Reading and Writing are hard

Reading and writing are hard. 

They shouldn’t be hard. They’ve never been hard before. Why are they hard? 

What do you do when the things that make you the happiest become so hard to do that you begin to wonder if they are worth it?

A pile of books in different genres and sizes sit in a pile on a bedside table. In front of them is a smaller pile of notebooks, their covers closed. there is pen on top of the notebooks.

Who I am

I’ve been a reader all my life. Compared to many people, I’ve devoured books. My childhood was spent in a house filled with them. In my teen years I would spend entire family holidays ignoring everything with my face in a book. Not a room in my childhood home, other than the bathroom, doesn’t have at least one bookshelf. 

I wrote my first book in Year Three. It was about a child in a haunted house. I’ll admit there followed a bit of a gap in my career, then on my 25th birthday I was given the gift of a Moleskine notebook and decided it was far too nice for random notes. So I started writing what became my first attempt at a novel. Since then holidays, lunchtimes and free weekends were dedicated to writing. I booked expensive writing courses. It was how I wanted to spend my time. 

What I’m trying to say, is that reading and writing have been an integral part of my life. 

The battle to read

For the last few months, each night has been the same fight to try and pick up a book rather than Instagram or YouTube. And when I did read, focusing on the words was next to impossible. I’d read a page and take nothing in, or find my mind wondering away from the story.

When I arrived to stay at my parents last month I started rereading some of the older Terry Pratchett books. The Discworld books were the first real grown-up novels I read, and the full collection of Pratchett’s books take up an entire shelf in my old room. The earlier ones are so familiar they are essentially the comfort food of literacy. I thought these, if anything, could let me sink back into reading, it would be them. 

Yet I just couldn’t get into them. It was the same battle to pick them up. The same battle to stay focused. 

The lack of creativity

I haven’t written anything, other that notes from therapy sessions, for weeks. In the first month of furlough I managed to finish the first draft of my current WIP, and put it aside for a break. Since then the entire idea of brining it out and getting to work on revisions seems alien to me. 

I’ve managed a couple of blog-posts on books I’ve managed to get through, but they’ve felt more like filler than anything self. Something I could put up in an attempt to prove to the world I still existed. 

Or maybe to convince myself I still existed. Maybe if I posted something, anything, it would be a sign I wasn’t completely lost. 

Free time, wasted

In lock down, without a full time job, part of my brain keeps yelling at me that I should be making the most of having so much free time. Yes, I need to spend a good chunk of my days job hunting, and training, but those still leave me plenty of hours in the day. And without a 9 to 5 I can decide what I do and when. 

I should be filling it with the things I want to do while I have the freedom to do so. I should be throwing myself into my writing. When has there ever been a better time to hide from the world? To recharge the soul my losing myself in the pages of a book, and then using that energy to build worlds of my own? 

I don’t want to be looking back at this time, far in the future, and feel like kicking myself for not doing all things I won’t be able to do in the future when I’m back to work. 

Last time I was unemployed, seven years ago, I spent entire days writing. It was bliss. Why can’t I have that again? 

Loss of small joys

Is this why reading and writing have become so hard? Are they so intrinsically linked to my happiness that my depression wipes away any connection I have with them? Is this what makes it impossible for me to loose myself in those things that give life colour? 

Or maybe I’m just being dramatic. 

Will these skills, these joys, be something that will come back to me in time? Do I simply need to be patient and wait out the storm. Wait for the depression to lift to lift in its own time, and there they will be there waiting for me? 

Or do I push myself. Force myself to read. Make myself write. Do I look to trigger that joy by feeding it, reigniting the fire, and letting it slowly grow and banish the darkness?

What do you do? Accept and wait, or push and encourage? 

My life, right now, is not great

I’m depressed. 

I keep telling myself that I’m better than I was. That the last five months have been a slow but steady improvement and I just need to keep pushing.

But that’s not true. I’m still just as bad as I was then. All that’s changed is I’m learning to cope better, and I’m accepting there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

What’s been going on?

For those not caught up, let’s do a summary. 

