Skip to main content

The world's longest suicide note: ONE MILLION words.

I write about life with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression).

All opinions are my own.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

www.facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Workload

4 min read

This is a story about métier...

I'm on a bus

It never rains, it pours. I had envisaged being able to quietly beaver away at my novel during my working day, in order to make the torturous hours in the office pass more easily, but fate has conspired to deliver me a delightful challenge in my day job at exactly the same time as I embarked upon the ridiculous task of holding down full-time employment, writing a daily blog and completing a short novel within 30 days.

I love it.

I have heaped pressure upon myself, like I always do, but not as much as I did last year. I was unemployed and homeless last year, so I was desperate for something to cling onto for my fragile self-esteem, and I had pinned a lot of hopes on creating a passable novel as a way of feeling as if I was using my time productively. This year I've managed to avoid over-hyping my writing abilities and over-estimating my potential as a fiction author. However, I still secretly hope that I'll be able to bash out another finished novel.

I had quite an exhausting day at work today. I'm a little burnt-out.

I'm in the enviable position of having something to do at work, which is right up my street.

The reason why you'd hire me is not because I'm a steady dependable guy who can be relied upon to churn out an endless stream of predictable results, but because I'm the sort of freaky weirdo who'll keep on plugging away at a difficult problem which has been declared "too hard" to fix by everybody else. There'll be no shortage of people queuing up to create something brand new on a blank canvas, but almost none of them will want to stick around to complete the job. There's no shortage of people who'll say "we should throw everything away and start over". However, the devil is in the detail and finishing the job is the hardest thing. Hardly anybody will stick around to deal with the unglamorous task of tying up all the loose ends and dealing with all the crap that got brushed under the carpet.

I'm already feeling overwhelmed with the workload of having a full-time job, commuting, living out of a suitcase, writing my blog, dating, staying on top of social media and writing a novel. It's day two and I'm falling to bits.

My life is pretty weird. Family and friends don't really figure in my daily life. My life had become completely dysfunctional for more years than I care to remember, so I exhibit none of the patterns of behaviour that normal people do. I don't have many face-to-face interactions. I hardly ever speak on the phone. I don't socialise. I don't spend my time in good company.

I spend my life in front of a screen.

I thought that I would be re-invigorated after a holiday. I thought that I would feel energised after reaching the point where I'm finally owed as much money as I owe: break-even. I'm worth literally nothing, which is a huge relief after having spent so long being more valuable dead than alive, thanks to a life insurance policy which would have paid out enough money to settle my debts and leave a decent chunk of surplus cash for dispersal.

I'm definitely a writer, but I'm pulled between three competing demands: to write concise and efficient code for my employers, to write my daily blog for my readers and to write another novel, to satisfy my deep yearning to scratch my creative itch.

I was writing a chapter of my novel today and I realised that I could express the whole thing in 10,000 words or fewer, which might be a little too condensed and concise for the average reader to enjoy. I know it's arrogant to say this, but I thought about Buckminster Fuller's Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth and wondered what the hell I'm doing writing a work of fiction, when my purpose in life is clearly to write instructions for idiots (i.e. computers in the most part).

Often, I think that if I start writing a manifesto or a prescriptive guide on how to live life, I'm heading down the rabbit-hole of madness. Too many psychopaths have written manifestos. I don't wanna go there.

I'm going to deliberately cut myself short here, because I'm enjoying the rare privilege of perceiving the value of the finite commodity which is time itself. For once, I'm not bored at all.

 

Tags:

 

Writing my Third Novel #NaNoWriMo18

3 min read

This is a story about traditions...

Tapping away at the keyboard

Writing my first novel without the competing demands of a full-time job and a blog, was an incredible experience. I had a great deal of help from my girlfriend and my guardian angel, who patiently read my daily efforts and offered a lot of support and encouragement, so that I could complete the project. I had friends and my regular readers following the progress of my draft manuscript as I publicly published it. It was a dream writing project.

I was overconfident for my second novel. I thought that I would easily repeat my achievement, so I set myself a very ambitious challenge. I was somewhat carried away with the notion that I'm a good writer and as such I expected myself to be able to churn out high quality prose with ease. I thought an excellent novel would flow straight onto the page with little or no effort.

