Hello friends and welcome to an on topic edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.
Whilst fumbling around for a topic this week, I turned to last year’s January posts for inspiration. How was I feeling at this time last year? I had promised to blog once a week, just like I have this year, and I must have been motivated, right?
Funnily enough, it’s almost been a year to the day that I shelved Border Towns.
I didn’t know I was shelving it at the time, though. Back then, I had only just realized the fatal flaw of the novel and was optimistic that, with a little revision, the third draft would be an excellent launch point for eventually querying.
And then the bulk of 2020 hit and utterly drained my muse of it’s life force, and the revisions that I once held so much hope for instead withered on the vine. No matter how many times I convinced myself I would come back and finish that damn book, the spark for it just never materialized.
Coming to the conclusion that it had to be shelved was a laborious, at times even emotional process, but I later came to accept that it was for the best. In the months since, my creativity has blossomed once again, whereas every time I sat down to brain storm Border Towns revisions, I felt smothered. Perhaps this shouldn’t have come as a surprise – this is, after all, the second time I’ve had to trunk a project I had pinned a lot of hopes on.
Yet, that fact alone, in turn gives me pause. Am I really the kind of person who can’t revise? Who comes up against flawed but fixable stories and just… folds? Do I have any creative willpower at all?
Logically, I know that many, even most, writers have a stack of unfinished or unrevised novels underneath all of their published and perfectly good ones. So, logically, I’m right on pace. But, still, it doesn’t feel good to leave projects I once felt held so much promise, and still do feel could be whipped into shape given the right motivation, languishing in the trunk.
That being said, I’m not gonna let myself dwell on that too much. I have a new project to shed blood, sweat, and tears over, after all, and besides, if I’ve learned nothing else these last few years of trying to be a writer, it’s that you’ve gotta take whatever stories come your way and roll with the punches they deal you.
Nothing ever goes according to plan. Isn’t that what makes writing so much fun?
That’s all from me this week, thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back next time with another look into the life of a struggling writer. Until then may your writing be plenty and your own struggles be few.
Hello friends, and welcome to a somewhat shell-shocked, everything-is-fine.gif edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.
And struggling is exactly what I am doing today. Struggling to remain focused, struggling to maintain my resolutions to write every day, struggling with whether or not it’s even appropriate to pretend like my little writing blog matters. Funnily enough it’s the same sort of struggle I experienced writing my first blog post of the new year last year, back when I was worried we were about to go war with Iran.
What a time to be alive, but unironically.
For me, writing is not an escape. It’s not a distraction. It’s not even fun. It’s work. I love it – my god do I love it – but I think we all know that it is hard. It’s a job that one shows up to, day after day, for the promise of very little pay or no pay at all. And, just like my day job, I can’t just shut out the world when I want to get cracking.
I write fantasy, epic fantasy, full-fledged at-no-point-ever-even-in-the-same-universe fantasy. But what I write is still colored by what I experience, what I see in my daily life. How can I write about saving the world, when ours seems more than ever on the brink? What does my story matter? Not just my fictional story, but my actual story. The story of just another struggling writer?
I’m okay, really I am. This isn’t some sort of mental health crisis. When that happens, I’m sad internally. Today I’m sad externally. I’m sad and I’m furious. I’m sad and I’m diminished. I’m sad and I’m just… tired.
I didn’t write yesterday. I probably won’t write today. But eventually I’ll find my way back to the page and get back to the business of making stuff up, because someday my words might be someone else’s escape. I should be so lucky.
Hello friends, and welcome to a special New Year’s Eve edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.
Well. 2020, huh?
I’m not gonna harp too long on it. Suffice it to say: I did not meet a single one of my writing goals this year. Not one.
Some of that can be blamed on the pandemic (failing to attend critique group, for example), but most of them were just me giving up. It’d be easy to say “Well, 2020, give yourself a break,” and I am in some ways. But I want to be a professional writer, and that means holding myself to account when I let that goal drink itself stupid and pass out in the back seat of my car.
One thing I did start this year that I’m really proud to have kept up is journaling. It’s been a major boon to my mental health and it has really helped me kind of examine in a semi-external way the particular turns of my mind that leads me down certain paths. Which is an overly verbose way of saying, I think I know why I fail at so many resolutions, year after year.
