The Sunday Circle: A Reckoning

It’s… it’s been a while since I’ve done this, gentle reader.

The utterly kick-ass wonder, Peter M. Ball, has a weekly Q&A opp over at Man Vs Bear, asking 3 simple questions. I’ve been meaning to answer these weekly for a while now. No, really, there are drafts and everything.

So here’s me, sheepishly creeping back into the routine.

What are you working on this week?
Too freakin’ much. Nobody should be shocked at this point. I’m trying to get the review blog live, finally, after a kabillion irritating setbacks. It means figuring out how to set it out, and… yeah. Not my happy place.

I’m also trying to get back into a writing habit, because the move last month absolutely destroyed my focus, and my ability to get anything done. I need to get back on track with the music challenge, and Smart People Talking, too. I’m still trying to catch up on the reviews owing, because, again, moving house sucks heartily.

And I’m trying to wrap my head around how much writing I need to get done this year to keep up with all the longer form projects I’m involved in. You know that moment when you start thinking you’ve maybe bit off more than you can chew, but you decide to try and choke it down anyway because what’s the worst that could happen? 

Yeah. That’s me.

What is inspiring you at the moment?
The new project is a lot of fun, and getting to bounce ideas off someone is awesome. The idea of learning in a more hands-on way about the industry is equal parts brilliant and terrifying.

Being somewhere with minimal internet and zero TV means having to actually write or read, which is great for productivity. Or it will be, when I can get my brain up and running properly.

What part of your project are you trying to avoid?
Designing the review blog. Because Jesus-freakin-Christ, that’s the part I hate. Have you seen how shittily basic this blog is? For whatever reason, whenever I try and trudge my way through the design stuff, I just… my brain just does not compute wtf needs to be done to make it all suck less.

I want it to look good. Professionally casual, I suppose? It’s a bunch of people wanking lyrical about books, nothing academic or overly serious, but I don’t want it to look like some 13 year old’s dear diary, either. But easy af to navigate, and no stupid poppy-uppy mofo asking for people to subscribe or whatever before they’ve even gotten to look at the blog. Because those things are the devil’s work.

And I need to figure out how to (cheaply, because sudden unexpected move means all hail the poverty for a while) make sure that the authors are credited properly. One of the sites I freelance for has the owners name show up on the links, so it essentially credits her for everyone’s work until you click the link and read down. I 100% don’t want to do that. But I don’t know enough to not do that, and this is why this part of the project has been summarily ignored. Like, I need to have one person uploading, because everyone is busy af and it’s easier just to have one person scheduling things than everyone trying to. But I want everyone’s work immediately and clearly credited to them. And I have no idea how to explain that in a way that someone who knows how to fix the problem is understanding.

Honestly, we’re all speaking English, but we’re speaking vastly different languages right now. I hates it, precious.

Also? The writing. Mostly because I’m just a tad overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things I need to get done, and my brain is just kinda looking like Sam Neil when he first sees a dinosaur:

dafuq is that dinosaur doing there

 

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Fail. Fail Better.

At the beginning of the year, I set myself an ambitious, but not entirely unreasonable challenge: 2,000 words of writing every day for the year. Which sounds kinda cruisy until you do the math: that’s 730,000 words in a year.

…That’s a big number.

I kicked ass in January, and came close to hitting 1/7th of my goal in the first month of the year. February? Not so much. Life became about the stress of the move, big time. If you’ve ever had minimal money and maximum need for accommodation in Brisbane (or anywhere with unreasonably high rent)… you know what it’s like.  2k a day became ‘get your work done and survive’.

It’s hard getting back into the swing of writing. Even with so small a break, it feels like the muscle memory has died off in the weeks I’ve been freefalling and focused elsewhere.

The voice of anxiety is booming that it’s doomed- how can I catch up? To be back on track means getting another 86k written this month. That’s a big ask with a sprained finger I’m meant to be resting.

