wickedace: A small, purple, plush dragon (Default)
 Alright, gang, I'm feeling remarkably flat this morning (and by flat I mean I just spent half an hour lying on the floor in my hallway because doing anything else seemed like more effort than it was worth). I reckon I'm going to try and work out the stuff running round in my head by writing it out here, since that's basically what secret blogs are for, right?

Click here for a whole bunch of wailing about friendship )

In other news, I've been watching the first and second seasons of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, and that's been pretty good. It's fun spotting the seeds of what became tropes in later Scooby-Doo films/series, and all the 1960s budget animation tricks - in the whole first series, the closest we get to the classic ending line is "I would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for these blasted kids and their dog", and there's a stock headshot of Fred having a smart idea that appears in almost every episode. Plus, I'm word-perfect on the theme song now, and it's been in and out of my head all week.

wickedace: A small, purple, plush dragon (Default)
 So! After a long phase of feeling whiny about writing, this month I am going for some cheerful "actually getting it done". I've set myself a gentle 25k word goal for Camp NaNo, clubbed together with a cabin for writers from another site I hang out on, and started working on a cool idea from a couple of years ago that cake back to me recently. I'm feeling quite positive right now - the half-size goal feels much more achievable than a full 50k, and even though I've had a busy weekend, I'm sitting comfortably at 2500 words already.

As I say, the idea is one that's been kicking around for a while: it's a kind of low fantasy thing, with a setting that's a sort of trick-mirroe reflection of immediately post-WWI Britain, although I'm sure it's going to develop its own personality as I go, if only because I don't know a huge amount about post-WWI Britain (I know a lot more about post-WWII...). There are elves and dwarves and humans, but there's not really any magic, and I'm really interested in the politics of how the three species coexist. (Elves can't touch iron - have the other two agreed not to use it?)

It's kind of funny seeing how far back the roots of this story go. The main characters grew out of a conversation that was pretty much "imagine if Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli were dating. And also women.", and that was a good four years ago now, I reckon. Having given the ideas time to mature in the back of my head has been good for them, I hope.

I don't really have a plan for the plot of this thing, just an idea of the first few scenes to write. By the time I've finished those, I hope to have an idea of which ones to do next, and so on, so I get through the thing in a slightly more relaxed version of Wallace and Gromit riding the model train in The Wrong Trousers...
wickedace: A small, purple, plush dragon (Default)
There's a place, a headspace, I end up in sometimes, and have ended up in this evening. I'm going to write about it here, mostly to get the thoughts out of my head, and then I'm going to go and do something else - I think I will put dye on my hair, and then cook and eat dinner while it's on, and then wash it out, and that will probably fill up the evening.

So, this mood, headspace, thought cycle. I used to get it a lot when I was in my final year at uni, and having to think about what jobs to apply to, what to do with myself after graduation, and all that. These days, the trigger is usually thinking about writing on a day when writing is not going well - in particular, trying to think about character ideas.

When you're writing characters, everyone says, the important thing to know is what drives them, what they want out of life.

The problem is, this is a train of thought very much adjacent to the one that looks like "what do I want out of life?". And I (still!) don't know the answer to that.

The world tells me, "You can do anything! You can be whatever you want to be! Follow your passion! Follow your dreams!" But the world is assuming I have a thing I know I want to do/be, and there's some external circumstance holding me back from it.

I don't think I have a "passion". I mean, a lot of people probably don't. I don't think I have a "drive". Or a "dream", in the cheesy motivational meme sense. I have some things I enjoy doing (except when they send me down this spiral). I have some people I like spending time with. I have a job I enjoy most of the time. I have financial and housing security. I have a family I love. I have... a daily grind that's kind of okay? That's what this looks like.

When I think about this, it feels like pressure, wrapping around the sides of my brain and squeezing. I want to curl up and bury my face in a pillow and scrunch up my eyes and moan piteously. I want to hide from everything (but I want someone to turn up and tell me it's all okay?). I don't like it, and it upsets me.