First, and it so ding dang obvious now that I’ve thought about it, is that I get so amped up for the potential new lifestyle I’m about to embark on that I just get too ambitious. Like last year, I said I wanted to dabble in podcasting. I mean… even just dabbling in something like podcasting means a monumental amount of effort, that even if 2020 hadn’t been a complete trashcan would have totally eaten up spoons I frankly just don’t have. Or even something simple like starting an Instagram account. If I’d given it more than a moment’s consideration I would have realized that I have no use for an Instagram account. The idea of having pictures out there in the ether of my personal space pings my anxiety like nobody’s business.
Last year I listed eight (8) resolutions and failed every single one of them. This year, I’m scaling down. I only have three. They are ambitious in their own ways, but very achievable and much more in my time and mental energy budget. They are:
Finish the first draft of The Nexus by July 31st
Review the 22 books currently in my TBR list
Resume the blogging schedule I outlined in August (with minor alterations)
Simple, really, and yet things I have struggled with in the past: reading and writing on a consistent basis when I don’t have the deadline of NaNo whipping me along. These things are habits that I need to form, not just goals I would like to achieve. So, the real question is: how do I, someone notoriously resistant to change, go about altering my everyday behavior? Because, honestly, simply wanting to hasn’t been enough.
The answer I keep coming back to is accountability. I need the spectre of embarrassment from failing to spur me on. I need a structure to work within and deadlines to meet. And while I can’t ask someone to care about my writing as much as me enough to push me when I won’t push myself, I can publically announce my intentions and imagine for myself a crowd of people who would be let down if I don’t follow through. So here we go. I’m not just going to vaguely say I’m going to meet these goals. I’m going to detail how and when I’m going to do that.
As for drafting the Nexus. I have a total of 6 story paths, one already drafted during November and three more outlined. So I’m giving myself seven months to plot, outline, and write the remaining paths. The path I drafted for NaNo was ostensibly the longest, so it’s not outside the realm of plausibility that I can draft one path a month. Having the first draft completely done will give me time to think through the revisions and outline draft 2 so I can start drafting that in November. Easy peasy.
Note that my second goal for 2021 was to review the 22 books in my TBR. Not necessarily finish. I’m actually giving myself the mental space to DNF some of them. Fortunately, I have a blog series specifically for these kinds of books, so even if I don’t read as much as I’d like… I can still get some content out of it. Further, after giving it some thought, I realized it would really help me stay on target if I actually named the books I plan to read (and review) and in what order. That way, if inspiration fails me or if the depression monster diverts me off track, I have a roadmap to find my way back. So without further ado: Just Another Struggling Writer’s book review schedule!
January The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
February Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade
March The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart The Throne of the Five Winds by S.C. Emmett
April A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan
May The Bone Ships by RJ Barker Radiance by Grace Draven
June We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
July Red Sister by Mark Lawrence Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
August Jade City by Fonda Lee The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
September Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward
October An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso
(Break for NaNoWriMo)
December Nocturne by Kat Ross Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Yes, before you ask, I’ve never read any of these, despite their fame and popularity, particularly within the genre. I’m also a little bit ahead of the game and pleased to say that I’ll most likely have the first review done as soon as Tuesday as I’m more than halfway through The Obelisk Gate and plan to spend my holiday weekend finishing it up. As I’ve mentioned before, my book reviews tend to get a surprising amount of traffic and I’m looking forward to bringing you all more of them in the coming year.
And speaking of the blog schedule… Look, 52 solid weeks of blogging is a lot. I very much doubt that I’m going to be able to keep up with that kind of production consistently. That said, I’m gonna do my best, but I’m also not gonna beat myself up about it if I don’t manage it. I also am planning to have Short But Sweet Sundays make a comeback. I’m still really enamored with that story and that setting, and it’ll be nice to have a break from the Nexus every once and a while. It won’t be weekly, but the last Sunday of the month please look forward to a little vignette in the Pillar-verse.
See? Simple! She said sarcastically.
In all seriousness, after the trainwreck of 2020 I’m not sweating even these modest goals. Really, on a micro level, if I’m reading and writing every day then it’s a win and that’s all I have to say about that.
