NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 20 (11/20)

As I’ve mentioned previously, the first two weeks of my month had me off to a rocky start. Because of how busy work was and the personal issues I was dealing with at the time, I fell behind my target goals rather quickly and am still working on recovering from that period of emotional turmoil. However, for the last week, I’ve managed to hit my daily minimums every day and surpass them more often than not. I’m not quite writing as many words as I did during my initial word binges, but I’m making steady progress that will see me caught up by the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, if nothing else. That being said, I’m also finding that writing as a whole is easier than ever before. I never would have imagined that I could sit down and, in about ten minutes, pound out eight hundred words. They were easy words, a character monologuing his way through a story he was telling about a cruddy day at work with only a few interjections from other characters, but it was still an impressive moment to see in the rear-view mirror.

The more I write and the more time I spend on trying to create, the more I see just how much I’ve grown since I started my daily writing journey in November of 2017. There are all the skills I’ve learned from having an amazing editor and the better understanding of the English language that I went over in my one year celebration post, but that’s not all. As a result of the year of writing, I am now comfortable with story formats I used to dislike. I specifically challenged myself to practice shorter pieces like flash fiction and specifically paced stuff like serial fiction because I was not good at trying to tell a story in what felt like very constrained formats. Now, I have a ton of experience with them and am looking forward to another year of exploring what I can do in three hundred words. I’m also the closest I’ve ever come to having an edited draft of a story, thanks to the weekly nature of my serial science fiction story, though I imagine turning it into a non-serial story will take a bit more work than I’d like to imagine. I’m sure there are inconsistencies and things I’d like to add to the beginning that I hadn’t come up with until partway through the story.

In my novel writing for this month, it’s mostly benefited me in regards to allocating time for writing and avoiding procrastination. I’m used to setting aside time every day for writing and I’ve created a habit of writing every day to the point that not writing feels uncomfortable. I know myself and my mental processes so well that I no longer fall for my own tricks when it comes time to sit down and work. I know that it might take a lot of work to get started, but continuing to write is easy. If I can just push myself to start stringing words together, the momentum will easily carry me through my daily minimum. There are exceptions, of course. I can’t push myself to write if I’m sick or struggling with an emotional issue, and now I’m better at recognizing when that’s the case. I’ve got a whole history of finding compromises with my mental health so I can avoid the sting of feeling like I’ve wasted the day without pushing myself so hard that I make myself feel worse.

As someone who has been working on writing for the larger half of my life at this point, these skills and this level of self-management is invaluable. Being able to just sit down and write no matter where I am will serve me well if I ever manage to go into writing as a self-supporting career. Being able to work through stories quickly, to come up with new ones at the drop of a hat, and to be able to rely on my creativity to work with me on demand is amazing. It also took an entire year of working at this to make it happen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It is easy to look at someone like me and see how simple it can look to write over sixty thousand words in nineteen days, but this has only been made possible by a decade of learning and a solid year of daily practice. You want to get good at writing? Put in the time. Do the work. Practice. There are no shortcuts, though the starting point may vary to some degree, so just take your time, set reasonable goals, and you’ll get there before you know it. Despite being a really difficult year for a lot of non-writing reasons, it feels like it flew past me as I slowly worked my way from an ambitious idea to the self-affirming conclusion.

The point I’m trying to get at is that writing is more than just one month, even if that month is nationally recognized. Even if this is the only time you really work on a novel, there’s still another three hundred thirty-five (or thirty-six) in the year and everything you do during those days is going to contribute to your National Novel Writing Month project. The more you read, the more exposure to different ideas you will have and the better your own ideas will be. The more you write, the easier it will be to get through your National Novel Writing Month goals. If you really want to turn this story idea into something bigger than a one-month project, you should probably start thinking about what comes next. December first is just another day, sure, but I once decided it was going to be the day I turned a one-month goal I’d set for myself into a one-year goal I thought was going to take a few tries to actually manage. Everything starts somewhere, so start thinking where you want to start.

That being said, there are reasons to wait, too. One of my friends is struggling with her family situation, the demands they place on her time, and a significant degree of burnout I can relate to since she’s never really gotten an uninterrupted break since college. That’s a situation where you need to acknowledge your limitations and pick a time to start after you’ve rested. There’s no shame in needing to rest, which is something I should tell myself as often as I tell my friends.

I’m not trying to force you to make a decision or to have an answer. I tend to make decisions quickly, but I spend so much time thinking about hypothetical situations that there aren’t many realistic scenarios I haven’t considered already so it’s easy for me to just make a decision. Just figure out what your pace is, what you want to do, what your needs are, and come up with a plan. Whatever you do, just don’t forget that nothing happens in isolation and gradually working on something will always yield better results than trying to rush through something quickly. Good luck with your writing today!

 

Daily Prompt

An unfortunate fact of the world is that most people define what they support by listing what they’re against. Hate is easier than love and sometimes it can feel so good to finally be able to score a decisive victory against something or someone we hate. Maybe it’s someone in an argument on the internet admitting they were wrong (I’ve seen it happen) or maybe they finally got Bob next door to cut back his hedges by three inches so they’re firmly on his side of the property line. Maybe it’s even a just hatred and someone scored a major point by standing up against worse hatred. However you want to do it, show us what your protagonist hates and the battles they choose to fight against whatever it is they hate. If your protagonist doesn’t hate anything, have one of their companions do it instead.

 

Sharing Inspiration

One of the first stories that ever made me want to tell stories myself was The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Mostly the Hobbit, because that was one of my bedtime stories growing up, but also Lord of the Rings because it was one of the first stories I read once I finally got over my disinterest in reading. The idea of an entire made up world filled with such interesting characters as you found in Lord of the Rings, the sense of history and weight behind each of the tales told, and the expansive world full of intricate detail that appealed to my much more literal (at the time, anyway) mind. It got me interested in making worlds of my own and trying to explore them beyond the immediate bits you saw when playing pretending or telling a story and that led to my decision to write stories of my own instead of just verbally telling them to my sisters.

 

Helpful Tips

Never underestimate the power of music to influence your writing. The right mix can get your brain thinking along the right track for pretty much any emotional scenario. I’ve got mixes for all of the major emotions, situations, and scenes. I’ve got five different varieties of fight scene music (overwhelming good guy power, overwhelming bad guy power, the hero narrowly prevails, and the death of a hero in both tragic and noble variants), I’ve got music for interpersonal conflict that is not violent (over a dozen playlists, so I’m not going to list them), and all of the emotions with the direction the emotion is heading (for example, sad and getting sadder or sad and getting less sad). I’ve got music for investigations, music for explorations, music for tense moments and near death experiences, and even music for romantic moments, though that tends to vary by the characters involved. I’ve also got playlists for each of the major characters that generally form the auditory backdrop of any moment I’m not focused on a difficult scene.

Music is such a big part of my process that half of my book ideas were born from a song or the mental image from a song. One of my favorites and the one I got the furthest in, “Between Light and Dark,” is inspired by a Vampire Weekend lyric. Their song “Giving Up the Gun” repeats a line: “You sword’s gone old and rusty… …It’s locked up like a trophy forgetting all the things its done.” That one line spawned the tale of an older swordsmen blessed by an elusive god with a talent for swordplay unrivaled in his lifetime who decides he doesn’t want to kill anymore. It explores the erasure of his identity as anything but this ultimate killer and his fumbling attempts to help prevent the protagonist from following him down that particular path, all told in a fantasy setting where the Elves are the evil people. Man, I want to get back to that story. Maybe once I’ve finished “Coldheart and Iron” and “What You Know You Need” I’ll get back to it. Anyway, music is great and you should let it influence you. It won’t disappoint.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 19 (11/19)

I meant to only do my daily minimum and then go to bed, but I wound up staying awake super late as I wrote an extra fourteen hundred words. I hadn’t done much writing yesterday since my ill-fated trip to a coffee shop ended in disaster. Not a real disaster, mind you, just the “I wasted an hour and a half of my time on this” kind of disaster. The place was super crowded, full of kids, and louder than I thought possible. By the time I’d realized how bad it was–it takes a while for noise and crowd levels to permeate my pre-caffeine brain–I’d already ordered a coffee and a breakfast sandwich, so I couldn’t just leave. I had to sit and wait for them to come up, eat them, and then figure out what I was going to do about the crowds and noise. Which was leave. I wound up leaving after trying to write and complaining to my friends about the noise for a while.

