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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

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Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution

6 min read

This is a story about sedition and treason...

Security vetting form

Questions A, B and C seem pretty reasonable to ask. It seems like a good idea to ask people if they're spies, terrorists or saboteurs, if they're going to tell you the truth. It seems logical to assume that spies, terrorists and saboteurs are enemies of civilised society. It seems sensible to exclude spies, terrorists and saboteurs from positions where they could be a threat to public safety.

Upon closer examination, spies and saboteurs could sometimes arguably be said to conduct their actions in a responsible way, in the course of the furtherment of their laudable objectives, in the absence of other available options. Spies exist when diplomacy and co-operation have broken down. Saboteurs exist when tyranny, oppression and exploitation are so great that a worker must throw their clogs into the loom, to save themselves and their kin. Without wanting to fall foul of the nebulous terminology, it would be remiss of me to acknowledge that a person could certainly understand the reasons for spying and sabotage - in a theoretical and academic sense - and perhaps even excuse those acts, where the outcome clearly results in a positive outcome for the greater good, according to utilitarian philosophy.

Of course, I must tread very carefully.

I have to watch my words.

What on earth is question D getting at? I once destroyed my ballot paper as a political protest at the lack of a candidate and a party for whom I wanted to vote. Does that count as "[undermining] Parliamentary democracy by politcal … means"? Should I tick "YES" to this question? Is my spoiled ballot paper recorded in "national security records" which I'm reminded my answers will be checked against? Why even ask me if you already know the answer?

Of course, the idea of asking people "are you a terrorist?" is pretty ridiculous, so why shouldn't this same 66-page form ask vague questions which are almost impossible to answer, unless you think of yourself as such a perfect citizen and well-behaved patriotic loyal subject of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, its dependencies and its overseas territories.

Do I believe in the Westminster system of Parliamentary democracy? Do I believe in democracy at all? For the purposes of my rational economic self-interest in the immediate short-term, within the context of filling in this 66-page form, which is of vital importance for the future of my career, the answer is "yes" for sure.

Why am I using such cautious and measured words? Why am I couching what I say in caveats and disclaimers?

The question arises: Is it irresponsible, socially destabilising or otherwise contrary to the interests of national security, to discuss the merits of 'political change' in a purely academic and theoretical context?

Do scholars who study, think about, write about and discuss alternative political systems, imply some "intent" to overthrow or undermine Parliamentary democracy. For example, in the instance that a learned professor were to stumble upon compelling evidence that there is a better system for the decision making which is supposed to improve the human condition and the lives of the masses, then is that professor allowed to discuss it; perhaps even to promote the idea? What if other academics take an interest in that professor's ideas, and they become supporters of the theory? What if this group of academics could be said to be a group of likeminded individuals, similarly swayed by the evidence and the ideas?

Have I made myself into an enemy of the state by taking an interest in philosophy, politics and economics, which has forced me to consider the question: Is our Parliamentary democracy the best available option, or should we change to a different system? Does posing this innocent question constitute an act of undermining Parliamentary democracy?

By the time we get to question F, I must surely answer in all truthfulness that I almost certainly would have - at some point in my life - had a close association with somebody who's been a member of a group or supported a group whose intent could easily be interpreted as 'offering an alternative' to Parliamentary democracy. This is about as close as I'm prepared to go, to admitting something which is against my rational economic self-interest in the short-term, for the furtherment of my career objectives.

Most of my friends are technologists. Many of my friends have created pieces of technology which must surely have undermined Parliamentary democracy. Many of my friends are the original engineers and architects - the visionaries - who are responsible for the birth of social media. What greater threat to the ruling elites has been born, since the invention of the printing press?

Terrorism and violence are hard to defend; seemingly always unethical. It's beyond the scope of this essay to discuss the ethics of violent rebellion by the victims of tyranny and oppression. I'm in too much of a vulnerable situation to say something like: "I can understand the reasons why desperate people might resort to violence, in the absence of all other options, like any cornered animal".

I may hold unspeakable views, which have no place in a civil position of public servitude. My upbringing in the company of academics, in and around the buildings of Oxford University, may well have scuppered any ambitions I might have of playing a role in the running of the country, and hopefully making a positive difference to as many lives as possible.

Even within the walls of a British university, an academic may find themselves falling afoul of laws - new and old - which are designed to punish any agitators who might threaten societal stability and the established order. The power of the internet allows compelling academic arguments to be disseminated to vast numbers of people at incredible speed, and for the public's imagination to be captured. Academic papers are no longer written in Latin and kept safely out of the hands of the hoi polloi, lest any revolutionary ideas they might be harbouring be provoked.

Do I hold my tongue for the greater good - in support of a paternalistic and elitist establishment - because it will perpetuate the state of unhappy stability, which is at least preferable to civil war? Do I speak my mind, because to do so is a privilege afforded by the unpalatable actions done in the interests of national security? If I don't take advantage of freedom of speech, am I really a patriotic citizen, loyal subject of Her Majesty and supporter of Parliament, given that wars are waged on my behalf so that I might enjoy the luxury of being able to write essays like this?

I think I'm just going to tick "no" to all the boxes, because I can't be bothered to have this conversation a second time, when I'm being interviewed by the thought police.

 

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Playing the Long Game

10 min read

This is a story about sustained effort...