So, that’s it from me for this week. I’ll be back on Tuesday for a YMMV review of The Obelisk Gate and then on Thursday to check in and see how that whole writing-every-day thing is going. Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few!
Wow okay so it’s been a minute. I had intended on doing a pre-NaNo check in post before I dove headfirst into hell month but I frankly just ran out of time. Then I thought maybe I’ll do a mid-month check in and, well, didn’t have time for that either. In the past I had managed to get a lot of my writing done during the day at my day job, but this year that just wasn’t possible and so my evenings were spent making word counts.
That being said…
I actually think this year was the easiest NaNo ever came to me. Maybe it was because I was tackling something totally fresh, or that I was going into the project with a freer perspective than I had in the past, or because I just knew what to expect and what I was capable of. Even with all that, it was kind of remarkable to me how little stress I felt throughout the month. I never fell behind, and at some points got far enough ahead that I was able to take mental health breaks as needed.
Or maybe it’s just because this is what I’m supposed to be working on right now. Wouldn’t that be nice? To feel connected to the work beyond a sense of obligation? Or maybe it just feels that way right now because it’s new.
I don’t know, but for the first time since I started doing NaNo I almost had fun with it. It was still a lot of work that meant I had 0 time for leisure on my writing days, but I was enjoying the process of discovery. And for that reason alone, regardless of my completion status, I can call it a win.
So, just for fun, here’s some of my NaNoWriMo stats:
(Handwritten) Pages: 57 and change
Pens killed: 14
Non-writing days: 8
Story paths completed: 1
Highest single day word count: 4740
I’m excited to get back to being a regular every day writer rather than an ALL OUT BLITZING writer with no time for chores, reading, leisure time, or anything else really. I took a few days off and then dove into outlining the next story path, which I’m very excited and even more nervous about since I’m genre blending with horror, an area I have no expertise in at all.
I was going to try and get a book read, too, so I can get back to my regular blog schedule but it wasn’t in the cards this week.
That all being said, I’m gonna spend some time brain storming some future blog posts and ideas for the blog going into 2021. New beginnings are my favorite after all.
Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.
Hello and welcome to another fussy, self-indulgent edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.
This week has been an ass-kicking for me at my day job, and so I find it to be something of a miracle that I’ve had any mental energy to do blog-stuff at all. That said, I’m gonna do a bit of whining in this post, so… consider yourself warned.
I got nothing.
We writers are no strangers to disappointment. Your dream agent responds to your query with a form rejection. You spend months on submission with no offers. Your self-pubbed title doesn’t return the numbers you had hoped. Being a writer of the handful-of-unfinished-ideas and-exactly-one-completed-first-draft-of-a-trunk-novel-and-that’s-about-it persuasion, my disappointments are a bit smaller in scope, but I feel them keenly all the same.
The thing getting me down of late has been the realization that I probably won’t be able to compete in NaNoWriMo this year.
I’m a planner, not just in writing but in every facet of my life. Every Monday morning, as soon as I get to my desk, I fill out the week’s events in my planner. I write in my schedule, I make a list of tasks, both work related and home related, I fill out a handy habit-tracker chart. Throughout the week I tick off the boxes of completed chores, and add new ones. I adjust my schedule as needed. I make little notes about my successes and failures. Even on my commute home, I’m organizing in my head what the first, second, and third things I need to do when I get there. I largely dislike surprises because a lot of my mental health is wrapped up in being prepared.
So believe me when I say, when it comes to NaNo, I can’t just wing it.
September is the month I typically spend brainstorming a NaNo project. My ideas usually need years of percolating before their ready to be developed, so when I choose one to blitz-write in November, it’s already somewhat matured.
This year, however, the fruit of my muse is woefully unripe, leaving me with three less than optimal choices.
Take another, exhausting crack at Border Towns. Spend September and October mentally working through the necessary revisions so I can dedicate my THIRD NOVEMBER IN A ROW to this WIP.
Un-repurpose the Pillar-verse, the setting I’ve been writing my Short But Sweet vignettes in, despite the fact that I know it’s a mess, I know it’s a trunk novel, and I’m having more fun with it in its current format.
