The mental health dilemma

I’m in a bind. I realised a couple of months ago that my medication I’m on for my bipolar type 2 is inhibiting my ability to write creativity. I haven’t had a true new idea in the time I’ve been on it. 

I used to have flights of fancy off the top of my head that I was proud of but now writing feels like real work. I used to know I could create creative worlds spontaneously in a way others couldn’t and make people laugh and now… I can’t. 

I don’t think I can continue being a writer like this. Not a writer of anything I’m proud of. 

As a counter-measure to this, when I started my medication after a couple of weeks I suddenly realised the underlying layer of melancholy I had felt since I was 12 years old had disappeared. I thought that it was a natural part of being human and then discovered I didn’t need to be sad any more. This was and still is a huge thing. 

I’m also not a great person sometimes off my meds. I was going to try an experiment with my partner’s blessing and support of going off of them for a couple of months to see if my writing and creativity came back but I ran out recently and didn’t replenish the supply for about 5 days. Even back on them, I still had mood swings and crazy reactions to small things that would make me lose my rationality and make me quite unbearable to be around. 

I want my creativity back. But I don’t want my sadness back and I don’t want to hurt and frustrate the people around me. So what is the answer? It’s probably not really answerable. I hate not being able to write like I did… Or think like I did. I’m no longer special. But I’m also no longer unhappy or unpredictable in a bad way. 

I might just pretend I never wrote anything and find a career… 

The 7 Day revision. Easy steps to insanity.

I have had a managing editor from Simon & Schuster request my manuscript after a successful pitch, which I’m pretty excited about. I have until the end of September to submit it, which I’m not as thrilled about.

My main concern is making it match my amazing and tight pitch! Obviously it’s nearly there but it also needs a lot of tweaking and a few missing scenes thrown in. For the last few weeks I’ve been revising at a pretty leisurely pace, marking down errors, problems with scenes and characters and generally making sure my tone is on-point.

Now however, it’s crunch time. I have 7 days to get this baby up to standard. I started this process at my local library yesterday but today I’ve realised I need to be able to wake up and start work immediately, without having to worry about anything else. My lovely wife is preparing my meals (that I don’t get delivered) and putting up with me generally being grumpy and unavailable.

Here is a look at my process :

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That was at the library anyway. You can see the mish mash of slow revision and fast revision there. The scene cards are from the slow revision, the structural edit to the side is from months ago, the big pile of loose leaf manuscript I printed out that day and the other books are a copy of my manuscript with markings leading to my ‘slow’ revision notes and workbooks guiding me through my fast revision. Later tonight I’ll be starting my writing, going through both my fast post-its and my slow revision notes to get it ‘right’ on the fly.

Oh yeah, last nano I started writing the book again from scratch. That’s the printout with the yellow bulldog clip on it. I’ll be using that as I need it while doing my write-in. Everything until the last two days will be done in pen, after that it all gets typed up! Then my wife gets to read it and make notes, and I get to read her notes and alter the manuscript again based on her insights (where I agree that I was being stupid).

Here is my setup today, now that I’ve moved everything to my bed:

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As you can see, it’s a little more cramped but I also have my cat with me (trying to stay out of shot in the upper right corner). Plus I get to annoy my wife by constantly brainstorming with her and getting her to reassure me I’m a creative genius.

It hasn’t been easy this past few weeks anyway, what with a hail storm partly flooding our lounge room and office causing the lounge to smell of mud and dry rot and our electricity to cut out for a day. My poor cat, who my book is about, got side-swiped by a car as well, and I couldn’t write a thing for the two days he was at the cat hospital and we were unsure if he would make it. Here he is being brave with his little bandage:

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And here he is back home soon after being an absolute sook on anti inflammatory medicine and methadone patches:

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He has the bandages and patches off now and is actually eating so I don’t need to feed him food with a syringe anymore. This has helped my ability to write greatly!

I’d better get back to marking up my manuscript; I only have sixty pages to go and then I can really begin to go crazy with the rewrite. With luck I’ll get it all finished on deadline and without being arrested for streaking down my street screaming about plot holes.

You wake up

Hello my most excellent readers. This is another entry where I’m genuinely forcing myself to write so please excuse inconsistencies, rambling, bad jokes and leaping from subject to subject. in other words, expect the usual.

