Tag Archives: creating

Into December and Beyond

November is over, which means no more frantic writing for me (hopefully just normal writing as I try to develop the habit).

I finished my 50,000 words one day early, so I only wrote about 100 words on November 30th, just enough to finish wrapping up the story.

Now the question is, do I jump right in to editing, or do I return to the poor project I abandoned months ago? I might have some new motivation for that, since it was a kind of processing project for me for my own life, and some situations really aren’t the same as when I started (and abandoned) that project. Maybe it’ll take me in new directions.

Maybe I’ll do a combination of both. Write some, edit some, and do whatever feels more fun every day.

Plus, I do often have to challenge myself: what’s the point in editing a book if I’m not going to do anything with it? Because, to be honest, I’m not in a mental position to go out there and start pitching my books. And sure, I can always self-publish, and maybe that would be somewhat successful, but I’m just not quite feeling at that place yet. But maybe soon. I’ve got to cultivate my creative confidence a little more.

Starting fresh

I don’t know if it’s that I know tons of other people are doing the same thing during the month of November, or if it’s just sort of become a habit that’s hard to break, but National Novel Writing Month in November seems to be the constant kick in the pants I need to get writing.

I wish it would last through the rest of the year, but maybe being refreshed every November will someday lead to a more consistent writing schedule throughout the year. After all, I’ve been able to keep it up for a few months throughout the last few years…

This year I decided to finally write the satire fiction about an employee working in a bookstore. Except the bookstore has a unique service policy–be sassy, snarky, sarcastic, and irritate as many customers as possible.

This gives me a wealth of ideas to draw from when I’m feeling stuck, all I have to do is think of my own day at work, and I’m bound to come up with something. It’s a great outlet for all the responses I have to swallow to customer questions and comments like, “where’s the nonfiction section?” And “I’m looking for a book.”‘

My bookstore employees also get to do all the things people assume we do in my store–like make up prices, hide political books we don’t agree with, decide how to categorize books, and create company policy.

Right now, the story is basically a collection of made-up anecdotes, snapshots from a day in the life. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t have a huge overarching plot. And while it kind of bugs me, because who’s gonna want to read a whole novel like that? I’m also just letting it go. I’m writing. I’m having fun with it. It’s engaging me and helping me feel grounded and connected. And it’s pushing me to get involved a little in the local writing community.

So we’ll see what we end up with in three weeks. It may never see the light of day. It may just be a little something I share with other retail workers for a laugh. Maybe someday it’ll be published and popular.

Either way, the process doesn’t have to be perfect, just creative.

Choosing life, choosing ideas

It’s strange to think it’s only been about two months since I last really engaged in writing. It seems like it’s been so much longer.

While I was trying to use writing as a ladder to climb my way out of some darkness, I really just sort of tumbled deeper in. I’m in a better headspace now, and each week I’m learning and growing more, and I’ve found myself actually wanting to start writing again.

I’ve been plotting out a couple of ideas at week, and I’m excited about both. I need to choose one to start writing, and this time I’m actually going to write until the story is done (a draft, at least. I’m trying to be realistic). I’ve found that I’m still very drawn to the same kinds of things I’ve been wrestling with myself–identity, purpose, feeling stuck and reckless, mental health. Both the ideas I have right now deal with a lot of these topics, but in quite different ways.

Idea no.1 is the story of a woman who essentially lives a double life. On the outside, she’s pretty outgoing and likes to party. But this is a persona she’s created because she thinks it’s who she needs to be to feel accepted. What people don’t see are the various ways she has to cope with the effects of living as someone she isn’t. Somehow, she will have to uncover and accept her true self, regardless of who others want her to be and build the life she wants.

Idea no.2 is almost a fleshing out of one of the short stories I published this summer, but with some significant changes. A young woman is feeling very stuck in her life, and impulsively volunteers to be part of a colonization mission to a nearby planet. Her boyfriend refuses to go with her, so she goes alone and finds that all the same problems–feeling stuck, feeling alone, lacking purpose and dreams–followed her through space. She’s forced to accept that in order to see real change, she has to take charge of her life, make choices and take action instead of letting life happen to her.

The common theme in both these ideas is that these women have to accept who they are and what their lives are in order to take charge and enact change (I’ve been learning a lot about this over the summer). These are stories of self-acceptance, strength, personal growth, and ultimately choosing life over existence.

The problem now is choosing which one to write first. When I get into the story of one, I think it’s surely the one I want to write… right up until I add some notes to the story of the other idea. Then I think surely that’s the one I want to write. So I’ll ask for a bit of input for you, my readers (let’s call it proof that you’re there, ok?): which story would you be most interested in?