Allow my “opus,” the novel I labored over for 10 years without ever getting beyond the 10k word mark, to resurface. I’ve matured a lot as a writer since I last took a crack at it and it could be fun. But I’ve already spent a decade of my life on it only for it to flop back into the depths of my brain.
Or. Just… forgo NaNo entirely. Spend this year percolating and brainstorming and be ready with a fresh project.
None of these choices feel great, honestly. And that’s disappointing to me. I enjoy NaNoWriMo. I mean, I hate it, but I enjoy it (much like writing in general). It succeeded two years running in actually getting me to put words on the page when I would otherwise procrastinate. I also like the feeling in the community in November. The rush, the exhaustion, the elation, the motivation. It would be a bummer to miss out on that because of poor timing with the tide of my creativity.
But, I also have to accept that it might be the right thing to do. It’s a disappointment, sure, but as far as disappointments go, it’s one I can live with.
This week’s Short But Sweet prompt:
Damnation, such obsessed faith and flawed education!
Or maybe… I’m just performing some Olympic level procrastinating and this is all my way of rationalizing it. So says the anxiety brain. In any case, thanks for joining my pity party. I’ll be back on Sunday with my answer to this week’s Short But Sweet prompt, and again on Tuesday with a Your Mileage May Vary review of N. K. Jemison’s Fifth Season (I’m at 63%, I think I can make it!). Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.
Hello and welcome to another anxiety-fueled edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.
So, it is now one whole week into the new content schedule and it didn’t even take me that long to realize that it’s going to be a helluva lot of work to main. Certainly more than the non-existent workload of the last several months since consigning Border Towns to the “to be revised once I’ve had some significant distance” pile. But, you know, that was sort of the point, wasn’t it? To give myself something to creative engage with while I brainstorm the next novel? The way I’ve designed the posting schedule means that almost immediately after I’ve finished One Thing I have to start outlining the Next Thing with nary a moment to bask in the joy of success of the First Thing.
But again, maybe that’s actually a positive change. There’s some popular conventional wisdom out there that suggests if you want to be successful at writing, you need to treat it like a job, even if it’s not your job. And while that might be a little too unrealistic and burdensome on some people, it is absolutely true for me. I know myself well enough to know that if I continue to mentally categorize writing as a hobby, that’s all it will ever be: something I can start and stop at my leisure and a thing I will never, ever do professionally. Which is the opposite of what I want. So, by giving myself a schedule and deadlines to meet, like a real job, I can get myself into the mindset needed to write every day, even when I’m tired and just want to play video games.
That said, being this active again has given me to thinking (and rethinking) about the way I have approached the writing community, and my place in it. Though it may not seem like it based on this blog, I am actually a very private person. I am uncomfortable with attention and have serious anxiety about what People Might Think if my personal details were on display for consumption. That’s why, for example, my twitter page very rarely deviates from writing related topics. I cultivated this particular twitter account for engaging with the writing community and nothing else (I actually have two other accounts, each for different interests; I intentionally keep all three compartmentalized, but none are really for me to talk about myself).
Which has left me wondering… is my twitter page too sterile for an aspiring writer? Do people visit it and think I come across as robotic and weirdly mission-centric (I mean, I do)? Would an industry professional, upon query or submission, check me out and want me to be more open about my life, not just as an aspiring writer, but a human being? Is the ko-fi link in profile tacky? Do I seem desperate for engagement? I don’t even have a passable manuscript, do I even count as a writer? Is my journey even one worth chronicling?
As dramatic as these questions sound, I don’t think they are unique to me. After all, writers sort of have to be hypersensitive over thinkers. How would we ever revise and edit a manuscript otherwise? There isn’t a writer out there who hasn’t rewritten a sentence half a dozen times because it just doesn’t feel right. Show me an author who hasn’t used a thesaurus to find a new word to replace the perfect one they already had, only because they used the same one 47 pages ago and it felt too redundant. The instinct to question oneself isn’t just pervasive in the community, it’s, in many ways, encouraged.
It makes me wonder how any of us retain our sanity while doing this whole writing thing (age old jokes about all writers being a little bit crazy aside). It makes those who succeed all the more impressive and those who continue to toil in the face of such deep-seated uncertainty all the more legendary. And it makes my ever-present anxiety brain relax its grip just a little bit. I’m not alone in this, no matter how solitary I might feel. None of us are.