Mound of wires

I like to concentrate on one thing at a time. I like to be hyper-focussed and blinkered, and to devote all my energy and attention towards achieving a single goal. I like to live my life in an artificially simplified way, by aggressively cutting away anything which seems superfluous; a distraction from my main task.

Unfortunately, I have several concurrent tasks:

  • My work
  • My debts
  • My writing
  • My love-life

There are more - such as friends, family, health & fitness, hobbies etc - but I'm not listing those, because I've deemed them temporarily nonessential.

In fact, I had deemed dating to be nonessential, but my life had become too lonely and austere to be bearable. I was torn between investing in my [nonexistent] social life and looking for love. I chose the latter, because of how long it had been since I'd hugged or kissed anybody. Intimacy is important.

My work is arguably a task which will never be completed, but my debts have almost been dealt with. The sum total of my savings is £30,000 and the sum total of my debts is £29,000, so I'm finally 'in the black' although it will be some time before I'm able to release the money and free myself from the bonds of usury. Then, the question is how much money do I really need to live a happy life? I have to decide about this thing people call "work-life-balance" which I always thought was a myth. Without the millstone of debt around my neck, suddenly I gain enormous freedom of choice.

My writing has been the casualty, of late.

Hypomania was rearing its ugly head, threatening to destroy all my hard work building a good reputation in the office. I got a cold and my brain was horrendously sluggish. I suffered alcohol abuse, bad diet, lack of exercise and general neglect of everything in my life, because I was so single-minded in my mission to pay back my debts. My mind was telling me how brilliant I am, that I've managed to rescue myself from a dire situation, successfully deliver some software projects, impress my colleagues, work hard and generally function in society pretty well. I've been getting up early and going to the office. I haven't been taking time off sick. I haven't had much time off on holiday. I've just worked and it's paying off, but I'm so exhausted that I'm going a little crazy. It's hard to deal with the reversal of fortunes; my boom and bust real life triggers psychological problems.

During 3 years of writing my blog almost daily, I never start writing a blog post on one day and then finish it on another. My mind races so much and my feelings change so violently that the tone and content of what I'm writing can veer from one extreme to another, faster than I can pour out words onto the page. One reason for writing so much so quickly, is to capture the variety of my moods and give myself a fighting chance of being able to spot more general trends. In fact, I rely heavily on my regular readers to spot those trends - they're a far better judge of whether I'm swinging into a high or low episode, than I am myself.

To have skipped days of writing really upsets me. I feel really bad when I neglect my writing and my readers.

I have no idea where my writing will take me, especially when I suffer major setbacks such as a sudden loss of thousands of Twitter followers. These things shouldn't matter, but they're psychologically damaging. My digital identity does serve as a substitute for a lot of the things which are presently missing in my life, such as a group of local friends, social engagements and a healthy relationship with my family.

That my life is so damaged should come as no surprise when you consider the magnitude of the tasks which I've been set. Divorce, drugs, alcohol, homelessness, debt and all the accompanying loss of status, stigma and family estrangement - the sense of failure, disappointment and "letting everyone down" - can each be fatal on their own. In combination, those things are a toxic whirlpool; a quicksand which nobody could ever hope to escape from. I could be very upset and depressed about all the things which are broken in my life, but instead I struggle not to get carried away with the minor miracle which has happened: I've bounced back and re-entered civilised society, seemingly without any permanent damage.

So many parts of our society are set up with the optimistic presumption that people are capable of turning their lives around and being rehabilitated, but it very rarely happens. While those who work with addicts, criminals and the debt-laden are very keen to see lives transformed for the better, the reality is that most of the stories do not have happy endings. Most of the stories have sad predictable endings, which are quite tragic.

I'm terrified that I'm going to hit a glass ceiling soon. I will have a mental illness until the day I die. I will always suffer from social jet-lag and a personality which is incompatible with the rat race. I can't change the past - the stigma of addiction and the paper trail which got left in my wake, during an unfortunate period of my life, will follow me around forever. There is no limit on what the organisation I'm presently involved with is able to see: they have access to a vast database of unflattering things, which can never be deleted. My mistakes can never be expunged from the archives.

I could delete this blog, but then where is my reply to the opinions of me expressed upon records kept by organisations who I unfortunately came into contact with?

I would be so much more vulnerable to stigma, prejudice and discrimination, if I allowed other people to lazily sum me up in a few short sentences. Human lives are so much more messy and complex than any amount of words on a page could ever possibly express. It seems like the most natural reaction to being pigeon-holed, to do something like this: to create a document so large that it doesn't even fit in a goddam pigeon hole.

It might seem obvious that I'd be quickly identified as a nut; a crackpot; a madman. That seems like an easy label to attach to me.

However, my long and successful career, the vast sums of tax I've paid, the wealth I've generated for the economy, the tangible products of my labour and intellect - all of these things contradict any attempt to lazily dismiss me as a ranting madman, of no use to anybody, who should be quietly nudged towards the fringes of society until I'm completely marginalised.

My writing is the only thing in my life I have complete control over. I can write as much as I want. I can publish as much as I want. Every act of writing and publishing is an act of rebellion - a protest at the excessive burdens of life - as well as an addition to a growing cache of proof of my productivity and usefulness. I write because it will frustrate and contradict any attempts to write me off.

On paper, I was a write-off.

Nobody would touch me with a barge pole.

If you were presented with a list of all the unflattering things about me - my mistakes; my debts; my problems - as a bullet-pointed list, then you'd have dumped me straight onto the "no hope" pile.

