Sunday, January 25, 2015

The 40k Threshold

Last night I crossed the 40k threshold for the novel I'm working on, and today, after a few hours writing, I'm pushing closer to 45k. This is major progress for me. I've been creatively stoppered for months.

I'm pleased with the current word count. Forty thousand: that's my happy zone number. Stories that hit that mark tend to run the full mile to completion. Such is my experience anyway.

I don't really have a set goal in mind in terms of length for this particular story, but I'm guessing it will end up in the 60-70k range.

The story still has quite a bit of expanding to do. I have a couple of plot holes left to fill...although the main hole I was worried about patched itself in early this morning. That happened after I stopped trying to control the story, and just let it flow naturally through the characters. Some epiphany, eh? That worked so well I'm going to let the story go where it wants to go until it hits "the end." I'm going to do the same with the characters. Pour some motivation on them and let them run around like windup toys until they either run down or die off.

There are areas that need more fleshing out, and that's a good thing. That means I'll eventually go back in and add more words there. Overall, I really hope the story runs long. It's so much easier to cut things out, than to cut things out and then have to patch new things back in just to create length.

At this point I can only guess what the draft will look like after it's finished. Probably a mess, but I'll deal with that when the time comes. For now I'm happy with the progress, and the direction of the story. It feels like that final missing piece has clicked in place. It's flowing a lot more easily now. Thank you: plot bunnies, story gnomes, book faeries. It'll take it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Writer's Quest

There are some days I don't know what I'm doing. On other days, I don't know why I'm doing what I'm doing. These days, it seems like I'm going through a mix of both.

I've been feeling like something's missing. No, not from my relationships. I'm talking about my writing. I've written and published a few things in the past year, but it's like I'm hanging on by a thread. What happened to my creative spark?

I used to stay up all hours of the night writing, writing, writing. I couldn't write fast enough. Words would come pouring out before I could catch them all on paper. Even now I still have a lot of ideas, a lot of notes, but when I settle in and start working I can barely force out two pages. Even worse, once it's done, once I've written a page or two and wrap up for the day, I dread getting up the next day and going back to the computer to write. Where did that come from?

Yesterday, after a productive writing session of about 1400 words, the dread started in again. I finally acknowledged to myself that something's wrong. Houston, we have a problem. I shouldn't dread writing. I have always loved writing. Normally, I swear I'd go crazy if I were cut off from writing. But now? I'm finding myself asking different questions these days, namely: Why am I doing this to myself? What happened to the joy I used to get out of writing?

That's it. That's what missing. Joy. Contentment. The satisfaction I used to get from discovering interesting characters as I wrote about them. Learning their quirks while going along with them on their journeys. The thing is, I'm not sure when the joy escaped the building. I also can't figure out how to lure the joy back in.

During all the New Year celebrations a few weeks ago, when I said I was going to reevaluate myself this year, I had no idea that I'd be going this deep with it. I set my intentions back in October of 2014, and I've stuck by them so far. As a result, I've been stressing less, cutting out negativity when and wherever I can. Whenever I start to feel anxious, I walk away until I'm calm. It's really helped me to relax more, which was the goal. I'm also sleeping better, which is practically a miracle. All that just from making a few changes.

Last night, I took a notebook and pen to bed with me. I lounged across the mattress to watch some TV on the set in the master bedroom, and I started looking at what's going on with my writing. To kick things off, I jotted down a list of writing problems. I'm not as productive as I used to be. That's a major issue I want to fix. But then there's the dread.

My procrastination is a symptom of dread. I know it is. So, then, what's the cause?  Writer's fear?  I'm not entirely sold on that idea. I'm talking about the desire to avoid writing altogether. After some consideration, I've guessed that maybe I'm not really writing my true interests, or that maybe I'm not choosing characters who are interesting enough to keep me motivated. I mean, if I find my characters super interesting, their stories should flow, right?

All day long I've been trying to think of ways to work around the creative constipation and get my writing mojo back. Still, it's there, that something bothering me. That feeling that something's missing and I need to fix it.

Around noon today I was fiddling with my tarot collection, and I drew the 8 of cups from one of the decks. I've been getting this card a lot since 2012. It shows up in just about every other reading for me, whether I'm doing the reading or receiving one. A friend of mine once had that happen with the Queen of Swords. That card followed her around for several years. Similarly, the 8 of Cups has become my shadow.

While meditating over the card, it didn't take me long to figure out that it had something to do with my writing. The man or woman in the card is leaving behind eight stacked cups to find the one that's missing. At least, that's one interpretation. Ever since I started writing professionally, I'd go on one journey after another to build new skills, cup by cup: mastering plotting, understanding how to write three dimensional characters, learning to build theme, or conflict, etc. Now that I have those basic "cups", those basic skills, what do I do?  There's still a gap there. So what's missing?  What do I need to find to make the effort complete?

I've been struggling with this question for far longer than I care to admit, but at least now I know what the answer is: My love of writing. My joy. That's what's missing. That's the ninth cup. It isn't a skill or a process I need to find. It's that writerly state of mind. The love of writing and creating, the joy that keeps us going everyday, that keeps us coming back to the desk to write more words. I need to find that again. I think that is also partly where my fear comes from. Loss of that spark. The loss of love. I've been avoiding the truth for so long that anxiety and fear have taken root where the passion used to be.

