Monday, September 30, 2013

Grandiose Ideas

I have a habit of getting an idea in my head, thinking it's entirely possible to do, despite the following facts about my life:

1) I can be called in to work with a day's notice, and because I need to save money, I will agree to go in.
2) I can have anywhere between two and five days' work per week.
3) I have family obligations.
4) I promised myself I would maintain a semblance of a social life.
5) I plan to do too many things at once.

All five are true. It doesn't take much effort to remember them. And yet, recently I've had a few ideas that aren't practical in the slightest, for the above reasons. They include:

1) Writing and posting a 'horror' poem every day in October onto ParagraVerse.
2) Writing and publishing twelve related books in 2014 (two of which are already written, and they aren't the Modern Irish Myth books).
3) Writing (and releasing weekly) a multi-plot story (as in, multiple variations of events) that essentially triples with each addition of a story (meaning by week 4 I would need to release 27 variations of the same chapter).
4) Writing and editing an unplanned book in a month, at a length of 75,000 words.

How many of those things are actually possible? Technically, all of them, but not if I have work and/or family obligations more than three times per week. So, basically, I made the decision, repeatedly, to do the impossible. I actually began the 75K book, before realising how impractical it was to attempt it when I fell behind by 4000 words after three days.

But this keeps happening. I mean, in theory I could do these things. I could still do the 12-books-in-a-year thing, but it would require a lot of work, and a lot of planning (starting now) and they would all be novellas. It's still something I might do, but I need to see how well the two books I'm editing at the moment turn out in the end. If they're no good and require a lot more work after these edits, then I can't write another couple of books before January.

The problem with these big ideas is that I don't actually have many days off, lately. As it is, I won't have a full day to myself until Monday next week. Sure, I'll have half-days and evenings, but that's it. I'll get to go into town to buy my comic books, and I'll get to go out for dinner and go to the cinema, but I'm not going to get do these things whenever I want in any given day. And I certainly don't have a lazy-day ahead of me any time soon.

I'm not complaining, mind you. I like the way things are right now. I just have to keep reminding myself not to start getting my heart set on these massive long-term projects that require me to have more time available than I currently do.

Over the next week, I'll have my editing and planning hats on interchangeably, and by my next day off I'll know what sort of state I'll be in to do my massive 12-book-publication year. At the very least, I'll write some fun stories.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Planning Before Living

As my teaching placement in January came to a finish, it began to feel extremely real that I was leaving college. It was a nervous and exciting time, but it raised a question: what do I do now? I knew there was one thing I definitely wanted to do: I wanted to get a Masters degree.

Two problems then arose:
- What do I want to study in? (And where?)
- How can I afford it?

The second problem was much more easy to address: I can't. Working weekends only, it is literally impossible for me to save up the average full sum required to sit a Masters course in Ireland. For the whole summer, that's all I was able to manage in work - not because I wasn't willing to work, but because the hours weren't there.

Now, I'm in a position to receive a few more hours per week. My boss is currently out of commission, and so we can't mention anything further to him, but my colleagues and I have been talking, and it makes sense to us that I work four days per week - not just a few hours on a Saturday, and a full-day on Sunday. Even if I managed to work just four days in the week, I've worked it out that I can still save up for a course to begin in September 2014.

That's without giving up on comic books, the cinema, magazines or other various expenses that pop up, too, which effectively means that I'm in a position, all things going according to plan (and a plan that makes sense to six people, myself included), to begin a Masters this time next year.

But that still leaves the other problem: what course would I actually do?

Part of me is considering Chaplaincy. Another part of me is considering Creative Writing. There's even a part of me that would love to go on to study Counselling. Each have their own pros and cons to consider, and I'm sure when I seriously start looking into courses things will only get more complicated. Now that I actually feel like I'm in a position to actually afford it, I can actually consider things beyond just what I'd like to do in some hypothetical universe.

Here was me thinking that I was done with college. Ha!

