PeterMBall

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

My thesis prospectus was submitted on Friday, which means I get to shift gears and focus on creative work a little more for the latter half of the year. This week, that takes the form of a story that will either end up being a novella or novelette about an broker of occult artifacts and the trouble he runs into when his best friend cuts him out of a deal.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I read CS Pacat’s The Captive Prince in preparation for an In Conversation that’s happening a little later in the month, and it’s an intriguing book to look at in that context. A lot of the hype that surrounded it’s original release was all about trying to position it within the marketplace, and there were a *lot* of references to the series as an erotic Game of Thrones. That undersells the book quite considerably, and misses what’s really interesting about the series.  It’s doing a lot more with the traditions of romantic fantasy – quite intentionally, would be my guess –

What part of my project an I avoiding?

I need to critique a friend’s novel this week and it’s not currently accounted for in my to-do list, and I’ve got two weeks to do a bunch of reading and notes for the next phase of the thesis (aka writing the chapter that I’m actually doing the thesis to write).

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

Working on the same short story as last week, and finishig off uni assessment for the semester.

What’s inspiring me this week?

No Middle Name, the collection of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher stories and novellas. It’s been a useful collection to look at in light of the PhD topic, and Reaxgee’s status as an iconic rather than a dramatic character.

What part of my project am I avoiding?

Still getting in the get swing of working during regular work hours, rather than being free to work at all hours.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

Still working on short fiction this week, and my goal is to finish a story about coffee carts, families,and the end of the world that I’m trying to get done by the end of the month.

What’s inspiring me this week?

Glen Weldon’s The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, which started out as a thing I planned on reading for fun and quickly revealed a metaphor that’s going to be incredibly useful for explaining a part of my thesis. The book itself is an interesting mix – frequently smart and funny, but occasionally marked a tendency to separate “nerds” from “normals”in a way that frequently feels uncomfortable.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

I’ve been slowly building up the writing muscles after a slack period, but I’ve been reluctant to move back to a daily quota system where I active track time or word count to measure progress. It’s probably time to start looking at the twenty-hour writing week as a default thing again, working regular hours and filling in time-sheets. It’s worked pretty well for me in the past, particularly when I need to maintain focus, but I keep avoiding taking that step at the moment.

The Flaw of “Not That”

I’m halfway through Glen Weldon’s The Caped Crusader, a book that traces the evolution of Batman and the rise of geek culture. It is, at alternating intervals, fascinating and smart and very, very funny, but it also loops back to a series of conceits and bits that irritate the fuck out of me.

Mostly, it comes down to one word: normals. It gets used quite often throughout the text, the distinguishing term that others non-fans in a meaningful way, and it gets used because it’s a thread that runs through fandom in so many ways. It is, at least, nowhere near as bad as the mundanes, but it matters so little to my tooth-grinding dislike of that artificial segregation that it barely helps.

It is incredibly easy to define an identity and a subculture based on your dislike of what you’re against. Pointing and saying NOT THAT is considerably clearer than saying, TOTALLY THIS (and yes, I’m totally aware that I’m totally falling back on Not That right now; I’m embracing the stupidity of this).

But Not That eliminates the possibility of nuance. It eliminates the possibility of having an AND. I am this AND this. I am for many many things.

And the reasons behind Not That invariably, rapidly become uninteresting to me. I am much more interested in listening to people talk about the things they love, and why they love it, than I am hearing about the things they dislike intensely.

The Narrative Demands It

I’m on the highway, heading south, on a particular June winter morning. I’m doing hundred and the sun is shining and the road is almost empty. Just a few cars, far ahead, well past my turn-off, which means I get some space to myself in a world no longer fond of space.

I’ve had the stereo playing ever since I left home, and I find myself listening to the Stranglers Golden Brown for the first time in years. It occurs to me that I love this song. I’ve got things turned up a little louder than usual, and I turn it up a little more, and the music fills my head and obliterates everything else. I’ve got the car and the road and the ¾ rhythms of the keyboard and the harpsicord, Hugh Cornwell singing about the texture and sun and finer temptresses, that slow rise-and-fall of the music wrapping itself around my day like the last touch of a dream.

I feel good. I’m in the moment. I’m not thinking about the things I’ve done wrong, or the things I’d like to do right. I’m just driving a car and singing off-key and god, it’s so bright out there. The road is so empty. It’s perfect, in a way, for the length of a verse; the kind of scene that appears in movies, right before a character has a heart attack, or gets attacked by zombies, or finds themselves blindsided by a truck. Happiness as a portent of doom, because happiness does not last unless it occurs at the climax and becomes part of the denouement.

