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 29 (11/29)

I did it. I got home from work early yesterday, dug deep, and wrote 5,000 words. I’m officially over a day ahead of schedule. I’m 1500 words away from finishing. I would have stayed awake longer to just power through those last words, but I was practically dead from exhaustion. I’d been nodding off during a meeting at work and couldn’t shake the feeling of fuzzy-brained idiocy I get when I’m warm, not nearly caffeinated enough, and sleep-deprived. So I opted to go home early at the cost of working an extra hour or so every other day this week. The trade seems to have worked out for me because I’ll easily be able to finish writing tonight and I feel so much better than I did yesterday.

I was always sure I could finish (and I REALLY hope I’m not jinxing myself by assuming I’m going to finish at this point) but I know that I truly considered giving up more than once as I fell further and further behind during the first two and a half weeks of the month. If I hadn’t gotten sick, I probably wouldn’t have been so exhausted that I had to write almost half of my word count in four days. I’d have spaced it out better. If I’d had better discipline from the start, I wouldn’t have fallen so far behind that giving up seemed like the right option. I know for a fact that I only persevered because I knew I could do it and I am too stubborn to do anything but double-down in the face of this kind of adversity. If it is something that relies on my ability to work hard and keep going, I will always double-down.

As much as I’m often conflicted about the many different parts of myself and my internal life, I really appreciate this sort of stubborn inability to give up. I can safely say that it is either a result of learning to cope with my mental illnesses or has been instrumental in coping with them. Or both. Something as core to my self-identity and self-experience as my stubborn refusal to accept giving up as an option is hard to trace to its source. Maybe I was born with it, maybe I developed it, maybe its just a tiny voice inside me that constantly says “you’ve gotten through worse so you can get through this.”

Whatever the case, I can verify that the wakefulness and focus this sort of determined stubbornness provides is one of constant and exhausting tension. I can always feel it in my back and in my neck when I’m relying on it. I can feel it in the way my head rests uncomfortably on my pillows and in the way my headaches start at the base of my neck and work their way up when I get so tired I can hardly see properly. Losing that tension, born of a need to accomplish a goal, leaves me feeling all limp and unfocused. After I finally caught up, it took me almost an hour last night to get back to work and only by focusing on another goal, on getting my word count to the point of being ahead one day, was I able to become productive again.

Today, I will finish writing. Tomorrow I will look back and reflect on my journey through National Novel Writing Month. Friday, I will look to the future. I’m interest to see where this goes.


Daily Prompt

Even the best of friends will fight or have disagreements from time to time. No matter what we do, we will eventually lose out temper with someone we love and respect. It may not even be their fault. Maybe we lost our temper with them because they were the dozenth person to ask us a question we don’t want to answer or address. Maybe we’d had a very frustrating day and something they did that normally is just a cute annoyance was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Regardless of why, a lot of the burden of fixing what happened is on the person who lost their temper. Not because expressing their anger or frustration was wrong, but because they lost control or weren’t respectful. To be sure, that is not always the case, maybe us losing our temper was entirely justified, but we’ll still often feel incredible guilty about it. For today, write a scene in which your character loses their temper with someone they love. Show us whether or not they were justified and show us what they’re willing to do to fix things, even if they weren’t the one who was in the wrong.


Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is something I’ve technically shared before. On the second day of this month-long project, NaNoWriMo Day 2 (11/2), I shared a link to an hour-long compilation of Pokemon Route music. Today, I’d like to share a specific song from it because this song, to me, is what victory sounds like and I’m feeling pretty damn victorious today. This link is to a half-hour version of this song. This one is to a Jazz rendition of it. They’re both pretty good, depending on which sort of music you’re in the mood for. I was definitely feeling the jazz version last night as I sat in my room, writing, my room light only by the softened glow of my monitors and the four pillar candles I’ve placed around my room. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and that it propels you on to finish your writing.


Helpful Tips

Music has a huge influence on my mood and on the tone of what I’m writing. I like to keep a variety of playlists around specifically for changing and influencing my mood as I write. I used to keep my playlists on iTunes, but I’ve changed computers and had my library deleted by iTunes too many times to rely on it any longer, so they’re all on YouTube. That way, I can access them pretty much anywhere on any device that has internet access.  I high suggest that you do something similar if you’re looking for a way to affect your mood while you write. Even just putting on something that makes you feel good about yourself or the world or other people can turn what started out as a burdensome day of writing into a more exciting and fulfilling day of fun.

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.

