Today I want to talk to you about something a little different. It’s not horror related, though at a push it is writing-related. Today I’m talking about empathy.
I’ve always thought of myself as empathic; I try to put myself in other people’s shoes in any situation, but like all people, I am a work in progress and sometimes I jump to conclusions before empathy can kick in. I want to share with you a moment of realisation I had a few months ago and how it helped me become a more empathic person.
Today I want to talk to you about something I call the ‘Oh-God-Why-am-I-Doing-This’ strop.
The ‘Oh-God-Why-am-I-Doing-This’ strop is very much a strop. I think it is the little, more annoying brother of Imposter Syndrome. Where instead of feeling that one shouldn’t belong, one feels more like they can’t belong despite everything. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much success, praise etc you receive, it’s not enough to convince you that your effort is paying off. Any progress you make is painfully slow and laborious, far too much work for far too small a return.
Today I want to talk to you briefly about evolution, not of anything living, but rather of a creative project or two.
I find it both interesting and refreshing when I can finish a project and look back on it to trace the path it has come. How it started as one thing, became something else and then again sometimes became yet another thing.
My two most recent projects to see daylight went through several iterations.
A Man in Winter started as a short story that got a tad long, it became a novella. Then when I sent it round for its first round of ‘Please publish my work’ enquiries the bulk of the feedback was that it was good but novellas just aren’t an easy sell. So I kicked my backside into gear and A Man in Winter became a novel.
So it became a novella again, with some additions and I tried again to sell it. I was successful this time, booya.
The series of transformations or evolutions of the A Man in Winter story is interesting, at least to me, but they are hardly dramatic or unique.
Firefly however went through some intense changes.
Firefly started life as a scribbled note in my writing notebook. Hardly a unique idea either, an agency investigating supernatural events looks into a creepy town where kids go missing.
I tried to plan it as a standard novel but it didn’t excite me at all, so I put it aside. Then I got into a conversation with a friend about games, how they are made, and something they said got me thinking. They said they felt that stories, at least in games, should be built around gameplay rather than the other way around.
I don’t think this is the case in all instances, I’ve played lots of games where the story feels entirely separate from the gameplay mechanics but I’ve played some amazing ones where they tied together as well.
Anyway, this comment got me thinking, could we have a mystery game where the player has to go around a location finding clues to unearth what happened? Of course, we could, guess who had an idea that would fit with that kind of gameplay.
So I got to work.
Long story short, the project fell on its butt.
It’s disappointing but it happens sometimes, more often with collaborative work I’ve noticed. This was my second collaborative piece to kind of fizzle out. But that’s life.
However, I had done a lot of work writing and designing the documents for the game. I had all this stuff and I was itching to do something with it.
Ok so this might seem really minor but it made me happy so I’m sharing my joy.
Usually, when you sign up for something and pick a username it’s difficult if not impossible to get the one you want. After all the internet is a crowded place and there are only so many combinations available. So I never get to be Katie, I’m always Katie1 if I’m lucky, or (more realistically) Katie3847261 etc.
I received an email the other week from YouTube talking about YouTube handles, a cute way for people to find you and connect with you, it also shortens your YouTube URL. Its unique as well unlike channel names.
I was invited to choose my handle this morning and I was expecting to end up with something like KatieMarie 8271947453497349843829829389237482374787 or Katiemariewriter20347485489738472378923727237842
Urban legends, cryptids, monsters, and creepy places from all across the U.S. and beyond! I chat with horror fans who love learning about their local spooks and sharing that knowledge with others, and ask a whole lot of random questions in the process. Then, there’s the inevitable descent into ridiculous conversation and dark humor, because these guests are AWESOME! Every episode will be marked explicit for language (sorry, it’s a habit I have a hard time breaking).
Today I want to write to you briefly about falling out of love.
This is very much a case of “I’ll get over it, I just need to be dramatic about it first”. Because there’s nothing wrong with being dramatic when people think you’re doing it ironically.
To get to the point, I am of course talking about writing.
In particular, a topic of writing that ties in quite nicely with my recent blog about burnout. This is often a symptom of burnout for me; not always but often enough that I’ve noticed the correlation.
