February of Focus

Hmm. That February we just got past felt fractionally longer than most Februaries. How mysterious.

Japes aside, this past month I’ve definitely been running into a few tricky little things around keeping myself working at a reasonable pace.

See, in my head, I think I can crank out 3000 words or so a day – this is effectively writing a novel the size of Dog Country every month. I think this because when I get really moving, that’s what I crank out. The part I forget every time I get into a novel? The weeks before I start getting to that vast wordcount tend to look more like 300 words a day.

I build momentum, slowly, and then I start hammering at my keyboard like a loon. But I always expect to drop straight into it at speed.

I suspect what’s going on is something like mental conditioning – a metaphor I love for writing is the marathon.

A marathon is 42 kilometres (26 miles), the distance to the horizon is around 5 kilometres (3 miles) if you’re very tall and on flat ground. When you start, you cannot even see your destination. Not many people can just get up and do that, so they prepare.

Training runs, slow, then fast. Short distances, then long. Slowly conditioning the body to handle the feat.

We all know the brain is a muscle. Why, then, do I continually forget this and think I can just bum-rush into the middle of cranking out a novel? Well, this current period of forgetfulness could be partly related to the fact that I was building up speed and momentum at the end of last year before catching a cough, and then immediately expected to jump right back into it at the same pace and intensity.

So I think that’s one of my issues. The other is tied to my usual struggles with time management and motivation – time management I’m doing a bit better on, but I did stumble over something about motivation worth putting on the record.

This may sound like relationship advice, but it is very hard to create desire for something just because you think you should desire it.

If you tell yourself ‘I should want to achieve X’, there isn’t really a good way to make yourself want to achieve X if… it’s just not something you want. At best you can turn X into a chore – something you can endure doing, but it’s not something you want.

You should want to take the garbage out, passionately, fervently. It should be your earnest desire, the thing you think about when you get out of bed. Every decision you make must bring you closer to being able to take out the garbage and make you better at it. Get up at five AM and do bicep curls so you can lift that garbage bag and go to bed at one AM repeating mantras of garbage-hauling to yourself.

(If that sounded like absurd grindset advice… yeah. Maybe you can see why that advice is absolutely broken, despite sounding like it should be inspiring.)

It just doesn’t work.

I want to write books, sure, but my desire to write a book does not include, for instance, defeating my tendency to procrastinate or weathering my many distractions or to receive rejections or to not get the attention I think I’m worthy of. There are all these flies in the ointment that leave my yearning desire to write a given book or work on a project pretty darn tainted.

On the bad days, I don’t want to write my book – I only want to be able to want to write my book.

And that is not a great place to work from.

So instead of wanting to want that desire, there is a much more achievable thing where I can actually take some actions in that direction.

I can remove the reasons I don’t want the book.

I can lock up the distractions somewhere else, instead of stewing on my rejections quietly and bottling up the feelings I can just SAY something, instead of feeling bad about not getting the attention or sales I think I’m worth I can be a little more accepting about that stuff and put more of my attention on how much I enjoy the actual process of writing – I spend 95% of my time with my books in a room alone with nobody else and no feedback and like 5% of the time with them released and out there. Why should I let the 5% spoil the 95% so thoroughly? I shouldn’t.

So, it’s still early days and I only really had this realization a week and a bit ago, but working on the reasons I don’t want the book and removing them is a lot easier than creating new reasons to want the book.

It makes sense and it is probably going to strike some people in the world as obvious – I have probably even had thoughts like this previously and have had to rediscover this before – but right now, it’s helping.

Quicker than Blood recently got past the 40% progress mark, it’s at a stage where the details of the story start to shift in the direction of the dangerous as our protagonists actually discover a few things about the antagonists, and… I think I am okay with slow progress, for now. Those days of manic hyperfocus where I crank out an entire chapter in a single writing session, I’m sure I’ll have them – but as something I build up to and condition myself for, not as something I should just blithely expect of myself.

I am also doing my best to take a little more off time. Not days off, I am still terrible at taking days off, but rather keeping the hours a day I spend on various tasks reasonable. As a result, I’ve wound up playing around a bit with Blender – which is an astonishingly complex piece of software.

I don’t expect to produce anything ‘good’, more like the digital 3d version of scrawls and scribbles, but it is both fun and reminds me that things do not have to be ultra-refined perfection to enjoy making and sharing them.

So far I’m making odd little visualizations of some San Iadras stuff, which you can find on my Bluesky account’s media tab. ( https://bsky.app/profile/foozzzball.bsky.social– it’s open to the public now, if you hadn’t heard! No codes necessary!)

That is about all I have for you this month, but I hope your oncoming March treats you well. (If you’re named Julius Caesar, however, watch out.)

As always, thank you for your interest and support. It all helps.

Categorized as Patreon

By foozzzball

Malcolm Cross, otherwise known as 'foozzzball', lives in London and enjoys the personal space and privacy that the city is known for. When not misdirecting tourists to nonexistant landmarks and lurking at bus stops, Malcolm enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy with a furry twist.