Life — Writing Mode

Over a month ago I had plans for what I was going to do over the summer. With no school or job, I have pretty much free 24/7. So, I decided to utilize it to implement Stage Three of the “Productive Me®”. After Stage One and Two (overhauling my work space and my physical appearance), Stage Three was to be a full, set in stone schedule I would adhere to day by day. It included set times in which I would be eating as well as specific break times in between a six hour writing session. I had everything planned.

And I had the self discipline to adhere to it exactly one day.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated with myself, but I’m not surprised. The heat always makes it difficult to be productive, and while I don’t want to diffuse the blame from my own lack of willpower, I really do feel like I could be doing more than what I am if I were in a different situation.

I’m not trying to make excuses and say “Woe is me, I would be great if only…”, but rather I think the way I’m forcing it isn’t right. That isn’t to say I’ve learned what does work, because I wouldn’t be having any issue of I did, but I’m still missing something.

I think about this a lot. I go to bed and wake up later than I’d like. I’m a morning person, but I rarely have any mornings because I don’t go to bed before 2 am. I’d go to bed sooner, only my room is loud and that path isn’t likely to bear fruitful results.

If I had the means, I would move. I’d find an apartment or condo in northern California or Oregon where the heat isn’t so oppressive, and just existing isn’t quite as expensive as it is here. Somewhere where things aren’t so busy.

Am I lazy? I would argue against that. So much of my thought process is driven by my desire and need for independence. Every time I need help in anything it weighs down on my soul, and so I strive to be the best at anything I do.

So when I can’t find the strength to sit down and write, even when I know I’ll feel great when I’m done, I’m at an impasse. I sit there staring at the blank screen for over an hour. Maybe a few paragraphs, but “Writing Mode” never comes. That elusive trance where the minutes float away as I’m lost in thought writing. I can’t force it, no matter how hard I try. But I know the conditions when it comes the easiest. And those conditions aren’t easily accessible at the moment.

It’s times like this that I wonder. Is this a writer’s problem? Or a human problem? Perhaps it’s something unique to creators, but I can’t help but feel like every day that I let slip without writing a substantial amount of fiction is a failure. What am I worth if I can’t even muster up the willpower to sit down and stare at a computer?

Life — Chapter One. Again.

One thing about my writing career that has always frustrated me, and that I cannot seem to train myself out of, is the fact that I get bored. It has happened every time I try to write one continuous story, usually around the ten-thousand word mark. When I was actually trying to write a novel I would press on after that, but often when it hit that point it became a chore, something that writing should never be. “Only write what you love” is advice I get a lot. So I adhere to it.

It’s ended up creating this sort of bizarre paradox in my writing. My passion is worldbuilding. I love grabbing huge ideas and making societies out of them. “What would a culture of people with no eyes be like?” or “How could a people scared of the nighttime survive, and how would it shape their lives?” I end up with original cultures, nations, and religions in crazy fantasy settings. But those details are never fleshed out onto the page because I never get that far.

If it’s one thing I do, it’s write great Chapter One’s. I’m constantly writing short stories that sound like they are the first chapter in a novel. It’s because they are. But I don’t want to keep writing because I don’t want to stop liking that character and their story. Sometimes, I won’t even know what comes next.

This has been my plight. I know I can write great hooks. It’s all I do, for one thing, so I get a lot of practice in, but I don’t want to be a short story author. I want to be a novelist. In short stories, I can only tease at the societies and the worlds I’ve created. I never have time to flesh them out.

One of the big reasons why all of this is a big problem for me is because I’m actually really bad at both character and plot development. At least, I think I am. Plot is especially hard for me, because trying to piece one together has never felt good to me. It always feels fake, and I don’t know exactly why it seems so artificial. I’m better with characters, but I feel like I only have a few dozen, and the only thing that changes is their name as I put them in different settings.

I’ve tried outlining. I’ve made character sheets and framing the plot structure chapter by chapter. But taking any meaningful time to do that saps the enjoyment from the story, so when I do try to write a novel, most of the time I wing it, with the only preparation being a few loose ideas I have in my head. This is often called “discovery writing” in the community, but this also feels wrong to me. I have such a technical and organized mind. I like to plan. Except when it comes to writing.

None of it makes sense, so I stick to what I know. “Chapter One”.

