NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 30 (11/30)

Yesterday was pretty not-great. The minute I got into work, I had a coworker calling me to talk through a conversation we’ve had over a dozen times before that always included going over the same points at least twice per conversation. We talked for an hour and it drained the life out of me. All of today, from the minute that call ended, to now has been a pale imitation of the day that could have been if I’d only not talked to him today. Or if he wasn’t such an obstinate, obstructionist jerkwad who refuses to apply himself to the new processes I made for our team, specifically keeping in mind the issues he has always complained about. He, more than anyone else, stands to benefit from this new process the team is adopting and he is likely going to be the reason it fails should it eventually fail. It will only work if everyone pulls together and he is doing his best to pull in every direction but the one the rest of us are pulling it. It’s incredibly frustrating and it feels very defeating to have him constantly need the same questions answers, the same points rehashed, the same talking point discussed ad nauseam.

I’m not kidding when I say it ruined my day. I talked to him before I even had breakfast or my morning caffeine. I still got stuff done yesterday, but I know I could have gotten so much more done if I’d just ignored his call or worked from home where he couldn’t reach me. I’d have gone to dinner with my friends and then come home to write instead of going two important errands before coming home to collapse on my bed until my roommates brought pizza home. Even if I did pause to talk with them or check out the movie they were watching, I would not have stayed to continue watching it until almost ten because it was almost impossible to make myself get off the couch. I wouldn’t be struggling with the same sense of creeping dread, exhaustion, and failure that I felt last night. I’d have a new one or none at all. It’s difficult to tell just what my day might have been without the call first thing in the morning, but I can’t imagine it could have been even nearly as bad as today was.

I mean, it wasn’t that bad. Not objectively, anyway. No one died, my physical health is unaffected, my financial stability is the same as ever, and so on. But my mental health is in tatters because it has been ragged all month and this repeated conversation has been preying on a lot of anxieties even before we had it again today. Today just pushed it from a frustration to a feeling of never being able to do enough to make my process work and having to watch it all fall apartment as one person does his best to rip it to shreds because he lacks the vision to see beyond today or the open-mindedness to listen when I explain. It is so frustrating to watch something I spent over a year working on fail because the person I made it for can’t pull his head out of his ass long enough to appreciate how change could be a good thing.

Stuff like that is some of the most soul-draining stuff that can happen to me. I enjoy making things and I do make a lot of things for my own benefit, but I also like to make things with the idea of helping other people. To have someone pretty much throw away something I made to help them, something I have worked on for a long time, something I have spent dozens of hours talking to them about, something I told them about that got them feeling like maybe things could be better, it makes me want to stop making things. I have used my most valuable resource, my time, to create something specifically for them and they not just threw it away or didn’t use it, they brought it back to me and said it was making everything worse for them when they haven’t even given it a chance to work yet. Normally, after something like this, I’d just go home, play video games, and put off any kind of creativity for as long as I could manage. Even as I wrote this post, as I spent what I could salvage of my evening yesterday, the little voice inside me has gone from asking what the point of this is to saying there is no point and all I’m doing is taking my time and throwing it away, one second at a time.

It’s absolutely crushing.

But I’m stronger than it, now. I may feel as flat as a piece of paper, but even a piece of paper can be used to create three-dimensional art if you know how to fold it right. Since I am the paper, it hurts a bit to fold myself into something, but it still feels better than lying around in a pool of self-pity. I don’t feel like writing, but I’ve been doing it anyway because I want to write. I want to be able to go to sleep around midnight tonight feeling proud of just how much I’ve accomplished this month as I think about the two goals I completed. I’m only a couple thousand words away from having written one hundred thousand words in a single month. I’ve written almost thirty thousand of those words since Sunday, since I dug deep, processed all my own bullshit, and figured out how to keep working through the pain of my Grandfather’s failing health, the stress of the holidays, and the determination of my own brain to get in my own way as much as possible. These have been some painful days, but I’m trading short-term comfort and rest for long-term accomplishment and confidence. Even as much as I’ve written, as habitual as writing has gotten, I still need to win big every so often or I’ll start to feel like I’m not actually doing anything worth the effort. There are a thousand lessons to learn in failure, but having a success every so often is a good sign.