I would like to be able to brainstorm character ideas without getting into this mess...

Some things I like:
(if I write them down here, it will remind me that there are some)
  • Writing, when I manage to do some, and not spiral like this
  • Photography, when there's something pretty to photograph
  • Reading
  • Watching films (I am slowly catching up with a bunch of old ones I've never seen)
  • Spending time with particular people
  • Cooking and eating tasty/fancy food
  • Going to comedy nights
What I am going to do now:
  • Have a snack and a drink of water
  • Put dye-safe clothes on
  • Put dye on my hair (I think the pillarbox red)
  • Cook dinner (perhaps chicken and new pots with white wine sauce?)
  • Eat dinner
  • Finish rereading Maskerade
  • Wash dye off hair
  • Bed, probably

wickedace: A small, purple, plush dragon (Default)
I've been thinking over the last couple of days about the kinds of bits of history that interest me. History was never one of my strong subjects at school - I didn't like essay subjects, for a start, and leaned heavily in the STEM direction - but I am glad I did my half-GCSE in it, because it means I know a bunch of stuff about the Cold War that otherwise would probably not have come up.

My parents said "The Cold War? That's not history - we lived through that!" - and I see why it gives them "feeling-old" feels, because after all, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was only about three months before I was born. But this actually captures quite well the area of history that interests me - the personal and relatively recent. In much the same way that I find the cultural differences between UK and US, or between England and Scotland, fascinating, I really like learning about how things have changed just over the past five decades or so. My parents are in their mid-fifties, and have lived through an incredible amount of change - and that's awesome.

(I was never very close to my grandparents - I'd lost one before I was born, and another by the time I was five, and both my grandmothers lived in the order of a hundred miles away, which is quite far on a UK scale, and have now both, sadly, also passed away. Perhaps if they were still alive now (and not suffering from the horrifically painful experience that is dementia), as I get into my twenties, I would have thought about taking time to ask them a bit more about their lives, and that would expand my interests back another few decades.)

Last week, I found a documentary on BBC iPlayer about the building of the motorways. As in, in the fifties, motorways did not exist in Britain. To my nineties-born mind, this is an astonishing thought. No motorways. The first one was just eight miles long, and people went for drives to the motorway, as a destination in and of itself, to say that they had. There were no speed limits, and when the M1 was built, people kept burning up their engines because their cars hadn't been designed to handle seventy-odd miles of sheer speed. (Side note: the M1 was actually the second motorway, just to fuck with people looking back from the future - the first motorway was a segment of the M6.) The road signs that were designed when the M1 was built are the same road signs we see on the motorway today - because Jock Kinnier and Margaret Calvert actually sat down and designed them, and designed them well.

A couple of months ago, again on BBC iPlayer, I found the episode of Panorama that aired the day after the moon landing. This is so much more interesting watching than a modern documentary about the moon landing. Sure, a modern documentary would have had more footage - but that's the cool part! The day after the moon landing, they had the barest handful of information and a couple of images, and a dodgy satellite link to NASA that cut out as soon as their journalist started interviewing the man who knew things. The best part of the hour is BBC presenters and a panel of assorted somebodies making up a lot of rubbish about what the moon landing means for humanity - and that's really interesting. Not in and of itself - I can turn on the TV any time and see BBC presenters making up rubbish about what things mean - but because this is what you would have seen, at the time, when it was actually happening. My dad has sometimes mentioned how seriously exciting and inspiring the space race was, seen as a kid, in real-time, on the news, in black and white - and this doesn't seem to compare to watching educational videos in Physics lessons (while, on the news, in colour, we see NASA being defunded...)

