- A control freak mulling the Kickstarter question (again)
- Twelve and a half years in survival mode, knowing you’ll never be good enough
- Stories are powerful – let’s make one up together #BeABard
- Looking forward is the ultimate demonstration of hopefulness
- These are the consequences of abuse and lawyers who don’t care
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I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’ve realised – I really REALLY don’t want to do a Kickstarter for this game. I’ve been fighting the idea for about two years now because everyone says, “Need money to get a creative project off the ground? Kickstart it!” But I really don’t want to. I don’t think it’s because I’m scared. I don’t think I’m THAT scared, you know? I don’t know why I don’t want to do it, but whatever the reason, I just can’t get behind it. My gut, for want of a better term, is telling me it’s not the right thing to do. Not for the game – the game is great and would probably do great on a Kickstarter – but for me. I’m just not down with Kickstarter. And it works for almost EVERYONE ELSE but if I can’t get my heart behind it, it’s not going to work for me.
I think it’s the uncertainty of it – I’m a massive control freak – the idea that I have no idea whether or not it will work before I actually throw all that time and energy into it just does not sit with me at all. I don’t think I have the community to make it happen, in fact I know I don’t. So I’m basically spitting into the wind and hoping to light a fire. That, to me, is no way to run a business.
A lot of other people don’t have this problem. They put their projects on Kickstarter and cane social media for the four to eight weeks their project is live and it either works or it doesn’t. Mostly, among the people I know, it works. But they’re not me.
It’s not that I don’t think the game is good enough. In fact, I know the game IS good enough, which is part of why I’ve struggled so much with this. The game is totally good enough. But only about fifty people KNOW that at the moment because that’s how many people have played it. Everyone else is just going to be taking my word for it (and the word of the people who have been kind enough to give me testimonials) and really, who am I?
This is the thing – I’m not anyone. Not yet. I don’t have a huge social media following. I don’t have a background in marketing. I don’t have a background in anything much, except languages and itchy feet and an insatiable need to tell stories. No one knows me. And when it comes right down to it, if the first time people encounter me is when I’m asking them for money, I just don’t see this happening.
Because that’s my problem – I haven’t built up a community yet. I don’t have a body of work behind me. No one knows what I can do because, let’s face it, I haven’t bloody done it yet. And if they don’t know me or my work, why would they put money down?
A month ago, Kickstarter (or similar) was my only option to get Be A Bard out into the world. Now, I’m in the happy position where someone who owes me money is starting to pay it back, so eventually I’ll be able to fund a print run myself. As long as the money doesn’t get spent on other things which, let’s be honest, it may well do.
Kickstarter makes sense on almost every level except the one which really counts – the gut instinct, heart over head, does this really feel right level. And the answer is… no. It doesn’t.
I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m being toing and froing on this for years, literally. Along the way, I’ve done so many 180’s that I’ve pretty much met myself coming on a near daily basis. At this point, though, it’s doubtful I’ll go ahead with it. Because with something like this, you really have to be 1000% behind it, especially if you’re essentially coming from nowhere like I am. And I’m just not in that place.
I’m not particularly good at anything. I’m okay as a writer and I can do a number of things to a certain standard that looks good to someone who doesn’t know anything about those things, like horse-riding and drawing and dancing salsa.
I’ve published a few stories. Danced with superstars (in the dancing world, anyway). Ridden Quarter Horses in the Andes, Arabians in the desert. I even managed to design and illustrate an entire card game.
I’m not actually very good at any of those things but I can do them well enough to enjoy the process. In the case of the stories and the card game, I’m good enough at writing and drawing and card game design that other people can enjoy the results too.
But good enough isn’t the same as good.
So you look around your chosen field where you’d like to become good and you realise three things: one, everyone’s way better than you; two, they’ve been doing it a lot longer; and three, you’re looking at everyone else’s final draft.
So you try and find people who’ve being doing it as long as you have and, to be frank, it’s not possible. Everyone defines their start time differently and for that matter, where do you define yours? Ostensibly I’ve been writing stories since I was old enough to hold a pencil but I only started trying to produce a complete, coherent tale while I was in Peru, so some time in 2008, I think. I didn’t write my first novel until 2010. I didn’t get outside feedback on any of my work until the following year (different novel).
And there are people who seem to be ‘good’ after just a couple of years. There are others who’ve been at it for over a decade and still haven’t produced anything, let alone reached a particular standard.
Looking at others is pointless. So how do you learn?
How the hell can I expect to be good at anything?
