A writer is always writing

The thing about writing is that there is no down time. Regardless of what they’re doing with their hands or their brain or where they currently are a writer’s imagination is always at work. Once you get into that mindset there’s no getting out of it.

I took my son in to see Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2 this weekend. I’m not going to talk about the film yet. All I’ll say now is that if you even slightly enjoy action movies, family movies, superhero movies, or soft sci-fi you should go and see it at the next opportunity. Also stand by for spoiler heavy posts about it in the coming weeks. If you’re a writer you should definitely go and see it even if you don’t usually like the kind of thing that it is. I will be talking about why in future posts once more of you have had the chance to see it.

After we saw the film we went for coffee. Well, I had coffee, my husband and son had some milkshake type thing from Costa. We got to discussing the details of the film and what we liked about it and what were its narrative components and my son did something that made me very proud and also reminded me that a writer is always writing even when they think they’re parenting.

My son, who is only 12 years old, broke out the word hubris. I wasn’t even talking about the classical flaws but he correctly identified a fantastic example of that one while I was still talking about how people sometimes behave like dicks because they’re afraid of losing themselves. I can’t wait to see the kind of critical essays he writes for his English classes.

Well, this is awkward.

It seems like a lifetime since I last heard good news. Today I found out that, in no particular order, Urban Fantasy book sales are down (so yes I am querying a novel in the wrong genre), my ongoing personal tragedy continues to be both ongoing and tragic (no I’m not talking about it here), the solution to my financial problems that I thought I’d found is probably not going to work and my mother-in-law reads my blog.

It feels like I’m navigating through the darkness by the light of burning bridges. Some of which I didn’t even realise were there until the bastard things caught fire. At this point if my doctor told me I had something terminal my reaction would be, “At fucking last. My problems are almost over.”

Those of you who read this blog regularly will be aware that my last post touched on the experience of finding out that I’d actually managed to underestimate how much my mother-in-law dislikes me. I think it’s safe to say that her reading the blog didn’t help that. Or maybe she’s just appalled that the terrible impression I’ve made on her thus far was me genuinely trying my best. Either way she’s nae happy wi me.

It never occurred to me that she’d read the post because it never occurred to me that she might read my blog because I’m amazed that anyone reads it. Obviously I never would have mentioned her if I thought she was going to read it. Just because I keep finding out what people really think of me is no reason to spread it around.

I think she’s worried that my post might have damaged her reputation but I think that’s unlikely because:

  1. She’s right and I’m the first to admit it.
  2. Anyone who knows who she is and is likely to read the blog is someone I would have told about it in person eventually anyway.

In conclusion, everything is still fucked but some things are slightly more fucked than they were before.

 

 

Living down to my expectations

There is this tension in my mind between my pessimism and the knowledge that I am depressed and I have terrible self esteem and thus things probably aren’t as bad as I think they are. I try to believe people when they say nice things, when they tell me that I am not worthless, that my work has value, that there’s hope. It goes against my instincts but my instincts are tainted by the chemical imbalance that make me hate myself.

But there’s two underlying problems with the assumption that my depression makes me misjudge the world around me. The first is the strong evidence that depressed people make more accurate estimations and predictions than the average person. Perhaps because depressed people are unburdened by optimism. The second is that experience tells me that things are usually at least as bad as I think they are.

I’ve written before about this feeling of being a constant disappointment to everyone around me. Even I sometimes think that it can’t be true. That I must be exaggerating or misreading things. I said that I thought my parents-in-law were disappointed in me and I could hear it in their voices. Well they’re visiting this week and my husband tells me that his mother has been subtly hinting that he should leave me.

I can’t really argue with that. He probably should leave me. In theory at least. I can’t see it working out so well in practice but that’s probably the pessimism talking.

It’s no surprise to me that she’s thinking that. It’s barely even news that she’s said it out loud to my husband. The snapping of that tension in my mind, though, that stings. That horrible reminder that yet again I was right. That knowledge that my biggest mistake isn’t my pessimism. It’s that I’m not pessimistic enough.

Still I’m putting a brave face on it. At least this means I can stop trying to please her.  I don’t have to dress nicely or wear makeup around her. I can stop translating for her and her son. I can stop inquiring after her many friends and family. I can stop commiserating with the problems that come with owning three houses (all of them larger than any house I’ve lived in) and two cars (both new) and taking four holidays a year (and that’s only counting the holidays abroad).

I can go back to being my own slobby, untidy, bad tempered, worthless self.

Do the thing now

If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently (and I really should have learned it a long time ago but sometimes I am hard of thinking) it’s that you should always do the thing now. Don’t put things off. If you can afford it, if you’re physically able, if you have the time or you can make the time. Do it now.

Clean up the mess as soon as you notice the mess. Wear the nice outfit while it still fits. Go see the film before someone spoils it for you. Tell the people that you care about that you care about them while they’re still around to hear it. Don’t wait for some far off perfect future to write your novel. Do the thing now.

I wanted to go and see Logan on Monday. I was really tempted to book the tickets on Sunday but I didn’t and when Monday came around my other half wasn’t really feeling it and we didn’t want to cook and see a film and we couldn’t afford take out and tickets and so we didn’t. We put it off.