Right now I’m waiting till my friend gets home so I can go over and jam with him on some music we’re working on. I mostly play drums in this endeavour though I give a lot of feedback on the mix and the shaping of the songs. Five years ago I attempted NaNoWriMo and actually finished a novel and then the entire track of my creative life changed. When that book was done, I realised I got a lot more satisfaction out of writing than I ever did out of writing music. This was huge for me because I have literally spent over half of my life writing music, since high school. Actually, it’s 20 years now. I completely devoted myself to it too, spurning various jobs and different opportunities so I could hone my ‘art’ and work at my various projects.

For almost all of my time in bands I’ve been a guitarist and occasionally front man. I never really bothered to learn how to solo because I came from the Nirvana school of song writing – i.e. emotion is everything. In the last few years I bought a cheap electric drum kit which I upgraded to pro level and somehow ended up drumming. This gives me a lot of satisfaction but still not as much as seeing my words turn into stories.

I think this stems from my childhood, when I was writing stories and reading all the time. Pretty much all my time I wasn’t spending on my computer I was spending reading a book or trying to write something. In all my bands afterwards I’d be endlessly crafting lyrics and trying different styles and forms. In the last band I was in as singer/songwriter one of the songs even turned out to be beat poetry because I couldn’t find any other way to make it fit. When I look back at it now, it’s basically a free form (very) short story. Here it is in its entirety:


You wake up; everything is flammable; everyone is f***able; the room is on fire; you meet a responsible adult who tells you the world will end ten minutes after sundown

You agree to meet him after then

You wake up; you catch up with your friend; you tell him you set fire to the sky and the cleansing begins from within; he tells you you’re a dog of a party

And the sun dissolves away to nothingness


And for your entertainment, here is a video of us performing said song. This was about ten years ago. Please excuse the angst.

Just so you know, the lyrics came to me fully formed in a dream. I woke up, elbowed my partner awake, and had her transcribe it before I forgot it. I look at it now and I see a short narrative piece written in the second person rather than a set of lyrics. Of course, it’s both. For some reason it never occurred to me that while I was working on music I was also working on my writing. With everything I write I pay special attention to the rhythm of the words I’m putting down, how it all sounds together and whether my beats hit hard and make sense. I make sure most scenes have a ‘chorus’ where the action comes together and a resting pace that sets the tone for the novel.

Most importantly I have a part where the main character screams at the injustice of it all. Because, you know, that’s character building. Also it’s a subtle nod to my teenage and early adult war against a world that could never know my pain. The pain of being young, knowing everything, and not being appreciated for it. In a way “I Think You Ate My Sandwich” was my award to myself for “best angst”, though Tink in that book took things way better than I would have, especially since she didn’t have a guitar or a drum kit to take it all out on.

Speaking of which, I really need to finish working on my Minkah novel so I can put out revision two of that one. I still love Robert the Robot. Till next time…

Why am I forcing my brain to do this/

Well, it’s 5am and instead of flying to my bed to pass out, I’m forcing myself to write yet another blog entry. I really hope that this is actually sharpening my writing skills rather than just underlining for me how stagnant my writing is staying. I mean, if I’m not improving then I’m basically just torturing myself right after a bout of insomnia, right? Would I be that cruel to myself?

Rather than answer that very obvious question (the answer is yes, for those who don’t know me well) I’m going to move onto a topic I’m quite invested in: video games. I’ve loved video games since I was about seven years old when my dad bought me an Acorn Electron from the neighbour next door with a jar of opals he dug up in Cooper Pedy. I loved that thing. It came with about eight games, all on cassette. I think the main one I played was a game called ‘Ghouls’ where the ghost chasing you would taunt you when you died by basically looking really happy about it. I also used to borrow books on programming the Electron from the library and spend hours typing out the programs in them. Yep, I was a bit of a nerd but I remember those days fondly.

After that, I upgraded to a PC. Not just any PC though, this was one with a 5 1/4 inch floppy drive and 512kb of RAM. On top of that, it had a monochrome monitor. After the world of colour I got from my Acorn Electron, I was a little disappointed. Though once I discovered how much faster disks were than cassette (to load the “Acorn Olympics” game on the Electron, for example, took about thirty minutes) I was hooked on playing everything I could. First I started buying magazines that came with disks, then ordering disks from the back of the magazine. The internet didn’t exist yet, at least not as we know it, so I had to actually go out and find every game I played.

