The Sunday Circle: The Smurf Haired Girl Vs The Depressive Episode

[For those not in the know, Peter M. Ball hosts the Sunday Circle on his blog every week, which you should know because you should honestly be stalking his blog by now. This is my response to his questions.]

 

This week didn’t go well. I had PLANS- the sort that needed to happen, the sort that have been struggling to happen with a move and a bunch of drama associated with it. Last week was to be the week I got back on track. I wanted to get to today’s post triumphant and maybe just a teensy bit smug about it all.

The problem, of course, was that I was so busy plotting my triumphant return to getting shit done that I missed the rather obvious issue: I was stacking the deck against myself. If you look at my post from last week, you’ll see it’s the queen of the big-ass to do lists. It’s ridiculous.

And it should have been a glaring neon sign that I was about to be in bad brain territory. Whenever I’m about to struggle, my body lets me know in advance with a random flurry of preparation. Like extreme nesting, I try to do as much as possible so that while I’m feeling like shit, I can at least tell myself that I’m not screwing anything up overly much.

The week started off well. I was focused, I was there. And though the problems I was tackling were breaking my brain and taking forever, I was seeing progress. And then… I wasn’t. There were distractions galore stealing my time, and frustrations that honestly need to be dealt with, and then I fought with someone I adore, and spent two days curled under a doona, freezing my ass off and getting increasingly frustrated that my body’s way of dealing with massive amounts of conflict and stress is with shock symptoms for days afterwards.

So my achievements became ‘I did some writing work’ and ‘I kinda just gave up on getting the fucking blog formatting right this week and decided that’ll do, pig’. That’s… that’s pretty much it. I got a few writing jobs done, and it seems they were well received (I got a charming text from someone I reviewed that absolutely fucking made my day), and I stuck my pride to the sticking place and tried to resolve the big horrible fight of bullshittery when, let’s be honest, I’d have rather just pretended nothing ever happened, because resolution runs the risk of more conflict and more days stuck hiding under doonas unable to do a gorram thing beyond listen to my ‘Depression: The Musical’ playlist and wishing coffee made itself.

So because my headspace is still far too close to shitty territory for my liking, this week, I’m approaching it from a much different- much smarter- direction. I’m scaling back. I’m trying a new rule: one thing daily for my business, and one thing daily for me. That way, on the good days, I can throw more into my day, and on the bad days, I can do the absolute minimum and not feel like a total screw up.

What am I working on this week? Mostly the writing adjacent stuff. I need to get the distractions sorted- the problem with living with a chronic procrastinator when I’m pretty damn good at procrastinating myself is how easily it turns into both of us getting to the end of the day, having done not a fucking thing. That can’t keep happening. Boundaries must be set and enforced.

The collaborative review blog I made, Reviewers of Oz, still needs work. But it’s going to be part of a blog tour for an author’s novel release in mid April, and that needs to be a massive priority. If I can do that well, it’s a damn good way to start moving from ‘new, shitty blog’ towards ‘new, but kinda sorta professional and accepted’ blog, and I want that.

I’m reviewing A Rock & Roll Writers Festival next weekend, which should be a hell of a lot of fun, and a good chance to learn more and chat to some writers and artists I haven’t gotten to meet before. And I’ll need a couple of reviews written for it and delivered by close of business Monday. Doable.

Other than that, I want to get back to writing 2k a day (made easier because Camp Nanowrimo starts next month, which is an ass kicking to get it done, at least), and reading for an hour. For the most part, these are my ‘one a day’ goals.

What’s inspiring me? To be honest, the blind panic that happens when I realise I’ve fucked up; that I’ve missed the glaring warning signs that shit isn’t going well when I know damn well I need to be vigilant. This time, I was really lucky. It didn’t last as long as it could have before I was able to drag myself out of the blue mood. But part of my business plan as a freelancer has to be taking care of myself, and minimising these moments. So figuring out how to pay better attention clearly has to be a priority.

What am I avoiding? The world, maybe? I’m avoiding the part where I have to sit people down and say, ‘as much as I love spending time with you, we can’t keep just hanging out all day. Both of us have stuff to do, and I need to make things happen in a way that isn’t possible when we’re doing this.’ I hate the very idea of that, because it means putting my stuff ahead of someone else’s, and the implication that my work is more important than talking to them about the stuff happening in their world makes me feel like twenty shades of asshole. Which, it shouldn’t. I know that if I was giving a friend advice, I’d be telling them to set that boundary. I’d be telling them that if after weeks of talking it out, nothing’s changing, than continuing those conversations isn’t going to be helpful. That it’s never a bad thing to prioritise your life, and your goals.