It occurs to me, any moment now, I need to die quite horribly. The narrative demands it.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

I’ve got a few minor tasks to do for the thesis prospectus, but my attention gets to drift back to fiction this week. Current plan is to put together a short story draft together.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I’ve read a lot of Joan Didion’s essays over the years, but somehow I’ve managed to miss The White Album until now. This is incredibly unfortunate, since it’s fantastic essay and I immediately wanted to a) go and write things after reading it, and b) annoy everyone I know by posting quotes to Facebook and Instagram.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

I’ve stopped paying attention to refilling the well over the last few weeks, with a lot of my reading being either thesis-focused or me falling back on well-worn comfort reads.Necessary for recharging, but not great at actually pushing me into work, so I’m pulling together a small pile of books and starting to track my research-reading again.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

Working through the feedback on my thesis prospectus and putting together the final rewrites of the supporting documents that go in with it.Things turned out to be in much better shape than I thought when I sent the draft through to my supervisor, so I’m hoping I can have it all out of the way by this time next week.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I know I’ve said this before, but I re-watched the first few episodes of Riverdale this week and it’s a very different experience where you know what they’re building towards in the season finale. There’s an incredible amount of stuff built into the show that you don’t notice right up – little cuts away to minor characters for reactions, or making use of a character’s sight lines to convey things in scenes where they don’t have dialogue – and it’s a lot easier to see the meticulousness of what they’re doing.

I really am going to read something in the coming week, though. I’m starting to get twitchy about the lack of finished books.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

I really, really need to schedule work this week. The last seven days have been weirdly intense and busy, and it’s started to affect my mindset a bit – I’m wavering between intense bursts of doing everything and seeing everyone, alternating with long periods where I’m semi-comatose and unwilling to do anything. That’s a pretty good sign that I’m going to burn out real soon, so actually thinking about my work/relaxation split and planning it out instead of just doing whatever comes up is getting pushed to the top of my priority list.

Progress Report

I frequently get the shits with antidepressant medication and seeing my psychologist and all the processes that are necessary for managing the inside of my heaf. Part of that’s the ongoing struggle with self-stigma that any of it is necessary at all, part of it is the annoyance of the month-to-month cost of keeping my shit together, and sometimes it just feels like it’s not goddamn working and all the time, money, and effort is going to waste.

It’s not. I spent a good chunk of last night taking a really long walk, ’cause I was starting to get a little squirrely and fragmented. Two years ago, I would have disappeared into a week-long TV binge or computer game obsession where I skipped sleep for days on end, so even when three hours feels like a failure, it’s not.

Where I once used to stress-eat incredible amounts of junk food and cola after rising at midday, I will now usually respond to long-term stress by eating a considerably healthier breakfast at my local cafe.

I have slowly, painfully, gotten better at acknowledging that I occasionally have feelings, and will even discuss them with a select group of other human beings from time to time.

I no longer remember the last time I felt like a fake human being, merely presenting a clever facade to the world, or a bundle of incoherent rage lurking beneath a thin veneer of civility. Intellectually, I know it was about eleven months back, right about the time virtually everyone I know said get help, but it feels further back than that.

Progress feels weird and invisible. Sometimes it’s just swapping out really bad habits for less destructive ones, but it’s still progress. Not always as fast as I’d like, or as thorough as I’d like, but it is what it is. 

And when I get shitty with the process, I try to focus on that. I am not where I was, and that is a good thing.

The Bloody Chamber

In need of distraction, I started reading Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber aloud to fill the empty spaces in my flat. I’ve adored that book since it was recommended to me back in my early twenties, but I’ve never actually paid attention to the vocal components of the language. Reading aloud, you quickly recognise just how ornate and well-crafted the opening sentence of the titular story really is. Consider, and read aloud if you’re so inclined:

I remember how, that night, I lay awake in the wagon-lit in a tender, delicious ecstasy of excitement, my burning cheek pressed against the impeccable linen of the pillow and the pounding of my heart mimicking the great pistons ceaselessly thrusting the train that bore me through the night, away from Paris, away from girlhood, away from the white, enclosed quietude of my mother’s apartment, into the unguessable country of marriage

The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter

There are rhythms to that sentence you don’t even recognise until you’re trying to manage your breathing the entire way through it. Hell, I didn’t even remember it being a single sentence until I got to the end.

I’ve got a mental list of stories I can re-read that are so damn good I’ll always want to write something new in an attempt to do something half as good. The Bloody Chamber is basically a collection full of them. 

Lull

I turn off Lutwyche Road and follow the street as it curves towards the baseball fields. Cross the road to avoid someone young and angry kicking the shit out of a chain link fence. It’s ten o’clock. I’ve walked down to the Valley and back again, just because I’m feeling restless. I don’t want to be in my apartment. Up ahead, the young, angry person kicks the fence six times, starts walking down the street again. They don’t swear or mutter or do any of the shit angry people usually do when walking through my suburb. I want it to be colder. Brisbane has been ignoring winter. I want it to be colder and I want to be thinking clearer.  The fence-kicker goes towards Lutwyche Road. I head towards home. When I’m around the curve, a safe distance away, I start whistling Ani Difranco ‘s Out of Habit underneath my breath. I tell myself that work is coming. That I will not have to think about how to fill the time anymore, sooner than I think.