Finally, my gaming life changed when the man who supplied my parents’ chicken shop (yep, I’m Greek and my parents owned a chicken shop. Feel free to report me to the stereotype police) gave me a copy of the Sierra adventure game ‘Police Quest’. [Edit – He supplied their chicken shop with arcade cabinets. Because of this, I got to play all the way through Double Dragon 2 and Golden Axe]. This game allowed me to be a police officer and play through an actual storyline. It completely blew my mind. After this, adventure games were my favourite genre. I found and played everything I could at the time, using various tricks to get my monochrome graphics looking as good as possible (which still wasn’t that good.) I also played through the old Infocom text adventures which required me to actually read the words on my screen. This was actually perfect for my monochrome monitor and I never needed to tweak the graphics. Not much, anyway. I also got to play through Douglas Adams’ own game version of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ which is incredibly funny, incredibly frustrating and currently exists as an online version here: http://www.douglasadams.com/creations/infocomjava.html

Eventually my PC got upgraded to… another PC. This one had a colour monitor! And two floppy drives instead of just one. I remember getting it from Cash Converters. I was so excited I celebrated by getting Space Quest 3, which was the best game I had ever played. It’s still right up there for me, and one of my most prized digital possessions is the reply to the email I sent to one of the writers of the game. It was actually as funny as the game was. It wasn’t for a few years later that I discovered that sometimes your heroes don’t turn out to be exactly as awesome in real life as they are in your favourite media portrayal of them, but Scott Murphy was that guy for me.

From here of course I went through a string of upgrades and games and a brief stint testing games in a gaming centre which… was pretty awesome, actually. Even though it doesn’t pay well (or at all, outside of the occasional free game) and I was living off of iced coffee, $2 meatball subs and lollies. Half Life 2 was the amazing game of the hour, followed by Deus Ex and, when everyone came over to play, Rogue Spear, where we worked together to kill terrorists and yell at my cousin for running ahead of us and getting the hostages killed.

These days, when I actually have any time (which isn’t often), I play games  on my PS4 because maintaining a PC just is too time-consuming, space-taking and expensive. Right now I’m playing a game called “Far Cry 4” where I can get attacked by a tiger at any time. Though usually it’s either a bear or some sort of badger that kills me. I also get to ride some sort of one person helicopter, or gyrocopter, or something. Whatever it is, it’s fun and makes a buzzing noise. I can chop chunks off trees with it as well.

Where am I leading with all this? Well, the first games to really capture my imagination were story based. They were rich, funny and detailed fiction and on occasion the story-telling was excellent. At some point I plan to try my hand at scripting something in the game universe and I’m hoping I can make people laugh and have fun like I’ve done over the years.

Alright, I think this counts for my writing. I can finally go to sleep. Do you have fond memories of storytelling in games or even any other unconventional media? Let me know in the comments!

Smoked Awesomeness

So, there was this magical guitar and it was made of wood from the enchanted Woden tree. Whenever anyone played it, birds would sing along, rivers would surge harder, deer would stop to listen and horses would make sweet, violent love while Van Halen soloed along with the enchanted music with killer runs and the sun head-banged.

Also, volcanoes would erupt but that’s a given with guitars of this magnitude.

Toward the end of spring, an elderly wizard who was slightly senile limped towards the local Woden tree to gather the enchanted fruit for his mother’s foot boils and saw the guitar leaning against the tree. ‘Muse!’ he yelled happily, drool  soaking into his bearded chin, and raced towards it. As the wizard approached, the guitar twitched. A creaking sound emanated from its strings. Its headstock separated from the side of the tree as if being pulled by an invisible roadie. A single note resonated and the wizard stopped dead in his tracks. ‘Buh?’ he said.

A deer a kilometre away stopped and cocked its head. Van Halen powered up his amp, a volcano burped and a horse two farms over got a semi. Everyone was expecting a show.
 The wizard took a step closer and the guitar whirled up into the air and hit the wizard on the head, knocking him unconscious, then fell to the ground.
 After a few seconds the guitar caught on fire.

It burned for four days and three nights. Vikings made passing pilgrimage to it. Feasts were roasted over it (‘It tastes like smoked awesomeness!’ people were known to exclaim after eating a haunch cooked above the flaming vigil). Once it stopped burning, the guitar burst into ash. And then, the wizard woke up.
 He stood and surveyed the pile of ash in the shape of a guitar then wailed, ‘I’ll never be rock star!’ and ran home, crying. The horse never managed more than a semi again.

