Meditative Monday: Everything I’d Do Differently If I Had To Start My Writing Journey Over Again (Part 4)

Never Shoot Lower Than My Potential

Underperforming not helpful. I’m not from the camp of thought that one should take baby steps when you are clearly capable of much more. As I decided to take the time to learn about myself I realized something really important.

One, it’s against my nature to underperform. Underperforming is a sign that I now recognize as something I do when I’m overwhelmed, or I don’t like something or if I don’t like someone, or if I’m just bored.

This would often happen when I hung out with friends or roommates and they wanted to do things at a slower pace or maybe start at lower levels than what I was used to. Of course, I still tried to accommodate them for politeness sake, but I always felt like a dog on a leash that’s way too tight. And deep down it never felt right at all.

Now, I understand that there’s a time and place to be patient with others, but I’ve learned that I’m very much a person that needs the space to reach and surpass my potential regardless of whether I intend to or not.

Though being the smartest or most talented person in the room might feel good for the ego sometimes, but to me, it’s definitely a sign that I’m in the wrong freaking room.

And this is something I wish I would’ve known about myself much earlier because it would’ve saved me a lot of wasted time with things that just weren’t right for me.

Understand Why I Do Things

Every time I revisit the reason why I write my novels, I get fired up not just in body but in spirit.

But if you would’ve asked me about why I write it at different times of my life, you’d probably get way different answers.

I think as a young middle schooler starting out, I wrote because I thought it would help me be noticed. In high school, I wrote because it helped me cope with the stress I was going through.

In my first two years of college, I think it was more about ego and trying to be the best. In my third year when I was depressed, it was very much about trying to find the reason why I should stay on this planet. But in my fourth year, it was about growing as a person and having loads of fun with my new freedom in writing.

And now?

I write because I have to.

Not in the paying bills sense or because any outside pressure. Inwardly, I feel like I just have to. If I don’t, I don’t feel right inside. It’s something that I think is hard to explain to the average person or even the average writer because I find people tend to shy away from extremes. Its too “heavy” for them.

I’d call it an obsession, but I feel that’s not quite it. I’m not obsessed with writing in the mad scientist way people think of obsession. It’s more like determination to focus on something through to the end, no matter what it takes or what it costs.

But even more importantly, I think a lot of the reason why some people have so much problems with writing is because they don’t know or understand themselves enough.

Some people have the best intentions to write, but really they just like the idea of writing something grand. Some people probably could write that book, but they don’t see that what’s stopping them isn’t the writing itself, it’s the fact that they make thousands of excuses for why they didn’t do it when they probably could’ve finished it in the time that they gave all those excuses.

But what I’ve found that if your why is strong enough, you’re not going to make up reasons why you can’t do it. You are going to find ways around those blocks you’re having.

And I know I probably sound like I’m beating dead horses around here, but really I don’t know any other way to put it.

I know a lot of people out there will say that writing is hard, but I find myself starting to disagree with this more and more. I think writing is simple. The only requirement for writing novels is that you have some semblance of a plot, characters, some realistic basis, and passing a certain word count. (But if you’re writing a draft, you don’t have to pay as much attention to these! :D) However, all that writing requires of you is to sit down and type one word after another until something is done.

The problems that occur outside of being physically unable to write at a certain moment are usually self-made from our expectations on how things should go in our story. I find these go away when you just relax and let the story just be the story.

More…?

I’m going to keep this one short since my schedule is getting tighter and tighter.

But until next post~

Get back in that water!

Meditative Monday: Decluttering The Mind With Morning Pages

Hey everybody, it’s Meditative Monday again and today I wanted to share something that I tried a while back and hopefully it might help some of you.

So today, we’re going to talk about Morning Pages.

The Barebones Basics

If you’re already familiar with freewriting, you’ll transition just fine. It is still writing everything that comes to mind, but you do it in the morning, preferably when you first wake up.

The twist is that you have to do three pages. It doesn’t matter if it takes you ten minutes or ten hours.

You do those three pages.

Now I often hear that people should do it by hand. Personally, I don’t like writing outside my Writing Sketchbook so I don’t write longhand. Morning Pages and freewriting is not for other people to see, so how you organize yourself and arrange to do this doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

What matters is that you have a way that works comfortably for you.