You’ve got the two jaws of the crocodile – one on the traditional publishing side saying it’s only good if they say it’s good, and one on the self-publishing side saying it’s only good if your editor and readers say it’s good. Both very subjective viewpoints, albeit based in years of experience on either side.
You yourself have no clue. And there’ll always be someone who hates it regardless of how much the agent/Big Publisher/freelance editor/beta reader/reader loves it.
So you’re never really going to know.
So is there any point in stressing about it?
No. Of course there isn’t. Does that stop me from stressing about it?
Of course not.
At a time in my life when it’s very easy to feel utterly useless at all the important things (family law, divorce proceedings, how to represent oneself in court) it’s still pointless to worry about it.
But that fear of not being good enough is probably the only constant in my life.
(Honestly, it’s why I don’t work for other people. Every day I spend in an office job is a day spent terrified I’m about to get fired because what other people seem to do as easily as breathing is just overwhelming to me. This, unsurprisingly, is detrimental to my mental and physical health.)
There doesn’t seem to be any cure for my perpetual fear of not being good enough. And it’s crippling. It’s a fear which never goes away. It makes me cry a lot and that’s very dehydrating, which then gives me killer headaches. It also makes me whip up batches of cookie dough which I then eat raw – possibly not brilliant for my health either but whatever.
I live every day in survival mode, have done since university. Because I was good at academia but have been mediocre at everything since. Except, it seems, making friends and questionable decisions.
Twelve and a half years in survival mode is a long time. I would love to get off this train, to feel confident in my ability to do something. On current showing, that time will never come. My fear will always run me.
In short, if you ever actually see a novel with Mhairi Simpson on the cover, check first to make sure I’m not dead. It might have been a draft published posthumously by my mother (who thinks all my stuff is good) and will, most likely, not be good.
You have been warned.
In exactly one month’s time, on Saturday 18th February, I’ll be kicking off the Be A Bard Kickstarter. I could spend all that time yelling at everyone about how storytelling in general and Be a Bard in particular is a great idea and good for helping people be more creative and increasing problem-solving skills and giving people the confidence to believe in the impossible…
BUT I figured it would be more fun to just tell stories instead. Or rather one long story – not entirely sure how this will work but who cares about logistics? Let’s just do it anyway.
Here beginneth the story…
One day a unicorn with excellent hair and a splendidly curvaceous horn discovered a volcano had erupted in his back garden. Being an optimistic sort, he decided to take this opportunity to practice some bitchin’ dance moves and started jumping and spinning across the lawn, taking care not to get his pretty hooves in the lava.
What happened next? Let me know in the comments!
To that end, this is my yearly “All The Stuff I Want To Do This Year And Most Likely Won’t Actually Do” post, which S. J. Higbee and I make a point of doing every year around this time, in our Shoot For The Moon Challenge.
Let’s face it, I’m already trying to do the impossible. The situation with my mother and the house is technically, even legally, resolvable in our favour, but so many people would have to tell the truth when it’s in their best interests not to that I’m not holding out much hope.
Also, hope is dangerous. I had a conversation with someone yesterday evening which made me want to cry because it watered a tiny cold seed of hope which I thought was dead. I’ve been stamping on that seedling ever since in an attempt to stop it from unfurling, desperately trying to save myself from further heartbreak down the line. I think I’ve stopped it from growing. For now.
So, I want to think about positive things. Happy things. Things which are (mostly) within my control. Like writing. I can do writing. And other things which maybe aren’t so within my control, like getting funding for Bard. But they’re still more controllable than dickshit solicitors. Or mortgages. Or, I don’t know, where we’ll be living a year from now.
I guess I should first go through my goals list from last year, but because the website is gone I can’t access it. I do have the archive but I haven’t figured out how to open it yet (it’s got a file suffix that I don’t recognise – .ia, anyone?). I’m pretty sure word count would have featured on there, and money earning. No idea about the rest.
So, I wrote 166880 words last year. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. That significantly exceeded the output of 2014 and 2015 combined, and even, just, exceeded 2013’s output as well! So I’m pleased with that.
I don’t have my diary with me to check on my earnings from last year (yes, I really do write it all down, to the penny found in the street) but I’m pretty sure I didn’t exceed £10k in total for the year. *shrug* It is what it is.
For a number of reasons, I’m really pleased to have achieved what I did last year. The word count is pretty damn impressive, by my standards, and let’s face it, those are the only standards that matter.