I have fallen out of love with my current long-form WIP, A Walk in the Woods.
For me falling out of love with a work in progress can range on the emotional scale from “Oh well, that sucks. What’s next?” to “Oh God noooo, my only son!” it usually depends on my investment in the project.
Investment wise I’ve been working on Walk in the Woods for a couple years. I’ve spent a lot of time crafting my characters, themes, and settings etc., I’ve changed the plot more than once with additions and subtractions, and at the start of this year I paid a four-figure sum to have it edited (I said it’s long-form fiction, edits aren’t cheap but well worth it).
So, as you can imagine when I realized I was getting really sick of working on this, I went hardcore into denial about falling out of love. I made excuse after excuse, I’m tired today, this is a low point in the story so of course I’m fed up, maybe there’s something going on technically that I can change to spice it up, I’m not well this week my motivations bound to be affected etc. etc. the list goes on.
But last night I gave in when I had an idea for another long-form piece and immediately tried to make excuses as to why I can do that instead of Walk in the Woods. There’s nothing wrong with my motivation, it’s just this piece that’s dead.
But again, I circle back to the level of investment I’ve made. It’s damn high.
I can’t just let this die, right?
No. No way am I giving up.
As a compromise with myself, I have decided to take a break. Though to be honest this is my usual habit with long-form projects anyway. I normally keep putting them down at regular intervals, hence why it takes me so damn long to write anything of substance. Putting stuff down helps a lot; it helps me not lose motivation/love and it also helps spot obvious mistakes I might have missed if I looked at it constantly.
Anyway, why am I writing this to you? Am I that honestly that vain or arrogant that I think you’re chomping at the bit to know what projects I am taking breaks with and which I’m working on at the moment? I like to think not.
I am writing this for those of you who might be also experiencing ‘burnout’ or ‘falling out of love’ with a project.
Don’t give up on it, you’ve put a lot of work into it. But it is ok to take a break. It’s not a failure.
Try putting said project down for a couple weeks/months. Then pick it up again, if you still feel the same then put it back down, and take a longer break. Pick it up again and look at it in a year. Then another year, and another if need be.
I’m not saying every project deserves to be finished, but hey hard drives have lots of space and word documents are usually pretty small. It doesn’t hurt to hoard this shit.
An example of beneficial story hoarding!
I started writing The Grey House when I was in my twenties (I’m 36 now) and I put it down when I hit a brick wall with it after the second draft. Last night out of nowhere I had a wonderful new plan for it. There are a ton of changes, but it’s fundamentally the same idea and I’m excited about it.
So yeah, stories aren’t people, it’s okay to put them in a drawer or hard drive for months or even years. You can always pick them back up.
Today I want to have a chat about something and nothing. Mostly I’m just looking to get my thoughts down on electric paper, it helps me think straight and make decisions.
Today, and for a little while prior to today, I have been feeling burned out… again.
And this got me thinking about a few things, the main thing is how our flaws can creep up on us. How easy it can be to backslide into bad habits and before you know what’s happened, you’re in trouble.
I am very aware of my flaw of trying to do everything, all the time, very fast. I always do this, ever since I left university. It’s not a new thing, and every time it happens, I say the same thing, “Oh shit, I’m doing it again. How did that happen?” It always happens and it always happens without my noticing it.
I’d like to discuss the previous year and the upcoming year.
On the positive side, I started a YouTube channel, sold a manuscript, finished a draft of my current WIP and managed to publish several short stories.
On the neutral side, I started seriously working towards my PhD in English literature, though sadly that ended up on the backburner yet again when offline-life got in the way.
On the bummer side, a project I was working on, a videogame, ran into one-to-many problems and ended up being shelved. Though this may turn out to be for the best.
As far as offline life is concerned, last year was pretty monumental. My partner and I bought our first house together in February and almost immediately got a ton of plants and a couple of cats to live in it. Finnegan and Mimi, look how “cute” they are!
Yes, I am deliberately shaming my cats with embarrassing/unflattering pictures because it amuses me to do so.