It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

Every time I’ve been to a launch event, I get an odd mix of feelings that have only intensified since creating things for the purpose of launching them.

It doesn’t matter if it’s for a book, a magazine, a piece of art, or a website. It doesn’t matter if it’s for my own work or someone else’s. Those feelings hit, drain all my energy, and I’m left to brood over a hot tisane and wonder what it’s all about.

My parents reckon I don’t handle excitement very well. Maybe they’re right and my neurology/biochemistry/psychological conditioning isn’t wired up right to handle it. But I still need to live my life, y’know? I gotta figure out my own way of handling this very real thing that comes up every now and then.

So what are these feelings? Well, in the first place, I’m so happy for and proud of the person whose launch it is. They worked hard, they were dedicated, they honed their skills and committed them in the face of uncertainty. The launch gives everyone an opportunity to appreciate those efforts as well as the final product.

But underneath it all is the pressing notion that I don’t belong. Not at the bookstore, the art gallery, the Discord channel, the upstairs loft, or the drab office break room with the delicious cake in the corner.

It’s a scene and even if it’s meant to be my scene, it’s impossible for me to connect with it. I wonder if it’s an introvert thing or an anxiety thing. Could it be a facet of a complicated neurodivergent disposition, honed by a lifetime-thus-far of friction-laden socialising?

As 2022 approaches its median, I’m laying down some tidier foundations for my indie publishing career. I’m often told book launch parties are a necessary fixture in this wide, wacky world if you’re doing it properly. You can imagine the trepidation this births in me.

Well, I don’t intend on having a party for my next couple of books, but as a newsletter subscriber or blog follower, you’re included in the quiet celebrations. Thank you for being a part of my low-key journey, even if there’s no cake in the corner.

WIP report — 14 June 2022

Currently: 30,709 / 50,000 words

CLAY is over the halfway hump and on track to get to my editor by our self-imposed deadline. The story is coming along nicely and I’m feeling more confident in every technique the first 25,000 words forced me learn by the seat of my pants.

As silly as it sounds, I must give credit to my sudden and aggressive obsession with fountain pens. One day, while utterly smitten by the flow of ink through a stainless steel nib, I began drafting a scene by hand and found that ideas and words just expressed so nicely.

They’re not the best words, but in the way an artist might block out shapes and structure before drawing in earnest, whatever’s coming out of my pen seems to give me the structure I need to fill in the details when I type up my notes.

In case any other pen islanders stumble upon this, I’m currently switching between a Herbin Transparent medium nib, a glass dip pen, and a couple of calligraphy flex nibs. Inks include Pilot Quink in black, Sheaffer Skip in blue black, and Stuart Houghton calligraphy inks in various colours. Life’s too short for a dried up old ballpoint (sorry, Mum, I know you like them).

20k to go. Onward and wordward!

WIP report — 26 Apr 2022

Currently: 16,000/50,000 words

I look at this word count and where I had hoped to be on the Camp NaNo scale, and start to feel a little terrified about not finishing this book in time.

It’s ridiculous, though, because I’m on track with this WIP relative to my actual milestones beyond the April-specific constraint. What’s more, the approach I’m taking with this WIP is one I was longing to take for all my writing around this time last year.

So in the grand scheme of things, aligning with my career goal to stop rushing like a madcunt, to take things slow and think things through, I’m doing okay.

Why do we rush? I get that a little artificial pressure helps us get things done, but what then? There will always be more to do… and then we die. Even if I could manage to release a new book every three months, there’s no way a reader—even a superfan reader—would have the time and energy to just consume all my work.

And why should they? There are so many other books to read and movies to watch and podcasts to listen to—a life to live. This is an age of excess, which in some twisted way also means an age of scarcity of a different sort. The world simultaneously needs more stories and is also so full of stories. What are we to do?

I’m reading Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks at the moment and it’s got me thinking about all this. Right now, time well spent for me is time spent writing and yet even though the joy of it is coming back, I still feel this lingering anxiety over it.

But I’m still at the 16,000 word mark and it’s going well so far, so there’s no reason to feel too down. Not about this, anyway.

34k to go.

Okay, so that didn’t go as planned

All right, never mind what I said on Tuesday. I have struggled to write much this past week.

Putin’s unjust war in Ukraine, the devastating floods in the Queensland and New South Wales, the disappointing Kumanjayi Walker verdict, and all this talk of Japanese Encephalitis in Australia has my heart in a very heavy way. As if the pandemic, climate change, Afghanistan, pre-existing social injustice, and this country’s asylum seeker situation weren’t already depressing enough.