I was then going to go home and write at my desk, but I started playing Pokemon Let’s Go and got caught up in that until it was time to run Dungeons and Dragons. I was going to stop it at eight, but they were making such good progress I extended the session until ten. Then, finally, after six hours of Dungeons and Dragons, I finally got down to writing. Except I got super caught up in trying to get my iPod to fully back up on my external drive and subsequently spent an hour fiddling with its settings and some of the songs on it that stalled the backup process. The hour was spread out over three, from ten until one. I was going to go to bed at that point, but I told myself I’d just round my word count up to the nearest thousand since I was only three hundred words away. The next time I checked my word total, I’d written more than a full-page and was fewer than five hundred words away from three thousand, so I just rounded up again and went to bed.

It was an experience. A good one, mostly. I forgot how tiring Dungeons and Dragons can be since it’s been almost three months since I ran this particular campaign, but it felt good to run it again. I missed playing with those guys and the story we were telling. Pokemon was super fun and very relaxing, since it has a lot of the elements of the game that I enjoy plus some new interesting mechanics behind finding shiny or rare Pokemon. The only problem is that there’s a monetary restriction on how much leveling up you can do since getting XP from wild Pokemon encounters requires catching Pokemon. Poke Balls are cheaper than ever, but they still cost a lot and I’ve already gone through over one hundred of them and I only just got to the first gym. The catch combo mechanic the most fun since it increases the amount of XP you get per subsequent catch of the same Pokemon and because it also increases the chance of encountering shiny Pokemon. It will also make rare Pokemon start to spawn if you get it high enough, like my beloved Cabbage the Bulbasaur from the Viridian Forest. I’ll go into it more once I’ve gotten a chance to play more of the game and have the time for reviews on here again.

Honestly, the only part of this past weekend that rankled was the fact I stayed up until two in the morning last night and the absolutely unproductive nature of my Sunday coffee shop trip. The first was good, if not terribly productive, because I got to spend some time with my friend, but the second just felt like a waste of time since I pushed myself to get up and out the door in the morning for what turned out to be nothing but noise and chaos. I have coffee, breakfast foods, and apple cider I can heat up at home. There was nothing I gained by going out except for being able to say I left my home at least once yesterday. That’s valuable, sure, but there are other places I could have gone, other things I could have done that would have added more value that sitting in an overfull coffee shop in the sunniest table I’ve ever found inside a building.

It’s really quite difficult to try to manage my time without descending into panic and neurotically measuring the time I spend on everything in such a way that I never actually enjoy anything I do. If I’m super litigious about how I spend my time, I get stressed out and wind up getting nothing done as all my time goes to analyzing how I spend my time, recriminating myself for wasting time, and breaks from all that to browse the internet since I’m clearly too stressed out to work. If I’m super lax about it, I don’t do anything until the last-minute and wind up sacrificing sleep. It’s funny, actually, since I’m doing a project at work about increasing efficiency and managing our processes so we never wind up pushing up against our deadlines in such a way that we need to cut things in order to make it. I really should treat my life-like this work process stuff, break it down, and figure out what is keeping me from actually making timely progress on any of my projects. It’s definitely not a result of a lack of planning and preparation on my part.

It’s probably the fact that I tend to be impulsive when it comes to spending my own time and I’m the first to sacrifice my own sleep on the altar of getting something done, even if that something is video games. From there, it devolves further because even a single night of inadequate sleep makes the next day more difficult and time-consuming. It reminds me of something one of my professors in college said. “If you do you best work the night before your paper is due, you don’t do any work at other times.” I heard it enough times that it stuck and discovered, in my senior year, that I was way better at writing papers if I spread them out over the course of a few weeks than if I crammed them into the last couple days before they were due. The same is true of sleep. I’ll probably be a lot better at writing and being productive if I’m well-rested.

That’s kind of the theme of my blog lately, isn’t it? “I need to sleep more! But I’ve got so much to do! I’m not doing a good job of staying focused while I work on all of these projects, I wonder what the reason is for that?” I know the reason, I just don’t like admitting I need rest. I also extremely dislike laying awake at night, unable to sleep, with nothing to contemplate but my life, existence, and the universe. That is one of my least favorite things. I even wrote a whole poem about it. I wouldn’t mind a less complicated relationship with sleep, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I hope your day is going well! I hope you’re making good progress on your writing goals and that you’re staying strong as we approach the end of the middle third of the month. We’ve got twelve days left for writing, so keep it up! You’ve still got plenty of time left. Good luck!

 

Daily Prompt

Do the characters in your world us the bathroom? A lot of stories tend to gloss over things like toiletries and waste disposal, but not all of them do. Maybe their use of a bathroom is a setup for someone catching them unawares because people are often are their most vulnerable when they’re eliminating waste. Maybe no one uses the bathroom in your world because that’s just not how humans work. Maybe it’s not really something you care about and just want to avoid it because it’s often an unimportant detour (I’m looking at you, Wheel of Time series. How many times do people need to brush their teeth or hair while they dissect everything that just happened to them? I mean, I usually turn my brain off and just veg while brushing my teeth or combing my hair after my shower to the point where I sometimes hit places twice because I can’t remember if I’ve gotten that particular spot yet. I know a lot of people probably think, but no one reflects on the minute details of the past two weeks of their lives while poking at their teeth with a friggin soft/green twig. Jesus.). Whatever you decide to do, try to avoid inspiring rants like that one.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Lately, I’ve been revisiting an old favorite TV show during my relaxation/recovery hours. Community, an amazing show recommended by my friend Carolyn (mentioned a few days ago) follows the exploits of an unlikely group of study partners at a local community college. They bond over all the things that make them the same despite being a diverse group of races, political alignments, religions, and mental aptitudes/wellness. They struggle with the same kinds of problems we are struggle with when we’re part of a group that spends all our time together and, despite being characters, feel remarkably human. The show is a comedy, but that doesn’t stop it from telling some really great stories about the human condition and how we all just want to connect with each other. Honestly, the first three seasons are some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever seen and, while the show runner was brought back after a disastrous fourth season, there was no real recovering from it. It took two more seasons after that for it to die.

 

Helpful Tips

Being able to manage your diet and caffeine intake is incredibly important if you have a marathon of high-stress like National Novel Writing Month done in conjunction with pretty much anything else. Knowing what kind of fuel your body handles best can mean the difference between being sleepy after every meal or spending all your time between meals snacking. I need a decent amount of protein every day to stay full and empty carbohydrates like most snack foods and breads don’t keep me feeling full for very long, so I try to avoid snacking on anything that isn’t meat. Preserved meats like jerky and the various “snack sticks” are my go-to. When it comes to caffeine, you really need to do some experimenting yourself. Finding out how much caffeine you need for a reaction varies from person to person. For instance, my roommate drinks a cup of coffee and that’s all he needs. He even has to drink it slow to stay sane. I drink a cup of the same coffee and need another. At the same time, he doesn’t react any differently with a soda but I can’t drink soda for anything but caffeine withdrawal relief because it hits me quick and then leaves. Once you know how much caffeine you need, you should set some rules on it and stick to them so you don’t start wrecking your ability to sleep or making yourself unable to function because you’re constantly flirting with over-caffeination.

 

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 18 (11/18)

Yesterday went alright. I got exactly three thousand words write for my National Novel Writing Month project, which was a ton of fun to realize. I hadn’t planned it, but when I went to update my word total on their website at midnight, I discovered I’d written exactly three thousand words. That felt like a good place to stop since I’m not under any particular crunch other than the “I want to catch up before the end of the month” crunch that I’m familiar with. I’m only about six thousand words behind at this point, so a dozen days of five hundred extra words will do it. I know I can handle an extra five hundred words a day, no problem, and I’ve still got thirteen days to go so it should be easily handled. I may try to do more today than I did yesterday, but I’m not going to push it. I’d like to do more, but I definitely need to avoid over committing myself to things like I usually do.

Despite how crazy things have been lately, yesterday was actually pretty calm and normal. I needed that. In fact, my only complaint about yesterday is that I spent most of it with an incredibly sore neck as a result of spending most of my night scrunched up against my headboard. I have no idea why, but that happens sometimes and I always wake up with a headache, sore neck, and stiff shoulders. I should probably look into the ways I sleep and actually get a good mattress, but those are both long-term tasks. Neither of them will be simple solutions since it’s difficult to figure out the physical aspects of my sleep since I’m, you know, asleep for their duration. Getting a good mattress requires a lot of research and some time spent investigating at a mattress store so I can figure out if I prefer more firm or less firm. So far, my mattress buying has been entirely driven by prices and convenience. I’d like to get an actually good mattress just to see if it can help me deal with my various sleep issues. I’ve got enough of them that I’m willing to try just about anything for a while, to see if it helps.