  • In June, after a year or so of shifting affections, priorities, and life choices, my marriage came to an end. 
  • So we put the house on the market to sell up and go our separate ways. 
  • Of course, then I was made redundant. No salary, no mortgage. 
  • So I’m staying with my parents while we sell the house, and then for the foreseeable future until I can get a new job.

So here I am. Depressed. 

A selfie of my head and shoulders. I'm wearing glasses, and am a little unshaven.

And depression sucks. It’s left me doubting my friends actually want to see me at all. Passion has drained from my life, leaving me feeling empty and dull. I have no energy, and it takes so much effort to start the simplest tasks. I want to use this time to write, but my brain has lost the ability to create to the point where I find it hard just watching new TV or films over stuff I’ve seen before. I rarely sleep well, and having learned about Revenge Bedtime Procrastination makes it no easier that I can’t drop off until 2am. Some days my emotions are so not in check I find myself on the verge of tears over the simplest things. 

Coping, not curing

I have coping mechanisms, but the thing is they don’t fix anything. Just make it a little easier to get through it. 

I have a good enough redundancy package to keep me going for a decent while, but that doesn’t make me okay. I have loving parents who are able to let me live with them indefinitely, but that doesn’t make me okay. I have a girlfriend who has been a rock and whose patience seems unending, but that doesn’t make me okay. I have friends checking in on me, but that doesn’t make me okay. Compared to millions of other across the world right now my problems pale into insignificance, but that doesn’t make me okay. 

Understand that I’m not belittling any of the things I’ve listed above. I’m so thankful for all of them and wouldn’t give them up for anything. 

But I’m still not me. 

I miss Me.

I miss Me. The person I know I was, and keep telling myself I will be again. Someone with energy and passion. Creative and driven. Someone in control of his own life. 

I don’t know how long it will take. Or whether or not something else will happen in my life that makes everything even worse before it has a chance to get better (isn’t 2020 great?). All I know is that each time I’ve felt better, or managed to start a new habit or routine that looks like a sign I’m on my way up, I have a bad day and everything falls apart again. 

Moving forward

Please don’t take this post as a cry for help, or wallowing in self pity. Rather, this is me trying to work through things. 

I did some therapy back in July and August, which helped me handle the worst of the situational effects. Once I became official unemployed and lost my health insurance this had to end, but I had got what I needed from that bout. Now I’m in the process of finding a new therapist for some longer term work to help me find Me again. 

I’ve also be scribble down notes on what I’m feeling as I go, and this point is an attempt at putting these thoughts together. Partly catharsis, and partly in an attempt at trying to get myself writing again. Sitting and typing these thoughts out has been the longest I’ve written anything in months, and I have really missed that. 

So there will – hopefully – be more posts like this. So sorry if you’re not interested in my mental health, but this is for me. And a little bit for you to keep up to date with where my head is it. I’ve wanted to be a bit more personal on here for a while anyway. I just wish it hadn’t been a depression that made that possible. 

Maybe at some point it might help someone else. I don’t know about that, but it’s a nice thought. 

And who knows, maybe this might unlock my creative brain and get me writing properly again. 

The Wheel of Time Reread: Lord of Chaos

*SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THIS AND OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES*

Prelude: New Spring
Book 1: The Eye of the World
Book 2: The Great Hunt
Book 3: The Dragon Reborn
Book 4: The Shadow Rising
Book 5: The Fires of Heaven

Book six done, and we’re almost halfway through the series. In the last book, The Fires of Heaven, it felt to me as if Jordan was taking a breath before setting up the next round of story arcs. Now, with Lord of Chaos, things start to get moving again.

Let’s start with the two big events that occur in this book. 

First, the Healing of Logain. Wha’s big about this moment is that we are far enough into the series that established elements seem just that; established. Nynaeve’s attempts at Healing Logain feel like little more than a distraction that must surely go somewhere else, but suddenly she succeeds. And with that, the established world is turned on its head! 

Parallel to this, I love how we start to see the Aes Sedai as real people, rather than omnipotent superwomen. This is a group that has spent literal millennia constructing their image. But now we see inside, and how while to all those on outside the Aes Sedai will always show a united front, within they have the same insecurities and internal politics as anyone else. 

The second, and even bigger, event is Dumai’s Wells. This is still one of my favourite moments in the entire series. 