So, moving forward, here are my Shoot For The Moon Challenge goals for 2017:
*Submit one flash/short story a month
Enough people have said they really like my flash fiction that I’m going to make a more concerted effort to write it and submit it to the various markets which accept that sort of thing. To be clear, I don’t anticipate getting accepted anywhere, certainly not this year. Maybe I’ll get to the point where I’m getting personalised rejections but I doubt it. The goal is to submit. That’s it.
*Update blog to include published works, wips and Be A Bard
I haven’t quite adapted to not having my website yet, hence why you wouldn’t know, from looking at this blog, that I have actually published and been published, nor that I have a card game or am currently working on stuff. So I’m going to put all that stuff on here and maybe it’ll help to remind me that I’m a writer as well.
*Submit KARRAKHAN to Samhain
This is a rather steamy paranormal romance I’ve been working on. It has shapeshifting dragons and portals between worlds and hopefully a not entirely superficial world on the other side of the portal. Oh, and sex. LOTS of sex. If you’re not into that, don’t read it. Seriously.
*Lose a dress size
I don’t think I look bad at the size I am, but I know I look better when I’m slimmer. Also, I have a lot of really pretty clothes in my wardrobe from when I was substantially slimmer than I am now. It seems a waste so I’m going to get back into them again. This year.
*Start running again
This is partly because of the above goal of slimming down and partly because I want to be able to run away from zombies and/or scary people in the street. I’ve never enjoyed running in the past – it never went beyond being Bloody Hard Work – but it’s cheap. In order to make this happen I need to replace my current shoes (which are so old and busted I really can’t justify buying new running shoes when my everyday getting around shoes are such a disaster) and then buy new running shoes. And then it’ll be Couch to 5k again. Probably spun out to double its normal length because I’m not planning on doing a 5k race or anything. I just want to slim down and keep fit at the same time.
*Write a business plan for Be A Bard
I’m going to look into the possibility of Dragons Den for Bard and that requires a business plan. I should have a business plan anyway because there’s more to a business than a Kickstarter, even if I don’t go the Dragons Den route (or do and get knocked back). So this is part of Being A Grown Up. Dammit.
*Get funding for Be A Bard
Whether it’s through Dragons Den or Kickstarter or an alien dropping a suitcase full of £20 notes down the chimney, I really want to get Bard funded this year. Because… [see the next goal]
*Launch Be A Bard
I really want to launch Bard this year. It’s been nearly three years in the making in this point. Some of the artwork has been improved since the first deck made its appearance at Bristolcon 2014, most of it has remained the same. The borders and icons have been redesigned. I’ve even designed the box, for crying out loud. It’s as ready to go as I can make it. Now it needs to go, so that I can find out if it flies or not. Either way, it’ll free up some much needed brain space. Who knows, it might even earn some money?
*Self-publish a novel
I’m pretty sure this has been a yearly goal since 2011. I’d really like it to happen this year. It may not. But I think I’m closer to the possibility of it actually coming to pass this year than I have been before. We’ll see how this pans out. But really, I wanna fucking publish!! And I also want to publish something where the only complaint *isn’t* that it’s too short.
*Write 200,000 words of fiction
This would top my previous year’s best (2012) of 190,131 words. It also feels like a nice round number and therefore ticks two boxes. Best of all, it would be more or less three novels’ worth of words, which isn’t a bad target for a year, especially as a self-publisher. Or rather, someone who wants to be a self-publisher. Of novels. For fuck’s sake.
From Bard, books, editing, freelancing, the aforementioned well-funded but careless aliens, whatever. I need to start making money or my sense of self-worth will not survive and if I don’t believe in myself it’s going to be very hard to survive as a self-published writer or independent game developer.
*Complete a screenplay and submit it to a contest
I’ve wanted to write screenplays for years and have dabbled in bits and bobs here and there. Rather like the ‘write the first novel’ goal that is on a lot of people’s bucket lists (although probably not yours – if you’re reading this you’re probably a writer, since that’s the people I generally hang out with, so you probably write fairly consistently and have completed one novel a while back, if not several. And go you, by the way. That’s fucking awesome and you’re a creative artistic BADASS.) The submitting to a contest part is to keep me accountable. Contests have deadlines. It’s also to get me some totally objective feedback – I’ll only submit to a contest which provides feedback. Since you have to pay for entry, you might as well get something back in return.
