Creating a good D&D 5e homebrewed monster is a matter of balance. Like all things within the bounded-accuracy system of fifth edition, most of the specific numbers for attacks, armor class, and attributes are unnecessary. What you need to know is how to land within certain likelihoods for damage input and output, understand how to balance the action economy of fifth edition, how the difficulty of a fight is set, and the purpose of legendary/lair actions. While this seems like a lot to keep in mind, most of it falls under a series of general rules that make it easy to adjust a fight as it happens so you wind up with what you, the Game Master, expected.Continue reading
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!
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.
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.
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.
Well, I’ve had another productive evening. I’m pretty sure a lot of my good mood was the caffeine since it disappeared once I had dinner and there was something in my stomach to dilute the coffee. It was a big dinner, which was nice since I love cooking, but I’ve learned that baking a ten pound ham is something I can do on a whim and that’s dangerous knowledge. I mean, loved glazed ham growing up and I was always frustrated that my family had put it solidly in the “special occasion” category of foods. I remember thinking that, when I was an adult, I was going to buy and prepare a giant friggin’ ham whenever I damn well pleased. Turns out, it took a few years after graduating from college for me to remember that this was a thing I could do and it wasn’t so much that I remembered I could do it as I saw a giant spiral-cut ham I could take home when I went to the grocery store to find something that would go with the stuffing I’d brought back from Thanksgiving. It was super expensive since the local grocery is exorbitantly overpriced, so it’s probably not a whim I’ll be indulging very frequently, but now I remember my love for glazed ham and I’ve learned it’s really quite simple to prepare since all you need to do is warm it up to a desirable temperature. Or, you know, eat it cold. Whatever works for you.
I meant to do writing sprints between trips to the kitchen to check on it, but I hit this weird point in my caffeine parabola where I was a bit over caffeinated and kinda loopy. I think I might be getting sick since I’m also rather congested, which wouldn’t surprise me given how high my stress levels have been lately and how crazy the weather has been this month. It’s a mini-miracle that I haven’t already come down with something before this week. I leveraged the uncertain future to push myself to write more last night, gradually working my way up to a nice three thousand six hundred words on my National Novel Writing Month project, but I think staying up past midnight is what is going to leave me sick enough to be glad I worked ahead. As I write this, I’ve only got six thousand more words to write for my project this month and I’m anticipating finishing on Thursday so I can catch a break from all this on Friday. Except for the blog post, of course. Can’t let that lapse. And the pre-writing of blog posts for the weekend so I can hopefully rest during those days. Which I probably won’t do because I’ve got a great idea for a parody of a song I want to write out.
Thus the cycle continues. Stay up too late working on something I’m passionate about, get too little sleep to stay healthy or function properly during the day, lean on copious amounts of caffeine to make it through the day, wind up energized and awake late into the night no matter how early I consume my afternoon caffeine. At least it’ll hopefully end soon. I can go from four thousand words a day to one or two thousand. You know, back to normal. At least for a little bit. I’m planning to actually keep some of this other, non-blog writing going after the month has ended. I’m not sure what, yet, but I know I’m not ready to go back to my lower writing numbers. I really enjoy having high “words written in a month” totals. This tracking is most to help me map out my writing habits, but I do love numbers and statistics, so I admit I probably spend too much time tweaking my number tracking charts and report outputs. At the end of year two, I’ll be able to tell just how many words of poetry I’ve written in a year. Or how many words I’ve written about video games. How many words of reviews I’ve done. I’ll be able to pick out my wordiest days of the weeks since I track what day the writing happens on, not just when the writing is supposed to go up here.
As much as I complain, this is working for me right now. I can always sleep in another hour or two if I need it and I’m almost caught up in my daily word count for National Novel Writing Month. It may not be the most relaxed way to do things, but I’m still getting there, which is what I’ll settle for given this month. I’ve done at least a little writing every day of the month and I will be able to end the month meeting most of my original goals. I’m going to be low on sleep, but I’ll have a whole weekend to catch up on that and unwind with updates to one of my favorite video games. I’ve even got a whole other pile of games for the Switch that I’m still working my way through, and they’re all proving to be quite relaxing. I like the movement of the smaller, simpler games to the Switch. Night in the Woods is way more fun when I can pick it up or put it down at will. The sleep mode functionality of the Switch makes it a godsend for games like that which aren’t super conducive to a gaming binge. I will never stop saying how great the Switch is as a handheld gaming console. This may be the sleep deprivation talking, but I honestly think going handheld was the smartest move Nintendo has ever made. I’m still a little upset about the reliance on motion controls for a lot of games, though. I dislike motion controls because I don’t have steady hands and that makes motion controls next to impossible for me to use for anything requiring accuracy or precision.
I’d like to get more sleep and needing only two thousand words a day to finish on time will be incredibly helpful for that, unless I wind up pushing myself to cram them all into tonight like I’ve kind of been doing the last few days. I could totally just not write a bunch extra and instead get some sleep. I told myself that last night as well, but I clearly stayed up late to get to a milestone and then stayed up even later to write this post. Sorry for how ramble-y it is.
Anyway, we’ve got three days left in National Novel Writing Month and we’re so close I can taste it! I hope you’re nearing your goal and that your last few days go well for you. Good luck!
Toward the end of a story, there’s a moment when everything comes together and the story reaches its peak. The conflict at the heart of the story is brought to the front and either resolved or circumvented. What comes next is largely up to you. You can take the Andy Weir approach and just end the story once the protagonist has been rescued with no wrap-up, or you can go around tying up loose threads like the hero of an RPG finishes all the sidequests after defeating the Big Bad Evil Guy. Or anything in between. For today, write about what comes after the climax of your story. Show us what you intend to do with your readers and either wrap things up neatly or slowly ease us out of the story by revisiting all the characters as they adjust to life after the conflict has been resolved.
My favorite storytelling medium besides writing is Dungeons and Dragons. I love the ability to make up and adjust stories on the fly, the chance to connect directly with my audience so I can tailor the experience directly to them and their investments, and the framework it gives me for detailed adventures filled with puzzles and audience interaction. Even if my players fail to unlock all the parts of the story I’ve created because they fail a skill check or decide to proceed in a different manner, I still love having the opportunity to create a game for them. I will always appreciate Dungeons and Dragons for giving me a chance to tell different stories and practice my framing on a regular basis. Being a Dungeon Master has probably helped me grow as a storyteller more than anything but my past year of daily writing.
If you can avoid looking at what you just wrote, I suggest you do so. As you’re trying to cram in your last few days of writing, now is the time to create new words rather than focusing on how to improve old ones. Editing is an important part of the process and there are a lot of people who edit as they go, but I think that there’s a lot of value in just charging ahead until the story is done. That method works pretty well for a lot of people, even if they prefer to do consistent and nearly constant editing. I prefer to write in what I call the “lapping” method. I review the work I did during the previous two days and then focus down on adding another day’s work behind it. I find most of my errors that way and it makes it a lot easier to stay consistent when I’m constantly reminding myself of what just happened. When it comes to pumping out new words, either for the last part of the lapping method or for a long-term writing marathon like National Novel Writing Month, I try to just focus in on adding more words and let Future Chris worry about whether or not they’re any good. There are always a lot of changes to be made after the fact, but it gets the job done. I suggest you experiment with both and then focus on whichever one suits you best.