Up until this point the Asha’man have been shown as a half-trained group. Something Rand has created in a desperate attempt to have another weapon for the last battle. Then suddenly they burst onto the scene as a super powerful fighting force. 

This battle significantly changes the world. Firstly, the existence of the Asha’man changes every power existing power dynamic. They are a military force that can use the One Power that one one saw coming. And considering attitudes to men who can channel, we know the Asha.man are going to terrify the entire word. Secondly, both sides were made up of groups not traditionally aligned together. We are no longer in a world where Rand is working with what came before, but mixing everything up. Just as has been prophesied he is breaking everything that came before. 

The events Dumai’s Wells also crystallise who Rand is becoming. 

After sort of taking a back seat for a while, the character is now showing himself to be taking hold of his destiny. He knows who he is, what he has to do, and what will happen to him afterwards. But to do this he is forced to cut himself off from his own desires. 

It’s easy to forget that Rand is meant to be more than 20 or so. This isn’t a man confident in his powers. He is barely out of adolescence and desperately trying to live up to be the man who he has to be. And the way he is tricked, and then the abuse he suffers before he is rescued, permanently damages him. How can he trust anyone, after he allowed this to happen? 

Everyone in the world has their own agenda they want his to follow. To a greater or less extent, they all want to use him for their own ends and the kidnapping shows just how far some of them are willing to go. From now on he feels he can’t afford to trust anyone

On to the actual writing. 

I seem to do this with every book, but once again I’m going to pour praise on Jordan’s skill at foreshadowing and world building. The way he uses Matt’s memories to fill in the history of the world. The way Elayne and Nynaeve spending time in the rebel camp allows us to see the Aes Sedai as more human. The way a Pedron Niall dismisses a series of reports that seem unbelievable as they don’t fit his worldview, while we the readers know some of them are correct. The way the kidnapping scene is set up, with subtle elements of preceding scenes setting up points so that Rand would not suspect anything before it was too late. 

I also want to highlight that at one point one of the characters has a Foretelling, and literally spells out the end of the final book, but in a way we won’t know until afterwards. That’s book fourteen! Jordan may not have meant there to be that many books in the series, but it really shows how much he had planned so far ahead. 

I’m excited for A Crown of Swords. So much is set up in Lord of Chaos to be fulfilled in the following book. Unfortunately, one of those is going to be very Elayne heavy, but that’s just something we need to live with. We’re still in the first good arcs of the series for the dip around book ten, so I’m currently excited to keep going.

Recommendation: “Big Sky” by Kate Atkinson

Once again, I’m blown away by Kate Atkinson’s writing.

I tend to find that when an author has an ongoing character they come back to with some of their books but not all – as Atkinson does with Jackson Brodie – I enjoy those ones less. And it’s true that I’ve enjoyed her non-Brodie books more than her Brodie ones.

But I this this was my favourite of the Jackson Brodie books, mainly because the way she uses him as a link between elements of the story, rather than the protagonist. This story isn’t about him. He’s simply part of it.

This book is masterfully written. If you want an example of “Show, Don’t Tell”, this is it. Each chapter is set in the POV of one of the characters, each going about their lives, and this is how we see the story. We’re never explicitly told what is happening, or who people are. Instead, we put it together as we see things from each characters perspective. When one character thinks about an event, the things they know combine with what we learnt from another, and we put them together.

Once more, Atkinson has shown why she is one of those authors that both challenges me to be better, and makes me despair that I’ll never be this good.

2019: Looking back, then forward

2019. It’s been… quite a year. Somehow both incredibly stressful and also the most rewarding year in my life for quite some time. Honestly, I’ve had to really struggle to get through at some points. But it’s also held some of the highlights of my entire life.5456FA1F-29F6-4035-BDF1-2AED40FA9345_1_201_a

I also turned 36. I am officially mid- to late-thirties.

So while I recover the amount of food I’ve consumed over the last two weeks, let’s get on with my now traditional look at the year gone and plans to come.

2019, and things that have been

So. Why has 2019 been so stressful? Well, as life has a way of ensuring nothing is ever simple, the reasons are mixed.

