Purveyor of fine fantasy adventures

Category: writing (Page 2 of 23)

Love(s) in the time of coronavirus

It’s been a weird few weeks. And hoo boy, it’s been stressful, on a number of levels.

I’m one of those immunocompromised folks who need to be extra careful when there’s bugs going around, thanks to the medication I’m on for my MS. Spouse works in a job where he has to deal with the public, so with the pandemic he’s been terrified of bringing an infection home to me. When the country finally locked down, and he didn’t have to go out to work any more, it actually came as a relief – though the stress didn’t go away, it just shifted to different axes: food, money and OMG are we going to kill each other stuck together like this 24hrs a day.

Strangely, the one thing I haven’t been stressing about has been my writing.

A lot of fellow writers have been finding it hard to work lately. Anxiety, financial insecurity, disruption to routine can do that to someone whose working life, like mine, exists mostly inside their head. Many of them have been saying they seem to have less time now, rather than more, and their ability to work has suffered. (It’s amazing how the life of a storyteller goes like that. Rushed off your feet? Ideas all over the place. Finally have time to write? The Muse has wandered off somewhere sunny and isn’t taking my calls.)

Strangely, the one thing I haven’t been stressing about has been my writing.

I’ve been having the opposite experience. I’m actually Getting Shit Done, words-wise. I made a huge structural decision that I think has finally solved the Timeline From Hell. My rewrites are moving apace, and things are starting to fall into place with a pleasing little tinkly sound that is less like broken glass and more like bells. The script for The Dragon House is even starting to look . . . book-shaped.

And I love it again.

Not gonna lie, it’s been hard sometimes to stay enthused about a project I’ve been unable to get sustained traction on for so long. That’s not the book’s fault; it’s been all me. Me being ill, me not dealing very well with me being ill, me making me being ill be worse by not working around it, and making myself thoroughly miserable in the process. None of which is good for my creativity, it turns out.

But last year’s round of therapy has been good for me, I think. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, to stop beating myself up for not changing the things that can’t be changed. I’ve learned to rest, and how to walk away and save my energy for fights I can win, instead of wasting it flailing at ones that I was always going to lose.

I guess you could say I’ve learned to love me, too.

Typewritten page repeating LOVE with one word highlighted in red

Free photo 4046832 © Tine Grebenc – Dreamstime.com

This didn’t all happen in some blinding revelatory insight, by the way. It’s been something I’ve gradually woken up to over the last few months. A growing realisation that I feel more at ease with myself now, and that has delivered the greatest boost to my creativity. I’ve had fits and starts of it before, but I probably went at them too hard and they burned out quickly.

This is feeling more sustained. I’ve only had a couple of bad days since mid-March, but instead of trying to push through I’ve acknowledged them as a sign that I need to take a rest, and they’ve passed without the usual trail of despair and exhaustion. Funny how it took someone else telling me something that should have been blatantly bloody obvious for it to stick.

Rushed off your feet? Ideas all over the place. Finally have time to write? The Muse has wandered off somewhere sunny and isn’t taking my calls.

Part of what has helped has been having Spouse at home these last few weeks. The reason for it (the lockdown) is all kinds of awful, but there’s been benefits too. Not just the endless supply of tea (although that is vitally important to the creative process) but for not being alone with all this . . . *gestures around* this. We’ve not got in each other’s way, meals have come to be about more than just shovelling fuel into the furnace and we’re both less tired and grouchy. We haven’t killed each other even a little bit.

I’m sure you can guess what I would say here if it wasn’t TMI 😉

So. The takeaways:

  • I’m writing, quite a lot and quite well
  • THE DRAGON HOUSE wordcount is up to 145k-ish so I’m making significant progress (believe me, just fixing the Timeline From Hell counts as significant with a capital S – it’s been casting a deep, dark shadow over this manuscript for a loooong time)
  • I’m feeling more productive than I have done in ages. I mean, I’ve even written a blog post!

