BLOG: Falling off the wagon.

It’s early and I’m trundling along on a bus towards St Helens of all places. It’s nothing personal against St Helens you understand, I’m just from Wigan.

I have fallen out of the habit of writing daily. Like many say, it’s a muscle that needs excercise and right now I’m drifting towards atrophy.

I let go of the time everyday where I would write, time that I used to guard jealously, and I have become doughy.

So it’s time to get back into literary shape. The programme calls for reading and writing daily, word count targets and a return to weekly blogs.

One of the things I am keen to explore is the impact of running a tabletop RPG (in this case Dungeons and Dragons) on my writing output.

I won’t pretend it doesn’t scratch the world-building itch I suffer from, and with its instant gratification of player interaction, it’s a hard allure to resist.

Beyond the creative time sink that running a game can become, I also want to explore the unique creative and narrative aspects a role-playing game can offer a writer, depending of course on the style of game you run.

Keep an eye out for upcoming blogs and short stories. Click the follow button if you would like notifications.

BLOG: THM article.

A short while ago I got the opportunity to try my hand at writing an article for a magazine. My friend John Kelly started his own publication called ToyHero Magazine (https://toyh3ro.wixsite.com/toyheromag) The article in question swang wildly away from any kind of review or test and instead fell to how my toys as a child inspired my imagination. John has been kind enough to let me post that article here.

It’s a tense moment on the bridge of the Enterprise, Captain Picard gives the order for Data to scan the surface of the planet. The Captain orders the Borg and Worf to prepare to beam down (that’s right, I had a friendly borg crew member first, in your face Voyager!) Data’s console beeps, it appears they are orbiting a planet populated by a giant cat-like race of people, they call themselves the Thundercats.

If you can’t tell I grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s fed on a diet of Saturday morning cartoons and reruns of popular 80’s shows like Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers to name a few. Before cartoons had their own dedicated channels we had to make do with early Saturdays and a small slot after school. I can vividly remember sitting in my Nans’ living room watching Turtles on the DJ Kat Show or Spider-Man and X-men on Live and Kicking. Star Trek was there too, nurturing an early love of sci-fi and exploration along with short lived shows like Space Precinct. The great thing about these shows, and most of the cartoons that provide a flashback into my childhood, was that they came with a host of figures and toys.

I remember getting my first Power Ranger figure (Jason the red ranger) and I was thrilled with just how articulated with how it was. Ball and socket joints on action figures were not very common, and how could you hope to replicate the high-flying martial arts action of the Power Rangers with a figure whose arms merely went up and down. It was a revelation for me. My cousin chewed his head shortly after I got him, he went through life with teeth marks and a slightly squashed head. I love my cousin but to this day I’m still a little bitter about that. There were many times I gave myself a sore throat by imitating voices such as Mumm-Ra or making the noise a Transformer does when it transforms (it took me a lot longer than it does on the show.)

Besides the happy nerdiness of pouring over long forgotten toys I also could not pass up the opportunity to try my hand at a different style of writing. I saw what John was doing with ToyHero Magazine (THM) and it got me thinking about how truly appreciative I am of the toys I loved as a child. All the imaginative scenarios they let me play out, such as the bridge crew of the Enterprise stumbling across Thundera or the Skeleton Warriors vs The Ghostbusters. It seemed such an interesting concept to me, after all we have magazines for every other walk of life, clothes, movies and video games spring to mind. Why not one to appreciate the things, that for many of us, helped build our creativity.

I work in toy retail, so it is encouraging to see more of this kind of publication. Geek culture and the toys it spawns has never been larger, or more accepted. Throughout the northwest we now have toy fairs and cons on a regular basis, places for toy enthusiasts, artists and cosplayers to get together and bond over our mutual love of the fandoms out there. There are lines for children to enjoy as well as more delicate (and pricier) items that are designed for the collectors out there.

