Strike One

Have you ever noticed that when the flame on a match goes out, you can look at the head of the match and see that underneath the charred outer layer a glow remains for several seconds? Like the coals in a fire, red-hot under a coating of ash. It reminds me of a heart, the hidden thing that holds the key to life.

What are the matches trying to tell me?

Writer in the Storm

The Big Blizzard is pretty much done. I’ve been cooped up inside too long and I think that if things were a little different, I would go walking outside. Like if I had someone to walk with me, or if I were making an artistic video of walking in the snow. If I were better at filming, that is something I might do. As it is now, I can predict that my efforts would look like a bad school project. A B at best. More likely a C.

This would have been a good opportunity to hunker down (I’m wondering where that phrase comes from. I have never in my life performed an action that I would think of as “hunkering,” nor have I witnessed it from anyone else as far as I can remember) and spend the day reading and writing. Big storms are excellent excuses to be lost in literature. …But I didn’t. I’ve read a little bit, and I’ve written only the smallest amount today. Not creative work, either, just journaling, thought-dumping, if you will. It’s not even the sort of journal-writing people will want to read if I ever get famous. It is, to be blunt, crap.

I’ve fallen behind a bit in the 365 day challenge. At this point I am several thousand words behind, and I have not been meeting the 1,000 word per day goal regularly. I feel very bad about this–most of all when I didn’t write anything, despite having plenty of time. I look back at the end of the day and I feel that I’ve accomplished nothing, and I wonder how I have managed to waste so much time.

What is the solution? Is there a solution, other than “Just do it, stop whining”? Is there something people do to convince themselves that they can do it, whatever it may be that they’re trying to do?

I had more to say, but I’ve been momentarily distracted and lost it, so I should just stop here and say that if you want to find out what happens, come back in a few weeks or months to see if I ever manage to meet my writing goals! Who knows, maybe I’ll even post my word count next time.

Oh, It’s Winter.

When I woke up today it was snowing. I have very mixed feelings about snow. I think it’s beautiful and if it’s not too cold or too wet or icy, I can really enjoy walking in it. However, I do not like being cold and once the salt has been put down, it starts to look really gross. Here in Boston we have slush more often than real snow–at least, that’s how it’s been for the past few years.

It hasn’t been very snowy this winter. There’s been no accumulation at all, and when it does snow, it’s disappeared within a few days. I prefer a slightly warmer winter, but I wouldn’t argue with a persistent, manageable layer of snow throughout the season.

In honor of the snow, have a look at the short story I’ve had on this page for a pretty long time now. And leave a comment or rate the page if you have any thoughts.

Off to try to be productive…

Ramblings of an Insomniac Writer

It’s 5 a.m. and I am unable to get to sleep. I could keep trying, and I’d end up falling asleep around 6 or 7, and accidentally sleeping until 1 p.m., which would pretty much ruin my plans for the day. So I’ve decided that instead, I’ll just not sleep. This might mean I’ll be too tired to be productive this afternoon, or that I’ll crash really early tonight and sleep through until Saturday morning. The only time I’ve ever pulled a true all-nighter (it wasn’t studying, in case you’re wondering), I slept for about fourteen hours the following night.

There are two upsides to my problem: 1. This gives me the chance to get things done much earlier in the day than I usually would. Prime example: I’m getting some of my daily word count in now, instead of starting in the evening like I usually do. 2. At least I don’t HAVE to be up right now, getting ready for work, or anything like that. I am convinced that it would make the situation far worse if that were the case.

I had a few days so far where I wrote nothing at all, and I was unhappy about it, but there’s no sense dwelling on that kind of thing. More recently I have been doing very well with keeping up with the word count, although I am about 1500 words behind. I’ve been writing all sorts of things. Stories, blog posts, journal-y rants about whatever’s on my mind. I’ve started to get a little farther on the first project I started to work on this year, a novel based rather loosely on Sleeping Beauty that I started years ago. (Side note: I should do a post about my fairy tale rewrites and why I approached them the way I did.) It’s becoming more and more clear that this is not going to be a good first draft. It will need a hell of a lot of revision in the second draft.

I’ve realized that the part of the story I’ve been working on is, in fact, incredibly boring. It’s sort of a between-plot-points spot that will most definitely have to be rewritten, and may end up being scrapped almost entirely. I think that in order to keep my own interest in the story, I have to move it on to when things are actually happening. When I was first writing it, I was enjoying the beginning of the novel. I happen to like exposition, if it is interesting exposition. But even if that’s the case, there comes a point when there’s just too much introduction and it’s not helping the story, it is killing it. So this will have to be remedied, but seeing as this is the first draft of the story, I’m going to let this be something I worry about later. As the outline I wrote a few days ago indicates, it’s not too long after this part of the story when things actually manage to get interesting!

But revising is going to be a bitch.

The End (version 2)

The night you said you loved me, the stars fell into the lake. We sat on a hill watching them approach from the horizon. Pinpricks winked out and tails of flame extinguished themselves in the water. I wondered what would happen when the sky was empty.

You looked into my eyes and I said nothing, but thought if the world is ending, at least you’re holding my hand.

Writing Year: Week 1, January 1-7

It’s time to recap the first week of the 365k365day challenge! I don’t plan to do this every single week, but I will probably update periodically just so I can have some record of my progress (other than the word tracker).

The Word Count

The first few days I did very well. I wrote just above the goal of 1,000 words. Then, day six came around, and I was so focused on work stuff that I didn’t have any time to write. day seven, I was intending to catch up, but unfortunately I was short of the daily goal, let alone the catch-up goal. Luckily, I even get to count THIS post toward the word count, even if it’s not very eloquent. I still have plenty of time today to write, but the past two days my motivation dropped a lot. I hope I can get it back.

The Projects

So far I’ve mostly been working on the Sleeping Beauty novel I started a few years ago. I haven’t touched it in quite a while, but I have been thinking about it for a few months, so I used my new writing goal as a reason to get back to it … not that I should need one, but you know, you do what you have to. One day when I was at a somewhat boring part of the story, I wrote an outline for the rest of the novel; the next day, most of my word count came from a journaling session that I titled “I don’t feel like writing” or something along those lines. Journaling counts, but I usually like to with a pen and paper, and then I’d have to count the words manually.

For now I plan to continue with Sleeping Beauty. There are a few short stories that I have first drafts of so far, that I’m planning to work on and either publish on this blog or submit somewhere. I’m also thinking I will write a little more of my Helen of Troy novel, but I might still want to do a bit of research first–which is the original reason I set that novel aside after writing the first two chapters. If you want to see what I have so far, you could click on the “Helen” tab above.

I have many other story ideas noted, some of which I am very eager to start, and I have a few blog posts planned as well. Hopefully, as I get back in the habit of writing, I will be writing even more than my daily goal on a regular basis. I might even feel like a real writer again.

Build Your Own Writer’s Block

Anyone who has been a writer for more than a hot second has experienced writer’s block. It’s one of those strange, shape-shifting creatures that can last for any length of time, comes and goes as it pleases, and can be a minor annoyance or an awful, ever-growing, monstrous presence over which you feel you have no control.

I had experienced one form of writer’s block for my entire life, until recently, and it was the kind that made me question whether writer’s block actually existed at all, or if it was just a fancy term for lazy. It’s that state of mind where you feel like you can’t write until inspiration hits. Or: “Well, I want to get some writing done, but there’s an Indiana Jones marathon on tv…”

Over this past year, I’ve had a more troublesome version of the dreaded affliction. The best way I can describe the feeling is having lost my way with words. I had new ideas, and built on some old ideas, but when it came to writing attempts, the entire English language escaped me. There were blog posts that were deleted before I finished them because they were flat and boring and didn’t seem to say anything worth sharing. It was frustrating to say the least, disheartening, and led me to wonder once in a while if I should really keep trying to be a writer. Existential crisis much?!

Most often, though, it seems that writer’s block is just a series of excuses given to justify why you’re not writing. It’s pretty much fabricated due to anxiety, laziness, or some other underlying reason you’ve decided you’re not “in the mood” to write. The following are a few of the excuses I have been using:

  • I can’t write this thing until I’ve written this other thing! Unless you have actual deadlines for specific pieces, the order in which they’re written is not usually relevant. Certain stories, characters, ideas, etc. push their way to the front. Creative ideas do not stay in a single file line, waiting their turn. They’re more like cattle, and you have to wrangle them, chase after the ones that run off, and occasionally one gets eaten by coyotes, wolves, tigers, boa constrictors…
  • I don’t have a good place to submit or share that piece! This is a legitimate consideration when it comes to publishing pieces, but that part can’t be done until after they’re written! You’re definitely getting ahead of yourself if you’re giving the publishing and marketing aspects of things this much attention before you do the writing itself. Or, to look at it another way, it may mean that you’re not a writer at all, but just someone who wants to sell your ideas. There is a big difference. Focus on the writing part. Create your content. Then worry about finding the right platform for it.
  • The idea isn’t ready yet! There is sense and silliness to this thought. There are times when a story needs time to percolate in your mind, to form a clearer picture, before you can grasp it enough to put it on paper (physical or virtual). If that’s the case, sure, hold off on that idea, and write something else. However, if you’re waiting until you have the whole thing crafted so that you can write a mind-blowing first draft, you’re wasting time. Getting the story perfect, or right, or whatever you’re aiming for, is better left to the realm of editing. Your first draft will not be a masterpiece. Accept this, and get down to business.

The truth is that sometimes writer’s block gets the best of you for a little while, but the best way to push through it, no matter what variety you have, is to just keep writing. This is the type of advice that doesn’t seem entirely helpful when you feel like you need an extra push, but it is a fact that all writers eventually learn. I didn’t follow this advice much this past year, I’ll admit. With the writing goals I’ve set for 2015, I can’t allow writer’s block to slow me down. I thought I’d debunk the condition before starting this new journey, as a way to remind myself that writer’s block only has power if you let it.

This post is raw, unedited, just barely proofread. In the near future I might be writing more carefully crafted posts, but this is mostly another stream of consciousness offering from someone who sometimes has interesting thoughts.  

Here Comes 2015, the Year of Writing

I stumbled across this post on the Writing Realm tumblr recently and decided, without hesitation, that I’m going to try to do it.

A year-long writing challenge: 365 days, 365,000 words. One thousand words a day.

I’m sure it will be hard, and there will be probably too many days when I don’t write anything at all. Maybe some days I’ll be totally in the zone, and I’ll write thousands of words at a time. Maybe I’ll fall utterly short, but even if that happens, it’s a way to motivate myself to get back to writing. Blog posts count, and so does journaling, although I would have to count the words manually, so I’m not likely to put that toward my word count.

I can’t predict how this will go. Maybe I’ll start off well and then lose steam before too long, and the whole thing will fall apart, or it will take some time to get going but once I’m more used to writing every day, I’ll be unstoppable. Or, maybe things will just go smoothly overall, with some days worse than others, but most in a pretty good state. No, I can’t predict it, as is our general state in life–I can only try, without knowing what will happen.

I realize that some people do write this much or more regularly, and have for years, and since I haven’t been doing that how can I call myself a writer? Well. I used to write more often, but that was before the internet became as big as it is these days, with as many different options for passive entertainment. The point of the challenge, therefore, is to have a good reason to ignore all these other things I could do in order to do the thing that is one of my greatest passions. Or, used to be, and could be again if I make the effort to make it a part of my daily life.

Reaching the Goodreads Challenge

Like almost everyone I know that likes reading, I’ve been using Goodreads for a while now. Mostly I use it to keep track of books I want to read at some point in the future. However quickly my “read” (i.e. in the past tense) shelf grows, my “to read” shelf grows faster. I’m fine with that, as there are so many great books in the world and I would like to read as many as I can, while also making time to re-read those that really spoke to and/or entertained me.

For the past two years, I have also publicly set a reading goal for myself on the Goodreads site. The only way I know to access it is to go to the main page and scroll down. It’ll be somewhere in the right sidebar. If you’re also an avid reader, you likely know what I’m talking about. Initially, I started doing this yearly reading challenge to get back into reading more. I’d been spending too much time with Netflix and not enough with the written word. Goodreads helped me fix that.

I’ve just met my 2014 reading challenge by finishing 24 books. I have actually read more than this, technically. To some people that does not sound like a lot, but between work, social time, sleep, and my habit of often reading somewhat long or challenging books, it is a higher total than I’ve reached in a given year since graduating from college.

Next year, I’m not going to set a reading goal. Why? Because I’ve decided that I’m going to be focusing on writing. And this time, I’m not just going to say that I’m going to do more writing. I’m getting too old to let ideas percolate until I feel like I “have time” to sit down and write them. Life has resisted being anything resembling convenient or helpful, and I need to make time to write, starting as soon as possible, or give up on the idea of ever being published. Even if I end up self-publishing, it will never happen if I don’t actually do the writing.

I’ll still read, of course, but my focus will be on creating stories, honing some of them, taking active steps toward being a writer. I used to write and read all the time, when I was young. Growing up, adulthood, responsibility, self-doubt, and a bunch of other factors slowly drained that away from me, but I took back reading, and now I am going to take back writing. I want to learn how to love it again, the way I did when I was a kid and wanted to write all the time. Life was so much more fun then.

I have had many story ideas in my life

Hi, I’m a writer. I thought it was prudent to state the obvious at this time.

Not too long ago, but long enough that I don’t remember when it was, I decided that it would be a good idea to keep a list of all my story ideas in a word document. It’s in google docs so that I can access it from any computer or my smartphone. (I know, I’m a genius). I started doing this because I know that if I don’t write down an idea, whether it’s good, bad, interesting, weird, conventional, or whatever else, I’m quite likely to forget it. We have to many things clamoring for attention. I’ve forgotten enough story ideas to know that this is a real thing that happens. It may not be the most pressing problem, but for a writer it is frustrating.

I currently have:

  • 17 novel concepts
  • 5 short story concepts
  • one note to just write microfiction pieces as I come up with the ideas

Then, there’s a different file, containing:

  • 9 plot summaries for modern fairy tales

… making a total of 31 story ideas. This does not include a whole bunch of partially-written stories and first drafts that still need work before they can be allowed to have contact with readers.

I’m sure I have forgotten countless other ideas and will continue to think up, write down, and forget many more.

This should be my most important to-do list. I suppose it is. But it should also be the most urgent, and it is not, because attempting to be a responsible adult takes that spot.