Four Little Letters

Four Letters
It’s incredible just how much impact four little letters can have. When collected as a word, their weight can shape how the reader feels or understands the character to feel - Love, Hate, Lust, Rage, Cool, Heat, Cold, Pale. Of course, there’s always the familiar idea that the four-letter word represents the sort we would never use in polite company, and the idea that sex is one of the most fun three letter words -- but it really needs a few four letter words to properly describe it.

One particular collection of four letters has recently crept into my life. What it captures has been present for a number of years, but it is the label that the letters represent which is new. They’re not so much a word as much as they’re a diagnosis. Some might see it as a life sentence, but I’m not so sure about that at the moment. Ambivalence is probably the way I’m looking at it right now.

PTSD.

A lot of what’s been happening over recent years now makes more sense. I can see its effects in my writing, even if I didn’t know why things were getting worse / harder to do / the written word was taking on a darker tone. I can see its effects in my updates to this blog. I can see its effects in my family. I can see its effects in me.

Sometimes having a label to describe what’s going on is important. In this case, it opens up the pathway to correct treatment, understanding, and management. The idea of a cure doesn’t seem to be present, other than the hope that it may resolve itself with time. In the case that it doesn’t, the chemical and therapeutic interventions are meant to make it manageable and allow at least some semblance of a normal or stable life and reduce the impact of the episodes when they do strike.

It was RU OK day here in Australia yesterday (second Thursday of September), and it is a good reminder to stop and ask those around us “Are you really okay?”, and to listen for the heart-felt response. You might be surprised at the burdens those around you are shouldering in silence.

What does the future hold? No one really knows, and we’re not really future-planning at the moment. It’s more of a one-day-at-a-time type of approach. I do feel the call of my muse to keep writing, so I hope that it will form a part of that future.

Day for Dads

Day for Dads
Today was Father’s Day here in Australia, and it’s one of those things where you wonder if it’s more for the kids than the fathers. Being woken by a small tribe of variously aged children, including the obligatory one who tells you everything about the present before you can open it, is a great way to start the day. From there, it feels like most of the activities were about the kids getting to feel great about showing Dad off, but it was a fun day, nonetheless.

To get to the point of being able to celebrate Father’s Day (as a father) obviously requires some special times of passion, and sometimes that passion can get a little helping nudge along with words.

Reading and Writing

Busying
It’s been a nice couple of weeks since my last update, and it’s actually good to report that I’ve been getting some writing done. Small vignettes here and there but, more importantly, writing in-genre. It all helps, and it is nice to actually get some writing done and to feel good about where it is headed.

It’s not just sitting down to write that’s been pleasing, it’s also seeing how productive I’ve been while writing -- the word counts are up there with my highest levels of productivity. The real issue now is actually finding the time in the day to support that level of output.

Another couple of books got knocked off my TBR list, and I’m getting closer to dealing with a couple of really dragging titles that I have been trying, and failing, to get into and make something of.

There’s no quick fix for the other things going on in life, but this week might throw up some interesting insights. It may be a delay to writing and reading while I deal with the real world, but it’s going to help understand how life is going to be as we move forward.

Coming Back to Life

Back to Life
After what felt like forever, I’ve actually made a little dent in my to-be-read pile, and it’s quite reassuring to see new books take their place on the bookshelf.

I haven’t just been reading other author’s work -- I took the opportunity to have a read through some of my earlier releases and, while I think that people got to enjoy them quite a bit, there’s probably a lot more I could have done with some of them to make them into something bigger and better before their release. I know that perfect is the enemy of good enough, but if the book is going to go and stand on its own merits, then perhaps taking that bit of extra time to make it as polished as possible is really going to be worth it.

Even though I’m not at the point of being ready to release a new title, I have been writing in little snatches here and there. That in itself is a good sign and, when I measure how my earlier books evolved and were published, against all the internal things that have gone on over the last few years, it does feel like a positive start again.

Avoiding Work

Working
I haven’t been avoiding my writing over the last few weeks. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. I’ve had some wonderful packages and boxes delivered to the front door lately -- fresh books, ready for the reading!

The only problem is that they are now joining the rest of my To-Be-Read pile(s), along with at least one more delivery I know I’ve got coming (and it’s going to be the big one!).

So, while I’m slowly going to be working away at my pile of books, I have at least moved some of my more recent drafts back into my main workflow, so they’re ready to be brought up to something approaching a release standard. Life, of course, is getting in the way and doing its best to slow down my writing, reading, and editing, but I think I’m on top of it all at the moment.

A Positive Mind

Good Work
I can say that I didn’t get a lot of writing done this last week, at least in terms of fiction, I haven’t gotten much out of the way. I have been busy getting some productive writing done for some other things I’ve got to write for, so there has been at least some forward progress with writing.

I’ve also been slowly making my way through the 2,000+ emails that had built up since I last looked at my email...

Ooops...

Anyway, if anyone emailed me in the last 12 months or so, I’m sorry that I didn’t get back to you. I didn’t ignore you, I just didn’t know that the email had even been sent / arrived. I’m not quite there in terms of getting all of them read and dealt with, but I have made quite a dent, and am down to less than 1,500 emails to go (yay?)

I do have the itch to write, I just need to stop neglecting some of the things I have over the last 18 months or so, first.

To Be Me

Chemistry
No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth.

No, I haven’t given up writing.

No, I haven’t forgotten about my fans.

The last few months have been nothing short of interesting. It really has felt like someone has cursed me to “live in interesting times”, and all I want to do is get back into my writing.

From my last post, I’d been busy focussed on the creation of a couple of specialised papers for a closed readership and, while they were very well received, they are unlikely to ever see a widespread release. How well they were received gave me some motivation that I hadn’t lost my touch with writing, even if it wasn’t what I was expecting to sit down and write.

