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.
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.
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.
This week I do not have writer’s block. Because writer’s block is not a thing. Also because writing isn’t the problem. Editing is the problem. Is there a word for that thing where you open Scrivener and jump back and forth between various scenes not changing them in any way and then minimise the window and play Minecraft instead?
I’ve reached the stage of editing where my current draft is like a tangle of yarn. When you’re untangling yarn you have to do it in the right order or you just end up making things worse for yourself. I’ve you pull on the wrong loop you just turn the rest of the tangle into a snarl. Maybe you end up with knots. Maybe some of the knots have to be cut out.
Writing earlier drafts has not prepared me for this. When you hit a problem with a first draft the solution is nearly always to just jump in and write your way out of it. When you hit a problem with a second draft the solution is usually to either change the order of scenes or write an additional scene. The worst thing that can happen is that you have a bunch of words that you can’t use in the current project or you spend five minutes fixing continuity.
I’ve already made editing errors on my current work in progress that have cost almost as much work to fix as an entire first draft. I had to rewrite a couple of scenes that I’d already rewritten once. Then I had to move one of them. Moving a scene this late in the project is not a five minute job. It causes a cascade of changes to other scenes and I have no idea if moving the scene was right.
At the same time as I’m working out how to move these scenes around and what needs to be changed to fit I still have major problems with the last part of the novel. Do I finish the rewrites of the earlier scenes first or do I fix the the last part? If I pick the wrong bit to work on then I could be creating more work for the future.
Or maybe I need to take a long hard look at my process. Maybe the real problem is that I don’t have a robust enough back up system so it’s hard to just revert to an earlier version?
The other thing I’ve been thinking about this week is sleep and how maybe I should stop trying to resist it and just go to bed every time I get sleepy.
When I first became ill, or at least no noticeably ill that I couldn’t continue to pretend that I wasn’t ill, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). When I was later diagnosed with Fibromyalgia I just sort of assumed that I the CFS was a misdiagnosis. Now I’m not so sure. The waves of tiredness that have been overcoming me recently do sound a lot like CFS. Maybe I have both. Which means I have to do some research into the current thinking about CFS and how to manage/treat it.
It would be great if the next thing that goes wrong with my body could be something simple, treatable, and uncontroversial. I am so over chronic, untreatable disorders that a significant minority of the medical profession prefer to pretend don’t exist.
On one of my Sunday Updates I wrote about how bad my executive dysfunction has been recently and it continues to be pretty difficult to deal with but I’ve noticed something weird. It feels like I’m trapped in a mire of dysfunction in which I’m unable to get anything done. It feels like I’m just lying here, immobile, unable to function, in an extreme state of procrastination, but I just crossed three things off my to do list. All three things done today.
You might be wondering if the list was some kind of bullshit productivity hack – make a list of all the things you’ve done today so you won’t feel useless – but that’s not what it was. That is a thing I do sometimes. Creating a ‘done’ list can make you feel better about how you’ve used your time. Often the problem isn’t that you’re doing nothing it’s that you’re doing stuff other than the stuff you think that you should be doing. Again, that’s not what’s happening today.
I have done things that I intended to do, even against my own resistance to doing them. I’ve done research, communication and household chore tasks today. I even did a bit of work on my current novel (Project Kindness). But it feels like I’ve done nothing.
Am I feeling like this because I haven’t done enough? Is there something more important that I’ve forgotten to do? Am I beating myself up about this in order to not think about something else? Or could it be that part of my Executive Dysfunction problem isn’t Executive Dysfunction at all but a kind of irrational guilt about being disabled? I still can’t accept how little I can do.
I wrote the first part of this several days ago but didn’t post it because I wanted to space out my posts and I’d written a lot. Today I sat down to edit it and finally post it on a day where I procrastinated leaving the house for so long that I didn’t actually get out and thus didn’t pick up my medication from the local pharmacy. Today I am not ticking things off the to do list. Today I am having trouble staying awake.
Maybe this is just the normal variations in life, amplified by my chronic ill health? All I know is that today it feels like every thought is wading through treacle to get to the front of my mind and maybe I shouldn’t expect too much of myself under the circumstances.
This week my main challenge has been trying to get back into the habit of writing. It feels like I’ve forgotten how to write regularly if I don’t have a deadline of some kind hanging over me. Did I ever know how to do that? Have I always relied on an external pressure to keep me writing?
