I don’t have anything to say.

I should have something to say. I normally put something on the blog on a Monday. I’ve usually written in over the weekend. Normally writing something isn’t a problem. I planned to say some more stuff about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 but I’m really not feeling like it.

I’m worried. The election solved nothing. Brexit still lies ahead and there’s no plan to deal with it. Politics, both globally and in the UK, is still all messed up. I’m still broke. I still don’t know what to do with my novels.

I just want some sort of hint about where to go and what to do. A great big quest marker in the sky. Even it it’s only so I can decide to head in the exact opposite direction because screw quests.

I don’t have anything to say. I don’t know what to do. I’m worried about the future. So instead of doing anything constructive I’m going to blow up some (virtual) tanks.

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Things can only get better

Ha Ha. LOL. Nope.

Things can always get worse. That’s one of my mottos. As long as the human race has access to a planet with breathable air then there’s always room for things to get worse. However my personal life has now reached the point where worse doesn’t mean very much.

We had a visit from a couple of Sheriff’s Officers (the Scottish version of bailiffs). They came to inform us of a truly massive debt that we apparently owe to the local council from where we used to live. It was terrifying for about 20 minutes. The stress caused my husband to have the first full NEAD (Non-Epileptic Attack Disorder) seizure in years. We contacted the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Then we found out that we are so poor that they can’t do much to us. We have too little money for them to freeze our bank accounts. We don’t have earnings for them to arrest. We don’t have property to seize. At worse it’s going to mean that our other debts will take longer to repay as it’s a priority debt and thus gets the biggest slice of our financial cake.

The debts will all get paid eventually and that hasn’t changed. My credit rating will be in the toilet until they do and that hasn’t changed. All that’s changed is how long that will take. It’s now slightly less likely that I’ll live long enough to see that fateful day but I wasn’t really expecting to anyway.

I have another motto: Always look on the bright side. If you can’t find the bright side then polish the dark side until it shines.

Just think, if we owned a house or a car or had savings or jobs then this would be terrible news. It would be devastating. But our lives are already in the toilet so it’s just one more thing. This is how you polish the dark side.

Please don’t kill me.

The UK is facing an unexpected election in June.  I have a message for everyone eligible to vote in it – I’m a human being, my disability doesn’t make me any less human, people like me don’t deserve to die just so that our elected leaders can pursue a dream of austerity that most reputable economists regard as purest bunkum.

You might be wondering what on earth I’m going on about. It’s not like anyone is talking about loading disabled people on to cattle trucks. Yet. So here’s some further reading for you:

If you vote Conservative you’re voting for people who don’t care about child poverty, the working poor, or disabled people. You’re voting for people who can’t even lie consistently. You’re voting for people who claim that they are subsidising an entire nation (Scotland) while refusing to subsidise a spare room to store the equipment needed by a disabled child.

A vote for the Conservatives says that you’re just fine with selling off the NHS. It says that you think filling in an 8 page form about sexual assault is a reasonable burden to place on a woman just trying to get tax credits for a third child. It’s saying that you think the 50,000 disabled people who have already lost their motability vehicles are better off indoors.

Whatever else you think you’re doing when you put your X in the box marked Conservative And Unionist Party you’re also telling me and people like me to just fuck off and die quietly.

New fail conditions.

My life has always sucked but for more than half of it I was sure that the suck was all my fault. I didn’t know what I wanted and I knew I wasn’t trying very hard at anything. I thought that if I could just work out what to go for and really go after it then all my problems would be solved.

You can see why I thought that, can’t you? It’s all over pop culture. The idea that if you want something enough and you fight hard enough for it then you can get it. It’s bullshit. Dangerous bullshit.

Underachieving because you’re not really trying does hurt but at least it feels like it’s under your control. Trying your very hardest and still failing hurts far worse. It hurts so much that it makes you try harder than your hardest. It makes you push yourself beyond the point of failure, beyond the point where your body ceases to work properly, beyond the point where you are, strictly speaking, sane.

If you get to that point and still fail it feels like death. It feels like you’ve died and gone to hell. You must be dead because how can something hurt that much without killing you?

I hit that particular wall back in 2012. My repeated failure to do anything with my completed novel is nowhere near as bad as that. But it is giving me flashbacks.

Change of plans

I have decided that maybe it’s time to give my completed novel a rest for a bit. Maybe it’s the wrong work to query? Maybe I was thinking too big, too long, or too crazy?

I’m going to concentrate on another story. As it stands it’s a complete first draft of a novella but I think it could be more. I think it could be a short novel. It’s smaller in scope than the novel I was querying though I think it will get a bit bigger as I expand it. Maybe it’s more what agents are looking for as a first novel? I know that the setting will be easier to pitch to Scottish publishers and easier for them to sell to readers.

Of course it’s probably displacement activity. It’s easier to write another novel than it is to query the finished one. The novel has to be finished before someone can reject it and, by extension, me. Writing is the bit that I know I’m good at. Well, think I’m good at. Most of the time.

It’s something a bit different for me. The narrator character is disabled. Writing stuff that’s too close to home is something I usually shy away from. It feels like cheating somehow. But I keep seeing agents and publishers asking for diverse storytelling and diverse characters. Maybe they actually mean it. And if they don’t I’ve got this other story I can whip out when they tell me that they can’t sell a locked room mystery set in Aberdeen where the central character is an unglamorous disabled woman.

Confidence

I find myself asking, “Am I mad?” I’m not asking myself if I’m mentally ill. That’s hardly news. I’m asking if I’m mad to cling to the idea of writing as a profession.

I am a writer. I’m never going to stop writing. But that’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to support myself by my writing or even that I’ll ever be paid for it. Am I a dreamer? Am I mad to think that I’ll ever persuade anyone to part with money to read my work?

On a good day I believe that my work is good. On a really good day I’m sure it’s good. But there aren’t many good days. On the less good days I wonder if I’m lying to myself. Maybe my stories are terrible and I’m just too close to see it. Maybe my characters are hackneyed, my plots obvious and my settings are silly.

The world belongs to the confident people. That’s why so much of the world is in such a mess right now. Because confidence doesn’t correlate that well with competence, or  work ethic, or intelligence, or imagination.

On a good day I can fake confidence. I’m pretty good at it but I can’t keep it up for very long. I have a feeling that I’m missing out on opportunities because I lack the confidence to see them or to pursue them. I think the lack of confidence might be coming through in my query letters. I know it’s keeping me from querying widely enough.

I think I need to stop worrying about the quality of my writing unless I’m actively editing or re-writing. I think I need to just pretend that it’s fine and push on as if I really believe it.

We seem to be living in times that are not just post truth but post competence. Maybe the quality of my writing matters less than the confidence with which I tell people that it’s good.

Diminishing Returns

There are days, sometimes there are weeks and months, when I’m trapped by the law of diminishing returns. The conditions of my life mean that sometimes every step forward, every movement, every attempt to do anything takes a ridiculous amount of effort for very little reward.

I’m trying to stick to a diet that means that I have to cook things. But when cooking a thing hurts as much as giving birth did, and the thing you cook is a failure, and the diet may or may not be working, and even if the diet succeeds the best I can hope for is to be slightly less fat… what’s the point?

I’m trying to finish a draft of a novel. But every word is hard and it takes so long and I have no idea if it’s any good. And if it gets finished, and I edit it, and it’s good – what then? Then all I’ve got is a pile of words I kind of like. Which is nice but it doesn’t do me much good. It’s a lot of effort for something that doesn’t pay the bills.

I don’t know how much longer I can keep going forward when every step is shorter than the one before it but hurts more.