First off, a couple of wordbirds of which I’m particularly fond:

After an epic folding session in front of Glee tonight, I’m now in very good shape to hit my target of 57 stories written and 33 craneified by the end of the week (Monday, since I started on a Tuesday.)

However, I’m not happy with the length and quality of my stories lately. I’d like to pull myself together enough to get some good stuff written. But I don’t want to lose sight of how great it is that I’ve got this far at all. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to, and the longer I keep this up the more I can believe that I’ll actually make it to the end.

My current plan is that if and when I’ve got 100 stories up in a reasonable timeframe, I’ll start doing one thing a week to publicise the blog. Then I’ll start doing two things a week, and so on.

This is me sneaking up on self-promotion gradually so I don’t freak myself out, because as Havi puts it, biggification = intimidating, and we don’t want any more freakouts here than we’re already having. No ‘oh no, now everyone in the world is watching me and there’s all this pressure and now I HAVE to do it so now I can’t.’

Having said this, I want this thing to go huge in the fullness of time. I want thousands of readers. I want to raise thousands of pounds. But in time. I want a bit more momentum and confidence that I can do this before I start really shouting about it.

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A lot o’news.

Wordbirds has an LJ feed!

Also! Another donation rolled in today, from the highly awesome Lemming. This takes us to £15, which is enough to feed five shelter dogs for over a week!

This is what a string of sixteen wordbirds looks like (with bonus cute pic of my housemate’s chihuahua, Chloe):

I’d just like to disown that dodgy plaid wallpaper border left by the previous tenants. Been here 3 years and this is as far as I’ve got with redecorating…

Speaking of me failing to do things, I’m still having some trouble with depression and haven’t managed to do much since I lost my job – including looking for a new job or applying for Jobseeker’s Allowance, which I really need! I’m spending most of my time sleeping, surfing the internet, and angsting over all the things I’m not doing. This also means I haven’t spent as much time on my stories as I’d like, and have been spitting out a lot of very short ones in order to keep up. Still, I’m proud of myself for keeping up at all given the state of my brain.

To end on a more upbeat note, I must link to this wonderful Nanowrimo pep talk by Neil Gaiman, in which Neil reveals with his inimitable sense of humour that he goes through ALL the same crap that we lesser writers go through. I found it very applicable to what I’m doing and very encouraging.

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Death and lesbians!

So I have 40 stories done! When they’re all craneified, this will be my first of 25 strings of 40 cranes. Right now I’ve got 12 on a string and the sheer physical scale of this project is dawning on me. I’m going to have to wallpaper my bedroom with strings of cranes.

In other news, I’ve managed to get behind again. I think I just need to accept that I feel safer when I’m slightly behind because it’s less ‘grown up’.

I realised today that thanks to some very confused conclusions I drew when I was four, I unconsciously think that to do anything ‘grown up’ or anything that smacks of growth or self-nurture is to face death. Not metaphorical ‘I won’t be me any more’ death, but literal ‘my heart will stop beating, worms will eat me’ death. And I’m not facing death as a grown woman, with all the resources a grown woman might bring to it, but as a four-year-old child.

Hence, my default position of ‘inexplicably paralysed with terror and rage’ is TOTALLY LEGIT. Facing death here! Consciously, I know I’m not really, but unconsciously – yeah. And I think this is also why I devour stories about brave heroes risking their lives for a noble cause. I’m trying to osmose courage from them. 

Anyway, back to the topic in hand… further to my post on worrying gender trends in my writing, I actually wrote an honest-to-God love story between two women. Except it was just a dream. And one of them was dead before the story even started. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.

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Got fired

So, I got fired today. This is going to be interesting! I need to avoid both the temptation to ignore writing and do nothing but jobhunt, and the temptation to ignore jobhunting and do nothing but write…

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So, having managed to keep up reasonably well for the past few days (10 stories written! That’s 1% of my total!) and having been all ‘Woohoo, Saturday, a whole day to write!’ I find myself going splat. SPLAT. Big time. This is partly because I found Something Fascinating on the Internet last night and stayed up much too late reading it – probably a subconscious ploy to mess myself up for today…

So, this is me encountering my first ‘bad day’. I’m going to revise my expectations downwards and see if, instead of getting behind, I can just get 3 really short stories up by the end of the day, and also try really hard to spend some time on DELIBERATE resting and doing enjoyable things instead of helpless failing to work. Though this is complicated by the fact that I also have household chores to do today…

Changed the name of the evil empire in my last story from ‘Carminea’ to ‘Viridia’ as it occurred to me that with the red allusion people might think it was an allegory for communism. Oops.