 There was a rich culture of cartoons and shows that spawned line after line of action figures. Street sharks, Ghostbusters, James Bond Junior, Batman (both the films and the amazing animated series), Conan, Pirates of Dark Water, the list goes on. Most of these toys expanded well beyond the range of the shows, with side characters and a whole host of accessories that only came in toy form. Batman the Animated Series Toys by Kenner produced no less than eight different batman figures, each with a unique colour scheme and gadget I don’t recall ever seeing in the series. My uncle gave me a box of original star wars figures, dozens of them (which I sadly treated roughly as a child) and I was amazed that there were figures for even the smallest of character roles (looking at you Gonk Droid)

Figures and play-sets were a way for me to expand my imagination as a child, we lived on a busy road so many of my days were spent indoors. The bridge crew of the enterprise would encounter a strange planet filled with giant cat-like people, or a robot that turned into a car would be battling with bike riding mice from mars. I was free to add or remove any character I wanted into my own little narratives. If I wanted Batman to show up in Spider-man, he would,  and for good measure the Turtles and He-Man would make an appearance too. I would create serial stories with these toys, often picking up where I last left off the next time I played with them. Looking back on it, this is probably the first instance of me creating my own stories, something that is now my passion.

I just had to take the time and opportunity to express my appreciation and love for the toys of my childhood and the creativity that they inspired and a quick apology to all of the army men I buried in the garden, your sacrifice was not in vain boys.

The Goblin Circus: An Excerpt.

It’s been quiet on here for a while, but I have been very busy. There is a bunch of content I’m working on both for the site and for somethings that are still in the pipeline. I wanted to share with you a snippet of what I’ve been working on. Enjoy.

William could hear such a ruckus outside, down past the bottom of the garden. It was an immense rhythmic chorus, THUMP THUMP, RATTLE RATTLE, THUMP THUMP, RATTLE RATTLE. It was coming from the cobbled alley behind his house. THUMP THUMP, RATTLE RATTLE, THUMP THUMP, RATTLE RATTLE. Mrs Thomlinson had settled herself in front of the television and was happily grumbling at the chat show informing her how to coomrdinate her outfits. William knew from experience she would not move from the settee for quite some time. Whenever she agreed to look after him, William ended up looking after himself. Before long William could no longer contain himself and was pulling a dining room chair through the kitchen to the back door. Climbing onto it he wrestled the bolt at the top of the door free and was out and racing towards the gates at the end of the garden. The big double gates looked out onto the cobbled alley where the noise was coming from. He found the spy hole he had made earlier that summer and peered into the alley.
THUMP THUMP, RATTLE RATTLE, but now William could hear a chittering noise above everything else, one low chittering followed by a high pitched chittering, almost like two people talking. The narrow view of the alley was blank, the damp cobbled stones and the gates of the garden opposite. The noise was so loud now that Williams body began to rumble along with it.
“H…hello,” he called out, “who’s there?”
The noise ceased at once. William stood very still, he even held his breath. Pressing himself closer to the gate he tried to get a closer look at the alley. To the very far right, just at the edge of his vision he something large, a wooden wheel. It was attached to something large he couldn’t quite make out, a carriage perhaps. The sudden quiet was almost as unnerving as the noise.

He let out a long, low breath as quietly as he could. The chittering returned, the pattern the same as before, one low and measured out and the other high pitched and fast. A large orange eye suddenly filled the vision of the peep hole, a most inhuman eye. He stepped back quickly his young heart racing and very thankful for the stout wooden gates between him and the things in the alley.
“Hello, I know you’re out there,” said a voice William recognised as his own.
“Amazing,” a low voice rasped, “the boything knows we’re here.”
“Nonsense, manthings can’t see us,” said a second high pitched voice.
“And yet it seems this one can. Roland, why don’t you take a peek over and have a look, there’s a good fellow.”
Leaves appeared over the top of the gate, long green oak leaves on thin twigs followed by a large grey boulder. THUMP THUMP, two more large grey boulders, no William realised, not boulders but hands, large rock hands covered in patches of green moss. The hands gripped the gates and the first large boulder rose higher and higher. It was not a boulder but in fact the giant head of the immense stone creature. The thing was massive, it must have been almost as tall as Williams house if it stood upright instead of hunching over the gate. It had a broad square jaw, a large rocky nose and two brilliant gemmed eyes the colour of the summer sky. The creature spotted William and gave a small surprised grunt. William did the only thing his body was capable of, he screamed. The rock creature paused for one moment and then it followed suit letting out the loudest rumble William had ever heard. Its hands came up to cover its eyes and it stumbled back into the alley, its footfalls shaking the ground as it went.

