Apology in advance

I’m not sure I’m going to be able to update properly for the next couple of weeks. I suspect that my depression is acting up. If that’s the case the best way to deal with it is to acknowledge that it’s happening and not to try and push through it.

Of course I might be worrying over nothing and I’ll be back to normal next week. Either way I’ll be back posting lengthy and hopefully humorous rants about my terrible life before too long.


Not exactly blocked but…

I didn’t get a blog post out yesterday and I’ve barely done anything to my novel in progress since Thursday. I’m not quite sure what’s wrong.

The lack of blog posts feels like it stems from me no having any ideas for posts. But I do. I think of them all the time it’s just that when I sit down to write they seem wrong. I can’t even quite define why the feel wrong but that’s one of the problems with creative work. You’ve got nothing but your instincts and if you stop trusting those then you’ve got nothing. You might as well be making mud pies with your keyboard because you’ve given up on quality control.

With the novel it’s a plot problem. I’m deep into re-writes and I’m trying to fill a hole so I can’t use any of my usual forward momentum tricks. I can’t skip the scene cause that’s what got me into this mess in the first place. I can’t go and write some other scene because I need to know what’s going on with this scene to continue. I don’t know where the scene should be going and my attempt to wing it went nowhere.

This isn’t writer’s block exactly. It’s more like being lost in the mist. A block prevents movement. The mist renders that movement meaningless and potentially counterproductive. Do I stand still and wait for the mist to clear or do I pick a direction and strike out and hope to eventually reach the edge?

Five Years Later

This week marked the 5th anniversary of the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett. I still miss him. Which is a weird thing to say about someone that I met exactly once and then only in the context of a book signing. I really mean that I miss his work,I miss his unique viewpoint, I miss his insight.

The week he died I wrote two blog posts about it, one about my feelings and one in tribute to him. Those posts are some of the best writing I’ve done. I went back and reread them this week because two of my Facebook friends re-shared the second one. See the end of this post for links.

Reading what I wrote then makes me pause and look back at my path as a writer. Five years later I am still trying, still writing, still improving and that’s good. But I also haven’t gone anywhere and that’s bad. That hurts.

I want to do for other people at least a little of what Sir Terry Pratchett did for me. I want to create worlds and I want to populate those worlds with characters that aren’t’ characters but people. I want readers to be able to take comfort, or at least welcome distraction, away from my worlds of story.

That still seems a long way off. If anything it seems less possible now than it did then. Then I thought I only needed to finish something. I assumed that I wouldn’t call it finished unless it was good and that as long as it was finished and good someone would want it. I didn’t realise that I’d never be 100% sure it was good. I didn’t realise that something can be good and still be the wrong kind of thing.

Here’s hoping that five years from now I’ll have taken at least one more step down the road.


Links to the original posts: Terry Pratchett is dead  and that is not ok.  A tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett.


Health update

I have decided that the regular diet updates were as boring as hell. I don’t want to ditch them entirely but I want to change the focus. I think my overall health is more important than my weight. And I’m sick of this blog getting followed by diet and weight-loss blogs.

Some of you will be thinking ‘I bet that means she’s put on weight again’ but no. Actually I’ve lost half a kilo which is just over a pound so my total weight loss is now just over 15kg (33 pounds). I don’t know how. I’ve not been sticking to the strict eating plan and I’ve hardly been wearing my compression tights so I don’t think it’s all fluid. All I can say is that my body continues to be a mystery.

No news on the replacement compression hosiery. I hope they’re going to arrive soon but it’s possible that they’ve been doubly delayed by the weather. Either that or the manufacturer has lost the order again. Not much going on with exercise because of the fibromyalgia flare up that caused the horrible back spasms. My back pain might be easing off but it’s too early to be sure. It could just be lulling me into a false sense of security.

In mental health news I’m doing an excellent job of seeming ok but I’m having serious executive function problems so I know that something is not right. Or maybe it’s just the same thing that’s never been right and I’m just less tolerant of it than usual.

In creative news I’ve got some excellent ideas for the sequels to the completed novel that I was querying and to the novel I’m finishing off. Sequels are great in theory but if I don’t get those novels published then they’re just more wasted effort.

Things are not going my way

Gentle readers I beg your patience while I rant for a bit. The last few days have not gone well and the next few aren’t looking great either.

I’m having a major Fibromyalgia flare up. For the last three days I’ve had a muscle spasm in my back so bad that the pain has gone through excruciating and into exquisite. I’m taking Tramadol, Paracetamol and vaping CBD and I still can’t bend without screaming. There is no comfortable way for me to sit, stand or lie. Part of the spasm is over my left kidney and if I started pissing blood it would be a relief because a kidney infection can be treated, kidney stones pass, even kidney failure can be managed.