NaNoWriMo Day 27 (11/27)

As I enter into the last week of National Novel Writing Month, I’ve begun to reflect on what’s coming after this. I intend to keep up my writing every day. Probably at a slower pace of at least 1,000 words a day unless that feels too light after all of my cramming in the last couple weeks of November. I probably won’t go much higher than 2,000 though. More than that tends to put too much stress on me and I am really going to need to rest after this month. A lot. Beyond even the mental and emotional rest I’ve been denying myself. My wrists hurt and my elbows ache from being pressed into the awkwardly placed arms of my chair. My fingers are still and achy, caught between the warmth of constant movement and the cold air the rest of my prefers to have wafting over my monitors and into the rest of my room. My sleep schedule will need repair as I’ll finally be getting more than 5 hours of it at a time. I’ll have to do something about my caffeine dependency without going entirely cold turkey. I need to stay cognizant at work. Maybe do a few weeks or months of tea only.

There’s a lot to think about and to plan for. I’ve enjoyed the feeling of updating this blog every day, but having to come up with prompts, inspiration, and tips every day is make this a lot less fun than I’d like it to be. I’d like to get a buffer made, too. Write a week’s worth of posts ahead of time so I don’t need to worry about forgetting on night or what happens when I need to stay up late to finish my writing. Also, what do I post about for? Book reviews are good. I’d also like to get some of my creative writing up here, too. I want to start addressing issues I feel qualified to talk about. Also boost other projects I see that I think are cool, even if I don’t really have a huge audience yet. Maybe a weekly story update of some continuing adventure? There are just so many things I can post, but they all sound like way more work than the random hodge-podge I’ve posted here in the past.

I suppose that’s the price of setting goals, though, isn’t it? I might actually have to work. If I can get a structure hammered out and start actually creating content ahead of time rather than writing these updates at midnight or later of the day I’m going to post them, then I should be able to do this more easily than I think.

I know my readership isn’t very constant and I’ll admit I’ve got no idea how accurate the WordPress stats tracking is, but I would definitely love to hear from anyone who reads this blog. Tell me what you would like to see, what you’ve enjoyed me posting about, and I’ll look into my most-viewed posts to see if I can find a theme. Talking about my depression seems to get a lot of views most of the time, but so did talking about NaNoWriMo during the first week of this month, so who knows?

At the end of the day, I’m really doing this for myself, to prove that I can, and this wouldn’t be the first blog I eventually abandon because I wanted to change the way I present myself online. I’m a bit more fond of this one, though, so who knows? I mean, I actually paid money for this blog instead of just using the free option so I could have a URL without the .wordpress part. Maybe this’ll explode in a super rewarding way and I’ll get the sort of feedback and participation I want and keep updating this blog until the day I die? The future is far-off and inscrutable. I’m sure I’ll find out eventually, though.


Daily Prompt

We all make mistakes. One of the most famous “sayings” points this out to us. “To err is human.” Half the time we make mistakes, they wind up being better for us in the long run because we’ve learned a new lesson or found ourselves with an opportunity we never expected to have. There’s a certain mental philosophy out there that there’s no such thing as a true mistake aside from choosing not to make the best of whatever happens.  We spend a lot of time trying to convince ourselves that this is true, perhaps to keep us from wondering what might have happened if we hadn’t made the mistake. Maybe we appreciate what happened because of our mistake, but it can be hard to avoid wondering if things would have been better for us if we hadn’t messed up. The times we can actually find out are so few and far-between that the whole concept is a popular iteration of stories about wishes being granted, almost as popular as seeing how worse the world would be if we’d never been born (“It’s a Wonderful Life” style). Write a scene in which your character, through whatever means you life, gets a chance to find out how things would have been if they hadn’t messed up before. For those of you writing more real-world oriented fiction, maybe they’ve got a second chance at a date they missed or a new opportunity for interview for a job they didn’t get.


Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is Wikipedia, the source of literally every bit of useless information I need to write about any number of things. I once spent an entire night learning about ships, sailing, and boats, with a few forays into diverse topics that showed up in surprising places. Fried chicken–chicken cooked in hot oil–started in China and traveled to Italy as a result of sea-faring trade and eventually made its way to the southern half of the US where it became breaded chicken cooked in hot oil because there was just so much grain down there that people just threw it at everything just to see what would happen. This practice also resulted in what we call country fried steak. So much useless information for the inquisitive mind that can wind up being surprisingly useful when you least expect it. Most of what I learned about searching for good results I learned from trying to avoid Wikipedia pages on Google. There is just so much information on those pages that is either un-cited or refers to sources that aren’t necessarily trustworthy. I have no idea if fried chicken really came to the US because of the slave trade, but it sure gives you something to think about. If you posses a critical mind capable of reveling in new information without losing the right amount of skepticism to doubt everything on some level until it is proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, Wikipedia is one of the best places to go to just stir up your mind in a whirl of new thoughts.