I persevered with that second novel for 42,000 words before finally abandoning the project, because it wasn't going to be finished by 30 November, in time to win NaNoWriMo and I was deeply unhappy with what I'd written. I'm quite a perfectionist, but what I'd written was truly abysmal in and in dire need of some serious editing. It embarrassed me that my bad writing was on public display.

My blog writing has become an ingrained habit. I have no difficulty producing an average of 1,200 words per day for this website.

What I hadn't realised is how important it is for me to be able to express myself every day on my blog. I need this outlet. By the end of 30 days - because I'd decided to stop blogging temporarily - I missed my blog so badly I felt like I was dying of heartbreak.

So, this year I'm writing my new novel in private, although I'll share a link with you if you ask nicely. I'm writing without worrying about making my efforts fit for publication. I'm writing for the sheer enjoyment of crafting a story, without worrying about what the public think about it. When I'm finished, if I'm pleased with it then I'll edit it and think about publishing it, but for now it's my own private project.

I've written 1,653 words so far and I'll probably keep you posted about my progress from time to time, because I'm excited about the project and I'm enjoying myself a lot. It's nice not to have the pressure I had last year, even though this is the first year where I'm also working a full-time job and writing my daily blog at the same time, which is quite demanding.

I've picked a story which is allowing me to have a lot of fun. I've abandoned all the restrictions I placed upon myself the previous two years. I'm not worrying about whether or not I'm writing good fiction at this stage... I'm just writing the novel that I want to write. I have complete artistic freedom and I love it.

Having written over 2,000 words today, I'm going to wrap up this shorter-than-usual blog post, feeling like I've done a good day's work.

 

Tags:

 

Writing Every Day Is Sometimes Hard

7 min read

This is a story about workload...

Cover up

Pictured above is part of the puzzle about how I was able to keep writing, even when I was sectioned and locked up on a psych ward. Underneath the NHS-provided pyjamas is a mobile broadband router, which was smuggled into hospital by my guardian angel. It was a lot easier to write when I was kept under lock and key, because I wasn't expected to do anything other than eat, sleep and take pills twice a day. Now I have a full-time job and I'm very reluctant to risk writing when I'm supposed to be working.

In November I'm going to write another novel.

My first novel pretty much wrote itself. I did what all wannabe authors are supposed to do, by writing about what I knew. I had a very good idea of the plot and the structure of the book. It was surprisingly easy, although I did struggle briefly at around the 40,000 word mark, when I realised I hadn't made enough notes and I was risking tripping myself up. In the end, my 52,000 word debut novel was completed in under a month and I was pleased wit my achievement.

I thought my second novel would be easy too. I picked my favourite style of story: a utopia/dystopia. I had some characters in mind and a vague plot idea. I had done a little research. I was woefully under-prepared, but I thought I'd probably be able to wing it - I believe the term is "pantster"... doing things by the seat of my pants. Arrogantly and perhaps still touched with a little madness - 2017 was a very rough year - I thought my second novel was going to be good but it really wasn't. My style was inconsistent and I made some decisions which made writing the book very difficult. I wasn't well enough practiced at writing dialogue and fleshing out my characters. I took pleasure in very technical descriptions of scenes and a lot of factual aspects of what I was writing about, but it certainly wasn't good storytelling, in a lot of the chapters. Eventually, I abandoned the effort, having written 42,000 words in a month. I do have the remaining chapters planned out, but I think I'd like to rewrite the whole thing. I like the concept of the book, but as I progressed with it, I started to deeply regret mistakes I'd made. I started to hate the project. It became a real chore.

A big mistake I made was stopping blogging while I was writing my novels. Also, live-publishing the draft manuscript created a huge amount of pressure. I missed blogging soooo much. My heart ached to be blogging again. I wanted to experiment with the medium dot com platform, where there's a big community of writers, but I really regretted neglecting my own website and my regular readers.

So, I need to keep writing my blog every day, no matter what.

But, it's a huge workload.

