Managing my life.

As I become more disabled my everyday life becomes more and more like running a small business. These last few weeks I’ve been hiring cleaners, delegating tasks to them, delegating related tasks to my spouse and managing the household budget so that we can afford to pay wages.

I’ve also been writing my podcast, working on paintings and trying to build an online platform. I’ve invested in Ko-fi gold, that’s the paid version that allows the posting of larger images and has more customisation options. I haven’t worked out what to do with it but my most recent post there is HERE. I haven’t blogged much this month but my most recent post was over on the Stick of Doom blog.

Being the manager of my own life works better than trying to live it like an able-bodied person but it’s not without cost, both financial and mental. I don’t know how sustainable it is. I’ve already had to give up on the idea of saving enough money to buy a new rise and recline chair. The money I’ve been saving will have to go to pay for the cleaners. This means that I need to try to find a new way of raising the money for the chair. If I try to do without it I’m going to end up with cellulitis, leg ulcers and maybe septicaemia (I really recommend that you do not do an image search on those things).

And speaking of image searches (worst segue of the year), I’ve already mentioned the digital paintings. This month I’ve done a couple of portraits and I’m working on a painting of Glen Etive. I’ve started to document my process so I can post about it for other people who use Procreate. I don’t really want to start yet another blog but the painting stuff doesn’t really fit in either here or over on the Stick of Doom. Maybe I should post that directly to Ko-fi?

So what is all this adding up to? I honestly don’t know. There are people who can make a good living via Patreon and Ko-fi but I have no idea how they do it. They probably start from a position of feeling like they deserve to be paid for the work they put in. Maybe that’s something I should be working on.

Halfway through the year: Time for an update

It’s been a weird year so far. Mainly because it feels like we’ve been looping the same month since march of last year. However, that doesn’t mean that nothing has happened.

I now have an actual shop for my t-shirt designs with a URL that’s memorable enough that you can tell it to people if they ask where you got your neat t-shirt/facemask/hoodie/tote. My stuff for sale is now at why not treat yourself to something nice.

That Department Y URL is linked to the narrative podcast that I’m writing. It’s not quite ready for a Project File post yet but the writing is going pretty well. I have the first episode written and I’m on the final stretch with the second.

I keep expecting to run out of steam or suddenly be struck with doubt and decide that a podcast is a terrible idea but so far it’s not happening. Of course there is still a lot of work to be done. Not just with the writing and recording, but with the branding and the organisation.

If you want to support me in my efforts you could buy something from my shop or pop along to my Ko-fi page and buy me a virtual coffee.

At last I have a project

I’ve decided to make something. My intention is to write and record a short run fiction podcast. At the moment it feels like it should be done in 12 episodes or less but that might change during the writing.

If you’re thinking that is sounds rather ambitious then you’re right. It is a pretty bold plan for me. However, it is a smaller project than it sounds, because I already have a solid first draft of the story, and it only needs to be re-written with the format in mind. Of course there is a bunch of hidden work. I’ll probably need to set up a company to publish the podcast and there’s bound to be a whole bunch of other tedious stuff that I just can’t see yet.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get any money from this. Some podcasts do run adverts but I’ve no idea how they find the advertisers and it’s not like I’ve got any track record to rely on to attract some.

To be honest for a moment, I don’t know if this is a good idea. It might even be a terrible idea. I’m not doing it because I think it’s a good idea. I’m doing it because it’s what I want to do and it’s been a while since I’ve really wanted to do anything.

After all that hard reading you deserve something to look at. This is another one of my digital paintings of Dunnottar Castle.

Dunnottar Castle on a cloudy, mist-wreathed day.

Long time no post

The lockdown finally got to me. After more than a year hiding in my house I lost all desire to reach out and most of my desire to create.

In 2021 it’s just felt pointless for me to make anything. Even now writing feels worthless. I feel sure that I’ve been horribly mistaken about the quality of my writing and I can’t tell if it’s impostor syndrome or if I’m finally achieving an accurate estimation of my skills.

As you can imagine it’s been quite the dispiriting time but at least I have got my desire to create back. I’ve been doing digital art. Art used to be my thing. I painted and drew as a child and teenager and even went to art school until I had to drop out because it turns out that it’s a bad idea to go to art school with untreated depression and ADHD.

Anyway… Want to see some art?

Don’t care, posting it anyway.

Dunnottar 2021 Number 1
Dunnottar 2021 Number 2

These are two views of Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. I’m not entirely happy with either of them but I feel like I’m going in the right direction. It’s a long time since I last tried to paint Dunnottar but it felt good.