Helpful Tips

Sometimes, it can be helpful to look at the world through fresh eyes. As we grow, we often lose the ability to see the magic and wonder in the more mundane parts of life. We’re all quite used to getting up in the morning by our alarm clocks, but have you ever really thought about how much work had to happen in order for your phone to be small enough to fit in your pocket, smart enough to be able to tell the time even when it’s not connected to the internet, complex enough to handle not just time-tracking but also the management of all the hardware parts that keep your phone going. All of that does without even thinking about the electricity that powers your phone or the way the screens can detect the touch of fingers.

If you have trouble with taking a step back to really look at things, the easiest way to regain that ability is just head to Wikipedia. Spend a lot of time learning about really mundane things like the origins of Fried Chicken and how older TVs worked, specifically the ones that predated flat-screen TVs. Learn about the process of how coffee goes from being a bean growing in the dirt to an integral part of your morning routine. Learn about the origin of energy drinks and how caffeine is added or removed from soda. Learn about why keyboards are laid out the way they are and why staring at a monitor for too long hurts your eyes. Another way to do it is to spend time why an inquisitive child who wants to learn about everything. Teach a child to ask “why” and you’ll wind up learning more than you believed possible, all while restoring some of the wondering and mystery to the world you thought you understood.


NaNoWriMo Day 26 (11/26)

I managed to write my desired 7,000 words yesterday. It took until 2am, but I did it. I really hope I get more done this afternoon instead of needing to be up super late to finish. I’ve got work tomorrow morning and I’d like to get at least 6 hours of sleep before that. Even though I got 7 hours of sleep after finishing, I’m still super exhausted and worn out. This goes beyond my poor, murdered sleep schedule. I’ve hit a point where I’m putting out more creative energy and material than I’m taking in, thanks to the combination of my writing marathons and my illness, so I can feel myself being drained. I’m hoping that, after one more day of pushing, I’ll be able to settle back down for a quite 1,666 words a day for the last four days of the month and actually start reading and playing games I love again. The tank is nearly empty and I need to fill it back up again.

This sort of feeling has always been worrisome to me because I have a very similar one when I’m having a bad bout of depression. The only real difference is that this creative deflation feeling is centered in my chest and spine. It makes me feel like I’m propping up my head using sticks and strings tied to the ceiling. My depression feels a lot more like my entire self has been deflated and all I am is a rubbery suit of myself that can only flop around from one thing to the next. The reason it worries me so much, despite the clear distinction between the two feelings, is that my depressive episodes always start with a smaller deflation. The rubbery suit gets punctured somewhere and the air starts to leak out from there first, before all the old holes open up and I just quickly fall to the ground like an empty balloon.

The same is true of emotional exhaustion. That leaves me feeling empty and deflated in a different part of my chest and my head. The only kind that doesn’t is physical exhaustion because I’m usually too tired to feel anything at that point. If I do feel anything, it’s the burn of my muscles, an overwhelming desire to sleep, or the stretched and tight feeling of muscles that have been worked out regularly.  That’s one of the reasons I have a tendency to stay up late or choose to not sleep as much when I’m feeling a depressive episode coming on. If I’m physically exhausted, I’ve got no room to feel deflated and I’ll just crash when I go to bed instead of staring at my ceiling with little to think about other than how deflated I’m feeling.

One of my friends advised me to take care of myself when I told her how much I’ve been writing and how much social energy I had to spend yesterday. I, of course, commented that I had too much writing to do and that I’d have time to rest next weekend, once NaNoWriMo was over. I went on to say that, if I spent enough time writing, eventually that would become a form of self-care itself. Of course, I then joked that it was a lot like Stockholm Syndrome, which was met with an appropriate amount of skepticism. The more I think about it, though, the more I wonder if I was really joking or just trying to find a way to embrace an exhausting activity that routinely leaves me feeling drained in a way I associate with one of the most negative aspects of my life. It certainly is appealing. If I could find a way to feel good about the creative drain feeling, maybe I could find a way to make myself hate my depression less.

I haven’t really decided, yet. I’m a little too busy to spend my time thinking about it right now, so I think its going to get stuck with the rest of my self-care in the “on or after Friday” bucket. Only 13,700 more words to go.