That got a bit deep, didn’t it? These new topic-less blog posts are gonna be fun, I can tell. Anyway, that’s all from me for this Thursday Words Day, but before I go, let’s see what our Short But Sweet prompt is!
The clever man will be laughing all day.
If you want to participate just write your flash fiction or vignette and tag #ShortButSweetSunday on twitter, or drop a link in the comments. Looking forward to some great reads! Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.
Hello and welcome to another rambling, existential, content-packed edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.
Today I’m going to unveil the NEW CONTENT that you can expect to see on the blog going forward, but before I get into that I first want to talk a little bit about what I hope to achieve with these additions and why I’m making the change in the first place.
When I started this blog – yikes, almost two years ago – I had two goals: the first was to establish a place where I could scream into the void about all the parts about writing a novel that weren’t sunshine and rainbows (okay, so like 90% of it). I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on that, even if the screaming has been sporadic. The second goal was to, maybe, possibly, hopefully, form friendships or a community of fellow writers who were like me: near to the very beginning of their author journeys, and having to fight tooth and nail for every tiny success.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best at making connections. I’m shy, riddled with anxiety, and possessed of fluctuating mental health that often times means I’m a bit of a flake. So, that’s on me. With that said, I’m ready to make a change, not just to my own internal mindset and habits, but my exterior activities as well. So, while these additions to the blog were first conceived of with the goal of getting myself engaged in the writing community even when I’m between projects, the more I thought about it the more I realized that it can use this newfound desire for growth to forward along that original ambition, the one where I’m no longer just another struggling writer, but Just Another Struggling Writer.
Ultimately, I hope that one day this blog will stop being “the lamentations of yet another person struggling to write a novel” and start being a rallying point, a safe haven, a creative sounding board for those of us who just can’t do this thing alone. More than anything, I hope you join me on that journey.
So, without further ado, behold the new content schedule for Just Another Struggling Writer.
Tuesdays: Your Mileage May Vary or Reasons I DNF This Book.
Guilty confession #1: I am not a great reader. I am slow, easily distracted, and tend to put off reading for other leisure activities, a bad habit I am desperately trying to correct.
Guilty confession #2: I am also really discerning when I read. Actually, that’s too charitable a word. I am fucking picky. I don’t even know why. All I know is most books tend to turn me off by the second act, and even the ones I end up binge-reading to the end don’t really stay with me. Doesn’t mean they’re not good, of course. Just that… well, I’m evidently really hard to please. Sorry.
So, in an effort to broaden my library (and maybe figure out whatever the hell my taste in books is), on alternating Tuesdays I will post book reviews of different persuasions.
The first, Your Mileage May Vary, will cover books that I read to the end, loved or hated. Take these reviews with a grain of salt; because I’m thinly read I honestly haven’t the faintest clue how to write a “proper” book review. Most of the time, I imagine, I’ll probably just be word vomiting my thoughts and feelings without direction or structure. Please look forward to it.
In Reasons I DNF This Book I will dive into specific moments that turned me off of a novel. Whether it’s due to my inner editor not shutting up and letting me enjoy something, or a protagonist I just don’t get along with, or a cringey awkward moment that forces me to put it aside until the second hand embarrassment subsides, these posts will explore what makes a picky reader (me) so damn picky.
Thursdays: Your Regular Weekly Blog Post
Thursdays you can expect to remain pretty much the same, with random topics and thoughts on the struggle that is being a writer. In the past I talked about the progress of my manuscript, and revelations I was having along the way, but now that I am (at least for the moment) project-free, the discussion might trend more toward current issues in the book world. This is the least “content” like of my three planned weekly posts, and mostly will just be a continuing chronicle of my experience in the writing community. One thing I do plan to do every week is include a one-sentence writing prompt for….
Sundays: Short But Sweet Sunday, flash fiction or vignettes
Well, I couldn’t go this whole time without doing a little bit of fiction writing. Can’t let these razor sharp skills get rusty, can I? Now where did I put that sarcasm font? Anyway, at the end of my weekly Thursday posts I will include a one-sentence prompt, and on Sunday I will post my answer to that prompt. All pieces will be less than 1000 words and I intend to limit them all to the same setting and group of characters, which I am tentatively calling the Pillar-verse. The Pillar-verse was once an old fantasy novel idea of mine that was undoubtedly destined for the trunk, and though I still think it is too unfocused a concept to be drafted and revised, I would still like to share it in some way. (Hell, maybe if I dabble in it often enough I’ll get that spark I need to actually write the damn thing.) But going beyond that, I hope that others might eventually partake in Short But Sweet with their own takes on the prompt.