I should probably try “go to bed at a reasonable hour” since I haven’t gone to bed before one in the morning since… I honestly don’t know. It’s definitely been more than a week. I think. A lack of adequate sleep is really bad for your short-term memory so there are something things that have faded from my mind a bit…

I joke. I don’t always check the clock before bed and, without an actual hard number to attach to the thought of going to bed, I lose most of my sense of when it was beyond “late” or “reasonable.” I really should work on not pushing myself below a minimum of six hours a night, since I’ve managed to handle it this past week without too much of a problem but I can’t explain why. Unless, of course, therapy lights help deal with sleep deprivation side effects. Or maybe most of my tiredness from not sleeping enough was tied to my depression and, since the light helps lessen that, my exhaustion levels never got quite as high as they usually do.

Truthfully, it shouldn’t matter. I know I need six hours of sleep a night at a minimum. I shouldn’t be starting these posts at midnight, I should be finished with them and in bed by midnight. I shouldn’t put off my daily NaNoWriMo writing until ten at night, I should be doing it right away when I get home from work. Video games can wait and they’re a bit easier to stop doing. Aside from, you know, that Pathfinder Kingmaker game I’ve been playing that kept me up until three and two in the morning on subsequent nights. That was a really poor choice on my part and I will own up to that. Nowadays, I’m sticking to Pokemon games with a focus on the new one, Pokemon: Let’s Go. It’s pretty fun, but I wouldn’t recommend playing it if you want a new experience. If you want to relive the Kanto region, already own a Nintendo Switch, and can have a realistic reaction to something that resembles something else, in that you don’t immediately hate it because it’s different, you should play Pokemon: Let’s Go. If all of those things are not true, then you probably shouldn’t play it. Especially if the last one is true. No one wants to deal with that, so just avoid the game.

I am optimistic about how much I’ll get done today. Yesterday wasn’t amazing, by any means, but it was a solid day. I’m hoping today will be similar. I’ve got Dungeons and Dragons planned for the late afternoon and early evening, so that’ll be fun. It has been a long time since we’ve played, for various reasons. Some of them have been my fault, some of them have been the fault of one or more of the players, but we’re finally ready to play again. We were at a good pausing point since the party returned to their caravan, so  it should be a relatively painless restarted. There will be hiccups because there always are, but I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to take up a good chunk of my day, about four hours of running the game and at least two of preparation since I’ll need to refamiliarize myself with all the notes I wrote during previous sessions in addition to planning what we’ll do tomorrow. Rough plans are good enough for most sessions, but I need to have a more solid one since this is our first session in a while. The smoother it goes, the more likely it is that we’ll actually get through this chapter of the campaign by New Year’s Day.

Anyway, I hope your day goes well! I hope you’re all caught up on your goals and that you’ve been enjoying this chance to rest and recharge for another week of writing and, for the people of the US, navigating the difficulty that is the holidays. Whatever the problems are, whatever petty bullshit comes up, just remind yourself that you’ve got a story to tell. Plotting and working through scenes makes for a great distraction from the messily unfolding drama that often shows up during the holidays. I hope your day is great and I wish you the best of luck!

 

Daily Prompt

What are your protagonists hobbies? What are they interested in? The things that hold our attention and that we care about influence the way we think. I enjoy video games, so I tend to view most of the stories in my head as a cross between a video game and a movie. I can pause and move the camera around to look everywhere, but the story is happening on it’s own so I can miss it if I look away. It influences the way we talk, the metaphors we use, and how we relate to people. How does your protagonist’s interests influence their interactions with other people? Write a scene showing them bonding with someone over a shared interest or perhaps them struggling to connect with people who are disinterested (or maybe even people who dislike) what they care about.

 

Sharing Inspiration

I’ve been working at this crap for over a year and, let me tell you, believing in yourself will only get you so far. There will be a day when that belief runs out, when you have nothing left to push yourself forward. For those days, I have a few things to remind me that I’m not the only person who believes in me. One is the speech my creative writing professor gave when she awarded me a scholarship for creative writing and fellowship. The other is a birthday card from a good friend filled with heartfelt words. The first I only have in electronic format, but I’ve memorized it so I can recall it at will. The later is pinned above my desk so I all I have to do is look up to be reminded that I’m not working in a vacuum. There are people out there who see how hard I’m working and are excited to see where I’m going to go. Believing in yourself is important and should be your main goal if you’re just getting started. Having someone else who believes in you is super helpful for getting there, though.

 

Helpful Tips

I know you probably have a place you like to write, with a specific ambiance and location, but you can write at pretty much any time. Bring a notebook if you prefer to write by hand, and take whatever time you have during your day to write down some ideas or make a big of quick progress on your National Novel Writing Month project. If you don’t really care how you take notes or work through things, set up a writing application on your phone and just type it out there. I’ve got Google Drive set up on my phone and most of my writing projects are stored as documents in my Google Drive. Two aren’t, but that’s because they’re so big they cause my browser to crash or hang when it tries to do the whole “dynamic saving” thing that google documents likes to do. It apparently doesn’t like anything that passes one hundred thousand words since that’s when it starts to get buggy. But it’s still great for quick edits, taking notes, or having an easily accessible place to do some five-minute bursts of writing throughout my day. I suggest you check it out to see if it will help you.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 17 (11/17)

Well, last night didn’t go horribly. It didn’t go great in terms of writing, but I had fun with my friends and the whole thing was pretty relaxing. Except, of course, for my neighbor and his music. I can’t hear anything but bass through the walls, so it’s not like it’s very loud, he’s just cranked the bass up to the maximum and decided to completely disregard the fact that he share’s a building with people who aren’t his family. I don’t even know how THEY put up with his music. Fun fact, that was the first thing we learned about the people we moved in next to. Their youngest kid came over while I was unloading the moving van and told me his dad likes to play loud music on Fridays. After that, he wandered away like five or six year-olds will. It wasn’t until relatively recently that it started staying on until early morning. Before that, it wasn’t even this loud. The noise of my fan and a couple of white-noise creators in my room would mask it. Now, it’s so pervasive I can feel the bass when I’m in bed. in the past three weeks, it hasn’t stopped before two am.

I wonder what changed. Maybe he got a new stereo with more bass to it. Maybe he’s stressed about his job and is trying to work through it on Fridays with his music. Maybe he just wants to have a good time and this is his idea of one. Normally, I’ve got nothing against people who just want to have a good time. More power to them for knowing what they enjoy. I’m not one to try to stop someone from having a good time, whatever that may be. However, my idea of a good time after midnight on any night of the week is going to sleep. You can see how these two things might be in conflict.

My roommate has agreed to handle the talking part so long as I bake him something to offer as a sign of peace and good intention. I’m glad he’s willing to do that because I would rather struggle through baking something, which I’m not particularly good at (or bad, for that matter), than have a potentially tense conversation. Plus, it doesn’t help that every single one of my mental simulations of the conversation include a lot of swearing and at least one ultimatum per simulation. That’s a good way to get people to dig in their heels or decide to do something idiotic just to spite you. No one wins when those kinds of games start.

Another part of the problem is that I’m now so frustrated by heavy base that it pulls me out of whatever I’m doing when it starts. I got almost nothing done yesterday, from nine until midnight when I finally gave up, because his music was going. Any period of silence was enough to make me pause my music to listen for the potential end of this headache-inducing vibration. Every time it started back up, a small part of me died and my focus was further broken until I couldn’t stay focused on what I was writing long enough to finish a single sentence. It was incredibly frustrating to try to get anything done last night and even putting it aside to do something else wasn’t much help since the constant rise and fall of my neighbor’s bass prevented me from enjoying that as well. Heck, even the event I went to with my friends was kind of grating because the DJ used an adequate amount of bass but even that makes me uncomfortable and angry.

I mean, I was so tired last night that I was dozing off as I wrote and still, climbing into bed to sleep made it so difficult for me to ignore the bass that even my complete exhaustion couldn’t crash me from awake to asleep. I dislike feeling that tired, but I was hopeful that it’d help me get past the frustration of the bass so I could just go to sleep right away. Alas, it was not meant to be. Not even my old standby of “play Pokemon until I hit myself in the face with my 3DS” worked. Only NyQuil. Which sucks because that meant I was unable to actually rest during sleep until it wore off around six this morning. Which meant I immediately work up, of course, because I can’t just go to sleep or even stay asleep.

The upshot is that I won’t have to deal with this until the end of the month. I’ll be away, visiting family, next Friday, so I won’t have to deal with this jerk and his music. By then, my roommate will have talked to our neighbors and gifted them with banana bread, so hopefully it won’t be a problem anymore.  For now, I’m going to focus on writing and trying to get caught up with my National Novel Writing Month project. Having written forty-nine thousand words doesn’t help much if only twenty thousand of them are in the actual project I’m supposed to be doing this month. Twenty-nine thousand bonus words is nice, but I really need to start making some big progress on the novel project.

