Introduction to the Accountability Post 2021 Week 31
The brick wall’s back. I managed to stay ahead of it for seven solid months. I finished the first draft of Book One: 61 Cygni and got a chunk of Book Two: Epsilon Eridani written. To be honest, I knew I couldn’t evade it forever. My life’s defined two two unalterable facts: I cannot not write. I know how badly my writing sucks. The latter, of course, it what I’m calling the “brick wall” for the purposes of this post.
I do have one advantage now that I didn’t have in December 2020. I’ll get into that in a minute. But first, how badly did the brick wall affect my writing output this week?
Accountability Post 2021 Week 31 By the Numbers
Last week, I reported that I ended up with 43,688 words after having written 9,031. That reflected more than the usual number of writing sessions because I had been on vacation from my primary career. How’d I do this week?
I can’t call the output catastrophically bad…
My final word count hit 49,380 for a weekly output of 5,692. Not horrible. But do you notice the 0 word count on 07/31? I had some family business that needed my attention. I should have been able to write after that. I’d allocated the time. This is the brick wall’s new method of attack: Wait for me to get a little tired, then unleash fifty years of negatively in a tightly focused beam. I ended up playing video games. On the plus side, STALKER Anomaly is turning out to be a great mod.
Designs Took Up Time
But first, I do have a legitimate reason for the low counts on 07/27 and 07/28: I had to design the sets for TransStell Deep Space-1 (TDS-1). Using the dimensions I’ve established for a standard manufactured crew compartment for spaceships and space-stations, I came up with the basic design for a launch control module.
The idea of the dimensions reflecting a standardized manufacturing process appealed to me.
I went through the various stations in NASA’s launch control, from Apollo to the space shuttles. My goal was to understand the overall conceptual progression and consider how it would apply to the types of launches TDS-1 oversees. I designed the individual launch control modules around those ideas.
I say “individual” launch control modules because TDS-1 usually handles 5 simultaneous launches with a capacity to handle up to 8. Since I’d suggested TDS-1 was a dual wheel design, and since in Book One I mentioned that the Flight Control Center was in the hub, I wanted a design to reflect a Zero-G environment. So I came up with this:
I wanted the design to reflect a Zero-G native environment.
As you can see, OmniGraffle and I still have an uneasy relationship, because I had to hand draw this part! But it seems to have decided to help me out more often than not. Maybe it took pity on me? In any event, I’m not unhappy with the design. I think it has visual appeal. My son knows a lot about using the Unreal Tournament level Editor. I actually considered “building” a mock-up of TDS-1 as an Unreal Tournament map. But as much fun as I might have, it wouldn’t help me finish the manuscript. So, I’m keeping that idea on the shelf for now.
The Return of the Brick Wall
Confidence is Over Rated
After I finished Book One, I jumped right into writing Book Two. I had two reasons. First, I knew that any self-editing so soon after completion would be impossible. I was still too close to the draft.It’s hard to be objective in the momentary glow of accomplishment that follows finishing a 147,027 word draft. No matter how bad it was, that amount of work represents commitment and drive.
The second reason was more psychological: I knew that if I didn’t keep moving, my old mental habits would catch up with me. I’ve called them demons before, and today I’m consolidating them into a single brick wall. Either way, the impact is the same: Sooner or later, I was going to remember that I think my writing sucks.
I’m not going to belabor this. I only bring it up now in case someone runs into my particular brand of brick wall. Most of the self-help literature I’ve read focuses on boosting self-confidence. The idea is that if you can regain your self-confidence, you can perform better. Given the popularity of this approach, I conclude that at least for some subset of the population, it works. But it makes what is, for me, a fatal assumption. Namely, that I have any confidence to start with.
Early on, my approach was to evolve the ability to work without confidence. There’s actually a huge benefit to this! Most trolls try to attack their target’s self-confidence. Every time a troll insults me, I have to laugh. It’s like amateur hour at a stand-up comedy club. Their insults are laughably inept. I mean, I’ve spent a lifetime cataloging my faults, so when someone else tries to insult me, I see how they have only scratched the surface.
Sometimes, I feel so sorry for them I want to give them tips.
… Is What I’d Like to Say in Accountability Post 2021 Week 31
Without having much or any self-confidence, I’ve managed to achieve quite a bit in my life. But to be honest, I think all of that is less than it could have been if I have approached it from a perspective of confidence. For one thing, in personal dealings with people, they find it confusing when I refuse to engage in any kind of competition. From my perspective, it seems like that’s something humans do. I even heard through the grapevine that a developer I worked with years ago complained about it. They didn’t know how to engage with me, or even know where they stood.
If I compete with anyone, it’s myself. Why do I care how I compare to someone else? That person took decades to get to where they are. Their genetics, their education, their experience all combined to create a distinct, unique human being. What’s the use of seeing who can crank out Visual Basic or Java code faster? To me, that’s not useful information. Having a sense of confidence might have given me more anticipated relationships with others.
The other problem is that my approach gives me no emotional cushion. Once the brick wall caught up with me and reminded me how much I think my writing sucks, I didn’t the space to push it back and regain emotional momentum. The situation is actually worse than that: I read a little of Book One’s first draft, and I have to agree with the brick wall. It needs work. In does, in fact, suck.
But I have to expect that, right? I mean, isn’t that the definition of first draft?
Oh, the advantage I have now that I didn’t have in December 2020? Even I, as much as I don’t like my writing, have to admit: I wrote a novel that’s over 147,000 words long. Other humans have actually seen it, so I have proof! So I can’t deny that a written novel, even if I think it sucks, has a better chance of selling than a novel I didn’t write.