I wish I’d gotten more done yesterday. I wish I had more time to wrap things up today so I wouldn’t be writing in a frenzy to beat the clock. I wish my grandfather didn’t have cancer and that I’d been able to sleep peacefully every night this month. I wish I had just one more day this month, so I could land my ridiculous goals in style instead of cramming in the last few thousand words as my last hours ticked away. I wish for a lot of things, honestly, but I’m going to deliver. I have all day to finish things up and I don’t care if I need to take the afternoon off so I can get everything finished with enough time to spare to do some editing and work on this weekend’s blog posts before the month is over. I’m close and nothing sort of divine intervention or the collapse of society is going to stop me from achieving my goals. I’m past the point of compromises, of sense, of being reasonable. I’m just going to get it all done and then celebrate by sleeping for twelve hours.

Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month and YOU. CAN. DO. THIS. The final stretch. No matter what the results are, just end it strong. Even if you’re at five thousand words out of the fifty thousand word goal, just throw sense aside and write as much as you can. This isn’t about passing or failing, this is about trying to grow as a writer. It’s about trying to grow as a person. You don’t have to out-do anyone but yourself and I believe in your ability to do just than. One more day. You’ve got this. I believe in you. Don’t believe in yourself, believe in the me that believes in you. Grit those teeth. One last push is all it takes. Good luck!

 

Daily Prompt

As you wrap up your last day of writing, either laconically typing in your last few words or trying to cram in the last few thousand you need before midnight, take a moment to reflect on your accomplishment. You should be proud of what you’ve done, just like your protagonist should be proud of what they’ve achieved, of the solutions they’ve produced to whatever problems plagued them. Write a scene about what your protagonist is most proud of and spend a little time about what that says about them or what that says about how much they’ve grown.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Today, on the last day of National Novel Writing Month, as you take a break from finishing your word count or lean back in satisfaction after confirming your total, I want to talk about what inspires me the most. This is not something you should find inspiring, but it is hopefully something you should think about. What inspires me the most is myself. Without me, nothing gets written. Without my own hard work, I’d have failed this challenge and all my little bonus challenges weeks ago. Despite how busy I’ve been, despite how crazy my life has been, and despite the fact that I only have about six hours a day to work, I’ve make incredible progress on my goals. As of this posting, I haven’t finished them yet, but I’m so close there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll finish unless Godzilla attacks Wisconsin.

The only thing that has kept me going throughout this entire month has been my unyielding willpower and iron-clad desire to test my limits. I kicked my own ass to get this done, I pulled these words out of thin air/the grey matter inside my head/my ass/the realm of stories I like to imagine lives on the other side of the story door in my head, and I absolutely rocked it. I set myself a goal and I worked as hard as I could toward achieving it. That experience is more valuable to me than anything else in my life right now and I hope you can find a similar drive in yourself if you haven’t already. I mean, in terms of growth from one year to another, I wrote seventy-seven thousand words last year and I’ve passed that twenty-thousand already, and I’ve still got an entire day left to write and make the gap even wider. I inspire me to continuously grow and I hope that you inspire yourself. 

 

Helpful Tips

My last tip is to remember that, as long as you tried something this month, you succeeded. Even if it wasn’t necessarily more writing than you would normally do during a month, you’ve accomplished something. You put yourself out there and you tried something difficult. As long as you’re willing to keep trying, you’ve yet to failure past the point of learning something. As Jake the Dog (of Adventure Time Fame) once said, “Sucking at something is the first step towards being sort of good at something.” No matter how you feel about your failure, I want to congratulate you on taking your first step toward success. It was a difficult step, to be sure, but it was the first step. Even if you succeeded, this was the first step toward something else. There are so many things you can do with fifty thousand words of a story and you should take the time to explore all your options. You can still do most of those things with any amount of words, so even if you failed they’re worth thinking about.