Let’s start with the day job. I’ve been lucky to see my career progress this year, and as part of that I’ve been put on a leadership and management training scheme. It’s a really good course, but it’s been very time consuming. A required 448 hours of tracked work outside of normal work hours kind of time consuming.

And that’s meant goodbye free time. Commuting to work? Podcasts and management books. Free evening? Settle in on my laptop to study. A non-free evening? Still on the laptop.

And while I’ve honestly enjoyed the course and got a lot out of it, it’s been draining. Largely because I’ve not got to do all the things I do to relax in my free time. And that means reading and writing. According to my GoodReads challenge I’ve literally read half the books I read last year. And any time I could have spent writing has had to be given over to studying. So I’ve go so much less done that I’ve wanted to. I haven’t managed to get What They Really Know completed like I planned. However I have managed to plan out and get a good way into A Better Thing We Do.

What They Really Know is getting put on hiatus for a while. No matter how much work I put into it, it’s just coming. Something about it just doesn’t fit. Having had a good hard look at it, I’m thinking the issue may be I’m trying to write two books at once. So I’m taking a step back. Once I complete the first draft of A Better Thing We Do I’ll go back to it. Hopefully by then the ideas I have will percolate in my subconscious and I’ll see what needs doing.

It will be incredibly frustrating if I need to spilt it, but I need to look at it as double the number of books I have on the go rather than falling back on the progress of one.

But there has also been another big thing happen to me this year that has caused additional stress. But this time it’s the stress of accepting and learning to handle seismic yet positive change. The sort of stress I wouldn’t give up for the world.

This time last year Frankie and I had some long discussions about where out lives and relationship were going. To cut a long story short, we decided that we wanted to experience polyamory.

For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase, polyamory is a form of ethical non-monogamy; the practice of loving more than one person. It doesn’t mean you love anyone less. Frankie and I still love each other and are committed to our marriage. It just means that love is non-exclusive.

The example I like to use is how having a second child doesn’t mean you love the first child less. There is simply more love in your life. That’s how I see it. There is simply more love in our lives.

Since this decision I have met and fallen in love with a wonderful woman. If you follow my social media you’ll have seen her. She means the world to me. It hasn’t hurt that she and Frankie get on like a house on fire. They have proclaimed themselves Sister-Wives (I phrase I love because they use it in the Wheel of Time series). Our anniversary will be in March. To be honest, neither of us had thought about this relationship becoming so serious. Neither of us had been polyamorous before, and had expecting thing to remain simple and casual. But the heart wants what the heart wants.9B938B27-9E12-48A8-97E6-BBC56752C4C1_1_201_a

It’s not been easy. This lifestyle change has meant us accepting new people into our lives, which means more demands on our time and energy. And it also entails breaking with societal norms hardwired into us from birth, which means there are few support structures out there. There has been a lot of reading, research, and communication. So much communication. And we’ve found friends in the same scene who we’ve been able to talk about it all with. The poly community – as much of it as we’ve interacted with so far – has been amazing and accepting.

There’s more I could say here, but I think I’m going to put in into a future post where I can focus in more details. Drop me any questions and I’ll see if I can answer them.

And look, I managed to increase my blog posts this year. Most of them are sporadic book reviews, but it’s better than nothing. It keeps this alive, at any rate.

2020, and things that are to come

So here we are in the roaring twenties. What are we expecting in the next twelve months?

So firstly I’m going to get through my training course. I’m hoping to be done with all the coursework needed by the end of January, then the course itself ends in March. Once that’s all done, I’m planning to take all the time I’ve dedicated to studying to writing.

79F69240-D612-45EC-A2D6-2B15A8BBBA44_1_201_aAnd with that freed up writing time I’m hoping to get A Better Thing We Do finished. It’s been so long since I finished a book, but this one – touch wood – is coming so much faster than anything before. I got all the core ideas down and then – with some great help from Frankie – blocked out the entire plot. I’m now about half way through the first draft.

In comparison, it took about over a year to work out where What They Really Know was going, and I’m still not happy with it.

Of course, the whole point of the training is growing my role in the day-job. This last year has made we very aware of stress. I’ve seen what stress has done to people in my family, so I’m very aware of burnout. Hopefully there have been some steps that will make this year easier with work, so we’ll see that that goes.