“Oh well now you’ve gone and done it,” said the high pitched voice.
“It isn’t my fault Roland is afraid of everything new,” replied the low voice.
“But you know how he gets.”
“Oh all right, I’ll fix this,” said the low voice.
William realised he had stopped screaming and was listening very intently to what was happening on the other side of the gate.
“Hello, you in there, boything?” called the voice, “I do so apologise for startling you, but would you be so kind as to pop outside for a moment so Little Roland can see there is nothing to be afraid of.”
“That thing is afraid of me?” breathed William
“Oh yes, Little Roland is still quite young and he is a little jumpy,” the voice sounded rather sincere, “of course most young Hill Trolls are a little more outgoing.” William jammed a finger in his ear, he could have sworn he heard him say Hill Troll.

His curiosity got the better of him and he quickly unlatched the gate, lifting it so it wouldn’t stick as it sometimes did and stuck his head out into the alley. He was totally unprepared for the sight that greeted him. There in the cobbled alley stood two quite remarkable, wholly inhuman creatures.

They were both rather short, the tallest being the same height as William. The smaller one was rather squat and round with gangly arms and legs. Its skin was dark green and looked tough, it had a bulbous nose and large orange eyes that twinkled with a mischief matched by its toothy grin. Large ears protruded from beneath a tattered top hat that paired with a suit of much repair. Long fingers with well kept nails held a black walking cane topped with a small crystal dragon.
“Its a small boything. Most remarkable,” it grinned wider revealing double rows of sharp white teeth. The taller one that stood behind had a much more unkempt appearance. It had wild orange hair that stuck out at all angles and it wore very dirty overalls. Its eyes were small and dark, its nose long and pointed. Its long fingers ended in long dirty nails.
“I can see that,” it hissed. The small one offered a hand to William.
“My name is Obadiah Ghogg, business Goblin and entrepreneur.” William shook the offered hand and was surprised that something so small could be so strong or he would have been if the word Goblin wasn’t bouncing around his head.
“Don’t mind Horace uh-”
“William”
“Ah, William,” Obadiah said softly as if the name were strange on his tongue, “well William, don’t you mind Horace one bit, grumpy fellow but he keeps things moving like a well oiled machine.” Behind Obadiah Horace merely grunted. Obadiah ignored him and kept his attention firmly on William “Truth be told we are both astounded that you can see and hear us at all, most manthings senses are not that sharp, are they Horace?”
“No boss, never met a gifted manthing myself. Heard of ‘em of course but…” he trailed off
“But never in our days did we think to meet one ourselves,” Obadiah finished.
“Don’t know ‘bout you boss but I think its other senses are a bit dimmed, seems a bit dull don’t it,” hissed Horace.
“Quite,” whispered the short Goblin. William realised he was standing with his mouth agape like some kind of landed fish.
“S…sorry,” he managed to stammer.
“Oh my dear boything it is not to me that you must make apologies, but to dear Roland. You gave him quite a fright, he is young and rather skittish you understand.”

William nodded dumbly as Obadiah led him up the cobbled alley to a large faded orange and green carriage. It had faded red lettering that read ‘Ogally Ghoggs Cirque Du Smele’ Behind the carriage, which was tiny in comparison, was the giant Hill Troll Little Roland, hands gripping the top of the carriage and peering nose first at William.
“Mista Ghogg,” it said in what William assumed was a whisper but made the carriage rattle, “I doesn’t like it, it scare me.” Little Roland pointed an accusing finger toward William. Obadiah was petting Roland reassuringly on one giant moss speckled arm.
“Easy Roland,” he said in tender tones, “it’s just a boything called William.”
“Willium” it repeated looking at him with massive sapphire eyes.
“Thats it, William was just shocked to see you.”
“But I didn’t do nuffin,” Roland rumbled
“I know my dear fellow, but just as you have never seen a boything, William has never seen a Hill Troll, even one as small as you. Be brave my boy.”
“Rollund brave,” the Troll assured as it lumbered forward, Williams body rattled with every enourmous footstep. Roland towered over him, “Willum,” it beamed, “boyfing.”
“Thats a good fellow, now can I persuade you to carry on, after all the show must go on,” encouraged Obadiah
“Show,” agreed Roland, “I is liking shows,” he rumbled as he returned to behind the carriage and hefted a huge rucksack onto his back
“Atta boy Roland, atta boy,” said Obadiah.