I’ve got nothing planned this weekend except coffee shop trips, Dungeons and Dragons on Sunday, and kitchen cleaning. Two days is plenty of time to get all that done plus a bunch of writing, even if I’m still pretty sleep-deprived. At least I’ve managed to go three days in a row where I’ve made my daily minimum for word counts. That’s a good feeling, avoiding falling further behind. I’m catching up a bit, too, but so far only about six hundred words over the past three days. It’s totally doable to still finish in time. Even if all I do is write two thousand words a day instead of one thousand six hundred sixty-six.

Anyway, I hope your weekend is off to a great start and that you’re making progress that feels good on your National Novel Writing Month projects. I wish you the best of luck in getting some writing done today and I hope no one rises to frustrate you at every turn like my neighbor and his music have done to me. No matter what, I believe in you!

 

Daily Prompt

Why is your protagonist’s best friend actually their best friend? There must have been some moment, some shared thing that solidified the friendship, even if it was only the weight of the history they have shared. What created that bond and how have they maintained it? Is it something they both work at, or is the bond held together by only one person? Why is their relationship currently the way it is? For today, write about the relationship between your protagonist and their best friend. Show us how they each value the relationship and how their participation in it affect the other. Is it something that’s going to grow stronger as a part of the character growth in your story, or are they going to grow apart? Maybe nothing will change. Give us a bit of foreshadowing!

 

Sharing Inspiration

Some days, it  is difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning. Depression sucks. You know what doesn’t suck? Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Gmorning and Gnight tweets. Been doing it for so long and they’re so popular that he’s got a whole book of them now. Honestly, there are days where his tweets are the only thing that makes me feel like someone cares about me. He’s a stranger on the internet and they’re so heartfelt and he’s so lovely and positive that there’s no doubt in my mind that he really does care and that he really does mean those words for every one of us. They remind me I’m not alone on what is a typically isolating platform. How many people would call Twitter anything other than a distraction or a reminder of how disconnected we all are despite how much access we have to each other? Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets make me feel like we might actually be able to really connect and that the internet might one day actually become a place for community and togetherness like I’d always hoped it would.

 

Helpful Tips

Whether this is your first story or your thousandth, it is always good to remember that you don’t need to get everything perfect the first time. If you’ve got a good idea that you can’t quite capture, just get something down that’ll jog your memory when the time comes to work on it again. There is always time for edits and anyone who tells you otherwise is full of it. There are tons of great authors out there who spend their time making each thought perfect, getting each line into the best possible shape, but that generally means each book takes them almost a full decade to finish. It’s basically ready to go at that point, just like most books, but it took them years to get there. Years that other authors used to create half a dozen or more books. Don’t be like them, at least not yet. Focus on getting into the habit of writing every day and gradually start incorporating common mistakes you notice yourself making or that your readers point out you’re making. It’s good practice.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 16 (11/16)

Last night was a saga for the ages. I settled down at about seven-thirty to begin writing, making sure all my other chores around the place were finished so I could focus on my writing without other stuff taking up space in my mind. I started making some good progress, though it was a bit of a slower start than I’m used to. Around eight, though, I noticed my iPod was acting strangely. Normally, I plug it into my computer and use iTunes to edit playlists and stuff on it since I don’t have it synchronized with my computer. Manually managed in fine with me, since I like having that level of control anyway. The only downside is that it sometimes won’t register because, back around the time I built my current computer and subsequently lost all the data on my old hard drives (that’s a story for another day and involves personally re-learning that wiping a computer using software doesn’t necessarily clear it of all data), some of the data on the iPod corrupted. This corrupted data made it a gigantic pain in my ass to move my music library from my iPod to my new computer since it would crash windows every time it encountered a corrupted file. Which means I’ve spent the last two and a half years tempting fate with eighty gigabytes of music on my iPod that is backed up nowhere else. \

Well, last night, as I investigated why my iPod was acting so weird, I discovered that my daily schedule backup was happening at the same time. Since there was nothing else going on to explain why my iPod froze and iTunes stopped working, I decided to just unplug it and plug it back in. Which is when I was notified that my daily backup had suddenly failed. Looking into that, I discovered that it was attempting to back up my iPod. Which it had been successfully doing until I went ahead and unplugged my iPod in the middle of it communicating with my external hard drive. Excited, I got my iPod plugged back in and started the backup again. I was giddy at the idea that my external hard drive would be able to just copy the data off my iPod and then all I’d need to do is import the file from my external hard drive to iTunes. I started the backup again and went about my business as it slowly worked its way through the weird hidden files on my iPod.

After I checked on it a couple of times without seeing any real progress past a certain point, I put my writing aside in favor of investigating. Surely, it’d be a quick fix. Probably a result of the fact that I interrupted the last backup. It wasn’t. My external hard drive was encountering the same problem I had when I tried to move the files manually. There were corrupted files that crashed windows explorer (which was a significant upgrade from crashing all of windows and, as I found out, is a result of a fix that Microsoft did last summer). This time, though, I could see which file it was that caused the problem. I reasoned that, even if I kept encountering these files, it would still be easier to go in and delete them off my iPod as the backup went through its process than to try to do it manually.

I was wrong. It was not easier. In addition to reset windows explorer and unplugging my iPod to restart the copying process, which is what I wound up doing when I encountered a corrupted file while manually copying the songs, my external hard drive needed to be restarted as well, along with the software that manages it. The only way to truly do that is to restart my computer. As I was resigning myself to living out the rest of my iPod’s days in fear of its eventual death and the loss of my music library, I decided to take a look at the files I was deleting, to see if there was any common factor that would let me preemptively remove them instead of needing to trip over them. Turns out, there was. Some crappy metal album I’d gotten from a friend when I integrated his music library into mine had corrupted at some point, so none of the songs would play on my iPod and they hung every involved software application when I tried to copy them over or edit them. So I deleted every song by them off my iPod.

Buoyed by my success at finding the common link between the files, I started up the backup process again and went back to writing. Twenty minutes later, I was back to investigating since the backup had hung again. What was supposed to be an hour of poking around and letting the automatic copy process of my external hard drive turned into me manually copying every song off my iPod and cramming in what writing I could during the minute I had during a successful copy and paste. I finished it, though, at about half past one in the morning and I even got my writing minimum done. All-in-all, it was a successful night. I’ve copied the music somewhere it will be safe and my iPod should be ready to back up to the external hard drive now. I’ll be able to finally scan and repair my iPod like Windows constantly wants me to do. I’ll be able to restore it like iTunes wants me to. It is done and I never need to worry about it again since I’ll never be so foolish as to rely on my iPod as my music backup.

Even if I didn’t make the progress I wanted, I still made progress and fell no further behind. It may have been weird, frustrating, and exhausting (on account of only getting 4 hours of sleep last night), but last night was a good night. I don’t know how today will go seeing as I’ve got a thing I’m doing with my friends tonight, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’ll have a chance to do my minimum writing before the event and time afterwards to do more if I want. As long as my neighbor doesn’t keep me up with his music again, I’ll be good. I hope today is going well for you! We’re officially in the second half of the month and now’s the time to start hunkering down to work if you’ve been putting it off. If you’re on schedule or a head, that’s great, but don’t get complacent! There are still a lot of days left before the end of the month. Plenty enough to fall behind or catch up still. Good luck!

 

Daily Prompt

Who is your protagonist’s best friend? What part do they play in the narrative unfolding this month? Is it a good part, or are they holding the protagonist back? For today, trying writing about your protagonist’s closest friend and their part in the story you’re telling. Maybe they’re absent and the hole they left in the protagonist’s life is part of what drives them to act. Maybe they’re a voice of restraint and fear when the protagonist wishes to boldly push forward. Maybe they’re a voice of reason and a calm voice to help slow the protagonist down. Maybe they’re wildly emotional and one of the forces pushing the protagonist forward. You have a lot of options and it would be great to see how the protagonist’s closest friend affects the story.

 

Sharing Inspiration

I love art. Good art is like a feast for your eyes, fighting back against brain starvation and defeating the haunting spectre of white (or off-white) interrupted by splats of black in the shape of tiny little symbols that start to lose all meaning when you’ve been staring at them for well over twelve hours a day. No, I’m not going insane from spending all my free time writing and spending all day at my job staring at text because I’m a software tester and there’s way more of that than you’d think. But that’s mostly because I’ve surrounded my home computer with good art and my friend Carolyn’s art features heavily because she has a mastery of color and detail I find refreshing after looking at a text all day. Her stuff also looks amazing on a computer screen, so click that link up there and check it out! Maybe buy some prints to hand around your desk so you can pretend you’re not sitting in the same spot for a couple hundred hours this month.

