Sunday Update 21/04

Another week of achieving very little because I have had no spoons. I’ve had trouble getting out of bed every day, I’ve had three days out of seven when I was dependant on painkillers to get anything done and every time I clean the toilet I’m wiped out for the rest of the day.

I can’t tell if I’m still recovering from my trip round Falkland Palace and my journey to Dunfermline for a Mammogram or if it’s something else. Ah the old question – is it hormones, mental illness, or just the latest way for my body to fuck me over? do worry that it’s a sign of some kind of descent into depression.

I’m particularly worried because I have a thing that I need to write and I’m not writing it. I’ve done the research, I know what I want to say, I have the skills to say it and I’ve even sat down at the keyboard and started typing but the thing still isn’t written. Every time I start typing it feels like the ideas just run out of my ears while my attention is focused on the screen. If I can’t write then what is the point of me?

So did I spend the entire week procrastinating? Let’s find out.

Procrastination Watch

Ok so I didn’t write the essay that I wanted to write but I did write and edit a fair bit of my novel and even managed to fix a scene that was dragging a whole chapter down. I’m fairly pleased with the novel’s progress this week.

I finally got round to watching John Wick 2. Shut up, it counts. I write action scenes and that means I have to read and watch them. I also started listening to the Espionage podcast which is important research for the spy novel I’m currently working on.

I’ve been reading up on Functional Disorders. A friend sent me a copy of New Scientist Magazine with a lengthy article about them. These are medical disorders where a person is definitely experiencing genuine symptoms but the symptoms are being caused by the mind rather than the body. It’s one of those things that demonstrates just how wiggly the line between body and mind is. It’s important to note that Functional Disorders are different from Factitious Disorders (when the patient is consciously faking the symptoms) and that just because someone’s illness is hard to diagnose and treat and sounds kind of weird it doesn’t mean that it’s either Functional or Factitious.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all this research. Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot. I certainly have both opinions and ideas but I’m not ready to share them because they are bound to piss off both patient groups and doctors.

Will I write the thing? Will I express my dangerous opinions? Will my novel ever be finished Will I find any more spoons? You’ll just have to come back next Sunday to find out. 

If you’re disapointed at how not entertaining this post has been why not check out one of my older posts. Here’s a link to one about relationships and farting. And if you want to cheer me up you can buy me a coffee with Ko-fi.


Sunday Update 14/04

This week I am still recovering from my visit to Falkland Palace last week. I’ve had several days where it’s been hard to get up, I’ve been tired all day and I have accomplished fuck all.

It probably didn’t help that I had an epic (for me, at least) journey to Dunfermline first thing on Monday morning to get my boobs checked out. As I mentioned in my post about breasts and breast health I had a bit of a scare so I wanted to be sure that there was nothing wrong. It turns out that they’re absolutely fine and I probably don’t have to worry about a breast cancer gene in the family.

The journey was an enormous pain in the arse. I had to get up at the sort of time I’d normally be going to bed and then get two buses. Changing buses involved standing around at a freezing crossroads for an unreasonable amount of time. After a couple of hours of poking and scanning I had to go home, which should have been easier in theory because I didn’t have to worry about an appointment time. Somehow it still involved standing around waiting for a bus and wondering if it was ever going to show.

The other annoying thing this week is that my spouse has been ill and I’ve had to drag myself to the pharmacy and the shops to get supplies. I don’t want to go into precisely what’s wrong with my spouse because I respect their privacy but it’s not serious or life threatening as long as it gets treated. It does mean that I’m feeling particularly useless because I can’t take care of them the way I feel like I should.

Procrastination Watch

The week wasn’t a complete bust. I read 4 chapters of Death Will Find Me by Vanessa Roberson, listened to the first half of Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch with my spouse, and a chunk of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson solo. I also wrote about a thousand words of my current work in progress and worked out how to fix a scene with a difficult overlapping conversation. I’ve also been working on a large triangle shawl for my Mother but that might count as procrastination.

Sunday Update 07/04

This week has been tiring. I’ve been incredibly busy but, at the same time, I feel like I’ve got very little done. My mother came for a visit and I had trouble keeping up with her, even though she’s in her 70s and it’s only about 6 months since she fell down and broke both arms. It’s kind of depressing that I was exhausted following round a frail old woman. It’s slightly less depressing if I refer to her as a septuagenarian cyborg.

My mother persuaded me to join her on a trip to Falkland Palace. It was very interesting and I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in history, or architecture, or tapestry. I learned stuff that I didn’t know about Scottish history and that doesn’t happen often (not because I know a huge ammoutn but because I already know most of the bits of Scottish history that most historical places cover).