*Get Mother mobile again post knee-op
Dear gods and goddesses, please cross every digit you possess and all those you can reach, whether they’re yours or someone else’s. It’s been over a year since she broke her leg and with all the shittery we’ve been dealing with, she’s had to cope with a deformed leg as well. It hurts and it doesn’t work very well. We need a knee replacement and I’m told recovery from those is a bitch. So the goal is to get her back to her formerly mobile self by the end of the year. (pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease)
*Spend a day learning horseback archery
Because how fucking awesome would that be? I can already ride a horse but I’ve never even held a bow in my life, let alone fired one. This is actually the one goal on this list which has nothing to do with any professional or family endeavour. It’s something I would love to do, just for me, as a completely useless and pointless waste of my time which would make me really happy. So it’s on the list. Because why the fuck not?
So there you have it. My goals for 2017. I think they’re all achievable, albeit quite ambitious. We’ll see what happens. The whole point of shooting for the moon is that you’re ambitious. At least this gives me something to focus on which I actually have a hope of achieving.
I didn’t want to write this post. I still don’t, but I’ve been told that I should share what’s been going on over here over the last couple of years on the basis that it might help. I guess the idea is that someone who can help, or who knows someone who can help, might see it and pass it on. I don’t know. I’m not sure I believe in miracles anymore. Not for myself or my family, anyway.
So, here we go, regardless. One painful exposé on my mother’s second marriage and its impact on her life (and mine), coming right up.
My stepdad is, to put it mildly, an arsehole. He moved out just over two years ago, a few days after I moved back in – yes, these two events are related.
I didn’t kick him out. My mother did. Because he was upset with her that she’d allowed me to move back in without consulting him. He said, “It’s me or her.” She told him to pack his bags.
Whatever else you take away from this, please be assured that my mother is a badass.
Unfortunately, she hasn’t always been.
Not because she didn’t want to be but because my stepdad literally weighs about twice what she does, maybe more, and he crushed her, verbally, sometimes physically, every day of their marriage.
Seventeen years, people.
Thank god for divorce, right?
Well, yes. And no. Divorce costs money.
We have none.
We did have a bit. I managed to make a bit from this and that and put it towards the divorce. She managed to put a bit towards it also. Unfortunately, we don’t make much and we have a house to run.
Actually, she runs it. I pay for food and car fuel. It’s what I can afford.
Anyway, divorce costs. Yay.
We don’t have a solicitor anymore. We owe her about £1200 and she won’t do any more work until we make good and then give her more money on top of that “on account”.
My stepdad is currently asking for £30,000 in the divorce settlement. This is to reimburse him for money he put into the house during the marriage.
So he should get it back, right?
We might not have a problem with that if it weren’t for the £93,000 mortgage left on our house because of him. And the thousands of pounds of his personal debt also secured on the house.
And the abuse.
And the affair.
Yeah, it’s a long story. And a messy one. I hope you’re sitting comfortably.
(If I put this all in a book or screenplay, it would get shot down as unrealistic. Gotta love life.)
Firstly, we don’t have £30,000. We don’t even have £30. My mother’s pension pays the bills. My working tax credits pay for food and fuel. That’s it. There is no other money. What comes in goes out.
Which means that, in order to pay the divorce settlement, we have to sell the house. My mother’s house. Bought by her with her money before she even met my stepdad.
The house that’s worth a minimum of £400,000.
To pay a debt of £30,000.
According to him, we can’t put a charge on the house for the £30k. A judge will just order it sold in order to tie everything up.
Which would be upsetting, to say the least. My mother has owned this house for nearly twenty years (it’ll be twenty years in June 2017). I’ve moved around a lot during that time but this is the only place I’ve ever felt at home. Just in the last two years, to be sure, since I moved back in, but it feels like home.
And we have to sell it to pay a debt less than one thirteenth of the house’s value.
Okay. Well, *deep breath*. You just soldier on, right? Because it’s only bricks and mortar and, hey, there’ll still be £370,000 left afterwards. That’s more than enough to buy another house.
It would be. It would be more than enough.
But we won’t have it.
Because there are other debts secured on the house. The largest one being a £93,000 mortgage, left over from when my stepdad’s aunt passed away and he decided he just had to have her cottage up in Cambridgeshire.
At the full asking price, asked by his cousins.
And in order to buy it, they could just mortgage my mother’s house.
She wasn’t happy with this – at this point the house was mortgage-free – but I’ve already mentioned this was an abusive marriage, right? So she went along to the solicitor’s like the good wife, just wanting to survive and not have to deal with the wrath of God for saying no. And there, in the solicitor’s office, on the new documents, she discovered her husband’s name alongside hers on the new deeds. Because they wouldn’t allow it to be used as collateral for the mortgage with only her name on the deed.