Technically, I don't exist, because my existence is too improbable; my problems were too insurmountable. I should not be alive. I should not be debt-free. I should not be clean. I should not be working. I should not be housed. I should not have money. I should not be out there in the big wide world, walking around like I'm a regular normal member of mainstream society.

I could place put my faith in those who have sworn to make decisions without prejudice or discrimination. I could entrust my whole future - my happiness and my livelihood - to people who've never met me, who will judge me based on a few bullet points. That seems pretty risky to me though.

This is what I anticipated would happen. I knew that sooner or later, if I kept telling my story, I'd reach a point where the rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches-to-rags cycle would either conclude - in my suicide - or else I would finally get a chance to have a liveable life. This document contains a vast number of mistakes and unflattering things about me, but it also charts the course of a stupendously unlikely journey, which was almost certainly doomed to failure. If somebody in a position of power is going to thwart me, I want them to do so with a guilty conscience, because they were too lazy to consider all the available information. I'm so much more than a few bullet points on a page. I cannot be dissected with a 66-page form.

Of course, it's terribly teenage angsty to think of myself as a misunderstood character. It's horribly conceited and arrogant to think I'm special and different. I try not to concern myself with such judgements and instead to concentrate on my continued efforts to produce tangible things: to create.

Lots of people have written lots of novels, journals, diaries, blogs, newspaper columns, magazine articles and all the very many other works of printed words. There are quite a lot of prolific writers, who have churned out vast quantities of prose. Does that mean I shouldn't bother? Does that mean I shouldn't even try?

I haven't been very productive during the past couple of weeks, but it doesn't matter because what I've produced is cumulative. Every little effort is slowly adding up to create some big achievements. It's painfully slow, but the progress appears to create sudden overnight success. Nobody really notices all the hard work and nobody can see where it's headed, until one day a huge milestone is reached and everything all makes sense.

The relief of having more-or-less reached one of my most important goals, is highly destabilising and is triggering hypomania: it's hard not to get carried away with the perceived magnitude of my achievement. It's hard not believe my own bullshit - that I'm invincible and that I can overcome any obstacle. It's tempting to act recklessly, believing that I'll always be able to rescue myself from disastrous situations. It's hard to keep reminding myself that my luck will run out eventually, if I keep tempting fate.

I've missed this blog and I've missed writing. I've been destabilised, but I'm going to force myself to continue with my routine, because I think it's very healthy and stabilising for me.

Sorry for the gap in my regular writing.

 

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NSFW

6 min read

This is a story about my big mouth...

So many screens

I have had a pretty simple game plan for my re-entry into civilised society: keep my damn mouth shut. Every time I think I've got something interesting to add or that I'd like to join in a conversation, either because I'm bored or maybe just because I'm feeling left out, instead of doing that I say to myself "that's a bad idea" and I attempt to busy myself with my work.

I'm trying to keep my head down.

I'm trying not to be noticed.

I don't do a very good job of keeping my big mouth shut sometimes. When I'm tired, sick and otherwise destabilised, I over-compensate for my insecurities by talking loudly and confidently about things I know almost nothing about. So far I've been patiently tolerated, and managed to luckily say things which have not been altogether wrong, useless, offensive or otherwise completely revealing the true extent of my imposter syndrome.

Sometimes I'm very good at quietly getting on with a difficult piece of work. Sometimes I'm able to do exactly what I need to do, which is to concentrate on producing a lot of high quality work, and staying out of trouble.

I'm highly opinionated and I've got a lot to say. I have a lot of thoughts and ideas. The office is not the place to explore those ideas. The best colleagues in a large organisation are the ones who don't rock the boat. If you get too many people in an organisation who think they're hot shit, the whole place becomes hell on earth very rapidly. It only takes a few arrogant assholes like me to ruin a lot of people's day. The best possible thing I can do in the office is to rein in my motormouth.

Writing without a filter every day has gotten me into the habit of engaging my mouth before my brain. When I write, I do so without considering whether I'm making myself look like a dickhead, whether I'm upsetting anybody or generally thinking about the consequences of what I write. I generally assume that what I write is harmless.

At work, the tiniest slip of the tongue could be disastrous. There are things which are simply unspeakable at work, and it's best if you don't even hint that you might have an opinion. Gender, politics, religion and other emotive topics are best avoided in their entirety. To express liberal-minded sympathies with the wrong thing could cause your colleagues to assume that you're in favour of legalising murder, rape, pedophilia, bestiality, terrorism and the distribution of syringes filled with heroin to newborn babies.

It's best to say nothing.

Although it's very difficult to do, I avoid looking at any websites which are not work-related. I don't want to take the chance that somebody might even glance over my shoulder and assume from the title of the Wikipedia article that I'm reading, something about who I am.

Obviously, it's a patently absurd situation, where I spend a very great deal of time writing and publishing a public document which explicitly declares every single weird thing which goes on inside my head, as well as my unflattering mistakes of the past. How can I go to so much effort at work to present a bland beige nondescript and mostly absent personality, entirely designed to obfuscate any identifying features, and yet at the same time put so much time and effort into making every minute detail of my entire life publicly accessible?

I suppose if I didn't write like this, I would struggle a lot more to keep myself contained at work. My inner turmoil would express itself in unhelpful and unprofessional ways in the office, through the way I speak, write and interact with my colleagues. I often have the impulse to sneak a little bit of my real personality into the dry technical work that I do, but I'm able to resist that urge, because I have a creative outlet.