Fortunately that’s distracting me from the sudden appearance of a hole in one of my back teeth. I think a filling might have fallen out. Or maybe a bit of the tooth has cracked off. I already had a dental appointment this week so that’s lucky. I’m trying really hard to believe that it’s lucky but it’s hard to think straight over the screaming pain from my back.

I’m still not back on my usual eating plan because of difficulty getting the shopping sorted. Between trouble with deliveries and the problem with my back and my spouse’s anxiety being too bad to do the shopping for me I’m having difficulty sorting out a coherent meal plan.

I’m having trouble getting anything done. I started this weekend with a book I’m wanted to read, a film I wanted to watch on Netflix, a film I’m trying to see in the cinema before it leaves a podcast I’m trying to catch up with and a novel that I’m trying to finish writing. In all I managed 15 pages of the book, neither of the films, 3 episodes of the podcast and about 2,000 re-written words of my novel. That’s pathetic.

And the worst of it is this feeling that my life is slipping away from me. Time is passing and I’m not doing anything with it. Precious seconds of my life are ticking by and I am variously paralyzed by pain, or depression, or indecision, or just lack of basic organisational skills.

Burn out

Warning: This post doesn’t seem make a lot of sense but it’s the best I can do right now. Feel free to ignore it. Hopefully the next post will make more sense.

This post is two days late. I’m finding it increasingly hard to blog. I want to say that I can’t find anything to blog about but that’s not true. I have ideas I’m just reluctant to use them because I don’t feel like I deserve to use them.

Is this a kind of burn out? Am I experiencing a slow mental health crash? Have I reached the end of my positivity?

That’s a weird thought. I wasn’t aware that i had any positivity and yet I appear to have used it all up. Perhaps I’ve been underestimating how much positivity is required in order to create anything.

I’ve always thought that creativity can be optimistic but it can also be pessimistic. It’s an act of optimism to make anything but the attempt to create something that will live on after you is surely the act of someone who is pessimistic about the possibility of an afterlife.

Much of my creativity is neither optimistic or pessimistic. It’s compulsive. I write because I can’t not write. I crochet and draw and do calligraphy because if I don’t have something to do with my hands then I’ll go spare. But perhaps this compulsion stems from a desire to prove myself worthy of life. If I’m making stuff then I’m justifying my existence.

So when I’m finding it hard to make stuff is that because I don’t feel the need to justify anything or is it because I feel like that justification is impossible.

Diet and spoons

This week I lost the same 200g that I gained last week and lost the week before. I’m not complaining because I’ve had to step back from the diet plan I was following due to the ‘Beast from the East’ disrupting food deliveries.*

That’s not what I’m going to focus on today. I’m feeling a lot more thoughtful about how being a Spoonie ( a person with a chronic health problem, see here for an explanation of Spoon Theory) affects attempts to eat healthily.

You’d think that having a chronic health problem would make it more important that I stick to some kind of healthy eating plan and you’d be right. But you’d also be wrong because for us Spoonies everything has to be balanced. Any spoons I spend on meal planning are spoons I won’t have later should I need to pay some bills. Any spoons I spend on preparing a nutritious meal are spoons I can’t spend on cleaning up afterwards.

Often the Spoonie life means half assing a bunch of things because if you spend the spoons to do any of them properly it’ll be the only thing you do that day. All those partially solved problems become a cascade of further problems. So instead of doing the laundry OR cleaning the kitchen OR working on my novel I end up putting some stuff in the tumble dryer, wiping down one kitchen surface and fixing exactly one scene. So the next day I have laundry that’s not put away, a hob and a sink that still need cleaned and one slightly less shitty scene that mainly succeeds in making the rest of the novel looking bad.

Not that any of this means I’m giving up on my diet. I’ve got a doctor to prove wrong.


*For people outside the UK the ‘Beast from the East’ was a polar vortex weather system that plunged the whole country into arctic temperatures for a week. It wasn’t just that the temperatures were very low it’s that the temperatures were that low pretty much everywhere so the road clearing services were stretched very thin. It also didn’t help that so much snow fell that our usual tactic of gritting the roads so that the snow melts faster and vehicles can maintain grip was rendered useless.

Writing a ‘Strong Male Character’

I recently wrote about my current work in progress and how I’d accidentally made my protagonist into a ‘strong male character’, by which I meant that I’d made him into a gender swap of the ‘strong female character’ .

I started out to write a character who was, in part, a satire on male power fantasy characters but re-created for the female gaze. I grew up loving action movies but over time I realised that a lot of the characters I loved were somewhat problematic. They were violent, manipulative misogynists who perpetuated toxic ideas of masculinity. I set out to write a more rounded, less misogynistic character and to reveal what it costs a person to do all that action hero stuff.