“I didn’t agree to this,” she said. “I’m not signing.”
“Just sign the bloody thing,” was his response. While she was sat between him and the wall, with a desk in front of her and a filing cabinet or something behind her. Nowhere to go. No way out except past him and we’ve already established that wasn’t an option.
The lawyer was present and did nothing.
I’ll repeat that, for those of you sitting at the back.
My mother, less than half my stepdad’s size, was in a very small office with her enormous husband, stating she did not wish to sign the documentation in front of her which put her house into his name as well as hers and the lawyer did nothing. He simply stood there and watched my mother be bullied into signing half her house over to her abusive husband.
This is where I have to take a short break because I’m so angry I’m shaking too hard to type.
So they bought the house in Cambridge. Where my mother later discovered my stepdad was having an affair. With one of the staff at the company he ran in partnership with my mother.
She left. Came back to the house in Sussex. Later on, they reconciled (yes, I know, but abusive marriage, remember?).
When they sold that house, they did so at a massive loss. In fact, it was in negative equity. Guess what happened to the difference in the sale price and the mortgage still outstanding?
If you said, “It got transferred over to your mother’s house,” give yourself a cookie.
This was a house which was mortgage-free when she married my stepdad. Ten, maybe fifteen, years later, about three quarters of its value was mortgaged.
Now, while all this Cambridge house business was going on, my grandmother (my mother’s mother) moved back to the UK and since the Sussex house was empty, she moved into it. Did a lot of work. Spent tens of thousands of pounds on it, actually, with new conservatories front and back and an addition to the roof so that it didn’t have a flat roof anymore – minimise the risk of leaks and so on.
Then my mother moved back, followed by my stepdad a year or so later (as I recall – I’m a bit fuzzy on dates).
So now my grandmother was living with her daughter and son-in-law (a man with whom she’d never got on – she hated him because she saw him coming and he hated her for her perspicacity).
In a house which was mortgage-free but now wasn’t.
Now, my grandmother was a very practical woman. She was insanely intelligent (I’ve talked about her before but can’t link you to it because that site is now defunct) and managed a career as a highly sought-after microbiologist in an era when women were secretaries, teachers or wives-and-mothers. Usually wives-and-mothers.
This all being so, she had money. She’d grown up poor so she was always very good with money, and since she then went on to a succession of very well-paid jobs, she made a lot of money.
Fast forward to her living in a house which positively groaned under the weight of all the debt secured on it. She wasn’t having that.
So she emptied most of her savings, over a hundred thousand pounds, into the house, paying off six figures of the mortgage. Bringing the total outstanding to under six figures, in fact, to where it now stands at £93,000.
And if this were the only debt secured on the house, we might still be okay.
In total, there’s about £200,000 of debt secured on the house. Several of my stepdad’s personal debts are secured on the house, and a couple from the business, too. The business my mother is no longer a partner in.
About half its value is mortgaged or charged. And we live in the south of England. With a huge dog. Buying a flat is out of the question and we need somewhere with two bedrooms.
We’ll be very lucky to stay in the area at all.
And part of me still feels like this is all just me being really whiny and stamping my foot and going, “But I don’t wanna move!”
But I don’t.
And she doesn’t either.
She’s sixty-eight years old. This house was meant to be her last move. She bought it and took out a small mortgage on it so that she could do it up. My grandmother was scandalised when she found out and promptly paid it off. This house was free and clear and then the man who would become my stepfather turned up.
I think the hardest part about all this is the feeling that the law doesn’t exist for us. We told our solicitor about the abuse and as I recall her attitude was basically that since there was no proof, there was nothing she could do about it. It didn’t even get mentioned. As far as the solicitor is concerned, the abuse is null and void. As is the pre-nup they both signed going in. My stepdad drafted it, so no big surprise there, but apparently even the intent doesn’t count, because of a full stop in the wrong place.
(I’m not even kidding.)
My mother got him to verbally agree to a straight swap at one point – the house for the business, the business having been valued at about £100,000, so more or less the value of his debts and the mortgage secured on the house. He said yes but it never showed up in writing. She signed over her half of the business anyway and of course the first demand from his solicitor was for half the value of the house. That wouldn’t have left us enough to buy a cow shed.
Well, maybe a cow shed.
In Northern Scotland.
Have I mentioned this was my mother’s house?
Believe it or not, £30k is the third offer – he just wants back the money he put in.
What about the money he took out?
Apparently we don’t get that back.