“Bout time,” sneered Horace, “this delay will cost us Obadiah so I hope your curiosity is sated.” Roland, who was now in front of the carriage waiting, poked Horace in the chest with one huge finger causing the lanky goblin to fall flat on his behind.
“Not Obadiah, Mr Ghogg,” he warned. Obadiah rushed between the two.
“Now now, no fighting you two, tonight’s show is far too important.” The little Goblin was waving his free arm and cane around trying to stop his two employees scuffling.
“What show?” asked William. Obadiah turned at once, his attention on WIlliam, a smile split his green face.
“My dear boything, I’ve been waiting for you ask.” Flinging his arms out wide he shouted “Ogally Ghoggs Cirque Du Smele, finest circus in the all the realm. Its been in the family for a thousand years. See amazing feats of strength and dexterity preformed by the juggling Hill Troll. Death defying aerial acrobatics by the Vivell sisters and see the mysterious Shade, Magic Extraordinaire pull a car from a sea shell and turn a tortoise fury.” He paused and gave William an appraising look “Come and see for yourself, I would love a manthings critique on the show, a fresh perspective.” Behind Obadiah Horace wrinkled his nose in disgust. William knew his Mother would be very displeased indeed if she returned home to find him gone.
“What does Roland juggle?” he asked
“Oh he juggles all kinds my boy, his best act is juggling three of those big grey things, what are they called…” Obadiah was having trouble finding the right word
“Dustbins” William supplied
“No, elephants” smiled Obadiah. Well thought William, that settled it, he was going to the Goblin Circus.

 

Blog: Hidden Meanings.

We have all been in an English lesson where the teacher is trying to tech us the deeper meanings of what the author meant. Writing has helped people voice their concerns and issues with society for centuries. Personal perspectives on war, regime change, atrocities and hopeful movements. Animal Farm was one of the first allegorical books I remember analysing, before that I simply read for the enjoyment of it. I still do, but I almost didn’t.

In study, being analytical of works is key to being able to convey that you understand the underpinnings of the story, the themes. However, in my own experience, having an analytical eye almost ruined reading for me. I could not pick up a book without looking for the authors deeper meanings, without deconstructing sentences and word choice, narrative voices and points of view. It ruined the immersion of the story, which to me is paramount. It can be argued that these works are for the purpose of conveying a very specific message, that is after all what allegory is for. I do feel though that we sometimes confuse allegory with applicability.

The distinction between allegory and applicability can sometimes be a muddied one. Animal Farm is an allegorical novella about the Russian Revolution of 1917, C.S Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia books are another example of allegory in fiction and yet Tolkien’s work, by his own admission, is not. He did not see The Lord of the Rings as an allegorical work for war and the industry it creates. It would however be absurd to say such things did not colour his work.

The distinction between allegory and applicability is that allegory is usually a one for one substitution. Allegory is a device employed by the author to further their message and point. Applicability however is something that the reader brings with them when they read. Applicability is an extension of the readers own experiences and knowledge. It is finding something within the work that we can connect with, perhaps something we have had experience with.

Some stories are just that. Stories. No hidden meanings, no agenda or message to be discovered. Personally when I write, if I say it was cold, its because it was cold. There is no deeper meaning attached that, the cold is not symbolism for depression or loneliness. It’s just cold. I have no interest in trying to foist upon the reader a hidden agenda, but my work is coloured by the world around me and my own experiences. I am only interested in trying to create great stories. If you find something in them that resonates with you, that is fantastic, but they are simply stories.

Mornings.