Ultimately, failing or succeeding based on the National Novel Writing Month metric doesn’t matter. Sure, some writers have turned their fifty thousand words into award-winning books, but there are authors who literally had an idea, wrote it down, did a couple of edits, and then sent it off to one person who instantly decided that this book was going to be big and threw money at them until they wrote more of those books. Other people’s success isn’t a metric to use to measure your own efforts. Measure them against yourself. As long as you did better than last time, that’s success in my book. A step forward is always good, even if it’s a small step. Sometimes, especially if it’s a small step.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 29 (11/29)

I wanted to give up yesterday. I sat down at my computer around six, hoping to get a jump-start on the night’s writing so I could finish earlier than previous nights, and I didn’t even get started until nine. My moods are rather mercurial and yesterday had been particularly draining, so I wasn’t really surprised by my sudden lack of drive and ambition. Disheartened and frustrated, sure, but not surprised. I’ve been working with myself too long to be surprised by this. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately and I haven’t been getting enough sleep for a long time, so I’m not surprised I hit a wall. The fact that I was humming along on Tuesday, managing six thousand words over the course of the day, doesn’t mean much since I can keep working at full capacity right up to my moment of complete exhaustion. It’s probably why I tend to work by burnout cycles rather than in any kind of moderation.

If I took it easier, I’d maybe be in a better place, energy-wise. I don’t know that for sure, but I suspect and I’m usually pretty good at figuring this kind of thing out. Too bad I’m apparently only good at it after I’ve wiped myself out. The flip side is that I wouldn’t be able to avoid a night of low energy and exhaustion if I hadn’t pushed myself. I’d have needed to get even more words done that I did last night, and it wouldn’t have been a choice. I’d have forced myself to do them. Instead, I was tired and inclined to give up, but I was able to choose to keep working and then pack it in a bit earlier than usual. I didn’t get an amazing amount done, but I got enough done and that’s what was important to me. I did something.

Out of every year I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month, this year’s attempt has been the one I’ve wanted to quit the most. Since November fourth, the day I found out about my Grandfather’s failing health after being kept up all night by my neighbor, I have entertained daily thoughts of giving up and taking some time to rest and meditate. There have even been a few days where I half-decided to give up but wound up being able to make myself do it when it came time to write the “I gave up” post. I mean, I’m a few thousand words away from finishing the month and so close to my goal of having written one hundred thousand words this past month, but I still want to give up. It’s not even me feeling defeatist or incapable. It’s my bone-deep weariness. Just like my worst days of depression, it isn’t the feelings of failure or of ineptitude that get to me, it is the feeling that I am so tired I could just lay my head down to sleep and never get up again. The feeling that whatever it was that once pushed me forward has wound done. Gone out. Been destroyed. Decayed into nothingness. Any or all of the above. The rationalization hiding behind the worst intrusive thoughts coming from my OCD. They both come from the same place and they’re a mixture of depression and actual exhaustion.

Which is why I know exactly how to handle them. Which is why I managed to get some writing done last night despite wanting nothing more than to lie on my bed and be still until I fell asleep or ceased to exist. I know that this is just a feeling of legitimate tiredness being amplified by my depression that has latched on to a combination of my anxieties about whatever wore me out that day and my anxieties about how I’m going to manage my exhaustion. They get all bound up together and create a feedback loop that will eventually wear me down unless I manage to escape it somehow. I can meditate my way out most of the time, but that’s really close to the whole “lying down on my bed and not moving” thing that I’m trying to avoid so I prefer a more active solution. Like writing about it (which is why I wrote this bit about how I felt yesterday before doing my day’s writing and then came back to fill in the before and after parts to tie it to the rest of a daily blog post). It works. I wish I’d gotten more sleep, of course, but I needed to stay awake long enough to reframe “going to sleep” as something I chose to do rather than something my depression-based exhaustion made me do.

A lot of managing yourself, and by extension your mental health, is finding little tricks to convince yourself to do whatever it is you think you should be doing. That’s what most of my tips are this month, ways to trick yourself into focusing on work or into doing more work than you originally planned. That’s what the previous paragraph is, a way to trick myself into dealing with my mental health so I can write more before the day ends. Or write anything beyond a couple hundred words. Anything that gets the job done and doesn’t cause additional harm. I’ve got hundreds of little coping mechanisms I’ve developed over the years that can be adapted to fit almost any scenario and I bring a lot of them to bear during months like this one, where I’m constantly exhausted and stressed from working hard, all while trying to cope with the bad news I keep getting. Sure, taking a night off to sleep would be nice, but the guilt would be horrible. I’d feel like I’d abandoned my writing goals if I just took a nice off. So I found a way to get some writing down and get some extra sleep. A little bit of compromise can go a long way.

