa or the bed, staring at nothing, feeling nothing. My past is a trail of mistakes, my future pointless, and in the present I can see things I recognise as being 'good' but they feel like nothing, or lies.

Sometimes the tide is out and I can think and move and breathe again, and never quite remember why I felt as bad as I did. But I know the tide is coming back in some time.

In those worst moments, I don't deserve anything. Not food or comfort or sleep or help. I know I need it but I can't ask for it or take it.

Afterwards it seems so silly, so trivial. So hard to explain.

My plan is to ride out this storm. January is hard and depression lies, it tells me it is everything and it is forever. But deep, deep, deep down a tiny little speck that just won't quit tells me it will pass. And I sleep and it does.

My plan is to see a doctor.

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23 January 2018

Starting Projects

[Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash]

I'm really good at starting projects. Most of us are. You just need an idea and something you're trying to avoid. Ironing. Taxes. A current project that's gotten a bit tricky.

I'm afraid I'm not offering any solutions here, just trying to ensure I stick to a few, and that they are small and have purpose.

I'm writing a book. I've always been writing a book but this one is, at last, a real, finishable one. It's going well save for all the doubts this month. Is it too weird? Too boring? Too clichéd? Am I trying to do too much? Not enough? Will anyone 'get' these characters? Is combining sci-fi and fantasy the worst idea ever?

You know, the usual thoughts.

I have no good answers.

[Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash]
I've started writing little story bits on Instagram. I posted my third yesterday, so, no secret this is a direct result of struggling with my first project.

It's a good one, though. They're short. Only 50 words each. I don't want to take up loads of your time. They're free. I like sharing creative things and it's a chance for folk to see my writing without having to wait for and pay for a whole tome. They're fun. They're the bits I like writing, without needing to fit them into a bigger story (although they do fit into a little story) or worry about if it's the right thing, or if it works; I get to play and I get to remember why I'm doing this.

I haven't done anything to promote it. I mean, people actually reading my writing. That's almost a bit much.

(Here is the link though. If you like it, great! Tell a friend who might like it too. It's for you.)

This blog. It's good for sorting through my thoughts. And . . . I wasted a lot of time, a lot of years, worrying if I should be a writer and how and is it okay and shouldn't I be doing something better with my time.




Writing is really important. Maybe not quite as important as nurses or doctors or teachers or bin men and women, but it is important.

[Photo by Alex Chambers on Unsplash]
Dungeons and Dragons. This game is The Greatest. It is hilariously fun and as an added bonus a fantastic writing exercise. I'm not just talking about world building (it doesn't have to be set in fantasyland or space), it's great for exploring storytelling techniques, character development, antagonist development, consequences, the effects of character interaction on the world around them, possibilities you never ever considered, and essentially live authoring with readers: I say this, they understand that.

And for just making you make stuff up whether you feel like it or not.

I am also supremely lucky to have writers and writerly types as my friends/party members. They inspire me so much, imagine things I'd never think off, and challenge my thinking and ideas. I love it.

Well, every good party does that.

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