Then we got some bad news. News so bad that it colours everything. I could still go and see the film but I’ll never enjoy it as much now as if I’d gone on Monday. And with every passing day the temptation to spend the ticket money on something more sensible grows. It becomes more and more likely that I’ll never see the film.

It will become the latest in a long line of lost joys. These are the things that would have given me a tiny spark of joy but didn’t because I didn’t do them. I put them off. Or decided they weren’t sensible choices. I waited and the moment was gone.

This does not change my positions on technology and computer games though. Leave the early adopting to people who get a kick out of being first. Let them deal with all the bugs and the glitches and the exploding batteries. Buy the fancy new kit when the price drops in anticipation of the next model coming out. If you can stand to wait for the computer game at all then wait for the game of the year edition or the Steam sale.

Not that I expect I’ll be able to follow my own advice. I give it 6 months before I make exactly the same mistake again and I’m back here saying this all over again.

Obligatory New Year Post

As we bid farewell to what has been a shit show of a year it’s time to look back on the year that’s gone and look forward to the year yet to be. Simultaneously. Which makes for a sort of temporal cross-eyed squint.

My year has been fairly shitty in every respect except for my writing. It was a year of mental and physical illness for me and mine. We’re facing a worsening financial situation that is unlikely to get better over the next couple of years. The ongoing horribleness continues to be both horrible and not something I can talk about here.

But I finished a novel and some people seemed to like it and I managed to send it to Agents. Ok so none of them liked it but that’s still better than last year. I worked on a couple of older novels and wrote a new first draft. The Fife NaNoWriMo group finished in the global top 50 for average word count and was the top UK region.

I’m not going to talk about the continuing midden fire that is global politics. But I might write about my confusion about Donald Trump in a future post. I’m not going to talk about all the talented people we’ve lost this year because it’s just too sad. The world is poorer for their passing.

What worries me is that there’s no evidence that 2017 is going to be any better. Most of the things that are wrong will continue to be wrong or get worse. About the only thing I can say in its favour is that it’s one year closer to the day when theses times will be a curiosity for the history books. Always assuming that there are still books.

No resolutions for me. I don’t trust resolutions. I am renewing my commitment to get something published but that’s no resolution. I’ve started the year as I mean to go on. I tried a new craft beer, I started to crochet a baby blanket for my husband’s sister, I’ve written a blog post and I’m listening to some great music.

I’m not going to make any predictions for next year. But I will say that eventually things will get better. Even if that eventually is measured on a geological time scale.

The life of a writer

Today I have been mostly re-writing Twelve Nights of Christmas into a carol for Department Y. This is not what I expected to do when I woke up this morning. It’s not part of any of my existing novels. It serves no practical purpose but once I had the idea I had to carry it through.

Well, I say “I”, but actually I had a lot of help from my husband. I’m very fortunate that my other half is at least as weird as I am. Occasionally I hear tales from writers who are in relationships with people who don’t support or appreciate their writing ambitions. My life sucks in a lot of ways but at least I am blessed with a husband, a mother, kids, siblings, aunts, uncles and friends who all support the idea of me writing.

I’m not going to post the carol just now. I’ll save it till closer to Christmas. But as a teaser here’s the first line.

On the first day of Christmas the Department gave to me a total rewrite of reality”.

Family Rules and In-Laws

I have in-laws.  I never expected to.  I never expected to be married so I had no plans that involved a whole bunch of sort of family.

I like my in-laws. They’re nice people. I respect and admire them. But I have absolutely no idea how to deal with them.

All families have rules and a lot of those rules are unspoken. That’s not a problem if you grow up in a family because you absorb those rules almost without noticing it. For example, when I was growing up I used to get confused by all those jokes about fraught family gatherings and terrible rows over Christmas dinner. That never happened in my family. We had loads of rows but never during some big family gathering or at a party or at Christmas. That’s because my family had a rule that prevented it. A rule that I like to call “Shut your fucking mouth, it’s only one day a year”.

The “Shut your fucking mouth rule” allows people who can’t stand each other to spend time in close proximity to each other by simply not talking about the fact that they can’t stand each other. They can keep it up because “it’s only one day a year”. The entire rest of the year you can say what you like.

My Father and my Mother’s brother really didn’t like each other and they had plenty of reasons to fight but when they were both stuck in the same house for Christmas they would be very careful to stick to completely neutral subjects for conversation and when they ran out of those they would take care to be in separate rooms.

But with my in-laws I don’t know what the rules are. You’d think my husband would be able to tell me. Which is great in theory but falls down on two counts. Firstly he’s on the autism spectrum and is either unaware of what many of the rules are or is unable to communicate those rules in any useful way. Secondly he is one of those rare people who genuinely does not care what people think of him and he cannot understand why I care what his family think of me.

His family are middle class. They do that air kissing thing when the meet. At least I think it’s air kissing. It’s entirely possible that I’ve been doing it wrong.  They talk about property prices and investments and stuff. I am a geeky, working class, writer. I am not qualified to talk about any of that stuff.

So, oh mighty readers, what sort of rules does your family have? Have you run into any unexpected rules with your in-laws? Stick them in the comments.