Anyway, I hope this made sense and I hope you got something useful out of it, even if it’s just an example of someone who is doing really well with their goals wanting to quit. We all have those moments and it’s usually better to deal with them out in the open than to try to hide them away or pretend they never happened. Denial gets you nothing, so learn to cope, learn to process, and know that you’re not alone in whatever you’re feeling. I hope your last two days of writing go well! Good luck! I believe in you!

 

Daily Prompt

As you look over your story and all the work you’ve done this month, you probably start to get an idea of what this story is really about. Sure, you planned it to be about one thing, but that really pans out. Too many changes get made during actual production for any plan to stay intact unless you’re entirely rewriting something that you’ve already finished or you’ve strangled your story in an attempt to get it to fit the narrative you initially chose. Now that you know, though, find the right place for this idea and work in a scene that solidifies it in the earlier part of the narrative. Maybe do a couple if it’s a complex one. Just make a few small adjustments so the story’s message says what you want it to say.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Last year, the writer who inspired me the most was John Green with his novel, “Turtles All The Way Down.” This year’s story is an updated and slightly adapted version of last year’s, so it bears mentioning that I was inspired by his candid way of writing about mental health. When the book was coming out and for a while after it came out, he also spoke more frequently and openly about his mental health and struggles with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It means a lot to me that someone who struggles with OCD more than I do was able to openly discuss and still manage to make great art despite the struggles it often presents. While I can handle my OCD better than most, I’ve always kind of shied away from talking about it because I don’t really like admitting how constant and severe it is. Reading John Green write about his experiences, through the story of a teenage woman, inspired me to try to write about my own experiences since that’s a story I’ve never seen before. Hopefully I can get it finished and shared with the world. I feel like it’d be really helpful for people like me to read a story like that. I know my life would have been a lot easier from sixteen to twenty-five if I’d read something like this.

 

Helpful Tips

As we get to the end of the month, I just want to say that it isn’t a big deal if you failed this month. Failure is something you’re going to encounter frequently if you take risks and attempting to create something without taking any risks will get you nothing. No new lessons, no new skills, and quite possible no end result that you’re satisfied with or proud of. Last year, my entire department read a book about creativity and failure in an R&D department as my boss tried to foster a more adventurous and engaged attitude in his employees. The book suggests that failing early and failing often is the best way to approach any task. If you spend all of your time planning, you’re still going to come up with one or more failures later in the process but you’ll have less time to correct those failures than if you’d just dived right in and started failing immediately.

Writing is hard work. National Novel Writing Month is also a lot of hard work. I’ve failed it twice, once because I decided to give up at the beginning of the month and once because I told myself I didn’t need to register–that I didn’t need to be accountable to anyone but myself. The former was a good decision on my part, a choice to focus my time and energy on finding a new job to leave one that was slowly killing me (and already almost had). The latter is a decision I regret because it was made out of a desire to avoid the appearance of failure. The first one wasn’t really a failure because I learned and made a change that helped me succeed in the future. I dove right in and took risks by starting a new job. The second was one of my worst failures as a writer because I let the fear of an ultimately meaningless goal prevent me from doing my best. Better to try and fail rather than not try and fail anyway. You always get something out of it when you try, even if still fail. I’ve learned this lesson many times through life, but my first “attempt” at National Novel Writing Month is the one that has stuck with me the most.

I want you to know that, even if you know you won’t finish in time, don’t give up. Keep trying. Make your failure the best failure you can because the things you learned this month will all still be there whether you succeed or fail. Every attempt is a learning experience and the ones that teach us the most are almost always the failures. So try hard, dive in, and fail quickly. You’ll be surprised just how much you learn when you learn to not fear failure.

Saturday Morning Musing

Rejection is hard. Few people enjoy it. I spent all of last weekend resting because of it. I did my first submission of 2018 and got a form email rejecting my submissions, so I decided to spend my weekend reading, gaming, and resting.