The wind was bitter and pulled at his coat. Colin turned his shoulder to it and tried to think about anything other than how tired he was. He bent his knees and performed the short impatient dance that seemed to be universal to those waiting for public transport.

It is far to early-

Down at the far end of the road he saw a bus wearing the right colours pull into view. It was hard to tell if it was the bus he had been waiting for, the numbers still to far distant and his eyesight at the ripe old age of thirty was not what it used to be. The green and cream bus trundled up the road, proudly displaying its route, it was the correct one after all. Rolling to a stop much further behind him than was convenient, Colin did an awkward almost jog to the door which hissed open. Colin was not one to move at a brisk pace.

Built for comfort, not speed-

Behind the wheel sat an all too cheery young man who didn’t look old enough to be let out without supervision, let alone drive.

“Good Morning,” he called happily.

How about you just shut your fucking mouth sunshine and drive the damn bus before Old Col pokes holes in your tires.

That was harsh even by Colin’s standards, not to mention unlikely and impractical. He fumbled with his pass.

That was a bit mean-

No, people shouldn’t be so bloody chipper this early in the morning-

How can you be such a grouch-

I’m you, you pleb, it’s not like this is new news, anyway stop talking to yourself you weirdo. Anyway, I’m off the clock, my customer service personality doesn’t come for free you know.

At this point Colin realises he has been holding his pass for a few seconds too long and the young driver looks a little unsure. He could have said something, a simple hello would have sufficed, or the ever British “Sorry.” Instead he gave the young man a deadpan look of disinterest he had perfected over the years and looked for a seat on the empty bus. He noted four windows were open, that should be enough to circulate the air of public transport out. Avoiding the seat near the emergency door, honestly who wants that kind of responsibility, he chose the seat just before the back step and took out his travel mug. He had almost perfected the art of drinking a hot liquid on a road that seemed designed to test the limits of modern suspension, almost.

Don’t spill it on yourself today-

Shut up, you’re not my real ladder!-

How many times, you can’t use inside jokes when your using your inner monologue-

Sorry Mr Thought Police-

You really are a child-

I know you are, said you are but what am I-

Sometimes, when left alone with his own thoughts, without any kind of supervision or boundary, Colin did wonder if he was in fact sane. He assumed others did the same, but there was always a nagging worry at the back of his mind.

How sure can you really be that others talk to themselves like you do? After all, you have some…expansive conversations with yourself-

Exactly, myself, I know I’m me, I know your me. It isn’t as if there are different people in here.. It’s just like the worst game of Devils Advocate ever played. 

The bus rumbles violently over the road, almost spilling the hot tea, it seems that the young, chipper driver fancied himself a rally driver.

Wanker!-

Wanker!-

I know right!-

You really need to watch your language though-

What are you my fucking mum?

Blog: Bashing Your Head Against The Block.

Some days you just sit and write. You know what you want to say and it flows easily. Some days you wake up at 4 am and scramble for a notepad, a scrap of paper and a pen, your phones memo app, anything will do so long as you manage to get that thought down. There are days when we spend only an hour in front of the keyboard, a quick splurge and were done. Other days we weasel the words out over the course of the day.

Then there are days when it’s difficult. The days when the words don’t come easily. The dreaded “writers block.” You can call it what you want, the fact is it sucks. Sometimes we just don’t know how to translate what is in our heads to paper, or we discover what we thought was a sound concept actually has a pretty large flaw in it.

There are hundreds of blogs concerning writers block and the cures and remedies for it, but much like the oft touted rules for writing nothing works for everybody.

When I find myself unable to write, be it in a satisfactory manner or even at all in some cases, the first thing I do is a change of scenery. I move from the desktop and take up the laptop or notepad. I’ve found a change of scenery can really help the creative process. If that doesn’t work I always have another project in the works. In this case I write to fit my mood, and chose something I can pour into. There are however times where you can almost justify bashing your head against the keyboard in the hopes that it will come out making sense on the screen.

If it comes to that then I find it best to just not force it. Go for a walk or make a brew or have a conversation with someone. Just don’t write. Almost all writing advice will tell you to write, and then write some more and then tie that all up with some writing. It doesn’t work like that, not for everyone. Yes it can be frustrating but we all have our ruts, it is okay to just leave it alone for a while.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Blog: An Authors Portrait.