I don’t know what it is about today, but I’m feeling downright capricious. Which is a side-effect of feeling really energetic. It could be all the coffee I drank, though that never really lifts my mood so much as makes me the energetic version of whatever mood I was before. It could be the return to using my therapy light every day for three days straight after leaving it at home when I visiting my family for the Holidays. It could also be the fact that I wrote just over three thousand three hundred thirty-three words in an hour and forty-five minutes last night. That felt pretty good, especially when I knocked out another thousand in the subsequent half-hour. All of this on a night when I felt incredibly run-down and exhausted from a busy, stressful day at work. I wasn’t sure I was going to get the three thousand words I needed to more-or-less stay on schedule to finish my National Novel Writing Month project on Friday, but I managed to completely knock it out of the park despite starting at nine at night as a result of chores and coping with my depression.
Yesterday’s tip about using the milestone method to trick yourself into staying focused and driven toward whatever is your writing goal made it possible. Without slowly working myself to the start of the next page, to the next thousand, to the next five hundred, to the next round number on my word total, I would not have been able to get as much done as quickly as I did. There may be a fair bit of editing that needs to happen since I didn’t do any as I wrote, but it shouldn’t be much unless I decide to change something much earlier. It’ll be fixing sentences, trimming out repetition, and adding in a few extra words here or there for clarity. Mostly simple stuff since I’m still proceeding along the path I laid out in my outline at the beginning of the month. I’ve had a few deviations, but they’ve all been minor course corrections and adjustments of what topics get introduced where. There’s a lot to go over in this story and I’m trying to make sure it all flows naturally.
I also took my own advice from yesterday. I started setting aside some time to reflect. I took half of an hour after I was ready for bed to relax and reflect on what is going on in my head. It was surprisingly productive and probably set the stage for today’s tired but still good mood. I didn’t come to any big conclusions and I’ve still got a lot to think about, but it took some of the pressure off. It made it easier to focus at work today and, with some of my mental knots untangled, it made it less difficult to get excited about and engaged with stuff. I mean, not that work is any more exciting and engaging than usual. I like my job, but I wouldn’t say that there’s anything going on that I’m particularly excited about. I like the stuff we’re doing and I think it’s cool, but there’s no sense of urgency or anticipation to bring it up to the “excited” level. No, today’s excitement is about the content coming to Destiny 2 that started today and will continue over the next few weeks.
I’m seriously in love with this game after all the changes they made to it for the first “live support” year. All of the story content has been stellar, there’s enough going on from week to week that I actually feel engaged, and all of the niggling little problems that persisted over the course of the release year have been addressed. There are still issues, of course, but they’re much more reasonable and I look forward to them being addressed as live support continues. Because of how much better the story is, I’ve been getting excited about the game’s lore and am now apparently spending all my breaks from writing on the Destinypedia, reading about everything I missed from the first game and delving even deeper into the events I’ve witnessed in this game. I’ve tried to listen to all the dialogue and read all the text from everything I’ve found in-game, but it’s really easy to miss something when you’re running through a mission with your friends. Not everyone wants to stop mid-mission to read the wall of text they just unlocked by interacting with the lump of ore you found hidden behind a storage container in a side room you didn’t need to run through.
It’s been really fun to find out just how self-aware the game is. There are references to the giant mess that was the initial story-line of the first game, emotes that tie into inside jokes that the community has loved, and even a bunch of in-game references to the fact that Guardians (the player-characters in the game) tend to break into dance in the weirdest places without any regard to what is going on around them or whether or not there’s even music. Stuff like this makes it clear that at least someone is paying attention to the community and what we care about. And the dumb stuff we do. As I looked back into the events during the live support years of the first game, I can start to understand why people were so excited to start playing Destiny 2 as soon as it came out rather than waiting for the release year to end. It was such a different game from the release year of Destiny 2 and it incorporates that same fun, exciting spirit I’m feeling as we’re rolling through the first year of live support for Destiny 2.
Anyway, this is late because I went to bed at a reasonable hour last night and was busy at work today, so I didn’t have enough breaks to get this done. There’ll be a lot of busy for the next few weeks as I try to get a buffer going for my blog again, attempt to prepare for a giant move at my day job, and try to play Destiny 2 for five or more hours every week. I’m prepared for that, I think, but that might just be my current optimism speaking. It’s kind of hard to tell for sure, to be honest, but I’d like to think that the culmination of all of my work this month will be a more energetic and engaged version of me. I’ve dreamed about being that person for years, ever since my depression took deeper root and sort of supplanted my identity, so I’d be really excited to see it happen. It might also just be the caffeine.
We’ve got four days of the month left (well, three and a bit since this is going up in the evening), so make sure you stay focused! Even if you’re almost finished, don’t let up! You never know what might come up and there’s never anything wrong with finishing early, so just wrap it up as soon as you can and don’t depend on the uncertain future. You never know what might happen. Good luck today!
Stories are about change and one of the major modern catalysts for change is new people from somewhere else showing up. It’s been a catalyst for change since Beowulf showed up to kick Grendel’s ass (Debately. He only really won because Grendel tried to run away rather than fight), but the change isn’t always good. Lately, there’s been a lot of fear and hate involved in the change we see when new people show up rather than support and polite interest in new cultures. How does your protagonist react to new people? Do they see new cultures as a chance for positive change, or negative? How do they feel about the way the rest of their society reacts? Write a scene where your protagonist is introduced to people who are different from them and show us how they react to the way their life changes as a result.
One of my favorite finds on YouTube, using the “next up” feature, was Rush Garcia. They are a musician and composer who creates music on commission or as inspired by their interests, all of which means they make a lot of music about video games. I love music about video games and these three specific songs in particular are my favorites. They’re part of most of my writing playlists and they’re the core of one of my instrumental anti-anxiety playlists since they feel, quite literally, like emotion turned into music. They all vary quite widely and I can always count on whatever new song Rush puts up to be a beautiful listening experience that makes me want to create my own stuff.
I know I’ve mentioned thinking about what comes next and I know we’re super close to the end of National Novel Writing Month, but don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what you’re going to do on December 1st. If you lose focus now, you might not finish as strongly as you’d like. It’s a really awful feeling to be racing the clock as midnight on the 30th approaches, trying to beat the countdown to the end as your despair and frustration only grow with each update of the clock. Focus on getting all of your writing done and let the future take care of itself for now. There’s nothing wrong with idly thinking about what comes next, just don’t spend much time or energy on it. Don’t make a plan unless it’s for a bottle of champagne or something like that to toast a successful month of writing. Do plan that stuff.