Working a full time job. Writing a blog post every day. Writing a novel.

That's a lot of work.

I do want to write another novel. I want to give myself total freedom this time. I want to take the pressure of making my draft manuscript public off myself. This time, I'm going to let the creative juices flow and write about whatever I'm motivated to write about. This time, I'm going to keep my blog going at the same time, because it's hard for me to get through daily life without having a public journal/diary type thing, to keep me connected to the world.

I've created a lot of work for myself. Perhaps it seems like a good use of my time, to spend an hour or two writing every day, instead of watching mindless entertainment. Perhaps it's a good thing to connect with people all over the world, and to have built a personal brand which brings me a lot of pride in my achievement. However, I spend as much time thinking "what am I going to write today?" as I do thinking "what am I going to do at work today?" which has both upsides and downsides. When work isn't going well, at least I have an outlet for my creativity and energy. When I'm very tired and perhaps I really should be taking it easy, I feel somewhat obliged to write something, even when I'm not in the mood, because I don't want to interrupt the routine.

I'm getting nervous about the workload of a full-time job, a blog and a novel, all at once.

I'm a completer-finisher.

I was gutted that I didn't finish my second novel.

So many wannabe novelists will work on a manuscript for years and years, but they'll never actually finish. If you don't produce a finished draft, you'll never be able to publish. If you never complete a novel, you're not really a novelist at all. So many wannabe writers will start blogs and then abandon them, or write them very sporadically. Most blogs have a big burst of energy at the start, before the novelty quickly wears off.

If I start novel number three, I'm damn well going to finish it.

It might not be good. It might be silly. It might be downright bad, but I'd love to complete a second novel, because I learned so much writing the first and I'm so proud of the achievement. I also think I might really enjoy myself, if I'm writing mostly in private for once, without the pressure of any expectations I've built, that I can actually tell a half-decent story. My first novel really is a half-decent story, but that actually ended up contributing even more pressure, especially when it dawned on me that I was going to either fail, or produce something pretty bad, having been expecting to sail through and bash out another half-decent effort without too much difficulty.

I worry that I'm going to get lost in my imaginary world and so engrossed in writing that I might be tempted to write while I'm at work, and be irritated by bothersome interruptions, like my colleagues expecting me to do my damn job. I worry that I'm burning myself out, living a double-life. It's surprisingly time and energy consuming, just writing my blog and staying on top of social media, as well as working my full-time job.

Obviously, this stream-of-consciousness-y type stuff pretty much writes itself. I connect my thoughts and feelings directly to the keyboard and the words just tumble out of me and onto the page. I'm well practiced at doing blog posts just like this.

Writing fiction is a whole different kettle of fish. Sometimes the words come easily and sometimes it's like pulling teeth.

So... my challenge for November is to write another novel, but this time I have complete freedom and indeed I'm encouraging myself to be as fantastical as possible, and not artificially constrain myself with arbitrary rules about having to create an ultra-realistic fictional world, restricted by real-world limitations. It seems ridiculous that a geek like me hasn't written any sci-fi up until now, but I'm always loathe to behave as anybody might expect me to.

It's time to have some fun and do whatever I want in my fictional world, and the draft manuscript is going to be kept under wraps this time, so that I'm not constantly worrying about what other people think about my writing and my story.

That's the plan.

 

Tags:

 

9,500 Words To Go

11 min read

This is a story about summit fever...

Hawaiian mountain

I'm writing an average of 1,900 words per day at the moment, which rather pleasingly works out to be exactly 5 days to reach my 1-million word target on August 25th. I'll be finished about 12 days ahead of schedule.

The finishing is important. So many projects get started but never finished. There are so many abandoned blogs where the author just got bored after the initial excitement. There are so many uncompleted novel manuscripts. If you never finish, you'll never publish. Publish or perish.

If you're a bird, there's no point only having one wing, or tiny little wings. Even bad wings are better than wings which don't allow you to fly at all. At least if you've got something that's a bit rough, you can improve on it.