I think I’m going to keep trying to paint castles for a while yet. I don’t know what I’m going to do about my writing. I’m not sure I’m ready to give up on it but I might be ready to start giving it away.

Guards! Guards!: Revisiting an old favourite

This week I’ve been listening to the unabridged audio book of Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. Terry is one of my favourite authors, perhaps the favourite, but I haven’t read this particular book in years. It’s one of his Discworld books and is the first of the Watch series. It was the book that really elevated the city of Ankh-Morpork to something above a bunch of jokes tied together with plot. 

Perhaps some of my readers are wondering what all this means so hopefully the rest will wait patiently while I explain.

The Discworld books started out as a satire of fantasy writing tropes but over time morphed into a fully realised fantasy series with deep lore, compelling characters and rich stories that also somehow satirised both fantasy writing tropes and all kinds of real world bullshit.

The books are set on the Disc, a flat world that rests on the back of four huge elephants who, in their turn, stand on the shell of a vast space turtle. The Disc can only exist because of magic. That magic is woven into the very fabric of the world and while it doesn’t follow strict, clearly stated rules in the ways we find in some fantasy novels it acts more like a fundamental force of nature within the world than it usually does in Fantasy settings.

Ankh-Morpork is one of the principal cities on the Disc. To give you an idea of what it’s like I can’t help thinking of Terry’s famous piece of advice about fantasy city building. Start by wondering how the water gets in and the sewage gets out. In the case of Ankh-Morpork the answer to both questions is the river Ankh which enters the city as a brown slow-moving river, heavy with the silt of the plains where much of the city’s food is grown. It exits the city as something that only counts as a liquid in the same way that tar counts as a liquid. You’d have trouble drowning in the Ankh but people do occasionally suffocate.

The Watch books are the stories of the Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork. They mainly focus on Captain Sam Vimes, the commanding officer; a skinny collection of bad habits in a battered uniform, usually drunk, always cynical. Or at least that’s how he starts out. Pratchett characters have arcs. They either grow and change or reveal themselves to have always had hidden depths. Many characters do both. But they do it slowly. Vimes doesn’t straighten up and stop drinking in the first book. You need reasons to stop drinking and in Guards! Guards! Vimes begins to find those reasons.

In Guards! Guards! The night watch is low on manpower and consists of Vimes, his two NCOs Sergeant Frederick Colon and Corporal ‘Nobby’ Nobs, and new recruit Lance Constable Carrot. Colon and Nobby are as close as Pratchett gets to writing one-note comedy characters and Carrot is a 6’6” human raised by dwarves and sent away to the city because he keeps bumping his head in the mines. 

For those keeping score that’s three comedy coppers led by a grizzled alcoholic and they should be completely unprepared for all the threats of the big, bad, fantasy city nevermind the sudden appearance of an honest to Gods dragon. 

It all sounds very… obvious. It’s the perfect set up for very broad humour with a lot of slapstick but that’s not what Terry had in mind at all. He had a much lighter touch than that.

So what was it like to go back to one of my most beloved books after years away from it? It was educational. I was struck by how much of the novel would today, by some standards, be considered ‘bad writing’. 

I want to be clear that I do not believe that it actually is bad writing. Some of it is writing that was once popular, but has now fallen out of favour. Omniscient third person narration that occasionally hops into a character’s head to show you their thoughts was once both common and widely accepted. Established writers can still get away with this kind of storytelling, particularly when they have a narrative ‘voice’ as strong as Terry’s. His writing is incredibly rich. His densely layered narratives are held in place by running jokes and sarcasm and told with a dry wit and an eye for human nature. However, I can’t help thinking it would now be a lot harder for a new writer to get out of the query trenches with writing like this than it was when Terry first got published.

I don’t know who decided that adverbs are bad but someone did and now we’re told they’re the hallmark of the amature. Terry uses a lot of adverbs. Particularly when he’s attributing speech, which is even worse because that’s telling, rather than showing. When Terry describes Carrot saying something gently he’s committing two sins at once. And yet it’s still good writing. It’s better than good – it’s beautiful and true and entertaining and I am a better person for having read it.

This is all very confusing for me. Terry is the writer I’ve been attempting to emulate the most. I don’t mean his prose so much as his work ethic and his commitment to world building. I wanted to create a persistent world and set stories there. I wanted to tell stories with that kind of strong, confident narrative voice. I wanted to be funny. I wanted to satirise the fiction tropes that I hate. I wanted to give my characters the chance to grow and change over time.

