Update May 2018

This is a hard post to write.

It’s not really about writing. It’s not going to be about looking forward to projects or making ridiculously optimistic posting schedules.

This post is about the things lining up to make writing difficult for me at the moment. And what I’m trying to do to get past them.

Why? Because I need the record. I’ve discovered, since coming off medication for chronic pain, that I am not as good at remembering what it was like being in those mindsets as I thought. The hard things have softened in my memory, the triumphs lost their shining edge.

So, this post is about the current shenanigans my brain is throwing my way, and what it’s doing to, well, everything.

In July 2017, I had the immense privilege of being in a pain management program to come off medication for chronic pain and become self-managed. I was thrilled. I threw myself into the three-week course with enthusiasm.

But, as with most good things, there were unexpected results. The pain lessened, which is so amazing I cannot describe it, but I was incredibly dizzy and nauseous in that last week.

And then the week after. And the one after that. And onward for months.

There were many ideas about what it could be, but time ruled them out. It couldn’t have been coming off the meds, because it should have settled by now. We tried neurophysio for the vestibular system. It helped, but it clearly wasn’t that.

So, six months after the course I ended up at a neurologist who reassured me that it wasn’t a problem. It was just PPPD, Persistent postural-perceptual dizziness. Which basically means my brain did the thing where it was enthusiastic in the wrong direction, and ended up with a maladaptive response. And everything that involved looking or moving, or watching things move, resulted in a dizziness response. Everything.

I couldn’t read, not even a menu, without my stomach turning and my eyes blurring.

I couldn’t write, or dictate, or touch type.

I couldn’t drive.

I couldn’t do anything that meant moving my head. Which is a long and gloriously mundane list when you’re short…

Needless to say, that made me feel sick, tired, anxious, and starting to wonder what I had left once activities like, Life, were crossed off my list of things I could do.

Then I got in to see a wonderful CBT, who specialises in PPPD, and has got me trying to train my brain with graded exposure.

I can read, in 10min blocks. And since I discovered that I have no self-control, that means non-fiction books for me. Seriously, how are you supposed to read good fiction for just 10mins at a time! Madness!

I can write, in 10min blocks. But no more sets of 10/5/10/5/10/5… 10mins, then as much rest as I need to let my brain realise we didn’t have a near miss with disaster. At least, not a life-threatening disaster. Literary disaster is totally fine.

I can drive, and have to find places to go to increase my range. Yay new places to go!

And I have to keep track of how head movement impacts me, and what that means for the symptoms.

So, of course, I overdo everything, and end up in the middle of a well-deserved flair right as I’m starting to get to things again. Yay.

But, 10mins a day of words is still somewhere between 300-500 words. And I’m not going to sneeze at it. It’s more than I have been doing for the last five months. I’ll take it and be glad of it.

And write blog posts, and little things that don’t require keeping an entire fantasy novel in my head to do it.

But I do miss being able to do that. Or just make stuff up on the fly. It turns out when your brain is determined that it has to make all this dizziness for A-Good-Reason,-I-Promise, there isn’t a whole lot left over for the other things…

So, I'm napping then, apparently.

Leo and Abbey take their duty as rest helpers very seriously.


The End, or the Big Anticlimactic Thud

Congratulations! You just wrote those magical words we strive for.

You just wrote ‘The End’.

There should be trumpts sounding, showers of petals or confetti, and glowing accolades from your friends and family. But it’s not quite like that, is it?

If you’re anything like me, those little words are both the best and worst in your writing life.

Best, because you did it! You pushed through the whole messy story and tacked it to the page with your very own words. It’s not going anywhere until you decide to look at them again, or the technology sprites run off with your seventeen back ups all at once.

Worst, because it’s done. It’s finished. You got the whole thing out and down, scrabbling oddness that it is, but now the space it occupied in your life is empty. Poof. No more trying to sneak words in around your busy day. No desperately bargaining with characters to play nice, please. No more offerings of tea and biscuits to tempt the muse to you. My muse loves sweet biscuits, yours may like something else but the principle applies.

And when you do get into the spot to sneak in those words, you don’t just have to battle the latest hurdle your work is giving you. It’s the actual blank page. Or the list of all your other projects waiting to be picked. You have to make a decision about what to write next.
What is next?

And there is a heap of advice out there, all conflicting, and it all comes down to ‘do what your process is’. I have lost count of my frustrated mutterings into my tea cup about how to find this magical ‘your process’. It’s got to be some sort epic quest I haven’t got the starter for.

So now that The End is written, it’s done, there is one thing I have learned that has actually helped me. Listen to your reaction, and go with it. If you only want to write the one, well done you! But if you want to write more, here’s what I’ve found so far.

If there is a massive sense of victory, of being able to conquer anything, pick the next thing to do. Don’t necessarily start, but choose something. That way, when habit has the keyboard in front of you, there is an easy answer to what you’re supposed to do.

If it’s time to curl up in a blanket fort and sleep for a week, do that. But put the other projects out so you can see them. That way, when you emerge from well deserved hibernation, there is something to gnaw over and get ready for when it is time to write again.

Make writing easy, and hopefully The End is just another part of writing. One that should be celebrated, because finishing a piece is always awesome, but one that can play out however it does without throwing your writing life into turmoil.

Dusty and our new kitty, Abbey, relaxing together. This is totally what I am doing to prepare for the next writing push. 

Silence is telling.