What was it like, watching Jaws in the cinema? Was it actually scary? Watching 'classic' films for the first time in 2017 is a totally different experience, because I have extra decades of cinematic advancement altering the context for what I'm seeing. Jaws is hilarious to me, because I can see that the shark is made of rubber, and I have seen photo-realistic CGI sharks on my screen. The original Cybermen have me in side-splitting laughter, because they are wearing tinfoil hats with socks over their faces - but my mum remembers hiding behind the sofa, age 6, in terror when they came on screen. I watched The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with my dad, and enjoyed it despite its glacially slow pacing - but he first saw it in the cinema on a Saturday morning, when it was the coolest new thing. I've seen more James Bond parodies than original Bond films - and this changes how I will experience any original Bond film I watch. I saw the first Star Wars film as a cultural phenomenon, not a cool new sci-fi epic. What was it like, watching these things when they were new?

There are three popular, interlinked murder mystery series on ITV, set in the dreaming spires of Oxford - Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour. Morse was filmed (and set) in the 80s, and featured Inspector Morse and his sidekick Sergeant Lewis. Lewis is the spin-off, still running today, featuring the promoted Inspector Lewis, with sidekick Sergeant Hathaway. And Endeavour is the modern, period version - filmed today but set in the 60s, showing a young Morse before he made Inspector. I enjoyed them all - but Morse holds endlessly more fascination for me than Endeavour. I lived in Oxford for four years. Watching Lewis, I can say "ooh, I know that place!". Watching Morse, I can say "ooh, I know that place - but wow, it looked very different thirty years ago!". And watching Endeavour, I can say... "well, I know that place, but they've covered it up with set dressing to look like how they think the 60s were". I'm much more intrigued by the old-but-contemporary, than by the modern-historical.

(I was rereading Douglas Adams' The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul this week, and trying to visualise King's Cross and St Pancras as they are described in that book. In the eighties, King's Cross at night was "a bit rough", I've learned, which is bizarrely at odds with my own experiences of the swish and modern transport hub and the surrounding area. At the time the book was written, St Pancras had not been revitalised into the vibrant international station it is today. No Eurostar, no "please play me" pianos, no quirky art installations, no fancy boutiques. And in the book, Adams mentions the sight of five huge gasometers, framed by the station arch, which sent me down a rabbit hole of gasometer research. I knew what they were, and what they were for - and I knew that the ones north of King's Cross are currently in the middle of being turned into fancy modern flats and arts venues - but I didn't know that they were so utterly defunct, or how long they have been defunct, and I'd never thought about how it must have been to live within sight of a gas holder rising and falling every day. I've never seen an active gas holder - but they used to just be part of life. Isn't that weird? But, on the other hand, one of the bus routes Adams refers to still exists, and I could absolutely take it.)

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, other than demonstrating my affinity for the little details, the personal touches, and the small changes that you might not think about when there are big events and dates and names to learn. My mum used to record songs off the radio onto tape, and that's why she hates it when radio DJs talk over the beginning or end of tracks. My parents watched Monty Python when it was new and outrageous, rather than a comedy standard that gets quoted ad infinitum. Tignes ski resort looks almost identical in my holiday photos from this year and my parents' holiday photos from 1987 - apart from the ski lifts, which look much dodgier in theirs, and the ski clothes, which are a lot more alarmingly eighties. I suppose we are already seeing some of the bits and pieces that will be fascinating details of change within my life to future generations - "I remember when the Nokia 3310 was cutting-edge", and all those other things you see on "I was born in the 1990s" Facebook pages.

Cultural context and cultural shifts are intriguing and interesting, and, please, BBC, keep making bizarrely specific history documentaries, and airing your archive episodes.
wickedace: A small, purple, plush dragon (Default)
Much like many people, I'm sure, I find my life goes through phases. Often cyclically so.

Not very long ago, I was feeling very down on myself for not doing anything 'interesting'. I worked, I ate, I slept, (I also hung out with friends a bunch but apparently that doesn't count, according to my brain). Meanwhile, my partner is churning out a song fitted to a prescribed theme every week, in between band practises, and through him I'm exposed to a bunch of other musicians who jam or compose on the regular.

So, I made this Dreamwidth.

...and I picked up my camera and started trying to take a photo every day again, using a 30-day challenge.

...and I picked up a learn-Japanese app recommended by a friend, and started trying to learn some of that.

