So, about this writing thing…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Writing is hard.

It’s hard to get the right words out. It’s hard to motivate myself to do it. It’s especially hard because there’s the internet. There’s Netflix. Right there. Calling my name! I can’t resist their siren calls.

I’m writing about once a week these days, though it occasionally (and regrettably) gets skipped here and there because Thursday, my typical writing day, sometimes gets filled with other plans. I think (scratch that, I know) that one of my issues is that I am actually busy these days. For the first time in my life I find myself actually, well and truly, busy. Between the full time job, two different church groups, church itself, and dating someone for the first time in years, my schedule is packed. Thursdays I try to reserve for writing but, as I said before, sometimes it has to be skipped. Friday is really my only day where I make a real attempt to make zero plans. They’re my day off (I’ve logicked myself into thinking that Friday work days don’t actually count) and what am I going to do on my day off? A whole lot of nothing. What should I be doing with my day off? A whole lot of writing.

The April Camp Nanowrimo is coming up just next week and my plan is to write four short, flash fiction stories for it. Will I actually succeed? Unlikely (especially with that kind of negative thinking. I’m already setting myself up for failure). I know that the reason behind that thinking though is that the short story I’m currently working on, written for a flash fiction writing prompt, is taking me over a month to write. It should not take me this long to write flash fiction and yet here I am, slowly taking my time with it. Part of that is that I am enjoying writing this one a lot, but 2500 words is not a lot to show for a month’s work.

The other issue is that I find the Camp Nanos to be not very motivating at all. I don’t know, but they just don’t get me going the same way (or even close to the same way) that the November Nano does. That one is ultimate motivation. This one is just something I might do but probably not. But I am signed up, so that’s a step in the right direction.

I don’t know what I’m going to be writing for each week (yes, one story a week! Hopefully I will do it), though I have had some success with the writing challenges from terribleminds. They’re fun and creative prompts that are occasionally incredibly inspiring. I’ll try and rummage around his old prompts to find four, or maybe just try and go with the new weekly ones he posts through April. Who knows. Going into Nano without a plan is a silly thing to do, but whatever. I suppose that’s kind of the point of flash fiction though, right? Keep it short, write it quick, write it now.

So what is my plan of attack going forward?

Finish this goddamn short story that I’ve been working on for a month.

I might cheat and make this one count as my first story for Camp Nano. My first week of April is even more packed than usual, so I might not get to write much.

Which is terrible. I should try and make time. But I’m just not sure how to manage it that first week.

We’ll see how it goes.

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In which I ramble and muse and try to figure out what is wrong with me

Needless to say, I failed last year. As it says in my About page, my New Year’s resolution was to write more and to periodically (and with the highest of futile hopes, regularly) update this blog.

Definitely didn’t happen.

I would periodically write, of course, because of my wonderful writing group I had back home. But then I moved and didn’t have an established writing group anymore and that made things much harder. I still kept my regular writing day of Saturday at Panera for a few hours, but I was not entirely productive and would get stuck listening my my music, texting (people from my former writing group), playing stupid games on my phone, making excuses that I can’t write while I eat my lunch, etc etc, until I felt like I put in my allotted time (I would always try to stay at Panera for at least two hours) and then give it up for a loss. It’s just not one of those days where the muse hits me, too much other stuff in my brain, I can’t focus properly right now, and other such bullshit.

Yep. Bullshit.

I found that really the only time that I can buckle down and focus is during NaNoWriMo. Something that should be known about me is that if I don’t have a deadline – a real deadline – I am just utterly useless. I can try and set myself arbitrary deadlines and those occasionally work, but more often than not, they just really don’t because I know that they’re not real. Tricking myself rarely works but it definitely does not work when it comes to writing. Hence the glories of NaNoWriMo! 30 days, 50,000 words, one frantic writer trying to figure out what comes next in the story.

Somehow I won this year (two in a row!!), even though about a week in I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to make it. I hadn’t planned enough, I had no real idea where the story was going, personal shit got in the way, etc. But I realized after telling myself that I wasn’t going to make it after only a week’s worth of writing was the stupidest thing I could ever do to myself. Why would I get myself down like that? Yeah, I was going to keep on writing anyway but I wasn’t going to worry about getting the 50k because there was no way I was going to do that with this story, blah blah blah. NO! I had a new story that I was really excited about, a whole new world to discover and unfold, and I was already telling myself that I couldn’t do it, at least not the way that I wanted to. Needless to say, I got my shit together, buckled down, and wrote 50k words in 30 days.

The next part is the hardest though. Life after NaNoWriMo. NaNo really comes at the most inconvenient time of the year. With November comes Thanksgiving (the greatest of all holidays!!), lovely crisp fall air, and the desire to hibernate and never be productive ever again. And then follows lovely December, which brings chaos and presents and family and traveling and socializing and ribbons and wrapping paper and more chaos and stress and who the hell has time to write during December?