I’m bored and have itchy typing fingers, so, lets ramble.

It’s safe to say I have a few books, more accurately I have a shit-ton of books. Less than  I used to have mind you, I used to a have a fuck-ton but I found that amount to be rather excessive.

The one thing that almost all these books share in common is that they have a page about the author. It is usually a few lines containing where they come from, where they studied, where they live now and how many cats they own. That kind of thing. There is also usually a picture of said author almost always in a library or some kind of garden environment near an aged cottage or stone wall. I guess the pose is like the first album cover with all members looking off in separate directions, it must be a medium cliché.

I had a conversation with a friend that turned me onto this subject and actually got me thinking about it. We talked about the book that I’m working on (read; currently making my existence miserable) and if I would be doing an authors page. In the moment I gave it brief consideration and decided I wouldn’t, for one I don’t like having my picture taken and I almost always take a bad photo. So let’s just take a quick look and see how it would pan out.

Exhibit A

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Just to point out I am not the one in the dress. This one is on my mother’s head, and I’m sure should she read this I will get some excuse about “It was the fashion then.” Regardless I look like a middle aged car salesman. Also shout out to my sister who is clearly mocking my height and preemptively destroying any sense of self confidence I would ever have. This is what I consider to possibly be the opening salvo in a feud that continues to this day.

As it went on it did not get better, though thankfully my forehead seems to be a little more in proportion.

grin

I mean I just don’t get it. Smiling isn’t hard but yeah, grinning like a muppet was as close as I ever got. Maybe I need to try something a little more artsy to go with as an Author portrait.

17883929_10154747559288075_4091739711273460133_n

This one I like but it may be too far in the wrong direction. Tends to speak less of an author and more of a weirdo putting googly eyes on his mug. Although I honestly see the appeal of something less traditional. Lets try one more.

309546_10150320514598075_264231533_n.jpg

That is a little larger than I anticipated, my face not the photo. This, this I feel will be my author’s portrait, I will make it black and white though, I’m not completely without class. It will sit at the back of the book with a small paragraph condensing my entire life into a few short and succinct phrases:

Colin J Upson, owing to circumstances beyond his control was born in the UK in a time before jet packs and ray guns were common place and was denied a domed residence on the surface of the moon. Likes trees, books and tea. Dislikes spiders, cats and biting the inside of his cheek whilst chewing. Currently lives despite many attempts to reenact scenes from Jackass in spite of MTV’s disclaimers. 

A Quiet 30: The Abrupt End.

Day 8 and 9. 

Day 8 and 9 saw me quite busy. Busy enough to keep me from the keyboard all day. Well, in the interest of being completely honest day 9 saw a hangover. Day 8 and 9 clocked in a massive 0 words between them. That is shocking, and honestly disappointing.

I did feel a little burned out on writing though. I have been clearing the 1000 word mark most of the week, coming close on those days I didn’t. It has been a restructure of how I use my time, especially now I cannot allow myself on social media. It has been a very heavy writing week.

A day away from it might be something I start from now on. That could be good for me.

Day 10 – 14.

Days 10 – 13 were uneventful, and I never once reached for my phone when I woke (except to turn the sodding alarm off) I feel much better in myself, I find my attention span is longer and I am able to focus more easily. I read more, I wrote more hitting my minimum word count of 500 words per day.

Day 14, where it all went pear shaped. I have been looking for work, and it turns out employers like to advertise on social media, and social media can actually be very good in terms of searching for a job. So I have decided to…finish early…come to an end…prematurely finish, there is no way I can think of wording this where I my mind doesn’t make a joke. Anyway, I am back on social media after 14 days cold turkey. I honestly think I have reshaped my habit of use, and Facebook will not be returning to my phone.

So, it was harder than I thought (one track mind today) but I can honestly say I can recommend it. It doesn’t have to be or 30 days or even 14, go a day and see how many times you reach for your phone.

A Quiet 30: Lucky Number Seven.