And, of course, we’ll be seeing how our second year of polyamory goes.

Things change. As the decade ends I’ve begun to feel exactly how true those words are. Looking back where I am now, I couldn’t have seen where I am now. Go back five years, and I wouldn’t have been able to predicte it. Go back ten years and the place I am now would have been completely alien to me. Fifteen years back and it would have probably terrified me.

Let’s just say I’m excited to see where the year takes us.

Onward, to 2020.

 

 

A day just for me

How long has it been since I’ve had a day to myself in a London coffee shop to do nothing but write?

Too long.

I’d forgotten the freedom of it. No distractions. Just a coffee, my iPad, and the London atmosphere around me.

With work training taking up so much of time, plus a very welcome increase in my social life this summer, finding dedicated writing time has been hard.

But today is just for me and my story.

Recommendation: “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern

It’s World Book Day. I hope you’re all revelling in your favourite reads, or throwing yourself into a book you’ve never read before. Because if there’s one thing that’s just as good as – or perhaps even better than – the joy of rereading an old favourite its that feeling of realisation that the book you’ve just begun is going to be wonderful. That deep happiness of knowing that you will never again get to experience this novel for the first time.

This is what I just encountered with Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

I wish I could remember exactly who recommend this to me last year, because then I could thank them to directing me to the experience of this read. Sometimes, when you’re trying to describe something, you don’t need fancy words. On these occasions the simple ones will fit better, as they can portray the essentialness of something.

The words that best describe The Night Circus? “Soft” and “Beautiful”.

Le Cirque de Reves moves around the world. It appears in one place as if by magic, opens only between sunset and sunrise, and then after a few days disappears just as suddenly. Decorated solely in black and white, populated by performers and attractions so otherworldly and imaginative that you can barely believe they are real, the experience of walking through the gate is akin to stepping into a dream. And behind all this are Celia and Marcus, two young magicians engaged in a contest to which neither understand the rules or know how or when a winner will be chosen.

Morgenstern’s writing is comforting without feeling worn, and elegant without being pretentious. It has the feel of something new that’s been expertly hand crafted to feel old and comfortable. She doesn’t rush a single word. If you require fast paced action, this isn’t the book for you. The story takes its time, letting the characters and the world grow at their own pace. Without wanting to sound to pretentious, the experience of reading the book has the feeling of exploring the circus itself; leisurely admiring every aspect as it comes until you complete your circuit and finally understand the full layout.

While I was reading The Night Circus I never felt rushed. I never looked at the number of pages remaining to guess how much I had left. I felt completely immersed, to the point where I actually felt sad when I reached the end. If you allow it, Morgenstern’s writing will sweep you up and carry you off out of this world and into its own.

Review: Stick and Stones

Imogen has lived her life under the control of her husband, Phillip, from the first day she met him. Even after her left her and their son for a younger woman, their shared past has meant she’s never been able to be truly free of him. But when he suddenly demands she move out her house in two weeks, it start of a series of events that brings Imogen together with Phillip’s first wife and new girlfriend. Together they learn that through Phillip they share a bond no one else can understand, and decide that they will finally no longer allow him to control them.

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Sticks and Stones (Or Exes Revenge in America) is an amazing debut novel, and an astounding piece of domestic noir. Opening with the Phillip’s funeral, we’re then taken back over the previous two weeks – and the years preceding –  to discover exactly what happened that led to his death.

The story is expertly put together. It manages to twist and turn without ever feeling gimmicky or predictable. At no point do you get bored or feel anything is being padded out. Jakeman’s writing is lean and slick, leaving in nothing unnecessary. She perfectly keeps the mystery going without resorting to cheap tricks or cliches, throwing in red herrings and distractions that made it impossible to guess where we’re heading. At times I thought I’d guessed incoming reveals onto to discover I was completely wrong.

