Therapy

On Writing

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I love Stephen King so I stole one of the titles from one of his non-fiction books for this post. He’s my favourite author and The Dark Tower series of books are the best fantasy/sci-fi/western/mindfuck books you will ever read. Seriously if you have not read King’s opus then you really should. The first book in the series is called The Gunslinger, go get it now! The book I stole the title for this post from is a work discussing the craft of writing. It’s also the closest thing you’ll ever get to a Stephen King autobiography and is very interesting, so you should read it. Anyway moving on, this is a post about writing.

I am not a writer. I used to enjoy writing stories and making stupid comics when I was very young but as soon as I got access to computers any creative part of me died and I became a computer nerd instead. Also, whilst I have a decent command of the English language I am rather ignorant of the proper ‘rules’ you are supposed to follow when writing a novel. I’m not an idiot, I understand the rules of grammar mostly, but I’ve always felt like I didn’t know enough about the syntax of language to make a worthwhile story that would captivate readers. So it’s with some embarrassment that I sometimes tell people that I’ve been trying to write a novel for some time now.

I’ve had a story in my head for quite some time. It’s got the basic elements realised i.e. I know what the main plot line is and where it takes place, as well as the overall theme. However it’s languishing in a notepad file and I haven’t really thought about it for some time until recently.

It’s a semi-autobiographical horror story, set in a somewhat fictionalised version of the town in which I currently reside. I have had the idea for a while but only started actually putting pen to paper back in November when a friend and I both took part in National Novel Writing Month. For those who aren’t aware NaNoWriMo runs every year, and is supposed to encourage budding writers to produce a novel (well more like a novella, 50,000 words) inside of one month by setting daily targets. I started out pretty well but gave up around the 12,000 word mark.

See the thing is, I hate targets. Having a daily word target shoved in my face every time I logged in to my NaNoWriMo dashboard really pissed me off. I gave up partly because meeting targets when doing something for pleasure or because you want to is completely counter intuitive in my opinion and partly because depression sucks your ambition out your ass through a straw. But lately I’ve been thinking about my book and thinking that I want to get back to it. I keep having ideas that I think would work well with the story and my therapist has set me tasks as part of my cognitive behavioural therapy, tasks that involve thinking about the novel.

I might decide to put what I have so far up on here so other people can read it and pass judgement. Like I said I’m not a writer and my writing style is unconventional and probably leaves a lot to be desired (my wife HATES it) so nobody should expect anything great. My biggest gripe is that I just don’t think I am good enough to produce anything of worth. Being a non-creative person who doesn’t really understand ‘how to write’ is constantly playing on my mind.

Conversely though I sometimes think, “So fucking what?”. There are plenty of examples from history where unconventional writers have gained mainstream success. The Beat Generation in the 50’s spawned some fantastic authors who definitely wouldn’t have their books on sale at airport kiosks. Try reading The Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs to get an idea of what I mean, the non-chronological structure and obvious drug induced ramblings make it a difficult but worthwhile book to get through. I’m not comparing myself to Burroughs at all, but it gives me hope that there is a place in the world for those who don’t just write cookie cutter style stories that obey strict and rigid grammatical rules. That’s why I like King so much, because he plays with language (seemingly effortlessly) and breaks ‘rules’ all the time.

So tonight I’m going to try and write a few chapters. I’ll have to read through what I’ve got so far to refresh my memory, in the process I MAY upload it here, who knows.

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Trade your heroes for ghosts

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I didn’t really have any heroes growing up as a kid. Fictional or otherwise.

Even as a small child the concept seemed silly to me. What was a hero? what criteria needed to be met in order to become one? Does a hero have to be a real person? It confused me.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I started recognising certain people as personal ‘heroes’, although I still hate the term – ‘hero’ for some reason just reminds me of cereal (no idea why) and those little chocolates.

Heroes are good because they give you something to aspire to, even if you know you cannot possibly equal them in measure, you can at least try to follow their words and actions so you can emulate them in an effort to become a better person. I completely skipped the whole ‘better person’ part and started to use my heroes as a way of exerting my own false sense of superiority:

“Oh you mean you’ve never heard of Famous Person’s treatise on Derp? You really should look it up!”

whilst inside in my head I would be chastising them for being so stupid:

“Hah, only a moron doesn’t know of the existence of that. Idiot. SMUG MODE ACTIVATE”

I used the knowledge I acquired from my heroes to reinforce my view that I was smarter than everyone else and that in a dispute I was always right. I used my heroes for villainous purposes, now it feels like all I have are ghosts of those heroes. I butchered them and twisted their virtuous natures into my own mangled psyche and used their wisdom against other people to convince myself I was superior.