Cracking the whip

I have been acutely aware of the time I’ve been spending when I’m home from work sitting around watching Anime and House of Cards; playing computer games; and catching up on sleep. I have therefore decided that I am going to force myself to write every single day. I do realise that this is what I am meant to have been doing anyway, but I’ve been getting over a couple of medical issues along with the death of an old school friend. That’s right: this blog is going to be just as funny and irreverent as the ones before it. Just to lighten the mood, here is a picture of my cat, Minkah, doing an impression of me preparing to write:

ImageThis is actually going to be relevant later on in this blog post.

I was going to set a goal of starting tomorrow but realised that this meant leaving myself open to putting it off till I find myself playing more of the South Park video game at 2 am and needing to go to bed so I thought it was better to at least blog about my decision to write. My main motivation – aside from the obvious goal of being taken seriously as a professional writer – is the fact that I have a novel to edit and re-draft. This is something that I have been planning to go back to for about three years now and even got a structural edit on about a year ago.

Upon further reflection I have realised I need to make a note of the basic sequence of events and then use that to write the book again from scratch, this time with three dimensional characters, excitement, premises that make sense and more humour. Also tragedy. I also need to do more research on cats, their different types, how they act and what differences they have country to country as my book is full of them. That’s right, I am writing a book about cats. Cats who fight evil. Specifically, my cat Minkah.

See, Minkah went missing for just over eight weeks a few years ago, by the end of which we were pretty sure we would never see him again; then we get a phone call from our local vet saying that someone brought him in, they scanned the microchip, and he was ready to be picked up. I wrote the book to try and explain what was going on for those two months because he seemed absolutely fine. The only obvious conclusion I could come to was that he was fighting evil with some sort of Feline Space Corps and could only come back once a significant mission had been completed. Just as obviously, he was fighting with psychic light weapons.

Going back to my opening, the death of my friend made me realise more than ever that this span of life we have is incredibly short and we need to make the absolute most of it. For me, that means getting all these crazy ideas I have out of my head and onto paper so I can experience the satisfaction of seeing my friends, peers, and total strangers become confused, bewildered, and hopefully entertained by them. I’m also writing a play based on the main character from I Think You Ate My Sandwich. After that I’ll probably write another draft of that novel to publish properly, in a form that actually tells a complete story without so many loose ends. That’s right: this time you get to find out the significance of the pocket watch.

I’m looking forward to having a few of you along for my journey as I chronicle the painful process of cutting and polishing these crazy diamonds in the rough over the next few months. I’ve also made a definite goal to have an agent representing my work by the end of this year. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me. Maybe I should volunteer at a cat shelter…

Pummelling the New Year

You’re meant to set a precedent for the new year, so here I am writing as the first thing I do. Due to the fact I genuinely am writing off the top of my head for the purpose of giving myself a ‘brand new year’ word-count, this is obviously going to be a bit messy.

So what is routine now for the new year? Has anything changed at all? I saw much fewer new year’s resolutions in my news feed this time around, have they gone out of fashion? I got the feeling  2013 was so all-round terrible for a lot of people that it was more productive to say goodbye to it and stubbornly cling to the idea that 2014 would be knocked about like dough, pummelled and twisted around, rolled out, punched through, and turned into delicious and auspicious cookies. I was one of those people for the most part, especially since I love cookies.

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I called in the new year with my wife then finally watched “Dredd”. So basically I marked the first few hours of the new year with love and violence. Paradox has always been a love of mine, much as breathing has been. I don’t seem to be able to escape it and I don’t really mind that. My whole life has been making order from chaos and being confused that those around me aren’t able to just slip themselves into the hand of cards I’m shuffling and wait for me to inevitably deal them out to a perfect hand. Near perfect; I keep flipping over the Joker.

I still am waking up, so trying to think of a decent conclusion to this ramble is escaping me. I will, however, wish you all a happy new year, a shortened hangover if you’re suffering one and at least a couple of signs that maybe, just maybe, this year will be OK. Or a sign within yourself that you’ll have the strength to bend the year to your will, mix it with water and sugar, throw it in the fridge, and then eat it later with a spoon and some ice-cream like some sort of strawberry 2014 jelly. 

I think I need cookies, jelly and ice-cream.

Not till after my stint on the exercise bike though – have to set a precedent, you know.

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