 

Helpful Tips

If you’ve been working every day this month, then you’ve officially been working on the same project for sixteen days. That’s a long time to be doing any one thing. I know we’ve already gone over taking breaks, going for walks, and getting proper rest, bu it would also be a good idea to take some time to work on a different project for a bit. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I work better if I take occasional breaks to do something else. That’s why I have two projects for this month. If I swap between projects every hour, it is easier for me to stay focused or work through difficult spots because I’ve got something else to focus on while my mind works it way through whatever problem came up in the previous project. So find something else to do that’s constructive an engaging! Build a Lego set! Plan a dungeon! Reorganize your bookshelves! Draw some art! Write blog updates! Whatever it is, so long as it is constructive, just go do it!

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 15 (11/15)

Every morning, as I wake up and stare at the glow of my alarm clock while hoping it isn’t about to start buzzing with that nail-on-chalkboard screech, I begin a routine. Usually, the routine is a series of alarm snoozes so I can pretend dozing off between the alarms on my phone is enough to make up for staying up until two in the morning. Sometimes, the routine is staring at the ceiling as I ignore my alarms and slowly begin the mental process of building my ‘self’ into a person who can deal with the day. Those days are the ones I dread most of all. These are the days that not even momentum can help.

There’s usually enough of me leftover from one day to the next that I can roll from waking to walking without needing time to fix my ‘self’ up or spend time rebuilding my ‘self’ before I get out of bed. But not always. Some nights, it all vanishes in a haze of unremembered dreams whose emotions linger on, leaving me with nothing but the wispy fog of my depression turning whatever solid pieces remain into  indistinguishable lumps. As my anxieties call out from indiscernible locations, I slowly feel my ‘self’ dissolve into the fog until all that’s left is my awareness.

Thankfully, the fog is not a trap so much as the valleys around the mountain-filled countryside that is the metaphor for my self-experience. There are still the heights above the fog and a clear, sunny sky can sometimes break through it as the day goes on, but I must still escape the valley if I want to climb the mountain–I still need purpose if I want to work on my goals. Knowing the heights are there will not help me reach them. I must first build my ‘self’ back up so I can walk out of the fog.

To be clear, there are limits to this metaphor. I am still myself, even when I feel as if I’ve dissolved in fog. What I lose is direction. I am no longer a person with a point or a goal to accomplish. Instead, I feel like a lump of traits stuffed into a body and let loose upon the day. I can function like that without negative impact on my mood or health, but I do not enjoy feeling listless. I am all of myself at all times, I think we all are, no matter who we try or pretend to be, but, on these days of shapelessness, I  am constantly all of myself. I cannot focus myself to a point. I cannot assume an identity. I cannot be a person who does specific things like act extroverted at work or set aside my desire to rest and play video games for the difficult work of writing towards my goals. I cannot be one thing if I am everything all at once.

So I build. I take the central parts of myself–the things I am certain are me–such as my will to push forward no matter how slowly, and use them to create a solid base that I can trust even if it disappears behind the fog immediately. I start assembling layers on top of that, made of my fundamental beliefs about the world and the person I want to be. I call to mind my goal to leave the world a better place than I found it. I remind myself that most people are good and willing to help each other, even if they’re also quiet about it. From there I keep adding layers, using wisdom, experience, and belief to build a ‘self’ that will be able to climb out of this valley, escape this fog, and eventually climb the mountain of my self-experience again.

The last layers, the ones that add depth instead of height or size, are made up of the person I want to be today. It will influence everything, from the point I’m trying to reach in my climb to how I go about climbing my way there. It is not a decision easily made. Will I be quiet and focused? Determined to succeed at my own goals but perhaps a little less engaged with the people around me? Will I be supportive and considerate, taking energy I could have spent on my own goals to do what I can to help people achieve theirs? What does climbing the mountain even mean to me? Why am I doing it?

These are difficult questions, some days, and they require a lot of thinking. I do not always have the time to answer them while I am in bed, so it is often well into a particular morning before I am finished building. Most of my routines are not conducive to the kind of contemplation and reflection required to weigh these questions efficiently, and my job is even less so. But this last layer, the drive and purpose I assign myself, comes from thinking about the questions even if I never come up with any answers. I cannot spend the whole day ignoring it and still wish I could make myself focus on climbing the mountain.

A single day of good construction can last a while, often taking me through the entire length of a climb, but accidents can happen. Rock slides, eruptions, sudden storms. All of them are things that will wash me down into the valley again and the ‘self’ I made doesn’t always survive the trip. In the past, it has never been a problem to pick my ‘self’ up, fix my ‘self,’ and then get back to climbing, even if I wind up climbing a new mountain.

I’ve had a lot of these inclement moments in the past year, in addition to the occasional day when I wake up and have lost my ‘self.’ I am only recently discovering that repeated instances of this make it increasingly difficult to put myself together again, and not for the reasons I initially suspected. I am not losing sight of the mold, I am finding myself questioning parts of my ‘self’ I haven’t questioned in years. There is some value to this, of course, as improvement only happens through some examination and refinement, but there comes a point when any further examination is similar to repeating the word “bowl” a few dozen times. It starts to lose all meaning and what was once a simple word starts to sound alien.

I don’t think there’s a way I can hurry this process without building a ‘self’ that will be too haphazard to survive a bit of rain, let alone a mudslide or blizzard. These mountains are dangerous places and I need to be sure of what I’m doing. At the same time, I should probably do a better job of moving through the first few steps. In twenty-seven years of depression, trauma, pain, love, strength, and joy, nothing has changed my core belief that I want to add to the world. I shouldn’t take that for granted as it could lead me to overlook any cracks or flaws that might appear in the future, but I can safely assume that, if this piece of me is still in good condition, it’s going to be the base.

I can cut down on the amount of time it takes to form the basis of my ‘self’ and spend more time focusing on the more difficult parts. Perhaps I should even take some time to do maintenance while climbing the mountain instead of just pushing on until my ‘self’ falls apart. I have a lot of options worth considering and I know I need to start considering them if I am going to make it through the rest of this year. Or however long this tumultuous period of my life lasts.

 

Daily Prompt

If your protagonist was given the chance to get everything they’ve ever wanted in exchange for giving up on whatever goal they’re pursuing in your story, would they take it? Protagonists rarely have easy lives, so the offer of having their dreams come true could be incredibly tempting, especially if whatever is offering this bargain can show them the trials they have yet to overcome in their journey. Would it be an agonizing decision for them? Would it be a simple one? What would they choose and why? Write a scene today that shows your protagonist facing this sort of temptation, of having a wish granted in exchange for giving up on a goal, and show their ultimate decision. Maybe they use the wish to get the goal anyway. Maybe they wind up making the right choice by giving up on their goal and using the wish to address the source of the problem they were trying to fix according to someone else’s wishes rather than their own

 

Sharing Inspiration

One of the ways I get most of my ideas is from conversations I’ve overhead. Especially at work since I’m usually not listening for them and out-of-context quote are some of the best places to get ideas. Without the full context, things like “Spiritual Hard Hat” and “Cyborg Anatomy” are just so open for interpretation and improvisation that it almost makes it difficult to pick a place to start. Other good places to go for this are malls  and crowded restaurants during lunch hours. Just put in some ear buds in and don’t play any music. You’d be surprised what people are willing to talk about in public if they think they won’t be overheard.

 

Helpful Tips

If you pursue a career as a writer or spend any significant amount of time learning from professional writers by reading what they share on Twitter, you will eventually have to confront the fact that “Writer’s Block” is a bunch of bullshit. There’s no such thing. What is so special about writers that we can have some mysterious condition that prevents us from writing? Patrick Rothfuss has a good bit about it, making the point that plumbers can’t have Plumber’s Block. Sure, there are days when Plumbers just can’t work, but that’s not a result of a mysterious condition, that’s the result of them being sick or injured. The same is true of writing. If you can’t write, chances are good that there’s something going on inside your head that is preventing you from writing. A lot of the time, it’s the result of poor choices like not sleeping enough, not taking care of your mental health, or leaving things until the last moment so the fear of failure brought on by the nearness of the impending deadline cripples you. There are lots of reasons you might be unable to write, but exactly zero of them are “Writer’s Block.”