Daily Prompt

Selflessness can be very important in a protagonist. It can be something for them to learn, a value them exemplify, or perhaps a flaw that they need to dial-back a bit. The place it most commonly enters into our lives is when we are confronted with a situation in which we stand to lose much by taking any kind of action at all. Perhaps it is a no-win situation and the only way to minimize the loss is by turning away from it entirely. At the same time, a lot of these situations are also more complex than just the result to those directly involved. What does your action or inaction mean for other people down the line? By acting now, and accepting the losses involved, could you maybe cause some good further down the line? Write a scene for your character where they need to evaluate a situation beyond its immediate outcome in order to find the best solution, regardless of whether it is good or bad for them, and then their process of deciding what to do with that situation.


Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is not the media that inspired today’s writing prompt, despite the fact that I want to share it everywhere and with everyone. It is one of a series of backer comics from a Kickstarter campaign and, while the artist made the first comic publicly available recently, it took three or more years from its original share date for that to happen. This comic was only sent out this year, so it’ll be a while before he posts it online. Instead, read the Dresden Files. Harry Dresden may not be the knight in shining armor and bastion of selflessness that I wanted to share, but he’s constantly putting his life on the line to help protect people around him, even when it’s not his fault that the city he loves is in danger. He’s a good example of it means to act toward the greater good even when its going to cost you personally. Most of the time, anyway.


Helpful Tips

As much as I personally struggle with striking a balance, it is important to remember that you can’t create endlessly. Every so often, you need to stop. You need to rest. You need to recover. You can often push yourself far enough that you’ve left what you thought were your limitations far behind, but there’s always a price and you’d better be mindful of what it might be. Eventually, you will need to stop whether you want to or not. If you struggle with feeling in control, it is almost always better that you choose to stop than be forced to stop. Take the time to care for yourself, and not just in a bubble-baths, tasty food, and new books kind of way. Self-care is more complicated than that. Self-care is making the best decisions for yourself when looking at your life beyond today and tomorrow. Sometimes, self-care means pushing yourself to work out every day. Sometimes self-care means pushing yourself to write every day until it becomes a habit. You need to figure out what your self-care needs are, though. I can’t tell you what you need most. All I can do is let you know that there’s an important line to be drawn between writing every day (my self-care) and writing so much every day that I’m left feeling exhausted (causing me to need more self-care). Don’t think of it as a treat to make yourself feel better, think of it as a balance you must find in your life between all the things you know you need to do and all the things you want to do. As long as you don’t neglect an imbalance for too long, you’ll be fine.


NaNoWriMo Day 25 (11/25)

Well, I actually got a lot done yesterday. Not as much as I toyed with doing (I seriously considered throwing caution to the wind and trying to finish the entire 50,000 this weekend by doing about 10,000 a day), but still a comfortable amount. I’ve got to repeat it again today and then again tomorrow if I want to be caught up, but I think I can manage it since I spent a lot of time taking breaks yesterday and didn’t really get started until after 2pm. I’ve got a busy middle of my day today, with a few social engagements, but my morning and my evening are clear, so I should be able to get my writing done in good time.

It feels really great to have a taste of what my life might be like if I were a full-time writer. If I got paid for my novels and brought it enough to make ends meet so that I didn’t need another job, I’d probably be able to get 6,000 to 10,000 words written a day one writing days and then maybe about three to six times that done on editing days, depending on the depth of the editing and how much re-writing needs to get done. That would be amazing. I would love to live like that. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to do that sometime in the next decade. Nothing would make me happier.

That isn’t to say there aren’t other things I want out of life, but none of them mutually exclusive. Teaching writing would be fun, but I don’t know if I’ve got it in me to do that every day for the rest of my working life. It’d be more fun to do a workshop or two every so often. A strong, long-term relationship would also be wonderful, but that shouldn’t impact my day-to-day work if I can actually support a life with my writing. A nice house would only make it easier since I wouldn’t need to have so many distractions in my room, where I’m trying to work. Travel would get in the way from time to time, but everyone needs a vacation.

The future can be fun to think about, but it looks so different my present that it can be hard to imagine the path that connects the two. There are a lot of little compromises in life and, despite what a lot of art, stories, and movies tell us, not all compromises are bad ones. I wouldn’t mind giving up the imaginary future office in my imaginary future house for one rented in an office park. I wouldn’t mind giving up the imaginary future travel for a leaner lifestyle if I don’t make enough from my books. There’s a lot I’m willing to make changes to as long as I get to write. That’s all I really need. I don’t even need to support myself on that so long as my job provides me enough income to spend my free time writing. I want to tell stories. As long as I can do that, I’ll be fulfilled.