And now the business accountant is trying to tell HMRC that my mother received thousands of pounds from the business in the 2015-2016 tax year (when she was no longer even a partner) – apparently this is because she was overpaid for several years and he’s just trying to even things out.
I thought the whole point of tax years was that you couldn’t retrospectively ‘even things out’, even if she had been overpaid, which she hasn’t. Any accountants out there, please feel free to chime in on this point.
In many ways this is all moot anyway – the mortgage itself comes due mid-2018. It’s been on interest-only for however long it’s been and the capital is due for repayment in about eighteen months’ time.
So either way, we’re fucked.
Unless we can find a solicitor who gives a shit.
I’d take half a shit at this point. A whole one would be nice but, you know, you take what you can get.
To be clear, this isn’t a begging for money post. I don’t think I know the kind of people who can put together £30k, even clubbing in as a group, let alone the other £93k we need to keep our house.
It’s a begging for connections post – we need a solicitor who cares. We also need a solicitor who’ll work pro bono. We also, ideally, need one who’s really really fucking good but like I said, I don’t really believe in miracles anymore.
Which is sad. I’m a writer of fantasy and romance. Miracles happen in my head on a daily basis but they’ve become vanishingly rare in my real life over the last couple of years.
If I thought there was a chance in hell of me raising the money through crowdfunding, I’d do it. I’d sell you Be A Bard and every book I write for the next twenty years if I thought it would do it. But let’s face it, I’m no one. I’m someone who has great ideas and some ability in terms of execution who has never produced a complete novel. No one’s going to believe in me that much. Hence why I’m not asking for money. But if you know someone, or someone who knows someone, who might be able to help… my email is annemhairi (at) gmail [dot] com.
It’s New Year’s Eve and while 99% of the people around me are wishing for this year to end and 2017 to start, I’m dreading the year to come. I know we’re most likely going to have to move and all three of us will have to adapt to a completely different area, probably not a particularly nice one. The best case scenario is that we can find a place in a small village about ten miles away. There’s no vet, which means driving the dog places periodically (he has a heart condition and needs daily meds that we buy monthly). I very much doubt I can get sourdough bread there (yes, it matters – it doesn’t affect my gluten intolerance but costs half the price of ‘proper’ gluten-free bread and is about a million times nicer. It’s one of those little things which makes my daily life so much easier). Going anywhere will require either negotiating a very dicey junction or hitting the dual carriageway.
But we’d still be in the area. Kind of. My closest friend will still be nearby.
It probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to you. Sat here, I’m thinking, why am I being such a brat about this? We’d have a place to live, isn’t that what’s important?
I guess, the thing is, we don’t know for sure how much money we’ll get from this house. We would need about £250k, free and clear, to be sure of finding a place that isn’t in the ghetto. Bear in mind, we have a very security-conscious dog – if there’s stuff going on in neighbouring houses and/or the street outside, nobody’s getting any sleep for half a mile around.
And at the end of the day, I’m tired. I begged my mother to let me move home and she said, “Yes.” And her life promptly imploded while I was busy having a mental breakdown. And we survived.
We made it this far.
To lose our home now seems like… well… punishment. For not doing better. For not being better. For not, I don’t know, being proper little workers who just stay in their shitty marriages because the alternative is too hard to think about. Because while all this was happening, I got engaged and then chose to get un-engaged, because it was the right choice for me.
We chose the harder road. And this feels like the Universe saying, “Wrong answer!”
And I need to know if anyone can help.
It’s this tango demonstration from 2009 [opens in a new window]. I think it’s stunningly beautiful and I go back to it periodically, just to watch and enjoy. I don’t dance tango. I took one class at a dance convention a few years back and it became very clear, very quickly, that it would take me WAY longer to learn how to dance tango than it did to dance salsa. And salsa took six months of private lessons four times a week, so, you know, probably not going to be dancing tango any time soon.
But I love that video. The intimacy of dance, the melding of body and form to music never fails to hit my happyness meter. I love this one, too (this is bachata, not tango), for the same reasons (although the audience reactions make it even better) [also opens in a new window]. I miss dancing but things are starting to turn around and I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m sure I’ll get to go dancing again in a few months’ time – it’s gonna be awesome!!!
Meanwhile I had a great chat with one of these guys yesterday. I backed Mad Robot Comics’ Kickstarters for CADAVERS and MADHOUSE and since they’re based in my town, I figured I’d go along to the (brand new and rather swishy) creative hub where they work and say hello. Needless to say, Matt was WAY more helpful than, say, the guy (who will not be named) I tweeted recently to ask if he had any advice on running successful card game Kickstarters and who responded with “Yes.”