In addition to the extra content, I also will be doing a bit of site maintenance, including adding a page for writerly resources. Most of these will trend toward fantasy writing, since… that’s what I do and all, but hopefully writers of any persuasion will find them useful. Be on the lookout for those updates in the next day or two.
One last thing before I go. That’s right, OUR VERY FIRST SHORT BUT SWEET PROMPT. A reminder: the goal is to write some flash fiction or a vignette, less than 1000 words, and post it Sunday for all to enjoy. It can take place in a world you already created, or it can be something entirely new. If you decide to participate, please feel free to tag #shortbutsweetsunday on Twitter, or even just drop the link to your own post in a comment here. However you get it out there, the goal is just to boost your creativity with some extracurricular words. Hope to see lots of great pieces on Sunday!
This week’s prompt: It was fall, the season of knowledge, but nobody knew that.
Well, I honestly think I’ve yakked enough for one post. I’ll be back on Sunday with my answer to this week’s Short But Sweet prompt, and again on Tuesday for the first Your Mileage May Vary review, where I plan to discuss City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. Until then, as always, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.
Hello and welcome to another sporadic, possibly over-sharing, edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.
Where to start. How about with a general question/wonderment.
Wow, what the fuck 2020?
It’s no secret that I can’t write when I’m depressed. I’ve tried and I can’t. So, as you might imagine, this year has been more a less a vacuous wasteland for me. Between working in-office through the pandemic (I’ve never been less enthused to be considered “essential”), tryna home school my kids while working full time (fucking pay teachers ALL the money), losing a beloved family member without being able to travel to see them before their passing (thanks COVID), and just the general shittiness of the times we are living through, it shouldn’t be a surprise that my creativity went to the grocery store for milk and never came back.
(Which is not to say I haven’t been writing at all. In May I started journaling to help cope with *waves hands frantically* all of this, and I have been tenderly nurturing the seeds of an epic, EPIC fantasy idea I had a while ago. But the second draft of my former WIP… It’s dead. I realized mid-way through that the middle part of the story needed MAJOR revisions and, well, I decided that in this moment, in this year of everything being on fire, I wasn’t equal to it. Which is a shame, because I think it really does have potential, and maybe one day I’ll fish it out of the trunk and actually put in the labor to make it readable, but… not today. Not right now.)
Which leaves me adrift. No word count goal to strive for, no concrete project to feverishly outline (again and again and again). Just some vague nuggets to develop as the moon of my creativity waxes and wanes. It’s in moments like these that I wonder if I even count as a writer anymore. Hell, it’s taken me the better part of a day to write these some 350 words of this blog (so far). Why should I be allowed to call myself a writer when I’m not writing anything?
On and off since March or so I’ve told myself that I can’t force my creative well to refill itself when I’m depressed (and that’s true), therefore I’m better off waiting for my brain chemistry to sort itself out and then blitzing on projects while I have the chance. But… with the world in such a state as it is, it’s getting harder and harder to not be depressed. With each passing day, missing my mom who I can’t visit because she’s immunocompromised and my kids are in daycare (hot beds of germs at the best of times), or wishing my partner and I could do something normal like have a date night outside of the house, or crying because I can’t give my soon-to-be-8 year old daughter big birthday party, I feel my goal of being a professional writer slipping farther and farther away.
Some days, I’m so worn down from it all, that… I’m okay with that.
And those are the times that suck the most, because I don’t want to be okay with that. I don’t want to be someone who gives up on my dream.
So, to avoid that dark future where there is no writing but plenty of antipathy, I have to make a change. I can’t just sit around anymore waiting for the good ole muse to saunter her temperamental ass home. If the ideas aren’t flaring up on their own, then I need to be the one to stoke the fire.