Creating software forces you to finish stuff. Your software won't work at all unless there's a beginning, a middle and an end. An unfinished manuscript can fool you into thinking that it's going to be perfect, but it'll never be perfect unless you write all the way to the end. Striving for perfection can stop you ever completing a project. Done is better than perfect.

I thought it would be funny to write more words than there are in the Bible. The King James Bible has 783,000 words in it and it's not exactly a page-turner, so I don't feel like what I've written is complete crap, because my creation is organised into lots of little sections. Somewhere buried in the 990,500 words I've published during the last 3 years, there's some good stuff. Sure, there's a lot of repetition and rubbish, but that's what you'd expect from a single author churning stuff out at high-speed. Producing a large volume and having the discipline to write every day is an OK place to start if you're an aspiring author - the blank page and the daunting prospect of completing an entire work of literature is otherwise too daunting if you've never successfully managed to finish anything more than crappy poems and short stories.

"Why do people climb mountains?" is a question oft-responded with "because they're there" but that's not everything you need to know about climbing mountains. One reason to climb them is because it's amazing that simply putting one foot in front of the other, slowly, slowly inching your way up the steep incline, eventually leads to the summit. Reaching a mountain summit is an incredible experience of achievement and wonder that a comparatively tiny human could get to the top of such towering peaks. From the summit of a mountain, you can look down at the path you took to get up there and marvel at how far and how high you've travelled.

One reason to keep a journal is because of the pleasure of seeing all the pages full of your handwriting, and building up your collection of journals over the years. The more completed diaries and journals you amass, the greater the sense of achievement. There's a great deal of pride about having created someting - made your mark - when you see that stack of bound pages.

The blog is the modern equivalent of the journal, except of course that it's usually public from the start. The huge advantage of writing on a computer is that your creative output has already been digitised - nobody's going to have to type it up. I imagine that many journal-writers dream of one day turning their journals into a memoir or otherwise doing something with the vast amount of words they've produced, but they never will because of the enormity of the task. Nobody's going to sit down and struggle with your handwriting unless you become very very famous, and even then it'll probably only be some poor archivist who has to catalogue your stuff before it's stored and never looked at again. At least a public blog is a living document that's available for anybody to stumble upon and dip into. Blogs are Google'able and sometimes a blog can be the top hit when doing a Google search.

During my 3-year writing project I've averaged 900 words per day, but I've been writing more than twice that amount during the last 20 days. I've seen the finish line and I'm sprinting towards it. I've got summit fever and I'm desperate to reach the top of the mountain after over 1,000 days slogging away.

I've tackled my goal with a siege mentality. I've avoided being drawn into discussion. I've avoided approval seeking. I've tried not to worry too much about quality and to get too fussy. To say that I'll do some editing later is ludicrous. Most of what I've written is fairly throwaway, but that doesn't mean it's been easy. It shouldn't be underestimated, the difficulty of one single author writing and publishing 1-million words, which need to be at least of the minimum quality deemed acceptable for public consumption. If I was writing total garbage, that wouldn't be anything to be proud of. There'd be no sense of achievement if I'd written total crap.

Somewhere - around the middle - of my 3-year odyssey, I wrote a novel which I think is reasonably good. That novel is 54,000 words long. I should probably subtract those 54,000 words from the cumulative total, because I plan to remove the draft manuscript from this blog at some point. I wrote 42,000 of a second novel, which I could finish at some point but I'm not pleased with a lot of what I wrote, so I might just bin it and start again.

I've deleted A LOT of blog posts. When I first started I wanted to write really good stuff, so I would delete thousands of words which were a bit rambling and meandering. When I started to get unwell I wrote vast amounts with manic intensity. When I was feeling threatened and insecure I wrote a huge number of things driven by those unhappy feelings. When I got angry, frustrated and upset with people, I wrote passive-aggressive attacks. Some of the regrettable stuff I've written has been deleted, and some of it I've preserved because the whole point of my project was to capture every bit of the entire spectrum of mood swings, mental health problems, addiction problems, relationship problems, work problems, money problems, housing problems and every other thing that's been going on in my chaotic life. I decided to write my stream-of-consciousness with candid honesty and emotional rawness, and not particularly worry about whether I was making a fool of myself.