I’m glad I went but it was also a really bad idea. The Palace is all stairs. There’s not much in the way of disabled access. Even though I was on painkillers the whole day I still hit a 9 out of 10 on the pain scale in the evening. It took so much out of me that I missed a chance to see my niece just a couple of days later. I’m still exhausted. I’m actively falling asleep as I write this.

Maybe it’s time to admit to myself that there’s stuff that I just shouldn’t do, even if it’s stuff that I can (in the short term) do. Should I really be going round historic buildings that aren’t accessible to disabled people? It might be interesting at the time but is it really worth it if it means spending hours in agony and being completely useless for days afterwards.

I’m starting to wonder if I’m still falling into the trap of imagining myself to be able bodied. In the back of my mind there’s still this underlying assumption that the things that are wrong with me are temporary. On some level I still expect that I’ll be able to get back into working out or that I’ll find some other trick to improve my body. But I don’t think that it’s going to improve. Every attempt I make to exercise just makes things worse. I’ve been assuming that if I could just find the right thing to do that I’d be able to make my body behave itself. But maybe there isn’t anything. Maybe I need to invest more time and attention into adapting my life to fit my body and less into trying to force my body to fit the life I think that I ought to have.

I’m going to leave that subject alone for now and concentrate on work. Which I have done virtually none of. I haven’t written much, I haven’t read much, I’ve done a little bit of thinking about my work in progress but I don’t think I’ve solved any of the problems. I haven’t moved towards self publishing or learned any new skills. Next week I must do better.


Sunday Update 31/03

It’s Mothering Sunday, aka Mother’s day in the UK. I am afflicted with a deep and aching sadness that I don’t really want to explain. So I’m not going to. There’s some stuff in my life that’s just too painful and too personal to talk about. Particularly since it just doesn’t make a very good story. Sometimes bad stuff happens and it just sucks. Some traumas aren’t learning opportunities and you can’t turn them into a humorous anecdote or use it to fuel your creativity.

Some people experience bad stuff and they turn it into art. Often that art is dark and gritty or explores serious and universal themes. That’s not what I’m doing with my writing. I write escapism. Because I’d go mad if I tried to use my experiences like that. My life sucks enough as it is without choosing to spend more time thinking about how much it sucks.

This week I have been thinking more than usual about the bad stuff. Hopefully this won’t go on for much longer. I have managed to get some writing done but not as much as I’d like and not the kind of writing that I’d like. I’m trying not to get upset about that.

I’ve noticed over the last couple of weeks that my legs seem to be getting worse. I’m not sure if this is just a temporary development, or if it’s a reaction to being more active, or if they have deteriorated and this is just the new normal.

I have no idea what’s going on with Brexit. I assume it will still happen at some point because this is the worst timeline but I don’t know when. I just hope that by the time it finally happens we haven’t all got so used to it being postponed that we are taken by surprize when it actually happens.

Sunday Update 24/03

This week I have been struggling to get stuff done and for once it’s not because of my innate procrastination. It’s because my Fibromyalgia has been particularly irritating. I’ve been in even more pain than usual and muscle spasms have made my left arm pretty useless. It’s been incredibly annoying. Nevertheless I have managed to get some work done.

I’ve been staring down the barrel of my big fight scene for several weeks but now that I’ve got to it I’ve discovered that I’ve got much more already written than I thought. There’s still a lot of editing and some rewriting to deal with the change in cast but I might be closer to the end of this draft than I thought.

The downside to all this is that the work that I do have ahead of me is much more finicky. It’s much more about working out who is standing where and who knows what and who can see whom. Some of it is the kind of thing that you just don’t think about while you’re on the first draft. Exactly how do you draw butterfly swords? And how do you describe how you draw butterfly swords. I know what I mean by a reverse grip and thus a reverse grip draw but is that what it’s actually called?

The other thing I’m working on with this novel is the transitions of one scene to the next. I’ve found myself spending ages just staring at scrivener trying to work out if I really need to add another couple of sentences to this scene. Should I break it here and move to other characters or just go straight on with these characters? How much time should I skip? Should I attempt to follow them on this long walk from one scene to the next?

I’ve also been focusing on better ways to track my writing practice. I decided that I needed a spreadsheet to track how many words I write and how much time I spend on useful reading or on editing. However this means that I have to face how terribly I now am at using spreadsheets. Way back in the day, back when computer skills were still quite rare, I used to be ok at using spreadsheets. It was part of my job back when I worked in a lab. But I’m out of practice and technology has moved on and I had to download one that sort of does some of what I want. I think I need to do a course.