Now I just need to get my overly anxious, people pleaser brain on board with that.

Ugh.

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Reavers Chase Serenity

Music: Reavers Chase Serenity
From: Firefly
Composer: Greg Edmonson

Warnings: minor language warning, lack of editing warning, allusions to torture.

Universe: apocofic!verse

 

They can block the windows, they can keep the room constantly lit to try and block the world outside, but the angels can’t stop the grace within me aligning with the outside world anyway. I know the turn of the world, almost as well as they do. I can feel the subtle shift in temperature that heralds the night, can hear the silence that falls at midnight even through the soundproofing.

Did their Father know, even back then, that this would happen? Was this a glitch of a rushed job, or an awareness of what His children were capable of doing to each other in the name of winning?

I’m not sure I want to know.

The midnight guard change is soon. Soon, two angels will wander the corridor. One will rush down to the other end, to where the other prisoner is kept. I don’t think his name. Not anymore. He was caught trying to save me- he would have escaped, easily, if he hadn’t tried to protect me. Every scream is a reminder that his kindness is getting him killed. Every scream from him is my fault. So many screams, all because he didn’t want me to drown. If I put a name to the screams that echo down the stonework, I think it might kill me. He’s just the prisoner. Nothing more. The first guard will go inside the prisoner’s cell, and his screams will sound soon after. They will last about forty minutes, and then the guard will leave. They do not lock the doors when they enter because there is no reason to do so, but worse because a locked door implies concern that they cannot control the broken, pitiful creatures they’re torturing.

It doesn’t look good to management, so the doors stay unlocked.

The second guard will come into this cell to check on me. He- always a he, somehow- will stride in, angel blade already drawn, sadistic grin already in place, and soon after, I will scream and bleed, too. Usually. Not tonight. There are precious few weapons capable of actually killing an angel, but they can be knocked out, same as any other creature. It’s taken days to dig the stonework from the wall beneath and behind the lumpy, vile smelling mattress in the corner. Days of shaking hands, slick with blood from the torture and slick with blood from the scraping of random objects against stone in hopes of digging away enough to be of use. Days of his screams ringing in the brickwork like the worst kind of motivation.

It’s not much of a plan, when you get right down to it. It relies far too much on hope and prayer. But it’s going to work. It will work because there is no other option. We’re going home, or we’re dying in the attempt. Anything is better than this.

The thick wooden doors slam open, fueled by grace because the sound lets the prisoners know that they’re about to be tortured, and lets them get good and afraid before their cell doors open. Usually.

It’s easy to hide in the blind spot beside the door. Too easy. Something could go wrong. No. Nothing will go wrong. It’s all going to be okay. It’s the only option left. It’s going to be fine. 

The door creaks open, because unlike his tormentor, mine likes to prolong the anticipation between us, likes to build the tension to the crescendo only he can feel or see. It’s fun to see the grin falter and fall to open mouthed shock, to watch his hands clench into fists. His eyes scan the darker parts of the room, assuming I’ve hidden there. It’s the smart call, after all.

He steps into the room, fast, slams the door shut behind him like it’s muscle memory rather than intention, his gaze focused on the darkest corner, the corner furtherest from him. One more step, that’s it. One more step, and I can swing.

He falters, mid-step. He’s shaking his head, slowly-slowly, his fists clenching and unclenching as though trying to calm himself enough to continue searching.  It’s going to be okay. He’ll step. One more step. It’s going to be okay. 

His head swivels, side to side, like he’s hunting something. Like he’s hunting me. A string of words- cursing in Enochian, if I’m not greatly mistaken- hissed out under his breath as he steps forwards, towards the darkness.

The piece of rock is heavy, hard to swing. He’s half-way to turning when it collects the side of his face, collects his ear and jumbles his brain about his skull for a moment. There’s no shout for help, no cry of pain, just the sound of stone and skull colliding, and the thud of a body collapsing onto the floor. I snatch the blade from his grasp, drop the rock only long enough to check him for hidden keys or weapons.

I aim the rock’s fall towards the angel’s nose, find myself grinning at the crunching break that results. Maybe he’s not the only sadist in the room. When he’s good and unconscious, I drive the blade into his heart, hope he isn’t able to feel the death coming to claim him.

No food, no keys, no weapons. No point to him, really. The rock’s texture catches on the skin of my hand, my hand bleeds like it’s been attacked with a grater.

The screaming from the other prisoner is loud, too loud. Loud like it’s right outside my door rather than down a corridor with heavy wooden doors to silence it. Go anyway. Anything is better than this. The door swings open, though it’s an effort. Human bodies, even powered up on grace, require food and water, and it’s been days between meals.