Choosing a voice

If you’d asked me five years ago, I would have adamantly said I didn’t like first person stories.

If you asked me now, I’d tell you first person stories require special care. While still not my favorite, I recognize that sometimes that is the best way to tell a story. And sometimes it’s the worst way.

My latest short story is in first person. In the last paragraph, I started to write that first person stories needed a strong reason for being first person. But, I erased that sentence because my reason is that that’s simply how the first lines of the story went, and I ran with it.

It’s a story about a woman who signs up for a one-way trip to a new planet, wanting to escape her life and anxiety, only to find that running away doesn’t solve the problem. In this case, I think it’s easier to express the feelings and emotions, easier to paint a picture of anxiety, by using first person. She can tell the reader exactly what she’s feeling.

One thing I’ve noticed, writing in first person, I’m not quite as obsessive about dialogue. In my first two short stories, I was extremely conscious of how long I was going without dialogue. Dialogue is what keeps most stories moving. But when you’re writing first person, in a way everything is dialogue. The character is speaking to the reader. It makes it easier to move the story along without dialogue. Which is good, because when you use first person dialogue must either be with your character, or take place where they can overhear it. If they aren’t there, you can’t use it.

While I’m still not entirely sold on first person (I’ve read too many books that should have used a different voice), I see that it does make a more intimate story for the writing, too. This story has flowed much faster than the others, even though I haven’t quite finished it yet. Maybe it’s because the whole story is an expression of the things I’ve been dealing with, and an easier description of it. Either way, it’s a little more personal, or maybe differently personal. My characters always contain at least a little piece of myself. But this one is me in a lot more ways. So maybe it flows easier because it is my own story.

One down, two to go

I didn’t get quite as far as I intended this week in my new projects, but I definitely made a dent.

My first piece is done, just needs a read through before submission. And I’ve started the second piece, building up the story to get to where I’m going.

I’ve found that it’s been tricky with these first two ideas, because the main character is fairly isolated in the beginning. This leads to a lot of description, scene setting, and explanation, but little to no dialogue. Which makes me nervous that people will lose interest. But, this also pushes me to write through it and think about new ways to include dialogue, whether through memories, or uncovering new characters to interact with.

I’ve got until the middle of April to get all my submissions ready, so this next week is going to be about focusing on writing this second piece. Then I’ll work on fleshing out the idea for the third.

Writing all the wrong things

I’ve actually been writing a lot this week, just not at all for my story.

I’ve whipped up two book review blogs and scheduled them (not crucial, but I like to write them as close to finishing the book as possible, so it’s all still fresh in my mind), and I’ve been writing quite a few personal little biography-type pieces as part of a bigger project of discovering what I want to do with my life.

I’m using Richard Bolles’ “What Color is Your Parachute” to map my skills, traits, passions, and more to uncover what my ideal job would look like, and from there where to look for it. It’s funny that, while mapping this, writing has cropped up several times, both as a passion and a skill. And yet, when it comes down to it, when it’s not part of my job, I’m terrible at giving it priority as a passion.

I talked a little bit before, I think, about how it can be difficult to feel up to creating your own world when you’re run down in reality. It’s so much easier to slip into a world of someone else’s making through reading, and I’ve been facing a good deal of that lately. I’m tired and worn down, and it’s easier to let someone else take me on an adventure instead of trying to construct one of my own. But, I am working on it. So long as I don’t let a whole week slide past without at least a few minutes writing, I’m not ready to write it off as a complete failure. I started. And if every week I make a point to start, I’ll get somewhere, eventually.

One of the hardest parts of writing, and one I haven’t quite ironed out yet, is figuring out where to put on the breaks. I’ve heard and tried various techniques, and I usually run into one of two problems.

First, I write until I’ve reached a stopping point. Things are wrapped up for the moment, I’ve finished a chapter, or I’ve run out of immediate ideas. The trouble here is that then, next time I go to write, I’ve got to find somewhere to start, something to motivate me to dive back in. I fall into this a lot. And you’d think that I’d eventually stop myself where I’ve got room to keep going, but I don’t.

Which leads us to the second, almost worse issue, in my opinion. I stop in the middle of a good scene, I know where it’s going from here, and it’s going to be so easy to dive back into the story tomorrow. Except that, by tomorrow, my good idea has fled, and I can’t quite remember where it was going. I know, it seems obvious. Just write myself a little note outlining where I’m going. But, it just never turns out as good as I thought it was going to. That’s not to say it’s good when I zoom through and write it all in one go, but at least the passion was there and I don’t have to second guess it until I get to editing (so, potentially never).