All of that to say, you might be hearing a lot more from me coming up. I have some ideas on how to keep myself engaged with the writing community and my own creative impulses even when times are tough or I don’t have an actual project to be working on. I want to do more book reviews, writing prompts, or even flash fiction. I want to grow not just as a writer, but as a, dare I say it, content creator.
I might fail. I have many times in the past. This blog is proof positive enough that I struggle with habit forming and my writing goals are the first on the altar when times get tough. But that’s the other thing about me, ever am I willing to try.
So that’s all from me this week. Next week I hope to be back with an update on some changes and additions I’d like to make to the blog. I hope you’ll tune in. Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.
Well, my New Year’s Resolution to blog every week is officially dead. Lasted longer than I thought. RIP 1/1/2020 – 2/6/2020.
But enough of that, I’m back after a month long mental health break and ready to make an ass of myself by talking about something I have very little knowledge of.
Sometimes, when I’m laboring away over my WIP, but even more often when I’m reading, I wonder if maybe I should have been an editor, rather than a writer.
My writing “career” is young, and largely shaped thus far by fanfiction, but last year I learned how much I enjoy the editing part of writing (and I say that doubting my own understanding of the term “editing”). My favoritest favorite part? Brutal, merciless cuts.
I adore crossing out entire sentences. I love circling paragraphs and jotting in the margins “Is this necessary?” Though I haven’t gotten to this point in revision yet, I already have a handful of scenes in mind that are destined for the axe. And I’m excited.
This mindset, perhaps to my detriment, doesn’t go away when I’m not writing, however. In fact, it seems even more pronounced when I’m consuming other media. I’m going to give you an example.
Warning! Hot takes incoming!
In November, in the throes of NaNoWriMo, I, like many other nerds across the country, sat down after work on a Tuesday evening and watched the premiere episode of Disney’s new Star Wars TV show, the Mandalorian. Spoiler… warning?
About 30 minutes into the episode I remember saying to my partner, “I’m assuming ‘The Asset’ is interesting and important, because otherwise why would I care about this show?”
Turns out, I was right. Baby Yoda, and the conflict it created in the narrative, was what made the show worth watching. Not the titular Mandalorian (at least not him by himself). So, though I found 99% of episode one to be kinda (read: really) dry, I sat down the following Friday for episode two.
Friends. Fellow Star Wars fans. I’m sorry. I hate to be the one to tell you this.
Episode two was a complete waste of time. 30 minutes of pure, unadulterated filler. Filler content. In the second episode. Of an eight episode series.
The more I thought about what I had seen over the course of two episodes, the more dissatisfied I felt. TV is one of my favorite mediums, and Star Wars is a franchise I genuinely love and enjoy (though I wouldn’t pass standard gatekeeping tests), but this series was falling well short of my expectations.
All around me, however, I heard nothing but praise. My (long suffering and supportive partner) even brushed off my criticism as coming in the midst of NaNo and therefore I was in full on critique mode and couldn’t just enjoy things for what they were.
And, well, maybe there is some truth to that. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I would have done. What I would have cut, or changed, or moved around to make those first few episodes tighter and, in my opinion, more compelling. But, that inclination didn’t start with the Mandalorian.
A month before, while on a whirlwind weekend vacation out of state for a family wedding, I inhaled a novel that had been in my TBR pile for months. When I say inhaled, I mean I finished at 4AM the day after I started it. Then I set my kindle aside. Laid my head down. And thought to myself, “I wouldn’t have included [certain chapters from secondary character’s POV]. They really slowed down the pace.”
Honestly, it was kind of annoying. It was a good book, good enough that I didn’t bother to put it down even after a long day of air travel and visiting with my in-laws. And yet, I couldn’t just… let it be a good a book. I couldn’t leave it at that.
It’s part of the reason, I’ve realized, that I struggle so much to finish books. It’s not that they’re not good. Because, objectively, they absolutely are. It’s that I can’t turn off the part of my brain that lets me just enjoy things for what they are. It’s always “this sentence doesn’t flow” or “that word isn’t right here” or “the plot is hindered by this sequence.”
Without really knowing what an editor does, I sometimes wonder… if that is what I was meant to do. Maybe that part of me unable to let media go without critique, something that genuinely frustrates me, is actually a calling that I’ve never understood or heeded.