Matt is a sweetie. And he signed my comic. YAY!!!
We talked about Bard and my hopes and fears for a Kickstarter and he was quite astonished that I already had a product, a video and a pitch but was still feeling dodgy about the whole thing. At which point he said, “I hope you don’t take this personally but it seems like a confidence issue.”
No offence taken, Matt. That’s definitely the problem.
So today I am editing (I know, right?). Don’t offer me chocolate because the chances are I’ll take your hand off at the wrist for it and I won’t even apologise – you don’t walk into the lion’s den waving steak around and expect to get out unharmed.
I think I’m getting a handle on the god-not-god issue that’s been tripping me up so here’s hoping I can actually move forward and get these puppies out the door soon.
Today this beautiful comic from Zen Pencils popped up in my feed and ruined my mood for the rest of the day. Because it seems like it just doesn’t apply to publishing. Everyone’s all ‘perfection is the enemy of done’ until they start talking about books, at which point they’re trashing everything with a typo in it, let alone less than perfect characterisation, plot, pacing, worldbuilding, dragon anatomy.
This is just my experience, mind you, and no doubt vastly out of sync with everyone else’s, but how the hell do I know when what I’ve written is good enough to publish without striving for perfection? If I wasn’t so bothered about making stuff as perfect as humanly possible, I’ve have published a novel in 2011. It wasn’t perfect. It probably wasn’t even that good. But I thought it was done. Then I got some feedback from two people who disagreed with the ten other people who thought it was awesome, hammering it so hard that I haven’t looked at it since.
It’s hard to have faith in my editing efforts when any opinion of what’s ‘good’ is so wildly subjective, including mine. Currently I’m assuming that when the people who hammered my writing back then think it’s actually good, I’ll be ready to publish. But the thought makes me want to cry because I don’t honestly believe I’ll ever reach that point and it breaks my heart a bit.
I love writing but I’ve always wanted to share my work. Not much of it has actually made it into the world at large. To put this in perspective, over the last seven years I’ve written about 820,000 words. I’ve published maybe 60,000 of them, the longest of which is about 17k. I really can’t get past the possibility that I may never have enough faith in my work to actually publish a novel, which would make me one of those people who dies with a hundred novels on their computer, none of which have ever seen the light of day.
Still haven’t conquered my fear of edits. Reading through the bits of this novel and I want to include this and that and pull in other characters so that the next two books I want to write in the same world all feel a bit more coherent with each other, rather than barely related. And of course barely related could work but… I don’t want to do it.
This was supposed to be a 10k short story, goddammit!
And while I’m trying (not terribly hard, if I’m honest) to edit the 50k thing it’s become, I’m also trying (not very hard either) to fight off not one but TWO screenplays. I mean, come on, guys. Gimme a break, yeah? At least with a book I can publish it. With a screenplay I can… submit it. Somewhere. And hope.
And presumably wish on a star and click my heels together three times…
And long before it even gets to that stage there’d be the running it by a couple of lovely people of my acquaintance who have experience with the format and can give me (no doubt harsh but fair) guidance on what to work on. So really, prose, PROSE, writerbrain. PROSE IS WHERE IT’S AT.
Writerbrain looks up from Scrivener: Whu?
Meanwhile it’s a beautiful day outside and I’m on day #3 of zero sugar. I’d be more impressed if writerbrain would stop acting as though I’ve been mainlining Smarties 24/7.
Maybe this is what happens when I don’t have sugar. Maybe sugar was depressing my creativity? Who knows? Either way, having un-depressed creativity isn’t so good for my productivity if I can’t make it through edits, cos no unedited thing is going to get to the outside world.
Which is precisely why I haven’t yet published a novel. Several short stories, one novella, one almost-but-not-quite novella. No novels. Because EDITS. And now writerbrain wants me to write more stories instead of editing what I already have.
Where’s the fucking chocolate?
We went food shopping today. For the first time in a long time, so long I can’t actually remember how long it’s been, I didn’t buy chocolate.
I started doing this at some point earlier this year. I’d buy a bar of really dark chocolate which I’d break up into the ten squares and then have a piece after dinner. Then it became two pieces after dinner. Then it was a piece after lunch and two pieces after dinner. Quite soon it went from being a bar a week to a bar in a few days, sometimes two days.
Sometimes, albeit rarely, one day.
