New Year, New Start?

The January blog topic for WriYe is quite open to interpretation I feel. The prompt is:

“(Re)starting fresh, for a new year, new story or after a writing break.”

Now I am both late to this topic and perfectly on time. You see the new year is a boundary time, it’s where you can put the past in the rear-view and ‘start again’. Obviously you can do that at anytime but with the turn of a calendar, and potentially millions of other people doing the same thing, there is a certain weight to it. If 2022 didn’t go well, then that’s ok because 2023 is a fresh start! That kind of thinking.

I struggle with boundary times as they make me reflective. I get torn between the hope of the possibility that maybe the future will be better/different, and being depressed and hopeless over how the past hasn’t been what I wanted, and that another year has gone by and I’m still no closer to my dreams etc. So I guess essentially what I’m saying is the whole “new year, new start” thing is something I feel very keenly. If life is about chances, then I guess psychologically speaking a new year does feel like a new chance. Every year when I do my retrospective and then my plan, I say that I want the upcoming year to be different.

So why did I say I am both late and on time?

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Art 2022: Year in Review

I said in the WriYe year in review I would do a post for art. Not very creatively titling but I think it actually proves a point – the art is important to me.

I didn’t write a post about art plans specifically until the end of October. It’s been an ‘impossible year’ with moving and not really knowing what I was doing. I had sort of mentally thought “oh a drawing a month” as a general goal as I have done for the past several years, but hadn’t gone much beyond that. I had the Coloured Pencil Academy course to complete and then this past summer I did get a bunch more courses on Udemy which I haven’t done.

So end of October and I had plans. I basically said that I wanted to ‘get serious’ and commit 3 hours 6 days a week to working through the courses. I had benched art during October as I had a lot of writing courses to comb through in addition to prepping for NaNo. However, I had this idea that I could draft for NaNo in the morning and do art in the afternoons.

It didn’t happen once. Not once. I didn’t do any art during November at all.

Then December and I decided to use some new supplies I got during Black Friday to make a couple of christmas presents. I had to practice using them first of course, and so December I spent totally on art – no writing at all. Not one single word.

Which really is a problem. I’ve been thinking about that, musing on it really, over the past week and I’ve sort of come round to the conclusion that I want to treat writing as a job. I want writing to be my job. Yes it’s a dream at this point but if I put in the work then maybe, just maybe, it could be reality. However, the art has increased in importance to me. In the beginning I wanted to illustrate my stories. Then I thought about making my own book covers. Then I got mega-depressed because of AI in art (hence the Black Friday art supplies), as I thought maybe if I went traditional then that might escape AI for a little longer.

I just want to be good at things. I want to be good enough. I don’t feel like I ever will be, with writing or with art, and so it’s a constant crisis of faith everyday. I try and persist even as I ask why. I have dreams, of art supplementing writing – two careers in a sense. Which is perhaps why I am struggling to balance them as I want to work both of them full time, but I am incapable of doing anything full time due to my disability.

Anyway this is what I did this year:

The top three are exercises from the Coloured Pencil Academy.

The next two are colouring pages that served as practice with markers, and watercolour pencils, respectively. The stargate art was a total mixed media project. The cars was a christmas present done in markers and coloured pencil. The landscape was a christmas present done with watercolour pencils and coloured pencil. Finally there is a digital drawing of Seven and Raffi from Star Trek: Picard.

I did the three exercises and the digital drawing in April. Everything else I did this month in December. So consistency was not really a thing this year.

I think about the best thing I can say is that I tried. I didn’t forget that I wanted to do art, I just struggled and didn’t do it most of the time. I’m still a very long way from where I would like to be.

Anyway I am going to end this post with the same thing I put at the end of the WriYe retrospective – now I just need to work out how to build on this and move forward in 2023.

WriYe 2022: Year in Review

This is December’s blog topic but honestly it’s something I would do anyway. Retrospectives are a bit of a thing for me. The prompt is simply to “sum up your year” so I will endeavour to break it down and not just ramble.

In January I did the usual goals post which can be found here – WriYe: Impossible Year.