Today was not a good day.

I've been tired and unwell, which compromises my ability to think before I speak. I've been procrastinating, because I've got a difficult piece of work to do and my brain hasn't been fully functioning. I have some interesting and eccentric colleagues, who are truly delightful to spend my working week with, but I've been unable to resist the temptation to keep myself to myself and stay out of trouble. In short: I've been far too outspoken and unguarded.

I'm not such an idiot that I haven't carefully considered most of what I've said. I've managed to deliberately stay out of conversations which almost definitely should never be held within the four walls of a respectable organisation. I've managed to remind myself to be evasive and vague most of the time but when I left the office this evening, I was suddenly filled with regret that I was not more secretive and opaque.

It's hard to resist the temptation to have an unguarded social interaction with somebody, when they genuinely seem interested in who you are and what makes you tick. When colleagues are showing a genuine interest in my life outside work, beyond simple nosiness, it's flattering and makes me feel wanted. I have such a desperate need to belong and to be accepted, that it's hard for me to maintain my defences and keep my mask in place.

I fear there may be unexpected negative consequences. I'm paranoid that I'm damaging my reputation and weakening my position. I'm more worried than ever that my spotless image is being tarnished, by my own words.

I live constantly in the exposed and vulnerable position of having more than a million unflattering words easily accessible to anybody with an internet connection and the ability to use Google, but it's the comparatively few words I've uttered in the office which trouble me the most.

Perhaps I should feel heartened that my colleagues want to know who I am but I'd almost prefer it if they read my blog, rather than got to know me through my thoughtfully considered and highly sanitised words, designed to be safe for office consumption.

I feel like I'm repeating the mistake I made in 2014 and 2015, where I was so confident in my technical abilities, the quality of my work and the value of my contribution, that I relaxed too much. Being myself in the office was not a good career move.

It's hard work, putting on a corporate mask, but it's financially rewarding. I really don't want to be the architect of my own destruction.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Barrier to Entry

9 min read

This is a story about prejudice...

Way out

If somebody has decided they don't like you because something has invoked their prejudices, then almost anything you say or do will be twisted negatively. There's no way to win somebody over once you're seen in a bad light, because it's possible to create a monster out of a saint if your mind is that way inclined.

I photographed the exit from my office.

I shouldn't have done it.

I knew it was wrong.

Nobody's told me off yet. Nobody's caught me. My wrongdoing has been entirely unnoticed by the universe.

This. Does. Not. Matter.

I'm not supposed to put photographs of an entrance into a secure building up on the public internet. In fact I'm probably expressly forbidden from doing such a thing depending on the interpretation of deliberately nebulous bullshit.

Provided I'm the golden boy and I'm making myself valuable around the place, nobody really gives a damn who I am and what I do. I could write about the specifics of what I do for a day job - which is all public anyway - and I wouldn't suffer any consequences, so long as I retain the aura of a person who's desirable to have around; so long as I'm wanted.

The moment that the sands shift and I'm viewed as an undesirable scumbag then I'll suddenly come under much closer scrutiny. Those who are looking for reasons to reject me are sure to find many things which they can twist to their advantage.

"Aha!" they will exclaim. "We've rumbled you!"

Of course, the joke is on those who seek to act with prejudice, because this identity existed all along. Everything has been on open public display. I was welcomed in with open arms when you wanted something from me and you thought you were getting the better end of the deal.

"You mean to say I hired a junkie alcoholic homeless bankrupt tramp with mental health problems!" they exclaim.

The indignation is palpable.

The prejudiced are always unreasonably angry and upset to discover that their trusted and valued colleague who has successfully delivered their large and complex IT project is nothing more than a low-life loser.

"I could have paid you peanuts!" seems to be the thing that's most upsetting to these people who'd think nothing of kicking a homeless person to death and urinating on the corpse.

It's not true.

You cannot pay me peanuts.

I cut my day rate by over 50% when I was utterly desperate last year, and I was taken advantage of worse than I've ever been in my 21 year career. I was treated disgustingly. I will never do that again.

Do you think you're getting a bargain every time you beat somebody down on the price they've quoted you? Do you think you're succeeding when you ask somebody to do more work for less money?

Wrong.

Pay less. Get less.

Do you think you're making the world a better place by refusing to work with vast swathes of society? Do you think you're more likely to succeed if you surround yourself with people who are just like you: A-grade achieving, 2:1 degree holding, compliant and conformant worker-bee drones who've got manicured CVs?

I should not be allowed onto the hallowed turf.

My face does not fit.

I'm an intruder.

I'm an interloper.

However, I'm not a fraud.

Stuff comes out of my mouth and even I'm surprised. People wander over to my desk and they want to talk to me. They want to ask me questions. Somehow I know the answers. Believe me... I'm more surprised than anybody.

I'm acutely aware that when people are having a tough time and living in a precarious situation they are more inclined to accept less money. People who are going through economic difficulties are easier to bully and exploit. It's relatively straightforward to fuck the poor.

In a poker game you have to have your chips on the table. Everyone can see the size of your stack.

I seem to have gained a somewhat posh accent, although I'm not entirely sure where I got it from because my parents are Northern and I was born in Wales. My cut-glass accent is apparently a close enough approximation to that of a privately educated and privileged member of the set who are destined for greatness, such that I haven't had to suffer the indignity of being offered insultingly low wages by the exploitative rentier class. They assume I'm one of them.