I’ll take any plus I can find!
Thanks for reading this far, and sorry for getting so introspective. I thought I’d use this forum to think through the situation. Thanks in advance for not pointing out how terribly shallow that thinking turned out to be!
Important Explanation for This Week’s Existential Crisis in Accountability Post 2021 Week 31
As I replied to a comment on one of my anime site’s posts tonight, I realized why I’m in this mood. Over the weekend, I watched Bo Burnham’s Inside on Netflix. I watched it over 24 hours ago, and I still can’t process it. In that regard, it reminds me of Donnie Darko. I watched that decades ago, and bits and pieces still percolate to the top of my consciousness. I had watched it alone, and when my wife came home and asked what she’d missed, I answered, “Everything.”
Inside is a terrifyingly good movie, but only if you’re ready for it.
Bo Burnham’s Inside is like that. It made me on one hand want to despair of ever creating anything and on the other hand go throw myself into creating everything.
If you haven’t watched it, I’m not sure I can recommend it without reservation. It’s so insightful it’s like a philosophical dagger. I’d recommend watching one of his YouTube videos first. It’s funny. Then you think about what he said, and if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself grasping at your laughter to keep you afloat.
If you can handle that, then you might be ready for Inside. But please be careful!
Last Week’s and the Coming Week’s Goals
I had hoped to finish Plot Turn 1 for the arcs that center on Ira Malhotra, Liam Martin, and Atticus Porter. I almost made it: I finished the first two and about half of the chapter for Porter. There’s some stuff going down in South America, and for Porter’s chapter, I had to reinforce my understanding of the terrain. Again, I can’t say enough good about Google Maps for researching locations. Of course, I can’t hope to represent these locations as well as a local could. On the other hand, I wanted this book to feature some locations other than North America. Earth’s a big planet; I wanted my book to reflect that.
Here are my new goals:
- Finish Atticus Porter’s Plot Turn 1.
- Move into Pinch 1 for the main plot, Jack Booth’s arc, and Dek Conrad’s arc.
The stretch objective will be to write Ira Malhotra’s Pinch 1. She’s turning out to be more important than I anticipated, and it’s in a way that’ll play very well into Book Three.
What techniques do you use to keep your inner doubts/demons/whatever you call them at bay? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
6 thoughts on “Accountability Post 2021 Week 31”
I don’t know if there’s ever a way to fully defeat your inner demons. The best you can hope for is to stop listening to them.
Ironically, I mentioned this sort of thing on my post this morning, although I was looking at it from a when is it good enough to publish standpoint. The conclusion is that you won’t know until you publish it. Even then, you probably will look back at it and think you can do better. I know I’ve been dealing with that for a while now.
The problem is that this business isn’t about creating the perfect piece of work. Sure, you can aim for that, but you might just publish one book and that isn’t going to pay the bills.
We have to look at writing as asset building. The assets don’t depreciate over time and the more you have the more reliable the income. There’s no benefit to working on one story for five years, rewriting it over and over and over. Better to get it as good as you can and move on. Get on with the next story.
Don’t know if that helps, but it’s always worth remembering that no matter how good it is, there will still be someone that doesn’t like it. Stephen King gets 1-star reviews too.
I saw that you mentioned something similar in your post this week! I often decry the influence of commercial interests, because deep in my psyche, there’s this stupid little kid who keeps talking about art for art’s sake. I really need to give him some snacks or something so he’ll shut up…
But your point’s a very good one. It doesn’t matter if I think my stuff sucks. It only matters if _everyone_ thinks my stuff sucks. If it turns out my perspective and stupidly unique perspective actually resonate for someone, then that changes everything. It’s almost like I’ll have a responsibility to continue exploring this fictional world so the readers have something to enjoy.
Even if I don’t understand _why_ they enjoy it.
I’ll second your advice about asset building. That’s what 20 books to 50K is all about.
Also, King not only gets 1 star reviews. He threw his own manuscript for Carrie in the trash, because he’d given up on himself. His wife fished it out and forced him to reconsider.
Which is probably why I’m so big on “yeah, I suck but my opinion hardly matters!” sort of theme.
For Art! They cry as they run into battle defending the one hit novelist…
Seriously though, it’s an option. If you want to write one magnus opus that is a perfectly acceptable goal.
For me, I want to write a lot of stories. There’s too many in my head to let them all sit there doing whatever they want. I see my goal similar to the pulp fiction writers of yesteryear.
As far as quality goes, I’ve read a lot of mediocre stuff and several really bad books. Of course, there will be people that loved them. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, from our experience as reviewers we’ll see the variety of responses to a single story. You can’t please everyone and the sooner we accept that, the happier and more productive we’ll be.
Yeah, I loved that story about Stephen King. He was another writer who was effectively a pulp fiction author as well. Carrie is a very short novel as a lot of his earlier ones were. He also used to write so much that he had to publish under various pen names as the publishers didn’t want to flood the market.
One of the things that really got me going with my writing was seeing the manga top ten around the time Attack on Titan first came out. It dominated the chart. I saw that and wanted to do the same, but with novels.
“I see my goal similar to the pulp fiction writers of yesteryear.”
I like that image. That’s my goal, too.
I’d also love to write something as influential as the Lensman series by E.E. “Doc” Smith. Not in terms of style; I have enough trouble trying to let my own style through, whatever that is! I mean in terms of longevity in the minds of readers.
For sure, and for that I’m taking the theory behind the Ray Bradbury challenge and applying it to novels. It’s impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row. One of them must end up being good.
I’m not sure if it will help or hinder me writing in multiple genres, but that’s what the muse is telling me to do. I’m sure something will stick eventually.
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