I started that goal post by saying that in my review of 2021 I had put “that I really didn’t want to get to the end of the year and be disappointed again – but I was.” and that is the dream. Ultimately really that was the dream for this year when I get right down to it. What I said in that goal post was that I was really searching for some confidence, to have some hope again, to feel like I can actually do it.

So did I get that in the end?

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Uncharted: The Movie (Review)

I have zero chill when it comes to Uncharted.

It was one of the reasons why I wanted a PS5 (they have since released the games on PC but hadn’t back then). I saw an advert and was instantly hooked. I have a love affair for ‘archaeological treasure hunts’ when it comes to movies. Books have been a bit hit and miss (I think I might need to write my own to have something I truly love). A lot of the same issues plague the movies but I guess the visual bonanza makes it easier to ignore. I got the Tomb Raider game for free on the PC and I didn’t overly enjoy that (I found it frustrating for some reason but can’t recall why now). Anyway quite why I thought I would really like the Uncharted games I don’t know. But I asked for the remastered ‘Nathan Drake collection’ (aka the first 3 games) AND the remastered ‘Legacy of Thieves’ collection. I got the entire set having not played a single minute.

Fortunately I did really enjoy the games. I have completed the campaigns on 1 & 2 and have almost finished 3. I am not that good at it so I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get all the trophies but I will go back and try and get some of them. It’s a bit annoying that the trophies require all the difficultly modes (I like normal/easy ok, don’t judge).

Anyway! That’s the game and this post is about the movie. I’m just saying the perspective that I came to the movie with. Someone that loves the genre, has played the games (well half of them) and put the movie on my “must watchlist” the second I heard it was a thing post-getting the games.

So what did I think?

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Some thoughts about consistency

I kept saying in my NaNo Retrospective post that I would continue the point in another post – mostly this one! Because I suppose ultimately I didn’t have much to say about this years NaNo on it’s own. I will cover a lot in context with my yearly wrap-up post, and I also knew I wanted to write this post which would talk about some of the problems (or are they problems?) that I experienced.

In life we are surrounded by habit trackers. I have an apple watch and I love that thing but the “three rings everyday” thing just isn’t realistic, at least not for me. I have a 4thewords account and there are other sites (750 words is one I think?) that encourage streaks of writing every single day. If you google about productivity it says instituting habits is a good method, as it takes the decision process out. You do the task because you are supposed to do the task and it’s automatic and requires less willpower. Daily habits are a good thing and they are supposed to help! But are they realistic?

I have struggled with consistency forever. It has been a problem and something I have wanted to work on and ‘fix’ for years. I feel like if I could conquer the consistency problem then I would be able to be on track and ‘win’ at what I need to do. How many times have I lamented about my lack of focus? Bemoaned having good days and “why can’t I do that all the time?” It’s misery making. I want it and it just doesn’t happen. But should it?

The ‘standard’ work week of Monday-Friday 9-5 has a lot wrong with it but it does leave the weekends. These are often not for relaxing but for other tasks but the tasks are different and for the purposes of my point that is enough. Even in the gruelling ‘standard’ 40 hour work week there is a mental break with the weekends from that kind of work at least. (I know a lot of people work Saturdays, or 7 days a week, or multiple jobs, and the 5 day a week 9-5 grind is no picnic anyway, that’s not what I am saying). Wait what was my point? Right my point is doing the same thing every single day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, might be like a nirvana goal but is that even healthy?

My dream life is to be creative for a living. To earn money through writing, maybe even through art (unlikely but hey that’s why it’s a dream). I remember with NaNo for the first couple of years I did the “midnight start” and it was exciting, it was like a party, and the whole ‘literary abandon’ thing of prepping your month, reducing other responsibilities to throw yourself into writing – that’s not reasonable longterm. I know as far as back 2012 I decided if I wanted to do this thing year round/with a view to being professional I had to stop treating NaNo like a special holiday and be more reasonable about it. No more midnight starts, life continues mostly as normal etc. And the thing with normal life is that shit happens.