I keep thinking of something a friend said to me a couple years ago—that we’re already living in the dystopian future. His comment was more to do with the fact that today’s society resembles cyberpunk economies sans the AI revolution, but I think the “life imitating art” sentiment could cover a broad concept of dystopia. (And if I ever turn this blog post into a proper essay, I’ll make more of an effort to qualify that statement.)

Thing is, I don’t think all is lost. But in terms of humanity’s story arc, we’re probably approaching an All Is Lost Moment, which every reader and writer knows will be over once we can shake off our distractions and find a way to work together.

I’ve sought solace in small wins like painting my nails, completing boring life admin tasks, doing a little hobby coding, watering my plants, and working towards my daily 2L water intake. Oh, and donating to relief funds when pay comes in, which is something I think everyone who can afford to should consider doing. Making a contribution, even if it’s not much, can make a person feel less helpless in the face of all this.

Two things I haven’t done are scrolling social media feeds and writing. The former is probably for the best, especially since there are far less incendiary ways to consume news and converse with people. The latter, however, is probably just me developing a bad habit of anxious avoidance and procrastination. I need to do something about that.

Actually, I will do something about that. Tomorrow, I’m starting Camp NaNo early. If the camp counsellors won’t let me in, then I’ll sit in the forest and yell at clouds. Stay tuned for the odd update on Project Clay between now and the end of April.

Word counts are tracking well

All things considered (ie. work, adult responsibilities, life admin), February’s writing effort wasn’t so bad. I know I had a little gripe about this back in January, but I did end up pushing myself for my own sanity after all.

It was less of a “publish or perish” thing and more of a “if I don’t get this story out of my head, I am going to become quite irritable” thing, which I feel is an arguably self-determining reason to push oneself.

Looking at the tally now, I managed to hit 10,000 words by about a third of the way through the month. That surpasses my entire January total. By midpoint the total reached 13k-ish words, and by month end it sat at an adequate 20k words as my to-do list took a more technical and admin turn.

It’s no NaNoWriMo and that’s fine, but it does boost my confidence somewhat for the upcoming Camp NaNo in April. A usable outline for Project Clay is on track. I’m daunted by this project, as it’s a first for me on many fronts, but I’ll talk more about that another time.

For now, I’m oiling my fingers and brain in preparation. Might as well keep that word count ticking to warm up 👩🏻‍💻

My three pillars of writing SFR

Confidence was never my strong suit, especially when it comes to writing. Sometimes it feels like the more I learn, the less I know. So now after years of writing and who-knows-how-many classes and courses, sitting down to write a draft fills me with anxiety like you can’t imagine.

Is that normal? No idea. But one way I try to work around it is by staying focused on the most important elements of this blended genre. This weekend, I’m visiting Amber Daulton’s blog to share my approach. Here ’tis:

500 words is fine today

After giving up on writing over the weekend, I fired up the old word processor today and cracked out a healthy 500-word session. Granted, it took about an hour and a half, but I reckon I’ll use every one of those 500 words and then some.

500 is looking to be about my average for a reasonable writing session. That’s not bad considering about 3 years ago, I was aiming for 350 words. Last year’s NaNoWriMo saw me hit up to 2000 words per day, but numbers like that make it easy to hide the amount of planning, preparation and perspiration that goes along with it.

It’s hard to let go of the high-pressure unsolicited advice the well-intentioned “experts” will throw at you—that you should smash out a mega word count everyday otherwise how can you call yourself a professional writer? Maybe that’s the go for journalists and content mill bloggers, but maybe—just maybe—there’s also another way to exist? This is a big, diverse world with many ways to hustle. Surely “publish or perish” and toxic productivity narratives are on their way to becoming a thing of the past?

This year, I’m (practicing) giving myself permission to be okay with a lower word count (until the next NaNo challenge). Six years is enough time to observe that perhaps I do have a process that works for me when I lean into it. 350 words worked back when it was the season for it. Last year’s NaNo worked during NaNo month. And 500 words works just fine today.

Hinting for good luck

Work has begun in earnest on a “new old” writing project. For some reason, it seems like bad luck to try and tell people about it, yet dropping hints doesn’t feel quite so scary? I think somewhere along the way, I’ve come to attach superstition to my writing process and now can’t seem to shake it.