The Good, The Bad, And The Eh…

I haven’t really found much that’s awful about it besides the fact that when you begin, it’s hard to fill three pages. It was especially hard for me because I’m doing it on a computer and I’d rather not cheat and use big fonts or any cheap tricks of the sort.

But as far as the benefits, it’s still a helpful warm up. And its also very cleansing to get rid of the previous days thoughts. Think of it like a shower for your brain. It’s particularly helpful for helping me get into the mood for my real writing session.

Often times the hardest part for me when writing is getting started, but I often find that once I get ten minutes into it the block that I had just goes away and its easy to just keep going. And I find that this exercise is even more helpful if I’m starting on the blank page of a new scene or chapter.

For me, Morning Pages has replaced my normal freewriting set up, but as with anything I say here how much or how little you want to use this is up to you. But if you have experience with it or if it’s helped you in anyway, I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Get back in that water!

Meditative Monday: A Day In The Life Of An Author/ Artist/ Musician: What Would You Write If No One Was Looking?

Hey everybody, today I wanted to do another Day In the Life post. And for today’s topic, I wanted to shift our focus inward and talk about something that’s been on my mind a lot these days. It’s this idea of being more honest when we write, draw, compose, or just create well…anything.

On Where This All Came From…

You see I’ve always had this feeling before I had the words to express them, but it was finally cleared up for me when I heard about artists that have sketchbooks that are made for the sole purpose of showing people and separate sketchbooks that are just for them.

I was listening to an artist named Sycra talk about how he doesn’t show anyone his sketchbook because he was afraid that it would turn into a thing where he would feel pressured to make his sketches good because people would see them.

And this resonated with me a lot because in both writing and drawing, I often feel the pressure to make things look good or make it seem really epic and huge, even when I’m working on something that no one will ever see.

In fact, I realized that it was hurting me as I was writing my current novel. I’d often mull over my sentences for a while and try to put down the perfect word even though this is just a draft that I know will get changed.

If I had to describe it in words, I’d say it always felt like someone was looking over my shoulder. I’d always imagine a reader’s reaction to what I was writing and this made me stress out over what I was doing even more. And that made everything even worse.

I had a bit of a rough period last week where I felt my writing wasn’t as exciting as it could’ve been. And I was getting sick of it and really discouraged.

So I thought about this for a while and I decided to take a new approach to writing my novel draft. Of course, most of you all already know that I’m a big advocate of writing what you love, so I thought about it from that angle and now when I sit down to write, I ask myself one very important question.

What Would You Write If No One Was Looking?

What if no one could judge you?

What if no one was over your shoulder?

What if no one would bat an eye at your book, drawing, or whatever you’re personal project doing? What if it wasn’t about money or fame or prestige? What if there was no rush for time?

What if it was just about you and what you love doing?

Would you write something extremely different from what you’re doing now?

If so, then there’s a big problem.

And this was a bit of an eye-opener for me. As I realized, that found at times I’d write something serious when I really wanted to write something funny or shocking. Or sometimes I wanted to stop and describe things, but I felt like I needed to move on.

I’m still finding a balance with this, but this approach is helping me get through things much better. And I find that my intuition is willing to chip in more with ideas when I free myself.

But also, in a way, that question is true. No one is looking over my shoulder and criticizing me. No one is ever going to see this draft. So really there’s no reason why I shouldn’t write whatever the hell I want.

But of course, there’s a big elephant in the room that I should probably address…

But My Work Has To Get To My Audience Eventually!

Yes, that is true. At some people are going to see what you create. And those people are going to form opinions about it, and some opinions are not going to be what you like or expect.

But here’s the thing…

When you go to the store to look for something to read by your favorite author, do you open their books and say, “Oh boy, can’t wait to see what I came up with in this book!”

No. Of course not. Because it’s their book.

People pick up your book, your art, read your article to hear what your have to say, not to hear you parrot the words of someone else. Otherwise, you’re just a cardboard copy.

And why get a cheap watered down version when you can just go look at the real thing?