Today I am writing blog posts because I am fighting against the blackness of depression that just wants me to curl up in a dark corner and disappear. I need a distraction so I don’t spend the day sobbing and feeling worse and worse, and I am trying to do something semi-productive rather than just video games. I have a metric-ton of writing I need to do to finish the draft by the end of the month. I have a lot of art I need to do for some deadlines around Christmas, but today it’s just not happening. I hate myself for that as I am then another day ‘behind’ and also it makes the streaks look sad.

I want to be the type of person that works hard on a consistent basis. I think for anybody every single day is a bad idea as rest is important. My ‘ideal’ is 6 days a week which hurts with those streaks because they are all designed for 7 – everyday. There is no give in them for bad days, for illness, for family events, for holidays, for doctors appointments etc.

I got my NaNo 50k by writing 18 of the 30 days. That wasn’t an even spread of words. Some days I got a few hundred, other days I got several thousand. It was as opposite to being consistent as you can get really – and yet in the end I had the same amount as someone who wrote the 1,667 every single day. I don’t like my approach because I always feel like I could (and should!) have done more but perhaps my approach exists because that was the limit of my capabilities. I did what I could, when I could, and the amount varied because of my mental state/outside factors. That’s life, that’s practical, that’s dare I say, reasonable?

I’m someone that is never really satisfied with what I have done. Even if I make my goal I feel I should I have done it better/faster etc. and a big part of that perpetual disappointment in myself is my lack of consistency. Despite everything I have said here, it’s like a habit – ha! – that I can’t unlearn. It feels like it’s necessary even though I have reasoned out that perhaps it’s not very compatible with reality. I’m not quite sure what the answer to that is. Logic brain says consistency might not be all that, but emotions say otherwise.

NaNoWriMo: The 2022 Retrospective

I know I should have written this post on the 1st really but hey it’s only the 5th so that’s not so bad right? A little bit indicative to be honest of how the month went. I have another post in the works dealing with the thorny issue of ‘consistency’ so I’m only going to touch on it here.

My goal for NaNo 2022 was to win (obviously) but I ideally wanted 75k/a complete first draft of my novel. Did I get it?

Well no.

I ended the month with 51,891 words, so it was a win in terms of the NaNo 50k and I did indeed make it before the end of the month (Friday 25th actually). Even if I had got the 75k that wouldn’t have been the complete draft as it looks like it will be my longest first draft ever at around 100k.

My dream goal of 10k on Day One wasn’t reached as I got 6,703 which was a semi-ok buffer for the 50k but inadequate for the higher goal which is perhaps why that flopped almost immediately.

I wrote on 18 days out of the month. I did a 15k/3 one weekend to catch-up and then get ahead a little. Hit 40k on the Sunday, and then the 50k the following Friday.

I didn’t take part at all last year. 2020 I was both more consistent and wrote a little more (nearly 67k) but that was fanfic. 2017-2019 didn’t really happen, 2016 was a high word count but a mixed mess. I have to go back to 2015 before I reach the last time I hit the NaNo 50k with an original draft. So from that POV the month was very much a success.

I remain disappointed that I am so far away from finishing the draft and December isn’t going well thus far (but more about that in another post).

The one last thing I said I would do is budget 3 hours to get my words in the morning, so I could do art in the afternoon. That did not happen ever. I never got the words I wanted in the morning, I often procrastinated so much I didn’t really start until after lunch. I tried to do sprints but it’s like there’s a switch in my brain. If it refuses to ‘turn on’ then I couldn’t start the sprint. Even if I did a sprint I then wasted so much time not starting again after the sprint ended. I did not make good use of my time. I did not focus how I would have liked. I despaired sometimes that I would sit there and get next to nothing one day, and then somehow that aforementioned ‘switch’ would be thrown in my brain and I would do 5k the next day. Why can’t I do that on demand? It’s so frustrating. But again more about that in another post.

I am trying to reframe things into positives. I got halfway into the draft – progress was made! But the fact that it wasn’t the level of progress that I wanted, and that the draft feels like the worst draft in the world, weighs heavily on me. I just perpetually disappoint myself.

BUT! I did win NaNo and it was with an original novel. So that is something.

Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

This is the WriYe blog topic for the month of November. I mean let’s face it as a writer November is one of the bigger events on our calendars so it’s a fitting topic. This isn’t about my NaNo exactly. I did a post with my plans, and I did a post talking about how it was going, and I will do another as a retrospective about how it went. This post isn’t any of that – this is about the event itself.

I first took part in 2007. I have a vague memory I might have heard about it before that but it didn’t register, so 2007 when I was 17 was when I got my start. It was a well established event by then and I do still feel a slight envy for people who were around at the beginning (I feel like I’m always late to every party). I don’t believe I have any rambles from that actual time to look back at what I actually thought, but I know what I remember of it now which is the lesson it taught me. I went into that NaNo with a story that had been evolving in my head for years and what I found was I had characters, and they had lives, but there was no actual plot to say ‘hey the story starts here’. I think I got about 20k and then gave up but it was useful due to that lesson learned.

2008 and I managed to scrape 50k with what was technically a complete draft and the lesson from this NaNo was a thrill of typing ‘The End’ really, of having written ‘a novel’. This really is what gave me the taste. Now I have recapped my history with NaNo multiple times and I am not going to go through every single year again.

The point I am trying to make is NaNo = experience. This was my 13th actual attempted November event (I have also done various Camps) and it’s still worth it to me. I remember visiting my Grandma in 2013 I think? And I said I was doing NaNo and it wasn’t going well and her response “haven’t you already done that?” and I was taken aback because my gut reaction said it all.

“NaNo isn’t something that can ever be ‘done’ and finished.”


NaNo is very much a ‘get out what you put in’ and ‘take what you need from it’ type of event. Some years I have learned lessons about writing, getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t through practice. The old ‘learn by doing’ applies because unless we put the butt in chair no progress is going to be made. NaNo is ALL about that butt in chair. Other years I have learned lessons about how much I need to plan, or about project/time management. Some years I don’t necessarily learn anything but writing is a lonely gig, and in November a lot of writers come out of the woodwork. That community spirit is a magic all of it’s own, even if I don’t participate much. I haven’t done anything with my region, I haven’t been on the NaNo forums etc. but simply knowing it’s November helps throw the ‘I should be writing’ switch in my brain. I am terrible for focus and having even a slight external deadline is a good push.

It’s the latter that I got out of it this year. After so many events and so many words written, it could be argued I don’t ‘need’ NaNo anymore. I try and write year-round now, it’s not like NaNo is my ‘once a year sojourn to the land of words’. But I still resist the idea that it is unnecessary. I suppose I could say for me it’s become more of a bonus a lot of the time but that isn’t true for many other people.

What does NaNo say? “30 days of literary abandon” – it gives people a gift, permission to turn one day, into today, and write their story. I believe so much in the power of story. It might be naive but I think that by imagining a better world, we help to actually create one. NaNo has literacy programs, like for Young Writers, and they send materials into schools and I believe in that. Give children the gift of stories, and let their imagination grow.

I guess I could say I believe in the ethos behind NaNo. That’s my main thought on NaNo really, that it’s incredibly important due to the power of story. Allowing people that wouldn’t otherwise have their voice heard, to perhaps start a journey to creating something magical which could win hearts and minds, maybe even change the world. Yeah, I know, that’s perhaps unlikely but there was a quote on Leverage: Redemption. I won’t quote it word for word as it’s from the new episodes and #spoilers, but basically it boiled down to individuals can’t tackle the worlds biggest problems. I can’t fix global warming. But what people can do is help others, who can then help others themselves, and then in ten years a lot of steps down the road, people can look back and see that progress has been made and it started with that little thing they did – that one person they helped. We don’t know what seeds we are planting for the future, because that sort of stuff takes time, but those kids that NaNo opens up a world of ‘literary abandon’ too, those seeds could become something amazing.

It’s that time again

I think I use that blog title a lot. I am sure I have used it for NaNo in the past but really it works for anything with a countdown to a ‘launch’ date.

