The Writing Process: A Rant
The Writing Process: A Rant
Today, I want to talk about the writing process and why it’s actually important. And I mainly want to talk about this because I am super frustrated. I feel like everything I’m doing is about trying to get back to writing, instead of just writing, and honestly, I’m not wrong. That’s the majority of what I’m doing right now. I am building a system instead of writing a story.
After years between now and publishing my last book, I just want to be at the end of this process where there’s a book to publish and I don’t feel like I’m fighting everything, including my very difficult brain and all my executive dysfunctions. But I’m not at the end of this process. I don’t have a book to publish. In some ways, even as I polish off the last of this current short story, I still feel like I haven’t started this process — mostly because I don’t see the story I’m writing as viable for publishing.
There’s a reason for that; it was to take a lot of pressure off of me as I get back into this writing journey. It was so I didn’t have to make a cover with my fucked-up eyes in pain all the time and having to face that aspect of what I’ve lost in such a short amount of time on top of getting back to writing. But because I’ve taken the “easy” way out, I’ve put a lot of work into something that’s going to be locked on my website (unless I add a fantasy element to it, and I don’t want to. It’s all fantasy, but somehow pretending it’s supernatural makes people who read understand words aren’t real? Like, dumb fuckery.) I don’t feel like I’ve succeeded in anything, and I think a part of me needs a win right now.
So, the writing process. The importance of doing all the busy work I’m doing now. A refresher to remind me why the fuck I’m here.
I can’t claim that a writing system is solely a good idea because of executive dysfunction. I think someone would need to have an amazing memory to write a series or serial without some sort of process in place. Even if it’s as basic as writing an outline, I genuinely don’t believe that writing a complex series can be done — done well — without a structure to keep focus and to juggle all the plot points and character arcs and background information that needs to be juggled.
I am a poor mental visualizer, which is why it’s essential for me to have reference for what I’m writing about. I need background images, and blocks of text describing setting and characters and clothing and items if I’m going to be capable of conveying visual information to readers.
Because I’m such a poor mental visualizer, this is obviously something important to me. It’s a void in my brain that I’m trying to fill for myself, not just the reader, and that can get difficult when addressing such a deficit. My neurosis can pop up, and I can put greater value on it than it needs to be, or I can feel frozen in my writing because I don’t have that image to convey. Having the database where I store the description of that image can help my brain disengage from the obsessive need to ensure that I’m conveying something that I’m struggling to visualize. In that regard, doing this background work is one of those steps that might look like busy work, but it’s actually allowing me to move forward instead of being stuck as a result of my very difficult personality.
But it’s boring.
Last night, after finally stealing enough time to get the manuscript into the editor I had created last week, I started the editing process. And I found myself hating it. Partially because I was exhausted; partially because I was holding a ton of expectations that were overwhelming my curiosity; partially because I’m still struggling with allergies and what they do to my cognition. And today I just feel frustrated. My brain is conceptualizing everything I’ve gone through, everything I’ve created to get me to this point, and all I’m seeing is the struggle without reward.
Somehow I thought creating the support tools would make this editing process easier. But there is only so much I can do that will actually get results at the end that are measurable. Everything else is just trying to create a little more ease, a little more convenience, but nothing of impact. Nothing is going to fill out this database for me — although I have made a way to link text into my reference forms so that it will auto populate, and I’m probably going to expand on that because it does seem the path of least resistance. But I still have to input the manuscript, and separate the text out and link it to the correct data file. I still have to battle with my many executive dysfunctions in regards to reading and focusing to get that done.
To make my life easier. But it doesn’t feel easy. I have to do all this very difficult — feeling near impossible — work, in the hopes that it’s going to make things easier in the future.
It sucks. I’m bored as fuck. Writing is fucking boring.
I just want to get to the end of this already. I want to get to the end, not because I’m avoiding hard work, but because my brain is not certain that I’m ever going to enjoy getting to the end of this process. I want something to prove that all these doubts and frustrations aren’t grounded in anything real. I want concrete proof that the work I’m putting in will guarantee results.