Life requires a lot of planning like this, though, I've come to realise. I know that while taking an extra year of study, I may have to face reduced working hours. It's also a massive chunk of money I can't put aside for saving, or use to travel (like I've wanted to for years, now!). I'm still planning to go away next year for a few days, but I do have to seriously consider the costs of everything before I go ahead with it. That's not just about the travelling; I mean everything that isn't already on my list of expenses.

As well as planning my expenses and income, I've also been looking at a few different things, from video schedules to writing plans, and considering the best course of action to take on a number of different projects. From one that currently looks like an interactive fantasy story, to a web series on YouTube, to a content-filled blog, I've got a lot of work ahead of me for so many different projects. I don't think I'll run out of work to do over the next few months, at least!

It seems like a lot to plan, but it also seems strangely necessary. Not because I might go against my plans, but because I'm not sure I could keep myself focused on one specific exciting thing for long enough to get truly involved in it. I know that once I get it into my system to write a particular thing, or record videos every x days, like I did with my daily-blogging and daily poetry exercises, it'll just be part of my life.

And isn't that the point? To read, to write, to create, to earn, to study. Isn't that the point of all this planning, that it just becomes life?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Now and Then

About a year ago, I began my final year in college. Now, I have friends doing the same thing. While their first day provided them with opportunities to catch up, to cheer, to drink tea in each other's company and to plan a year's worth of events in the Clubs and Socs calendar, I slept in.

What a weird parallel.

It's truly sunk in, now, that college is over for me. Rather than getting to see my friends five days of the week, I have to get one of them to let me into the building the next time I'm in the area. I can't just wander on in myself at any time of the day.

Work, while sometimes-exhausting, is finally providing me with the opportunity to work more hours, though, which is nice. So, rather than spend my days at home pretending I have the motivation to write all day every day, I get to earn money selling books and magazines and newspapers and stationary to people during the day, and moonlight novelling when I get home. What a life it is.

That sentiment was almost entirely true, too. In reality, I haven't been writing too much lately. Tonight's the first time in a while that I wrote some fiction. Okay 'some' is an understatement. I set out to write 2500 words, and I did. I have a target for myself, to write and edit a novel (of 75,000 words) in a month. It's not impossible, but it will be difficult.

Let's break down my week: I usually work at least two days. Sometimes up to four. These days, if they're early starts, leave me with an evening to write. An evening allows me about two to three hours to write.

When I'm not working, I have one day that's almost completely written off for family stuff. (I'm going to try test that theory this week, but that's probably going to be the case.) That leaves two days to do something. What I'd like to do is actually get out of the house at least once per week that isn't just for the cinema, so we'll see how that plays out. That leaves one day to write.

If I worked all day, I could - in theory - crank out five thousand words in a day without feeling like I've lost a whole day. I'd still have time to eat and to watch some television.

The latter is the problem: it's too easy to watch something just for the sake of it. What's worse is that I've been doing it instead of reading, when reading is exactly what I set out to do. I think in those cases I need to use my iPod instead, since it's the background noise I want from the television.

Going by this half-assed template for a week, I still have enough time to write the book. The editing is the more difficult part to include in the plan, because it could take a long time. I have a deadline, damn it!

As well as this Book-in-a-Month business, I'm also hoping to read a book a week. That's not too difficult in theory, so long as I stay away from repeats on television. I'll still watch new shows - like the season finale of Supernatural, and Agents of SHIELD when it begins - but I'll probably stay away from something I've already seen if it can be helped. Plus, I've got breaks in work to read during. A full day in work gives me an hour lunch and a half-hour break to read (and drink tea), and that's how I've been getting through a couple of books lately, but I need to give reading some more time during the day.

Let's put all of this into context with last year. I was writing my Research Paper last year. When I finished that, I immediately set about writing a short, quick and hopefully humorous play for Drama Soc. I had a couple of days to crank out a twenty minute script.