Daily Prompt

While we like to believe our characters are the main actors in their lives, sometimes they get swept up in events. It can be a lot of fun for them or something really awful. Getting swept up in a parade can be fun, as can being swept up in a group of fun people going bar-hopping, but getting swept up in a drug bust or a riot is a lot less fun. Additionally, instead of being swept up in crowds or groups, they can get swept in events. Maybe they were a witness to a crime and wind up getting carried along in what happens or maybe someone throws them a party and they wind up being carried along by someone else’s plan. Heck, maybe they literally get picked up and carried along by people celebrating them or they get kidnapped. For today, write at scene in which your character gets carried along with something.


Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is my favorite movie, How to Train Your Dragon. While the adaption from the original texts is not even close to accurate, I feel like the movie nevertheless possesses its own unique charm and should be considered separately from the children’s books. The movie has an amazing score that I love to turn on while I write and all of the characters feel so human. Even the titular dragon feels so incredibly well-developed and human despite being modeled after a cat. All the dragons were modeled after cats. Its amazing. They’re all large, scaly, winged cats that just wanna be your friend if you’d just stop trying to kill them. The development of the protagonist from a scrawny weakling with a large brain to a scrawny weakling with a large brain and leadership qualities isn’t super novel or unique, but the movie definitely makes you feel good about yourself and about things in general as a result of that development. I’d say it’s definitely worth a watch or two. It’s easily one of DreamWorks’ better movies of the past decade.


Helpful Tips

Like yesterday’s tip, today’s has to do with marathon writing sessions. If you aren’t very good at sticking to a time schedule because of restlessness or you’ve got things you need to do during your day beyond just writing all day, try using word amounts to set your breaks instead of times. This only works if your to-do list doesn’t have specific times associated with its tasks, but it can be a lot easier to manage because you won’t be constantly checking the time. It can also help you feel less like you’re wasting time because a mini-break that winds up taking half an hour doesn’t change your big break time. If your mini break is every 100 words, then you’ve still got another few hundred to go until your big break.

I like to break mine into 1,000 word segments. If I’m just trying to 1,000 words out instead of focusing on time, I can usually get 1,000 words written in about half an hour if I actually stay on task rather than get distracted during my quick 250 word breaks. Otherwise, it takes about 45 minutes. And I use my bigger breaks for things like getting a new cup of tea or filling my water bottle or having my early evening energy drink. It works really well if you have a concrete goal, can count-down your progress, can’t “make progress” by accidentally wasting time, and have a reward you genuinely want at the end of the road. This is my preferred method for writing marathons.

NaNoWriMo Day 24 (11/24)

Thanksgiving  and my cold now appear to be over and I can ago about my business, finally. Time to write up a storm. As soon as I catch a friggin’ Miltank, anyway… Thing won’t freaking show up and its been half an hour! So annoying. At least I’m failing to get some Black Friday shopping deal. I mean, sure, I can’t get what I want, but at least I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) and wait in line for a couple of hours to fail to get what I wanted.

Trying to make the time to write over the holidays has always been a tricky endeavor for me. I try to balance spending time with my family with spending time on a commitment I’ve made to myself. This is further complicated by the fact that I recognize that chatting over dinner isn’t enough face-to-face time with my family and the fact that my family is fairly supportive of my writing. It’s a fine balance to find and, combined with the unfamiliar environment and laptop writing, I wind up being only about half as productive as I normally would be. At the same time, though, I usually come back ready to write and be super productive, giving me a few days of increased productivity. Like I said, it’s a fine balance.

Even if I didn’t do as much this holiday as I usually do, I’ve always enjoyed the act of driving places. Being able to climb into my car and just go has always been reassuring to me. Knowing I’m never stuck where I am and that freedom is only a tank of gas away does a lot to calm a lot of my less conscious anxieties that’ll just build when I’m getting particularly stressed. During the actual drive, once I’m on the highway or interstate, I can just relax and cruise, let my mind wander as the forefront of my mind is occupied by navigating through traffic on the interstates or watching the scenery as I drive the old state routes.

I prefer the state highways when I can take them. I dislike feeling rushed or hurried and taking a state route somewhere feels like the epitome of my “I’ll get there when I get there” attitude. There are some really wonderful hills and almost deserted back-country state routes in Wisconsin. Route 12, once you get past the Wisconsin Dells, is probably my favorite drive. Sprawling vistas, forests blanketing hills, and some beautiful rock striations when they have to cut through the hills rather than of around or over them.

Now that winter is closing it, it’ll be difficult to find a pleasant drive or get anywhere far away without using an interstate. Even through the state routes are still the only real access that a lot of the small towns in rural areas have to the rest of the state, they’re not always well plowed or sanded/salted. With my tiny little 4-door Mazda sedan, a little patch of ice is all it would take to wipe me out. I’ll miss the almost-silent sound of asphalt beneath my tires (as compared to the loud scream of concrete), but I’ve still got some time until the snows start. Maybe I’ll go for a drive tomorrow, when I need a break from writing. There’s a lot of unexplored state and county routes around where I live now.


