In 2018 I did a challenge called get your words out. The premise was pretty simple.
Pick a challenge and do it.
I chose the Journeyman option. I had to write for 240 days of the year. I crossed the finish line with 246 days of writing, just scraping through.
It’s funny, I remember going to university for 2 years to get a bachelors degree in nursing. I never even rocked up to get the actual piece of paper once I’d finished because I didn’t give a shit about the degree. It felt like a waste of my time and I think the entire tertiary system, at least as far as nursing goes, is a rort. I wasn’t proud of having finished uni so I never went to the awards ceremony, much to my mums dismay.
But this challenge, now this is something I’m proud of. If there was an awards ceremony for this, I’d be lining up to receive my certificate. It’s the equivalent of writing every day for 8 months, and I only logged days when I wrote over 500 words. I don’t know anything else in my life where I’ve been this consistent, except perhaps music.
Despite hitting the goal I was curious about my word count. Sure, I’d knocked over the consistency part of the challenge, writing for 246 days over 4 projects. But it still left a question. What was the total amount of words I had written for 2018?
To find this total I tallied up all of the projects I had been writing in during 2018. There were 4 main ones. The drunk superhero rewrite I began at the start of the year, the big rewrite I worked on for most of the year, the camp nano challenge I did in July, and a Scrivener file that I always keep open where I write everything not story related, including the first draft of this blog post. I’m going to start by explaining that last one.
When I began the get your words out challenge I decided it was time to start a new Scrivener file. I had a project I’ve been writing in since 2013. This is a project where I brain dump everything and anything. From story ideas, dreams, and goals, through to tax stuff, lyrics for songs, and a journal. Forget exercise books, this project has been the place I go to write stuff down. I mean literally anything. It’s been a friend to tell things to on lonely nights and a handy place to store things I can’t keep in my memory bank. There’s been times where I’d have been fucked if I didn’t have that file.
From December 2013 – December 2017, I’d written over a million words in it. It had gotten to the point where it was getting difficult to find where I’d stored things due to the sheer volume of words.
So I took the second part of the million word advice and threw it away. I made a new Scrivener project for 2018. A clean state for a new challenge.
Last year I wrote 182,315 words in that project.
Now this project was pretty much all in the manuscript. The way scrivener tallies up the word count is anything in the manuscript is counted but everything outside of it is excluded. When I write a story I have a lot of back end stuff that isn’t included in the story. To find out the total words written for the year I also added in the back end stuff. To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s a screenshot of my camp nano file I did back in July. Look at the panel on the left.
The manuscript is 108,703 words long. Everything above the manuscript file called “Draft” is back end and not counted. This is what it looks like when I add the deleted scenes, plot outlines, writing journal etc to the “Draft” file.
There’s an extra 20,000 or so words I typed in July. It brings the total for that project up to 131,159 words.
The big rewrite stats were interesting. This is the story that the majority of my blog posts last year have been about. The manuscript totalled 160,959 words or, according to Scrivener, a 400 page book.
When it’s all added up together, the sub plots and thoughts and journal etc, it’s almost double that, clocking in at 289,954 words. That’s what a years worth of rewriting looks like, 147 days in total.
Now let’s add all these things together.
131,159 – Camp nano.
11,804 – Failed rewrite.
289,954 – Big rewrite.
182,315 – 2018 thoughts etc.
Total words written in 2018: 615,232.
I’m kind of stoked about that. Without aiming for it, I hit the Ludicrous word count challenge.
This is the part of the blog where I’m feeling positive and have a sense of accomplishment.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t last.
This blog has followed a lot of my writing exploits and challenges in 2018 so it’s only fair I give you a bit of an update on how the year wrapped up.
My last post ended after I’d been on a holiday to Bali with Bec. It was September. Things were good, I was focussed, I had a plan to finish rewriting the story and had just finished a nano challenge.
Now September wasn’t a bad month of writing. I wrote for 22 days that month. October wasn’t too bad either, clocking in 21 days of writing. But by November I was showing signs of fatigue, writing 7 days total on the rewrite. I opted out of nanowrimo and instead decided to focus on me a bit more. A large part of this was due to feeling a bit stressed out, and here’s why.
*I should warn you that the next section of writing is me having a bit of a whinge. If you’re sick of seeing me succeed, this part should make you smile as you read about my failures.
One of the jobs I was working ended in September. I knew it was coming and was looking forward to the flexibility of picking up more shifts at the place I normally work at, CRF. But the work that had been in abundance suddenly dried up once I became available.
I got 3 shifts for the month of October. I got 5 shifts for November. After an international holiday and then no work, I was feeling the financial pinch. I work casually and use my savings as a safety net. If I have a slow month or two without work or something unexpected comes up, I can weather the storm and pay for things by dipping into my savings. As I was earning less than someone on welfare I began to use my savings for basic items. I also assumed that work would pick up soon and so I bought a few non essential things along the way.
Naturally, this was when I moved house. Paying rent on 2 homes as well as finding cash for the bond wiped out the rest of the savings I had built up. I had been sitting on $7,000 in August just before the trip to Bali.
By December I had just over $150 to my name.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I opted to spend $100 of it on beer and cigarettes. A third of my net worth gone in a puff of smoke and a few dizzy burps.