And maybe that’s just unrealistic. Maybe that’s a level of dumb fuck expectation that no one really has a right to put on themself. We cannot know the future. The whole point of experimentation is the understanding that failure is a part of that process.
But I don’t want to be understanding about the process right now; I want a fucking win.
Have I written multiple novels without this new process, without this structure I’m putting into place? Yes. And I would really love to default to that. It’s a place where I’m doing, completely ignoring the deficits, getting the writing done and over with. But it is always going to end with me back in this spot, where I see a new mountain I need to structure before I can climb if I want to move forward as a writer. I am at this place right now because I am well the fuck aware that there is no going forward if I don’t commit to some sort of structuring and reference with my writing.
My brain is not getting better — actually, that’s not right. My brain is not changing. This new system of support tools is designed to acknowledge the very real deficits my brain has in regards to working memory, long-term memory, visual conceptualization, and attention. But it’s not designed to make me feel good about this process, to help me cope with the frustrations I’m feeling as I have to force my brain to work with its very real deficits. That’s something I need to provide in a different context, and I’m doing a shit job of it today.
It has to become part of the process. Every time a block comes up, stopping, assessing, and naming has to be part of the process of getting back to writing. And not just getting back, but the process of writing. Because that distinction needs to become part of the definition of writing. What feels like busy work, be it research, building these structures and support tools, looking at the market that I’m creating the product for — in this case the book for — has to all be part of the process of self-publishing.
Every step taken is a step closer to the end result. And it can be difficult to conceptualize that when all I want to do is be at that end result.
I’m very funny with my conceptualizations. I have a brain that can conceptualize extremely complex structures, but not in a complex visual way. I have to create simple visuals to box a concept — and for some reason my brain needs that visual language when it comes to learning and expressing what it’s trying to say. It’s already doing the work in the background, but it needs a different language.
The structure I’ve created in regards to the outlines and the scene editor all utilize that visual language of mine. The notes I made as I was designing these elements also utilize the visual language in shorthand. It would look nonsensical to most people, just symbols on a page, mostly squares and rectangles much like a brainstorming cloud. But that’s all I need to see to create something complex in my head and then translate it into a project. I do these very basic notes when it comes to coding, understanding the nesting and order of operations of elements I learn how to use by seeing how they break. But if I didn’t take that step, if I didn’t know that about myself, I would not be able to move forward. I have to be honest with my weaknesses to be able to gain anything, and that has to be part of the process.
So, today, my writing process is acknowledging how fucking shit it is to do all this difficult work only to feel like no product has been made. To know that I am going to push my brain to limits that it has in regards to editing. To overwhelm it. To make it ask what is the fucking point of any of this as I go through the decision fatigue of “What’s the best way to convey this concept to a reader that is both clear and also engaging, and why is every fucking choice wrong?” For every single sentence. For nearly every single word in that sentence. All while knowing this book isn’t publishable.
I’m going to commit time and energy into something because it’s important only because I say it’s important, even as it takes me away from putting that time and energy into a product that will make me money by the end — a product that will prove to myself that everything I’m doing is actually getting results, and not just me fucking around learning new things because doing the shit that requires me to focus is boring.
This is so fucking boring
That’s really it, at the end of the day. There are so many things my brain is good at — strike that. There are so many things that reward my brain with dopamine because my brain is actually quite bad at it in the right ways, and the challenge is addictive. But right now, writing is not that. I haven’t done the mental work to turn this project into that. I haven’t set the stakes. I haven’t built the game that will give my brain the dopamine to keep going as I do the arduous work it is normally willing to do when it feels rewarded.
Also, decision fatigue sucks
Decision fatigue doesn’t feel like a reward. My brain likes there to be one answer, the one answer it solves, just like a math problem or a script of code. There isn’t one answer with writing; if anything, writing is all the answers being whittled down into the path you end up on. And that path isn’t the right path, it’s just the one you ended up on. It’s a lot like life, and there is very little satisfaction to life. I’m never choosing the right words when writing; I’m just choosing words until my brain is tired enough to go, “Okay, fuck it, none of this matters, every options is shit; it’s good enough.”