I’ve taken to making middle-ground detailed outlines for my stories, at least for several chapters ahead of where I am. This helps, to a degree, because if I get to a dead end, I can just start the next chapter. But, then I catch myself worrying about how long or short the chapter is. “Only two single spaced pages? That’s barely even a chapter! There should be more!”

So, it all circles back to grace, like I talked about before. Grace for the crappy writing, grace for the not writing, and now grace for the different writing. Grace for just thinking about writing, and then blogging about it, as though I actually did any significant writing. Which I suppose is fine. Only like five people read my blogs anyway, so, who’s really going to call me out on it? Certainly not my mom or grandma.

Sometimes, you just don’t feel up to creating. And sometimes, you need to focus on creating something a little more tangible for the moment. And that’s what I’ve been doing this week. Instead of mapping a story, I’ve been mapping myself, with the hope that soon I will reach a place where my writing can be a passion again, one I have both time and energy for. Until then, a couple short sessions a week (or even just one) will have to be a success for me. At least I showed up this week.

Entering a new world

Lately I’ve been working on doing only one thing at a time. For example, if I’m watching TV, I’m trying not to be on my phone, or checking my phone while reading. And while I’ve only just started writing again, I’m definitely going to carve out specific time for it, without other distractions.

Most of last week was spent working on the beginnings of an outline for my newest project. It’s only partial, and not overly detailed, but it’s enough to start from.

Set in a dystopian world (which, I always thought I didn’t like, but, turns out it’s just specific kinds of dystopian stories I don’t like. Usually the predictable and boring ones.), society is broken into two groups: those who live in the cities, connected to technology through, essentially, virtual reality, and the fringe society who lives outside the cities, living off the land and as much without technology as possible. This fringe society generally believes themselves to be better than the city folk, who spend all their time creating fake worlds and fake identities to live in.

Aliyah (I think I’ve chosen this as her name. It’s what I’ve begun using, anyway) is part of the fringe society, and while she recognizes some truth in what her leaders say, she also finds herself discontent with the way they live, turning their backs on most advancements and help, because it isn’t done with a person’s own two hands.

She’s on the verge of being ostracized because of her love for books, and it’s this same love for books that causes her to cross paths with a city girl during a scavenging mission. This city girl (name unknown, at the moment) is also discontent (surprise!), finding it hard to have meaningful and genuine relationships in a virtual world where a person can recreate themselves at will. It’s impossible to know who anyone truly is. The two determine to find a middle ground, and try to make both halves of society recognize the benefits of the other, while also seeing the flaws in themselves.

 

When I started writing the first chapter, I was surprised at how much I wanted to lose myself in the world and in my writing (though it was hard because other stuff was going on in the background). I only wrote a couple paragraphs, but it was enough to help me remember what it feels like to get lost in creativity.

I know that as the days and weeks go on, it’ll be a challenge to make myself set aside specific time for just writing. It’ll be tempting to turn on the TV and pretend that I can watch something and write at the same time (I can’t, and I’ve always known I can’t. That’s why I used to pretend to study with the TV on during finals, because I felt obligated to study, but I knew I didn’t really need it.). But, as long as I keep making it a priority, even just 15 minutes in a day, I’ll hang on to that feeling of getting lost in this new world of my own creation. And that’s exactly what I’ve been missing lately. I’m glad to have that joy back.

A fresh beginning

So, obviously December didn’t really go as planned, as far as writing was concerned.

Work got in the way, and I was tired and desperate to watch as many Christmas movies as I could. January has been off to a slow start too. I hardly feel like I know what I’ve done with the last week, and get it’s gone, just the same.

But a slow start is better than nothing, and I will be intentional about returning to my editing, wrapping up the project I’ve been working on most of 2017 and choosing one of my other projects to return to.

While I’ve enjoyed a break to carelessly watch tv and soak in reading, I’m excited, too, to return to the creative process.

In the book review department, I’m hoping to meet at least the goal I met in 2017. My goal was to read 52 book, one per week. I think I had review blogs posted every week, but after counting, I know I read at least 55 books, because that’s how many I reviewed. Not bad, I’d say. (Some of the reviews won’t be posted on my blog until later in January, though.)

So, here’s to a new year full of creative opportunities. Join me in creating this year, and tell me what your project is going to be.