Rejection is something I’m still not used to facing. It has become familiar, but I don’t know that it will ever become something I am used to. I’ve faced it numerous times, as a writer and in other parts of my life. I didn’t exactly spend the four years between my relationships not asking women out. I didn’t just quietly hate my old job and the way things worked at my old company. I’m an action-oriented person. I do things. I ask people out, take risks, and try to affect change when I think it needs to happen. I submit at least one creative piece a month, and used to apply to any conference I thought was relevant in college. I have seen a lot of rejection and I’ve gotten good at processing it.

I was actually planning to not submit anything this year. I’ve got a lot on my plate with daily blog update, trying to figure out how twitter works (I think I’ve gotten the first couple steps down, but tips are always welcome!), and trying to get back into the swing of working on my books. There isn’t much time in there for me after you factor in my job, self-care like sleep and working out, and dating. But I guess I’m back to it? There’s no reason not to submit if I’ve got a contest or magazine and something appropriate sitting in the wings. Except, you know, rejection.

These days, rejection is a lot like a bee sting. It is painful and uncomfortable, but hardly fatal (I’m not allergic, so the analogy works for me) and the pain will diminish as time passes. Before long, all you remember is that you were stung. That’s what these rejections were. Painful and not something I wanted four of at once, but I handled it fine and I’m alright now. Honestly, the most frustrating part, and the only thing with any emotional bite left to it, is the lack of feedback.

Feedback is super useful when getting rejected because it means the reader like your stuff enough to make suggestions, even if it wasn’t what they were looking for. I don’t remember where I read it, but someone wrote that the process of getting published follows a pattern. First, you get form rejections. Then, once you have improved your craft, you start getting rejections with feedback. After that, you start getting a few small acceptances mixed into the rejections with feedback.

I know the above process is hardly something I can count on and not even an unlikely expectation, but it still sucks to not have gained anything from the stress and work of preparing something for submission and submitting. As annoyed as I felt, I felt even worse for my friend who had written an entire short story to submit and gotten a form rejection. I just took some poems, wrestled with my doubts, cleaned them up, and sent them off. Took about five or so hours, all told. My alpha reader spent several days working on this story, getting feedback, and turning it into something I honestly thought was a perfect fit.

While I didn’t enjoy it, I am thankful for this rejection. It forced me to slow down and take a break. I keep myself running at a high level of stress to maintain my focus, but I have a tendency to not let go of my tension when I need a break. I hold onto it and ruin my ability to enjoy whatever rest I’m allowing myself. Thanks to the rejection, I’m spending more time on taking care of myself and prioritizing doing things to recharge. I had someone contact me via my blog to recommend a game and I started playing that last weekend. I’m loving the game so far and enjoying having something super rewarding and engaging to invest my time in. I’m planning to review it for next week’s review day, so hang tight and you’ll get to read about a game that wound up being thematically appropriate to me and my life right when I started playing it.

The rejection sucked. The rest was good. Today, I feel more ready for the future than I’ve felt in well over a year. I am doing new things every week, constantly expanding my capabilities, and improving myself. I’m just over two months into 2018 and I really feel like this is going to be my year. I don’t know what it will bring, but I’m ready for it.

Tabletop Highlight: Critical Fails

Critical failures are some of my favorite parts of Dungeons & Dragons as a Dungeon Master. I don’t particularly enjoy my players failing at something because I generally want them to succeed, but it certainly opens the moment for some interesting improvisation on my part. A healthy dose of random interjection keeps even the mundane parts of a campaign from growing stale.

I’ve introduced new enemies, added a whole layer of complexity to my world, and even killed someone else instead of the person who just rolled three 1’s in a row. People really ought to be more careful when they’re shooting into melee combat, really. They also need to stop accidentally summoning Outsiders to the material plane, thereby ushering in the eventual collapse of the universe because Outsiders are pure entropy and cannot be killed because entropy can’t be killed without breaking every law of the universe. And then you have bigger issues than entropy.

