It’s not about the fall, it’s about how you get back up.
A blog about writing. A blog about mental health (sort of).
I said I would “try” to post every week about what I had been doing on my journey to, hopefully, make my life less ordinary by forging a new career from writing. Well guess what? I fell at the first bloody step. Well guess what again? I am not going to let it get me down, nor am I going to beat myself up about having missed a couple of weeks early on.
So, what happened?
Mental health; that’s what happened. I said this wasn’t necessarily going to be a blog about mental health. Yeah, I might have to revise that statement slightly. I’ve had a tough few weeks, which started around the time of my very first post. At the zenith of an adrenaline fueled ‘high’ I had finally plucked up the courage to start this blog and commit to my five-year plan. However, once the adrenaline has chewed you up and spit you out, the ‘comedown’ is a fucking bastard. Seriously. There are no other words to describe it, at least none that I feel accurately articulate that feeling. It can be a proper kick in the teeth and it took me a couple of weeks to really get back to feeling a more stable version of myself again. Not going to lie, it was the lowest I’ve felt for probably over a year – but, importantly, it was not as low as the absolute worst of times. I am continually reminding myself of that fact too, I need to make sure I surround myself with positivity and that I am positive and kind to myself.
Remember my resolution to “do more of the things I enjoy”? I have made sure to remind myself of that resolution too, which means that on Sunday I once again spent the late hours of Sunday night into the early hours Monday morning in a pub watching the wrestling event SummerSlam. I loved every minute of it. More accurately, I loved it more with each minute that went by. I remembered that I was able to laugh and enjoy the moment instead of letting my brain take life oh too seriously. Wrestling, especially once you understand the full workings of it, is all about storytelling and the suspension of disbelief. For those hours I remembered that I love both of those things; I’m a born day-dreamer and a lover of good storytelling. I watch wrestling with a writer’s eye, which can often lead to some head scratching moments, but I look at wrestling matches and try to think how I would write them; what outcome would best suit the story progression? How could I develop the relationship between those two characters? What plot twist would I add in to keep the viewers on their toes without confusing them too much?
I’ve recently read that there is a key question when developing your characters; it’s the key question. Whenever you’re placing a character in a scene, in a moment, in a situation, you should always ask “why”.
- Why is the character there?
- Why is the character doing these things?
- Why is the character interested in the other person?
The most fascinating aspect of this is when I’ve been asking the “why” question when watching TV shows or films. I’m an avid fan of both, I take huge inspiration from them (music too) and when you’re paying close attention to a character’s motivation by asking “why” you suddenly realise which characters are better developed, or more interesting, than others.
Mads Mikkelsen is an excellent actor, in my humble opinion. This week I’ve been watching the first season of Hannibal, I wholly recommend it if you haven’t seen it yet. Continually analysing “why” Hannibal Lecter would do certain things, or “why” he would be paying so much attention to certain characters, it sheds a much different light on the course of events rather than simply letting the story just wash over me without fully engaging. I started to anticipate what the character was going to do next. It’s such a simple, seemingly minor writing technique but I’ve already found it incredibly insightful and rewarding. Equally, watching something more ‘easy going’ like Community (another of my absolute favourite TV shows) made me appreciate the simplicity of a comedy series where there isn’t an overly complex story-arc and complex interactions. Sometimes the answer to “why” is simply “because it’s funny” and that’s all it needs.
On a related Hannibal note, the performance of Hugh Dancy as Will Graham is equally compelling.
In my first blog I made sure to put some of my actual career training into action by documenting what I’d done, what I was planning to do and what was hindering me. Question is, how did I get on?
Given that I was enduring a crippling bout of anxiety, I’m genuinely very proud to look back at what I’d aimed to do and gladly say that I managed to do most of it!! Yeah, I know, it took me a bit longer but the physical illness (I developed a horrible flu-like fever from abscess in my armpit) and the mental illness slowed me down a bit, that’s all. I will not let those things cloud my judgement, I’m determined to give myself a pat on the back for once. The only thing I didn’t do enough of was reading; this is something that I absolutely need to find time to do more of, but it’s a habit I need to learn, reinforce and develop.
I nailed some new ideas and that’s what I’m incredibly proud of. I time-boxed myself and created a list of any idea that popped into my head. I didn’t judge them, I didn’t develop them during that time, I simply wrote a list of anything that I could think of. I went on to explore a couple in a touch more depth and, low and behold, I stumbled across an idea that’s very close to my heart and I would really enjoy developing. What I’m also very proud of is the fact that I didn’t pick an idea where I’m trying to win the Oscar for best screenplay; not everyone can win an Oscar!! I am terrible for setting my own standards and expectations so high that I can simply never achieve them, so this time I’m happy to have found an idea that is “simple”. It’s about friendship and how it develops/changes as people get older but there is always that central thread that keeps people together no matter how much the world around them changes. I’m going to keep developing it and see what it takes me but so far I’ve already got my characters and a very high-level three-act story-arc which I think flows very well. I’m breaking it down more now, into more detail within each act and from there I’ll eventually get into individual scenes.
As I write this, Temptation by New Order has just come on my Spotify and it’s made my smile. I haven’t smiled enough this week but today has been very different, I’ve found myself smiling and being proud of my actual “proper” job/work as well as what I’ve been working on for my writing.
“Each way I turn I know I’ll always try to break this circle that’s been placed around me”. The lyric felt very apt.
Thanks for reading x
My Life, Less Ordinary
What have I done this week?
- Watched season 1 of Hannibal.
- Went on more lunch time walks. 4k, wooo!!
- Managed a couple of genuine smiles and laughs.
- Started a writing ideas log.
- Drafted some characters and a three-act story arc for a new idea.
- Said “well done” to myself about a piece of work in my real job and felt proud of my work.
- Learnt how important it is to my mental health to document my own achievements.
- Found someone at work who also writes and shared ideas and experiences.
What will I be doing next week?
- Picking up ‘Your Writing Coach’ by Jurgen Wolff again.
- Working on a football article with a friend.
- Do another time-boxed ideas session.
- Revisit my idea to make a shortlist of people to contact about how they got into writing scripts and screenplays.
- Listening to the ‘Distraction Pieces’ podcast from Scroobius Pip.
What is currently hindering me?
- A life-long habit of setting absurdly sky-high standards and quality expectations for myself.
- Armpit abscesses giving me a frustratingly sickening virus.
- Still not getting enough exercise.
- Lack of focus and self-discipline.
This weeks’ uplifting songs for when it all seems a bit too much.