Day 5.

I grabbed my phone when I woke today. It dawned on me how long 30 days actually is. I find myself missing Reddit the most. Out of all the sites on my blacklist it is by far the most useful, but also the one in which it is easiest to get sidetracked.

Readership and views of the articles on the site has gone down. Still getting traffic but not promoting on social media has obviously had an adverse effect on my daily views. I still think it is worth it though.

Right now I’m at about 1.8k words into another short story first draft. I’m finding it easier to just grab a concept and get it down on paper…screen…you know what I mean. I’m thinking more clearly, I don’t have the same kind of mental sluggishness I had last week and before. I plan on finishing the first draft of the new story today.

Off out for an early morning walk along the canal.

That was a far longer walk than I anticipated. Knackered and at 2.4k words for the day. In itself not a bad word count, I knew Mondays 4.4k would scoof my average.

Day 6.

I began today without looking at my phone, I didn’t even force myself not too. It is now a very expensive watch, all I seem to do is check the time on it with the occasional text or phone call.

456 words this morning, all concept building around a new story that probably won’t be a part of the book I’m looking to put together. Most likely it is something for the site. Playing about with another story might not be wise with the unfinished ones sitting about but I want to get some works ready so I can use them in tandem. Let the drafts sit for a few days, work on something else, go back with fresh eyes.

Today I am looking to finish the short story draft from yesterday (which will be a part of the book) and then, depending how that goes, begin to look at editing A Door For A Home.

Up until now I haven’t thought about social media. The first day where I haven’t found myself worrying about missing something on Facebook or Twitter. Interestingly enough this is the first day where I have not used the nuke button on StayFocused. I haven’t found my hands drifting to open a new tab to check my accounts, nor have I wanted to, I have had too much to do. I guess we will see what happens if I get bored.

 Day 7.

My light bulb broke, but it is day 7 of 30 days without social media. A whole week. A long ass week. It had been surprisingly difficult to stay away, it’s only in the last day or so that my mind hasn’t wondered to what was going on with it.

Still, I find it easier to focus, proof of that is finishing the first draft of A Door For A Home, and two first drafts for entirely new short stories. I am consistently hitting above my minimum daily word count of 500 words (averaging around 1500 – 2000). So cutting out that part of my day, getting rid of those sites that, to me, enable procrastination has dramatically improved my output.

There has been a dip in readership on the site, likely caused by not promoting on social media, but it was only a 11% drop, or so my info tells me.

I honestly feel like I could come back to after just a week and that my habits would be different, but I committed to 30, so I’ll do 30. Plans for the weeks ahead are to begin the editing process on the three first drafts sitting ready and then move on to two larger stories waiting to be finished which will also be a part of the short story compilation.

So 7 down and 23 to go.

A Quiet 30: The First Four Days.

Day 1.

So, day one. I woke and as usual I rolled right to my phone to see what was going on in the world at large. Nothing. No Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or Instagram, having all been deleted from my phone. There are of course other websites to use with the internet, but none spring to mind. I honestly feel a little bewildered, as if there is something I should be doing that I’m not. Already as I write this I find myself about to open a new browser tab to check out my accounts, completely autonomously. Luckily google has a helpful browser extension to help with that.

StayFocused is going to prove useful in the next thirty days, the program allows you to select a list of forbidden sites and then provides you with a time limit across all sites. You could allow yourself 10 minutes (default) across all blocked sites. That is 10 minutes for all sites, not each individual site. I dialed that down as low as it will go, 1 minute. Not good enough.

There is a nuclear option provided. Literally a little nuke button that encourages you to “Nuke ’em” (read: Nuke ’em Rico!) This option lets you set a number of hours, up to 24 which I selected, and it blocks all sites on your blocked list for that set amount of time. That is what I am looking for. I can’t undo it once it is done. Every morning I will hit the little nuke button, but with far fewer real world consequences.

It might not help that I currently have a lot of time on my hands. The key here is to focus on the work, the stories and the blogs I have let fall by the wayside.

Music helps. Music and tea…and mead. Shout out to Charlies 3000 Year Old Whiskey Emporium and Saturday Night Fire for an entertaining evening in good company.