Aside from attack rolls, there are a few other critical fails that can be a lot of fun. Catching something or throwing something is a stat check using dexterity. If a player rolls a critical fail on a toss or a catch, it can be a lot of fun to describe what got broken by the fumbled throw. My personal favorite strength check failure was the giant, manly barbarian getting a splinter from the door he was trying to break down and being unable to do anything until he got it removed. A close second was the drinking contest. The Dwarf was trying to bond with the half-goliath barkeeper and decided drinking copious amounts of alcohol was the best bet. The dwarf lost, of course, but the fun was in describing how he got blindingly drunk and accidentally drank the barwoman’s dishwater. He burped bubbles for forty-eight hours because he didn’t even fish the bar of soap out of it first.

For saving throw’s, the fails are often a little more catastrophic. Just last night, one of my players turned into a water-breathing creature so he could avoid drowning in the swamp (a crocodile had tried to drown him and failed). Since it was a bunch of still, disgusting water that he spent a while swimming around in without doing anything about his open wounds, I had rolled a secret save versus disease, just to see what would happen. He rolled a 1 and thus caught an ingested disease because he kept accidentally swallowing swamp water while trying to breathe it. Good times. Waking up blind is always a great way to start the day.

In less extreme circumstances, critical failures just make for great flavor. Have someone critically fail their save versus a magical attack like a fireball? Throw in a comedic moment where they miscalculate and take cover behind something that’s just going to make the explosion worse, like a source of tinder or something easily flammable. Crit failing their Reflex save to avoid a trap? Have them dive the wrong way or have them just leap straight up in the air. Crit failing their Will save to see through illusion? Have them enthusiastically participate in the illusion. The possibilities are endless if you’re quick on your feet.

Past experience has taught me that there’s an important line to walk as a DM between throwing in extra penalties for critical failures and just adding flavor. If the moment is super tense and everything rides on this moment, be wary of adding flavor. If everyone is caught up, they likely have their own mental images of what is going on, so you want generic details that will meld with whatever they’re seeing. Penalties make this easier as you’re adding a new aspect to the image rather than changing something existing, and you can always add flavor on top of a penalty. If someone just failed something very routine, penalties can cause the session to drag, so extra flavor is usually the way to go unless you have something important hinging on this routine task.

The great thing about being a DM is realizing that all rules are situational and that you are the ultimate arbiter of what is right when you’re running a session. Figure out how you like to use critical fails and hope you get enough opportunities to put them to use. All that really matters at the end of the day is that everyone is having fun, whatever form that takes.

NaNoWriMo Day 30 (11/30)

I finished last night. I wrote my last 1500 words and then celebrated. I also wound up taking today off of work because I was up so late celebrating last night and I decided to reward myself this morning with a nice day off. A day of video games, reading books I’ve been ignoring, and reflecting on my month. Honestly, I could use a whole week off, but that’s a rather unreasonable expectation when I’ve actually got a 9-5 job to support my writing. It’s hard to support your writing with a job you’re not doing.

I think my biggest lesson from this month is that I’m still capable of incredible writing feats, though I really need to work on the “every day” part. Despite all of the time I’ve spent away from writing over the last year, since I entered NaNoWriMo in 2016 and decided not to attempt completion a day later, I’m still capable of pushing myself to produce a large number of words when I need to. My ability to write isn’t diminished, only my discipline and self-control when it comes to writing. Those will still be problems for a while, though. The end-of-month panic writing is clear evidence that I still need to work on pacing myself properly. Sure, I updated my blog every day, but the goal is to be able to write some of my story every day AND update my blog every day.

Which is something I still plan to do. Update my blog every day. I’ll find something for tomorrow and then spend my weekend working out an update schedule (for topics) and writing up a week’s worth of posts. Once I’ve gotten a decent buffer built up and worked out the kinks in WordPress’s scheduling function, I should be able to be able to just write the post a week ahead of time and schedule it for the next week. That way, I can still post on holidays without actually having to work on Holidays. Or, if I get sick again, I don’t need to struggle to make cohesive sentences, I can just focus on getting better and let my buffer take the hits. All-in-all, it sounds like a very solid if somewhat ambitious plan. Which is a theme of my plans. I really hope I manage to follow through on this one. It’d be really cool.