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Conscious Sneaky Permission

With one day to go before I start my project, I’ve been thinking a lot about Havi’s advice to ‘enter as you want to be in it‘, which I’ve really not taken. I’ve just been flailing along in the same state of chaos and avoidance that I’ve been in ever since I settled on this project.
So today I sat down and had a think about what needs I’ve been trying to meet with the avoidance-flail, and I came up with: permission.
Permission not to meet others’ expectations.
Permission not to meet my own expectations.
Permission to rest.
Permission to play.
Permission to give myself what I want.
Permission not to force myself to do anything.
Permission not to be ready to surrender to God. (Also? Surrender is gross. I need a word that’s not ‘surrender’.)
All of these permissions – without exception – are ones I have huge trouble giving myself. Heck, I have huge trouble even acknowledging that I want them, let alone that I have any right to want them. That level of self-compassion is so terrifyingly extreme to me that my brain just slides off it. So I took a sneaky route. I snuck permission in but I disguised it from myself. Nothing to see here! We’re just not thinking about why we’re not thinking about why we’re not doing anything!
So now I need to work on achieving Conscious Sneaky Permission. That is, consciously noticing and meeting my needs, but still sneaking around so I don’t set off my ‘UGH YOU DISGUSTING SELF-LOVING BUFFOON, WHY DON’T YOU JUST SLATHER YOURSELF IN CHOCOLATE AND LICK IT OFF IF YOU LUUUUUURVE YOURSELF SO MUCH’ buttons.
Unconscious sneaky permission goes like this:
1) I’m exhausted.
2) I can’t possibly think about the fact that I need rest, because rest is gross and for the weak.
3) I feel strangely out of control. Can’t imagine why.
4) Oh no, I seem to be lying on the floor doing nothing.
5) Get up. GET UP. Why am I not getting up? HOW CAN I BE SO USELESS?
6) Now I’ve completely lost faith in my ability to move my own body. I may be stuck here for hours.
Whereas CONSCIOUS sneaky permission might go like this:
1) I’m exhausted.
2) This means I need rest. Ugh! Rest! Thinking about rest is hard!
3) Okay, what can I do to enable myself to think about rest without getting freaked out and disgusted?
4) Pretend I’m on a dangerous journey, and one of the party always has to keep watch, so I need to sleep now so I can take care of my comrades later. So really, sleeping is a tough and unselfish thing to do! Yeah!
5) How long could I give myself permission to sleep for without getting freaked out and disgusted?
6) 20 minutes. Okay. I’m giving myself permission to have 20 minutes of sleep.
We’ll see how that works…

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In which I nearly give up but don’t

So after some wranglings with the ‘People Will Abandon Me If I’m Competent’ monster, a LOT of unnecessary sleep deprivation, procrastination, compulsive lateness and everything getting harder instead of easier, this morning I hit a wall. It suddenly seemed obvious that this project and my sanity were not compatible, and if Havi hadn’t just written about the dubious wisdom of making decisions when sleep-deprived, there’d probably be an ’I'm not doing this’ announcement here now.

A couple of hours later, things got clearer. I’m actually excited about the project. I’m planning stories. I already know the three I want to write on my first day (all on a St. Paul’s theme, because my head is buzzing with OccupyLSX.) I’m far happier to tell people about it than I expected to be at this stage.

No, what’s doing my head in (do we even say that any more? ‘Doing my head in’? Or is that now one step away from ‘cowabunga’?) is all the life-sorty preparation I have to do first.

So at this point, I’m throwing out the ‘have to’. Aside from keeping shared parts of the house clean, I have permission to start this project chaos ‘n’ all. I can deal with my chaos gradually in little bits while I’m doing the project. Once again: I don’t have to fix everything all at once.

And now I feel 1000 times better. Still sleep-deprived, mind!

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ADORABLE monster conversation

I had the most hilarious conversation with some fear monsters. (See here for an explanation of the whole talking-to-monsters thing, and why they’re really just fuzzballs.)
Me: Hello, fear. I notice that every time I think about doing some work, I get terrified. Please could you tell me what’s up with that?
Fear (Which is a crowd of small black fuzzy things – oh wait, they are LITERAL FUZZBALLS): Because if you think about it, you might realise that you can’t do it all in time and then you’d be heartbroken!
Me: Okay, thanks for trying to protect me, but what you’re actually doing is paralysing me. If I’m too terrified, I won’t be able to work, and the very thing you want to protect me from will happen.
Fear: Oh. Oh dear. But we don’t know any other way to do this.
Me: Well, instead of protecting me from thinking about work, could you protect me from getting scared when I think about it? Could you make work smaller and softer and friendlier?
Fear: YES! We are dog breeders! We will cross everything that scares you with a chihuahua!