It’s not that i’ve been avoiding writing. I’ve written a couple of blog posts, done a short writing course on skillshare, discovered the Story Grid system for editing, started a skillshare course on essay writing run by the glorious Roxane Gay and spent a lot of time looking at my writing planner. But that’s all writing adjacent activity and not the writing I actually want to be working on.
I’ve also been ill. I’m fighting off an infection, taking antibiotics, and dealing with a rash on my left hand that’s affecting my ability to type. I can’t tell if the rash is contact dermatitis, or an allergic reaction, or something else. I hope it’s not shingles. At least I know it’s not caused by the antibiotics because it predates the first dose. I’ve also been struggling with spasms in my arms that not only affect my typing but also my ability to crochet. It’s as if my own body is trying to keep me from doing anything useful.
I have written a bit this week. I have continued to make things in the face of my own body’s attempt to stop me. I’m just dissatisfied by how little I’ve done. I want more. I want to be productive. Why am I stuck with this recalcitrant body and semi-functional brain? It feels like I’m wasting my life because I get so little done. I know I could make great things if I could just do stuff. It’s so frustrating sitting around waiting to be able to do… just… anything.
It’s hard to communicate how angry I am that my life is like this. My creativity is constantly hamstrung by my frailties and every attempt to overcome these frailties backfires and makes things worse. The more I push myself the sicker I get.
I have a duty to all these characters that I have swimming round in my head. When I die I’ll take them with me unless I can get them out of my head and onto a page. But I also owe it to them to do a good job so I have to keep going back and making what I’ve already written better. It all takes so much time.
This week I have spent a lot of time with planners and diaries, trying to organise myself.
I do not organise well. It does not come naturally to me. Partly because I find it hard to keep my mind pointed in any one direction for any length of time and partly because planning is pointless if you don’t have the resources to follow it through. But then everything I do is pointless so I might as well add planning to the list.
I’ve also spent a lot of time this week on Project Kindness, the spies vs gods novel that I’ve been working on. I realised that I had to go back and rewrite a couple of earlier scenes to make the point of view more consistent. When I’ve fixed those scenes I’ll be able to get back to finishing part six of the third draft.
I’ve been playing a lot of Destiny 2 on the PS4 and I think I have some thoughts about it that I want to blog about. Hopefully I’ll manage to do that this week.
Health-wise this week has sucked. I keep getting hit with incredible tiredness that seems to come out of nowhere and requires me to lie down and maybe go to sleep. When it hits I can’t keep my eyes open. I can’t tell if this is just the latest Fibromyalgia bullshit or if it means I’ve picked up some new health problem.
In fact I had to stop typing after that paragraph and go and lie down because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Then I had to call my spouse to help me get my bra off because my triceps just weren’t working. I’ve noticed problems with my upper arms recently and I’ve been trying to stave it off with exercise. But there’s a limit to what I can do. I don’t have the energy to exercise much and if I push myself too much my arms will be useless for the rest of the day.
I wasn’t even trapped in a regular bra. I’ve mostly given up on those because I can’t reliably fasten them without help. The bra that tried to strangle me was a pull over the head sports bra. I’ve spent a lot of money on those as replacements for the already expensive bras that I couldn’t get on.
I now have a drawer full of expensive bras that I either can’t get fastened or can’t get off. I do not want to give up on bras, and nobody wants to see me out in public without one, but I’m not sure I can afford any more. If any of my spoonie sistren are out there and you have any tips on bras that are easy to get into and out of and will fit my mighty 44H chest please let me know.
The other thing I’ve been doing this week is research into self publishing, I’ve taken a few tiny steps in that direction. I still don’t know if it’s a path I want to follow but at least I now have a slightly better idea about what that path looks like.
So once again I have spent a week doing… stuff but I don’t actually have much to show for it.
The first Sunday update of the year.
As I mentioned very briefly in the last update of 2018 I did get a new writing chair. It’s a proper rise and recline chair that allows me to write with my feet up and will help me to stand when I need it. Writing has been so much easier with it. Everything has been easier.
