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Mental illness: stigma and silence

A quick note before I start: Folks, for a number of reasons December is always the busiest and hardest of months for me. So in the name of self-care – and, hopefully, of finishing another story before Christmas – I will be taking a break from blogging until the new year (barring any writing-related announcements). It’s been great to have you with me for website year one; I hope the end of the year is kind to you, and I’ll see you in January.

 

CW: suicidal thoughts

Yesterday I had a conversation that broke my heart.

I was asked to have a chat with an eighteen-year-old first-year university student whose doctor had prescribed antidepressants, but who was hesitant to take them. I’m not a doctor, nor a mental health practitioner, but I did my best as a user of antidepressants to answer questions about my own experience and based on that experience, to give advice that would help them understand the positives and negatives of the medication when making their decision.

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Girl with a lantern finding her way through a dark forest

Figuring it out as I go: on pantsing with anxiety

One of the questions that comes up in writerly circles is: are you a planner or a pantser?

Planners like to know exactly where their story is going before they begin. They’re the writers who create outlines, spreadsheets, scene planners, character maps, etc ad infinitum.J. K. Rowling? Definitely a planner. J.R.R. Tolkein, with his volumes of world history and mythology, his carefully crafted languages, was possibly the ultimate planner.

Pantsers prefer to just sit down and go, and let the story fall as it may – in other words, they write by the seat of their pants.

There’s a lot more appeal, to me, in being a planner. Planners have plans. They know what they’re doing. If they get stuck, they can just look at their plan and figure out where they need to go next – or, if that’s not enough, they can do some more planning. Right?

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Writing update and reflections on being in the writing zone

As of this morning, my latest story – tentatively titled ‘Two Turns of the Moon’ – is polished up and in the hands of some of my wonderful beta readers. That’s something I haven’t been able to say since – oh gods – July.

While I await their feedback, I’ll take another look at the story I was struggling with before writing this one. After a lengthy writing drought brought on by travel, job-hunting, and getting too caught up in expectations, I’ve been really pleased by my momentum over the last week, and I want to make every effort not to let that momentum drop.

Just a short post this week – some reflections on what it feels like to be back in the writing zone.
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Stop procrastinating, start writing

I’m pleased to report that I’m continuing to write almost daily, though the amount I get through before it becomes a battle to remain focused is still much less than it was earlier this year, when writing was an established part of my daily routine.

There are some skills, like cycling, that I can put down and pick up again as if I’d never spent a day out of the saddle; others, like knitting, require a conscious retraining of my mind and my muscles if it’s been too long since I last picked up the needles. Writing as a practice – sitting down to do it every day, without procrastination, and, having sat down, being able to keep my fingers moving even when I’m not feeling particularly inspired – is a skill it’s all to easy for me to lose.

After four months of writing not very much at all (a combination of going on holiday, coming back and looking for work, and then dealing with starting a new job), it’s taking a lot of conscious work to get back to place where writing is something I just sit down and do, not something that requires me to wrestle myself into the chair.

Experience tells me that the key here is practice – just keeping going until I build the habit again. But since I can’t just fast forward to the point where habit is enough, here are some tricks I’m using in the meantime to help me sneak past the desire to procrastinate:

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Late 17th Century illustration of the Werewolf of Ansbach being hunted and later hanged

This week I learned: the werewolf trials of early modern Europe

Just a short* post from me today, for the best of reasons – I’m busy writing! I’ve found an anthology to get excited over, which is always a great way to spark ideas – I get a lot of my inspiration from having a topic to brainstorm around. In this case, delightfully, it’s queer werewolves.

Here’s a historical titbit I’ve learned while researching my submission:

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Rejecting success

Earlier this month, I resigned as Senior Ranger and departed the organisation and the field in which I’ve worked for the last decade of my life. “Park ranger” is no longer a key part of my identity. I’ll have to update my profile here – and elsewhere – once I can actually figure out what my identity looks like now.

I’ve started work at a customer service call centre, on casual hours. I’ll have the chance to move to part-time – and a more stable routine – once I’ve been there a few months.

The complete rejiggering of my life has been greeted by friends, family, and workmates with all kinds of supportiveness, and for the most part I’m really appreciating it. But I want to talk about one particular sentiment that’s been cropping up a lot in certain people’s words of support:

You’ll have so much time now to focus on your writing.

It’s great that you’re taking the next step on your writing journey.

Congratulations – I can’t wait to see your name on the cover of a book!

Here’s the thing, though: since handing in my resignation – blog posts aside – I’ve barely written a word of fiction.

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Hear The Miller’s Daughter in audio – limited time only!

Words have failed me – never a good sign in a writer.

I have just listened to the audio of my story The Miller’s Daughter, as narrated for Remastered Words by the talented Diana Croft, and I’m in awe, plain and simple, over her ability to make words I thought I already knew delight me, surprise me, and even move me to tears. What is this strange magic?

The audio is now available online, along with an author interview in which I ramble on about inspiration, self-doubt, and fairytales, and apologise to no less than two different authors. The interview is there to stay, but the audio is only online for a limited time, after which if you want to listen you will have to purchase the 2018 audio anthology when it becomes available.

So what are you still doing here? Go have a listen!

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Asexual Awareness Week logo

Asexual Awareness Week 2018: have some resources!

Happy Asexual Awareness Week, folks!

This week is the perfect time for you to learn more about asexuality – by attending an event if there’s one near you, or simply by checking out some of the great ace content that’s available for free online. Here are my top picks for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in ace:

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Writer’s review: ‘Heart Emoji at the End of the World’

Why do we keep telling apocalypse stories? Surely there are only so many ways to write the end of the world. So why is it such a fertile subject for speculative fiction?

There are multiple answers to that question. As a predictive tool, apocalypses let us highlight the hazards we see in the world today or imagine in the world tomorrow. As a setting, a world gone mad provides plenty of fodder for daring action sequences and thrilling near-misses. But the apocalyptic story that reached out from the screen and grabbed me this week contains neither prediction nor action.

Instead, Shauna O’Meara’s ‘Heart Emoji at the End of the World’ demonstrates another reason the apocalypse is such brilliant writing fodder: it has a potential for emotional impact like no other. Catastrophic events lend unprecedented urgency and depth to personal interactions – and O’Meara’s story takes the broad-scale tragedy of a society coming apart and makes it deeply, achingly personal.

Like my other writer’s reviews, this will be about what I took away from this story as a writer as much as a reader, and as usual it won’t try to avoid spoilers – so if you’re interested in experiencing the story as a reader, I highly recommend you go and read it before you read my analysis of it. It’s well worth it. I’ll wait.

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