Funnily enough, I kind of plan on doing the same thing once I've done the book in a month. I've got it in my head again to write a play, and to actually send it in to theatre companies for production. Wouldn't that be wonderful, to have a play on stage? Anyway, it's an idea. It's an idea without an idea for a play, but it's there, and it'll grow and by the time the book is finished I might have an idea of what to write about.

Following that, it's just a case of trying to get my creative juices going. If I do a repeat of what I did today, it'll mean beginning to write the play after only five minutes of planning. Seriously - that's all the planning that's going into this novel. I've been mulling it over in my head for a long time, after an idea from a few years go became this one. I'll probably have to plan it a little more formally soon, to get some idea of where it's going, but for now I've got this book that's planned on a single A4 sheet of paper, in barely-legible hand-writing, as a mind-map. Sometimes I write out a thorough plan - especially for something that's to be written in such a short period of time - but for this I want to see what happens when I just let go.

That, I think, has been a problem. Trying to control too much, and then not doing anything. So, I'm letting go. I'm writing with a half-plan, I'm reading a variety of different books, and I'm going to allow myself to relax about life a little bit, while I'm still allowed. I couldn't do it last year, but things are different now. I'm different.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Wee Holiday

I don't dare to look at the date on the last published post on this blog: I gave myself a wee holiday from the Internet, and forgot to come back. So, here I am, in the cyber flesh, somewhat overworked as the change-over in work continues to baffle me with builders and deliveries and my transfiguration from man to newspaper ink as we put the little pieces of the Sunday Times together.

Evidently, I don't holiday well. Holidaying should imply rest, or at least doing something that isn't work, for a period of time. Instead, I was just away from my laptop, barely tweeting, not telling Facebook the ins-and-outs of my life, not blogging or vlogging or Google Plussing. I haven't done much by way of social media interaction since sometime in August, and I suppose I should apologise for that. Except apologies are over-rated when they don't have an explanation behind them, so here's how things happened.

The week following my last blog post - if I'm remembering when that was, exactly - was all a massive setting-up process for a weekend of Shenanigans and Buffoonery at my house. We had a Family Thing. That's about as much detail as you'll get on that. Needless to say, though, that the prep-work and everything else involved and the fact that I had all of this going on and a complete lack of willingness to talk about it online pretty much left me with nothing to blog about without pulling a random topic out of my...notebook. Let's say notebook. It's more family friendly.

Following the Weekend of Madness, which included some time off work, I ended up with a lot of hours in the bookshop as we went through with a major aspect of our change-over. I was also walking to and from work every day, which meant that from around eight until seven I was out of the house or getting in/out of my uniform. Somehow, I managed to maintain a weak semblance of a social life while doing all of this, going to the cinema a couple of times and having dinner out (the joys of KFC...which I can't see myself wanting to eat for a long, long time now) and actually talking to people.

At one point, I had some fun putting together a list of things I'm actually good at. I have a little portfolio in my room, now, which I want to keep adding to. It felt good to put it together, to make things seem a little bit less crap and a little bit more...possible? I suppose that's how it feels. Like things are possible. The big bad scary world of post-college life is a little less terrifying with a good idea of what I'm actually capable of now sitting in my bedroom.

During my time away from the Internet, I also managed to get myself back reading. I've even made the executive decision to make videos about the books I'm reading, since I don't make videos often enough.

And, of course, I've picked up The Sims 3 again. Something about living vicariously through digital minions is oddly fulfilling. At the moment, I'm playing using a married couple of a fairy and a wizard, just for the fun of it. It does mean that they share different beds (she sleeps in a fairy house outside...) but they're also capable of running a house rather efficiently. She can use her fairy magic to repair broken objects without fear of death, and he can magically upgrade objects without...well, fear of death, again. I lost a Sim in an earlier game to an electric shock. Thankfully, it's just a game...

While I've been contemplating many ideas for stories in my time away from the Internet, I've been keeping the writing to a minimum. It hasn't exactly been fun, not writing, but from this blog post on I'm getting things going again. I'm back from my wee little holiday, and it's time to get to business.