Dragonflight. In less than two weeks we’ll be levelling to 70 (again) and I am actually quite pumped. This is typical of me pre-expansion launch. I make all kinds of plans about how it “will be different this time” in terms of getting stuff done like levelling professions, gearing alts etc. and then it never turns out like that. I haven’t been able to do anything but run my main since Mists. I eventually did level the Shadowlands professions but not really in time to do any good with them. The Legion and BfA ones are still a mess…

Anyway! Reality will bite soon enough and I wanted to do a post talking about the classes and the various specs. I’ve been playing this game over a decade now. New classes have been added, and new specs; specs have been reworked, and some things have stayed the same or have they? If it’s been a long time unless I try it then how do I truly know? I guess I don’t and I can’t even say it’s unlikely to have changed in a significant way as – rogues. I loved the aesthetic of that class but until they had a big rework in Legion? I couldn’t kill anything before I died and it was just zero fun.

So let’s talk classes!

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NaNo is a struggle this year

I’ve done a couple of ‘NaNo diaries’ over in my WriYe progress thread. I am trying not to spam it too much and it’s Day Eleven, so I figured I could update here. Technically I am still on pace for the 50k. If I don’t write today then that will no longer be true but what I mean is I’m still in the vicinity of that 50k pace.

But it’s not what I wanted, nor what I planned.

I wanted to finish the draft this month and I wanted to do so by the 28th so I could spend the 29th playing Dragonflight on Launch Day. For a 75k/28 pace, I will be 12k behind if I don’t write today. So I am both sort of ‘on target’ and very far behind. That hit me a minute ago as it’s all a matter of perspective. Back in 2007 when I first tried NaNo I would have been thrilled to have been on pace for 50k. Now it’s not enough, I’m not satisfied with it.

Why is it a struggle?

My mental health is not good. It’s got worse over time and I don’t seem to be able to reverse that trend. I had hoped that moving into my own house would be something of a ‘magic bullet’ but while there is lots to love, it hasn’t aided my productivity how I’d hoped. I feel mentally exhausted, I keep crying, I just want to curl up in a corner. Symptoms of overwhelm I guess. I need the onslought to stop, but that includes my own mind. So simply taking myself to a quiet, dark space isn’t a cure – it’s simply more poison.

I was expressing my frustration that this was still a problem now everything in my life is so much better with the house. It was suggested I had perhaps overdone it. The whole moving rollercoaster took pretty much a year. For the month prior to moving I redecorated the entire house which involved long days, every single day. I was drawing on an empty tank and just kept going because I wanted it done, and I wanted to move.

My response was that even if that was true – I’ve lived here nearly two months now, so shouldn’t I be over it? It took a few weeks for the pain in my joints to wear off, but it eventually did, so there has been recovery time. To blame my current state on the past doesn’t seem right but I guess it wasn’t just the past month, or even the past year. My mental health has been steadily getting worse for more than a decade. While the triggers for the chronic stress are no longer present, or have changed, over that time, my brain is still ‘trained’ if you like, to have those ingrained negative thought patterns. I don’t quite know how to fix that.

Why am I making this post? What am I hoping to achieve?

Well it’s not simply to complain. I’m trying so hard to reframe how I see things. I didn’t fail, I had a learning experience etc. So I thought perhaps as I’m struggling to write my current novel I should remind myself of past successes. Now, I’m not good at calling anything a success because the second I reach a goal, I am moving onto the next one. There’s always more to do. But NaNo is a first draft, so let’s just think about completed first drafts – not about how bad they were, or how much work they need, just the fact that they exist. They were complete drafts of stories that I typed ‘The End’ on.

Perfidy (Rewrite)
Fault Lines
Fall of Camelot
Carbon Scars

Obviously that list isn’t complete in terms of work. Perfidy only got drafted beginning to end twice, but I have pieces of at least three other attempts at that draft. I started a redraft of Fault Lines (calling it Shadow Play) but only made it halfway through. I have half a draft of Reckoning (aka book three). I have the start of Blood on the Board I was trying to write as a luddite project this year. Then of course there’s the mountain of fanfics, and a fair few of those were novel-length. They also exist. They are also complete stories.

So at the very least I can say on 9 separate occasions I have written a draft of an original novel that was 50k+ from beginning to end. I have done that. Therefore I can do it again.