In those action movies the female characters seem to be either damsels in distress or ‘strong female characters’. As a kid I hated the damsels but as an adult I’m coming to dislike the SFCs even more. The SFC is strong but that strength is defined by the male gaze. She can kick ass but she has to look good while doing it. If she wears armour then it’s boob plate and if she doesn’t then she’s showing an unnecessary amount of skin. She wears heels regardless of practicality. She has long hair and she doesn’t tie it up before kicking ass and it never gets in her eyes. She may be a-typically feminine but she still has to be decorative.

The SFC has stereotypically masculine skills which have to be explained in the dialogue because it’s totally unbelievable that a woman could fight, or code, or fix a car just because. She is surrounded by men (because she’s the only female character) and must constantly strive to prove herself to them. She has little to no character arc of her own, will help the hero even if it harms her own goals or beliefs and in the pinch she may still have to be saved by the hero. She helps the hero because she loves him and she loves him even if that makes no Goddamn sense.

The SFC is like a fluid that changes shape to fit the gaps in the plot. She’s not a person she’s a plot device with boobs.

My ‘strong male character’ isn’t that bad. For one thing he’s the protagonist so we see things mostly through eyes and he’s the one driving the plot. He’s a ‘men want to be him, women want to be with him’ type character but with the priorities flipped. Though once you find out how damaged he is you might change your mind about that.

So why am I saying he’s a ‘strong male character’ then? Well he is surrounded by women to whom he must constantly prove himself. He looks really good, even under circumstances when he should look terrible. He spends an inordinate amount of time shirtless (which is the female gaze equivalent of artfully torn clothing) and when he’s not shirtless he’s usually wearing tailored suits. When the female characters discuss him amongst themselves it’s in terms of his attractiveness. They’re not exactly objectifying him but they’re not exactly not objectifying him either.

I’m not sure what to do about this. Should I ramp up the ‘strong male character’ stuff as a subversion of the trope or should I continue my commitment to making him as well rounded as possible?


If you’ve found this interesting then why not check out this link to a comic on what the sexual objectification of the female gaze might do to a superhero.

And if you’ve enjoyed this post why not buy me a coffee with Ko-fi.

Today’s displacement activity is…

Notebooks, and journals, and organisers.

There’s something so hopeful about ordering a new planner or diary. Particularly if it comes with some sort of promise to sort out your life and help you to ‘get things done’. When the thing arrives there’s all that lovely busy work involved in filling in details and making plans and committing to goals. It all feels so very productive.

And none of it fucking works.

At least none of it works reliably for me personally. Your mileage may vary. Possibly you, dear reader, are not disorganised trash like me.

Putting all my appointments in a Google calendar that is synced to my phone calendar mostly works. It’s at least 90% successful as long as I remember to put the thing on the calendar and set an alarm for a couple of days before. But it only works for appointments.

As a person with ADHD, depression and fibromyalgia I need to be organised. I need to plan ahead. As a person with terrible executive function problems I am shitty at planning ahead. It’s not unusual for me to get up at the crack of 2pm and spend half an hour setting goals and making lists of the stuff I need to work on to achieve those goals and then immediately go and do something else instead.

I am so bad at following through that I could make a todo list that includes reading a book that I’m supposed to be reviewing, catching up with the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comic and eating some chocolate and it would lead to me scrubbing the kitchen sink.

It’s starting to feel like I only ever achieve things by accident. I’m pretty sure that my 9+ first drafts and my one completed novel only exist because I was supposed to be tidying the house. I’m wrapped in a crochet shawl that only exists because I was supposed to be editing. I’m blogging because I just decided to crochet a hat. Earlier today I cleaned the hob rather than blog.

And it wouldn’t be so bad if I was doing any of these things properly. But i’m not. My books aren’t published, my blog is kind of bland, my kitchen is still a mess and my crochet mainly results in me spending too much money on yarn. But I recently backed a kickstarter for a really nice planner and this one has a SYSTEM. Surely this is the one that will finally work.


If you have enjoyed this post then why not buy me a coffee with Ko-Fi?

Another Bloody Diet Post

I have gained 200g. That’s the same less than statistically insignificant 200g that I lost last week. This week I’m menstruating so it could easily be that.

I am thoroughly pissed off with this diet. It’s partly because I’m not happy with my attitude to food right now and partly because the “Beast from the East” is making it impossible to properly plan my shopping.

I’m disabled so I rely on food deliveries to get the bulk of my groceries. I get a few things locally but my condition is variable so I can’t rely on being able to get out to the shops. So I can get a bit intense when Sainsbury decide to cancel deliveries with no notice or warning. Not even an email to say “No food for you. Soz,” with a handy ‘reschedule for a day when the weather isn’t trying to kill us all’ link to click on.

My options now are to come off the diet and eat all the store cupboard stuff that doesn’t really fit it until I can get a delivery or to go on the ‘I can’t eat anything because Sainsbury is run by bastards’ diet. Or find out how many of the local takeaway delivery drivers are nuts enough to be driving in this weather.

Wish me luck.