Despite everything going on, I managed to be reasonably productive yesterday. Better than that, I decided to just go to bed at midnight, which is why you’re getting this post rather later in the day than I’d like to be putting it up. Unfortunately, despite those good things, yesterday still wasn’t great. I was busy all day trying to get my head out of the stressful holidays and back into anything resembling a productive mindset. It took most of the day and while I did have adequate time to zone out while writing without it compromising my ability to finish the day’s writing, it was still an uphill battle to get anything done. As today will be. Additionally, if that wasn’t bad enough, I may have been in bed by midnight, but I couldn’t fall asleep until after one. It was the worst, lying in bed and staring at the darkened ceiling while I waited for my mind to wind down for an hour.
To be entirely fair, I’m not exactly surprised. It’s been going on for a while and last night was just the latest in a long string of issues sleeping. As my stress level goes up, I start to struggle with sleeping. I’ve used some games in the past to keep me engaged enough that my mind doesn’t fret over pointless stuff but not so engaged that it can’t wind down (any Pokemon is my go-to since it has done that flawlessly my entire life), but that hasn’t been working lately. This is the first time in years that I can’t just shut down my mind when I need to. Or it’s the first time I’ve ever had something on my mind that I don’t want to just ignore. It’s difficult to tell the difference, sometimes, and I’m willing to be this is one of those scenarios where something isn’t happening because I don’t actually want it to happen.
I haven’t done a lot of thinking about my grandfather’s health, my aunt’s rudeness, and my relationship with my family in general. Or my relationship with my past. I honestly haven’t really been doing a lot of self-examination lately, which was a poor choice because I know just how cluttered my mind can get without it. Since my breakup, I’ve had a lot of stuff going on, some by choice to lessen the sting and some by circumstance that has added whole new elements to my anxieties and frustrations. The flood, a wisely abandoned but rather persistently reexamined decision to ask someone out, my grandfather’s health, a huge pile of things at work–participating in planning for the future of my team, a six-week period of crazy business as we tried to get a project done, and then leading the charge on a whole slew of new processes and best-practices for my entire team–and then I went straight from all that into National Novel Writing Month with only a week off to recover which pretty much all went to hell immediately because of my shitty neighbor’s music and the fact that I found out my grandfather was dying the weekend before I had to spend a week outside of my comfort zone in every possible way at work. It’s a lot and my few attempts at sorting myself out weren’t enough. I’ve been journaling every day, but that’s almost always surface stuff and my therapy visits have had quite a bit of time between them lately because of how busy the holidays are.
I really need to take some time to self-examine and process everything that’s been going on in the past six months (because I also went semi-viral on twitter and learned a lot about how I think social media should be used), but it’s difficult to get that time when there’s still so much going on. Numerous events in my friend group, we’re moving to a new building at work, the Christmas holidays coming up, new year’s, trying to figure out what comes next after National Novel Writing Month is over, and the ever-persistent issues of my health (mental and physical) and debt situation. It never lets up! Which is an unfortunate fact of life. The only time and respite I get from all of the chaos of life is the time I make and even that comes with a cost. There could be a lot of important things I miss in my life if I’m constantly pulling myself away from it to get the breathing space to calmly reflect on things. At the same time, taking a break from life to reflect once every six months clearly isn’t cutting it. I’ve been trying to work it into daily life, but enough Big-Deal stuff happens in my life from one year to the next that I need more than the casual reflection I can fit into my day-to-day life.
I really miss summer or winter vacations. I haven’t really had one in almost a decade since I worked every break during college, but I still miss them all the same. I miss the weeks of decreased responsibility and relaxation I had to recover from the mental rigors of studying. The US seriously need to address the shortage of vacation and personal time infecting most of its… everything. Infecting every part of its wage-earning culture since this is a systemic issue from the bottom rung of the job later to all but the top. The top gets to do whatever they want so they don’t count. Except, you know, they do because they’re the ones causing most of the problems. This is not where I saw today’s blog post going. I had notes to talk about how sore my back is from sleeping on an incredibly firm mattress for three nights before returning to my very soft and comfortable mattress but now that just doesn’t seem like something worth complaining about more than I already have in the face of corporate and governmental corruption’s impact on the economic health of all but the upper class.
Uh, eat the rich, I guess? Down with capitalism as a government policy? We should definitely get money out of politics, though, and probably ban anyone over retirement age from holding public office. That seems like a decent start, but we should also consolidating voting to one day every year and make that day a national holiday instead of “Columbus Day” since we’re trying to move away from people who ruin everything and then insist they didn’t do anything. While I’m talking about it, we should also institute a living wage, actually put money into gun violence research, limit the sale of fire arms/enforce conscientious ownership using reasonable gun control laws (Chesus fucking Jrist, can’t we just treat them like goddamn cars or something? With tests, licenses, and ownership certificates? This doesn’t seem like that difficult a fucking concept to work with), put limitations on banks and the whole “move money around to magically make more of it” economic sector to prevent the kind of abuse that led to the subprime mortgage crisis, and ban anyone who is a white supremacist/white supremacy sympathizer from participating in reasonable adult society like the job market and politics? And a million dollars for me, while we’re at it. Since we’re talking about impossible dreams that aren’t likely to occur in my lifetime.
On that depressing note, I’m going to go work on my writing for today. I hope your day is going better than mine is (and I kinda hope you don’t read this blog and my summation of a lot of the catch-all problems in the US). I hope you’re making good progress on your National Novel Writing Month goals and I wish you the best of luck when it comes to finishing strong! I believe in you!
A person’s musical taste can say a lot about them. I like music with big words and complex lyrics that is also usually indie rock or some kind of alternative or folk, which says I’m pretty much a hipster. I also like punk, hip-hop, older country, jazz, and electric rock, which says so many different things that it kind of clouds the picture a bit until you realize I actually like anything that incorporates instrumentation and vocals well, which means I just like melodious music. And that I’m still kind of pretentious and hipster-ish. What kind of music does your protagonist like and what does that say about them? Write a scene involving music that lets your protagonist reveal a bit of themselves that might otherwise keep hidden.
The book series that probably impacted me the most as a writer (aside from, you know, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings inspiring me to actually be a writer), is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Not only does a read through his incredibly fun, clever, and quick books make me want to write, but his style of writing has shown me there’s room for writers with a voice like my natural one. His series and his writing is directly responsible for me starting to write like myself rather than as a mixture of my favorite writers. As anyone who has made the transition can tell you, that’s a pretty big deal. Also, as one of the biggest Fantasy series that isn’t full of giant tomes, it made me appreciate the value of a story told in three hundred pages, give or take fifty. There’s an elegance in simplicity if it’s done right and Terry Pratchett was a master of it.
As we approach the end of the month, there are probably more than a few of us who are behind on our word counts. I’m so far behind I’m going to be behind until the very last day when I finally hit fifty thousand words. For those of us trying to catch up or find a way to squeeze more words out of the day, I have a suggestion. At this point in the month, it should be relatively easy to get your regular words out. The issue is usually the extra words you need to catch up. For that, I suggest using what I call the “Milestone Method.” The idea is that you tell yourself “just another hundred words until I’ve rounded my total up to the nearest thousand” or “if I do three hundred thirty-three more words, I’ll have two thousand words done for today.” until you reach whatever your actual goal is. Try to pick amounts that you can easily reach in a short amount of time because that’ll make it feel more like sprinting toward the finish like rather than adding another lap to the marathon. I’ve gotten so used to this method that I have to consciously stop myself if I hit my writing target before I’m falling asleep at my computer. I only needed three thousand words yesterday, but I got myself up to thirty-five hundred so I could stop at a nice round thirty-six hundred. If you can break it down into smaller bites and track your word count accurately, it’s worth trying to slowly work your way forward.