Daily Prompt

When writing a story, it is important to create conflict for your characters. A story without much conflict wouldn’t be very interesting to readers. There needs to be something going on, something at stake to hold people’s attention. However, as we all know through our own experience, a life full of enough conflict to make an interesting story can be completely exhausting. As a result, you character will probably spend some time trying to find peace. Today, write a scene in which your character either finds some peace or takes refuge in their favorite way of creating inner or outer peace. Try to include some reflect on why they’re trying to find peace or make it harder for them to find peace because the conflict of their life keeps intrude on their quiet place.


Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is one of my favorite “feel good about the world” songs, “Great Big Life” by Kyle Andrews. I enjoy almost all of Kyle Andrew’s music, as a lot of it sounds positive and upbeat, even when dealing with more complicated or negative issues. Another of my favorites by him, “I Don’t Want a Lump of Coal” sounds almost as upbeat as “Great Big Life” but is about being left by your significant other right around Christmas. He does a lot of the more typical love songs, but also songs about heartbreak and he mixes them so it’s not entirely clear which is which until you take the time to really listen. Even then, some of them are entirely up to how you interpret them. He has some albums that stick firmly to the softer rock/alternative genre while some entire albums start to dip into a more electronic or pop sound. He makes for great light listening, perfect for background music to just about anything.


Helpful Tips

If you’re trying to finish your NaNoWriMo project by doing a couple day-long marathons around the holiday, it can be hard to sit in one place for very long and trying to move someplace with a less stagnate environment (like a coffee shop or library) can be distracting given the higher-than-usual number of people out and about. If you’re still determined to try, make sure to break up your writing session with breaks. Write for 45-90 minutes at a time, with a few couple-minute breaks mixed in to prevent you from getting too distracted. Do a little bit of research or look up some music. After your 45-90 minutes is done (and you’ll know its done once you start pulling up Facebook or some other social media), actually get up from your computer and go make a cup of tea. Leave your phone behind and let you mind wander as you wait for the water to boil. If you want a cold beverage, find a window to look out for a bit or have a conversation with someone around your place. Once the tea is make and ready for sipping or the conversation has ended, get back to work. As fun as breaks for facebook or video games can be, you also need a break from your screen and electronics just as much as you need to let your brain rest from writing.

NaNoWriMo Day 23 (11/23)

Well, today is Thanksgiving in the US. A day to visit family, eat a lot of food, and not get a lot of work done unless you’re one of those unfortunate people who works in the food service or retail who have to spend the morning catering to irate last-minute shoppers or thrifty/greedy bargain-hunting consumers who left the comfort and warmth of their homes and families behind in order to get the deal on some electronics or household items without having to camp outside a store all night. Having done the camping thing before, to get a game console for one of my siblings, I can’t fault people who would choose to go out the day before if it were an option, but I still think its pretty awful to have people who need to work on holidays.

It’s a complicated issue since it involves income inequality, consumerism/capitalism, and a whole bunch of other things that can probably get wrapped under the inequality and consumerism/capitalism. I don’t feel like I should be commenting on this too much since I have a job with holidays, make enough money to live comfortably as a single adult, and participate in some parts of the consumerism and capitalism. I’m a part of the problem, if not the biggest part of the problem, so I don’t want to criticize.

Now that I’ve gotten that little rant out-of-the-way, I can complain about the cold that just won’t leave, won’t let me work, and is putting a serious hold on my travel plans. My head-fuzziness is back, so I don’t really trust myself to safely carry out all my original plans, so I’ve had to make some new ones. I also didn’t get much writing done yesterday, maybe 1000 words, and I don’t think I’m going to get much done today. If all I do today is rest, eat, and go to bed early, I think I’ll count myself accomplished. Tomorrow, though, we will see… This cold seems to take rather drastic leaps in different directions every time I sleep, so I’m hesitant to make projections about how tomorrow will go.

I really would like to keep writing. I’m at the exciting part where I introduce conflicts and start to really establish the main themes of the books. I’ve made little hints and set a lot of the stage of this moment during the past 15,000 words, so I’m excited to start writing it. I have an idea of where its going, but I really want to find out how its going to get there. I really hope I feel well enough tomorrow to just sit down and crank out the next several thousand words. That would be nice. I’d enjoy that.