But as good as the story is, it’s the characters that really make this book. The concept of the mentally abusive husband and dominated wife finally seeking revenge is one that could easily become two dimensional, but Jakeman has created a cast of characters who all feel fleshed out and real. You really feel for Imogen, who never comes across as either comically weak or impossibly resolved. When she changes it’s because her character development brought here there, not because the plot required it to move forward. She comes across as a real person doing her best to avoid conflict with an ex-husband she knows can control her but can do nothing about, all the while fighting to protect her son over everything else. Phillip, too, is never a pantomime villain. He may be a monster, but he’s a monster of the type we all know is so very real. The kind who hides behind a reputation and knows exactly what they are doing.

Sticks and Stones isn’t any easy read. There are trigger warnings for all aspects of domestic abuse here. But all of it is packaged in an impossibly hard to put down story of one woman discovering how far she is prepared to go to defend her child and get revenge on a man determined to ruin her life.

On a break, or “I hate downtime”

When looking for tips on writing on a book, one of the big ones you’ll be given is that once you finish each draft you should put it away in a drawer for x amount of time. This gives you a break, letting you relax your brain and come back to it fresh.

What they don’t say is how hard this is!

Writing is, by its nature, something that totally engrosses your mind. You’re crafting something by putting yourself in the middle of an imaginary world, creating, destroying and rearranging every little piece one by one. First you work in broad sweeps, then slowly dig deeper and deeper until you’re swapping words and punctuation back and forward as you try and find the perfect configuration of language. By the time you’ve finished a draft you’ve thought and rethought over ever bit of it so many times it becomes impossible to see the wood for the trees. You can remember every change and option not chosen to the point where you honestly can’t tell whether or not you made the right choice.

This is why giving yourself that space is important. You need to be able to clear out your mind and come back to it later with a new perspective. It’s a simple thing, really. Often, problems you couldn’t get through for love nor money suddenly give up obvious solutions you just couldn’t see before. The mistakes that need correcting become clearer, as does the realisation of which bits work and no longer need as much attention.

The problem is how suddenly having nothing to work on is something I’m not good at.

After so long trying to cram as much writing into what free time you have – especially when you have a day-job or family – suddenly having that time free just feels wrong. Today on my lunch break I’ve gone through some messages, organised some photos from the holidays on my phone, browsed social media a little, and written this blog post. And there’s still ten minutes left to kill.

But all I want to is get on with my book!

I think a large part of this is down to the fact that when you’re still looking for your big break its hard to fight the feeling you’re not moving forward. I can’t get an agent without sending them my work. I can’t send them my work until it’s finished. It’s not finished until its good enough. It won’t get good enough without my putting time and effort into it.

And when I’m not actively writing, then it doesn’t feel like I’m trying.I want, more than anything, to get my writing career off the ground. I have a – relatively – organised mind and I know each of the steps I need to follow. But the main step – the process of actually writing the book – takes so long that it can feel like I’m not moving forward at all. I hate the people who say they want something and then don’t try as hard as they can to make it happen. I don’t want to be one of those people, but I can’t help the fact that’s how I feel between drafts.

And so here I am, not working on my WIP, and forcing myself to believe that’s okay.

Luckily I have the fact that there is no point in my working on my WIP until I get notes back from my Alpha Readers. Currently I’m waiting on two more people to give me their notes, and until then it’s pointless my doing any work. And so I’m forced to stay away from my manuscript until they’re done.

I often wonder if this feels different for established authors. I know they have a entirely different set of worries, but when you have a agent and a publisher, when your work has been published before and you have a solid book deal in place, and when you can know that whenever you finish your WIP it will almost certainly get published, is this need to keep writing to get to the point where you can actively push forward with the “real” steps towards getting published still such a big thing? Or are you able to step away when you need to without feeling guilty?

Maybe one day I’ll be able to look back at this post and answer my own question. I can but hope.

Happy New Year

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

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The fact that my jumper, Frankie’s top, and Frankie’s hair all match is a complete coincidence. Please ignore.

So, let’s have a look back at 2017 shall we?

The Year in General

People seem to have mixed feelings with this past year. Some focus on all the unsettled, worrying things that have been happening, while other seem determined to list everything good that’s gone unreported. I think I find myself more in the latter group. While there is certainly a lot of shit going on out there – shit that we certainly need to be paying attention too and using to wake everyone up to deal with – I believe that the general consensus of “It’s Been A Shit Year” is one of those things that people are buying into because people are buying into it. In the same way people go obsessed with the idea that 2016 was “The Year All the Celebrities Died”, I don’t think 2018 has been that bad. Overall, at least. 