I’d also been committed to editing work on a completed out-of-genre story, but had been quite stop-start on it. I’d been hanging on to things, worrying a little what my regular readers would make of it, and perhaps even using that as an excuse not to do any work on it. It almost doesn’t matter, as I’d gotten to the point that things started to flounder, and not much has happened over the last couple of months with it. Things were looking promising for a while, with quite a significant amount of rewriting and editing breathing new life into the text, but it fell into the same morass that everything else did.

And what a morass it was. Or perhaps is.

Some demons from my past came back to haunt me in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I’d dealt with them successfully each time previously, so didn’t feel like this was going to be any different this time around.

Around 20 months ago, I started being plagued by some rather unpleasant history, so I did the mature and responsible thing and went to get help to overcome the issues that it was causing. Things really felt like they were getting better, only to get much worse at the start of 2015.

Much, much, much worse.

I sought help again, this time through a different source. Unfortunately, the help didn’t. It made things worse and, after struggling through all of it until the end of 2015, I thought I’d managed to get things back under some semblance of control, only for things to finally go pop earlier this year.

...

...

It took the help of my family, in particular my wife, to realise that the “assistance” that had been provided last year had not fixed anything at all, and that the control I thought I’d re-established was nothing more than a thin veneer over what was a worsening problem.

Any effort to read, research, or read for pleasure felt like an insurmountable struggle. Perhaps I should have been using it as a sign.

I did finally get the help I needed, and am picking my way back out of the wreckage of something that shouldn’t have been allowed to get so far. I have started reading again, and am finding it a joy.

My muse has flickered back into life, even if briefly. My fear that I had lost whatever spark I once had seems to be unfounded.

Is she going to be the same as what she was a couple of years ago? I don’t know, but I am keen to find out.

I have started writing again -- just little things for now. I have one of my biggest fans very keen to start reading my writing again and, for that, I really do thank my wife for encouraging me to take things back up again.

As I continue to find my way back into the light, I’m finding some of the passion that had gone missing. The passion for reading. The passion for writing. The passion for my family. The passion for my lover - my wife.

Even now, I look back at the mess of what things became and realise with a bit of a heavy heart that there are some very horrid traumatic events from my past that will never leave me. They may not bother me day to day, but there will be times when they drag their horrors back out in front of me to relive. And it is something that I will live with until the end of my days.

Is it PTSD? Is it depression? Is it something worse? It’s funny that some professionals really don’t want to get close to making a determination, or even suggest what things might be.

At the end of the day, a label isn’t going to change the fact that I have to live with the memories and sights, sounds, and smells of those events.

The dead don’t bother me -- I am haunted by the ghosts of the living.

I can never endorse enough - if you think you’re having issues, SEEK HELP. It might be hard to open up to someone about things, but it’s much harder not to.

Writing into the New Year

Writing into the New Year
It's been a little while since I've had the opportunity to cover the work I've been up to. I trust that my readers had a great Christmas period and are settling into the new year well. The reason why I haven't had the chnce to write anything has been because I was creating a narrow-release technical analysis paper. At less than 10,000 words, it wasn't very long, but it somehow took me many weeks of effort to even get close by the deadline (which I managed to meet). At times it felt like I wasn't getting much more than a hundred or so words per week of writing done, even though I was spending many hours of effort on the paper.

It was also a bit of an effort to change the way I thought about writing - not being able to write flowing prose, instead having to argue and fully justify written positions. This took a bit of adjustment, and I was getting a little worried coming up to the deadline that things weren't going to come together. Thankfully, a couple of days before the deadline, the block came unstuck, and the words and logical arguments flowed freely across the page, and the feedback from reviewers was appropriately improved.

What all of that time and effort did mean was that I was unable to spend any time or effort on editing or writing my other books, and so they've sat untouched for a number of weeks. I think I also found that I might have had a touch of burnout, which probably explains why I felt I couldn't get any momentum going either with writing new content, or the editing process.

I might take a little bit more time before going back into the editing process, and ensuring that I'm happy with where things were and are heading with the book. Things are feeling positive, and now that I've freed up some of the other deadlines and tasks that were taking up my time, I do hope that I can get back into things in short order.

Deceptiveness

Deceptive
I was happily stuck in an extended editing session; blowing through page after page of text; tightening prose; fixing characters; giving volume to exchanges between characters, and thinking that I had to have taken a massive chunk out of the remaining manuscript so that I could push it out for some early readers to go over it.

From one point of view, I was correct - I had done page after page of text.

From another, I was wrong - it wasn’t all that much of the overall manuscript.

I was both happy and annoyed with the discovery. It was pleasing to have made some good progress with editing, but it was also a little disappointing to see just how much remained ahead of me, let alone a second or third pass over the manuscript. I did kind of know that I wasn’t too deep into the story, as I was still only dealing with the fourth scene.

There’s been a lot of learning that’s taken place, and I’m sure that I’ve got a lot more to go yet, as to just how much extra work a full length story is when compared to the short stories and vignettes that I’ve previously written. I’ve got a couple of stories that I’m more emotionally attached to that I’m planning on taking into the full novel territory, but haven’t been confident enough of being able to make the story telling transition into the longer format effectively. I’m getting more confident with it at the moment, but I’ve still got a long way to go with this particular one, first.

Still Progressing

Progress
The last couple of weeks have been all about the editing process. Nothing new, as such, has been written. Instead, I’ve continued to plumb away at fixing up my latest manuscript. I can definitely feel the story coming back to life, much as it had conceptually been (though not so much in the practical implementation).

I do have some more story concepts that are sparking new life, and I might be spending time on getting some shorter stories out the door, to get back into the flow of publishing again, which is something I’ve spent too long away from.