There’s no dopamine reward in that, just letting go, and that is one of my greatest deficits. I don’t have a stop switch easily accessible. Once my brain has taken all the pieces in, turned sentences and concepts into a story to tell, and built the structure of thought — holding it all in my head — it needs to ensure that it’s translated properly. Well. Even as I see that there isn’t one solution, and that none of the solutions are wrong, my brain is still doing math, trying to solve the problem with one answer. And once it’s dedicated all that time into building that complex conceptualization, it doesn’t want to let go until the problem is solved.
The problem that doesn’t exist because none of it really actually fucking matters.
The real problem is my brain
You know that very wise advice of not trying to solve people? My brain doesn’t understand that. It takes complex data about a person, conceptualizes, and then tries to solve — even as it’s aware that isn’t how things work. Most social interactions are about disengaging my brain exactly for this reason. There’s a pattern of thought that comes naturally to this organic computer in my skull, and it is completely useless for the majority of things in life. It’s literally why I choose to write, choose to create anything, ever.
I need to make the game for my brain to solve, or there is no satisfaction or happiness in my life.
I am not writing a novel or series when I sit down to write. I am creating the data (all the shit I make up) and adding in the structure (the rules of writing, as well as the end goal of plot and character arcs) and giving my brain a problem to solve so that it will be happy in a way it cannot be happy any other time.
[data] + [structure] = [customized problem to solve (aka: game)]
I’m the kind of person who is looking for broken things to fix to find satisfaction in life. I fixed a trashcan the other day, solving the plastic mechanism to the lid that had broken years ago and no one had gotten around to dealing with it — and that brought me more satisfaction than the entire room I had also cleaned that day. It’s madness.
So this is also why I need the writing process. Because before, the structure I was building — the game I was creating so that I could then solve with writing — was too simple. It was designed for my brain when it was inflamed. Now the game needs to be more complex, or I can’t find a reason to come back to it. Because I’m not here to write a book. That would be too easy. My brain doesn’t get dopamine from that. I’m here to make such a complex problem for myself that I will feel satisfied once I solve it.
Self destructive by design? Maybe.
It’s not a choice. It’s my base chemical makeup. It’s a pattern of thought that I’ve had since small. It’s why books were so compelling to me as a kid, because I realized that everyone is searching for circumstances where they feel there talents are actually useful, and that’s what good books provided for the main characters. There was no point in having a character that was supposedly smart or talented or had some crazy magical power or difficult flaw, without having a challenge for them to overcome as a result. The strengths and weaknesses of the character would define the main plot points to come.
Books were wonderful like that, because unlike life, they always had a damn point. Someone was always trying to say something in a book, while with life it’s just chaos that we hope to organize in a way to cope with the complete lack of logic.
What I can control is in choice
The choice is that I keep coming back when my novelty seeking brain has decided there’s nothing left in the task of writing.
I don’t want to be a good writer. There’s nothing I want to master. I want to learn something. I want to be effective in what I do. I want to add data to my perceptions of the world and existence on a whole, and if the task I’m doing isn’t providing that, my brain checks the fuck out.
Really, how many times can you do the same damn task, sitting in a chair staring at the screen, hoping something different will happen? The choice is that I show up even though I know nothing different will happen. And then the next choice is to try and find a way to make it interesting enough so that it feels like something different is happening.
I don’t really have a story to tell. When I first started writing, I was in the middle of PTSD therapy. I was trying to understand all the many things I needed to understand about the human animal and coping. That’s what drove me. The motivation isn’t there anymore. I understand enough. Now what.
[game] ?= [satisfaction]
Okay. So, it’s like, I’m here to make a game. I’m here to make something spectacular with all I’ve learned, so I’ll be engaged in the process. But how many times can you set up the dominoes and watch them tumble in glorious ways, until you become disinterested? When you know there’s only so many outcomes, none of them lasting; what drives you to create another pattern of the same?