I’m not saying this to rain on your parade or make you feel guilty. I’m not even saying this to take away a simple explanation for a whole host of issues, much like we say we’re sick when are physical health is below the minimum required to go out and do things with people. I’m saying this because it is a truth you need to confront so you can actually work on healing or recovering from whatever is in your way. If you go around blaming “Writer’s Block” for it like it’s a problem you can only inspire away or wait to pass, you’re going to get stuck there constantly. The next time you think you’re being held back by writer’s block, take some time to comb through your mind and figure out what’s really going on. I promise it’ll be worth it.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 14 (11/14)

Well, yesterday was also a bust. I got a couple hundred words written, but sleep deprivation and the temptation of a new Fallout game coupled with the temptation of the updated Spyro game proved too strong for me. Instead of writing, I played some Fallout 76, got Chinese food, watched my roommate relive Spyro, and then went to bed. That was plenty for yesterday, to be honest.

As you can clearly see by today’s rather late post, today isn’t much better. I’ve been trying to ride the line between cutting down on my goals for this month and getting enough rest to recover from the emotional and stress burnout resulting from the combined week of being super busy with extrovert stuff at work and dealing with the news about my grandfather’s health. As it turns out, the line between then is on the wrong side of “getting enough rest.” and I’ve actually been getting worse instead of better. Unfortunately, it took me three busy days at work and three nights without enough sleep to realize that. At least the last night of not enough rest wasn’t a dumb choice this time. I just couldn’t sleep, which is a frequent side-effect of long-lasting high-stress periods and burnout.

It took a Vlog brothers update for me to realize what was going on, too. I was under the impression that I’d just kick it into gear like I always do during periods like this and eventually get everything done. I can pull of some pretty ridiculous stuff when the situation is right, but I rarely do it when I’m already burned out and tired from previous times I pulled off something ridiculous. Like spending a week talking to people and running meetings every day that should have been spent quietly while processing the storm of emotions that comes from learning my grandpa, who gave me most of my nice clothes and my favorite jacket because we are the same size. Well, we used to be. The same grandpa who loves telling me about his coin collection and who has gotten me interested in the history and stories behind rare coins. It’s difficult to see a future without him in it, even if I’ve always know I’d get there eventually.

I always try to make excuses for continuing my writing. I often say it’s therapeutic, that it helps me work through difficult emotions and complex thoughts that need some adjusting before I can really see the shape of them. What I conveniently leave out every time I tell myself this is that the therapeutic part comes from doing free-form writing exercises, like my Sunday flash fiction, Friday poetry, or Saturday musing posts. I’m not going to get anything therapeutic from working on a story I’ve already formed without putting in the work to significantly change it. Some stories I could work it into, but not either of the ones I’m working on this month. I’d have to change them so much they’d be completely different stories and maybe even different genres. The closest I get to therapeutic writing is the reflection part of every day’s National Novel Writing Month post and part of me feels guilty for putting all this in here since I’m really not sure how much of this you all want to read. I originally planned to write about my progress here and how the writing stuff was going, but I’ve spent half of the month doing almost no writing so that’s kind of a bust.

Maybe the answer is giving up on the romance novel. I’ve barely written any of that, only a couple thousand or so words, and I’m already planning to rewrite those words entirely so it would make sense to just stop trying to do that. I already gave up on trying to do Coldheart and Iron posts every Tuesday, still. I did, however, just shift my plans so I’d do four Coldheart and Iron posts ahead of time, to be posted from December first to December fourth, so I’d be entirely caught up as of that Tuesday and so I could take a break to rest up from a month of writing like crazy. I don’t want to stop the blog because I’m really proud of my consistency here. Daily posts. Even if the post is going up at half an hour before midnight because I almost forgot and had a wedding, so all I could do is copy and paste a poem I’d been saving for an emergency into the WordPress app on my phone and then post it without fixing the weird crap WordPress does to my typical poetry formatting. This matters to me. I’ve done a year of posts, but I’d still like to be able to say “I did this thing for the entirety of 2018.” I’d also like to say that about 2019. I wouldn’t mind being able to say that about every year. It’s kind of a big deal and I can’t imagine it not having a positive impact on my life. Plus, I don’t really want to be one of those writers who lands a publishing deal that allows me to support myself on my writing who then stops doing stuff like my free blog.

I love writing. I love stringing words together and turning my ideas into stories. I love sharing my writing on the off-chance that it could help someone else and I love having a place to put this stuff that makes me feel seen, even if it’s only by one person in a day. I’d love to be able to throw sense to the wind and just pump out the rest of my writing goals in the seventeen days (counting today) I have left in the month, especially because I know I could probably do it. I also know the burnout would be catastrophic unless I took more time off of work and I really can’t afford that. Next week’s time away from work for US Thanksgiving won’t be the break it usually is, either, since I’ll be spending more time with family on account of my grandfather’s declining health. It’ll just be another weekend. My last weekend to make up for any lost time.

I have a lot of really good reasons to dial down my goals, especially considering I’ll still break ninety-thousand words this month even if I just stick to my blog and my National Novel Writing Month project. That’d be a new record of words written in a month for me, which is an admirable goal in its own right. I still want to throw my trepidation and good sense to the wind by stubbornly declaring I’ll stick to my original goals, though. Even now. I’ve actually deleted the words I wrote saying that. I need to rest and, as much as it pains me to say it, I don’t think I can do everything I said out to do this month. Just the thought of trying to do everything is overwhelming, and being overwhelmed takes more time than I’d like to give it.

This feels a lot like defeat, but it isn’t. It’s a chance to actually succeed without hurting myself. It’s going to take a lot of mental repetition to make that thought stick, but it’s true. I hope your goals are going better than my original ones are. I hope they’re going as well as my adjusted goals are, since I’m not far off track when it comes to those. Either way, I believe in your ability to do this and I wish you the best of luck today and tomorrow.

 

Daily Prompt

Failure is a part of life. Failure also makes for good stories because most people find characters who do nothing but succeed to be rather boring. There are a thousand proverbs and parables about learning from failure but success is often seen as the end of the road. That being said, failure can be difficult to overcome or to work through, and some people are better at it than others. How does your protagonist handle failure, big or small? If they fail, are they pushed on to try harder next time or do they feel defeated or beaten? Show your protagonist responding to failure (you can include the part where they fail, but that’s not necessary) and how it informs the way they decide to move forward in your story.

 

Sharing Inspiration

If you want some more examples of excellent storytelling, then you need to check out Hamilton. This musical is one of the best, most-clever bits of writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness and the musical itself is a work of absolute beauty. The lyrics and music are stunning, constantly referencing itself, foreshadowing future events, and so damn catchy I still haven’t gotten the music out of my head three months later. Not that I want it out, either. Even though it’s pretty sad in the end and it feeds into one of my biggest fears (of never having enough time), I still can’t stop listening to it. This is one of those things that marks a turning point in the way the world functions. After Hamilton, musical theater has a whole new dimension to it and anyone going for the standard “classic” stuff is missing out on the brand new world Lin-Manuel Miranda has opened our eyes to.

 

Helpful Tips

I have a really bad habit of keeping snacks and drinks on hand for when I’m writing. Which generally means keeping them on hand as distractions from writing since I usually avoid any potential for getting my keyboard messy or wet, which means stopping my writing so I can have a snack while browsing twitter on my phone. This is a bad habit since it tends to promote both overeating and procrastination. It distracts me from getting words written and adds to what is typically a rather sedentary month for me since I work at a computer in my day job and then go right to my computer after work. Today’s tip is to find something that replaces the desire to snack with something more useful. I’d suggest gum, but I can’t stand it. Instead, I keep a bag of sourdough pretzels nears my computer. Since they have no dust or crap that sticks to your fingers, they’re safe to use with a keyboard. They’re also salty and really dusty, so they’re not something I can eat a lot of in any short amount of time. I’ll eat maybe two during a few hours of writing, which is a single serving. They also make me thirsty, which is where my gallon jug of water comes in. I drink about one of those an evening which keeps me well hydrated and makes me want to focus so I can get stuff written between hourly trips to the bathroom to deal with the excess liquid. It’s a process and it works for me, since it cuts down the crap I consume and it helps me maintain my focus on writing more. I don’t know if that’ll work for you, but exploring the ideas wouldn’t hurt.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 13 (11/13)

Well, I wound up not doing much writing last night. I was going to play a game, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, for a couple of hours and then get down to writing, but then it was almost midnight and I’d written nothing. So I wrote a bit so I could maintain my National Novel Writing Month streak and then went back to gaming. Between the last two nights, I’ve gotten about seven hours of sleep. Needless to say, I’m no longer allowed to play that game on week nights. It’s too addicting. I literally made excuses to keep playing for just one more quest/fight/look at the kingdom map/trip to the shopkeeper to sell something I decided I didn’t need from seven until one thirty in the morning.