As I sat at my desk with my therapy light going, trying to come up with something to write about for today’s blog post, I remembered a similar feeling from well over a year ago. From most of my life, actually. I’ve always been of the opinion that it is best to say nothing if you don’t have something worthwhile to say. We’ll, that particular thought has always been in my mind. It’s difficult to draw the line between something I’ve come to believe and something I was taught from an early age. They’re often related to each other in ways that aren’t necessarily clear. This one, though, is probably something I was taught early in life and internalized deeply enough that it became a strongly held belief.
Looking back, it’s pretty easy to see where I learned that lesson. As the second oldest of (eventually) five kids, it was difficult to get my parents’ attention. Not for me specifically, but for any of us. There was just so much going on as my parents tried to make not just their lives but the lives of the four little children they had (the youngest showed up a seven or eight years after the second youngest). They taught us a lot of things in order to cope with the sheer number of requests for attention, like waiting silently if someone is on the phone rather than constantly saying “mom” until we got a reaction. Or placing a hand on someone’s arm if we wanted their attention rather than yelling their name. Or going to look for someone to talk quietly rather than shouting across the house. Or trying to solve problems on our own before going to our parents. Or taking the time to decide if something was really important before bringing it to them. All of it points toward consideration for other people’s time and a thoughtful selection of what’s worth vocalizing.
There’s plenty of room to debate on whether or not thing was a good thing. I’m sure it made my parents’ lives easier when it actually worked and it taught me to be deliberate in everything I say which has helped me avoid saying something I’d come to regret when dealing with anger or sadness. The only real problem I see with it is the idea that holding back until you have something important to say lends power and worth to your words isn’t really how the world works. It may be how the world once worked, but I suspect that’s a bit of fiction we collectively tell ourselves to make it seem like the past was a more civilized time. I’m willing to bet the quiet considerate people who spoke only when they felt it was important were just as ignored back then as they are now. For similar reasons, too. I remember my first manager at my previous job telling me that I needed to speak up in meetings more if I wanted to climb the ladder. I told her that I generally didn’t have anything useful or constructive to add and I’ll never forget her response. “That’s not the point. You just need to appear like you’re contributing to the meeting so always say something about anything that comes up in a meeting.”
Needless to say, I refused. I still think this particular attitude toward meetings and competence is part of what’s wrong with corporate culture in every company or institution I’ve ever been a part of or heard about. The idea that someone will get promoted by constantly saying nothing important just so they appear to be involved in everything is probably why there are so many terrible managers in the workforce. Companies are literally promoting people who have done nothing useful except attach themselves to the accomplishments of others. It’s insane and I’d rather never get a promotion that get one because I’m faking competence.
Where this whole idea gets problematic is when it gets applied to my writing. I have had three other blogs before this one, all of them with the goal of updating every day or at least every other day, and none before this one ever survived very long. My common refrain, when talking to friends or writing teachers about it, was that I just couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to say or write about. For a long time, the first year and a half of this blog’s existence, I did the same exact thing. I created this blog because I had something to talk about that I felt was important, and then I self-edited myself into silence by saying it wasn’t worth posting about all the time or by telling myself I should never repeat myself. Deciding to post every day for a year is what saved this blog from eventually be consigned to the trash heap like all the others. It also taught me that I have a lot that’s worth saying, even if I’ve said it before. A lot of things worth saying are worth saying multiple times and in many different ways. It takes practice to be able to do that, but so does every kind of writing.
I still often feel like I don’t have anything important to say, but I know that I still have a lot that’s worth saying. So even today, when I sat down and felt like there was nothing important on my mind or stirring inside me, I could find something worthwhile to say. It has taken a year of practice and several hundred thousand words worth of blog posts, but I can finally say that I’ve gotten over this particular hump. I may not be constantly keyed into all of the most important issues in the world, but my views and my thoughts are worth writing about. It’s really difficult to be a writer if you don’t believe that on some level or another. It still feels a little conceited sometimes, to be constantly putting my thoughts out there for everyone to find, but at least I’m not running an anti-vax or flat-earth blog. At least what I have to say isn’t really hurting people. Like the description of Earth from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I’m proud to say the worst I am is “mostly harmless.”
Well, I’m sure I’m also a little caught up in my own stuff from time to time and there are probably a lot of people who find my inability to get directly to the point frustrating, but all that kind of fits under the “mostly harmless” descriptor in my opinion. Even if I’m not doing everything I want to be doing, I still feel like I’ve gotten past one of my major hurdles to writing. It’s a good feeling, to be honest, and I think I should add that to my list of personal triumphs to be celebrated.
I hope your holidays are wrapping up nicely and I hope you got a lot of writing done! Or, you know, at least ENOUGH writing done. We’re on our last calendar week of the month and we’ve only got six days of writing left, but that’s still enough time! It might take a lot of work (I’ve got eighteen thousand words left to write), but if we dig deep we can get it done! I believe in you and I am here to support you as best I can! Good luck!
Humans are endurance hunters. We aren’t really faster than most of the creatures we’ve hunted over the course of history, but we’re certainly more durable than most. Animals often die of shock from a single broken bone and yet humans can live through things that take all their limbs. On a less gruesome scale, we’re also really good at enduring long periods of stress and strain. We can go without sleep for a while and are generally pretty quick to get back into the thick of things once we’ve recovered. How does your protagonist handle this kind of endurance? Are they graceful under long-term stress, or will they crack quickly without proper care? Can they deny hunger or exhaustion when the chips are down and they need to keep moving forward? Write a scene showing us how well your protagonist can endure whatever you’re throwing at them.
If you need a new book series to read or a fantastic series of fantasy books that’ll make you see the potential of Fantasy in a whole new light, you should check out The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Technically, they’re classified as Urban Fantasy, but they helped solidify the genre as its own independent genre that doesn’t need to rely on vanilla Fantasy for shelf space. It still usually does because most bookstores dislike that level of granular sorting in the books since alphabetizing things is a pain, but I’ve gone a bit further afield than I meant to. The series is creative, the protagonist actually grows from a misogynistic egotistical jackass into a real human being who is CLEARLY out of his league and only surviving due to a mixture of luck, audacity, and lateral thinking. At least at first. More recently, things have changed pretty significantly so there’s been a big shift in the formula for the stories and that’s super exciting. You should check them out and get into a great series whose newest book COULD be coming out soon! Sometime in 2019! Probably!