Adorable, right? After that I was still pretty scared, but I was no longer too terrified to work. It had been cut down to size. Crossed with a chihuahua, even. :)

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Self-care is part of the job

So things are continuing to be HARD. So much procrastination. So much panic. Even preparing to do this project is setting off all my fears like whoa.
It’s been occurring to me gradually over the past few days that I’m going to have to be a lot kinder to myself if I’m going to get this project done. Eat properly. Sleep properly (horrible, horrible, horrible! I hate sleep!) Stand up for myself more. Ask less of myself. Accept that this is not going to be the year I write 1000 stories and get good at storytelling at the same time.
But it occurred to me today, as I sat at work going AARGH AARGH IT’S ALL SO HARD, that I’m going to have to be ludicrously kind to myself. As kind as I can possibly stand to be.
This occurred because it was obvious that the only way I was going to get my day’s work done today was to take lots of little breaks and fill them with things like tiny walks, Shiva Nata, reading helpful Havi posts, praying and journalling. I somehow managed to take this to heart and even found myself massaging my own shoulders. I’d normally rather punch my own face than do that. By my standards, it’s so decadently self-caring I’m actually embarrassed to type it. It feels like admitting I just bathed in the blood of virgins.
So yeah. I have crazy-huge issues around self-care. This isn’t really news.
But I’m thinking of my beloved Scarlett, who – despite being quite a big star – still has trouble comprehending that when you give her a tin of home-made cookies, she is allowed to keep the tin. :) I’m sure Scarlett feels guilty about taking care of herself sometimes, but she just has to. Her job is so demanding and exhausting, there’s no way she’d get through it without her naps between shows and her army of health products and so on. When you have to do something really hard, and keep on doing it, self-care stops being an indulgence and starts being part of the job.
And while writing 1000 stories in a year clearly =/= playing Mary Poppins, it’s still something really hard for me. So self-care needs to be part of the job.
And I need to be aware that normal, adequate self-care is going to seem extreme and outrageous to me. And I’m probably going to need more than normal self-care.
But I also need to be kind to myself about my fear of being kind to myself, because (as Havi says) it’s not very compassionate to force yourself to be compassionate.

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Learnings from a panic attack

So, as I’ve mentioned, I’m trying to clear up the mess and financial chaos in my life before I start on this project, so I don’t waste precious writing-time on it. As I’ve also mentioned, this is proving HARD.

I planned to finish clearing up the downstairs by the end of yesterday. At 2am yesterday morning I was still sitting at my computer having done precisely nothing. Then at breakfast time I had an epic panic attack. The full ‘I’M HYPERVENTILATING AND I CAN’T STOP – okay, I’ve stopped – NO WAIT HERE I GO AGAIN’.

I thought it was just guilt at not cleaning the house, but the housemate, bless her, sussed that it was something more and kept asking questions until I worked out what it was.

I’ve been freaking out about cleaning the downstairs because that would mean moving on to the next item on my list, which is tidying my room. And if you don’t see why I’m freaking out about THAT, well, 1) you haven’t seen the mess in my room :) and 2) I’ve been living in a messy room pretty much since I was old enough to be responsible for tidying it. It’s become my security blanket. A messy room feels like home.

And having my sense of home and security ripped away, right while I’m about to begin such a challenging project? Kind of legitimately terrifying. Expecting myself to rip it away myself, just like that? Yeah, I can see why that’s not happening.

So we broke it down. What do I actually need to do to my room in order to move on to the next thing on my list? Well, the next thing is to go through my post, so all I really need to do is find all the unopened post in my room. (This in itself may take me about a day.) I do not need to start this project with a perfectly tidy room. 

She’s suggested that I inch it towards tidiness bit by bit over a very long period of time, allowing myself to get used to each change before moving on to the next. I think that’s a great idea. :)

This is an amazing learning and it comes with an amazing – uber-learning?  Meta-learning?

When I’m freaking out, it might be because I’m assuming I have to do something that terrifies me. That assumption might be buried so deep that I don’t notice it. I can’t conceive of a world where I don’t have to do it.

It’s well worth finding out what I’m terrified of, finding out why I’m terrified (clue: it will be a legitimate reason), and exploring the possibility of maybe not doing it, or maybe doing it VERY VERY SLOWLY.

There are options. Trying to force myself to do the thing that terrifies me, completely and perfectly, right now, might possibly not be the best one. :)

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