Wants // Fears // Obstacles

Wants

‘Writing updates’ as a genre provide such a dopamine kick. (Particularly on social media but you also enjoy telling your very patient and supportive girlfriend, too.)

You have no “following” but simply writing something about the routine of writing, how it’s going well or badly, dispatches into the vast space of The Net provides a sort of Feel-Good-INC. euphoria. Melancholic but hopeful.

You feel suspicious of it though. It’s self-congratulatory before you’ve even done anything, right? Or is it? Have you done anything by writing for an hour? Twenty minutes? Five? At all? Do you deserve dopamine?

Fears

Sometimes writing doesn’t “go great”. You may feel bad then. Most writing days, you come to realise, are fine to shitty. Making time for it is the achievement then. This is all there is. Being okay with that.

But then you can’t update anyone. You have to stay quiet for a bit. And then people might politely ask, how’s your writing going? And you go, yeahhh, and make a face, maybe laugh it off. But now you hear yourself and how self-regarding you are and you realise that you sound like a baby playing an incredibly low-stakes game.

And then you feel bad again.

Obstacles

It’s a self perpetuating cycle and the repetitive nature of

a) telling yourself “I am enjoying this and feeling good” or “Today was bad I didn’t write (well/ enough/at all)”,

and

b) giving anyone who will listen a State of the Union address on your Writing (with a capital W)

feels like the equivalent of tonguing a particularly malevolent mouth ulcer.

You go to bed marking the days since you started this project. How that will affect how people “see” your work etc etc. The list of these tiny, self-made irritants is long… and annoying to recount.

Resolution

You remind yourself that none of this matters. No one cares. Not a single person is bothered if you finish that story, flesh out that character, study The Great Works or anything else you tell yourself is important. It’s just you.

You are the obstacle. Get out of your way.

… my job is to not chicken out.

“I remember years ago, working at Radian, writing CivilWarLand, thinking, Wow, I’ve been working on this same paragraph for five days. Is that normal? And then that wise little voice in my head asked, Well, is it getting better? If so, then yes. It may not be normal, per se, but obviously it’s what you have to do. And this light went on, like, It’s going to be as hard as it needs to be, and my job is to not chicken out.”

George Saunders, Paris Review

I feel like I need these words tattooed on the back of my hands so I can see them while typing.

Someone always says it better…

After my post yesterday I got some of my favourite regular e-mail this year – my monthly writing exercise from Matt Bell (If you haven’t signed up you’re missing out.)

This month he wrote about Choice and Complicity.

It was a fascinating read and the subject matter, though difficult to fully execute in prose, is something I’ve already started considering how to utilize.

Essentially, he’s talking about power structures. The ones in which we operate in and how we make choices within those power structures.

These are not always (perhaps, importantly so) the Perfect Choice but rather the Best Choice We Can Make Given the Situation.

All of these systems and power structures can and should and will be resisted, but at the same time many people have no choice but to live within them, with someone always benefitting even as others are injured, and of course I know that standing up against one power structure doesn’t automatically mean being able or willing to do the same against another. We all make choices from inside these systems, and for me, [Octavia] Butler’s novels are some of the best examples I know of how to depict those choices in fiction.

Matt Bell

It’s something I’m already interested in, generally, but I’d never considered how it could be applied to fiction writing.

Elsewhere in the newsletter he links to Charlie Jane Anders ‘s ongoing essay-series/book Never Say You Can’t Survive. I’ve only just started reading the first few entries but I think I’ll be reading the whole thing.

The following is an excerpt from the chapter, How to Get Through Hard Times by Making Up Stories.

“And escapism is resistance. People sometimes talk about escapist storytelling as a kind of dereliction of duty, as if we’re just running away from the fight. That’s some bullshit right there. In her 1979 essay collection The Language of the Night, Ursula K. Le Guin paraphrases Tolkien thusly: “If a soldier is captured by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape? …. If we value the freedom of the mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape and to take as many people with us as we can.”

So yeah, escapist fiction is about liberation, and imagining a happier, more just world is a direct assault on the forces that are trying to break your heart. As Le Guin says, the most powerful thing you can do is imagine what if things could be different…

What if?”

Charlie Jane Anders, Never Say You Can’t Survive

Like I said, someone always says it better…

Arm Cast Podcast

Recently, I was the guest on the Arm Cast Podcast hosted by Armand Rosamilia.

We talked about the anthology we’re both in (Arterial Bloom), pretending to be pro wrestlers, getting started in fiction, and the ever-changing game of publishing.

It was my first ever podcast interview and Armand was a really great person to chat to.

Happy listening!