If people are looking for you to be you, why pretend to be someone else? Even if you’re in a situation that’s not the best, there’s still usually a way that you can put your own spin on it. In fact, it’s almost impossible for you to not put your own spin on something, unless you’re following instructions strictly. But even that’s debatable.

So relax and be you.

Write the thing you’d write if no one could ever see it. And be the freest version of you that you can be.

And also get back in that water!

 

 

Meditative Monday: Everything I’d Do Differently If I Had To Start My Writing Journey Over (Part 3)

Develop First And Write Seriously Later

Of course, this can only apply to someone if they have and want to dedicate the time to do this, but I’m glad I had the luxury to just hole up monk-style, explore my style, try new things, and work on improvement.

In college, I was so hard-wired on finishing my novel to get it published to the point where my writing was all over the place, but I missed out on so much time developing as a writer. And my novel missed time on developing too!

These days I think of writing like cooking: if you rush, you ruin the dish. Parts will be runny or taste undercooked. Or worse, make someone sick!

No one wants undercooked food, but ironically we don’t think the same way when we write. If our story world skills or a character making skills are undercooked, it can completely fly over our head.

Of course we don’t mean to do this, but I’m willing to bet you that most writers out there do not practice writing the way a professional athlete practices for sports. But baffling enough, some still expect that they’ll put out the same work quality!

Sure you could argue that they’re “not the same”. Of course they aren’t. But playing a sport is a developed skill. Writing well is a developed skill. Skills get better with practice regardless of what it is.

But more importantly, because I did all this upfront, I’m not scrambling to “find a style” or to figure out what my writing is, or figure out how to portray or describe something. The heavy lifting is already out of the way so to speak. And this actually takes a huuuuge load of my work.

Though this is something that I do wish I paid attention to much sooner.

Do Away With The Idea Of Taking Every Shortcut

You might be thinking I’m mad for this one, but hear me out.

In my school years I used to always be so puzzled on why teachers would always teach the longhand version of things and then teach us the shortcut much later when the shortcut could’ve saved us so much time. And recently I finally understand why.

You see…a lot of shortcuts would be useless if you didn’t understand where they come from. If you’re skeptical, let me try to explain.

Remember in school when you had to learn your basic math? You know…adding, subtracting, and then you get to multiplication and division, etc.

Multiplication and division are pretty much just addition and subtraction on steroids if you think about it. But can you imagine if you were never taught how to add and just taught how to multiply?

You’d have a much harder understanding without that foundation. And even worse, you’d have some huuuuuuuge gaps in your understanding.

And this is what bothers me about products and people that try to sell you on fast ways to do things that take time. I’ve found that all the shortcuts in the world will not save ignorance and poor skill. Sometimes it can hide it, but you’re not going to fool anyone who actually knows their stuff.

Now, I try to always dig into the root knowledge of a shortcut to understand it completely. Or in the case of writing, I just make my own shortcuts so that I know where it all comes from.

And the funny thing is, when you do understand something fully, the shortcuts just come. The brain is good at figuring out ways to do something faster. It’s always trying to find ways to do less work. And when you make your own shortcuts, it strengthens your understanding too!

This is definitely a big one that I wish I knew and that I wish was more emphasized in our “quick and easy” culture.

To Not Rely On Teachers Or Institutions To Be Responsible For My Education Especially In Writing

Another big one.

I remember once watching a video once where a guy was talking and there was one sentence that impacted me a lot. It went like this.

“Don’t let school get in the way of your education.”

And from then on I realized that going to school and actually getting a real education are nothing alike. Sometimes they coincide.

And that I find is a very scary thing at times.

As you all know from last week’s post, I have mixed feelings about writing classes. Those mixed feelings are because of this. I made the mistake of thinking that school would make my writing better or “fix me”. I also made the bigger mistake of thinking that the school was responsible for making me a good writer and to an extent, that books should make me into a good writer.

If I could punch my past self, I would because that is wrong-o with a capital WRONG.

Don’t get me wrong, teachers and professors should teach you things because that’s what they’re paid for. And no teacher should ever get away with false information or flat out incompetence for what they teach.

But don’t pin on your universe on a teacher or a school or a book teaching you anything. You are responsible for what you learn and absorb.