I’m going to stop doing that now.

I realise a lot more about human nature than I did a year ago, hell even six months ago. I keep having mini epiphanies that I am certain are course correcting me onto a path of mental well-being and compassion towards others, the problem however is following through on these epiphanies. For better or worse I am still plagued by the Procrastination Monster and I wish I could have an epiphany about that but it’s not happened yet.

It’s very, VERY difficult to describe procrastination when you are a depressed person versus regular old “Oh I’m such a procrastinator LOL I’ll do it this afternoon” type people. It is not the same beast. You are held prisoner by your own mind as it successfully convinces you that inaction is the safest course to take, as it cannot possibly result in more heartache. Now I KNOW that this is stupid. I know that getting up and about and doing things, taking initiative at work, and generally learning new things makes me feel good. I know this to be true and yet I continue to do it. Why? Because, that’s why. I have no better explanation than that. It’s an entirely fucked up situation to be in and I am yet to find a solution.

I want this to stop, but it seems it’s another aspect of my mental state that I’m just gonna have to wait on to catch up. I feel like I’m getting better in some ways and worse in others. I want to break out of this mental prison with the force of a hurricane, not bit by bit in incremental steps that could take years to fully come to fruition. I’d rather have a walk on part in the war, than a lead role in a cage.

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p.s I realise there are too many Pink Floyd references in this post but:

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Wisdom GET!

WISDOM

This actually made me stop and go “Wooooooah” because I’ve never looked at it from this perspective before.That happens with more frequency these days, sometimes that’s a good thing sometimes that’s a bad thing.

Today it was a good thing I’d like to tell you about.

Ok so in a nutshell here’s one of my myriad of problems: I compare myself to everyone else and come to the conclusion that everyone (literally everyone I pass or interact with on a day to day basis) is doing better than me and that I am hopelessly lost in this world of confusion and despair. It propagates my apathy because I convince myself that I’ll never get any better, at anything, and will sink into mediocrity and nobody will come to my funeral and blah blah blah.

Right well, on reddit today in a random thread someone else expressed this sentiment albeit in a more diluted and less nihilistic way. The question of the thread was thus:

“What do you know to be unequivocally true and yet you still refuse to accept it?”

A simple question, fairly easy to answer. The answer I saw was something along the lines of:

“That no one cares about what I do as much as I do. I stress so much about how people view me and it I really shouldn’t.”

Now that’s me, although I heap on layers of self loathing and misery on top of that basic notion. However the response to that sentiment completely threw me off guard and somewhere inside the quagmire of my mind a shiny penny dropped into some magic hole that has left a lasting impression on me (I hope). This was the response to that worry:

“The problem is that you are comparing your behind the scenes footage to everyone else’s highlight reel.”

And BOOM! epiphany! I actually cracked a smile at this ridiculously simple and obvious observation. Every time I see someone do something that I think I can never do, every time I see someone succeed at something no matter how trivial, every time I feel bad about myself because the person I’m viewing is clearly above me, I am only getting a slight glimpse into one person’s life. I’m seeing one event that for all I know could be the only decent thing to happen to that person in months. I’m comparing my entire existence with just one of their transient moments in time. This has taken root in my mind and *I hope* it’s something I can use in the future when those familiar feelings start to run through my mind.

Thanks random reddit user. You have given me a useful tool to try and combat these irrational and damaging thoughts I have on a daily basis. I just hope I can make effective use of this tool.

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Don’t hate, meditate

OK I’ve been away for a while playing Dark Souls II and generally being lazy on my week off.

Dark Souls II needs a piece written about it, but not yet as I am nowhere near finished with the game. I’ll admit there have been some changes made to the overall mechanics of the game that I am not best pleased with. It’s still a brilliant game and I will still dedicate many hours to it, but there are some glaring changes that feel like they were made by the publisher and not the developer. Changes to make it appeal to a wider audience and hence: get more money. I hate this practice in the industry, and in general but enough about that for now.

I’m going to start meditating. Once a day for just two minutes to start with, then longer if I can keep it up for a whole two weeks.

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I have no idea how to meditate although I understand it’s easy to get in to. My problem is going to be controlling my wandering mind. The point of meditation is to become more mindfulness about your everyday environment and experiences, to be able to concentrate on the things that matter rather than getting stressed out at the little things. I can’t seem to help doing this though, my mind charge on at the speed of light when it is not fully occupied.

Still, it’s worth a shot and a lot of formerly depressed people swear by it. I need to find a comfy cushion and some whale sounds CDs…