Not sure I’m going to go back to trying to do it on a time limit, because I’m still very busy (moving house and transitioning to being a full-time writer/proofreader, among other things. Anyone got work for me? :) ) but dude. Dude. Just spent the past several hours re-reading my own stories and crying. I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE AGAIN.

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Well, phew.

I’ve written 81 six-word stories today. This puts me at 149 (target is 150.) I deliberately stopped there to avoid setting off my fear of catching up, and hopefully avoid my pattern of following triumph with disaster as well. See, I am sneaky with my sneaking around myself!

If you’d told me when I woke up this morning that I’d finish today where I am now, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m over the moon (though trying not to get TOO over the moon because of the aforementioned triumph-disaster pattern.) Something just shifted in my head and I realised that catching up could be quite simple.

The big learning I need to take away from this is that when I’m behind, screw writing long, high-quality stories and just churn out the six-worders and get caught up. I wish I’d done this ages ago rather than leaving it until I had to write 81!

A nice side-effect of this is that six-word stories can be handwritten in nothing flat, which means I can catch up on some folding as well (I can’t use the printer until the housemate and her laptop get home in the New Year.)

I’ve been noticing some patterns in my six-word stories. Lots of things becoming sentient, lots of (sometimes violent) reversals of the normal order, lots of messing with time and space, lots of creepiness, and a sharp rise in existential ponderings and ecstatic mystical babble towards the end… hmm.

Most of this makes sense with what I know of myself, but the sentience thing surprises me. I think of myself as someone who has very little attachment to or investment in objects, and yet I keep coming back to the idea that they can think, feel, and love. This does absolutely make sense with who I was as a young child, and now I think about it, my story about Umbrellas (which is entirely true). Interesting.

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‘Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives. [...]

The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and which all things both hide and, when properly looked upon, reveal. The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly. What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of a fiasco. But there’s also the possibility of bliss’ – Joseph Campbell

This. THIS. I need to re-read this so many times. He’s talking about writing, of course, as well as visual art. And this project is totally a hero journey for me. I’m a little bit stuck in the Slough of Despond at the moment. Can I do it?

Part of my angst is that the more time I waste, the less time I have to make my stories good, and so the less I feel like writing them at all. Because of the time I’ve already wasted, this project will already be less good than it could have been.

I so, so need that skill of going, ‘Oh. Okay. This has happened. And this is what I’ve got left. Well, I’m going to do the best I can and have the most fun I can with what I’ve got left.’

I need to focus on the fact that I’m doing this first for the dogs and only second for myself, so if I write 1000 bad stories (and that won’t happen, because I’ve already written some I like) and I raise £1000 doing it, I’ll still have reached my first and most important goal.

It’s incredible the amount of embarrassment you have to face doing anything creative in public. With almost every story I write, I go through a phase of thinking it’s humiliatingly bad, it flows wrong, it’s so clearly written by someone with no music in their soul, no taste, no understanding of human nature, a small mind and a shallow heart, and everyone who reads it can see that. This phase usually passes, but man, when you’re in it you’re in it.

I know that to catch back up, I need to just burble out lots of bad stories, but what if someone I really admire sees them and thinks I’m a bad writer?

There’s one friend I haven’t told about this project yet, because she’s someone I look up to, and she’s so talented and such a hard worker, I’d be gutted if she didn’t like my stories, or if I told her about it and then failed to finish the project.

I think right now, I need to reassure myself that I never have to tell her.
Even though she’d be really proud of me.
Even though she’d encourage me, and inspire me, and ask me about it every time we met.
Even though she’s the kind of person who’d probably love my stories.
Even though she’d love the idea of what I’m doing, the wish, the origami birds. Totally her sort of thing.
Even though she loves dogs, and would probably want to sponsor me.
Even though she would totally understand and give me a big hug if I failed to finish.
Even though she believes in me as a writer.
Even though she’d be sad that I didn’t feel I could tell her about something so important to me.

If it makes it easier for me to do this project, I don’t ever have to tell her that I’m doing it. And I don’t have to beat myself up about that. Showing your stuff to people is hard, and I’m only just beginning.

The trouble is that if she asks me how the writing is going, I’m going to blurt it out. I just know I am.

Realistically, I know it’s not that big a deal if she thinks I’m a bad writer. But aargh, this is my thing. It matters to me.

I just need to remember that this is for the dogs and not for my ego, and that even bad writing can be good if it saves dogs’ lives!

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I have to go back and change her name now, and since I’ve already written the character, she will ALWAYS be called Maude in my head and just pretending to be called something else.

But there is no way I can not change it, because I have enough problems with accidental derivativeness as it is. (See this story I wrote yesterday. The one with the blind superheroine? I totally thought her up before I’d ever heard of Daredevil. This was before the movie. Then found out about Daredevil and just didn’t write her for maybe 13 years. Then yesterday I went ‘screw it’ and wrote her anyway. And now, this. ARGH!)