The stonework is painfully cold, rough under my feet, catches and tears at the skin until I’m leaving bloodied footprints wherever I go. Who cares? Go. The screaming is so much louder now, so much worse. It’s a physical presence in my mind, hurts the way the angel’s head must hurt now it’s been cracked in with a rock. I hold the rock more tightly in my hand, ignoring the pain.The pain can stop when the screaming does. Make it stop. Save him.

Angels could be lurking in any shadow, and it’s hard not to run like hell at the first sign of movement. Humans are born and die in the time it takes me to reach the other cell.

When the door creaks open, the sound is lost to the screams. The prisoner is curled in on himself, trying to protect his organs while his torturer drives his blade into the prisoner’s wing, over and over. No wonder he’s screaming.

It’s easy to run, easy to slam the blade into the side of the angel’s throat and watch it startle, struggle, and die. The prisoner stares at me, eyes blown wide in pain and fear. I pat his shoulder awkwardly, unable to say his name, unable to say anything more than ‘can you move?’ He runs his hands over his body, checks himself for injuries in a way far too human for my tastes. Slowly, warily, he nods.

‘Good. Let’s go.’ I drop the rock, snatch up the other blade and hand it to him before helping him stagger upwards. His weight settles against me, arm thrown over my shoulder. Every step hurts worse with the added weight, and time slows to a crawl almost as slow as our movements.

There’s no flying out of this, no rescue possible. We’re going to have to sneak our way out. Stupid as angels can be, I’m pretty sure they’ll notice the footprints eventually. And they can certainly outpace us right now.

No, we’re probably going to die.

Death is the better option. 

*

Mal told me once that they designed all of the facilities and safe houses to be the same. Makes it easier to fall into line, to not get lost when you’re transferred. Left should lead to the morgue, and the back entry points. Right should lead towards the front of the building. Left it is. The prisoner nods when I point that way, too scared to speak in case anyone is nearby. The blade shakes in his hand, shakes so hard I’d take it off him if I had the hands to hold it. Shakes so hard I’m scared he’s gonna drop it, scared the echo of metal hitting stone will bring someone running.

I pray to Dad because I can’t quite bring myself to pray to Grandfather for help, wish for salvation, or at least no attacks. We’re shit outta luck if someone finds us. It’s not like the prisoner can stand on his own, let alone fight.

It’s unlikely an angel will give me time to help the prisoner lean against a wall or something before they attack. Better dead than here. It’s not much of a mantra, really not a great motivator. But it’s true, and it’s enough right now.

The prisoner falters, grabs my shoulder hard enough that it’s near impossible not to cry. He’s shaking, shaking more, his head turned so far to the right it has to be painful. He’s listening to something. I’m good, but I’m not an angel. If he’s acting like that, there’s a good chance that he’s hearing something I haven’t noticed yet. Shit. I shake him, gentle as possible, watch his exhausted gaze slide towards me, not quite focused.

He holds up two fingers, but his face is scrunched in confusion, like he’s not quite sure anymore. I’d be surprised if he realised there were two of us. It’s hard to drag him forwards, to try and get him to stop trying to count and move faster. We can still do this, maybe.

The staircase looms to the left, dimly lit. Follow it up, and there’s the front door, bold as brass. But then, it’s likely there’s a mess of guards there. And an open space between door and safety.

No. It’s safer to keep going this way. I force the prisoner to move faster, force him towards the shadows.

I can hear the footsteps now. Soft, unhurried. It feels like someone runs an ice cube along my spine. Angels, no matter which side of the fight they’re on, were trained the same way. That’s the way Dad moves when he’s hunting. The way I move when I’m hunting. If you weren’t trained to it, you’d never notice anything wrong until it was too late. Most don’t.

The prisoner slows, grabs weakly at the wall. There’s no chance to talk, not now. All I can do is turn, hope he can see the frustrated question in my eyes. He gestures for me to go, to leave him behind.

No. Hell no. I did not work this hard to abandon him. I shake my head, heave him forwards until he falls into line behind the plan again. We don’t have time for this.

The footsteps speed up, just a little. Another set joins them, keeping perfect time with our original stalker. Shit.

We’re nearly at the morgue. There are weapons there, at least. And a hearse. That’s the important part. We’re nearly there.

The white morgue door is barely visible before an angel calmly steps in front of it. The prisoner almost stumbles when we stop so suddenly, and my shoulders ache at the strain of stopping him falling. The footsteps behind us are loud in the silence now, like they’re wearing shoes designed to be loud, like it’s for dramatic effect rather than practicality.

Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me.

‘I really thought you’d go upstairs, try to get away that way.’ Michael’s voice is a quiet drawl, politely confused, but there’s something there in the tone that screams of violence, and rage. There’s something in his voice that screams to the primal part of my lizard brain to run like hell, no matter what. But there’s nowhere to run, and no real ability to manage it anyway.

Better dead may not be an option anymore.

 

Dreamcatcher

Music: Dreamcatcher by Alexandre Desplat
From: The Twilight Saga: New Moon (The Score) don’t judge.
Composer: Alexandre Desplat

Warnings: language warning, lack of editing warning

Universe: possibly a new idea for the Rom!verse

I imagine it, playing out like a movie in those moments I finally think I can move on.

You’ve always been the dashing hero in need of humility. Me, the sin-eater who has spent far too long as the side kick and martyr in her own life story. It’s not hard to imagine us in one of those ridiculous movies we’ve always loved to mock (and maybe, if I’m honest, we mock them so harshly because we see ourselves too clearly in the idiots on the screen). You, Tarzan. Me, Jane.

We’ve fought, because of course we have. Even in my imagination, reality comes slinking in like a particularly unwelcomed cat, jaws bloodied, rat corpse dangling from overly proud jaws. And just like every other hero in every other story, you’ve stormed away the second you realise I’m me, not the manic pixie dream girl you’ve built me up as in your mind. Just like life. Pound your chest and storm away, Tarzan. Jane will wait here and emotionally eviscerate herself for never being enough. Jane will learn to hate herself for being unable to fill the shoes of a ghost that never even existed.

Jane will take your sins as her own. Drink them down like gospel truth and arsenic.

And like every one of those witless damsels I’ve mocked, I’ve pined for you in the way of the great lovelorn heroine. I’ve sighed, and I’ve begged the universe for something to change, and gradually accepted when the only change could come from me. I’ve cried, and I’ve hoped that secret fundamental hope that you’ll snap the fuck out of your mood and realise that I’m not actually the enemy. That maybe, given time, you’ll be the man I know exists beneath the bullshit and the drama and the compelling need to stamp your will upon the world in hopes it’ll stop stomping its whims upon your heart.

After the tears have finally dried; when there’s no more wine to soothe the ache, no more ways to avoid inevitability, finally, I drag myself from my bed, stare myself down in the mirror (and wonder at the waif like damsel staring me down in return). It’s time to move on. I know this, the audience knows this, god himself (or perhaps merely the script writer) knows this. And today is that day. Today is the day I banish that damsel back to whatever hell she sprang from.

Today is the day I release the sins that aren’t my own.

I straighten my spine, and bathe in the holy waters. I scrub away the memories of you until my skin is red raw and there’s no trace of you left on my body. I scrub away the layers of skin infected by you, until there’s nothing left of you on me. I choose clothes with care, rather than throwing on whatever is soft and warm and easy to hide under blankets in. I let the ruby lips and the darkened eyes be my war paint, the mask I wear to hide the cracks remaining in my armour.

I’m looking like I’ve finally gotten myself together. I feel good, I look good. I even remember how to smile and how to laugh. My heart doesn’t ache to hear your name, like my body is an open wound that’s finally healed enough to tolerate. I don’t feel so raw, don’t feel so broken. The bitter aftertaste of self loathing is starting to fade.

But then, the dream comes in, because there you are. Beautiful as ever, because no matter how many stab wounds my heart is struggling to heal, it’s never quite lost the ability to see the worth and the beauty in you. Maybe you lean in the doorway a moment, or maybe you’re just a blur of motion until you’re in front of me. And maybe you cry and maybe you don’t, but it’s you again. Not the creature you are when it’s all going to shit, but the man it’s impossible not to be hopelessly in love with. The one who cares. The one who isn’t made of sighs and growls and frustrations.

The truth of it, the guilty truth I’ll spend a lifetime denying if pressed, is that if I’m going to be that lovelorn girl in the movie- and it’s increasingly clear that I fall into line behind the tropes I hate most- I want that big romantic gesture. I want the happily ever after. I want that moment, the one where you ride in and apologise, the one where you learn that you don’t need to shoot at everything that moves in order to keep your heart safe, and I learn that I don’t have to try and guess which side of the room survival is hiding in and throw myself towards it. I want that moment when for once I’m not wondering if you even like me at all.

Your arms are warm wrapped around me, your lips against mine feel fated.

And somehow, that hurts worse. Dreams and sins are best let go of, and yet, for a sin-eater, I’m terrible at that. You’ve been absolved of your sins. But they’re still drowning me. I don’t know how to let go of the idea of never enough. And it’s killing me. It kills me to take on burdens not by choice, but by force.