Daily Prompt

Fear can drive us to do some rather ridiculous things. Fears related to physical harm can spur us to take action when we otherwise might not, they can cause us to flee what might be a dangerous situation, and they can drive us to perform better than we thought possible by giving us an extra bit of energy to burn. Fears related to emotion harm are much less clear-cut or cause-and-effect. Fear of rejection and abandonment can cause us to avoid attachments of any kinds. Fear situations that have hurt us before can cause us to avoid anything new or out of the ordinary. Nearly silent fears of our own inadequacy can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. Today, write about a fear your character experiences and what it makes them do, either to escape the fear or confront it.


Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is actually one of the first book series I ever got hooked on: the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. This series about anthropomorphic animals living in a wonderful high-fantasy setting is probably the biggest reason I came to love reading and eventually came to love writing. I didn’t do a whole lot of reading after I learned how to, preferring smaller books that wound up being a few years behind my reading level by the time I was given Mariel of Redwall and Redwall by one of my Aunts as a present. Intrigued by the Mouse with a sword on the cover of Redwall and the commercials I saw on PBS for the animated series, I dug right in and couldn’t get enough to read from then on.

The first author I ever met was Brian Jacques, only a year or two before he passed away. Even now, I can feel the influence the books had on me. Their dedication to making the world feel real and their abundant, wonderful descriptions of food struck a wonderful balance of just enough description to draw you in without losing the pace of the story. I still get sad when I remember that there will be no more Redwall books and I’ll admit that I’ve been unable to read the last book in the series because it’s too emotional. As long as I never read it, there will always be one more book I’ve never read and I’ll be able to put off having read them all.


Helpful Tips

As urgent and important as National Novel Writing Month can feel, its important to remember that the rest of your life is important as well. If you don’t manage to finish your writing this month, you haven’t really failed. Sure, you failed a goal you set for yourself, but you tried and trying is often more important for something as long-term as writing. If you can become good at trying, no matter what else happens when you try, I can guarantee you will eventually succeed. The would is full of writers who didn’t start writing right away. People who never even imagined themselves to be writers or that it would even be an option for them. Eventually, they started trying. Eventually, they succeeded. You may not make a million dollars or be the next JK Rowling, but that’s not the point of writing anyway. Write to tell stories. Write because you have something you want to say. Write because you love to use words. Finishing a story is success and whatever happens afterwards is just gravy.

NaNoWriMo Day 22 (11/22)

The disastrous foil to all my plans has arrived and left me struggling to keep going. My cold is lingering and while it isn’t that bad (I can still think just fine and I’m not running a fever or anything), the constant popping of my ears, croaky voice, and over-full sinuses are uncomfortable enough to make focus nearly unattainable. Yesterday, even though my symptoms were worse, I could medicate through them and be fine, if rather tired. No such luck today. Today I can’t get them to abate at all.

I was actually going to write the rest of this post about whether I was too sick to write properly or if I was just using it as a convenient and convincing excuse to avoid trying to write today (and possibly even as an excuse to try finishing the my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo) but I couldn’t get the paragraphs to make sense. It’s pretty clear I’m too sick to coherently evaluate my options which means reason gets thrown out the door and all that’s left is emotion/desire.

After checking in with those two, it was really nice to find out that I was going to feel sad if I didn’t write today and even more sad (at the lost opportunity, not at a perceived failure) if I didn’t at least try to finish on time. This was matched by an intense desire to just write anyway because it’s not like I need it to make a lot of sense right now anyway. I just need to get the words out right now.

If I’m too incoherent to lose what little focus I’ve got, then I can probably just disconnect my computer from the internet and leave my comic books and video games downstairs. It’s not like I’m feeling restless or anything. I’d be perfectly content to sit in this chair (well, a more comfortable version of this chair) until I no longer felt sick, so I might as well write while I’m waiting. We’ll see how it goes, I suppose.


Daily Prompt

There are a lot of things we do not like or enjoy doing and would never consider doing every day for the rest of our lives or having as our main source of income. At the same time, there are often people out there who enjoy these things or find them fulfilling. For today’s prompt, have your character meet someone who enjoys doing something they extremely dislike and use the interaction as an opportunity to expand your character’s worldview.


Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is the wonderful composer, Theophany, who created these amazing re-orchestrations/remixes of some of the music from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask that fully capture the various emotions that game carries into each moment. My favorite song from the so-far two-disc series  (Theophany released Disc 2 a year ago today, which was four years after the first disc) is The Clockworks. If you like The Legend of Zelda and beautiful music, you will love Time’s End and Time’s End II. I definitely recommend checking out the music and, if you like it, buying it from the artist. It’s an officially licensed album and set up with a “minimum $3” cost, so feel free to kick in a few extra dollars to support the next couple albums!


