Sometimes there are feelings of being trapped and sometimes I just don’t know what the fuck to do, this emptiness, this longing, this exceptional anger, this inexcusable rage, the tumult of emotions and also the lack thereof, that threatens to bubble over, to take over, to take me to some other plane of existence.
This mind-numbing emptiness; constant tiredness, forcing me out of thinking and into a world where one can only think about non-thinking, about a place where this raging emptiness can just drive around freely until it runs out of steam, sets itself down a path of no return, just escapes, escapes so clearly until there is nothing left, and while there is still the emptiness, it is shortened somehow, circuited so that it can hide away in a hidey-hole and spend time with all its friends and leaving time to actually think instead of the fake-think mind numbing responses to everything; but it feels rational.
You’re crazy. Delusional. Mad. Insane. Nuts. Psychotic. Loony. Off your meds. Around the twist. Freak. Psycho. Weirdo. Schizo. Mental.
We like to think we’ve progressed as a society. In centuries past, humanity liked to just lock away anyone who deviated from the norm, preferring to pretend they didn’t exist. Insane asylums and travelling circuses were where you’d find the humans too “delusional” for regular society. The Nazis aimed to eradicate who they perceived as deplorable and below the rest of humanity, with Josef Mengele, among many in his rank, attempting to normalise eugenics and wipe out what they perceived as defective human beings.
Creative spheres are typically full of progressive people, and literary awards are chock-full of stories about struggle in the human condition, about overcoming adversity and beating the odds. BookTube, BookTok and all the other literature-focused parts of the internet, are always sharing books and entertainment that attempt to fix some of the frankly shocking portrayals of mental illness. In the last few decades, a wealth of literature has come out trying to help with the dismal public awareness of both physical and mental health. Far from the days of WWI vets hiding their PTSD in a locked box and suppressing their emotions, newer generations (millennials and Gen Z) are supposedly more open with mental health and mental illness, proudly proclaiming their diagnoses in their Twitter bios and claiming to be all about empathy and compassion.
Are you an aspiring writer who has never picked up a book since you pretended to read the pictures in There’s a Hippopotamus on my Roof Eating Cake way back in first grade?
Back then, you decided you would write a classic epic about a hungry grey creature with a dessert problem, and once the Big Five publishers—yes, all of them—contacted you en masse for a trillion dollar book deal, you would savour the taste of all the cakes while lounging in your money pool, and promise to never look at another book again. But the pandemic hit you hard. Now you need to *gasp* write again. As an aspiring writer who runs to the grocery store wearing your trench coat and vaping, clasping your MacBook in one hand and vape pen in the other, you need more ideas. You need a story. You need to remove the ‘aspiring’ out of your authoryness once and for all. You need to be the bestest of all the writingers and authorydoos.
As someone who first got into the franchise over twenty years ago with The Sims (no numbers) on Windows 98, each new incarnation of The Sims has been more inclusive of telling stories while also escaping from the real world by making your Sim a corrupt detective with six lovers and seventeen kids and a secret side-business drowning work rivals in his underground basement pool…or alternatively, a dedicated single mother who’s just doing her best while changing the world building rockets and rocketing off into space in her spare time.
It was a lot harder back in 2001 to keep the storytelling alive—mostly I was trying to keep my Sims alive with their thrice-daily showers and constant bad moods. However, over time, the sequels have made it easier to keep your Sims, well, alive, contrary to Will Wright’s original goal of making Budget Simulator 2000, it’s become an immersive storytelling tool. I’m not about to wax poetic about how amazing the later games are. Sims 3 no longer has the appeal it did back in 2009—it’s a laggy, bloated mess with empty lots and a map screen filled with Steve Jablonsky’s ‘Expansive Vistas‘ that will give even the cheeriest of folks a traumatising case of crippling existential dread at 5am they never even asked for. Don’t even get me started on the current brouhaha over the latest Sims 4 game pack. We’re here to talk about The Sims from a writer’s perspective. That’s what this blog tends to be about. Writing. Writing accessories. I hope you weren’t expecting a list of songs from Sims 3 designed to give you maximum existential dread. Or a list of reticulating splines. Not today, reader. Not today.
Can you guess which audiobook I listened to this month?
Mark Manson and his million billion incarnates (read: copycats) have it right, even if their message is too crass and gross for innocent or petulant ears. You’ve got to stop giving a fuck.
This doesn’t mean becoming a sociopath, superficially adopting the traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder crossed with extreme nihilism until you inevitably crash your stolen Mercedes Benz down a ravine after a thirteen hour police chase. It doesn’t mean dressing in trench-coats and fulfilling every media stereotype as you slowly withdraw from society, before your final evolution into a dormant sentient boulder.