And my darling, I don’t want to die.

Constantinople

Music: Constantinople by Joseph Tawadros and James Tawadros
From: Permission to Evaporate (2014)
Composer: Joseph Tawadros

Warnings: lack of editing warning

Universe: misc!verse

The heat has been building for days, maddening. The sort of heat that leaves you breathless, that fuzzes up the mind and makes everything more difficult than it’s ever been before. The sort of heat that leaves you drenched in sweat before you even get out of bed in the morning, the sort where you wake up in the middle of the night and find your pillow soaked through with sweat like you’ve poured a bottle of water there in hopes of cooling yourself down.

It’s been building to a storm. Any idiot can see it, even without the constant stream of worrying from the newscasters and meteorologists. Blond men in suits promising the rains are coming, day after day, like they’re banking only on the notion that sooner or later they’ll be right, and everyone will forget the days and days of wrong.

She’s been a ghost for days, the heat dragging away the colour from her, until even the long bohemian skirts she wears even in the middle of a heatwave seem dulled with heatstroke. Her bare feet pad over the tiles, towards the doors and the windows in hopes of even the tiniest hint of a breeze.

There’s none coming. Not until the clouds are gathering to the south, grey black and heavy with anticipation and promise. Still, over and over, she tries to call the rains, tries to call the wind.

She always knows when the storms are coming, even before the clouds have built up. Like mother nature shakes her awake in the early hours, whispers into her ear that it’s time.

She woke up this morning grinning, stretching like a cat, graceful and contented, curling her body around mine and kissing me awake like there’s nothing in the world she wants more than the taste of me. Not a bad way to wake up. Still, when she can untangle herself enough to go for a shower, when I have a minute to myself to catch my breath and slow my heartbeat, I make a list of things to prepare. And then I go climb into the shower with the girl with the storms in her blood.

I’m not an idiot, after all.

Storms? They’re in her blood. They rile her up, leave her restless and aching with the need to run out into the rain. She paces, not looking for breeze, but waiting on the clouds. She’s distracted all day, goose bumps dancing on her skin like someone’s raked an ice cube up and down her arms to make patterns, braille messages of promise for a fun night to come. She barely notices when I wander out to move everything outside to safety, when I start turning off the appliances, just in case. All except her battered old CD player.

She’s the sort of girl who’ll turn the music up loud and go outside to dance in the rain even when every lick of instinct says it’s too dangerous. The lightning is purple bright, snaking across the sky but not quite ready to attack. Yet. Soon, though.  The rain is coming when the music starts up, fast and frantic, all drums and fingers dancing on strings too fast to be fully human. She’s in my arms in a heartbeat, kissing her way up my throat and to my lips like there’s nothing in the world more important than this moment between us, and then she dances from my grip, ghostlike for a few moments more before the rain comes and washes her back into her body again like a drenching sort of necromancy.

She twirls out the door, the skirt spinning outwards like it knows how soon it’ll be sticking itself to her legs, hampering her movements. It won’t stop her. It never does.

Sometimes it seems like the rain waits until she’s outside, waits until it can kiss her skin before it bothers showing up. She’s outside, arms raised like she’s calling the storm to her, her head turned upwards, eyes closed like she’s waiting on god himself to kiss her. There’s a crack of thunder, too loud to be safe, to not shake its way through the veins, and then the world is full of the sound of heavy rain, so loud the music is lost to the too fast drumbeats on the roof.

I can’t hear her laughing, but I know she is. The rain is cold- was probably going to be hail for a while there- and after so much heat the first touch of cold is a playful kind of assault on the senses. She’s drenched in seconds, drenched like the rain is washing away every last trace of the unbearable heat, like it’s apologising. She doesn’t stop smiling, doesn’t lower her face or try and stop herself getting lost in the howl of the wind and the sting of the rain, like the music’s been replaced with a music she understands far more clearly than the strings and the drums.

She spins like she’s dancing for the rain, like if she dances long enough the rain won’t leave. The lightning dances alongside her, lighting up the sky while the colours of her clothes light up the backyard below it, twisting and snaking like they’re twins.

Her eyes are as bright as the lightning, like she’s caught it and swallowed it down deep inside of herself. She looks to me, holds out a hand, offers me safe passage into her ritual like she can protect me from harm by sheer force of will alone.

There’s something in that look that stops me shaking my head, staying inside where it’s safe and dry. She’s dancing when I open the door, her expression somehow so much happier, so much more alive. She laughed at the sudden violence of cold. I wince. She doesn’t hold it against me, simply grabs my hand, drags me further into the chaos, and presses her lips to mine.

