I’m Not Giving up on You

Lesson learned today. Since I’m a sort of hopscotch writer (I jump around from story to story depending on which one calls the strongest that day, which isn’t very effective in the long-term I suppose, but it works for me for the moment.), I can’t help having a whole slew of stories that just sit unfinished when I boot up the computer and sit down to write. It’s the nature of the beast. But that also brings about its own sense of frustration.

There are those moments when I want to sit down to write, yet have no idea what to write at all. Nothing I say comes out remotely workable. Many call this feeling “writer’s block.” Well, I’ll let you know my stance on that thing later. But that’s not the thing I’m facing recently. Not really. It’s like one of my stories is begging me to pick it up and continue to make it grow into a full-length piece but its voice is so far away and hard to hear that I can’t really figure out exactly which one it is, and when tossed into the middle of a crowd, it’s even harder to figure out.

I went through three or four different story files today just trying to figure out which story I could most easily write tonight. Turns out that it was the story I haven’t taken a look at in literally months: The one I promised myself I’d get into a full first draft before the end of the year. It’s July now. I’m a little concerned I won’t be able to do it, but whatever. It’s a goal and I can work toward it at least.

So personal lesson #23420978: Don’t give up on searching for that story you feel most like writing at any particular moment – it will be there somewhere.

And yes, I totally just picked a random number out of the usual place. Deal with it.

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Exploration and Experimentation… or the writer as mad scientist

I don’t know if it makes me a good (read: dedicated) writer or just a bad student, but I tend to spend most of my time at work writing page after page of story rather than paying attention to my trainer. Though it’s all by hand so the going is slow, I finally finished the first chunk of story last week. Amazed that it was so short, I figured that I’d have to go back and throw in more details just to make the images more clear since I’m writing about things that people wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t normally see. (Honestly, how else does one write about the afterlife except by making it up?) So details are a must and I’m notorious for not putting enough in thinking that everyone can see exactly what I see when I’ve got a scene laid out on the page.

Imagine my surprise tonight when I looked back at the scenes in my head as I had written them out only to realize that the parts I’d originally intended to put in weren’t there. Not even a trace of them. This story is going to fight me, I already know it, but that doesn’t stop me. It’s just like a really stubborn video game stuck on hard mode. The story is worthwhile, the characters interesting for me to explore and the world is something that will take care to build and explore. It’s a challenge I look forward to finishing.

I can’t speak for other writers. I’m not them. But when presented with the opportunity to experiment with how I’ve written something, I sort of grin inside and enjoy the challenges presented to me. It’s like playing a game where there is no walkthrough or FAQ up to help you through it, so you’re exploring it on your own bit by bit and seeing how everything works. In a way, I miss when that was the norm, when it was talking to other people who shared your enthusiasm for that particular story and seeing how they handle it because they play differently from you and seeing if something that they do will work for you.

It’s truly… open-ended.

I am an Elder Scrolls fan. Readily admitted, though I haven’t had the chance to play Skyrim yet. I want to. I’ve also played both the first and second Deus Ex games. I fell in love with playing Morrowind and the first Deus Ex game simply because I could explore for hours upon hours and redo areas over and over again figuring out how best to do them for my unique play style. There was no “overall best” way to play when I played them, just the game, just a world to explore and figure out. Characters to tweak and re-tweak and play. Can’t play this area with this skill that low? Go someplace else and level it or figure out a way around that difficulty. And nobody told me how best to go about it, so it was frustrating but so very satisfying when I finally did succeed. What I miss about those games was the exploration and how organic the worlds felt. Despite the graphic not being anywhere near as realistic as current games, I felt like those worlds were a bit more real and enjoyable than the ones created now. It’s almost like the developers stopped caring about the story itself to a degree and focus more on the flash and pomp, though that isn’t to say that there isn’t a market for that. It’s just that I care more about the story and the motivation for going about doing one thing or another. But I’ve dragged this comparison out for too long. Suffice to say I enjoyed (still enjoy) the open-endedness I had in those games and treasure the hours upon hours spent exploring and experimenting.