So here I sit, 3 minutes after midnight on January 11th doing my first bit of writing since November 30th (yes, I am counting this as writing because I am writing more words than needed in an instragram post).

So what have I learned?

Who knows.

Write more?

Yes. Obviously. That’s a given. I want to call myself a writer, but I don’t write. Not really. Not enough that I can justify calling myself that. But the ‘how’ of it is the question.

How do I motivate myself to sit down and write when it’s just so easy to click the “next episode” button on Netflix? How can I motivate myself to write when at the end of the work day I just want to turn off my brain for a while and wind down? How can I motivate myself to write when I read all of these other great works of literature whose stories and characters are just so alive and real and I can barely figure out basic plot in my own novel, let alone have the characters seem real enough that someone might potentially care about their joys and their pains enough to feel them too, the way that I do when I read other stories?

I know. I’m supposed to just sit down and write. Push through it. 10 words are better than no words. And yes, that’s true, but good lord that makes writing such a chore doesn’t it? Writing really is something that I truly love and enjoy. I do it for myself, not with the goal of ever getting published or becoming the next great American novelist, but purely because I love it. But forcing myself to sit down and write because I feel like I have to? That doesn’t make me love it.

The long and short of it though is, I do love it. Writing, when it’s working for me, when the muse is with me! is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. As grueling as NaNoWriMo can be, I LOVE IT because it gives me real deadlines and makes me sit down and write and when I’m done I feel so great about myself. Even if what I wrote was utter shit (and, of course, anything written during NaNo is going to be shit), I still wrote it. 

And that really is a great thing.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Don’t mind my stolen title. Think of it as an allusion instead…

Writing my novel has become challenging post NaNoWriMo. I reached the 50K goal at the end of the November, clocking in my word count a full two hours before the deadline, and good lord was I relieved. I felt so accomplished and proud of myself for hitting that goal in only 30 days. It was the most writing I had ever accomplished on a single project and to have done it in only a month? Boy was I proud. The story wasn’t finished but I had written a large portion of the plot and had plans to keep on writing it.

Here comes the problem. I foolishly decided that I would allow myself two weeks off to recharge and then I would get back into it. With a friend coming to town right at the end of those two weeks who wanted to do some writing together, I thought sure. That sounds reasonable, right? Nope. Those two weeks killed any and all motivation I had to write my novel.  The friend came to town and we got together to write as planned and I found that I could do nothing. I stared at my novel for about two hours before I quit for the night. I changed around a few words, read some stuff, but could do nothing with it. I couldn’t write new content, I couldn’t edit what I had previously worked on, nothing. A few days later, I tried again, and still, nothing.

Then Christmas happened and god knows it’s impossible to do anything around the holidays, so writing altogether got put on the back burner until the new year.

Last week I decided that I should write something completely different while I still have the strong urge to throw my novel off a cliff. Terrible Minds has a flash fiction challenge of roughly 1000 words with a different theme/prompt/whatever every week so I decided, “Hey. That sounds reasonable. I could do 1000 word short stories for a little bit to get myself back into the groove of writing.”

So I started one last week, one of his older challenges from October and I have to say, it was really nice to be working on something that wasn’t my novel. I still haven’t finished the story I started then, but I will soon. I decided to start his newest challenge today because it stretched me to do something I’ve really never done before.

Science Fiction.

Science fiction is one of those things that I really enjoy, but have never felt confident enough to actually write myself because I find it so incredibly daunting. I read things like Ray Bradbury (his short story Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed is one of my favorite things I have ever read in my life) and watch things like Joss Whedon’s Firefly (whyyyyy is there only one season of that masterpiece?!) and I think “wow, I could never do something that great” and that thinking stops me from ever trying in the first place.

It’s exactly the same train of thought that kept me from writing fiction at all for years and years until I discovered NaNoWriMo in 2012. I had it in my head that I was not good at writing fiction, so I just never gave it any effort. Well, in 2012 I decided that that was so stupid of me and so I just decided to give it a go. If I don’t like it, oh well. At least I tried. I soon found out that not only was I enjoying the writing process, but I was enjoying what I was writing.

And now I discovered that that same thinking was keeping me from writing science fiction, a genre that I really enjoy! Well, today I decided that that is a horrible way of thinking and so I have delved into the world of science fiction! It’s an incredibly new experience for me and it is so vastly different from my novel (which may or may not be medieval(ish?) though really I can’t figure out when it takes place. There are medieval aspects to it, but I don’t picture it as medieval… Either way, it’s not science fiction at all.) that it’s become an exciting little break from the world of my novel altogether. I’m enjoying writing today and not dragging my heels back to my computer (or rather away from Netflix) to work on my novel.

It’s probably not the most unique thing ever written, but I am writing and not just saying that I’m going to write and that’s a step in the right direction! Speaking of, I should really get back to it. Look for it soon as I will be posting it here when I am finished with it!