Or, maybe, I’m just a picky ass reader for no real reason.
All I can do is just try to let go when reading, or watching tv, or playing video games, and hope that my inherent inclination to pick things apart will come in useful when its time to turn my eyes on my own work.
This post was literally a month in the making. 2020 has not been treating me kindly and February especially was taxing on my mental health. Thanks to all my lovely friends and followers who are with me on this journey. I hope to be back next week to talk about the decision I made this week to take a break from my WIP.
Until then, my your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.
Alright yall let’s get it out of the way first: on July 15th I got whammied with some major financial issues that triggered my depression in a bad way. I won’t go into it too much (you can read my previous post about how my depression affects my creativity here) but I’m back-ish now after a difficult two months. Thanks for understanding!
The big thing to come out of my hiatus is that I realized I didn’t give my WIP, Border Towns, enough time to rest between drafts one and two. When I started feeling the itch to write come back, it was always directed at other ideas. I felt disconnected from Border Towns, though, to be fair, I had the same sensation the last time I took a big mental health break from it.
But, I’ve given it some thought, and what with November right around the corner and all, I decided that I’m gonna let Border Towns breathe while I work on a new idea for NaNoWriMo.
Which brings us to…
The Weekly Struggle
I’ve had my 2019 NaNo project picked out since last year. I decided early that it would not be the Border Towns sequel, even though I have one planned, instead opting for something completely new. This particular idea has been percolating, like all my stories do, for a few years now, and since it is a standalone, self-contained novel, I won’t feel the pressure I do with Border Towns to continue laboring over it once it’s complete.
As I was doing some pre-outlining work last week, my momentum was arrested by the realization that… well, this thing has TRUNK NOVEL written all over it. I realized that I just didn’t see a point in it, not in the plot itself nor in the actual act of writing it. I couldn’t imagine an agent being grabbed by the premise, I couldn’t fathom selling it, traditionally or self-pub, and all in all it kind of felt like a waste of my time. After all, the whole point of me doing this writing thing was to make a career out of it, right?
I’ve been doing creative writing since before I can remember. When I was 10 I started writing awful self-insert Dragon Ball Z fanfiction (no, seriously) without even knowing what fanfic was. When I was 14 I discovered The Pit (you know the one) and found that the thing I had been doing the last several years actually had an audience if one cared to seek it out. I’ve written millions of words of fanfiction, most of it terrible, some of it good enough to inspire me, when I was in my early twenties, to maybe think about taking a stab at original fiction. It took nearly a decade to finally finish a first draft of something original.
So… something in me chafed at the idea of spending time, precious, precious time, on what would, in my mind, essentially be original fanfiction. Something that no one would read or care about. Something boring or bad (or both) that would only ever serve as practice. At that point why should I care enough to write it?
Well, the simple answer is, because I want to. The idea might be lackluster, the storyline might not be able to carry it’s own weight. It might never go anywhere but into the stack of used notebooks in my closet, to be pulled out in another ten years and cringed at. I’m ashamed to say it took me a few days to get over myself and realize: what in the hell is wrong with that? I know I need space from the WIP I am pinning my hopes on, if I ever want it to be good enough to pin my hopes on. I know I want to stay creative and get some more novels under my belt, because that’s what real writers do isn’t it?
As much as I want to profit off my creativity (I mean, don’t we all?), it’s the not reason I’m creative. I’m allowed to write something just for practice, just to keep my proverbial muscles loose, just for the joy of writing.
After the labor (of love) that the last year of Border Towns has been, I really needed that reminder.
(Compounding all this is the SUDDEN URGENT NEED I had on Monday to write a contemporary romance, when WE ALL KNOW GOOD AND WELL that I am a high fantasy writer. But that’s an entire blog post in and of itself. Maybe next week.)
What I’m Reading This Week
I’m not actually reading anything yet, but on Friday I picked up both Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri and City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. Border Towns is lightly influenced by the Middle East and I wanted to read some fantasy more heavily in that vein. Problem is… I don’t know where to start! Tomorrow begins a mini-staycation and I’ll have loads of time to read for a change. Which should I try first?
That’s all from me this week. I look forward to returning to a regular posting schedule, especially as we get into my favorite part of the year: PREPTOBER! Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.