Now, I’m sort of applying that to my writing. I have a scene, or even a set of scenes. I have what led up to them though that isn’t displayed to anyone but me, not even in the text itself. Now I’ve the time to go back and experiment, to make this scene work the best it can for me. Because at the moment, even if inspiration is derived from without, I’m not writing for anyone else – just me. Then again, for this piece, I suppose inspiration is only partially from without, mostly from within. Odd little thing that inspiration…

Anyway, back to work with me. *grin* Take care.

September curled her fists. She tried very hard not to cry.

“Green! Stop it! I just want to know–”

“One! Because you were born in–”

“If I am special,” finished September, halfway between a whisper and a squeak. “In stories, when someone appears in a poof of green clouds and asks a girl to go away on an adventure, it’s because she’s special, because she’s smart and strong and can solve riddles and fight with swords and give really good speeches, and . . . I don’t know that I’m any of those things. I don’t even know that I’m as ill-tempered as all that. I’m not dull or anything, I know about geography and chess, and I can fix the boiler when my mother has to work. But what I mean to say is: Maybe you meant to go to another girl’s house and let her ride ont he Leopard Maybe you didn’t mean to choose me at all, because I’m not like storybook girls. I’m short and my father ran away with the army and I wouldn’t even be able to keep a dog from eating a bird.”

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Because sometimes, just sometimes, while reading a passage in a book, the words resonate so deeply with what you feel that you have to stop. I read this at work today during my lunch break and had to stop. My breath came out as a slight sigh and my thoughts for the rest of the day were daydreams I’d tried very hard to suppress.

 

Writing to Heal or Healing to Write?

Even though it’s been a few months since the “mascara hit the fan” as my mother so oddly puts it, it’s only in the last few days that I finally feel as though I’m healing. Yes, my days feel more empty if not outright hollow, and yes, I miss the Stray terribly, thoughts and memories and dreams often floating to the surface of my mind. But the thing is, I’m not entirely miserable anymore. One step at a time, I’m moving forward.

So maybe a massive fight where we both backed off from one another for various reasons (most likely not wanting to put up with angry attacks and refusals to apologize for attacking, not to mention the pain of feeling like nothing more than a huge disappointment) was a good thing, at least for me. Okay, maybe not. I still feel the void left behind, but I suppose there is something that can help fill that. Like my writing or taking on my newest everyday adventure: audio books while driving. Seriously, today alone I killed a third of a pen from writing this story I’ve had in my head for a while. This is a good thing! And I enjoyed my drive to and from work so much more with a story playing in the background than listening to the news.

I went most of today without daydreaming of things that may never happen or reliving memories that will never again come about. While at work, for the first time in a long time – or so it seems, though I’m terrible with my temporal cognisance – I felt almost happy. I have a bunch of really neat people around me, supportive and experienced in different walks of life. We’re all working toward the same goal – survive the damned training course. And as long as some people don’t throw temper tantrums over nothing again, it’s mostly stress-free. In fact, I came to realize just how at home I am in a classroom environment. I like having people around me who are working toward the same goals without really competing for the same single position or promotion or whatever. I like having the teacher droning on and on about the same three or four things for hours on end. I’m most productive during such periods. My few pages from today are a testament to that.

But I suppose it’s even more amazing because just last night I tried to write something, anything and nothing would come out. Everything I tried felt wrong or bad. Nothing was good enough. Judging by how easily this story came out today, I’d say that perhaps I’d been trying to write the wrong story and need to step away from it a bit. I think I’ll do just that after I finish the sequences of events I have already worked out. (Alice, you’ve never seen the Wonderland I’m painting you.) I’ve heard tale that when you’re starting out, it doesn’t matter WHAT you write, just that you do it, and that you eventually finish it. That last part is tricky for me.

But writing might just be what I need right now. I feel better when I do. I just need to keep reminding myself of that fact.