People think it’s to move from pain, that the goal of money and getting out of a difficult situation is enough. But you know what you find in difficult situations that just so happens to fuel dopamine? Challenges that matter. In every direction. And isn’t that just so interesting for a brain that likes to problem solve?
One could contemplate, design, and make something absolutely unique and perfect for the space they’re in… Or they could buy something instead. When you don’t have money, you’re forced to dedicate the time and thought into a project, and my brain likes that. It wants an excuse to be creative in a way that matters, where there’s no guilt for ignoring the silly game it’s building for itself that makes an income.
That’s why building the game is far more interesting than playing the game I built. Building those support tools has value to me, measurable cause-and-effect to help me improve my existence in the world. Using the support tools to fuck around in a world of my own creation…?
Does it even matter? Does anything I do as a writer actually matter? And if it does, is it enough for my dopamine driven brain to grab on and keep going?
I think if I had the answer to this, I would already be writing (or I wouldn’t be trying to come back anymore.) And that’s the whole fucking problem. I know it doesn’t matter. And I know even if it did matter, my brain can’t conceptualize it as actually important enough right now to switch on and show up. Everything I do as a creative is an exercise in self indulgence, and my brain is bored by it.
Do other people deal with this?
There’s no way to really know myself without my deficits in executive function. When my brain was so inflamed from allergies that my OCD was everything, keeping me focused and driven, I thought that was my personality. It’s the same with ADHD; I don’t know if not having this fucked up dopamine system would mean I experience the world differently and wouldn’t be so driven by the novelty of learning to the point that everything that sparkles so quickly fades. I don’t know if having a different brain chemistry means I could be satisfied with doing the same thing again and again, and never once question — instead of always questioning — the path I find myself on.
This is my brain as I know it to be, with all its many flaws and difficulties within the current, severely flawed structure of the modern world. It is forever sharp teeth tearing into new concepts, slashing and dissecting, and then dismissing for the next meal. Never full, never satisfied. There is no plateau to rest, just the challenge of being trapped, fighting to get higher. And there’s not much I can do about it beyond live with my brain and pretend that with enough time these teeth might somehow soften, that it will eventually find whatever the fuck it’s looking for and be content.
Self destructive by design…?
This is not good content. This is not sellable as a product on a website. This is not a concept anyone seeking self-improvement wants to hear: desires in life are nothing more than chemistry and self indulgence, and we’re all puppets to our chemistry with no control in making the shit we do every day make sense or have actual value.
It’s certainly not information someone interested in growing a following as a writer for a consistent income would want to share with their readers. To know that the creative work one creates is boring to the creator? No one wants to know that. New writers don’t want to know that the creative process doesn’t fit into the mold of the capitalistic system that demands one create a product of similarity again and again and again, just so they be allowed to live on the income that’s returned. No, the reader is too caught up in the consumption. Because as my brain seeks novelty that it only feels capable of having exist if it designs it personally, their brains are seeking novelty without needing that frustrating step in between.
I miss those days of being a reader where shit was actually satisfying…
Does anyone really want to know that in the same way I create problems for my characters to solve to make an engaging story, I have to create challenges for me to solve so that I want to even show up to this gig? There’s nothing inspiring in the reality of this. But I’m not here to put a spin on it to make it inspiring. I’m here to cope with the shit-realities of it all.
Because I’m here, ready to write. And I’m so fucking bored. I’m so bored, I’m writing about why I’m bored, hoping that it will solve the problem of my boredom by pushing me further and further away from the actual writing/editing I’m supposed to do. And yeah, being self aware of it doesn’t solve shit. It’s part of the process.
Because part of the process of writing is not writing!
…See what I did there?
No, it’s not actually meaningful. It’s a fucking cop-out. But it’s the best I’ve got today as I hate on the hard truth that my brain is seeking something it is never going to have. Never. Yet it can’t fucking stop.
It’s an addict by nature. There’s no purpose in it, just coping. If I didn’t need my brain to write, shit would be so much simpler. But it can’t be simple. That’s boring to it. So here I am, ranting about shit I can’t change, before I go and do the boring shit I won’t have an excuse to avoid once I’m done writing this.
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