Today, Fallout 76 comes out and I get a long anticipated book, Seth Abramson’s Proof of Collusion, so I’m going to be doing my best to stay focused and writing tonight. We’ll see how it goes, though. I have been using a therapy light at work and its been helping enormously, but it can’t exactly make up for the low amount of sleep I’ve been getting. That being said, it’s been helping far more than I anticipated or even hoped. For example, it’s telling that I forgot there was a difference between being tired from not getting enough rest and being tired because I’m incredibly depressed. I now remember what the difference is and feel more capable of handling my lack of sleep because I’ve been spending thirty or more minutes every morning with the lamp on while I do stuff on my work computer. I like it so much I’m going to be getting myself one for home use since I do not want to be without the incredible benefits of this device. I’m willing to bet some of this is the placebo effect, but it’s such a big change that I can’t write all of it off to that. It’s like night and day. I was down and ready for a long week of feeling depressed on Monday morning, but then I plugged in the therapy lamp.

If you can spare the money for one and struggle with depression that is generally worse in the winter months when you’re getting less sunlight, I suggest getting one for yourself. If you suffer from any kind of Seasonal Affective Disorder, I suggest getting one of these therapy lights. It’s really helpful and the UV protected ones don’t hurt your eyes if you wind up looking into them. I’m still figuring this whole thing out so I can’t speak to all of the benefits since I’m having trouble pinpointing exactly how it makes me feel, so I’ll probably write about this again sometime. Plus, I want to give it some time to see its effects in the long-term.

I’ve had so much going on lately that I really enjoyed being able to set everything aside to just play video games for a couple of days and there’s still a part of me that wants to keep doing that since writing for any length of time is hard work. With my grandfather, the changing seasons, the slow shift of my country’s government toward authoritarianism, the uncomfortable truth that we’re probably dooming our planet, and the unfortunate truth of life that every relationship I have won’t necessarily be what I want it to be no matter what I do, I’ve had a lot of big subjects on my mind. Video games are a way to escape them and writing, for me, is a way to come to terms with them. To process them. Which means it’s a lot of work to write anything because there are all these weighty emotions struggling for attention inside me and I need to be mindful of their influence so I can address them properly instead of having them spill into everything. I just feel like my mind is pretty cluttered right now and trying to pull out the right bits for writing is taking a lot more work than it usually does. It’s really tempting to not do that work and focus on resting instead. It’s also probably healthy to do that since I probably need an extended break from all of this writing and day job stuff since I use a break from one to focus on the other or just try to jam both into every day of my life.

As I told someone this morning, my main trait is will power. If it’s an absolute thing, like posting or writing every day, I can do it. I talked with them about this other thing in a more complimentary light originally, but further reflection has made it pretty clear that, tied in with the will power thing, my main vice is obsession. Surprise, the guy with severe OCD tends to get obsessed with things easily. I can make it work for me, usually in the form of making me stick with habits no matter how difficult or tiring they sound at any given time, but there are times it gets out of hand. Any time I push myself too hard with my writing or my work, any time I get too focused on details or minutiae, any time I get a dumb thought stuck in my head, that’s the obsession. It’s also why I have a hard time relaxing or doing nothing. It’s why I never just take vacations. I mean, I haven’t taken a day off of posting or writing in over a year. That’s a long time to go without a break. I’ve tried to get a blog post buffer set up so I can take a few days off of writing, but I always wind up writing anyway.

I don’t really have a conclusion here, I’m just trying to be more honest with myself about the positive and negative aspects of my life and how I spend my time. It’s almost as if I’ve had to confront mortality lately. Sure, it’s indirect, but it’s there. Nothing lasts forever and I want to make sure I’m acting in my own long-term best interest without (and this is the new part) making too many sacrifices here and now. The long-term is great, but nothing is worth three years of misery or living like a pauper or constantly engaging in a vicious cycle of burning myself out and subsequently crashing until I’ve recovered just enough to start working again.

Sorry if you came here looking for something upbeat or positive. I’ll pencil that in for later this week once I’ve gotten more sleep and untangled the web of emotions and thoughts that’s tying me up right now. I hope your month is going well, though, and today especially. I hope your writing goals are going swimmingly and I want to remind you, as I’m constantly reminding myself these days, that goals are important since they give us something to strive for, but make sure they’re something within reach and don’t be afraid to reassess if something changes your reach. Good luck!

 

Daily Prompt

Everyone needs to blow off some steam occasionally. Stress tends to build up rather quickly when you’re the protagonist of a story. How does your protagonist try to relax when it seems like they’re drowning in stress? Do they even get a chance to catch their breath, or are they constantly being harried and unable to take a break to get themselves in order? Write a scene in which your protagonist tries to relax. Whether they succeed or not is entirely up to you, but show us how they handle their stress and their success or failure since a failure is bound to only make them feel worse and success could give them an opportunity to reflect and grow.

 

Sharing Inspiration

One of my all-time favorite books is “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss. In terms of complex and skilled writing, I’d rank him near the top of all writers I’ve ever read. I’m willing to concede this is just my opinion, but I could make a strong argument given the foreshadowing, complexity of storytelling, and just how much information there is that could be foreshadowing but maybe is just world information. We don’t know yet! The story isn’t finished and there’s just so much left to resolve that it’d be impossible to wrap it all up in just one book. There’s no guarantee that all of it will get wrapped up or nicely tied together, but I can hope. I love his writing because it gives me something to aspire to as a writer.

 

Helpful Tips

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. Trying to work through a difficult passage? Grab a book that does something similar to what you’re trying! Not sure if what you’re trying to convey is coming out in your writing and it’s a big enough thing that you want to get it worked out right now? Find an alpha reader! Share your work with them and get their thoughts! Not sure how to move along with the current scene and unable to figure out where you can skip ahead to? Ask other writers for advice or suggestions! My inbox and the comments on my blog are always open if you’ve got questions or just need someone to talk to who gets the struggles of writing. There’s nothing wrong with opening up a bit to dump out some of the stuff going on in your head. That’s part of why I write this blog. There are many reasons, of course, but it’s super helpful to have a place I can dump all this out. I can’t promise I’ll always respond right away, but I can promise I will eventually respond.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 12 (11/12)

Well, I had a marginally effective day yesterday, despite deciding at 10:45 pm that I was just going to do maybe two hundred words of writing so I could keep my daily update streak going on the National Novel Month writing website. I wound up doing ten times that in about an hour and then decided to also write the blog update for today before going to bed as well, instead of waiting until the morning to do it like I’d planned when I’d decided yesterday was going to be a low-key day. Honestly, I really needed it. Yesterday was the only day I had that wasn’t stressful in one way or another since I got news that my grandfather’s cancer was back in a way that meant all the treatment options were more about making him comfortable rather than curing him. Also, I did enough processing around the video game playing to finally get my feet under me and get myself to a place where I can be open about what’s going on. All thing’s said and done, yesterday was a really productive, good day for me.

I was supposed to go back to my alma mater for the yearly important event for my social group (a fraternity that only exists at one college, basically). I decided I didn’t have it in me to spend six hours driving, three of which would have started around the same time I started writing today’s blog post. The worst part, aside from missing the event that was the reason I joined the group and continues to be my favorite part of the group, is that I suggested a group education activity for the active members of the group (the ones still in college who pay dues) that was supposed to happen today. It was supposed to be a talk about mental health focused on suicide prevention and how to support people who are struggling with their mental health. As someone with a lot of experience with both of those things and tons of personal experience with the latter, I was planning to be there as sort of “witness/personal experience” voice to help bridge the gap between the actives and the alumni who were sharing their professional experience working in the mental health industry. I’m sure they managed it quite well on their own, I have the utmost faith in the people who volunteered, but I was looking forward to a more literal approach to what I try to do here on this blog.

I’m not famous in the group or anything, but people who are active still feel the effects of some of the stuff I did while I was active (namely, I created a new position in the group and gave it such a rich fake lore that everyone just assumes it has been around for forever). It would have had a humanizing effect on a lot of the stuff the professionals talked about. I probably could have also shared some coping strategies because I’m great at those. Mostly, I would have answered questions and talked about what to do when nothing is working and you don’t know what to do next. I have a lot of experience with those moments, both in my personal life and as a member of the group that people went to when they were struggling.