And the other thing is, if you rely on everything a teacher says, you can only be as good as their level. If you learn all their tricks, you plateau and stagnate. If they don’t grow, then you don’t grow.

But thankfully, I was never the type of person to be okay with the idea that my growth  is in any hands but my own.This is why I learn from every source possible. I learn from people, life, meditation, and now I actually learn from my drawing.

For me, it’s really a great place to be because there aren’t any lesson plans, or fancy standardized tests, or checklists, or shiny pedigrees to distract me from the real helpful information.

To Push Until I Get Frustrated With Something

This is kind of goes hand in hand with the taking shortcuts thing.

If you come to a problem and you don’t try to solve it yourself or work with it, just getting the solution handed to you is not going to help. It’s like taking a math test. You might know the answer, but if your teacher specifies for you to show the work, the answer is useless.

But also, sometimes we don’t realize how close we are to the answer we need! It’s a lot more fulfilling to come up with it yourself.

At first when I wrote and I came to a problem, initially my first impulse would be to ask someone what they thought. But I actually grew to not like this method as often times I have to explain a situation to someone and if they misunderstand, I have to clarify.

And I’d often run into people not paying attention, or barely engaging in the conversation, or worst cutting me off and not getting things done at all.  It often made me feel like the people I were talking to didn’t actually care about helping me. And me having social anxiety made things hella worse.

And this actually all lead to the feeling that asking for outside help was more tedious than it was worth. Of course, I know there is still a time and place for it, but now I am much more reserved and much more selective about asking.

But what made this official was a Winnie the Pooh inspired meditation on Calm on the topic Wu Wei, which is basically the idea of allowing things to happen the way they should.

One of my favorite parts is when Tamara Levitt says, “When you work with Wu Wei you put the round peg into the the round hole and the square peg into the square hole. No stress. No struggle.”

This allowed me to go from asking for help to constantly asking myself, “Will this fix itself if I just relax and let it be?”

And since I started this approach, the answer has so far always been yes. It made me actually realize that a lot of issues in writing are self-imposed and caused by expectations that the story is supposed to turn out a certain way.

But more importantly because I work out the problems myself until I can’t go any farther, I now have a better idea understanding of what to do and why something will work and why something won’t work. .

And this actually makes writing feel more fulfilling to me.

More…?

Hmm… I’m actually not sure how much more of this there will actually be. But if there is really more, it will just be there I suppose.

So until next time…

Get back in that water. 😉

Meditative Monday: A Day In The Life Of Being A New Author/Artist/ Musician: Mileage and Disappointment Everywhere (Day 1)

Hey everybody! It’s another Meditative Monday and today I wanted to take a little break to do something a little different.

When I first started this blog, one of the things I wanted was to be able to share what it’s like to go through the process of going from writer to author, but of course back then I was stuck in the limbo of editing and didn’t know how to go about this.

But now since I’m officially published and threw myself to the pubbing wolves, I feel I finally do have things to share and I want to share them because (as far as I know) many authors tend to share condensed stories about their successes and media blows up “overnight success” when really things don’t actually happen like that. There’s a lot of quiet struggle and uncertainty that doesn’t get covered.

I don’t know if anyone can relate, but personally I often wished that my favorite writers would share more detailed stories of what they were doing before they became successful. And I guess until I find that sort of thing, I’ve got to fill that niche myself.

And of course, I’ll talk about my progress in drawing and music as relevant, too, but those will not be as forefront as writing. But I do feel that all art does connect eventually so maybe someone out there might find another’s struggle encouraging.

But without further ado, let’s get to the meat! 😀

BookRunes…

I don’t know how far along some of you are in your writing, but eventually we all come to the point where we have to market our books and let readers know we exist.

I decided to try one of those sites that do email blasts of books that are free and for sale. I’d already settled on BookRunes because it’s cheap at $25 and people that apply don’t seem to need reviews for it.

At first I was super nervous about it because I thought, what if they don’t pick me? Are they still going to take my money? (No they can’t.) When they did pick me I was super excited. I was set for May 25th and every day I was wondering more and more about what to do to prepare.