If you’re having a difficult time working your way through a scene, trying drawing it out. Not lengthening it, but putting a pen or pencil to paper and representing it with images or something. I like to use bubble charts when I’ve got a busy scene to write and I need to keep track of too many people to juggle while writing. Since I play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons, I’ll do “round graphs.” The idea is that I represent the movements through the scene in six second intervals (skipping ahead a bunch when no one is moving) without attaching dialogue to the rounds because talking is a free action. If there’s a lot of dialogue between a lot of people who are also moving around, I’ll add dialogue trees to the rounds. If I’m trying to get some key element of a scene worked in smoothly instead of tracking a bunch of people or their speech, I’ll write down the core of that element and slowly wrap layers around it until it can fit in the scene. For instance, if I’m trying to show grief in each of the characters, I’ll start with what they’re sad about, how they feel about their grief, how they show their grief, how they think they’re showing their grief, and how other people see their grief. From there, it’s easier to just plop it into the scene where appropriate because I can just go to the correct layer for each character depending on narratorial perspective. The idea can work for pretty much anything, so I recommend experimenting with it until you figure out how to apply it for your own writing.
Yesterday and today have been weird. Between getting booted off my laptop for a surprise Windows update and trying to arrange a visit with my grandparents, I haven’t had much opportunity to get my writing done. I only got six hundred words in once my computer had finished doing its update as it was almost midnight and I was dead tired from two nights of sleeping in an unfamiliar bed that felt akin to sleeping on a moss-covered boulder. I wanted to do more, but I just didn’t have it in me. I also wound up sleeping really well last night, so I overslept my planned wake-up time and didn’t have the time to write before I needed to get out of bed, pack, and head to my grandparent’s place. So now it’s after seven in the evening, I’m sitting in my friend’s living room because I need to be around My People after a stressful weekend, and I’m trying to jam out enough of a blog post that I can justify hitting that “Publish…” button.
Honestly, I should probably just get this up, write one hundred words so I can continue my update streak on the National Novel Writing Month website, and then stop writing for tonight, but I’ve given up on my daily word count so many times lately. I don’t want to keep doing that. I’ve got a lot to do in order to succeed with my goals this month and I can’t afford to keep making excuses. I don’t want to keep making excuses. I want to get my words done, but that’s a tall order when all I can think about is how thin and frail my grandfather felt when I hugged him on my way out the door. How small he’s gotten. How he was too tired to crack jokes. How he didn’t once refuse any of the assistance we offered him. He used to be as big as I am and it’s startling to see how small he’s gotten. In my car, I have clothes my grandmother bought him that are too big for him that would fit me. These are different from the last ones I got. Those were given to me as my grandparents moved to a smaller house and needed to free up some space. They were extra. These are almost new and just don’t fit him now that he’s lost so much weight.
This is one of those things that alters the course of your mind. I can feel my mental topography change and my thought’s about my grandfather show up in every mental space I have ever built. The mental image of my writing–the internal me slowly climbing a mountain without a clear path or a certain destination–is now done in the shadow of another mountain whose paths are all too clear. The empty darkness that is where my internal self lives, a place of calm emptiness where I go to get peace from the noise of my mental health issues and the noise of live, is no longer entirely dark. The ocean of my depression has a giant wave on the horizon that is moving at a speed I can’t detect, but I know it can crash over me at any moment without warning. There’s no escaping this.
I imagine I’d feel something similar if one of my parents was ill, but it’s hard to know. It’d probably be different and maybe worse in its own special way. My grandfather has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories involve him or stories about him. I remember when my sister was being born, the one who is only a couple of years younger than me. It is only a flash, a moment in time, a picture of a story someone once told me, but it’s still crystal clear. I remember my older brother and I playing some kind of game on the couch in the basement of their old home that involved taking the cushions off the couch. Maybe we were building a fort, maybe we just wanted to bounce on the springs of the couch, but our grandfather was there, watching over us as we played as he put up with our games in a way that let us know he’d rather be here with us than anywhere else. He was a bartender and union electrician until his retirement and he’s always been a tough old man in my eyes who still managed to avoid a lot of the more toxic bits of masculinity in his emotional dealings with us. That might just be the eyes of a child worshiping his favorite relative or the rose-colored glasses of an adult remembering his favorite relative since most of that side of the family has a tendency to engage in passive-aggressive bullshit more often than not, but it’s hard to believe I’ve imagined it entirely.
I want to be able to write about it, but I just don’t know how to fit him into a story. He’s always been a goofy, silly old man to me, and I don’t want to just drop him off somewhere that won’t do justice to the person I’ve seen my entire life. This is all still pretty recent and I’m pretty sure I just need more time to figure it out, but it’s hard to write anything without thinking him. I want to preserve a part of him in the stories I tell, just like I’ve got snapshots of so many people in my stories, but I haven’t spent as much time considering him like that. Even though I’m familiar with loss and the limitations of mortality thanks to the loss of high school classmates and my own traumas, some part of me just refused to accept that this man who always seemed bigger than me–even after I had an inch on him–would one day no longer be. I still don’t want to believe it.
Everything comes to an end eventually. There is a price to be paid for everything, even life. I’ve gotten a lot of life and happiness out of my grandfather, especially considering I know so many people whose parents have already passed on. I just always hoped it would be longer. I mean, out of all my grand-relatives, I always kind of figured he’d be around the longest. I feel kind of crappy saying that, but it’s true. Now I have to face the fact that it isn’t and I’m having a hard time reconciling my feelings and my knowledge. Especially when I’m struggling to figure out how to write about it.
I’m going to eat some kind of alcoholic desert my friend made and rejoin the group for a little bit, but I think I might take the night off from my National Novel Writing Month project and try my hand at writing about a man who is leaving a shadow larger than life. I hope your day was productive and I hope you manage to reach your writing goals today. Good luck.
One of the big Fantasy series I have been enjoying lately is Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. Despite being made up of three (of ten, according to what I’ve read) giant Fantasy tomes, his stories are fun, quick, and refreshing. This gigantic, sweeping series features a world that is different from most fantasy worlds I’ve read. The powers are novel, the means of getting powers relies on rules that are slowly being revealed but are incredibly interesting, and everything originally from the world has some kind of carapace because of the regular storms that swing through the area or is otherwise incredibly hardy to account for how insane the weather is compared to ours. Beyond all that, the stories aren’t afraid to confront difficult issues or show how terrible people can become good people. The effects of trauma, the reality of depression, and complexity of doing bad things for good reasons are all addressed (incredibly well) throughout the series.
How does your protagonist respond to interpersonal conflict? Are they a pot-stirrer, or do they hate the idea of being involved in the nitty-gritty of other people’s lives? Some people immensely enjoy setting up conflicts between people and some people would literally rather die than engage in any kind of emotional or verbal conflict, let alone a physical one. How does your protagonist feel about them? Is it something they can handle easily or is it going to be a struggle they’re going to need to muddle through? Write a scene showing them responding to or engaging in some kind of conflict.
Don’t chain yourself to continuity when you’re writing. If you get hit by a great idea for something that’s pretty far down the line from where you’re currently writing, pursue it. Don’t put it aside and expect to remember it when the time comes. The same goes for entire scenes or chapters. Or plot points. Or books. If an idea comes to you, record it. The idea might change as time passes and it might not fit when you finally get to it, but it’ll still inform how you write the parts around it. Maybe it’ll bring you back to an element of the story you lost between writing that section and reaching it. No matter what, though, it’ll be worth recording because at least it’ll get the idea down somewhere so you can keep your mind focused on moving the story along rather than trying to juggle story pieces that showed up ahead of their moment.