Anyway, I'm writing this because as of today I'm on a quest. I want to recapture the joy of writing. I want to bring back that excitement, joy, and feeling of contentment I used to have when plugging away at the keyboard. On the surface level, it seems like it would be simple to do, but I really have no idea yet how I'm going to make it happen. It's kind of a scary prospect. What if I fail?  At this point, that just doesn't seem like an option for me. There can be no failure. I won't allow it. I know I love writing. I will simply keep walking the trail until I find the ninth cup.

Quests are never easy. They're full of danger, false starts, wrong turns, doubt, and hidden traps. Oh, and let's not forget life lessons. But no matter how lengthy or dangerous a quest turns out to be, the reward for sticking it out is always worth it in the end. So that's what I plan to do: stick it out, keep writing, and make a conscious effort to find that missing cup.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Deleting Toxic...Everything

Last year was a walk through fire for me, and I can count on both hands (and on both feet) the number of horrible events that I had to deal with. I'm talking life altering stuff here. Not small irritations.

What made it worse was at the end of a shitty day, I'd go online to relax and see what was shaking on Twitter or Facebook-land and there was just so much sanctimonious crap to sift through. All this negativity from other people on every possible topic ranging from pop stars to politicians to race and religion.

It's really overwhelming, the level of hate this, hate that, hate her, hate him that gets broadcast across the interwebs every minute of every day. Some people post so much hateful crap that I've had to bite my fingers to keep from typing out: Do you like ANYTHING? Anything at all? Chocolate? Disco? Furries? Rubber suits and the smell of your own farts? I don't care what it is, really, just is there anything that you could post about other than this rabid fanatical armchair crap you're raging about?

After a while, when your life is already in a deep hole of despair, coming across this kind of raging, non-stop negativity feels like there is someone standing at the top of the hole and dumping dirt in on top of you, one shovelful at a time.

Around October of last year, I was in such a negative place I wanted to give up...well, just about everything. Writing, school, life, sanity, civilization. Just toss my hands up and walk away from it all. It was at that point I had to ask myself what was really bugging me - aside from the constant uncomfortable situations I kept finding myself in: a suicidal depression, court, classrooms, the funeral home, the doctor's office, and the list goes on and on. I realized that at the end of the day what was bugging me the most stemmed from the constant barrage of other people's negativity. And here's what's wrong with that: it's completely avoidable!

There's nothing quite like being in a (fragile) good mood and posting a picture of something you love online - pets, cars, supermodels, whatever - then having a quasi-stranger come to your page and take a big steaming shit on top of it because they're feeling snarky (aka, they think they're being clever, but really they're just a first rate asshole), or they're having a bad day, or whatever else their problem du jour happens to be. When they do this to something personal you post, for example, if you're posting about being worried about the future, and then they take a dump on that...well, cupcake, in a nutshell, fuck that person. I am soooo over letting people dump on me. Especially *especially* especially online.

I have taken to deleting every post, thread, user, person, "friend", follower, etc. etc. etc. if it 1.) offends me 2.) infuriates me  3.) disturbs me, or  4.) in any way makes me feel uncomfortable. People can post whatever they want. That's 100% fine with me. I really don't care. The point is, I don't have to listen to it. And from here on out, I won't be seeing it when I go onto my social media accounts to relax.

I have deleted over 100 people from social media accounts since October 2014, and let me tell you something.... It feels FANTASTIC to dump the toxic dead weight. I highly, highly recommend it to anyone suffering someone else's miserable online crap. Stop putting up with people who are pissing you off and making you unhappy.

If  the annoying party is connected with you on a social media account, and you're reluctant to delete them for any number of reasons....I totally understand that. I call it unfollower's guilt. You know, where you feel too guilty deleting someone because a.) you know them in real life, b.) they might realize you've deleted them and react, or c.) you feel guilty dumping them because you are "friends" even though they are a negative douchebag 99% of the time. But you know what?  As afraid as you might be to "dump" that person, they aren't going to change for you. They aren't even remotely concerned about your feelings. Over time, listening to their spew adds a lot of negativity, weight, and baggage to your "friendship" with them. Why do we ever put up with it?  It's totally not worth it.

The reality is, someone might be offended if they realize I delete them. So bloody what. I don't owe that person my time or attention, and if they are one of those folks who does nothing but hate this group or that, or they rehash some ranty garbage they plucked from a news cast or webpage, I am a much free-er, happier person for letting them go.

When I go online now, if I see a repeat offender in my timeline/news feed, they're gone. Remember Ally McBeal's dump truck?  Yeah, I hear it backing up. Social media comes equipped with delete, mute, and block buttons. If it means worrying about potentially hurting a stranger's feelings, versus being miserable because you have to see their mean-spirited posts all the time, don't ever be afraid to use those buttons. Your happiness is worth far more than being a sounding board for their misery.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Getting Back to Normal

Knock on wood. I think everything I needed to wrap up from 2014 is officially done. These past six weeks have been tremendously stressful, but now that it's all out of the way I can focus on writing. I need to catch up on two stories that are due very soon. Today I wrote a thousand words, baked cookies with Mini, and washed enough laundry to clothe a small village.

I'm running on empty, but I'll probably add some more words to my story project to that after the house is settled for the evening. I realize I'm going to have to form a serious writing plan if I hope to finish these stories on time!