Just a Thought

What is the best gift a writer (or aspiring writer) can hope to give to someone they care about? What is the best way to show that you love a person? It’s simple. Write a story for them. Tell them what you think, what you feel, and try your hardest to convey it all in the words of a story. Sometimes the wording may not mesh exactly right. Sometimes a phrase becomes mangled. But usually, if you’re careful and you put everything you have into it, you can get the feelings across. And that’s the important part.

I screwed up. I screwed up the same way a person developes an illness. You don’t mean to get it, but it just happens and there’s nothing, if anything you can do to stop it from happening. The only thing to do is to pick up the pieces, hope they can fit back together, and get better.

“Woo me,” they said with a smirk on their face, as if I haven’t been trying from the start. As if I hadn’t been called the Best Girlfriend Ever multiple times just for being myself and giving thoughtful treats that were well received.

Oh yes, I screwed up. I didn’t mean to. And we’re back to that space before the starting line all over again, it feels. But you know, there are moments, a few very special tender moments, when I realize that maybe it’s not so bad to go backward like this every so often. When was the last time I felt such a thrill from just the thought of a hand upon my cheek or so grateful for a single hug that I know will feel warm and safe? When, before this mess started, did I stop appreciating the person before me?

Sometimes, we all just need a little reminder of what we already have and how wonderful it can be.

“Let the Challenges Make You Strong.”

I apologize to whomever cares to read this that I’ve been silent for the last few weeks. These past few weeks have been a bit rough for me. Between personal problems, health issues arising from said personal problems, and another push to find employment of some sort, it’s not been fun.

To put it simply, something in my life had me suffering a full-blown anxiety attack. I’d never had one that bad and over the days afterward I had mild aftershocks. Two days ago I had another one that left me terrified of some other health effects. Stress always goes straight to my stomach, so I lost a few pounds as a result. As of today, I’m happy to report that my stomach is no longer hating me upon waking up in the morning. I can eat a little without feeling nauseous or like it’ll make a return appearance.

It’s kind of sad when that’s my happy moment of the day, isn’t it? And truth be told, I’m a little disappointed in myself. I’m the cause of my personal problems. It’s a psychological issue and it amazes me how much control the brain and emotions can have over the rest of the body, how much damage we can do to ourselves just because of fear and anxiety or whatever.

A friend of mine shared an image via Facebook today. It’s a classic motivational poster type image with a scenic background in muted colors with an inspirational quote on top in white letters.

“Look for something positive in each day, even if some days you have to look a little harder. Let the challenges make you strong.”

And it made me realize that even though I used to do that regularly, I haven’t been doing that much, if at all, recently. The question of “when did I stop” floated near the surface, but in the end that answer is irrelevant. When I stopped doesn’t change when I’ll start again. But it does bring to mind a truly relevant question: What other good habits I once built for myself have I been ignoring and thus forgetting? What did I used to do that made me happy and fulfilled that I’ve stopped doing for one reason or another or no reason at all?

I used to meditate. I used to do regular tarot readings for myself because it made me think about my life and feel good (even when the reading was more negative, I still felt good for some reason). I used to dance regularly. I used to sing more. I used to sit at my computer and write almost daily. I used to sit down and enjoy a few cups of tea in the afternoon (haven’t been since my stomach has been upset, but I’m fixing that today). I used to go for morning walks. I used to stay up well past midnight and enjoy the quiet that comes from a house at rest. I used to play more puzzle and hidden object games than I do. I used to devour books and not feel bad about it. I used to go out for myself every couple of weeks (now it’s once a month if I’m lucky, and I’m not counting going out to fill out an application as “for me”).

So what am I doing to fix all of this? I don’t know yet. But I need to. And the consequences are mine alone to suffer.

“‘Have you ever been in love, Kiko?’ Isobel asks.

“Tsukiko’s shoulders stiffen as she exhales slowly. For a moment Isobel thinks her question will go unanswered, but then she replies.

“‘I have had affairs that lasted decades and others that lasted hours. I have loved princesses and peasants. And I suppose they loved me, each in their way.'”

— Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

Because sometimes you just happen to come across that perfect passage that reminds you of someone you know who has affected your life in some way.