That said, I do often hear that if you want to finish a project, you should beaver away at it in the background and not tell anyone until it’s done. Because talking about what you’re doing can put you in precarious positions such as:

Tricking your brain into thinking it’s done, because you get the desired excitement, respect and/or admiration from the people you’ve told. I guess that’s the psychology behind why sometimes people make promises when caught up in the moment, but then neglect to keep those promises. The incentive is gone because they’ve already been paid off with excitement.

Coming across like you’re open to feedback, which can be remarkably destructive when the feedback comes from people who a) aren’t knowledgeable about what you’re working on, b) aren’t familiar enough with you and your methods to tailor their advice, or c) are salty sour-pusses who speak from a place of jealousy or self-loathing. That said, feedback can be super constructive when it’s from the right peers.

Getting fed up with the project because that time you spent talking was a poor use of effort as it didn’t get you closer to completion. Nor did you get to take a break from it to recharge. The fatigue is real. It’s perhaps the reason why we’re often told to get some space from our work in order to produce higher quality output.

I’m sure there are more precarious positions in the mix, but these seem insidious enough, and I know I’ve run into at least two of them many times over the years.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with talking about our work, but I think in this case, after getting stuck on this project—code named “SATINE2″—for so many years, I’ll stick to hinting cryptically about it.

Just for good luck.

My 2021 in lists

Work I released this year

  1. O, swear not by the moon (a novelette in Star Crossed)
  2. About Henry — A Novella (re-release)
  3. Microfiction via Dot Club
  4. It Starts with a Kiss (re-release)
  5. Iteration Eleven (published by HyphenPunk magazine)

New things I learned about

  1. Autism (specifically, mine)
  2. Hyper-mobility (also mine lulz)
  3. World War II history
  4. Some of my family history
  5. Art, drawing & digital painting

What I wish I did less of

  1. Fear procrastination
  2. Getting injured
  3. Eating junk food

What I wish I did more of

  1. Reading books
  2. Research & writing for The Basilica Conspiracy
  3. Speaking up for myself

Books/Stories that grabbed me

  1. After my Before by Stefanie Simpson
  2. Summerland by Hannu Ranjaniemi
  3. A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo
  4. Perihelion Summer by Greg Egan
  5. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Movies that grabbed me

  1. Casablanca (1942)
  2. Stowaway (2021)
  3. Hot Rod (2007)
  4. Tenet (2020)
  5. Dune (2021)

What I’m grateful for

  1. Family
  2. Broadband internet
  3. The health I do have
  4. My pastry friends 🥐
  5. My physiotherapist (it’s amazing what you can do when your health practitioners have a positive attitude)

My hopes for next year

  1. Tidy up my life (literally, it’s a mess) so I can work and live better
  2. Keep my health markers at healthy levels
  3. Consume more SFF and educational books
  4. Get SUNSET to a publishable state
  5. Finish outlining The Basilica Conspiracy

Semi-socialite

In an attempt to fix those annoying tech issues, I deleted all the social media apps from my phone only to have the subsequent experience (and rest of the internet) tell me it’s not enough—a factory reset would be imminent *DUN DUN DUNNNN*

So I was happy to drag my feet a bit, and found one pleasant side-effect of being app-less. It was only for a few days while work and other commitments pushed the phone reset lower down the priority list. But I found I could focus better on writing and reading.

That “hooked” feeling I’d get from feed scrolling transferred to books and I am so very pleased. I’m getting to stuff that’s been on my TBR for ages, approaching my work with a clearer head, and the weird thing is I’m not even going cold turkey on social media. I just don’t have the apps on my phone right now.

Actually, wait, those are only half-truths. I’m on a “feed restricted diet” right now too 😛 I get five minutes each of Twitter and Facebook a day (unless there’s something undeniably work-related I need to take care of). And now that I’ve reset my phone, I’ve put Goodreads back on there—but you could argue that Goodreads isn’t really a social platform, it’s more like a beefed-up logbook of stuff you read.

I wonder if it’s the combination of convenient internet-enabled devices and engagement-centered design that creates that dangerous combination. When you sit at a computer to do something, you have to sit at the computer to do the thing. But with a smartphone, you can not only spend your precious micro-minutes, but the extra tax of context-switching too.

Or am I the problem? Do I have poor executive function and self-control in the face of digital temptation? 🤔

At any rate, my phone is running smoothly and I’m okay with being a bit less twittery and instagrammy at the moment. My manuscript is running on schedule for now. And I’ve finally been able to pick up Perihelion Summer by Greg Egan and B.K. Bass’s final book in the Night Trilogy 😄

Photo by arvin keynes on Unsplash