This week I’ve also been contemplating the many ways in which I am really quite bad at the internet. I’m ok for someone who was an adult before the World Wide Web was a thing but compared to the younger generations I’m terrible. I don’t really engage with it properly. I think it’s partly because I don’t like being judged and that’s not a great trait to bring to online spaces.

I belong to a lot of craft based Facebook groups but I almost never post on them. I’ve just never got into the habit of documenting the things that I make. Most of what I make never gets photographed. Even when I remember to photograph things I often don’t post the photographs and when I do post them I usually just post the photograph and the fact that I just made this thing. I don’t do the helpful thing of including links to the materials or the pattern.

With crochet in particular I often adapt patterns or create my own but I don’t document the process so not only can I not pay that back to the crochet community but if I want to make the thing again I have to start again from scratch.

I’m not sure how to be less crap at this. All suggestions gratefully received.

Sunday Update 17/03

This week I have been mostly struggling with the limitations of my conditions. I’ve been out and about but every trip comes with an unpleasant hangover during which I’m useless both physically and mentally. Even when I’ve been mentally able to write I’ve been struggling with spasms in my arms that make typing difficult.

However, in spite of all that, I have still managed to get some work done. I’ve started tracking my fight against procrastination on twitter (look for #procrastinationwatch to see what I’ve been up to) and that has helped me to be more productive. It’s also forced me to think about what counts as productivity.

So what do I count as productive? Writing is productive and it’s easy to track – more words equals more productivity – but at some point you have to edit it. Editing is productive but it’s harder to track – do I count hours of editing or words cut or what? Beta reading for other writers is productive because it teaches me to be a better writer and it’s how I pay back into the writing community. I think that reading for pleasure also counts as productive but I’m not sure that I can make the same argument about consuming stories via TV, video games or movies.

Brexit continues to be a clusterfuck. Watching it from Scotland is a weird experience. Is there a word for experiencing a jolt of schadenfreude followed by the stab of realisation that you’re probably getting dragged into hell too? We might still avoid it. The whole thing might fall through or Scotland could go for independence. However it’s looking increasingly likely that there will be a period of chaos and deprivation whatever happens. I genuinely have no idea when Britain will leave the EU and what the immediate result will be. I also don’t know how the Scottish Government will respond or how the UK Government will react to that.

I suppose it’s a good thing that I have a couple of computer games and some books to take my mind off of real life.

Review: The Tattoo Thief

The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham

This is a police procedural mystery that probably needs to come with a warning. It’s dark, violent, bloody and brutal. It opens with a gory murder scene from the point of view of the killer. If you don’t like that sort of thing in your face then this might not be for you so maybe don’t read on.

If you’re still reading this then I’m going to assume that you’re totally fine with reading about people being murdered then flayed (and sometimes flayed and then murdered) for their tattoos.

This book has a lot going for it. It’s beautifully paced, the characters are compelling, the structure is excellent and I particularly enjoyed the plot. In some ways it reminds me of a classic whodunnit with the author taking the reader into her confidence and feeding us clues that the detectives don’t get to see. It’s remarkable how long Ms Belsham managed to keep me guessing. I was so shocked when I finally worked it out I actually swore out loud, much to the surprise of my spouse.

There are a lot of dysfunctional relationships going on in The Tattoo Thief and I don’t only mean romantic relationships. The cops compete with each other and hate their boss. The witnesses don’t like the cops and don’t trust each other even when they also sort of love each other. Everyone has a dark and complicated past and I love it. I also love that most of the characters grow and change over the course of the story.

I do have to confess that there is one thing about the book that I didn’t like. It’s a confession because it feels hypocritical of me to not like it. Before I tell you what it is I want to be clear that the thing I don’t like isn’t down to a failure of the author. She has made an entirely valid stylistic choice that isn’t to my taste.

I’m going to pause the review at this point to go on a brief rant.

Some readers don’t seem to understand that when an author does a thing that you don’t like it’s not necessarily bad writing. I’ve heard that Chuck Wendig is terrible because he writes in the present tense, John Scalzi is a lazy hack because only uses ‘said’ in dialogue attribution, and the late Sir Terry Pratchett was a complete amateur who didn’t even write in chapters. In each case the author has made a valid stylistic choice that some readers find annoying.

Readers are allowed to dislike things but that doesn’t make those things bad. I don’t like Scorpion chillies because to me they taste of pain but plenty of people love them. I absolutely love incredibly stinky cheese but it’s absolutely fine if you don’t.

Rant over.