The chair was super expensive. I was only able to afford it because years ago I had a credit card with a somewhat shitty company that got in trouble with the Financial Services Authority and was recently forced to send refund cheques to a bunch of people. I spent mine on a chair that I absolutely need but could not otherwise afford. I should have been able to get one on loan from the Occupational Health department of my local council but there aren’t enough to go round.
At the moment I’m working on Project Kindness – the sexy spies and Celtic gods novel that I’ve was working on for most of last year. It’s been interesting to get back to it after some time working on other stuff. I’ve realised that there’s two massive scenes that need complete re-writes to change them from novel equivalent of a floating camera to the novel equivalent of a following camera and a voice over.
The annoying thing about the change is that I don’t think the new version of the scenes will be as good. I’m doing it partially so that they’re more consistent with the rest of the novel and partially because narrative conventions have changed and I’m unlikely to hook an agent if the first 40 pages of my novel contains the sort of sweeping ‘camera shots’ that used to be fairly standard narrative devices.
The other thing I’ve been working on is planning. I’ve been pouring over my two (2) new diary/planner things. One is focused on writing, the other is more generally focussed on setting and reaching goals.It’s too early to tell if I’ll be able to stick with either of them or if they’ll be any good to me. In theory structure and order are the best thing for someone with ADHD but they’re also the absolute hardest things for someone with ADHD to impose on ourselves. Kind of like how the best treatment for eating disorders is moderation. If we could eat in moderation we wouldn’t have eating disorders.
Welp I’ve hung around depressing myself for so long that this blog is now late. I’m starting this year as I mean to go along.
I am still fighting off a virus and it has robbed me of most of my spoons so apologies if this post is short and incoherent.
Everything hurts. I am exhausted. I’m even too tired to be angry that Jack Dorsey of Twitter thinks that mediation might help people with chronic pain. Today it took me an hour of meditation to martial my resources enough to close the blinds.
I have to go to an education meeting at my son’s school tomorrow. That means I have to be awake and vertical and dressed and if at all possible showered as well. Today it took me an hour to close the blinds.
I have to go to the meeting even though there is literally no point in me being there. Nobody in the meeting will care about anything I have to say. None of the information they give me can be used for anything. My only purpose in being there is so that I can say I went. If I didn’t go then the meeting would be slightly shorter and that’s the only difference my absence would make.
When things are this bad it’s like being trapped inside a giant robot body that you don’t understand and can’t make work properly. There’s a million things I should be doing right now but I’m stuck in here trying to get the alarm signals to turn off at the same time as working out why the arms won’t do anything.
But at least I have a new writing chair so that’s a thing I’m trying to feel good about.
Last Wednesday I had an incredibly shitty day and I wrote about it here. This Wednesday I spent the day in crippling pain. The kind of stabbed-in-the-hip-with-a-rusty-breadknife, 50-point-IQ-drop, can-barely-spare-the-brain-cells-to-speak sort of pain that people really don’t want to hear about when they ask you how you are. It was the kind of pain where sitting hurts, standing hurts worse, and laying down is by turns either much better or much worse.
And then my chair broke. My writing chair. The only chair in the house from which I can type and put my feet up. I was too tired and sore to work out what was wrong with it so I went to bed. This morning my other half tried to fix it and found out (by sitting on it) that the central post it swivelled on was completely sheared off.
So my writing chair is broken beyond repair. I have no money for a replacement. It’s NaNoWriMo in five days. I don’t even know anyone I could borrow the money from. I can’t ask my mother. She’s still in hospital and she’s gong to have to spend thousands on handrails and a stairlift so she can go home.
The most annoying thing is that I should have a chair. Local Councils are supposed to supply equipment to disabled people who need them. I used to have a rise and recline chair that was perfect for my needs but I had to give it back to the Council when I moved. In my new area there are so many people who need them that the Council only lends them to people undergoing end of life care at home. You need to be literally dying to get a comfy chair.
If you’re wondering why I don’t just go and buy one of these fancy chairs it’s because the kind I need starts at £1800. That’s why I had to pay for a cheap and shitty one that lasted just under two years and now I can’t even afford a cheap and shitty replacement.
So here’s my Ko-fi link. But don’t feel bad about not clicking it. Even if every single reader clicked through and donated the cost of a cup of coffee I still wouldn’t have enough to buy a new chair. I’m only doing this so that when I complain and people ask me if I’ve tried asking for money on the internet I’ll be able to say yes.