A Year of Not Writing

Philip HarrisWritingLeave a Comment

Last year was pretty much a complete bust when it came to personal writing. I did a lot of very cool writing in my day job, but I managed a mere 10,485 words on my own projects. That’s the lowest since I started tracking wordcounts in 2012.

I started the year off filled with good intentions. I’d only managed 16,381 words in 2022, most of which I wrote in January and February. For 2023, I decided I was going to give myself some extra motivation and aim to write a new story every week.

That fell by the wayside very quickly when the first story was clearly going to be far too long to finish in a week. Then a real-world disaster came uncomfortably close to the events in my story. No editor would consider something that seemed to be inspired by such a fresh tragedy, so I shelved it indefinitely.

Throw in a lot of creative churn in my day job and the ongoing morale-sapping effects of the pre-apocalyptic world we live in and my desire to write turned into a desire to consume. Mostly TV, movies, and videogames.

That’s not a bad thing. Refilling your creative well is important, and I watched some great movies last year. But my muse, Ethel, is persistent. Annoyingly so. She drip feeds ideas into my subconscious, urges me to note down submission windows, and generally just keeps pointing out that if I just spent less time on the Internet and more time writing, I’d have a new novel by now.

Now, the brain weasels are a permanent fixture in my psyche as well and the two are locked in an endless struggle.

Brain Weasels: “What’s the point? No one cares whether you write or not.”
Ethel: “But you enjoy it. Mostly.”
Brain Weasels: “You’ll never be as good as Craig Schaefer.”
Ethel: “That’s not the point.“
Brain Weasels: “Or Clive Barker.”
Ethel: “It doesn’t-“
Brain Weasels: “Or Caitlin R. Kiernan.”
Ethel: “But you’re not-“
Brain Weasels (on a roll now): “Or Cassandra Khaw.”
Ethel: “Well, no-“
Brain Weasels: “Not to mention Richard Kadrey.”
Ethel: “Okay, that’s true, but-“
Brain Weasels: “Or any of the other authors you admire. In fact you haven’t even reached the level of a moderately talented 10-year-old.”
Ethel: “You shouldn’t compare yourself to other writers. Even 10-year-olds. But people enjoy your books. They post nice reviews. They email you.”
Brain Weasels (laughing, dismissively): “Some, yeah. But most people don’t.”
Ethel: “And what about that teacher that’s using your writing in their class. She loves it and so did the students.”
Brain Weasels: “Pah! That’s your dumb science fiction novel. You haven’t even written the sequel.”
Ethel: “But you could. You have that idea…”

And so it goes on. Each side locked in struggle for dominance over my motivation, neither of them gaining any traction. At least not for long. Meanwhile, I’m watching submission deadlines roll by and tinkering with ideas, looking for something that will kickstart the words.

Towards the end of 2023, we moved out of our apartment while the place was renovated. That created a window of opportunity where I was working in the office (so wasn’t getting burned out sitting at the same desk for sixteen hours a day) and there were fewer entertainment options.

Ethel saw an opportunity and took it. I cranked out a couple of pieces of flash fiction – Just As They Always Do and The Krampus Killer – and entered them into contests. The Krampus Killer wasn’t successful but Just As They Always Do was a finalist and lost out to an excellent story which is encouraging in its own way.

I also submitted an older science fiction story to an anthology that was rejected but got some spectacular feedback from the editor. Which gave Ethel some more ammunition in the fight against the brain weasels.

So the year ended on a high note, and I’m determined to build on those meagre fragments of momentum and make 2024 a better writing year. I mean… it’s not going to be hard to eclipse 2023. A couple of full-length short stories will do it.

So, I’m outlining a new horror novel that’s got me excited and working on my second screenplay. This year there will be more words. I might not reach the dizzy heights of 2016’s tally of 282,441, but I’m determined to break the 100,000 word mark for my personal fiction.

That’s less than 2,000 words a week. I can do that. Probably.

Of course, the eternal battle of Ethel vs the Brain Weasels will go on, but I’ll persevere. I have to. Writing is part of who I am.

Hmm… The Eternal Battle of Ethel vs the Brain Weasels is a good title for a story…

Until next time. Stay safe.

Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys
[A Year of Not Writing by Philip Harris first appeared on Solitary Mindset on 2nd January 2024]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.