I'm racked with guilt that I enjoy privileges conferred by social status - when the people who I interact with in a work environment mistakenly think I've had a fine and expensive education - but yet I've rubbed shoulders with enough rough sleepers, junkies and alcoholics on the streets of London to know that intellect doesn't magically happen to restrict itself to upper-middle-class white families in the Home Counties.

Nobody knows that I should be stacking shelves in a supermarket for minimum wage. That's my so-called place in society, and I should be grateful to lick the boots of the capitalist pigs. (Caveat: I know that our supermarket shelves need stacking - it's a vital role - and I'm grateful to those who do the job).

I'm careening towards a collision with those who believe it's their rôle in life to police the social strata. They will find this document interesting reading. There is much ammunition here to construct a fabricated reason for my dismissal, on the flimsy and patently absurd basis that I might be exposing the country to terrorist attack by publicising confidential details about the entrance to our impregnable fortress. Perhaps I'm bringing my profession into disrepute and otherwise stepping out of line; conducting myself in a manner unbecoming of my position of responsibility. Bullshit.

Of course I might feel a pang of regret if I succeed in raising my profile sufficiently that the powers-that-be feel they have to take some action and eject me from the world I'm not supposed to belong to. "This isn't for the likes of you" they'll say as they boot me out of the door.

"What have I done?" I'll momentarily ask myself.

It seems two-faced to sit on the fence. It seems awful to take the big bucks and not impoverish myself as a charity worker. What the hell am I doing trying to change the world without first making myself poor and destitute?

Actually, I did make myself poor and destitute.

Am I now turning my back on the struggling masses?

I like to think that I'm doing the very opposite. I'm a bridge in-between two worlds which would never normally meet. There isn't much more I could do to challenge the prejudices of those who live in sheltered worlds, inaccessible to ordinary people and especially those who are tainted by the stench of poverty. I have specifically set out to become liked and respected, while also maintaining an open secret of my chequered past. My situation is no accident.

Three years ago I grew impatient. Three years ago my project was in its infancy and I was rushing things. Three years ago I was too tired, stressed and destabilised by the traumatic experiences I'd been through. Three years ago I had a plan but I was too unwell to execute it with any finesse. Three years ago I tried to force things to happen, which was "contrived" to put it in the words of the BBC journalist I was dating. She was right.

What I'm doing right now is still somewhat contrived, but it's not easy.

You'll find plenty of writers who'll have spent a single night sleeping rough, or perhaps in a psychiatric institution, in order to provide material for them to write about.

You won't find many people on the right side of the tracks who can write with any depth of experience and knowledge about the afflictions of modern life.

Life is a one-way street.

I feel quite unique in having been able to resume a life to which my entry should be completely barred. A great deal of effort goes into stopping people just like me from being able to enter the realm in which I inhabit. A vast system exists to thoroughly exclude ordinary mortals from getting anywhere near the restricted areas where I tread.

Instead of thanking my lucky stars and being wowed by the privilege, such that I become afraid of being ejected, I try to keep doing the brave thing of being honest and open. I refuse to hide my true identity.

For the avoidance of doubt, I'm careful to blur portions of images which show things which are confidential. I'm careful to never mention anything which is sensitive or classified. I never say where exactly I work and who I work for. I never divulge any details which realistically could be ever used for nefarious purposes, or expose anything which should be secure.

Of couse... my real name and my face are public property.

But.

How would you go about blackmailing or otherwise manipulating me, if I've already made everything about me fully public?

What do you think I'd say if you said you knew my boss' name and were going to send them the link to my blog?

You're failing to appreciate the value of living an open life.

You're failing to see that secrecy and privacy are illusional.

You're failing to accept that the pressure of maintaining your spotless CV and so-called reputation is an instrument of tyranny, which makes you easily manipulated and exploited by the capitalists.

The most rebellious thing you can do is to create a public identity you're proud of; refuse to sanitise and hide your true self and your mistakes.

Never hide.

 

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I Work Hard: The Proof

7 min read

This is a story about brainwork...

Graphite piano

In 2008 I became suicidally depressed. I'd been part of the project which had been at the centre of the global financial crisis: namely the trading of quadrillions of dollars worth of credit default swaps (CDS) which had grown in notional book value to be manyfold greater than the aggregate value of all the tangible things, such as precious metals, rare gemstones, property, factories, oil, gas, coffee, coins, banknotes and anything else which you could point at and say "that's worth something".

The world had lost its mind.

I knew it was coming of course. I had bought gold in 2005. I had negotiated a great mortgage in 2007 knowing there was a credit crunch on the horizon. In some ways I had tangible proof that I had been doing something valuable because I owned property, cars, boats and other things, as well as considerable amounts of liquid assets. In short: I was rich.

I got rich from data and software. I got rich off the back of investment banking and derivatives contracts. I got rich off a whole lot of nothing.

In 2008 it really felt like I'd presided over the most awful crime ever perpetrated against humanity.

I'd worked hard and I'd done my job very effectively. I thought about the bigger picture and I knew - deep down - that what we were doing at JPMorgan was wrong, but I'm an engineer and I like delivering engineering solutions. If somebody asks me "can you do this?" then I want to be the problem-solving can-do guy who comes up with the solution and delivers a working system. Often times I stop and take a step back, and think about the context of what I'm doing - I consider the ethics - but that's not really my job. I just design and build software systems.