And when May 25th came around, I was pissed.

The email blast came around and my book was nowhere on it. I was like “wait a minute, what’s going on?” I checked my account and my money was definitely gone. I checked the site and my book showed up there.

Now I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe it was something on my end or something that I didn’t read. Or maybe even that they didn’t put the book in my email specifically because that would be redundant.

But I was left feeling a bit— I don’t know, peeved and confused? Because the site itself is very simple, it doesn’t say anything like ‘oh, this book will get picked for emails and this book won’t’. It doesn’t say much at all actually. Just put in your $25 dollars and we’ll ‘promote’ your stuff.

But it didn’t translate much into downloads, which gave me that suspicion, so in a way, I felt like it was kind of a waste. That money could’ve bought me three videos from a CGMA art course that I saw for cheap.

Though another part of me wonders if maybe it’s just because my book is too new and my niches are really small. Or if Bookrunes’s reach is just small because I don’t think that it’s very old.

I wasn’t expecting crazy numbers or anything, but I just suppose this just serves as a reminder that marketing is a wonky world and that I just haven’t been out there long enough to figure it out. I’m okay with that being the reason.

As one of my favorite artists would say, “Get back in that water! Keep swimming!” >:[

And since that’s an ‘oh so convenient segway’…

Mileage

I really wanted to talk about this because I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I’ve encountered a lot of people who might look at things that I draw or write and say, ‘wow, I wish I could do that’ or ‘hey, you’re so talented’.

And let me tell you, I hate the word talented. I actually find it a little rude.

And no it’s not a thing about being modest or thinking my work is good or bad. It’s because when people say that, (and I’ve had people insist that I am talented) it feels like they’re completely disregarding the hard work behind what I did.

I don’t like the idea that anything I do is somehow ‘magic’ because it creates this false belief that only certain people can do art and everyone else is just out of luck.

I strongly believe that professional level drawing, writing, music, or whatever is accessible to everyone. It’s only when we start asking the question, “Are you willing to put in a shit ton of hours of hard work?” that the real artists start to come out and separate from the crowd of people who just talk and dabble.

Something that I see a lot, are people who like the idea of writing or drawing, but when it comes time to actually hustle and get things done, you’ll get every excuse in the book. ‘I need this fancy software, this novel, this computer, this class, this cintiq and then I’ll get started’.

And so many times I just want to pull my hair out and say, ‘No! Get started first and then worry about those things when you have the skill to actually use them. The tool won’t do miracles for you!’

There are artists that can draw really cool stuff on a napkin! There are writers that can pen a story on a cardboard box. There are musicians that could probably do an entire orchestral piece using just the stuff laying around in their kitchen.

The tool never matters.

I’m learning this lesson all over again as I try to learn drawing from scratch and comparing the parallels to writing. And in the end, I really do feel it is about the mileage (practice). Sure I could give you a list of all the books that I read, but the book knowledge, to me always felt temporary.

I would always read the book, and while I read the book, I’m like, “Woooo yeah, I’m improving!” But then I put the book down and then I feel like my work went back down the shitter. I didn’t stop having this feeling until I took getting mileage more seriously.

And it’s very empowering too because then you realize that your growth is in your hands and not in the hands of a book or a teacher. When you have that, you can accomplish almost anything.

More?

Alright, I think I’ve ranted enough for one day. I’m not sure how often I’ll get to do these as I can’t ever really predict when something will change in my life. But hopefully because I’m doing writing, drawing, and music, there will always be something to talk about.

But until next time…

Get back in that water!  😛

 

Meditative Monday: Everything I’d Do Differently, If I Had To Start My Writing Journey All Over (Part 2)

Grab yo coffee! Grab yo tea! Grab your mouth-holes folks because it’s time for another Meditative Monday and we’re going to continue from where we left off last post, so sit back and do whatever you do whenever you read these posts.

5.) Dem Fiction Writing Classes…

I have very mixed feelings about writing classes. And about the education system in general, but that’s beside the point.

On one hand, I feel my fiction writing classes did not teach me jack-doodoo. This is not to say that they were bad or unpleasant. But I’m looking at this from a ‘bang-for-your-buck’ perspective. And these classes are ten weeks a pop.