It’s about giving a fuck about what matters most to you and giving the finger—at least metaphorically—to everything else. If you’re on this blog, that’s probably related to writing and writing accessories. You’re a writer, poet, novelist, aspiring author. Writing matters to us. Other things matter, naturally: only the sociopath of the last paragraph would sacrifice their second child for their work-in-progress (WIP). But this isn’t an either/or. Life isn’t black-and-white like a lot of extremists on the internet would have you think. What you give a fuck about is on a sliding scale, some more important than others, but still important enough to give more than a single fuck about.
When I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to be an author.
It was Grade 3, and I’d written a short story for class; the incredibly original The Adventure, a fantasy adventure about two siblings: shy narrator Daniel and his confident, leaderly sister Jezebel. The Adventure detailed their adventure (geddit) to the snow, where they saved a fairy from evil, children-eating dragons. Throughout the rest of primary (elementary for you North Americans) school, I kept writing, both for class and for fun. I wrote about crazy clowns and mad scientesses. I wrote about Barbie and her friends going on wacky adventures. I wrote about the preteen Jake and his Golden Retriever Ralph. I typed stories up on our Windows 98 computer (no internet) and printed out my words with our ancient, screeching printer. I drew pictures to go with the stories. I stapled them together. Some of them I sent to my encouraging penpals. I wanted others to enjoy my stories.
Not long after, I proudly declared to my parents that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
I was quickly shut down and told that writing would never amount to a career. To my father, it was just a hobby. Just for fun. You can’t make a living out of that. Why don’t you think realistically? You should think about a real job.
What inspires you to write? For those who haven’t picked up a pen since high school or tertiary education, what inspires you to do the things you love?
This isn’t a new question to this blog. Back in February of 2015, I wrote about how one shouldn’t simply expect to beat writer’s block. It’s not something simply beaten by inspirational quotes and the Perfect Mood. You shouldn’t just force yourself to write or sing or dance or act or design a video game. If you your hobby feels like a chore, you’re less likely to want to do it. Why are you even doing it? Even earlier, in September of 2013, I asked the big question: What inspires you? I told my 2013 WordPress readers that you should work out what makes you tick. What inspires you to write? Is it the soothing sounds of your cat lapping water from his bowl, or the disconcerting calmness of Resident Evil save room music?
Even if you don’t know exactly what makes you inspired, learning so will help you become a better writer.
If you don’t know what inspires you—the crux of why you write—you’ll make excuses not to write. That action romance you started back in 2007 will still be on that 256 megabyte flash drive, hidden away in your cluttered mess of a junk drawer, and by the time you finally get around to Konmari-ing that rubbish, you’ll have forgotten what USB is even an acronym for.
Ten days ago, you started Novel3_Draft_Notes.docx in preparation for NaNoWriMo, and BAM! you accidentally morphed into Stephen King and you’re ready to hit the publish button on Amazon Self-Publishing. You’ve written fifty-four blog posts in the last week and now you don’t need to think of another idea ever again.
Your brain is in creative overdrive, you dream only about your keyboard while pretending your pillow is your laptop, and the ideas are exploding everywhere, including that presentation you’re showing for work. Now your workmates are questioning why the latest Gone Girl-esque thriller is apparently the best way to improve your company’s budget.
You need a quick solution. You need writer’s block and you need it fast before your overwhelming creativity ruins your life. Every Google search is about How to Stop Writer’s Block in its Tracks, and you really don’t need anymore of that all-controlling block written away. You need to be less creative.
Social media is the antagonist of the modern creative’s life story, and writers are no exception.
Have you ever logged onto your laptop, computer or even mobile/cell phone with the definite intention of putting your fingers to the keyboard and writing out that epic saga you’ve had planned in your mind for so, so long it feels like the characters have become a part of you? You’re inspired. Your idea about thirty-something Gillian Rachelson accidentally uncovering a murder plot where the killer turns out to be the only somewhat likeable man needs to be put down into words on your writing program of choice. Your YA fantasy about the teenage assassin struggling to choose whether she should romance the man she’s fated to kill or her fellow rogue assassin, feels like it’s ready for teenagers to devour and is definitely an original idea.
You log onto your device of choice. You open up Microsoft Word. Or Scrivener. The notes app on your iPhone? Maybe you’re one of those adventurous devils who writes out your story in notes on your TI-Inspire calculator (Note: Definitely not something I did back in high school). Then you realise you forgot to name Gillian Rachelson’s antagonist. Michael? Marcus? Maybe you should head onto that baby name generator site. Click on the link “Most popular baby girl names of the 1980s”. Then what about Mary Sue Assassin? She needs a name too. Randomise. Randomise. There we go. A name. Nah. That’s a bit boring. Then it occurs to you: “What about Facebook?” You probably have some friends—or even mutuals—with names to randomly pick and mix for your latest masterpiece.