...and I stuck my nose back into an online writing forum I used to hang out on, and decided to get back into reviewing other people's writing on there.

...and then agreed to try doing NaPoWriMo after talking to an old friend on that forum.

...and then I come roaring down in flames? This evening I am feeling incredibly tired (and incredibly grumpy, partly due to a long-running board game we have been playing which I have not been enjoying) and down on myself (ha) for... I don't know. Trying to do too much?

There has to be a middle ground, here. I suspect I have overshot it. (I also suspect I need to get some sleep and quit moping.)

wickedace: A small, purple, plush dragon (Default)
This might get a bit long and disjointed, but I want to write down some things that are in my head.

I had a friend over Friday night, who ended up crashing in the spare bed and spending the whole day with us on Saturday, which was a-w-e-s-o-m-e. Of course, this is someone I value, but have not known long enough to be confident in the strength of the friendship, so the moment he walked out the door, my brain started up with the "what if I fucked everything up" worries. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that someone who spends a whole day hanging out with you,  and then says "yes, absolutely" to your "shall we hang out and do x soon? I'll message you about dates", is probably someone who considers you a friend and does not think you are awful. So I'm using that as a kind of antidote to the bad thoughts. Also, when he left, other friends had arrived to watch a Ghibli film, so although that stopped me getting an early night and I am super tired, it was a good distraction. (And now I really want to read the book of Howl's Moving Castle, because apparently the film makes more sense when you know what the hell is going on.)

Speaking of bad thoughts/feels, I also want to write down a thing that happens sometimes. I'm sure someone else somewhere must get this, too. The thing is: I do something mundane, like, say, reaching for the handsoap pump on the sink. As I pump the soap I think - oh, wait, there's something I'm meant to be feeling bad about, related to soap, I've just remembered - but I never remember what the thing to feel bad about was. So I end up with these bad feels (like guilt and worry all tangled up), and I don't even know what they're for. (In the handsoap example, I have a feeling it might have been to do with noticing that the handsoap in the other bathroom was on the wooden side rather than the sink last night, and the wood beneath it was warping with wetness? But I'm not sure. Also that's not really much of a thing to feel bad about. Especially since I moved the soap when I noticed it, and the wood is fine this morning.)

I have not touched my pen and notebook in some weeks, but I have been doing a bit of photography, which I let fall by the wayside a few years ago. I picked up my Blipfoto account again, and started doing a 30 Day Photography Challenge (one photo a day). We're on Day 13 today, so at some point today I need to think of a photo for that. It's nice to feel a little sense of achievement about something creative.

I realised that most of my... I guess creative energy?... at the moment is going into food. I've started a mailing list for dinners, where I pick a date and email out, and then a random cross-section of people I know reply to say they want to come, until I have a full table. Then I cook something nice - a three-course something - and we have a nice dinner. I've done one and scheduled a second so far. I'm really glad I started this, because I think it will be constructive towards two things I want - first, to actually cook more of the interesting things in the many recipe books I own, and second, to do positive social things that leave me feeling more sure about the fact that I have friends.

(More detail on that last bit: since moving to this city out of uni, two and a half years ago, I have had a lot of feels about friends and social circles, whether I want to spend time with the friends I have and how to make friends I don't have yet. I think I am past the worst of it now, and am feeling more settled, but it's a thing that I'm sure could rear its head again if I'm not careful. Things that have helped:
  • consciously taking a step back from social things that were leaving me feeling bad more often than good
  • switching to a more relaxed organisational style - I am one of the "organised ones" in our uni circles, but I have switched over to more "I'll be doing x on y date at z time, come if you want" rather than more detailed plans
  • another friend independently deciding they weren't happy with their current social life and picking up the role of instigating social activities
  • turning up to social stuff organised through my partner's work, and getting to know his colleagues and work-friends
  • getting in touch with an old school friend for a drink and a catch up every so often
So, basically, I've been putting some effort into having the social circles I want, and it has been paying off. I am glad about this, and I hope it will continue to go well.)