Suddenly, the cold’s not so bad.

Habits and Challenges

I’ve been blog-stalking Peter M. Ball for basically forever at this point. And for just as long, I’ve read his conversations around organising and understanding your writing habits, and figured that was something for people way, way smarter than me.

It’s been easy to shit all over that idea that writers can actually own their writing habits, and take charge of their writing. After all, we’re meant to be chasing that ever elusive muse, right? If you’re not waiting for inspiration to rain down upon you like glitter, you’re not really a writer, right??

Writers, like all creatives, have some bullshit ideas hidden in the nooks and crannies of their career goals, both in terms of the art and business of being creative, and in terms of our personal ability to rise to the challenges that show up. I am rife with silly ideas (did you notice that bit about me not being smart enough, because hi, that’s a RIDICULOUS idea). And Peter is 100% right when he says the best way to write more, and better, is to get those stupid ideas out of your gorram skull. Like Van Gogh saying ‘If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced’, but with more of a ‘sit your ass down and write, dammit’ vibe. 

Peter M. Ball is the snarky, grumpy as hell older brother I never knew I needed, and if you don’t read his blog, you really, really, really need to. NEED. TO.

So, here’s the thing: this year, I’ve decided to actually try Peter’s suggestion of setting actual, achievable goals, monitoring how much I write each day, and how long it’s taken me to get it done.The glorious Matthew J. Hellscream and Melanie Edmonds both pointed me towards the word trackers they use- pay as you like arty, gorgeous spreadsheets by Svenja Gosen. And while, let’s be honest, I struggled to choose between the Black Widow, Winter Soldier, and Peggy Carter art, I finally settled on some girl power, and got the hell to work. I’m still getting the hang of this monitoring business, but so far? Wow. The shift in my focus and motivation has been staggering.

Remember: up until this point, I’ve been a sporadic writer of fiction, with massive goals and no sense that I’m anywhere near achieving them. There’s a reason I talk about my writing in terms of gamboling about like a hyperactive bunny.

My 2017 challenge is 2k a day. I know I can hit that target if I try, without it being too painful- I hit almost that amount daily during Nanowrimo, so kicking it up a few hundred extra words daily isn’t that big a deal. It’s a low-ball number for me, given the numbers I can hit during The Rabbit Hole (which makes me feel guilty because most of my friends average about 1k daily, and I’m still learning how to not feel guilty about shit like that).

And what I’m realising is that the more I sit my ass in a chair and write, the less time it takes to reach that 2k. There’s some room to wiggle here- if I’m having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, then it’s like pulling teeth that have been cemented into place. Same if I’m overtired, not feeling well, or working on transcription work. But when I’m writing fiction, and I’m in a good mental and physical space- boom. Done. I can churn out 2k in the hour and a bit before my flatmates get up of a morning, all the while playing with my ridiculously attention-seeking cat. And then, in the teensy spare moments of the day, I write a little bit more.

The more I do it, the easier it gets. I know writers say that a lot. But until now, I didn’t understand that it wasn’t just one if those shitty things people say because everyone else says it.

With 2k a day, the overall goal is 730,000 words. Which is, let’s be honest, a gorram terrifying number to see staring you down from the top of a tracking sheet. It’s not much better when you break it down to the monthly goals: the goal amount for January was 62,000 words.

But here’s the thing I honestly didn’t get until I started this challenge: it piles up, far quicker than I thought it would. And that’s true even though there’s been days this month where I haven’t written a damned thing. Even with those gaps, on the days I’ve written, I’ve yet to have a day where I’ve hit 2k exactly, and stopped. There’s always been a few hundred words more. Or a thousand. Or, y’know, way more.

Participating in The Rabbit Hole at my local writers centre threw 40k into the mix in three days. Even with a few days of not writing at all, I’ve well and truly kicked past that original goal. Yesterday, I decided that I was close enough to 90k that I might as well bump it up to there. Today, having blasted past that goal, I’ve decided to try for 100k.

Or, to put it another way: after one month of sitting my ass down and focusing, I’ve written more useful words in the span of a month than I did in the whole of 2016. That scares me a little.

Partly, it’s scary because holy shitballs, how much time have I wasted and how much more prolific would I have been with some gorram disclipine? Partly it’s because I know those are the kind of figures that will not be sustainable. I’m having fun now, and my brain (other than the Rabbit Hole days) hasn’t been exhausted by this effort, but I know these are not the numbers I’ll be pulling every month. Which is scary, because my brain needs constant reminders that this isn’t going to last and that’s totally, completely okay.

