I’m still feeling burnt out from Sunday. It can take me a while to recuperate from busy days, and Sunday was very busy. I had the usual struggles to get up and get going with depression and exhaustion. The depression and exhaustion stayed for most of the day and there were intermittent worries about the future (near and immediate). Although the depression and exhaustion they fluctuated, at times they felt worse than yesterday rather than better. I think I’ve had this before, when I’m exhausted for several days and the second day is worse than the first. I wonder what the reason is.
I tried to do some things, although it was still like wading through quicksand. I did some Torah study, although not as much as I would have liked. I read The Art of Biblical Poetry for about twenty-five minutes and had a cursory look over the content of last Shabbat‘s Talmud shiur (religious class) again as I’m supposed to do on my not-very-closely-followed weekly Torah study schedule. I also cooked dinner. I’m not entirely sure when I’m going to work on this week’s Torah thought, as I don’t really know what I’m going to say and I’m running out of time to research. I don’t want to skip a week just as I’ve been trying to get people to read it.
I tried to get hold of my rabbi mentor, but he’s super-busy and then away. I hope to speak to him at some point fairly soon. It made me wonder if I should try to book a few sessions with my old therapist, as there’s a lot going on in my head at the moment: Mum’s cancer; my relationship with E. (which is good, but working out how we move it on is terrifying); my unemployment and fears it will be permanent; the stress of the coming Jewish festivals; and probably more stuff I can’t think of now…
I spoke to my parents about it, to check there was money available to pay her. They felt it was worth booking a few sessions. Mum said she has been worried about me lately, which made me feel bad, but I’m not entirely sure what “bad” is here. I wasn’t exactly guilty or ashamed, but somehow it felt wrong for her to be worrying about me at the moment when she’s the one with the tumour.
I haven’t worked on my novel for a couple of weeks. I’ve been focusing my creative energy on getting my non-fiction Doctor Who book published. I feel that the novel is not going exactly the way I want, but it’s hard to work out why. Related to this is a decrease in confidence and excitement about writing fiction. Some is my natural tendency to self-criticism and the way depression blunts excitement and energy. Some is that I am still at the beginning of learning how to write a novel and, realistically, some of it is probably quite bad, or at least unpolished.
However, I think some of it is that my tastes tend to be quite stylised and/or surreal. Authors like Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges and Philip K. Dick or TV programmes like Doctor Who, The Prisoner and Sapphire and Steel. I suppose some of it is experiencing the world as strange and threatening because of autism and mental illness, so I want to see that reflected in fiction, but some of it is just admiring art that has a strong vision e.g. Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey, which are strange in parts, but also create very clear worlds that are very different to our own even in the more “normal” parts.
That’s not really where my novel is or where any of the ideas I have for future novels are and I wonder why I’m writing things that aren’t exactly what I want to read. That may be inevitable. My novel and my ideas for future novels are really about Jewish fiction that is meaningfully about religious Jews, our lives, our thoughts, our beliefs and hopes. Few contemporary authors are interested in the Jewish community in that way.
My novel so far is very realistic, although I have a more surreal dream sequence planned for a later chapter, but I wonder if I should try to expand on that style if I can do it without it being too jarring. I intended to do that when I started writing, to try to reflect the way I perceive the world as strange, illogical and frightening sometimes, but it has been hard to do, partly because the times when I see the world as frightening and strange are usually when I’m too depressed to write; even if I’m writing, I feel I don’t have the vocabulary or skills to put into words what I feel, even here, let alone in fiction. On the other hand, I worry about scaring people off if my book, which appears initially like a standard love triangle with added mental illness and Jewish colour, suddenly goes off into The Third Policeman territory (to pick a very good novel, in my opinion, that wasn’t published in the author’s lifetime because it was so surreal and sinister, although it’s probably on my mind because it seemed to be referenced by Ascension of the Cybermen, last Sunday’s Doctor Who episode).
I worry that the book isn’t Jewish enough or fannish enough either, but maybe a little goes a long way there too.
Speaking of fannish stuff, I’m feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse with Star Trek Voyager. I’m halfway through series two and while there have been few truly awful episodes, there haven’t been any great ones. Most series of Star Trek take a while to get going and season two of Voyager is apparently considered proverbially bad, so I’m hoping things will pick up once we get to season three (of seven). But it is a bit of a struggle to watch at the moment when I’m looking for something light and fast-paced. I might watch some Doctor Who or The Avengers before bed, as I need cheering up and feel too depressed and exhausted to read.
I don’t have buyer’s remorse about reading the graphic novel V for Vendetta as I borrowed it from the library, but I do have mixed feelings about it. It’s written by Alan Moore, who is one of the biggest names in comics, and drawn by David Lloyd. It’s a dystopian story of an anarchist rebelling against a future Fascist UK government (future when the comic was written, but past now, which makes it feel like like a weird alternate timeline that would not have been the effect at the time of publication). The atmosphere is good, what I have termed ‘austeritypunk’ (after the ‘cyberpunk’ and ‘steampunk’ sub-genres), by which I mean a future that evokes the imagery, technology and fashions of the 1940s and 50s. It’s diverting and evocative, but I don’t entirely believe the world-building or the characterisation and I feel the hero/anti-hero is let off to easily for doing terrible things. Plus, the art, while appropriately bleak, is confusing – I struggle to tell the characters apart, and the dialogue doesn’t always help. This all contrasts unfavourably with Moore’s previous graphic novel Watchmen, which was much better in every way.
I feel it would reward a second reading and maybe be better and certainly easier to read, but it’s also so grim that I’m not sure that I can bear to read it again.
There were a few flowers in bloom in the garden last week. There are a lot more today. The days are a little longer, albeit that they are still short. Spring is on the way, and on the whole that’s a good thing, despite some nervousness about the spring festivals of Purim and Pesach. It is true that when the stress and potential religious OCD hazards of Pesach swing around, the days will be a bit longer and brighter and I will hopefully be able to draw strength from that that I can’t access now. I stopped using my SAD light box for a few days, but maybe that was a mistake; I might use it again tomorrow. It’s not spring yet.