The gap between this post and my last is not just the result of my life taking a few crazy turns that made me appreciate stillness and sleep.
It is not, as I would like to believe myself,  because I have been so inspired I just havent had time to blog.
It is, instead, a reflection of the creative silence I have been battering myself against. Much like a magpie who somehow gets into the kitchen,  I am sure what I want is somewhere nearby, but I have no way of getting it and so attempt to go back to what I know. And between me and the sky is a invisible barrier more implacable than I am strong or determined.

Mind Silence, the kind where no words truly settle, has been my companion these last few months. I have attempted to use NaNoWriMo to help me break loose, but all I’ve found is a ringing mockery of what I want. What I need is so far from where I am, I don’t know where to even start.

Today, I started here. Because here I don’t have to get it right, I just have to write, and it can be as concrete as my world has become. That’s part of the process right now,  finding new ways to start, and new ways to start over.


Duchess thinks this is the way to start every day.

Packing for Camp NaNoWriMo

I suddenly realised, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, that it is March and that means Camp NaNo is right around the corner.
Normally I would be excited, but I am all out of creative ideas, if the as yet unfinished In the Gods’ Hands project wasn’t proof enough. So I have been haunting all my old creative places to find inspiration.
All I find are bunnies.
These bunnies are not the glorious binkying Plot Bunnies so treasured by NaNoers the world over, but their sleepy midday counterparts. They lounge around with content expressions or flop out in the heart-stopping ‘dead bunny’ and sleep. Rousing a flopped bunny is very difficult at that point.
Instead of being intimidated by the all but unresponsive condition of my Plot Bunnies,  I will take this opportunity to assemble my equipment. Camp is an adventure of truly unexpected events and a well packed adventurer’s kit is essential. If I prepare while the bunnies are sleeping, and there are still days between me and Camp, I might be able to start a story somewhere on Day One.
I will worry about coaxing the Plot Bunnies into action later, right now I have lists to write!


Duchess and Dusty relaxing.

Skipping Stones

I have been struggling to get motivated lately. It has been so bad that I’ve found myself doing things I actively don’t like doing because I don’t have the emotional or mental energy to do creative work.

If I wasn’t so emotionally exhausted, I would be frustrated. The truth is, I go through stages like this. They’re not great, but I am being very careful not to call them ‘bad’ either. They just are.

My mind is like a lake on a still day, reflective and clear with nothing lurking in the depths. It’s a bit of a disconcerting feeling, honestly.

That’s why I am writing this blog post. I’m hoping that the small words, the light and easy ones that I use here will skip across the surface and make ripples. Maybe something in the depths of my mind-lake will see the glittering shifts of the sun in the water and swim closer to the surface. If it does that’s fine, but if the lake remains still, I’ll just keep skipping things across the surface and see what happens.

Sometimes, the desire to do something, to produce a piece of work or ‘achieve something’, is as crushingly exhausting as not sleeping for days on end. Nothing wrong with that at all. It just is.

Today, I am glad I had a teacher who taught us to imagine our mind like a place. Mine is a cottage in a forest with a river nearby that feeds into that lake. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get up from the pebbled beach with its smooth stones and head back to the cottage to do something. For now, I am trying very hard to let skipping stones be enough.


Someone has an idea what else I could be doing. Hint, it involves head-scratches.

The Dice Gods Know

Last night I had the coolest character creation session in a while, and it was all thanks to the dice gods and some well made tables.
Part of the fun was the amazing group of people and the interesting rule set, but then we hit character background and it got interesting.
I am not, I confess, a good person for planning characters regardless of why I should be. I tend to fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants whether it be for roleplays or writing. Usually, this flexibility works in my favour during the initial stages of party balancing or vomit copy drafting. Of course, it means my characters don’t have much background to start with.
Pathfinder and the dice gods soon fixed the background problem! I kid you not, I had picked a funky race I’d never heard of and one of their specialist classes, and every dice roll I made just increased the awesomeness of this random character I had never thought of.
As people, we are trained to look for patterns and to make meaning out of things. As a writer, it’s my job to set up information to work with, and sometimes contradict, patterns of story and character that are a big part of how I see the world.
I’m bracing myself of a foray into ‘Now What?’ month in February, so I’m taking the dice gods advice on board. It’s time for me to take the stories I have and work them into a bit of a tapestry. It’s not going to be pretty, or overly intricate, but it’s going to be my work.
And if I get stuck, I know how to get myself thinking outside my usual parameters…

Edited to have a different picture, this is what happens when I think a picture is awesome…

Someone is helping me find things I put 'somewhere safe'.

Someone is helping me find things I put ‘somewhere safe’.

Mind Silence

There is a silence that seems to follow big things, a pause for consequences. It lingers, and the less clear the connection between case and effect, the longer and broader the silence.
I am sitting in a kind of silence, my mind still blank from the effort of getting Thesis coherent before deadline. There was the promise of great things, or productivity to rival even the months of NaNoWriMo. Those promises are echoes in the vast, soft silence as I try and tease out anything that may resemble motivation. Creativity has curled up in a corner somewhere, and isn’t coming out.
However, I have been able to write lists. Lots of them. I have lists of my story ideas, where they are in the process, what I know I can do to fix things. I have lists of small things I can do to try and bring back motivation. Lists and lists and lists.
Now all I have to do is cross some things off them.
Blog post, check!

Someone is trying to help make the lists go away, but I don’t think it’ll help…