I thought if I could excise all the adverbs, and rewrite all the tell, and stick to close third person narration with only a couple of point-of-view characters then maybe I could sneak my epic secret world series onto some agent’s list.

I suppose the conclusion I’m coming to is that if I want to write, and specifically if I want to be a published writer, then I’m going to have to self publish. The kind of writing I want to do is no-longer what the industry is looking for. This is a painful conclusion for me to come to because I don’t have the skills necessary to do it properly. Self publishing without those skills means letting go of the idea that I’d be able to support myself through writing. But at least it means finishing things. Maybe finishing things is enough.

Finishing things

Well, that last year was definitely a thing. This new year is proving also to be a thing. It’s all very distracting and I absolutely do not want to be writing this post. I’d much rather be playing video games, or doomscrolling twitter, or watching WandaVision with my finger on the pause button, but I’m choosing to write this instead.

A couple of weeks ago, in a moment of uncharacteristic optimism, I decided that 2021 would be my Year of Finishing Things (YoFT). The idea is that rather than making a list of resolutions to fail at I will give the year a theme, a focus, a habit of thought that I want to cultivate. I’ve even made a spreadsheet to keep track of all the tasks I’ve completed.

Last year was meant to be my Year of Showing Off (YoSO) and while the hell year derailed my plans just like everyone else’s I did at least manage to set up this website, and send my novel out to some agents, and sell some t-shirts. I did, by my own standards, show off. It didn’t result in much in the way of success but that wasn’t the point. The point was to cultivate the new habit of thought. I am now a person who shows off what they’ve made. I hope that by this time next year I’ll be a person who finishes what they start.

Which is all very nice but which things? I’ve got a lot of works in progress and there’s a limit to how many I can be actively working on at once. 

In theory I could use my YoFT as a guide and pick the things that will be easy to finish. As if any of them were going to be easy. If they were easy to finish I would have finished them by now.

 Maybe I need to change my definition of ‘finished’. Does writing a complete podcast episode count as a task finished? How about recording an episode? Surely that’s two different tasks? How about a novel? Do I count it as finished when I’ve written enough to share with Beta readers? What about when I feel it’s ready to query? Does securing an agent count as a finished task? I ask because it’s really only the beginning of getting a book published.

What about my health? I’ve been trying to increase my activity levels and eat a more varied diet. That’s not really a task that’s ever finished. It’s more of a habit to be built and then maintained. Maybe I should set myself a target for maintaining the habit of health and then call that a completed task? Or is that cheating?

The more I think (and write) about this the more I think that I need to break everything down into projects. Rather than thinking about finishing, editing and querying an entire novel I should be thinking about sorting out the outline as one task and then working out where I want to go from there. I could decide on an experimental protocol for my attempts to eat more healthily and then follow that through, then write up the notes, and hey presto a finished task.

And now to the final question. Do I get to count things that happen in video games? They’re not real, and I very rarely truly finish a game but I do complete tasks. You know what? That’s between me and my spreadsheet. I’ll count what I want to.

Not disposable

As the pandemic continues, and Lockdown looms again, I’m increasingly hearing people complain about the idea of forcing healthy people to take precautions in order to protect the vulnerable. Well fuck you too.

Sorry. Was that a bit rude? This discourse is making me a little tense. You see I’m one of the vulnerable. I’m disabled and I have a couple of medical conditions that put me at a particular risk from COVID-19. When you say, “It’s not that dangerous. It’s only the sick and the elderly at risk.” I hear “I don’t care if you die so long as I am not inconvenienced.”

I care. I don’t just care about my own life. I care about my children, who’ve been pretty clear that they’d like me to stick around a bit longer. I care about my elderly mother and my uncles and aunts. I care about your elderly relatives even if you don’t. I care about my sick and disabled friends. I care about the medical professionals who’ll have to try and save us if we do catch it. I care about the NHS that could really do without the additional strain.

It’s not going to kill you to stay away from the pub a bit longer, or to wear a mask in public, or to have a quiet Christmas. Those sacrifices are definitely better than a few weeks of pneumonia which is a common effect of COVID-19 even for healthy people.

Anyway I feel I should be compensated for having to find out how many people don’t care if i die. So I designed a thing.

It’s available on clothing, stickers, tote bags and, of course, masks. All profits to me, so I can pay my bills.

Coffee and Tea

This is not about writing. This is about T-shirts.