Day 2.

A hangover and good weather keep me off the computer and away from social media today, although I did once again roll over to check my phone. A day out with the nephews in the sun, always a mini adventure. I even ran today, I fell over, but I ran. Well at least a little.

The evening finds me itching to check my accounts, more so than yesterday and I can’t seem to settle to focus on writing. Perhaps a book will help. Penguins little black classics, I have upward of fifty of these short little books that cover a range of authors and genres. Bought to get me reading outside of my habits. Seems the perfect opportunity to begin making my way through them.

#52: Plato, Socrates’ Defense. Should be an interesting read.

It is certainly quieter, and that may be the best way to describe it. It is an odd sensation, one of almost forgetting to do something important, as if I were no longer bound by a responsibility. The absence of social media should not leave me feeling like that. Today I think it has really hit me how much I need to step away and reevaluate how I interact with this thing.

Word count increased though, not much though.

Day 3.

I reached for my phone again when I woke up. I’m hoping to break that habit.

So far today I have down 1992 words and I feel far from done. I finally have a full draft of A Door For A Home: Part 6, after months of writing and rewriting, scrapping and starting again. It may be closer to a second draft as roughly 1500 words of that are edited.

I have a first draft of A Door For A Home: Part 7 sitting at 586 words. Low granted but it is from the villains point of view and I do keep those short, and I have begun on part 8. Clearly something is going right for me today.

I think it is too early to say if the lack of social media is a reason for this. One good writing day doesn’t mean I will stop with the “detox.”

I finished a full first draft of A Door For A Home: Part 6, 7 and 8, all of which need editing and rewriting, but as of 6:22 A.M. it’s done as a first draft. It is a fantastic feeling. A lot of work is still ahead of me on this one, I need to make sure each part feels consistent with the last and that each part has the distinct voice of the character it follows. I will leave that for a day or two to let the story sit. Total words for the day 4445. It looks good but I wonder if the other days can live up to that.

Day 4. 

I didn’t reach for my phone this morning, but only because I forced myself not to. Baby steps.

After yesterdays spree of writing I was eager to go back and begin the editing process. This short story (which is more accurately a novelette at 12.5k words) has taken me over a year to get a complete first draft down. That is in part to the serialised nature of how I have been releasing it on the website, each part was previously written and edited individually, but yesterday I just got it all down. It is still too fresh in my mind to edit, I find to edit effectively you need to let the work sit for a while. You can come back to it with new eyes.

In the in between time I have got down a first draft of another short story, an actual short story this time with a plan to cap it around 5k words if it gets that far. I find myself considering a collection of short stories for children based on odd creatures and fairy folk. Something to look into. It would be a fairly simple matter to preface some of the larger stories I already have that fit the bill, and write up a few shorts.

I feel like my concentration span is getting better, it’s easier to focus and I have more energy. My hand no longer drifts to open a tab to Facebook or Reddit. Now again, this could just be some kind of placebo effect, or it could be an actual difference caused by the removal of social media and the procrastination I’ve found it to cause.

I have run into a few snags, wanting to look something up, Reddit had a wealth of information on its various writing subs. Its writing prompts sub would come in very handy for me right now to pass a few hours. I wanted to run the first draft of A Door For A Home part 6, 7 and 8 past someone but I only have them as a Facebook contact. Tricky and a little inconvenient, but not the end of the world. Again, I’m not looking to remove social media from my life for good, just change how I interact with it. It takes about 21 days to form a habit.

Also discovered an EP by a fella named Brian Wayne Foster called Odessa. It’s only 4 tracks but I recommend it.

Currently sitting at 2320 words for the day, probably more now that I’ve edited this post but I can’t be bothered to weed out the little numbers.

I had planned to do these by the week, but as it is the post is already past a thousand words. I don’t expect the other days to have entries quite so long as these but I will play it by ear. Four down, twenty six to go.

It occurs to me as I am about to publish it that there is a chance no one will read it until I finish the 30 days. That is one aspect where a lack of social media has really hurt me, the ability to promote my stories and articles. A small sacrifice though to break a bad habit.