I took two so that’s 20 weeks. Almost half a year. That’s too-long of a time to not learn jack-doodoo.

Or learn very vague jack-doodoo.

Now, you may have taken fiction writing classes yourself and think, “But I learned plenty in mine!” That might be true, and that’s great for you.

You see I went to UCI and our creative writing workshops consisted of reading books by obscure writers you’d probably never hear of outside of a college setting and probably could care less about outside of a college setting.

Most of our time was spent reading and critiquing passages, rather than learning any actual writing. Yes, I understand why my instructors taught this way. Yes, we were taught some fancy terms that I have never used or cared for since. Yes, I can see how some find a feedback structure safe and helpful for them.

But the problem I had with this style of teaching is that I had no freaking clue why the instructor was jumping around to all these disconnected tidbits. It didn’t seem like it had any purpose. No ‘why’ factor, or main idea. Now that could just be a matter of my instructors and not the classes themselves, but if I could, I’d tell myself to not take fiction classes to learn about writing as I’d just be wasting 20 weeks of my life to be angry and confused.

Now, you might be thinking, ‘Okay, so you wouldn’t do fiction classes then?’

Here’s the thing…

The fiction classes are still important to me.

Not to learn anything per say, but actually to fail and feel humiliated. I know that sounds crazy. Who would ever go out of their way to feel humiliated?

This girl right here! 😀

But here’s the context… In school we have different levels of writing courses for undergrads. Naturally, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I took the beginner one, then the intermediate one, but the advanced workshop required submissions, so naturally my friends and I were submitting to get in. So me with my hopes and dreams, put my submission together and sent it in.

And then the list came back.

Nope. Wasn’t on it.

Friends and other classmates got on it. Some I understood exactly why they got it, some I was confused as all hell.

So you could imagine how high my salt-levels rose that day. But feeling like the Great Salt Lake City is the actually the good part! Because if it weren’t for that split between my friends getting in and me not getting in, I would’ve never taken my writing skills into my own hands and improved on my own.

This is why I started reading so many books and doing everything I could to get better. And because I did this, I learned that being tenacious is a hundred times more important than being smart or “talented”.

That of course, as ya’ll probably know, got me through my first novel. It got me through that horrifying formatting fiasco I had with my novel, which rose to over 100 tries since I last touched it, (and I wish I could say that’s an exaggeration). Now tenacity is getting me through the next book I’m writing. And it will get me through any other challenge I set for myself.

Though it’s probably not going to be the most popular opinion that I have, I do think that everyone should have their beliefs and expectations thrown back in their faces at least once in their lives. Because something I’ve observed time and time again is that when a person sits in their cushy comfort zone and never do anything different, they stagnate or stay in the ‘just okay’ zone.

Now some people do want to be ‘just okay’ and that’s fine, but they shouldn’t complain when that’s exactly what they get!

6.) Adopt A ‘No Excuses’ Mentality Sooner

Another thing that came out I also learned that if you’re failing or not where you want to be in your writing career, it is one hundred percent your fault.

You might think, “Wait a minute! What about the stuff I can’t control? What if I get sick or go through a crisis? Or go through a depression? I can’t write all the time!”

And to that I say…

Life will be life. And for the record, no one needs to write all the time to achieve success (depending on what your idea of success is.)

Now that I’ve shifted my schedule to practice drawing 5+ hours a day, there’s no time to write ‘all the time’. But you can bet your butt cheeks that I don’t use that as an excuse not to write at all. Because writing is my work.

You certainly don’t blow your supervisor or manager and tell them that you don’t feel like working today. That’s the kind of seriousness I approach writing with now.

I’m very much a ‘do it or don’t’ kind of person. And every excuse, reasonable or not, is still an excuse and still means that something didn’t get done.

If I get sick, yeah I’m sick. I often get spells of dizziness and nausea that sometimes leave me unable to get up from either the bed or the floor. Obviously that’s not the time for writing, even if I could manage it.

But this is not what the ‘No Excuses’ mentality is for. It’s also not for when a burglar breaks into your house, if you have a family emergency, or if you’re going to be mauled by hula-dancing bears.