As for regular story writing, I’ll probably aim for 1000 words a day. Less than NaNoWriMo, but I’ll be able to go over 1000 words any time I want to. That, plus daily blog updates, should put me in the 1500 to 2500 word range which seems like plenty. I plan to continue my NaNoWriMo story until I reach the end, which should be in less than 100,000 more words. I would definitely say I’m in the 33%-50% range, so maybe I’ll finish it some time this spring. That’d be nice. Then I can get back to work on other projects while this story sits for a bit.

I’ve got so many things I want to work on and only what amounts to a part-time job’s worth of time to use unless I completely give up every other aspect of my life in order to write more. As rewarding as writing is, I think the last week has made it pretty clear to me that I need balance rather than unfettered pursuit. I’m super tired and ready for a rest. Maybe not a complete rest, but definitely a slow down.

 

Daily Prompt

In every story, there is a moment after the main action has concluded where the characters wrap up all the loose ends and make the last points on behalf of the author. Today, for the last day of National Novel Writing Month, write a scene about your character wrapping up your story. Maybe they’re talking with their friends after defeating the Big Bad Evil Person. Maybe they’re having a moment to reflect on their growth and the growth of those around them after coming of age. Maybe they’re looking back on all of their mistakes and realizing that they were wrong the entire time. Whatever it is, write it so that you can have the same sense of closure as the month ends.

 

Sharing Inspiration

One of my favorite things that crops up in older storytelling is the narrator speaking with the audience or invoking a muse. Tolkien didn’t do it in most of his fiction, but he wrote about what he called The Tree of Stories. Milton invoked a muse he referred to as The Holy Spirit. Shakespeare, in some of his plays, had the narrator invoke a muse. My favorite muse invocation is from Shakespeare’s King Henry V. The play begins with

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

The narrator is calling upon a muse to help them tell the tale of King Henry the fifth, a tale of war that could not be properly captured on a stage alone. At the end of the play, the author follows up the invocation of a muse with an apology:

Thus far, with rough and all-unable pen,
Our bending author hath pursued the story,
In little room confining mighty men,
Mangling by starts the full course of their glory.

This is a sentiment I feel a lot of writers share and one that I don’t think was entirely an affectation by Shakespeare. King Henry the Fifth was incredibly popular in England when Shakespeare was alive, so he likely felt exactly as the epilogue of the play depicts–the same way almost any amateur writer feels–like we’re not good enough to tell the story properly. It feels nice to see that even someone as huge in the literary world as Shakespeare struggled with these same feelings of inadequacy.

 

Helpful Tips

Remember, as long as you did something this month, even if it wasn’t necessarily more than you otherwise would have, the important thing to note is that you tried. Try often, fail frequently, and try again. As long as you’re willing to keep trying, you’ve never really failed. There are many lessons in a project and almost all of them come from the failures you experience as your go about completing it. Failure isn’t bad. Its part of learning and growing. If you don’t fail, then you’re not really pushing yourself. As Jake the Dog once said, “Sucking at something is the first step towards being sort of good at something.”

NaNoWriMo Day 28 (11/28)

I’m a little ahead of schedule so far. I had to write 2500 words last night in order to finish on time, but I wrote 3200. That isn’t very far ahead of schedule, but doing it twice more means I only need to write 400 words on Thursday to finish. Which means I’d be able to start my recovery period and early nights on Thursday instead of Friday. I’m all for that, so we’ll see how it goes. Maybe I can do even more writing tonight so that I can just take Thursday entirely off. Nothing wrong with Finishing early, you know?

I also noticed that the “schedule your post” functionality of WordPress isn’t very precise. I had yesterday’s post all set to go up at 9 am, since I was going to be at work, and it didn’t actually post until I’d pulled up my website and logged in (of course it posted immediately when I logged in). I’m thinking I might be able to schedule the post, but I’ll need to actually still check every day if only make sure WordPress is doing what I told it to. It feels rather silly to have a schedule function that doesn’t really work, though. Maybe I should write up a bug report and submit it to the WordPress team. I do it for Google and video games all the time now, since I’ve become a professional software tester and all.

I haven’t gotten any comments on my post asking for suggestions of what to do with my blog after this month has ended, but I’m think it’ll probably be something a little more focused on creativity since my last blog before this one had focused on that and did much better in terms of views and followers even after I’d stopped updating it. The exact schedule it yet to be determined, but I’m pretty sure my first days of recovery are going to be spent creating a buffer of scheduled posts for me to fall back on while the actual recovery is happening this coming weekend.