Shall I give you a moment to get the dirty jokes out of your system?

crowley is bored
I’m waiting…

We good to continue? Lovely. No, it wasn’t doing anything fun. It was hauling stuff around. And now every time I use it to hit a key (or turn on a light, or use my phone… or…) it reminds me, rather painfully, that I need to cut that shit right out this instant. I want to write, but I also kinda want the pain to stop, too.

So how do you get back on track when it feels like that goal lives on the impossible end of the spectrum? You learn to fail better. I managed about 13k last month. I doubt I’ll make 100k this month to compensate, and that’s okay, even though in this moment anything less than 100k feels like an epic kind of fail. I’m already at 14k- I’ve already beat last month’s word count in two days of work. Instead of saying ‘I must hit 100k’, let’s say 70k- about 10k more than my set monthly target. If I add that little bit extra each month, boom. I’m caught up by the end of the year. It still feels like a bit of a failure, because I’m rocking the anxiety girl chic right now, but it’s failing better than last month, at least.

It’s not always about the massive instant fix. Sometimes, slow and steady is the better option.

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.

 

Goals and Life

Last month, life went fairly well. Rocked the fiction writing goals, made progress on a bunch of stories- things went so well I blasted past my original word count target by 30k-ish.

I rocked it like a hurricane.

This month? Not so much.

I’m frantically house hunting, which, if you’ve ever tried to find affordable, pet friendly, public transport accessible housing in Brisbane, you’ll know it’s the mental equivalent of stabbing yourself in the arm, over and over every single day, hoping that this time it won’t hurt as much. Funnily enough, that doesn’t help get things done.

At the same time, I’m packing, or trying to. It’s a slow process to try and find all the little bits that have gone awry over the last year, especially when you work from home and actually have to… y’know, get that work done. It’s even more fun to be trying during a heatwave, in a house without air con or fans, with three cats demanding regular attention.

In ye olde worldy days, when I was young and stupid, I asked writers- a lot- how they managed to make it all work. I mean, let’s be honest: life is a shit storm sometimes. How does anyone get anything done in that?

And almost every single writer trotted out that painful line ‘if you value it, you’ll do it’. Which, let’s be honest, is the sort of privileged, hunk of shit answer that sounds like it’s given to them along with the publishing contract in a cheesy ‘how to’ guide style format. I’m gonna be honest: as soon as anyone says it, I assume the biggest issue they’ve ever faced is a slightly sore toe. Maybe a vague sense of unease that lasted about five minutes.

I tend to roll my eyes and look for someone slightly more real and relatable to talk to.

You can value the hell out of something, and still not be able to give it the attention it needs or deserves. The truth is that sometimes, life is gonna kick you in the crotch, and you’re gonna need to rest instead of forcing your way through the pain to the other side. Sometimes, other things need to be of higher value in your life. Like not being homeless. Or not having to replace a bunch of stuff at the worst possible time. There are gonna be times when you write like it’s the easiest thing in the world, and there are gonna be times when every word feels like you’re dragging it kicking and screaming from a tar pit and trying to scrub it clean while it tries to rip your arms off. That’s pretty damn time consuming.

My goal this month was 52-ish thousand words. I’ve just passed 12k. And, honestly? That’s okay. That’s actually pretty damn phenomenal, given the circumstances. Instead of focusing on the lost 40k, I’m focusing on the found 12.

The more stress I throw at myself to get it done, to try and write 40k and pack and move and house hunt and…and…and… the more I’m going to struggle. The more I try to play catch up, the more I throw guilt into the mix, the more impossible it’ll feel, and the quicker I’ll give up. Guilt kills creativity.

So instead, I’m kicking back and relaxing. I’m saying it’s totally fine that there will be months where I get nothing much done. It happens. Life goes on. 12k is infinitely worthy of celebration in a month like this.

Hell, 10 words in a month like this? Still a number to be proud of. Surviving the month without getting a single word down would have been worthy of celebration.

Sometimes, where you’re at is enough. Sometimes, you need to put down the goals you’re beating yourself to death with, and accept that next month will be better.

Progress, not perfection, right?

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:

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