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More fun

So I’ve been very quiet lately. Where are we at?

I’m epically behind, but I’ll have 3 weeks to myself over Christmas that I was planning to use as ‘getting ahead’ time. So now it can be ‘catching up’ time.

I finally got my depressed arse to ONE job interview, and it turned out to be at an online bookshop. I got the job! Been there 3 days and my boss is very pleased with me so far.

I mentioned to my local library ages ago that I was interested in volunteering. They got in touch yesterday and I’m going to start helping out with children’s storytime after Christmas. This will be my first storytelling practice.

One of my friends said, ‘Your wish birds are working already!’

My mental health is still a bit rocky, but having work is helping, and I think I’m ready to start writing again. Meanwhile, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what needs to change here.

Mostly, there needs to be more fun. A lot more fun. I need to get through my head the maxim of P. L. Travers, ‘Write to please yourself.’

I’m terrified of change, but lately my prayer has been ‘Please change me.’ It’s earwormed me so much that I keep praying it over and over without meaning to. And it would appear to be starting to work.

I was obsessing over Luke Skywalker and something shifted. I lost interest in the character and started finding out everything I could about the actor, Mark Hamill.

Now, I know my brain. My preoccupations reflect the qualities I want to have. I’ve longed for years to be an utterly pure, intense, driven and grimly determined hero with ice-blue fire in my eyes. In actual fact, I’m nothing like that, and just possibly this is not because I suck but because I’m not meant to be like that.

Watching the now 60-year-old Mark Hamill in interviews, talking nineteen to the dozen about whatever project he’s doing at the minute, doing funny voices and knocking the microphone around with his excited gestures, I thought: oh, wait. This is what I want to be like. Funny, playful, wildly enthusiastic, shamelessly dorky, and doing what I love for the love of it, to please myself.

In the wake of this realisation, I tweeted him: ‘Just realised you’re a better role model for me than Luke because you’re more fun.’

Ugh, it’s so hard to sum up how much he inspires me, and I’m supposed to be a writer. He is so strong, he’s bounced back from things that would have crushed most people, and as far as I can tell he’s entirely powered by squee. He just loves what he does THAT much. He’s determined all right, but it’s the opposite of grim. It’s a joyful and infectious thing and I want some of that.

And it’s struck me that if I want some of that, I need to let go of my wish to be a hero. Or at least drastically change it, because in its current form it’s incompatible with fun, it’s incompatible with who I really am, and it’s not producing any heroism whatever.

Letting go of such a powerful longing isn’t quick or easy, but I’ve started. I had a free coaching session with the excellent Leela Sinha, thanks to which I decided to experiment with spending an hour a day intentionally doing what I wanted. Just pure pleasure for its own sake. For the first few days I was like, ‘If I spend so much time doing what I want, when will I have time to write?’

Then the obvious hit me: I want to write. No, REALLY. For PLEASURE. Apparently, I already do have some of the enthusiasm I want, it’s just been buried because my ‘heroic’ attempts to turn myself into a willpower machine have left me completely out of touch with my own desires. I shall be spending the next while digging it out.

PS. No, I’m not going to address the question of why my role models always seem to be guys. I do have female role models as well, honestly!

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Research finds that being a writer is the fourth happiest profession in the WORLD! Only clergy, firefighters and physical therapists(!) are happier!

I’m finding it a bit telling that the most envied professions, like actors and rock stars, aren’t even in the top ten.

This means I could have a happier profession than Scarlett one day. I’m not sure what to think about that.

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Apparently, when I have writer’s block, I need to do a comic.

I don’t know if it’s because a change is as good as a rest, or because I don’t expect to be any good at comics so I just chill out and have fun, but this is the second time this has worked for me.

Disclaimer: Luke belongs to Lucasfilm, Joker belongs to DC Comics, Mark Hamill belongs to Mark Hamill, Wikipedia belongs to Wikimedia (I think.)

Also! MANY thanks to Kit/Rathenar for the LARGE donation! This really cheered me up! 3% of the way there, folks…

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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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Written? PUPPY!

Written Kitten is a delightful new writing-motivation tool that rewards you with a fresh kitten for every 100 words you write. Needless to say, I immediately contacted the makers to ask if I could make Written Puppy.

The answer? Oh – you can use any search term you want.

Thus, for example:

Written Puppy

Written Dog

Written Chihuahua (warning: occasional photos of the place rather than the dog)

Written Labrador (ditto)

Search terms of 2 or more words need to be put in quotes, e.g. “dog nose”.

To test how it works, you can just copy/paste ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ repeatedly…

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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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