So then I’d be out of chocolate, but I wasn’t going to drive all the way back to the cheap supermarket I got the chocolate from just for a damn bar of chocolate. So I’d go to the local shop and get something even worse. Once a week. Twice a week.
I’m not on antidepressants anymore and haven’t been since the year before last, but there have been times lately when I’ve wondered if I should be. Between the stress of the money situation and generally feeling so utterly inadequate, I’ve turned more and more to food, and bad food, food barely worthy of the name ‘food’, for comfort. I know sugar doesn’t help my mood but I’ve found as long as I’m above a certain threshold, it doesn’t actually affect me.
Lately, clearly, I’ve been below the threshold. And I ate the sugar anyway.
So I stopped eating it. Yesterday I had no chocolate at all. This wasn’t by choice. I actually got my days mixed up, thinking Sunday was Monday and I’d be getting more chocolate the next day so I ate the last two pieces on Sunday. Which produced a Monday without chocolate.
Which didn’t kill me.
Not that I thought it would, but I did have that hankering for a sweet something after dinner. And I was going to do myself some toast or something and then I thought, no. I’ll have a cup of tea and then see how I feel.
Three hours later I realised I had forgotten about the chocolate altogether.
So today we are on Day #2 of No Chocolate. There isn’t even any chocolate in the house. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I know it’s a good thing. I know (I hope) I’ll see an impact on my body as well as my mood.
Mostly I worry that, like with every other good habit I’ve ever started, I’ll peter out at some point. I’ll decide I don’t have to stick to it because I’m fine now, or whatever.
It’s why I’m still blogging today, even though I don’t have much of anything to say. I want to blog every day. I want to not eat food that makes me ill. I want to be slimmer and healthier and more productive and, yes, better known, albeit for the right reasons.
(Not because I’m crying out for help because I don’t want to kill myself.)
None of that happens overnight. It doesn’t even happen over a week or a month or maybe a year. But the only way to blog every day is to, well, blog every day, regardless if I feel like I have something to say or not. I mean, clearly I have *something* to say. I’m 543 words into this post and it’s still relevant to me. You may well feel otherwise.
The only way to become the person I want to be – the blogger, the healthy eater, the slim person, the writer, is to blog, eat healthily, slim down, write. And that means doing it every day, even if it’s hard, even if it feels really quite pointless because progress is s o s l o w and/or when you get right down to it, who the fuck cares?
And the answer is…
So it’s worth it.
Today is a better day. I have wonderful friends, one of whom sent me money for Scrivener and another of whom insisted on buying a couple of ebooks directly from me so that I could get 100% of the money. The support continues today, with a couple of business opportunities coming up, and I continue to be humbled and grateful for the outpouring of love and hugs.
It’s a cold and wet day, which mostly means cold and wet feet but the dog loves it. The sky has looked like a snow sky all day, flat and white, and it’s so dim and dingy we had to put the lights on before lunch.
All of which gave me the chance to wear my puffy winter coat. The hood has one of those floofy linings that you can take off, although why anyone would want to is beyond me. You can’t see past it most of the time, I probably look like Kenny (albeit taller) but it’s so much fun! I feel like a kid, having to peek out of the enormous hood and constantly brush the floof out of my eyes to see what’s going on.
Also, I have invented a new term for crap phone batteries – constipated goldfish. As in, “my phone has the battery life of a constipated goldfish.”
Aren’t you glad you’re reading this blog post?
On the windowsill in front of me sits the still unfinished necklace that I started making MONTHS ago. I know what I need to do with it, I just haven’t been able to muster up the interest. I’ve finally realised that I don’t want to make a business out of the jewellery or the handbags or even painting. I love doing all those things but as hobbies. Trying to make a business out of any of them just took away all the fun and joy the processes gave me and that seems like too high a price to pay. The writing, however, is more than willing to be my business and the feeling is mutual. Which reminds me, I need to add some stuff to this website.
I did have a good realisation this morning (which I think is at least partly responsible for the above line of thought). I realised I’m now far more determined to fight for the life I want, while also not being invested in having it all happen as soon as humanly possible. Somewhere over the last couple of days I let go of the idea that there was a deadline, that I had to make x amount of money by y date.
Maybe because… well, I have no idea why and it really doesn’t matter.
The point is, without that pressure, I feel like I can breathe again. I just want to write. And publish. And write. And publish. Whenever I can. And as soon as I can, yes, but not by any particular time and with no particular hope associated with the outcome. I just want to do it.
I have no idea if that makes any sense to you but it does to me and it feels amazing. I feel free.
It’s a good feeling.
I hope you’re feeling good, too.