Well, I didn’t do much writing yesterday again. I’m seriously starting to wonder if I’ve doomed myself since I can’t seem to make myself actually prioritize my writing. At the same time, I did some wonderful prep for my D&D campaign that lays the groundwork for many sessions to come along with figuring out some of the murky details for the plot arc my players are pursuing. I also fleshed out the DMPC I’ve created to round out the party (weekly attendance is at three right now, so I’m just adding a safety on top of adjusting their encounters) and created a few instant encounters for the environments they’ll be heading through. I should be good on prep for the next half-dozen sessions if we stick to 3-4 hour sessions (instead of the 5+ hour sessions we’ve been doing lately).
I really enjoyed the session, even if it dragged on longer than expected. It gave me the opportunity to insert a random new element to the world and challenged me to come up with something effectively homebrew (rules for an entire new creature type along with the source of said creatures) on the fly. One of my players did the unthinkable and rolled three 1’s in a row on an attack roll, so I gave him the option of accepting the instant accidental death (house rule on three 1s in a row on an attack roll) or taking an unknown other result that could be worse than death but would give him the opportunity to possibly avert the problem. I decided that the sword he used, a longsword with the “vicious” trait (it does damage to him every time he hits something with it but deals extra damage to what he’s hitting), animated and started using vampiric style attacks to suck out the life force of whatever living creatures were near it.
Thankfully, they managed to kill the no-longer sword-shaped aberration (it looked like a 15 foot long caterpillar made of metal) and thus the whole crisis has been averted (for now). However, the addition of this powerful creature to what was already a tough fight (12 zombies and a mummy for a level six party) wound up dragging the session out so that, as 11pm passed and 12am approached, they finally wrapped things up and returned to their basecamp outside the dungeon to recover from their drained life force and wounds. And they leveled up!
This is why I love Dungeons and Dragons. As a DM, it can force me to be creative at a moment’s notice, encourages player participation in story-telling, and a good player will always take the unknown but interesting if they have a choice. I get to incorporate things from other stories I loved (the no-longer-sword-shaped aberration was an idea i got from a comic I love) and I get to see the reactions to my story-telling as it happens. The suspense and wonder, the dread and weary joy, the fear and bravery. I have, and probably will again, write entire posts about why I love Dungeons and Dragons. There’s just so much there to enjoy if you’ve got a good set of players and a good Dungeon Master.
Even if I don’t finish my NaNoWriMo writing goal this month, I’ll still have written more this month than in the past several thanks to my daily blog updates. I’ll have done story-telling I enjoyed every week. I’ll have fully committed myself to creating once again. I still plan to try and I’m confident in my ability to pull the necessary words out of my ass over my holiday next week if it comes down to that, but I think I can already count this month as a win no matter what else happens.
As a human, we can be wildly emotional. All you have to do is turn on daytime TV to see stories and reality shows of people doing incredibly irrational things as a result of entirely emotional decision-making. People who struggle with mental health issues often have first-hand experience in how emotions can entirely overrule reason and common sense. Even if your character isn’t strictly human or not even sorta human, the emotional side of every race/species depicted in story-telling tends to overrule the intellectual side. Write a scene in which your character’s emotional response to an event overrules their common sense or intellectual side so that they wind up acting when they probably shouldn’t. It can be anything from them leaping into action to protect someone, entirely blowing their cover, to them being unable to hold their tongue when they are being chewed out by someone.
One of my favorite musicians, who I listen to for just about every reason in the world (though the most common are because I need to de-stress and chill out or because I need something to make me contemplative but still action-oriented), is Andrew Bird. The absolutely breadth of genres he’s played over the years is surprising and his evolution as an artist is inspiring. He mixes wonderfully calm and meandering music with vocals that match the music but will make you think once you start to hear them past their part in the musicality of the song. He plays the violin, sings wonderfully, whistles, and plays the guitar, often using electronic delay and repeat recorders (they record what he plays when he holds down a pedal and then loop it back until he stops it again) to combine all four of those things at once during live performances. He’s a wonderful showman and an amazing musician. My biggest critique of him is that he can be hard to understand sometimes, when he’s singing, because he tends to blend the vocals with the instrumentals so much. If you need a little push, I recommend looking up his music (live recordings, if you can find them) starting with my favorite song, Take Courage.
If you’re struggling to get your writing done because you can’t focus when you sit down with a couple of hours to work, try breaking your time up into 5-15 minute chunks (10 is usually a good number). Set a timer to go off in ten minutes and challenge yourself to write as much as you can before the timer goes off. Once the timer goes off, record your results, take a short break to get a drink or check twitter (no more than a minute or two, timer-enforced if need be), and then start another. This time, challenge yourself to beat your previous record by as much as possible. Keep repeating this process until your reach or surpass your daily goal. These little sprints will help keep you focused and productive, giving you the bursts of creativity we’ve all felt where we write a couple (or a few) hundred words in only a handful of minutes because we’re very aware of how much time we’ve wasted. This way, though, you get the benefit without feeling like you’ve been failing.