By the end of the month, I should be just shy of 1/7th of my way through my yearly goal. Which, wow. I don’t even know what to do with that information, right?

But, yes, basically, this is me:

james-spader-boston-legal-2

 

 

Musical Challenge: The Arena

Music: The Arena by Lindsey Stirling
From: Brave Enough (album)
Composer: Lindsey Stirling

Warnings: language warning, lack of editing warning. Vague blasphemy warning, maybe?

Universe: apocalypse ‘verse

 

There’s a moment where I think I can make it, if only I run a little faster. If only I fight a little harder through the crowd of people and angels trying to kill each other. There’s screaming, echoing like thunder, screams like hymns in Sunday choir, all absolution and blind, faith-riddled terror.

You fight enough battles, you get good and used to ignoring the screams of pain and death. You have to, or you go crazy. Crazy in the field helps nobody. Doesn’t matter that you know those voices like they’re your own, nothing matters but the battle. You win, they survive. You lose, you all lose in a kind of permanent way.

The roar? That’s new. The angels pause in the fight, step back to let the humans admire their handy work. That’s the thing about angels- God made himself an army of vaguely sadistic sorts. Then again, no one can kill anything without at least a little disgust at whatever it is they’re killing. The angels are watching our reactions, some even crack a smile at the confusion, pain, and panic.

The humans, we pause, too. Some in shock, some of the better trained look for attack. Me? I just try and find her.

I know, though. How can I not? Michael is gleeful, too gleeful to have caught anyone but her. His wings span outwards, catch the light like they’re dipped in gold, like they’re on fire. The sky pales around them, like they leech the colours out of anything that gets too close.

She’s too close. Unmoving, aside from the hands struggling to free herself from Michael’s grip. Both of his hands are wrapped around her throat as he flies them higher, too high for us to do a damned thing about. There’s no panic to her, nothing but the sort of movements that come with far too much training. Had Gabriel made her practise even this, just in case? Or is she so tired of fighting that she can’t even muster the energy to fear her oncoming death?

Or maybe, just maybe, she’s hopeful that her uncle won’t have the heart to tear hers from her body. She wouldn’t still be alive if he didn’t want to take her prisoner. Do something NOW. It’s lightyears beyond stupid to try and shoot him, but it’s the day for stupid, clearly. ‘Snipers, aim for Michael’s right wing, central area. Rip a hole in it. He needs to drop her, now. Everyone else, protect the snipers.’

There’s no answer, of course. They’re too busy aiming, firing. The thing about angels is that they’re powerful, but their wings are vulnerable to damage, just like any other bird. Though angels have stronger feathers that are a pain in the ass to tear apart, they’re not strong enough to withstand a prolonged assault. Not like this.

It takes maybe five seconds for the rest of the angels to figure out our play, and then they’re in motion. The scariest thing in the world is an army of angels. Demons’ll kill ya, but angels move as one. An infinite number of furious beings moving in perfect synchronisation, hurtling towards you to rip you apart? Whoever taught them that gets top marks in psychological warfare and intimidation.

Bullets and blades. If you’ve got a clear shot at a wing, you use a gun. Wings not in play, you use their own blades against them. God made a failsafe, to make sure his lesser creations couldn’t take over the sandbox: angels only die from angel made blades. Only grace can kill grace, though high powered weapons can fuck it up some.

The angels throw themselves towards the snipers, and those with the urge to fly start getting shot down pretty damn fast. My guys are damn good at what they do. Two teams, competitive slaying. Gun toting crazies draw the focus. The rest of us shock and awe their asses back to the pearly gates.

You fight with Michael, they give you a blade. A lot of the big name demons started out on Michael’s team- the only way to kill them is a blade. It’s treason of the highest kind to use it against one of Michael’s angels.

Doesn’t stop us.

Angels don’t scream or cry when they die. They just… stop. Hit them through a vital bit with a blade, and it’s like hitting the power switch. Boom, gone. Kick out a kneecap, more to startle them into stumbling a moment, rather than to do damage (good luck kicking and actually doing much damage to anyone but yourself), slam a blade through their ribcage if you can, their stomach if you can’t, and watch them stumble and fall. Gotta be a vital area though: they’re ornery bastards when they’re waiting to bleed out, and it doesn’t count as a victory if they kill you on the way back.

Everything narrows down to simple steps. Kill the angel about the hit the ground, his wing a gaping hole of blackened, broken feathers. Stab him in the neck, keep moving. Run. Shoot the SOB sneaking up on O’Malley right in the back of his halo, just to buy the kid a few seconds more time. Run. Dodge the angel trying to tackle me, like we’re in some C grade football movie of the week deal. Asshole. Turn at the last second, drag the blade across his cheek as I fall. Shoot him in the forehead, pointe blank range to daze him a few seconds while I jam a blade in his heart.