The thing I didn’t like was that a lot of the dialogue sounded like a gritty TV drama. It feels hypocritical to mention it because the pacing and the plot that I like so much also resemble a gritty TV drama. It seems like the author is using the novel form to tell that kind of story but with the additional depth that comes from allowing us inside the heads of the characters. The only reason that I’m mentioning that I didn’t like the dialogue is that I’m probably not the only one. So if the slightly heightened speech of a TV show is a thing that bugs you then you should probably still read the novel but you need to adjust your expectations accordingly.

Sunday Update 10/03

This week I have been facing up to my procrastination. Since I need some kind of focus or deadline in order to write I’ve decided to start posting my progress on twitter. At the moment my focus is finishing the current draft of the book I’ve codenamed Project Kindness and on doing more reading.

In the coming week I plan to start constructing a complete MS of Project Kindness with all the scenes in roughly the right order and the rewrites of the earlier scenes. Hopefully that document should be ready for the beta readers by the end of the month.

After that my plan is to focus on the completed novel, Singularity. I haven’t had much in the way of feedback from the agents who’ve seen it and I’ve learned a lot from working on Project Kindness. I’m going to take a detailed look at it and then I have a friend in mind for a Substantive Edit. So if you’re one of my friends who reads a lot of Urban Fantasy and can be trusted to tell me if there are major problems with it then you might be getting an email from me asking a favour.

This week I finished reading, The Tattoo Thief, by Alison Belsham, so look for a review post about that next week. I also took my son to see Captain Marvel and there will be a review for that. The book I’m currently reading is the period whodunnit, Death Will Find Me, by Vanessa Robertson. I’m only 50 pages in so far but I’m already mentally casting the inevitable ITV drama in the style of Poirot. Surely that can only be a good sign.

Now I have to get back to wrangling my characters. I’ve got a big fight scene to choreograph.

Procrastination update

I have finished reading The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham. I’m not going to do a full review yet because I need to let it settle before I can put my thoughts into words. However I will say that if you enjoy a grim and gruesome, deviously plotted, police procedural then you need to read it.

I had coffee with a writing friend today. She dealt me a stern telling off for not finishing the current draft of my spy novel, the one I’ve been calling Project Kindness. It’s probably fair. I’d be the first to admit that my working process is rather chaotic and going back and fixing the point of view for earlier scenes before finishing the draft is possibly a bad idea. I’ve probably been putting off finishing it because I still have no idea how to properly wrangle all the characters in the big fight scene.

I’ve also just learned that my finished novel, Singularity is too long to be commercial so I need to go back and cut it down before attempting to rope someone in for a substantive edit.

I’m thinking about dealing with my procrastination by making regular posts about my progress. Would posting my wordcount and editing progress here be a good idea? Would it force me to do more while providing encouragement for others? Or would it just clog up my blog with a lot of nothing posts?

Sunday Update 03/03

This week I’ve found that the further away I am from my novel the happier I am about working on it. I’ve been making all kinds of plans about tweaking and rewriting scenes but the moment it’s on a screen in front of me my mind goes blank and it’s as if I’ve never written anything before.

I don’t know how to deal with this. My instinct is to try to push through it because that’s how you write a first draft but so far that approach isn’t working. In general when you hit a creative block on something it’s best to go and work on something else and give yourself a chance to look at it with fresh eyes. As you can see these two approaches are at odds with each other. I have no idea which one is better.

I’d love to follow the ‘go and do something else’ advice because that means I get to not work on the thing that’s driving me nuts. However I know that I’m lazy and if I don’t force myself to work on stuff nothing gets done. I’m scared that if I stop working on it I’m giving in to the laziness and that if I don’t push on it will never be finished. So I should just push on then? Just sit and stare at Project Kindness in silence until I’m forced to improve it? Which is what I’ve been doing for weeks and it isn’t working.

I’ve also been dealing with an extremely dysfunctional sleep pattern. I’m used to keeping weird hours. I’m an extreme night owl and I’m not really happy if I’m awake before noon. I’m also prone to both insomnia and fatigue. It’s not unusual for me to be tired but not sleepy, to go to bed at the usual time and just not be able to fall asleep. It’s also not unusual for me to be suddenly overcome with tiredness. So if this is all normal for me what do I count as extremely dysfunctional?

For over a week now I’ve been falling asleep several times a day, having multiple naps with little or no warning, sleeping for up to four hours at a time and with no pattern to it. How can I plan ahead when I don’t know when I’m going to be sleeping? When do I take my tablets? When do I put my compression leggings on? What counts as daytime and when is it night? I’ve lost what little routine I had and I don’t know how to get it back.

So that’s where I am this week. I’m not writing, I’ve got no daily routine and I’ve got no plan to deal with either problem. It doesn’t feel good. This lack of purpose and routine makes me question what I’m even alive for. What am I doing here if I’m not making anything? I’m just taking up space.