Small luxuries can make you feel like you’re not a complete piece of shit when times are tough. I don’t know how to explain it better than that.
Don’t ask me where the $7000 went, I don’t even know myself. I hadn’t been this poor since 2010 when I returned from a backpacking trip with 80 cents to my name and thankfully some very supportive parents.
Of course the real estate agent for the house I moved out of wouldn’t release the bond because we hadn’t steam cleaned the carpets. We didn’t do that because the floorboards had rotted and the carpet was the only thing holding the floor up in some areas of the house. Without going into it all too deeply, they said they would release it minus $132 for steam cleaning, and made a comment about how it was “only” $132.
At that time it was more money than I had. It was more money than I had lined up to come into my possession next pay day. It was money I would have loved to have in my pocket, especially since it came out of my pocket to begin with. I got a bit pissed off at the cunts. So I decided to take them to VCAT (court), on the principle of the thing. I’m fully aware that by the time this goes before VCAT I most likely won’t be in the same financial situation. But fuck them, it’s the principle of the thing.
Unfortunately because I didn’t get the bond back I didn’t feel like I was winning life in December. I turned 33 and the full weight of my actions hit home as I found myself hacking and coughing up shit, waiting near the phone hoping some work came through. A week later I couldn’t afford to buy Christmas presents for my loved ones. I felt like a piece of shit to be honest. I know it’s just perception, I probably could have found a way to buy them something even if it was a chocolate bar or a book from an op shop, but it hit me hard knowing that I was failing, at least financially, compared to in the past. Aren’t I meant to be getting better at this kind of thing as I get older? How could the financial momentum I had at 29 have changed trajectory so much?
A stressful period in life wouldn’t be complete without some kind of emotional stress too. Finance is one thing but love and matters of the heart? Oh that’s a sure fire way to make you feel like not writing a story. Why would you want to write about something that’s not real when your world is falling apart in front of your eyes?
Over the course of October/November I split up with Bec. And then got back with her. And then split up with her. And then got back with her. And then… look you could say it was an emotional rollercoaster. This transient feeling fed into the turmoil that led to where I’m at now, to the house I’m living in now, to the head space I’m experiencing now. We did it to each other. We had a strong foundation but we weakened that structure with multiple smaller fights that chipped away at what we had. Usually they were about hypothetical future situations rather than the present moment. To be honest, we rarely actually fought about anything in our day to day lives.
We supported each other throughout many intense moments last year and I know that for me the happiest moments of 2018 were experienced with her. There were moments where it felt like we knew we had found in each other a life long partner. That being said, we ended it on the first of January, 2019.
I do know that this time it’s because of me and not her. I’m the one who’s scared to think about a future together. I think part of it might be due to my present financial instability but honestly I really don’t feel like I should be around too many people at the moment. I’m not a good influence right now. I need to hide away, sort my shit out, and then maybe I can actually bring something to a relationship. A few people have said that I’m not myself lately and it’s true, I don’t feel right.
Anyway these are the reasons why November wasn’t a very productive month of rewriting for me, and why December was even worse.
I didn’t write a single word of my story during December. I did write a few thoughts about life and such. I wrote some essays, did some navel gazing, that kind of thing. When you wake up one day and realise that rent is due soon and you essentially don’t have a source of income there is a genuine fear that begins to control your life. Especially if you’re not prepared for it. I truly did not think it would get as dire as it did. And I know, there’s people out there who wouldn’t consider my situation close to dire. I had $50 after all. But when you need close to $1000 to keep a roof over your head, that shits pretty scary.
Doing something like rewriting a story that is years away from being finished feels like a waste of time when there’s resumes to write or laws to read up on to get back your bond or relationships to try and mend. I got super close to going busking as a way to try and make some cash and spent hours practicing my songs with the full intention of hitting the streets. I never did though, I’m still really intimidated by busking. I have this cognitive dissonance where I love playing music and I want to share it with people but I’m also shit scared of performing it in front of others. But that’s another post I guess.
So back to writing or rather, rewriting. I put the story down last year and said that it’s gone, it’s dead, I quit, theres no point. Despite all of the things I’d written earlier that year; the countless times I’d pushed through the doubt and the frustration and fear, I just hit a wall at some point and needed a break. I think the root of the problem is that I haven’t done enough research. I’m writing about things I know next to nothing about and it seems pointless to write for the sake of writing.
I guess the point of this last part is that even when you’re winning in some areas of life, and on the surface things can look good, sometimes when you scratch a bit deeper you can be surprised at what you find.
I’m really happy to say that this mindset is starting to shift as I sit here in early January. I quit smoking a few days before the new year started and have been drinking a lot of water and exercising, I actually went jogging a couple of times. I’ve picked up a bunch of work over Christmas and new years so I know I’ll be getting paid. Next fortnight who knows but this one I’m safe and I’ve got rent covered. With this shift has come motivation that I’m going to cultivate into discipline.
It starts real simple. I write a blog post and share it.
I’m yet to pick up the story and begin rewriting. I’ll be honest, I’m thinking of trying something new this year. A series of short stories that I can begin posting online. It’s a lonely experience writing a novel and whilst I’m feeling physically and financially better than in December, I can see 2019 being a lonely experience.