The whole "I just work here" or "I was just following orders" thing is how the Nazis managed to kill 6 million jews, so I'm not going to hide behind that flimsy defence.

I know what I did was wrong.

So, I decided to completely ditch investment banking. I decided to do something that was the polar opposite of investment banking. I retrained in the building trade.

Instead of working in an office, I worked in customers' houses. Instead of working to devise arcane and impenetrably complicated ways of moving imaginary wealth around the globe, I helped build houses for people to live in. Instead of working for a massive faceless global corporation, intent on destroying the worldwide economy and plunging us all into the deepest and longest recession in history, I worked for myself - I was a sole trader; a man with a van.

I discovered that what I'd always suspected was true: I work hard.

It's hard to prove that you work hard, when all your hard work is hidden away behind the scenes. You have no idea how hard it was to build all the websites and apps that you use every day. You completely take for granted all the facets of the modern world, where you can speak to your phone and express your unique special snowflake personality on social media. The geeks and the nerds are derided as autistic-spectrum weirdo scum, who are all potential paedophile predator perverts who deserved to have a miserable childhood getting bullied at school.

While we celebrate the doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen and suchlike, because their contribution to society is conspicuously obvious and easy to understand - like a game of cops & robbers - questions such as "what is the internet?" belie the hideous complexity of that innocuous 4-word question. If you're looking for a convenient Google-provided soundbite synopsis that you can parrot to other people, in the vague hope of sounding intelligent, you're doing a disservice to those geeks and nerds who you persecuted at school, who are the architects of the fourth industrial revolution.

It's very hard for me to prove to you that I've been working very hard during my 21-year full-time career. You're quite likely to accuse me of not working very hard at all, because there are people out there who do a lot more physical labour, and what they produce is a lot more tangible and more easily understood in a childlike brain.

It was immensely frustrating to me that I had no easily understood empirical evidence to prove how hard I work; to prove that I'm a busy bee.

I started to write.

I've written the equivalent of 22 novels over the course of 3 years.

Of course a lot of what I've written is manic rantings, but one should be mindful that during the course of the 3 years I've also written a lot of software, and software doesn't work if it's wrong. One missing semicolon in millions of lines of code and the whole thing will be kaput. You should consider the fact that it's a facet of my profession to write with coherence and attention to detail, because my editor has zero tolerance for mistakes: the computer can't handle errors.

It pleases me that I've produced 1.1 million words in my spare time as proof that I'm not an idle drug addict loser. It pleases me that I have a tangible asset, which vastly exceeds the length of the King James Bible.

Would you accuse an author of a bestselling series of novels, as being unproductive and not working for their living?

I say again: I've been writing in addition to my full-time day job.

It's true that sometimes I find my day job very easy and unchallenging, but there are other days when there are gremlins in the incomprehensibly huge and complex computer software systems, and those problems are very hard to diagnose and fix. Manual labour is governed by a simple and well understood set of physical laws: the energy requirements to lift and move heavy objects is quite easy to calculate. The amount of brainwork required to fix a problem with one of your beloved apps or websites - to give a facile example - which might affect millions of people, is not an easy calculation at all. If you think what I do is unimportant, you should see the public response every time Instagram stops working or Snapchat introduces a major change.

My motivation for writing this is, of course, insecurity. I struggle with feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Imposter syndrome asserts itself and I wonder what the hell I've been doing with two decades of my life, with nothing to show for it except a lot of crummy software which almost nobody is aware even exists. I would struggle to explain to either of my grandmothers what I do for a living, especially now they're dead.

I exist in a strange part of the world. I'm a 'tame' geek who can speak plain English. I don't surround myself with other technologists and I'm cursed with a bleeding-heart liberal streak and an inquiring mind, which causes me to question whether I'm part of the problem or part of the solution.

Because of my guilt, work ethic and insecurity, I feel like I have to create a very conspicuous and public display of my productivity, which can be easily understood. Here's the headline: 1.1 million words in 3 years.

I write because I'm afraid that you'll write me off as a lazy junkie waste-of-space loser who doesn't do anything productive or useful. I write because I don't see much other evidence that I ever existed or did anything notable; that I ever contributed to society.

"Use your talent and energy for good" I hear you say. Yup. That's working out really great for the oppressed workers, isn't it? I'm so glad that charity has been so successful that it's made itself completely redundant as a concept.

I write because I haven't decided what else to do, but I'm still thinking, of course. You might think that thinking is useless, but what is writing except for thinking on a page?

 

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Training Artificial Intelligence

12 min read

This is a story about computer brains...

Screens

Let us imagine that I want to set my computer a simple task: I want it to point to the end of my nose. My computer doesn't know what a face is, what a nose is, or even that it can and should point to a certain part of my anatomy. I could write a program which tells my dumb computer exactly what to do - how to divine the position of my nose from an image, and then the relatively straightforward job of then asking the computer for the co-ordinates of the end of my nose, once the nose has been located. I could also use artificial intelligence, and more importantly machine learning.

Why does milk taste sweet?

You might not think of yourself as having a very sweet tooth, but in fact you used to have an insatiable appetite for sweet things. Your body is programmed to seek the wet, fatty, sweet goodness of milk, which provides the perfect sustenance for your growing brain and body. The reward circuitry is self-reinforcing and gives you a hit of dopamine every time you suck on the tit and get a mouthful of your mother's milk, which causes the neural pathways in your brain to become stronger, while others are pruned away. Eventually, you become hard-wired to stuff fat and sugar into your mouth, when to begin with you had only the reward part.