I developed a ‘No Excuses’ mentality so I would not point at things like Facebook, other writers, my instructors, the way the world works, tv, family and say that they are somehow the reason why I’m not successful.

Even when I was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety, the idea that I should not write because this happened was not valid to me at all. Don’t get me wrong. I understood perfectly fine that the reason why I could barely write anything was because of being depressed.

But one of the things my therapists stressed was routine and to keep writing. Because as I spoke to her about writing, she saw that it was something that made me happy. And journaling is a more healthy way of getting all those negative feelings out and managing them safely.

Writing is the biggest act of self-care I do every day and this is why I’m very ‘No Excuses, No Exceptions’ about it. Even now, if I don’t write, I do not feel okay. There was a time when my mac cable broke and I remember how angry and out of control I felt immediately afterward because I couldn’t write for six whole days. It actually led to me purging a bunch of my clothes to feel better.

Some people might scoff and say that’s nothing and that they’d like the break, but writing means a lot to me. This was the single thing that dug me out of depression. If I can’t write, I’d much rather just check into my tombstone. Because if six days were awful, the rest of a life would not be worth it to me.

And this is why if I’m going through a rough time, I write more not less because it’s that important to me. Not more of my manuscript necessarily.

I feel like there’s the tendency to treat writing as if it’s this ball and chain or a monster that we make every excuse to avoid so we can feel validated when we don’t do the work.

Personally, I’m more prone to dumping and ignoring things in favor of more writing rather than the other way around. I’ve been guilty of procrastinating on essays to write my novel, even when it’s 3 am. I’ve been guilty of ignoring engagements with friends and family in favor of writing. (Don’t be me! Unless they’ll forgive you!)

But if you love writing and are super passionate about it, it boggles my mind why you’d would need some kind of external push or stick-whack to feel compelled to do it. Wouldn’t you just do it on your own? If you really find writing a chore and it’s not required for you, why are you doing it?

Now going back to the bit about emergencies. We can’t stop those, but at the end of the day, no one is buying our empty word documents or reading the empty space between our lines. I’ve learned to just roll with the punches and get back up when I get knocked down.

The emergency part I find is not the part that matters, the part that makes the real difference is your reaction to it. If I constantly pointed to my depression as an excuse to not live up to my potential, I wouldn’t have pushed through and taken my first steps as a author.

Now, when excuses make me some money or get me some fame, I’ll make every excuse under the rainbow.

But until then, I’m writing.

7.) Hell Yeah To Poetry Classes!

Ironically, my poetry classes succeeded everywhere my fiction classes failed.

Concepts were laid out clearly first, and then we nit-picked about related poems. There was a clear link between subject matter and applying our practice.

Also, I got a real treat in the year I took them!

The Advanced course was taught by Michael Ryan, who originally taught and studied at the University of Iowa in that oh-so coveted Writer’s Workshop I always dreamed about. So when I got accepted into the Advanced class, I bounced off the walls.

Also, the poetry classes was around the time I got tired of craft books started to embrace the idea that I should learn about writing from different sources. This was also when I started to care more about writing being fun and enjoyable.

But Michael Ryan hype aside, taking his class made me understand why Iowa has its shiny reputation. A lot of resources tend to be geared toward how to do a certain thing. How to make characters, settings, horror stories, granny pantaloons , blah, blah, blah. And this stuff can be helpful for some.

But the issue is that sometimes this can border into a paint-by-numbers type of deal where you’re just checking things off the list. Where Michael Ryan’s class really shined was in teaching us how to learn from the works that we loved.

But also, we didn’t learn from dry, obscure writers that we’ve never heard of. We learned from writers with actual appeal, some well-known, some unknown.

He also liked to bash us over the head by always saying, “Write what you love”.

I always thought it was funny, but it’s actually scary how much that simple advice gets ignored! Sure we might take a job or something for money and have to lay this aside, but for personal projects? Some people out there genuinely do believe that they aren’t supposed to enjoy themselves when they’re doing a job. To me, that just doesn’t make any sense. But I’m of the mental camp that thinks a) there’s something interesting about everything and b) doing things you hate just results in monkey-doodoo quality.