Instead of doing all that, I took my own advice and spent a bunch of time and energy on my mental health. I did laundry, tidied up my room a bit, made myself a delicious meal, and played several hours of Pathfinder: Kingmaker. I also spent some time with my pet bird who is finally, after almost three years, starting to want to interact with me. I pushed my face up against her cage, my latest approach to trying to get her comfortable with physical closeness since she’s finally grasped the idea that nothing can get through the cage to her unless I open the door, and she came right over to me. She’s never done that before. It seemed like she actually wanted to be right next to me. She even went so far as to nibble my nose a bit and pull at my beard hair. It was adorable and the most time she’s spent in close physical proximity to me in the entire time I’ve had her. I wouldn’t be surprised if she spent more time voluntarily that close to me yesterday than she’d spent in all the months between when I got her and yesterday. It was a sweet, touching moment that reassured me that I still have a reason to keep trying to coax her out of the terror PetSmart instilled in her of every person who walks by her cage.

Yesterday was a good, relaxing day. I need more of those. It was nice to be able to get to a point where I wasn’t writing because I felt I needed to keep an obligation to myself. I actually chose it over the game I had running the background for an hour and a half. My poor computer, forced to split its attention between the game and greedy Chrome. I could hear its poor fans working to keep up with the processor demands of holding the game in stasis while I wrote in a web browser notorious for using extra processing power with a program that dynamically saves in such a way that it makes the browser’s load even heavier on the computer. I’m just glad everything ran smoothly.

I hope today is a good day for you! I hope you find the love of writing that lead you to this challenge and that you’re able to continue working with a renewed love for the craft as we work our way through the middle third of this month. We’ve got eighteen days left still, plenty of time to catch up if you’ve fallen behind. Just take your time, keep working every day, and you’ll get there. Good luck!

 

Daily Prompt

Everyone has pet peeves. My roommate’s pet peeve is people who make noise when they eat. One of my coworker’s pet peeves is when people ask for his help on something and then they let him do it all himself instead of assisting. My pet peeve is people piling dirty dishes on the side of the sink where we put the clean dishes. Does your protagonist have any pet peeves? If so, how tolerant are they when it comes to other people when they play into the protagonist’s pet peeve? Do they blow up or do they brush it off? Or do they just complain about it to a third-party and never address it with the person annoying them? Write a scene showing us how they’re respond to a pet peeve.

 

Sharing Inspiration

One of my favorite video games of all time is Majora’s Mask. I’ve written an entire blog post about it, which isn’t saying much, and I’ve considered using it as the basis for a master’s degree creative writing focused on storytelling in visual mediums like TV shows and video games. The complexity of the story is inspiring, especially considering they had one year to make and release the game and used mostly visual assets from the prior N64 Legend of Zelda game, Ocarina of Time. Time travel, the chance to reflect on and fix past mistakes, the opportunity for growth, and the final lesson that you ultimately need to move forward if you want anything to really change. It’s also one of the best stories about mental illness I’ve ever seen, let alone seen in a video game, so there’s that, too.

 

Helpful Tips

Everyone talks about finding the right music, or the drink snack, or the right drink, but few people talk about the right keyboard. The steady pound of keys is just as much a part of the soundscape of your writing environment as the music you pick to play. Something like a squeaky spacebar can entirely ruin what is otherwise a pleasant experience. The “chakt” of a mechanical gaming keyboard can really start to grind after a while. I don’t know how some people do it. Even my roommate uses a different computer to do most of his writing for his classes. He uses a laptop instead of his comfortable chair, custom keyboard, and top-notch headphones. Membrane keyboards may not be as cool or as fun as mechanical keyboards, but they make for a much better typing experience in my opinion. Everything from the sound to the feel of repeatedly pounding keys is superior. Plus, I’m less worried about breaking it. That’s my own paranoia, but it’s part of why I take special care to only buy keyboards I can use in a store first or that I’ve previously owned. I’m on my second iteration of my current keyboard. The squeaky spacebar drove me nuts for six months before I broke down and bought a new one.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 11 (11/11)

Well, yesterday was a bit more productive than the last few days have been. I was super wiped by the time midnight rolled around so I didn’t stay up much, but I still got plenty done. I’m only scratching the surface of making up for the days I’ve barely written anything, but I’ll take any progress I can get right now. I need to get the ball rolling again and last night went a long ways towards that. Hopefully, but the time this posts, I’ll have gotten some more writing done, but who knows. I am dozing off as I write this, so it’s entirely possible that I wound up sleeping in super late to make sure I get a full eight hours of sleep. I need it pretty badly at this point, thanks to spending the day helping my friend move and my neighbor playing really loud music again until well past midnight.

I did most of my writing in my National Novel Writing Month project, “What You Know You Need,” instead of in the romance novel. I need a good deal more clarity to figure out how I want to restart that but being half-asleep makes it a littler easier to keep the worlds rolling on a project that’s better established, like “WYKYN.” As long as I don’t actually fall asleep, being half-asleep means getting more words written because the aware parts of my brain shut down a bit. My fingers know my keyboard well enough that I can maintain my typing pace easily enough, even with my eyes closed and my mind approaching dreamland. I can’t always understand exactly what I meant when I review whatever it was that I wrote, but it usually sounds pretty interesting. Take, for instance, the original end of this paragraph that I wrote while falling asleep last night. “but I can be surprisingly coherent most of the time, when it comes to killing stuff and staying alive.”

Classic sleepy Chris writing. If I was writing anything other than a blog post for tomorrow, that would be great. I’m pretty sure I was thinking about the video game I spent most of yesterday’s free time playing. That’s all I’ve played lately when it comes to killing stuff and staying alive, so that would make sense. Well, as much sense as any of this makes.

When it comes down to it, all I’m really trying to do every day is get more words written. I try to avoid staying up so late that I start to feel loopy and in danger of falling asleep at my desk, but sometimes I’ve just got a lot of momentum going and I want to get just a few more words in. I was making such good progress on “What You Know You Need” and I’ve finally gotten through a difficult scene so I just kept writing until I’d eventually done two thousand five hundred words for the night. That’s a good number to end on for a day of getting back into the swing of things, you know. I’d also dozed off in my chair three times, but I still got my words written and they seem to make sense so far. I then wrote this post and dozed off another handful of times, but I still got it done in what I hope is a sensible pattern.

Anyway, I hope day eleven of National Novel Writing Month is going well for you. I hope you’re getting enough sleep and taking care of yourself. I hope you’re making progress on your goals, at least, if you wound up deciding to forego sleep for more writing like I did tonight. Whatever you’re doing, good luck!

 

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Daily Prompt

The idea that you need to appeal to the five senses is just as much bullshit as every other writing rule (they’re more suggestions that rules since none of them apply absolutely), plus a little bit all its own. There are way more than five senses and you can really add to the reader’s suspension of disbelief (the way readers voluntarily choose to believe the story you’re creating) if you appeal to them. Sense of balance is a good one. The sense of where your hands are when your eyes are closed that lets you touch your nose on the first try. Sense of temperature, sense of the passage of time, sense of thirst or hunger, even! Throw in as many senses as you can! But not all at the same time, or else you’re going to be slowing down the story a lot.

 

Sharing Inspiration

As someone who tends toward negativity in my internal narrative, I often turn toward upbeat music to help shake me out of it or get me working on stuff when I don’t feel like doing anything. My favorite musician for that is Kyle Andrews. His music is reliably upbeat and even the slower stuff still has a cheerful vibe to it. Even when you start listening to the lyrics and realizing the cheerful Christmas song is about breaking up with your girlfriend and burning everything she ever gave you to fight off the chill you feel as a result of her treatment of you. It’s great! They’re clever and actually thoughtful songs, on top of all that. They very much adopt the attitude of “this is bad, but that isn’t the end of the world” and I need that sometimes. There’s even a song literally about that. Check him out if you need that. Or just want some good electronic pop/rock.

 

Helpful Tips

There are a lot of things that get in the way of writing every day. Some of them are the unfortunate requirements of life. Things like your day job, paying bills, doctor’s appointments, and grocery shopping all need to happen no matter how much writing you have to do still. Identifying these things and building time into your schedule for them can go a long way to mitigating how interruptive they can be. The biggest problem involved is actually figuring out all of the things that interrupt you or take time away from writing. The best way to find these things is to journal your days. If you keep a careful record of what you do and how it impacts your schedule over the course of a few weeks, a pattern will eventually emerge that could give you some interesting insight into how your mind or days work. For instance, my neighbor playing loud music late at night has the most impact on my schedule since it essentially renders me useless for the entire day after he does it. On the other hand, trying to play Pokemon Go actually makes me more productive because it’s something distracting that gets me out of the house for some exercise every day. Thanks to three months of journaling, which has used up half a notebook, I’m finding a lot of interesting patterns in my life. I hope you find some as well if you take the time to journal.