I was wondering whether to pop a champagne cork to celebrate the achievement of reaching 1-million words, or whether that's a little ridiculous considering how much of a rough diamond my artwork is. There's so much I could be upset about - that my blog contains things which are very unflattering; that there are many tens of thousands of words which were written when I was seriously unwell, and barely able to string a sentence together. I could get quite depressed about how far from perfection my creation is - it's not as if I've managed to produce 20 high-quality fully edited and fully proofread novels which are ready for publication; I've produced just ONE novel that I'm happy with in the whole 3 years, and it needs a good edit.

Thinking about how unwell I've been and some pretty catastrophic things which have happened, it's remarkable that I have managed to write 900 words. Every. Single. Day.

If you dip into what I've written at random, it's surprising how much of it reads OK. I find it very hard to read, because I'm reminded of the difficulties I was going through at the time. My life isn't perfect, but it's certainly a lot better than it has been during awful periods over the last 3 years. I cringe with embarrassment that I continued to write without a filter when I was extremely unwell, which of course exposes me and makes me vulnerable - it's plain for all to see that I was suffering from very strange thoughts and ideas; my sickness is quite apparent and I'm a little appalled that it was me who wrote some of the things I've written. I could have hidden the bad side of myself. I could have attempted to continue to pretend like everything was fine and present a fake image, but I'm glad I've been consistent in the way I write. I think people need to see what's really going on beneath the surface. People have been sympathetic and kind.

Making myself so vulnerable by documenting all my struggles was a huge gamble. It's hard to know what would have happened if I didn't, but I feel like writing every day has given me structure and purpose. I feel like having this project and this goal has given me something I can work on even when I've been unable to work. Being able to produce and create is important for self esteem and a sense of achievement. I think I'd be much more depressed if I didn't have this huge volume of work I've produced, as a testament to my own industriousness and ingenuity. Perhaps it's not an original idea, and perhaps it's not a great contribution to the vast mountain of words which are published every day, but it shouldn't be underestimated. That I've done it through the highs and lows of a very challenging 3 years of life is a huge achievement.

It's unlikely that my vast repository of words could ever directly be turned into a useful resource for people who are struggling with mental health problems, addiction, and general difficulties with debts and suchlike, but the process of writing so much has creating a writing habit and given me a written voice which flows very easily from my brain onto the page. If I take some time to rest and recuperate, I imagine that I will be able to use my toned writing muscles and stamina to be able to produce whatever I want with relative ease; certainly a lot easier than it would be if I hadn't had so much practice.

Perhaps I've gotten into bad habits. Perhaps I should've gone on a creative writing course. Perhaps I should've produced vast quantities of bad poetry and short stories to cut my teeth. Certainly, my two attempts at novel writing have taught me that I'm a bit of a one-trick pony. Perhaps you think it's easy to write about your thoughts and opinions and express them clearly. If you read my stuff and you think what I do is easy, then I'm really pleased, because I set out from the beginning to develop a writing style that would appear effortless. I've attempted to write using simplified language, which was a style I had to learn. It's easy to write dense impenetrable text which is off-putting to the reader, but appears as if the author is very intelligent and the writing was very difficult. To make things look effortless is a sign that a person is mastering their art. Of course, I'm aware that I could also just look like a pretentious idiot, spouting complete rubbish.

Well, I'm getting close to my daily word count target. I really didn't want to do diary-style daily journal entries and just write until some arbitrary point where I decided to stop. The bulk of what I've written are little bite-size self-contained nuggets. The bulk of what I've written is coherent, at least on a given day for a given title and topic. These past 20 days I've just pounded out as many words as I can, because I'm so desperate to reach 1-million words.

I'm sorry, dear reader, that I'll have spent the best part of 3 weeks bombarding you with 46,000 words which were written with the sole objective of reaching my goal as quickly as possible. If you've stuck with me this far, that's super kind and awesome of you, and I hope to reward you with some more well-considered and higher quality efforts, which I'll be aiming to keep below 700 words per day, as opposed to my 2,000+ word rambling meandering waffle.

Can't wait for this final phase to be over.

 

Tags: