Writing

Friday Fictioneers #1

Yep, continuing to do this now. Should be fun. I really need the accountability and the practice. There’s just something about having to post at a certain time to keep me…writing? Creating? Freaking out less? Either way, wow, more rusty than entry #0 if possible. And I’ve decided I should make an account just so I can be part of a community – ish. Might offset the perils of social quarantining for the past (and future) months.

Photo Prompt:

© Jan Wayne Fields

Closure

She stares at the hat stand in the small shop. It’s such an obvious tourist trap, with price marked up by at least 200%, yet she is contemplating a purchase. She’s always preferred physical souvenirs to Instagram memories. The handful of black sand from the volcanic beaches of Hawaii lets her relive her honeymoon. A colorful, cheaply made hat from a beachside shack in Samoa marks her first trip alone after a messy, emotional divorce.

She buys one with a neon bright print. It will sit on the shelf next to the black sand. A suitable bookend for that affair.

Work · Writing

How Would You Know If You Don’t Try?

I am having some serious issues concentrating on work these past few days. I don’t know if it’s fatigue or anxiety or what have you, but I’ve got no motivation to do work. I mean, so what else is new, but instead of pure panic I just feel demotivated and drained. I’m not fearful of my work, at least I don’t think, but regardless I’m still not working due to… depression? Boredom? Fatigue? I really don’t know.

It doesn’t help that I’m submitting some chapters for my writer’s group’s upcoming April meeting. (Don’t worry, it’ll be via digital means; we’re not going to someone’s house like we usually do.) I was hoping to submit 2-3 chapters but at the rate I’m writing them now it might not even be one. I’ve half a heart to cancel my submission already because I’m afraid I won’t have enough time to make it “good enough.” But you know, I still have two solid weeks to drum out a single chapter, at the most, and since I haven’t even started, how do I know I won’t have enough time? My fear of that deadline is creeping on me. Maybe that’s why I’m dragging my feet? Kind of like giving up before I fail rather than trying to win and then fall short. Ugh, yeah, I think that’s it. Well, the only solution is to stop scaring myself silly or give in to depression, but instead pick up my busted ass and try.

Didn’t mean to turn this into a semi random peptalk. On another unrelated, much lighter note, Amazon delayed my Animal Crossing: New Horizon copy by a week, so I just canceled it and opted for digital instead. It’s all ready and pre-loaded for release day (midnight tonight), which makes me happy, although I’m not going to actually start playing until tomorrow. Why? Because it’s in real time, so all the stores and other things are closed at night. (Yes, they have an overnight box but it’s not quite the same feel). I rather just play it 10 hours later when I wake up and am refreshed, and it’s beautiful daylight in the game, too.

Work · Writing

Depression Comes in All Different Sizes

I took a look at my bullet journal work log yesterday, and found out that I worked so little that I should be ashamed of myself. Granted, I had a few other things on my mind this past month but the amount of work I didn’t do was atrocious. I’m glad I looked, though, because it basically gave me a kick in the teeth about how much I’m not getting done, so now I know to get down and do it. Seriously. Sometimes I really hate the way I don’t operate correctly, like a robot stuck on a loop of non-productivity.

Depression is a crazy thing, eh? I know there are folks are so depressed that they don’t feel like doing ANYTHING, like not even getting out of bed. I don’t think that’s how depression ever manifested in me except for like a very short period of time. My depression seems to manifest so that I struggle to do creative work, which is devastating for someone who writes fiction for a living. I’m functioning in life, but not functioning at work, and I don’t know how to deal with that. They say that insanity is the process of doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Well, I want different results certainly, but I also feel like I’ve tried different tactics and none are giving me that. I guess the best way now is just to pick the one that works the best, even if it’s like at 25% instead of 100%, but hey, it’s better than 0%, and go from there. For me personally it’s setting a time (like 3 hrs every day or something like that) and stick to schedule. (And also avoid all procrastination websites like Reddit, which I actually did alright on.) It worked for at least a few days in the past, so maybe this time I just need to keep it going every day, like a recovering alcoholic who’s struggling to stay sober, one day at a time.

If I have a 3D printer I might just print some imitation AA tokens but for writer’s block. Or rather, working block – and see if I can get myself to not fall off the wagon. Because hell I’ve tried everything else.

Writing

Friday Fictioneers #0

I’ve done Friday Fictioneers on other blogs before, and then stopped when I switched blogs or just didn’t feel like doing it anymore. Basically you write a short fiction of 100 words based on a weekly prompt. Now I’ve decided to pick it back up but there’s apparently a new system of posting links? It required me to sign up and all that so I didn’t bother with it last week. But I did write an entry, so I’m just going to post it here all by my lonesome. I’ll try to do it properly this upcoming week, but no promises.

And like I said, it’s been a while, so I may be very, very rusty.

Photo Prompt:

© Ted Strutz

A Prickly Narrator

I found a box of old photographs at my neighbor’s yardsale. “It’s not for sale,” she explained, “but sure makes a pretty centerpiece, no?” I’d only spoken with her a handful of times, so who am I to judge what she deemed as appropriate deco?

“Lemonade?” she offered me, and I said sure. It was too sweet, but I didn’t complain, only looked at the collection of knickknacks that littered her lawn. Compared to those the photographs were practicaly pristine, the only things worth any value.

“It’s not for sale,” she insisted. That just made me want to ask more.

Writing

NaNoWriMo Prep

Well, folks, it’s that time of year again! NaNoWriMo. Of course, it’s only the Prep Month because we’re not in November yet, but still no excuse to not get into the spirit, so to speak.

I don’t know what I should count myself as because I don’t think I’ve won a single year since I joined it like, many many years ago. It’s not the point for me, you know? Writing 50,000 words. The point of it is to just, well, hunker down and write, and usually when I do NaNo I was in school or had a day job and all those non-writerly thing, and November had always been a good time to write things on the side. But now I’m a writer by profession this is kind of pointless, in a way, because I can do every month as NaNo if I want to. (I won’t, because that’s insane, unless you’re James Patterson or Danielle Steel or something, but I theoretically could.) Yet I still get excited whenever this time roll around. Probably because of all the community spirit, of all the people trying to drum out word count, of the sheer fact that someone’s telling me “bad words don’t matter as long as they’re words” and “editing is for December.” It frees up the spirit, so to speak, and makes the story flow a bit easier if you just tell your inner editor to stfu.

So as to tradition, here’s the official banner to kick off the NaNo season. Cheers!

Work · Writing

A Small Victory

I don’t know if I talked about this on here, but I’ve joined a writer’s group a while ago. We meet monthly at someone’s house, and read/critique each others’ works for a few hours on a nice relaxing Saturday. (Yep, totally relaxing, not nervous at all, especially if I’m the one that needs to be submitting next month, nope.) It’s not a class, so you don’t have to submit anything if you don’t want to. There’s no grading or expectations and most of us are amateurs. (It’s run by my author friend so she’s kind of the unofficial authority, but not really. She makes it a point to say it’s not her writers’ group, just a group she’s part of.) We basically let strangers read our works and collectively try to make them better, and chat and have food and just be social for a bunch of introverts. That’s it.

So we’re meeting next week (for the month of October) and I volunteered to submit a chapter of my novel. I partially did this because, well, I should, and also, I’ve been so, so, so procrastinating and haven’t worked on my novel at all for the past months due to one thing or another, and I need to get this damn draft done by hopefully end of this year. I need to revise the entire chapter before I can send it in, because the state it was was definitely not complete nor made any sense in context to the novel now, since it was written way before I figured out what the book was about and etc. It was daunting and scary, so I kept putting off working on it until literally this week, when the deadline to submit was yesterday. Yes, I’m a bad person for giving myself undue stress and for procrastinating. I fully acknowledge my fault here.

But you know what, in the end I did it. I worked a lot in the few days prior, basically ate, slept, worked, you know, like how most people’s days go and why American work ethics are insane (most not by choice.) And it was done, edited, not perfect, but submitted in an adequate state. And really, that’s all you can ask for, no? I emailed it to my group at 11:00 pm last night, an hour before the deadline (we have to enforce a deadline because people were like dropping 30 pages of work a few days before our meeting and that just wasn’t productive). And in addition the few days of hard work had kicked me into gear. Remember I said the more productive I am the more productive I get? Yeah, and now I actually feel like I have to write every day. Not necessarily on the novel – I need breaks, too – but some kind of writing daily. So all in all, this experience was a win. A hard win, but a win. Which was kind of why I signed up to submit this time in the first place. I know how to make myself do things, if slowly.

I don’t get many victories where I work hard and actually get things done on time in what feels like an acceptable condition. So I will definitely go celebrate today, as small a victory as this is. Perhaps I’ll buy a new book.

Writing

Camp NaNo July!

Well, it’s July and Camp NaNoWriMo time again! For this month my goal is in hours, just like back in April. I found that setting out a specific number of hours to work a day gets me better results than word counts, and that if I think “okay just one more hour to go” its more motivating than other kind of arbitrary encouragements. I also find that I tend to severely underestimate how long it takes to do something. It’s so weird, I feel like I never do enough because I never get to where I originally planned, but I think it’s because I always think I work twice as fast as I actually do. Or rather, I want to work twice as quickly as I am right now, and I need to seriously accept the fact that, well, my speed is twice as slow in reality. Otherwise it’s really hindering my productivity.

My Camp goal back in April was just at least an hour a day, so a total of 30 hours then. I did that because I had a slump and wasn’t sure how fast I can get back on my feet in writing. I’ve set the July goal to the same – 31 hours total – but now I’m pretty sure I’ll blow past it in the first week haha. So I might change it to 100 hours. But ah! I just said I tend to estimate twice as much as reality, so maybe 50 hours for now? I know 50 hours in a month is nothing – definitely not job-hour sufficient. But, like I said, I’ve been going in and out of mild depression these few months again, so maybe try to take it a little bit easy? I don’t know. At least 50 hours is a good thing. If I keep up by mid-month I’ll change it to 100 hours. Yes, I know it’s still nothing – there are people who are forced to work 100 hours a week. Well those situations are unhealthy and abusive! Let’s just set this month’s total as 100 hours and raise it to 150 next month (just because Camp NaNo’s over doesn’t mean my job is over) if I manage to keep it up.

Life · Writing

Silver Lining

I had the worst case of food poisoning a few days ago. I couldn’t remember the last time I threw up – I don’t tend to throw up when I get sick. Well, this time I pretty much projectile vomited the whole night, and was basically bed-ridden for three days afterwards. I could feel my stomach being all knotty from hunger but had zero appetite, and zero energy to boot. It was an ordeal.

On the third day I had enough energy to stay awake but not enough for anything else. So I spent the portion I wasn’t drifting off to sleep thinking about life. (Isn’t it weird that we never think about living until we feel like we’re dying?) Specifically, what the hell am I doing with my life and why is it the way it is. Where am I in my life? Am I happy? If I’m unhappy, why? If I know why I’m unhappy, what do I have to do to change it, and what’re the concrete changes I have to do? It’s one thing to realize I need to “work more” but what exactly does that entail? Write more words every day? Write more words more consistently? Install a page blocker so I don’t get distracted by social media and waste precious hours while I’m in my “work” time? Things like that.

And I think I made sort of an epiphany kind of break through. (Yes, super cliché, but it is what it is.) I had a vision of what ultimately should happen, where I want things to be eventually (finish book, publish book, write more books until I die.) But I don’t have a vision of what should happen much sooner. When you’re working by yourself, sitting alone in the house (with a million everyday chores and other living distractions), with goals you yourself set and no real “punishment” if you don’t meet them, it’s very, very hard to gauge how much progress you’re actually making when your goal is six months from now. There’re no regular check-ups and reports, no meetings to attend to discuss your performance, so how do you know if you’re just lagging impossibly behind or right on track until, well, six months have passed and you see where you end up?

Short answer: you don’t. Or rather I didn’t. I’ve been told that writing’s a marathon, not a race, and that’s true, but you have a pre-plotted road and known miles for a marathon. Writing you have nothing. You don’t know exactly how long your novel will be – ballpark, yes, exact number to the tens digit? Not really. So what do you do? Well, for me, I realized that I need to have a clear goal for every day. What I’m doing now is basically write something everyday and hope in six months it’ll all come together from sheer perseverance. That doesn’t work for me anymore (may have never worked for me, actually.) I need to set a vision, a concrete “what percentage of this project will you be at by the end of today?”, and then set out to do it. And it needs to be very specific, not “I’m going to wrap up as much of this section as possible” but “character A will be at place B and the last sentence will be —” It’s like a mini finish line for every single day. That’s the most useful way for me to progress forward, I think.

This may sound a little like semantics or a ‘duh’ moment, but it’s actually quite a radical change from the way I usually work. It’s like a smoker instead of smoking a pack a day, he smokes just one cigarette short of a pack. To others it’s 24 cigarettes instead of 25, but this smoker has been smoking a pack a day, every day, for 5 years straight. That one cigarette short is a significant change in behavior. I’m only hoping that I can achieve the same.

Writing

No Motivation

I’ve been bitten by the lack of motivation bug lately. By lately I mean, well, most of this year so far, barring the super productive month I had of April and the two months before that where I was as sick as a dog and couldn’t even sit up to look at my computer. The point is, my May and June should’ve both been as productive as April, but they’re totally not. And I’m a little pissed off about it.

I know people get discouraged a lot in life. Most people have to just keep pushing no matter what, and I’m definitely on the luckier side in which I won’t starve and be homeless even if I don’t do much. I mean I won’t be rich by any means, but I can get by. And that just makes me feel really, really bad. Like I’m a leech on society. My work is definitely self-motivated, and there are so many people who work so hard and see absolutely zero recognition in the field of writing (and no money whatsoever). I’m accepting of that; I don’t expect fame and I don’t expect J.K. Rowling level of money. Hell, I don’t expect Gregory Maguire level of money and fame (I don’t actually know how much Gregory Maguire makes, I assume much less than Rowling but still significant. Plus, he’s a name people have heard of, and if you haven’t, well, he wrote the book the Broadway musical Wicked was based on.) I don’t expect fame at all, with maybe enough money to scrape by, but that’s not what I’m angry about. There’s a huge difference between you finish a book, get it published, and it doesn’t sell well; and you never finish the book in the first place, and you’re afraid of even picking up the damn, metaphorical pen.

I know people who’re passionate about their projects and their jobs who live and breathe the stuff. I wish I could just devote myself to the project, like those folks do, 24/7. It’s stressful just thinking about the work right now, and I’m not sure what exact steps I can take to address this. You know my husband once did say that maybe I’m actually more suited to a more traditional job, and if that’s the case, too late now! There’s nowhere to go but forward, even though every steps is more (mentally) painful than the last, and I can’t really see the end any time soon.

Writing

Planners vs. Pantsers

It’s Monday, it’s morning (barely, almost noon), and I thought: what a good time to let you know more about myself!

Well, not many people care, I know, but I need to get used to this ‘more frequent blogging’ thing, and I’ve never really tried to talk about my own life before, so bear with me, y’all! I know I can talk as much and as little as I want, but for this to work I think I need to at least give the basics. Otherwise I feel like the rest of the blog would be completely without context and, yes, I realize people just jump in to read any blog post at any time, but that’s not really how I roll.

That’s kind of a little fact about myself, isn’t it? How I roll? Well, there’re these loose categories writers tend to fall in – or at least according to NaNoWriMo (that would be National Novel Writing Month) – and those are the ‘planners’ and the ‘pantsers.’ They are like they sound: planners are people who have to plan out everything before they write, pantsers are people who just open a document and see where words takes them. (There’s also a blend one called ‘plantsers,’ so I guess it’s more of a spectrum, but for this purposes let’s just pretend it’s two categories.) Guess which one I firmly falls in? Yeah… planner to a T. In fact, I feel like I’m an über-planner, because sometimes I plan my stories down to the paragraph before I write anything. It wouldn’t be that bad except I also like really convoluted plots with multiple protagonists and viewpoints. Which means I write slow, I tend to get confused by all my plots, and because I get confused, fear then takes over and I freeze and don’t write anything at all.

Do you now see the problem? Do you see why I am still on the second draft (more of a 1.5 draft, but I’ll talk about that later.) of a novel that I’ve started writing three years ago and is long, long overdue to be finished? Do you see how I had severe depression because of my inability to produce anything due to fear for three years before that so it’s more or less five+ years since the concept of this novel materialized in my head and I still don’t have much to go on? And I’m still here, on the precipice of falling back into depression and just barely managing not to. I’m not on any antidepressants and I’ve stopped going to see my therapist, which is good! But if this continues on I may have to revisit him again. I hope not. There’s not much he can do for me because the solution is clearly ‘work more,’ but maybe he can at least provide me some encouragement.

So, I’m an über-planner, and it’s kind of ruining my life.