It’s just that the bad stuff is so prominent that you can’t ignore it. People like to ignore the bad stuff. We don’t want to deal with it. But it’s important that while fighting the bad we don’t forget the good (in the same way we shouldn’t allow the good to distract us from the bad).

Life is always a mess, is what I’m saying. Make of it what you will, I suppose.

So. What about me? Specifically about me. This is my blog, after all. I think I can allow myself a little vanity and assume you’re interested

New House

We’ve moved house. We’d been in out last one for just over seven years, and decided it was time for an upgrade. So we’ve moved another step out into the fringes of London and found ourselves something a little bigger.

The actual date was in late November, but the months prior were filled with planning, paperwork, house-hunting, packing, mortgage agreements, and – above all of that – that stress that permeates all house moves that comes from knowing that at any point the whole thing could fall apart and dump you back at square one. And the month since then has been an ongoing attempt to unpack boxes, tracking payments, and trying to turn out new house into our new home.

Overall, I have to admit the whole thing was relatively straightforward. We had one house fall through, but found a better one straight away and had a chain of just three, all of whom desperately wanted to have moved by Christmas. Apparently our estate agent couldn’t remember another time when there had been no more than three weeks between the offer being accepted and the completion date. So, go us! 

The problem was that all of this corresponded with the busiest month of the year at work. Yep, no big chunk of annual leave for me. No solid week taken to get everything done in a concentrated block. Just solid work all day followed by sorting out all the details of a house move in the evening. Which lead to exhaustion, and a month spent fighting off anxiety and depression. Just what you need in the run up to Christmas. 

But we’re here now, and slowly getting everything sorted. And as soon as I find my drill bits I’ll be able to get on with that. 

Work in Progress

As you will have seen back in July, I finally wrapped up the first draft of my WIP; provisionally titled New Perceptions. Just before Christmas I managed to wrestle the second draft in place as well. This has been greatly helped that my commute now involved a half hour on the tube which allows me additional writing time.

I’m handling my editing on this one a little differently that my previous works. In the past I’ve usually simply gone through the document from start to finish, moving things around as I find them and adding/removing as I go, with each new “Draft” completed as I reach the end of the document. This time I’ve tried something different and have spent more time analysing the structure and pace. I’ve gone through and broken the whole thing done and built it up again from scratch. I actually found an online course that serendipitously began just after I finished the first draft, which helped a lot working on my second.

So, currently I’m on draft two, which on my previous numbering would probably be around four or maybe five. I think this method is going to be better, as a problem I have is a reluctance to break my drafts up too much and give myself more work to do. This one has a more academic, structural approach. Let’s see where it takes me.

But now it’s with my Alpha Readers, giving me a nice break away from it while I await their notes. Although – literally which writing this post – one of them has come back to me already. All of them are this fast I may need to give myself more time.

2018

So what are my plans for the coming year. At this point the only real goal I’m setting myself is to finish New Perceptions. Hopefully the day job will settle down in the New Year, and as I get everything sorted with the house I’ll have my lunch breaks back. Also, as I mentioned above my commute now includes at leat half an hour on the tube, which means more writing/reading time. I’m planning on reading on one journey, writing on the other.

Thank God for Scrivener on the iPad.

I have contact details for a couple of agents who have said they’re happy to see an early draft, so hopefully I’ll have it in a good enough state to send it to these ones in the spring. Otherwise, I want to have an agent ready version done for September and the Festival of Writing.

But, as always, I know it will take far longer than I’m planning. So who knows.

I do have a couple of other goals for this year, but as of the time of writing they are something I’m keeping secret. Hopefully by the time 2019 rolls around I’ll have already revealed these, but we’ll see.

That’s kind of it, for now. I’d really wanted to to do much more on here for the New Year, repeating my review of the year from last year. Unfortunately I was simply too burned out by the time Christmas came around. Combine that with falling ill once we were back from seeing the family, I’ve just not had the time or the energy.

So now I’ll leave you, and wish you all a wonderful New Year. And hopefully I’ll manage to stay in touch a little better in the future.