I know it might make me sound like Scrooge or the Grinch, but I really hate the holidays. You spend a bunch of time trying to participate in something bigger than yourself only to wind up wiping yourself out as you try to make sure everything goes well or that everyone has a good time. Then, once the food is done and everyone has finally settled down to eat, you spend your time trying to make polite conversation and not rip off someone’s head for making an incredibly shitty comment that you don’t appreciate but which really isn’t worth ruining everyone’s good time. Because there are people who enjoy this experience. I’m sure at least one of my siblings had a great time. I think my older relatives also had a great time. It’s not like they’d admit it if they didn’t, though. That’s not polite. An entire day was sacrificed on the altar of family and festivity and all I’ve got to show for it is a new degree of tiredness, a slow smoldering anger at someone for the ignorant shit they said, and a sort of tacky feeling to my mouth that is the result of too many sweet deserts.
I honestly get along with most of my family. I also can get along with almost anyone, so I don’t really know how much that’s saying about my relationship with them. Most of my family skews toward the conservative side of things, in politics and religion, and I’m about as liberal as they get without entire abandoning sensible democracy. I dislike mind games or being passive aggressive and one side of my family plays tons of mind games while the other side engages in constant passive aggressive warfare. It’s exhausting just to be around them, and that’s just on normal days. If there’s something going on or something in the subtext of the gathering that’s less than positive, it gets exhausting to even think about being around them because they’re all in on the games and I just want to be left alone. Which is apparently “a millennial thing” rather than a “properly manage my mental health and be the steward of my own well-being” thing. I’m still quite upset about that remark, to be honest. It was uncalled for and I would have thought it was out of character for the person who said it until I heard them say it. Now it is entirely in character for them and they have been made lesser by their more apparent small-mindedness.
I also left my light therapy lamp at home so I’ve been without its benefits for more than twenty-four hours now and I kind of miss it. Even if I don’t need daily exposure to enjoy its benefits, I really enjoyed having it as a part of my morning routine. In not even two weeks, it has already become an indispensable part of my morning routine. The warm glow of it on my face as it stirs my brain and mind to life while I slowly get myself in order to start the day… It has probably been the most beneficial thing I’ve done for myself outside of creating good writing habits. And deciding to end things with my ex. And playing the Hamilton lottery. Okay, maybe not the most beneficial thing, but it is definitely having a major positive impact on my life and I miss the little bump it gave me every morning.
Honestly, if it weren’t for my plans to visit my grandparents (the ones who are having health problems that resulted in me being entirely derailed for the first full week of the month), I’d have left to drive home yesterday after dinner. Mostly because I was frustrated by my relatives but also because I like sleeping in my own bed. I’m looking forward to getting back to the audio book I listened to on the way down and having some quiet solitude for a few hours. In fact, the only reason I’m not definitely driving home this evening is because of Shitty Music Neighbor and my desire to have a Friday night free of his shitty music. I slept right through it last week, but I don’t know if I’m tired enough to repeat that performance again. I probably would be if I drove home tonight.
I’d also lose out on a few hours of writing time and that’s precious today. I’ve got the usual two and a half thousand words to write, but I’m probably going to be busy all day. I’ve got a friend to visit, grandparents to visit, and both of those things are far away from where my parents live so I’ll probably have about three hours of driving just to get to and form these events. Even if I only spend a couple of hours on each of these visits and it takes half the time I expect to drive around, I’m still only left with the evening and filling that with a drive home would leave me with no time to write since I’ll probably be too tired to do much when I get home, especially if I don’t try to stay up incredibly late to just push the words out. That never actually works out for me.
I’m sure my family would also appreciate it if I stuck around for a while longer. I don’t see them much, on account of living in a different state, and I know my youngest sister wants more of my time than she’s gotten so far. I don’t think she’ll get as much as she wants, even if I stayed until Sunday, but I don’t really want to just leave without giving her at least a little more of my time. I left for college several years ago, when she was just six, and I haven’t been back much since, so I think she kind of misses me without really understanding why, which is why it hits her so hard when I don’t have the time for her that she wants. I also don’t really know her as well as I know my other siblings, so I could be entirely off base. I would guess my absence has something to do with it since I’m the only one of her siblings who hasn’t moved back into our parents house at some point or another. For most of her life, I’ve always just been a little too far away to easily visit. I imagine it’s not a great feeling to have a brother who seems to like the same things you do who is never available for you to get to know better. Any attempt to bond is further complicated by our respective mental health issues that tend to clash if we ever spend more than a few minutes talking to each other.
Family is tough and I dislike the holidays because they’re stressful and often upsetting. For me, anyway. I hope your holidays are nothing like that but actually serve as a chance to rest up for the lat push of the month, this last week of writing before National Novel Writing Month draws to a close. If they don’t offer anything but more frustration and emotional drain, feel free to use National Novel Writing Month as a reason to pull away a bit and get some room to breathe. It may not be easy, but you’re worth it. Good luck with today!
Humans, as a whole, celebrate birthdays in a large variety of ways, usually dictated by cultural traditions. At the same time, there is a growing movement in modern Humanity to redefine how we all treat birthdays. My boss remembers when people are work would bring in treats for someone else’s birthday, or else the workplace would provide them, and now we’re all expected to bring something in ourselves unless we manage to avoid admitting it’s our birthday by conveniently taking vacation around it. How does your protagonist view their birthday or celebrations in general? Are they something to be avoided, or are they a ready-made good time? Write a scene showing us your protagonist’s inclination toward celebrations in general or birthdays specifically.
Currently, my favorite Science Fiction writer is doing a great job of putting out a book or two a year. He’s had a notable career in that he’s dependably produced books you’ll enjoy if you enjoyed any of his previous ones and, while he’s probably not a writer pushing the bleeding edge of wordsmithing to new heights, he’s probably one of the best Sci-Fi writers producing works right now. I’ll admit my collection is a little dominated by white dudes, so I’m also willing to admit I might be wrong. I think all of the authors he boosts for visibility, using his success to help minority writers succeed, are amazing as well and I can’t wait to keep digging through the writers he’s recommended. You should check out Scalzi’s books if you want some good Sci-Fi on a regular basis since he was the writer who inspired me to try writing my own Science Fiction. He’s got some really cool ideas out there that will hopefully inspire you to come up with your own.
I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to get uncomfortable if I’m sitting in one place for too long. My legs get restless, my knees start to feel weird, and my back demands the opportunity to bend and flex. I can counter this somewhat by using a standing desk, which is something I’d getting set up at work as we move from one office to another in the coming weeks, but I much prefer something even more free-form. I like to lounge on the floor, propped up on pillows or beanbag chairs while I work. I can roll around, twist into any comfortable shape, and never get stuck in one position for long enough that my knees start to hurt. I’d suggest you spend some time considering what barriers keep you from your writing desk or area. Are they barriers of comfort? If so, checking out different ways to sit or recline are your best bet. Even springing for a different chair can work wonders. I started using a padded folding chair instead of my computer chair because my computer chair is constantly sinking and I’m actually enjoying the simplicity of the folding chair. Maybe you’ll find out that you feel the same way if you start to explore ways to find comfort.