Now I may not finish my draft this month how I would like. I may have to finish it off next month instead. I need to understand that’s ok. NaNo is a 50k/30 challenge. Yes I can give myself an additional challenge if I’d like but think about Day One. Par was 1,667, for my 75k/28 it was 2,679. I set myself a daily goal of 3k, and for Day One I said 5k as a buffer, and secretly I wanted 10k. I ended up with 6,703. That was a success by any measure but because I didn’t hit the dream 10k I was disappointed.

It’s quite probable that my misery stems from the fact that I don’t believe I can catch up and that my ‘dream goal’ of 75k by the 28th isn’t possible. So in typical self-sabotage I’m now struggling to do anything. I can’t stop dreaming, I can’t stop wanting more, but I’m hoping that by putting it in black and white here ^^ I can maybe start to get it through my thick skull that progress has been made.

Art: My Old Nemesis

My habit when I do a goal post is to look back at the previous goal post, so I can say “this is what I said I would do last time” and “this is what actually happened”. With writing that review can get long as I’ve been doing that a long time. With art? How long has it been? I didn’t do a post with any intentions really for this year. I think I might have briefly mentioned art in my WriYe post but I knew 2022 was going to be crazy with moving. That also tanked the end of last year so I don’t think I did a proper wrap-up for 2021 art-wise either.

So as a little baby review
I think I first started trying to draw things when I was 19. And by draw things I mean I traced around photos, colour picked off them, and did gradients as a form of shading. Still it gave me a taste for it. I quit for some years to be honest, or at least I can’t find from poking around on my HD anything I really did between then and when I went back to fandom in 2016. Again I started off with just tracing but then I started trying to do a little more. I changed the clothing first, and then I wasn’t satisfied with that and tried a modelling program to make my own reference. I traced around that, but at least it wasn’t just a photo (or so I told myself).

So it continued like that and then December 2020 was something that didn’t come from any single reference. I had failed at making a 3D model, so I tried to find photos that were close and then I’d shifted it around. I even took some photos of my own hands to try and get the angles right.

2021 I obtained my first art course, and I started trying more traditional art (not just digital). By the looks of things I did 4 digital + 2 traditional drawings in 2021.

This year, 2022, I did a couple of eye drawings on paper with pencils, and a drawing of some roses with coloured pencils (following the Coloured Pencil Academy course). I also did one digital drawing of Seven and Raffi from Star Trek: Picard. Finally I signed up when the courses were 75% off on Udemy for 7 different art courses. Promptly I did not do any of them because 2022 = crazy year.

Why am I posting this now and not end of December ready for next year?
Because there are still two months of 2022 left.

Following the HB90 system, there are three goals per quarter. Goal #1 is obviously writing, but Goal #2 is art. Now with still sorting out some house things, and all the writing courses I wanted to evaluate, I decided to bench art until November – but guess what, it’s November tomorrow.

Yesterday, I went over the art courses and found places they overlapped and worked out a tentative plan of how to work my way through them. I decided that I should stick with the Coloured Pencil Academy course and finish that first.

So the intention from November 1st, is on every possible occasion Monday-Saturday, commit three hours per day to working on the art. That isn’t demanding any kind of pieces, or amount of progress, as I don’t know how long the various courses or assignments will take me. Some sessions I might be watching videos and taking notes. Other times I will be working on an assignment. Some days I might decide to just work on something I feel like doing and not one of the courses, who knows! But I am going to try and stick to those three hours unless there is a reason why I can’t (illness, appointment etc.)

I think I put in a previous art post that I felt like where I was with art, was akin to where I have been with writing. I don’t have much confidence, I might have been scratching around for years now but that doesn’t mean I have made years worth of progress. I think I declared at the start of 2020 I was “getting serious” and then promptly didn’t do much but 2020 wasn’t anyone’s year. I had so many panic attacks that year, it was hard to do much of anything.

Now I’m in control of my environment I don’t feel as inhibited. I am hoping that will mean I can embrace doing art regularly and then (thanks to the regular practice) hopefully improve. Cross fingers. Time will tell.