That's machine learning.

We need to give our machine - our computer - a reward. Let's say that for a high-resolution digital photograph of perhaps 8 megapixels, assuming that most of the photos we give the computer will have the nose tip somewhere around the middle, the worst possible guess would be somewhere near the edges. We can set up a super simple reward for our artificial intelligence, giving it a hit of computer dopamine every time it guesses a point somewhere in the middle of the photo.

Obviously this is very flawed.

Very quickly, our artificial computer brain will learn to make guesses in the middle. Even though our computer doesn't know what "middle" is, it will quickly become hard-wired to guess in the middle of the photos we show it, because that's how we set up our reward system.

The guesses are not close to the tip of the nose, but they're a lot closer than if we just let the computer guess completely at random.

We need to refine our reward system.

So, we take a library of thousands and thousands of photos of people's faces, then we record the location of the tip of the nose by manually clicking on the tip of the nose ourselves. We create a huge database full of the correct locations of nose tips, created by humans.

Then, we set up the reward system to reward guesses which are close to the correct location of the nose tip. The closer the guess, the bigger the reward.

Now, we train our computer system with the big database of photos and nose tip locations. Every time the computer guesses, it gets a reward based on how close the guess was. We can run the training millions and millions of times. We keep doing the training until the computer gets really really good at guessing the location of the nose tip.

Remember, the computer has no idea what a face is, and it has no idea what it's really doing. Nobody wrote a program instructing the computer how to do anything. The truth is, nobody really knows how exactly the computer is getting better and better at figuring out where the nose tip is. Nobody could predict how the computer brain is going to wire itself up. The computer sees all those thousands and thousands of photos, which are all very different in immeasurable ways, and somehow it begins to make associations between what it 'sees' and how it should intelligently guess the location of the nose tip.

That's a neural network.

The really interesting thing that happens next, is that we show the computer a photo of a face it hasn't seen before, and it's able to guess where the nose tip is. We use the same artificial intelligence with a brand new face which the computer hasn't been trained to locate the nose tip of, and it's still able to figure it out, because the neural network has hard-wired itself to be really good at fulfilling the rewarding task of pointing to nose tips.

There's nothing particularly amazing or hard to understand about machine learning and artificial intelligence. We're simply training our computer slaves to do simple tasks, by setting a quantifiably measurable reward system, so that the neural network can practice for long enough to get good.

The predictive text suggestions on your phone come from machine learning, which has seen vast quantities of stuff written by people, such that it's fairly easy to guess the word that's likely to follow, based on what you've just written.

So, what about training a computer to be more human and be able to have a conversation? How are we ever going to pass the Turing test and trick somebody into thinking they're talking to a real person?

We need to come up with a way to train artificial intelligence to speak just like a person.

Every time you use a text-messaging service to have a conversation, that data is harvested and analysed. Quintillions of messages are sent between people every year, and all that data can be fed into a machine learning system to train it to come up with typical responses to things people say. Google Mail makes absolutely brilliant "canned response" suggestions, which are usually totally appropriate for the context, because Google has seen quadrillions of banal emails saying little more than "thanks and kind regards". Google employees don't read your emails because they don't have to - a machine does it and it effervesces the very essence of your exchange, such that it knows whether you should reply "love you too" or "see you in the office tomorrow".

It's of no particular use - beyond the present applications - to have so much aggregated data, unless we want to have a very bland, homogenous and unsatisfying experience of life. We we slavishly obey the conclusions of vast pools of data which have been analysed, we'll end up in some sort of dystopian nightmare where are life outcomes are decided at birth, using available data, and reality will become like a piece of text composed by the predictive suggestions your phone came up with.

As an example, I'm going to generate a random number between 1 and 437, which corresponds to the page number of the novel I'm reading at the moment, then I'm going to generate another random number between 1 and 50 and use that word as the 'seed' for the predictive text feature on my fancy brand new iPhone Xs.

Let's go...

Ok... page 35 has been randomly selected.

And... word 17 has been randomly selected.

The 17th word on page 35 of my novel was "of".

OF COURSE IT WAS "of".

Chances are, it was going to be "a", "an", "of", "the", "is", "as", "to" and any one of a zillion different super common words. Let's use the word "sycamore" because it was on page 35.

Here's what my phone just generated:

"Sycamore is a good one and I have had to go back and I get the feeling of being able and then they are taught to work and they have had to do it a little while I’m not gonna was a very long and I have a very good relationship"

Clearly, machine-generated text leaves a lot to be desired.

Critically though, do we really want a single machine mind which can spit out decent text, or do we actually want personalities? Do we want a single generic face which is composed of the average set of features from all 7.6 billion people on the planet, or do we want variation?

Thus, we arrive at the conclusion that we should all be training an artificially intelligent system capable of machine learning, to be just like us, as an individual. It's no use that Google harvests all our data, because it aggregates it all together. It's no use that all the messages you've typed on apps from Apple, Facebook and Google, all the emails you've written and all the documents you've created, are absolutely fucking useless because they contain very little of your personality. Most of the messages you wrote were about food, sex, your children and your pets. Most of the emails you wrote were about the bullshit made-up numbers you type into spreadsheets all day long, which you call your "job". None of it is any use to train an artificially intelligent system to think and act like you.