Helpful Tips

If you’re writing sequentially and can’t figure out what comes next in the story, try moving what is currently happening to a new place. Take the group of friends talking at a restaurant and have them go for a walk. If you change the scene, it can often lend itself toward new action or a new character’s introduction, both of which are great ways to move stories forward. Don’t worry about making it smooth or finding a good place for them to go or to be going to, but make the change and see what shakes out.

NaNoWriMo Day 21 (11/21)

Well, I’ve officially pushed myself to the point where the minor cold I’ve been fighting all month has fully developed. I’m actually going to need to make sure I get enough sleep every night because I can’t just caffeinate my way through a cold. Nor can I DayQuil my way through one, not really. If I had any sense, I’d take the day off tomorrow so I can sleep before I spend the rest of the week traveling for the holiday. Truth be told, I have so much sense that one of my graphic designer friends made me a little icon that I can send to people with a label that says “Mr. Good Plan Certified Good Plan.” I have some pretty stellar friends.

That being said, I managed to get my writing done last night after my D&D session. I had started it before the session, but 2400 of the 2800 words I wrote last night happened during the last two hours of my day. It feels nice to be back into the writing game, able to throw up something close to my old numbers. The quality’s still a bit lower than I used to produce at this speed, but I’m also pretty exhausted. I don’t typically get 4-6 hours of sleep every night during any month other than NaNoWriMo. Usually, I just write 4 or 5 nights a week, whenever I’m not filling an evening with video games or reading, and there’s no word count goal for every day. That means I don’t wind up staying up an extra hour or two just to finish for the day. I just stop writing when I get sleep and go to bed.

I’ve actually had a few friends and one coworker ask me why I’m subjecting myself to this much stress and exhaustion, beyond the feelings of fulfillment. Which is a fair question. I’d feel just as fulfilled if I was writing at a less demanding pace and I’d also feel a lot less like crap. Trying to meet a goal like updating my blog every day and writing 50,000 words in a month is about more than fulfillment, though. It’s a challenge. Its something I’ve never done before and I want to see if I can. I want to push myself to my limits and see if I can push those limits out further.  I want to remind myself of what I’m capable of doing if I’ve set my mind and aligned myself toward one goal. If I succeed at this, I’ll have updated my blog every day and written not just 50,000 words in a month, but written almost 40,000 of those words in only two weeks. A couple of years ago, for one of NaNoWriMo’s “Camp NaNoWriMo” events, I wrote 40,000 words in four weeks. Now I’ll know that, next summer, I’ll be able to do twice that many words.

Assuming I succeed, of course. I’ve got a head cold now, so all bets are off. We’ll see how things go after I’ve slept in tomorrow.


Daily Prompt

By the very definition of the phrase, no one enjoys being told something they don’t want to hear. Some of us handle it with more grace than others and some of us willingly subject ourselves to these things if we think they’re in our best interest. Despite our grace or our willingness, the end result of being told what we didn’t want to hear can be unpredictable depending on the subject matter itself and what seems like something that shouldn’t be a big can quickly become one. Write a scene in which your character is subjected to something they didn’t want to hear and then have them react differently than expected.


Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is my favorite D&D comic and my favorite place to go for esoteric rules and game-breaking character builds for version 3.5 of Dungeons and Dragons, Giant In The Playground, as the website’s banner reads, is the host of the Order of the Stick comic, which is one of the longest running D&D comics I’ve read and the story is amazingly well-written, with plot-twists at all the right moments and epic scenes that draw you in despite the fact that it has a rather slow update “schedule.” The characters are represented by stick figures, but you can easily tell the artist puts a lot of work and effort into the comic by the detailed backgrounds and how consistent everything is from one panel to the next. If you like D&D comics, good story-telling, excellent villains, and can appreciate jokes made about weird D&D rules, this comic is right up your alley!


Helpful Tips

One skill that is essential to develop is you want to be a writer is discipline. All the inspiration and motivation in the world won’t do you any good if you are not disciplined enough to sit down and write regularly. If you keep it up long enough, you’ll move beyond the need for inspiration and motivation (though they’ll always be welcome). Like any habit you’re trying to establish, writing during the same time period every day can help you get more done every day. During my more prolific times, I would sit down and write from 8 until 10 every evening. Two hours, at least, of writing every day. I’d get about 2500 words written a day on average and it only ever got easier to sit down and write every day. On Weekends, I wrote from 10 until noon every morning, getting a little less done on most days but more frequently letting my writing time leak into the rest of the day. Creating a schedule will help in the same way, even if your writing time isn’t at the same time every day. Discipline is the key to consistency and consistency is the key to writing success.