But anyway, back to the creative-energy-food thing: on the one hand, I am happy that I get to make delicious food, and feed it to people who appear to enjoy it. But on the other hand, I can't help but feel a little bit...dissatisfied?...about the fact that the area I've been pouring energy into is an art that is by its nature transient, and which is not necessarily appreciated as an art by wider society (unless you're doing elaborate masterpieces like the kind of thing you'll see on GBBO). I'm not sure what to do with these feels, so I'm putting them in a box until I do know, and carrying on with my current plan of attack i.e. put energy into things that feel good, don't bring out the guilt stick when writing or whatever doesn't happen, etc.

Okay, that's a lot of disjointed thoughts, so let's move onto the "stuff I read":

Vet in a Spin, by James Herriot (reread) - James Herriot is one of those things that's really easy to reread - familiar, funny, somewhat episodic. This is the 6th in the series - the comic memoirs of a vet in 1930s rural Yorkshire. I was using this as a calming bedtime read.

Assorted Harry Potter fics - and I found a couple of REALLY GOOD but UNFINISHED ones, gah. Need to remember my AO3 password so I can bookmark them. One was updated last month, so I have hopes of it being finished, but the other is very clearly dead, and I should have known better than to start reading a clearly dead and unfinished thing by an author I know does super good emotional stuff. Oooh well!

The Dark Tower I - III, by Stephen King (reread) - or "My Tower Is Dark, My Books Are Long", as Chuck Tingle apparently called it recently (very good name). A good friend at uni, whom I have sadly fallen out of touch with, pushed the Dark Tower on me in my second year. I read the first five, but then for whatever reason never got to VI and VII. I remembered this the other day, and decided to give them another shot (but I'd forgotten so much that I figured it would be sensible to reread from the start). Also I'm drawing a map of it, because I found one online and disagreed with it, and because I'm a sucker for fictional maps (I want to paint Middle Earth and Pern and The Lands Beyond on my walls ifwhen I own a house). The world/setting is still as fascinating as before, but this time I'm a bit more conscious of how crap King is at writing women. Going to suck it up to get through them and sate my curiosity about this damn Tower, but duuuude please, write about a woman without mentioning sex or genitals or creamy thighs. Just once?
wickedace: A small, purple, plush dragon (Default)
I woke up this morning to brilliant sunshine, blue skies, and a quietly cheerful feeling of contentment and optimism. Sunny, cloudless days are like cheat codes for my mood - I find it so much easier to smile when the sky is bright and the world outside full of colour. Blue skies, yellow bricks, green leaves. (I remember one spring being surprised by the bright green of the trees around me, like I'd forgotten that nature could make that colour, during the grey of winter.)

I ate breakfast at our dining table today, looking out of our wall of windows at the brilliance outside and smiling, feeling unexpectedly upbeat for my first morning back at work after an exhausting (in a good way) holiday. It's the sunshine that does it, for sure. I look at the light, and I remember previous sunny days and the feelings that went with them. Summer term at uni, all yellow stone walls and cycling in the sunshine, picnics in the park and lazing in pub gardens. Moving to this city, catching the sunshine that poured through the bedroom window in our first flat, leaning out the other windows to look at the immaculate shared garden downstairs. Moving to this flat, almost exactly a year ago, and relishing the joy of having an actual balcony, planting garlic and watching it creep up through the soil.

I like sunshine, it's clear, which is a disappointment to my tiny emo soul. I have friends from the North, who prefer curling up in layers of blankets and hiding from grey and rainy skies ("it's easier to layer up than cool down!"), but I cannot stand the cold (unless it is proper cold, with snow, and I am skiing in it), and when the sun comes out I almost can't help but smile. Bring me summer nights, pleasantly warm, and clear enough to pick out the few stars that make it past the city lights. Bring me lazy summer weekends, cold cans of Coke and sizzling barbecues. Bring me walking home from work in the daylight, through the splash of green that is the little park between office and station, and the smell of the plants that strive there. Bring me pub gardens and picnics, and the friends to share them with.

Bring me sunshine.

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