Trying to write during the holidays is difficult. There’s a lot of stuff that comes up that doesn’t normally interfere with your day. It’s really tempting to write off (ha-ha) the entire day, if not the days around it as well. There’s travel from one city to another (sometimes multiple cities if you’re trying to make multiple holiday meals), large meals to consume, time in the kitchens preparing food, time to catch up with relatives you might not have seen since the year before, and the time you need to just lounge around the house after eating before you’re ready to do anything. There are very few days in a year that have any of those things, much less all of them at once. If you do wind up taking the day off of writing or even taking a few days away from writing to visit with family or loved ones, I don’t think anyone could really blame you for that unless they’re a miserly, Scrooge-like loner who begrudges people their families and joy. Those people aren’t worth listening to when it comes to making time for family, so just ignore them.
I’m going to try to get some writing done today. I haven’t missed a day this month, and I’m planning to keep that up for the entire thing if it is physically possible for me to do so. I’m also still behind on my National Novel Writing Month project word count, so I am actually hoping to make up for past days with low word counts. This post doesn’t count, unfortunately, because I wrote it before going to bed. I technically didn’t start it until after midnight because I only just got my daily minimum finished before midnight thanks to driving, eating a large meal, spending time with my family, and trying to be social. I don’t really count that as “today,” though, since I hadn’t gone to sleep. It’s only the next day once you go to sleep. Anything I do before then can still be chalked up to the day I last woke up on. Dozing off sorta counts, but not really. There are rules.
I’m probably going to try to work it in during the morning since I know I’m probably going to be completely useless after dinner. My parents are planning some kind of activity to keep us all engaged together instead of letting us all drift apart to do our own things like we’ve done in years past, so even if I hold back on the food a bit I’ll still be rather more occupied than I would prefer. I plan to take my own advice, of course, and work in some writing sprints here and there, as I need a break from social engagement, but I’d still like to get a few uninterrupted hours of work done at some point. Like I said, I’ve got some catching up to do. I’m about six thousand words behind right now and I’d like to close that gap. If I can get myself to forty thousand by the end of the weekend, I’ll be in a good spot for the last five days of National Novel Writing Month. I can do two thousand words a day, no problem. Which means I’ll have four days to do ten thousand words since I’m at almost thirty thousand as of this morning. I can definitely do two thousand five hundred words a day. Aside from the last couple days when I was falling asleep at my computer, I did over three thousand words a day. Maybe I’ll even get in the groove for a binge and just catch myself all the way up in one day.
A distinct lack of writing binges is an unintended side-effect of my daily writing and blog progress. I no longer go long periods without writing like I used to and that’s almost a requirement for a writing binge. It is difficult to do several thousand words in a single day when you don’t feel like you’re full to bursting with things to write about. I was really hoping to be able to work in a good writing binge sometime this month as my previous daily word count record is ten or twelve thousand (I’ve got it written down somewhere) and I’d like to see how far I can pass it now that my writing speed has taken to major steps up (I’m pretty sure it was ten thousand written in twelve hours of work from a time when my peak writing pace was about a thousand words an hour). Despite having a few days at the beginning of the month with absolutely nothing scheduled, I wasn’t able to focus for long enough to do more than five or six thousand words. Since then, I’ve had a lot of stuff going on that has pretty much filled my days with things to do and even my downtime is filled with anxiety about my grandparents’ health or how I’m going to manage the holidays this year.
As much as I’d love to have one just so I can see how many words I can pump out, I think I’m past the point where binging like that is a good idea. Binging was a big part of the worst burnout and recover cycles I’ve ever done and though I’m not as bad as I used to be, I’m still trying to cut down on those cycles. Steady, daily progress is the best way to move toward a goal and since I’ve gotten that skill under my belt the need I felt for binges to make progress has disappeared. I mean, this will be the first National Novel Writing Month I’ve ever done where I didn’t do in excess of five thousand words on more than on day during the month. I’m pretty sure this is also the first National Novel Writing Month where I haven’t done more than eight thousand words in a day. Even though I’m behind and will need to work harder to still finish in time, I’m still way better off than I usually am since I actually made at least SOME progress every day.
I’m not trying to knock binges. If they work for you and that’s the only way you’re going to get the writing done, keep it up. I still can’t help but think of the quote from one of my college professors that I referenced the other day. If you’re doing your best work in binges, you probably haven’t done much writing aside from as part of a binge. I think this idea is why I’ve been spending so much time thinking about (and writing about) trying to break up writing with time spent relaxing or finding ways to do your writing in a large number of smaller groupings.
Anyway, I hope you have an excellent US Thanksgiving if you celebrate that particular holiday. Otherwise, I hope you have a good day filled with progress toward your goals and manage to avoid burning out as we work our way through the last week or so of the month. Good luck!
Everyone needs help sometimes. I needed a lot of help coming up with thirty separate writing prompts for all of my National Novel Writing Month blog posts. You might need a little help getting the creative juices flowing on your NaNoWriMo project. We both got off easy because we both relied on internet resources so we could avoid asking other people for help. Today, write a scene where your protagonist has to decide between asking for someone for help or looking for it on the internet. Have them work through the process in their head and show us if it’s a struggle to admit they need help or if they’re more motivated by the convenience of looking things up on the internet.
My favorite Disney movie from recent years is Moana. The music is amazing (Lin-Manuel Miranda helped write some of it), the story is beautiful, and they have really stepped up their animation game. I’ve never seen more realistic water and wetness affects or such detailed hair. That’s one of those things you don’t think about, how difficult it is to animate realistic hair. Cartoons have historially resorted to clumbs of hair that move as a unit but Disney, thanks to Pixar’s help, has made it look almost more real than hair in live action movies (since that never seems to get in people’s faces and, as someone with long hair, I can tell you that one of the defining features of hair is it getting in your face constantly if it is unsecure). The movie is great, it has a high-quality feel-good message, and the music is infectious. Check it out during a break from writing!
The most distracting thing I own is my phone. I have literally thought “I’m just going to check my messages quick” and then spent an hour browsing imgur or surfing the web. My tip to you today is to take your phone and move it as far away from you as you can get it without leaving your house, flushing it down the toilet, or in any way harming it. If you’re in your room, plug it in to charge. If you’re at a coffee shop, don’t even think about taking it out of your bag or pocket. If it’s an option, leave it in your car for a while. Sure, there’s a chance someone will call you about something important its a really low chance and your productivity is more important right now. If you’re concerned about a call that might come, have a friend you trust change your password so you can’t just open it until you’ve finished your writing. Maybe just turn it off for a while and check it every hour. You’ve got a lot of ways to remove it from your immediate physical vicinity and I recommend you try them all until you find one that works. You’d be surprised how much your productivity increases.