More…?

I have to split this here, guys. Otherwise, this might end up 3000 words. But until then, keep writing!

Meditative Monday: On Finally Reaching The 150,000 Words Milestone And Some Thoughts On Getting Through Those Stormy Writing Patches

Heyo everybody! It’s Meditative Monday!

Today I’m glad to say that I’m finally over the 150,000 word mark in my new WIP, unfortunately though I’m still nowhere near finished with it yet, but I’m chipping through and making good progress everyday.

Now if you’re concerned about the Everything I’d Do Differently stuff, don’t worry, it’s coming. But there are more parts than I expected so I decided to give you guys a break by not posting them every week.

More importantly, I wanted to talk about the rougher days because let’s face it, we’re all gonna have them. But we don’t have to be absolutely miserable through it all.

So here’s some stuff that might help if you’re stuck in a bind.

1.) Focus On The Scene In Front Of You, Not The Future Ones You Feel You Need To Get To

The problem with thinking about future scenes while you’re not writing them is exactly that: you’re not writing that future scene.

And even worse, you can get caught up in always doing the mental measuring of how far away you are from that particular scene. This can lead to a) not enjoying the scene in front of you, and b) skim writing to just get to the good part. The latter being worse because if you’re not taking the time to write good scenes then is a reader going to take the time to read it?

When I’m having a really rough time, I narrow my focus solely on what I’m writing with a Scene Scan. And in the scan I often have a place where I write down what’s going to happen in the present scene.

Unless my inner panster goes absolutely coconuts, I stay within the boundaries of my notes, and that makes it easy for me to cruise through most of whatever I’m writing. But for the most part, having what you’re gonna write, blocked out in some form does help prevent stopping and starting all the time.

2. Keep Calm And Patience, Patience, Patience…

Always remember: writing is a long-term game with a lot of ups and downs. It requires a lot of patience and that patience needs to be exercised religiously.

The only thing that criticizing yourself or getting frustrated will do is make your rough patch feel much longer and make it much harder to be creative.

What you’re going through is not permanent. It might feel like it, but that is a trick of the mind. Step away from the computer for a moment if you have to.

And since we’re on the topic of taking breaks…

3.) Take Recharge Breaks As Often As You Need Them!

For me, I’m always tuning into how my body is feeling while I write so I can gauge when I’m slacking easily.

For just a simple brain recharge, I usually just meditate in a chair and 15-20 minutes away usually gives me juice to get back into writing.

But the challenge in this though… is to get back to writing from the break and also to not abuse the break system.

Our brain does need to have time to cool off, but sometimes we get more distracted than we need!

4.) Change The Style Of Your Writing Goals

I recently changed from telling myself to write x amount of words to stop all writing at 7 pm.

The major reasons for this was to prevent burning out and so that I could spend the last 5 hours of my day drawing. Also, 7pm tends to be when my family start filling up the house so usually after that time, it gets harder to write.

But the good part about it was that instead of lamenting at my word count goals, I feel more like I’m racing against the clock. I can do whatever I want in the day, but because I have that limit, if I get a lot of work done, it’s great. But if I don’t get a lot of work done, it’s because I’m fooling around. I can start writing at whatever time I want. 3 am? Sure. 3pm. Sure, as long as I’m willing to accept the consequences.

It can be hard to find the right type of writing goals that work for you. But it might be worth the effort of changing things up if you find yourself getting discouraged often.

5.) Rough Patches Are Only Rough Because There’s Something You’re Not Aware Of

Lack of knowledge and awareness one of the top reasons we get stuck in our novels. We don’t get stuck when we know what we’re doing.

Sometimes we plan scenes, but rarely factor in what kind of change our characters will have up at that point. So when we try to write it, the scene doesn’t feel “write”. (Ba-dum tsss!)

Sometimes we don’t know how our characters can solve a current problem, but we’re not looking deep enough at everything around our characters. Our tendency is usually to add something new to solve the problem, but really it will strengthen your story if you can use what’s already there.

When you’re stuck, try taking a deeper look at what’s there first before adding something else. You might be surprised with what you find!


Photo credits to skeeze on pixabay!