Before y’all get overexcited, I want to sound a note of caution. Things are going well, yes, but this is still too new a development for me to feel confident putting a due date on The Dragon House. It’s only been in the last few days that I’ve felt able to say out loud that that day feels a lot closer than it did.

But I did, and it does, and I wanted to let you all know. More news as it happens.

Featured image: Free photo 9079661 © Timur Anikin – Dreamstime.com

Of fonts, and stuff

Two writing-adjacent topics collided on my Twitter timeline this week, and lo, a post was born.

I’m going to hit them in reverse order. Bear with me; it’ll make sense by the end.

Twitter user Séan Richardson wanted to know what font people used for writing. As you can see, I answered:

I felt like I needed more room than just a tweet to explain a bit further, which is one reason for this post. Before I get into it, what I’m talking about here is me and my process, i.e. what works for me; it won’t necessarily work for anyone else.

I do my writing in Times New Roman, 12 point. Boooooring, right? Well, that’s kind of the point. Times is old. It’s inoffensive, it’s readable (that’s why newspapers use serif fonts, after all), it’s *everywhere*. There’s nothing about it that stands out, so the eye kind of slips over it, sending the words straight into your brain without stopping to admire that stunning capital W or the cute descender on the g.

Times is the visual equivalent of the dialogue tag “said.” I’m sure as kids we all had English teachers who encouraged us to strive for variety in our expostulations and ejaculations; I am equally sure we’ve all had the same conversation with a kindly editor who assured us that yes really, just “said” is fine, and even encouraged because the reader is effectively blind to it. It doesn’t interrupt the eye’s flow over the text the way some of those other ten-dollar words do.

Times New Roman, 12 point. Boooooring, right? Well, that’s kind of the point.

So because Times is so commonplace, it makes the perfect drafting tool for me. What I’m typing just goes straight into my visual cortex without any sightseeing on the way. I don’t want to be distracted by a comely Calibri or tempting Tahoma. Don’t get me wrong, I like those fonts, I do. I sometimes use them for correspondence – they’re pretty! But for the grunt work of getting the words on the page, it’s the staid, reliable Times every time.

There is a corollary to this, of course. Sitting down to choose another, more visually appealing font would be a further excuse to procrastinate, and Lord knows I don’t need any more of them!

And so we come to the second topic: the font Comic Sans.

I have, shall we say, an uneasy relationship with Comic Sans

Someone in the replies to my tweet asked whether I’d ever tried the tip about drafting in Comic Sans. There’s been much chatter on writer-Twitter recently about this idea, which supposedly makes drafting easier/quicker. A few people on my timeline have tried it, and say that it works for them. Naturally, I would be interested in trying this myself (for SCIENCE!) but I have, shall we say, an uneasy relationship with Comic Sans (Story time: way back in the dark ages, when I still had a day job, the managing director decided to launch a sister company and designed new branding for it. Gentle Reader, he chose Comic Sans as the font. It was on our business cards. It was on our company letterhead. That was . . . a dark time. I try not to think about it).

Anyway. People have theories about why drafting-in-Comic works. They say it’s a fun, playful font. It encourages you to write more freely, to take chances. Personally, I think the effectiveness of it is less to do with Comic Sans per se, and more to do with it being a font you don’t normally use.

Let me explain. There’s a piece of writing advice that recommends that you do your final proofread in a different font, because it makes you see the words afresh, allowing you to pick up on errors your eye would otherwise skip over. This is much the same reason I have been proofreading on my Kindle for years: it makes me see what is actually there, instead of what I’m so accustomed to seeing I’ve become blind to it.

So will I be trying “this one weird trick” to see if it improves the drafting process? Possibly, but I very much doubt the font I choose will be Comic Sans. The twitching has only just stopped.


Featured image: Free photo 6228716 © Janaka Dharmasena – Dreamstime.com

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