As I was getting ready to write this post (and wondering what I was going to say today), I added in the prompt and inspiration I’d prepared at the beginning of the month. The first line of today’s prompt feels incredibly apropos. “There’s a price to be paid for everything.” Truly a motto to live your live pay. Right now, I’m paying for a week of heedless late nights resulting from the mood boost of my therapy light and the addictive feeling of making progress on my writing projects. I keep falling asleep while writing or being unable to stay awake and alert until midnight despite the caffeine I allow myself. I haven’t gotten much written the last few nights because I’ve been so tired as a result of being short on sleep and, instead of taking time to rest, I’m making Future Chris pay a steeper price by only getting five to six hours of sleep a night. Which is enough for things to not get any worse, but not enough to recover. I’ve got a few nights off in a row coming up, thanks to the holidays, and I’m planning to use them to get a few night of consistent, quality sleep.
This idea has been on my mind a lot lately as I’ve been trying to find a better balance between taking care of myself and relentlessly pursuing my goals. I mean, if you read my blog regularly, you’ve probably seen that as I’ve been circling around this idea all month. But it’s not just on my mind. It’s even something that’s been coming from outside influences as well given that two related topics, how to plan and pick projects in order to avoid burn out and how important it is to take the time to actually celebrate your successes, have been the subject of Vlog Brothers videos in the past week. I tend to engage in a cycle of burnout and recovery rather than avoiding burnout all together, live most people try to do. I don’t even celebrate things. I acknowledge them as they pass and then continue working on whatever project currently has my attention. Neither of these things are healthy habits and they’re things I’m actively trying to work on.
I mean, the fact that I actually chose to not finish my daily minimums the last two days, when I was within a few hundred words of reaching them says a lot about the progress I’ve made. A few weeks ago, I’d have just powered through, gotten even less sleep than I did, and made things worse for myself. I’m trying to concede to my limits and focus on the fact that they’re daily limits, not long-term potential limits. Only getting one thousand one hundred words done last night is not going to have a significant impact on my writing goals for this month. Going to bed at midnight instead of struggling until one or two in the morning helped me recover enough that I’m not worried about driving to Chicago this afternoon. I’m also going to continue to focus on going to sleep at midnight every night, at the latest, and trying to get down to work on my writing sooner after work. It’ll be a lot easier to do since exhaustion from not sleeping is usually why I’m unable to sit down to my writing for a while after work.
Additionally, I’m planning a break for the end of the month, to celebrate another successful National Novel Writing Month and a new personal record for number of words written in a single month (I passed sixty thousand last night and I’m on track to pass ninety thousand by the end of the month). Even if I fail both goals, I’m going to turn it into a break to celebrate my year of writing and for essentially doing one third of my lifetime writing in the past four hundred days. I’ve made tons of personal progress as a writer in the last year and I’ve blown some personal goals completely out of the water. I feel weird saying this, but I deserve some recognition from that, even if it’s from no one but myself. I’m not saying I need people to pat me on the back or tell me how amazing I am (though I’m certainly not going to turn anyone down if they volunteer to do just that), I just want to take some time to celebrate my success with my friends. I have no idea what that celebration is going to entail since I’m not really a “go out and have a party” kind of person, but it’ll be fun. Maybe I’ll just make a nice dinner and invite my friends over to eat it and drink cheap champagne for an evening.
As much as the statement “there’s a price to be paid for everything” implies a lot of negativity, I don’t see it that way. I’ve spent my whole life paying for the wisdom I have now and the experiences that have formed me into who I am. Some of them have been prices I willingly paid, like giving up a lot of other goals and my time in order to write every day for a year. Some of them have been prices that I would have avoided, like the foundation for most of my common sense and wisdom about the way the world works. Some of them I didn’t even have a choice about. Ultimately, though, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of pre-paying lately and I’ve finally get myself to the point where all my cards are stocked up and ready for the right opportunity to cash in on all the work I’ve been doing. I think I’ve been paying the price for a level of expertise and ability I never considered possible and now I’m finally seeing it pay off in ways I didn’t anticipate.
I’m in a spot where I can now work to minimize the negative aspects of some of my habits, like my penchant for staying up late or sacrificing sleep. I know I can pump out a coherent blog post of over a thousand words in an hour. I know I can do a thousand words in an hour if I’m actually awake and two thousand or more in an hour if I’m focused. I don’t need to plan six hours a day to write three thousand words, I can just plan two or three. I just need to set rules and enforce them. Sleep by midnight. Take a day to celebrate my accomplishments. Take my health seriously. If I actually give everything it’s due priority and stop trying to just cram things in wherever I can find a little space, I might actually start to relax and be even more productive. Which is terrifying and exciting. More productive? What would I even do with myself if I was MORE productive?
Anyway, I hope your writing is super productive today and don’t be afraid to carve out some time for yourself today! Holidays are important, but as are your habits. You might need to make some time concessions when it comes to when you’re doing your writing, but you should be able to still get your daily words in. Even if you don’t get all of them, try for a few. Daily progress adds up! Even a dozen words is better than zero. Good luck!
There’s a price to be paid for everything. For most goods and commodities, it’s the assigned cash value of said goods and commodities. For rash actions or heedless words, it might be a loss of social standing or the destruction of an important relationship. There are a lot of ways to interpret the saying and I’d challenge you to come up with a novel way for your protagonist to “pay the price” for something they’ve done or something they’re knowingly choosing to do. Trials and tribulations are important, but sometimes it’s just a simple trip to the grocery store that winds up being a little more expensive than expected because they were out of generic orange soda so you had to buy the more expensive name-brand stuff. Or maybe they went to the club and, instead of paying a ridiculous amount for a drink, chose to go home alone instead. I’d love to see what you come up with.
In reference to yesterday’s inspiration, today’s inspiration is about the series that got me interested in reading more than picture books. Redwall, a series of stories about anthropomorphic animals featuring a bunch who live at the titular Redwall Abbey, was written by Brian Jacques and generally (but not always) follows the successor to one of two or the major lineages: the spiritual successor of a warrior who helped found Redwall Abbey or the spiritual successor of a different warrior who left the area that would become Redwall Abbey and made his new home in a mountain fortress. They’re both great stories, Jacques is easy to read, and the food descriptions are some of the most detailed and delicious-sounding I have ever read. Even now, decades later, they’re still fun for me to read.
I’ve previously mentioned writing sprints in the tips section, but I want to revisit them as we approach US Thanksgiving. The idea is to set yourself a short timer, for five to fifteen minutes, and then to spend all that time focused on writing. It’ll take some getting used to at first, but you’ll find your word count climbing steadily higher and it’ll be easier to focus during your writing periods because you’ll have the chance for a break between them. Plus, they’re the perfect size for taking refuge in the bathroom to get a break from your little cousins nagging you about some game they’re playing or your aunt trying to pin you down to talk about college or the fact that you’re still single (all hypothetical scenarios that are not based on my life). They’re also perfect for taking a break in the guest bedroom you’re sleeping in between dinner and dessert when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the number of people and amount of noise present at the dinner table (which is a scenario based on my life). Just keep your laptop handy, get a good text editor on your phone, or dictate some notes to yourself using a vocal recording program on your phone. Anything works.