Run.

The angels have overrun the snipers, there’s no one shooting at Michael anymore.

There’s a second, just one, where the world slows down to a crawl and I can see everything. The angels have taken the teams down, hard. But they’re not trying to kill them unless there’s no other choice. They’re cats toying with their prey. We’re not a threat. We’re losing, bad. And nothing we do is gonna make an ounce of difference in this thing.

When it all goes to hell, remember your training. Rule one: complete the mission.

‘Alpha team, you got the hostages?’

‘Got ‘em and gone, Boss.’

Rule two: get your people home alive. May God forgive me for this, because I never will. ‘Retreat! All teams, move out!’ no one waits for a second telling- they’re in motion before I’ve finished saying ‘out’. The angels don’t try to stop them beyond a few playful swats. Without the battle raging, I can hear her.

May God show me no mercy for this.

Rabbit Hole Realisations

Because I need to write 200ish more words to reach my 15k target for today, and because honestly, my brain is ridiculous right now from the sleepy, I figured screw it. List post.

Sorry.

(Update: having gotten through those 200 words, I’ve realised that a few hundred more will take me up to 40k for the weekend, and let’s be honest, I’m gonna go there. Double sorry.)

Realisations:

  • Hard core writing makes me a hard core carb chaser. Seriously, I have never wanted carbs more in my life. There’s probably someone scientific who can explain it, but yeah. Carbs and bananas were totally my thing this weekend, and I have zero clue why.
    Pro tips: if you’re going to be writing like a machine for a few days, try and remember that your body is probably going to decide it’s ravenous, and it’s probably going to randomly decide it wants a certain kind of food. Just go with it. If you’re working outside of your home, take extra snacks and a bit more food than you think you’ll need.
  • Me focused on writing is even more antisocial than usual. Unless you’re the boy, the bestie, or the parental, you’re probably not going to get a lot of attention if I’m pushing myself to get lots of words on the page. I know this because one of my fave writers, bloggers, and humans tried to get my attention in person MULTIPLE TIMES, and failed miserably. I only realised he was in the building when I took a Facebook break and got upset I hadn’t noticed him to say hi. (He was still there. I didn’t feel terrible for long, thankfully. Okay, I still feel a little bad, because anxiety girl is more noisy when I’m overtired, and I’ve deliberately created a situation where I’m overtired, but you know what I mean. Hopefully. Maybe.)
    Pro tip: figure out how you write best. If you need music, use it. If you need white noise, go with it. And if you know you’re going to be an antisocial little penmonkey, make time to talk to the people around you, so they know you haven’t run off to join the circus, or whatever it is the people around you worry about.
  • This isn’t like curling up and binging Netflix for the day. You’re probably gonna need to move.
    Pro tip: movement sends more blood to your brain. Get up. Dance (especially if you’re in a public place- that shit is hilarious). Take regular breaks to get your butt out of the chair and move around. Flail your arms, give your hands a break, and try and avoid finger cramps if you can. I didn’t do that. My thumb cramped 3 days in a row. This is not something I’d recommend.
  • Oh, gods, my laptop weighs so much more than I think it does. Honestly, the bag I took was heavy af. Not okay. I really need to do something about that, because by day three, OUCH.
    Pro tip: If you’re writing outside of your usual office space, be aware that the crap you cart around with you is going to get heavier the longer you’re lugging it around. Try to pack light if you can. Or drive. Driving is good. If you have a rugged, strong human willing to carry your stuff, this is also a valid option.
  • Exhaustion feels a little like being drunk. Assume you’re going to be more tired than you think you should be given you’ve sat on your butt writing all day. Yes, you’re not running a marathon, but your brain is, and it’s very much capable of being sleepy.
    Pro tip: if you know exhaustion is a trigger for your anxiety or other mental health issues, go into a challenge aware of that, and aware of how you’re gonna deal with it. For me, that means a day off tomorrow to recover, before jumping back into the real world again.
  • Comfort is your friend. Seriously.
    Pro tip: comfortable clothes, no shoes if that works best for you- this is not the time to pretty yourself in the clothes you can’t slouch or flail in. While you probably can’t wear your pjs if you’re working at a library, wear the most comfy gear you can get away with in the place you’re working in.
  • Your brain is way more brilliant than you think it is.

 

That’s it. We’ve done it. 40,064 words in 3 days. My brain is done. Goodnight everybody.