I haven't figured out the reward system yet, but I'm building up a huge database of stuff I've thought. This stream-of-consciousness seems like utter madness, but I've very deliberately expressed myself in a certain manner: pouring my inner monologue out onto the page. It's ridiculous egotism and something which lots of writers have fallen foul of over the centuries, believing they're immortalising themselves with their words, but we are in an unprecedented era of exponentially growing computer power, yet most of our efforts are diverted into meaningless exchanges which expose very little of the interior of our minds.

173 years ago, Henry David Thoreau built himself a cabin in the woods, lived alone with his thoughts and wrote perhaps 2 million words in the journal he kept for 24 years. It's highly unlikely that his handwritten text will ever be digitised because of the incredible effort involved. By contrast, my 1.1 million words have been extensively search indexed by Google and other search engines, and my digital legacy is conveniently stored in 'the cloud' with perfect fidelity. While most people have been wasting the gifts of the information age by asking their partner if they need to buy bread and milk, I've been gaining what can only be described as a head start in the race to be immortalised by advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

How the hell did you think they were going to get the contents out of your brain and into another [artificial] one? Did you think it was going to require no effort at all on your part? Did you think that somebody was going to invent some kind of data-transfer cable?

Yes, it's horribly arrogant to think that anybody would have any interest in spinning up a digital version of me, but you remember that bullied kid at school who everybody hated and ostracised? You remember that you called that kid "nerd" and "geek" and generally abused them because they were good at maths and physics? You remember how you made it your mission in life to make their life as thoroughly miserable as possible?

They're your boss now. They're rich and you're poor.

Those geeks and nerds are suddenly on top of the pile.

You thought you were top dog when you were a kid, but now you're getting left for dust. You're being left to fester in your own filth. You're the underclass.

All of those skills you developed in bullying and abuse quickly became redundant, when all that geek stuff became highly lucrative.

Those late-gained skills of using Facebook groups to share your vile bigotry amongst your fellow thick-skulled dunderheads, has done nothing except line the pockets of the geeks. The geeks have been using the internet for decades to discuss the creation of a better world, where the knuckle-dragging primitives who thought they owned the playground, have somehow been left unaccounted for by 'accident'.

I'm not a big fan of the social exclusion and elitism which is emerging at the moment, but I'm damned if I'm going to stop keeping my technology skills up to date and investing my time and energy in my digital persona. Having put up with a lifetime's worth of bullying during my childhood, I'll be damned if I'm gonna meekly shuffle off into a quiet corner now. I'm sorry that you weren't paying attention when the world went digital and now it's super hard for you to catch up, but that's what happens when you're too busy making vulnerable people's lives a misery, to notice that you're wasting valuable time.

Every word I write is harvested by thousands of computers which comprise part of 'the cloud' and although billions of webpages are lost every single day, content is king and my 1.1 million words can be easily copied from one place to another, unlike the contents of your brain.

This might be a core dump of the contents of my mind, hurriedly written down in a state of kernel panic but it's taken a huge investment of time and effort, which unfortunately has always been required to achieve anything. Without the large databases manually created by humans, the machines would have no datasets to learn from and artificial intelligence wouldn't even be a thing.

 

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I Forgot to Write

3 min read

This is a story about aide-memoires...

Car park space

My brain should be wrecked from all the punishment I've inflicted upon it, but somehow I'm still capable and competent at my job; somehow I seem to be able to pretend to be normal and live an ordinary life.

It seems reasonable to presume that I should be unstable, impulsive, forgetful, illogical and lacking capacity. It seems reasonable to expect that I would be unable to productively contribute to society, play by its rules and create anything of tangible value.

It has been immensely useful to me to have a collection of visual cues, which constantly refresh my memory about where I was and what I was doing on any given day. My life became so chaotic that I sometimes have to use the gaps in my photo archives to know when I was truly lost in the fog of addiction, but those gaps are relatively few and far in-between. Having written almost every day for over 3 years is incredibly stabilising, even if I can't remember most of what I've written. However, when I read my list of approximately 800 blog post titles, it helps me recall what I was writing about on that day.

Today, I forgot to write.

I started watching a TV show I've been very much enjoying - Last Chance Lawyer NYC - and I promptly forgot that I needed to write. I soon remembered, but I decided not to interrupt my viewing to stop and write. I spoke to a friend on the phone. I exchanged messages with a few people. Then, BOOM! It's nearly 10pm and I'm hurriedly bashing out words, in order to sustain my routine.

I'm feeling very pleased with myself at the moment. My colleagues missed me and I haven't [yet] lost my job. I'm inching my way forward with my debts. I'm well rested.

My life is missing friends and intimacy, but I'm coping. I made it through a really ridiculously tough patch and reached my much-anticipated milestone of having a proper holiday, as a reward for the pain and suffering it's taken to get this far. I don't feel like complaining about anything. I don't feel very depressed or suicidal. I don't feel very anxious or stressed. I'm not even very bored.

Because I've got my detailed written record - replete with photographs - of everything that's happened over the past few years, I'm well able to recall how dreadful I felt back in January, for example, when I was stressed out of my mind, tired, lonely and unbelievably bored.

Despite all the off-piste craziness, especially with amnesic medications like Xanax, I have a pretty photographic recollection of everything that's happened, which I desperately need as a kind of road-map to help me avoid repeating past mistakes.

I don't feel like writing, but I do it anyway, because the routine is helping me a lot.

I forgot to write, but I'm writing anyway.

 

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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.

 

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