I enjoy designing t-shirts and okay, if I’m totally honest, it’s still writing because the t-shirts do have words on them. It’s taken me a while to find a way to put my designs out in the world without costing me any money. So far it seems like I can list my designs on Teespring without having to pay up front as long as I don’t want a shop front.

In my last post I mentioned the Zeppelin Watch design from my other blog. Well some people have actually bought some. People other than me. I might actually see some of the money. So I’ve listed another couple of designs.

Choose your fuel – Coffee or Tea? Vengeance or Rage?

Those are photographs I took (apart from the Zeppelin Watch one which is in the public domain). The words are my own. You can buy the t-shirts, totes, masks and mugs safe in the knowledge that you’re supporting me in my writing and you’re not ripping off anyone’s intellectual property.

I particularly recommend the mugs and the hoodies.

Black Holes and T-shirts and Pitches oh my

It’s been a wee while since my last post so I reckon it’s time for a general update.

NaNoWriMo and Preptober

It’s nearly that time of year again. National Novel Writing Month. Every November millions of people around the world come together to write the first draft of a novel (at least 50,000 words) in thirty days. I’ve done it every year since 2004 and as Municipal Liaison I organise my local group. Preptober is the even more informal challenge of preparing for NaNoWriMo.

You might think NaNoWriMo would be easier this year than it usually is. More people working from home, less pressure to go out and socialise and the shitshows of the US elections, Brexit and a global pandemic to want to escape from. On the other hand there is also the crushing existential angst, the financial worries and the fight for democracy to distract us and make us feel like our silly little stories are unimportant. We can’t even meet up in person to support each other.

I’m doing my best to build my local group up using tools like Discord and the NaNoWriMo forums. I get the impression that a lot of people just aren’t feeling it this year so I need to work particularly hard not to tie my feelings of self worth to the success of the group.

Black Holes

Over on my personal blog there’s a new post up in the ongoing Zeppelin Watch series. It’s full of Black Holes and Science! Check it out.


Also on the blog is the link to the new Zeppelin Watch t-shirts, also stickers, tote bags, mugs and face masks. If you choose to visit the site don’t be put off by the shipping charges. I’ve had customers tell me that the price they were initially quoted for shipping dropped when they got to check out. I have some other T-shirt designs I hope to upload in future. Here’s a sneak peek at one.


The other thing I’ve been working on is a pitch. I can’t say much about it just now but I do have some thoughts on pitches and how they differ from querying agents or submitting to publishers. Once those thoughts crystallise I’ll have a blog post about it. It’s entirely possible that it will mostly be me complaining that I have to actually write stuff down like some sort of peasant, rather than publishers and production companies coming to my door to beg for my golden words.

Why can’t I achieve success just by thinking about it?

False Impostor Syndrome

If you’ve never heard of Impostor Syndrome it’s that thing where talented, hard working people doubt the quality of their work because they feel unworthy of success. When you first learn about it it can feel like such a relief – that’s what’s wrong with me, I’m not a hack, I just have imposter syndrome.

However, at some point you start to wonder if it’s really impostor syndrome. What if my work really is trash? When I feel like a hack maybe that’s because I am a hack. When I feel like my work is good, and should be published, maybe that’s just the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.

If you’ve never heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect it’s that thing where stupid people are so incompetant that they don’t know they’re incompetant. There’s even a graph to track when it’s most likely to strike. If you know nothing about a subject then you know that you know nothing but if you know a little bit you’re likely to overestimate the value and scale of your knowledge. It’s only once you gain a bit more knowledge and experience that you realise the vast scale of your own ignorance.

I propose that False Impostor Syndrome is that thing when someone gains just enough knowledge and experience to overcome the Dunning-Kruger effect, but then misidentifies the realisation that they’re not actually very good as Impostor Syndrome. This is, in fact, applying the Dunning-Kruger effect to Impostor Syndrome. It’s possible to know just enough about Impostor Syndrome to wrongly self diagnose it.

I read this all out to my beloved spouse who insists that I do not have False Impostor Syndrome but have, rather, inaccurately self diagnosed myself with it as a result of the intersection of genuine Impostor Syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger effect.

These two intersections of Impostor Syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger effect are horrible on the small scale but relatively benign compared to the large scale intersection. The brilliant, creative, hard-working, intelligent people succumb to Impostor Syndrome. Meanwhile, the Dunning-Kruger effect allows mediocre white guys with connections and inherited wealth to imagine themselves as geniuses. Picture me gesturing at everything in this, the year of our lord Satan, 2020.