A year of daily posts seems like a tall-order, but I’d have said the same thing before I decided to update this blog daily, so I suspect it’ll be a bit more achievable than I think it is right now. I might need to get an editor, though, since I’m clearly not that great at editing all of my posts before they go up. I’ve re-read some of the earlier ones and been horrified by the things I’ve missed.

I actually spent some time tonight playing one of my current favorite video games, Overwatch. I tend to prefer playing Tanks and Supports since I prefer the more strategic style of playing the game and playing a good tank is all about timing, situational awareness, and knowing where the tipping points are. Feeling the pressure building means you can anticipate when to drop your defense and attack with your DPS, while feeling it fall means you can be ready to cover the retreat of your supports and DPS when you need to get to a more defensible position or risk being torn apart. Those are my particular skills. I’m not great at soloing or flanking, but I am one of the best tanks I’ve played with at seeing the tipping points and being ready to take advantage of them. My main problem is that most of the people I play with online don’t even know that these tipping points happen, much less how to actually group around a tank. Tonight, though, I got to play with my friends and I cleaned house. It was wonderful. I’ll look into uploading some of the videos in the future, since I feel like they’re classic examples of the tipping points I’m talking about.

Hey! Talking about video games like that would make an excellent weekly feature! This content practically writes itself.

 

Daily Prompt

For those of us who spend a lot of time working on projects or doing things we’re not particularly good at, failure becomes a familiar face. One of the most important aspects of learning to create or improve is to accept that failure is going to be much more common than success, no matter how long you’ve been doing it or how good you get. If you aren’t risking failure, then you likely don’t have much to gain from what you’re doing. For today’s prompt, write a scene in which your character comes face to face with repeated failure as they try to learn something new or create something.  Show how your character responds to this failure and what happens as a result of them recognizing it.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Sometimes, you stumble across something that can only be a labor of love. Someone, at some point, wanted something and then took an incredibly long stretch of time to create something that perfectly fulfilled it before putting it up on the internet for everyone to see. One of my favorite examples is this list of 1000 totally random magical effects. I found it when working with a D&D player on a character concept that revolved around them causing random magical effects whenever they were frightened. I found a way to simulate rolling a d1000 and then would take whatever magical effect I got on the table. Examples include her character and the source of her fright had to pay 20% of their character’s total worth in the form of taxes. Another one was that the nearest tree (or, in this case, the mast of their airship) turned into a fully decorate Christmas tree complete with presents for everyone around underneath it. She also grew wings once. That was fun. This sort of dedication to an idea is something that always inspires me to keep working on my own crazy ideas and stories because someday, someone I don’t expect at all will find them and appreciate them.

 

Helpful Tips

Like I wrote in the prompt, failure is something you’re going to encounter a lot if you take any risks and trying to create something without taking any risks is not really worth doing. One of the books I’ve been reading for work, as my boss tries to encourage a creative and adventurous atmosphere in our R&D department, suggests that failing early and failing often is the best way to approach any task. If you spend all of your time planning, you’re still going to come up with one or more failures later in the process but you’ll have less time to correct those failures than if you’d just dived right in and started failing immediately.

Writing and NaNoWriMo are hard. I’ve failed NaNoWriMo twice. The first time, I failed so hard I didn’t even sign up to participate. I tried to pretend I didn’t need the accountability and that I’d be able to succeed on my own because I wanted to be able to hide any failure. Last year, I failed because I wasn’t willing to put the energy I had into writing every day or writing enough on my weekends to make up for not writing every day. Sure, I had my reasons, but there will always be reasons to not do something. Better to try and fail rather than not try and fail anyway. You always get something out of it when you try, even if you still wind up having failed just as much as if you hadn’t done anything.

Even if you know you won’t finish in time, don’t give up. Keep trying. Make your failure the best failure you can because the lessons you take out of this, the writing you’ve done when it is over, that will all still be there whether you succeed or fail. Every attempt is a learning experience and the ones that teach us the most are almost always the failures.