Life — June Update

With the onset of June comes the official beginning of summer. That means school is out (not just for me,) and the real fun begins. For me, though, summer is terrible. It’s too hot in Southern California, and once it starts to hit 90°, it doesn’t go back down until October. I, for one, can’t function well in the heat. It makes me lethargic and unmotivated, which means it’s the most difficult time of the year for me, but I’m still going to try to be productive. So, in typical monthly update order: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

I have a few minor changes to the blog planned for the future. The biggest of which is the new rule which I’ve already employed, and that is the “I can post fiction in lieu of a typical blog post any time I want”. It’s been getting more and more difficult for me to come up with real Learning! posts, and sometimes, writing fiction is just easier. The second change is simply a consequence of my other plans, which I’ll talk about more in a bit, and that is the fact that since I’m going to be writing a lot more, blog posts will be written further and further ahead of schedule, which might render the first change meaningless. Only time will tell.

So, writing plans. Phase Three begins officially on Tuesday. As you may recall from May’s update, I’ve been working on a few personal transformations to better prepare myself for more writing. Phase One was a revamped work space, Phase Two was a wardrobe change, and Phase Three is a daily schedule, in which I force myself to start writing full time. This plan will be set in place very soon, and if all goes well, I’ll be writing for about 24-30 hours a week. I’ve never written that much on a regular basis, but hopefully it will give me the time to not only write blog posts in more favorable hours of the day, but also allow me to give proper attention to all the things I’m currently working on. Right now my immediate project are the Spear Gate stories I’ve been writing over the past few weeks. I may or may not put a halt on that soon, but I so want to refocus my efforts on Rise of the Riftguard, as well as Lisa Stenton and the Spark universe. With dedicated hours to work for writing, perhaps I can actually work on all of them at once.

My free time lately has been entirely consumed by Heroes of the Storm. I’ve been playing it more and more since I got back into it (in January, I believe), and at this point I’ve been playing it exclusively. I’ve jumped back into more competitive play, as well, and right now I’m working on climbing the Platinum ranks with the (false) hopes of hitting Diamond before the season ends.

As I’ve been doing this, I’ve been listening to Critical Role again. One of my brothers got into it recently, so I’ve started from the beginning so I can follow along. At this point, there are over a hundred episodes, and with each episode being over three hours long (on average) that’s, well, three hundred hours to catch up. If I spent five hours every day listening, it would still take me a month to be brought up to speed (and I already know I can’t devote that much time to it, so there’s that). But it’s great to finally go back to listening to real things, as I’ve spent the last two months spending video game time with music, which isn’t as efficient as I could be.

My semester has been over for a while now, but I’ve still been going into a local high school each week to teach improv. Monday, however, will be my last day for the school year. It’s always awesome to watch the kids grow more comfortable on stage and with themselves. I learned a lot about improv and teaching in general through my year with them, and next year I plan on actually helping them on a more personal level as well. I didn’t even try to learn all of their names this year, but I only teach about a total of fifty kids, so it’s more doable than I had originally thought.

Lastly, in a few days, a few friends from improv are graduating high school. They were freshmen when I met them, so it feels like a piece of me is leaving the high school for the last time. It’s unreasonable, because the last class I shared school grounds with will really be next year’s senior class, but still. The original improv team is flying the nest, and some of us are going very far away for a long time. It’s bittersweet, but I’m happy for them all.

Life — Writing Several Projects

Lately I’ve been tackling lots of separate unrelated writing ideas, and it’s left me a little overwhelmed with the things I want to be doing. With the onset of summer, I’ve wanted to challenge myself by setting blocks of writing time throughout a work day, like many professional authors have. It’ll be the first time I’ll have a time goal rather than a word goal, so it’s a little daunting, but it does beg the question, what should I be writing?

Regardless of the things going on around me, I’ve basically always had the philosophy of working on the most exciting project at any given point in time, within reason. (If something new sounds cool, I at least hold off until I’m finished with what my current project is.) But lately, I’ve been getting so many good ideas that I’m a bit overwhelmed on where to begin. There’s the newest world-scale project I’ve been working on from recent weeks, that I’ve tentatively titled the ‘Spear Gate System’. But I’ve also had the premise for a new book involving a chess game of gods that I’ve been interested in writing. I would have started it already if it hadn’t been for the Spear Gate idea. Still, I have older ideas that I haven’t finished. Rise of the Riftguard is still a long way from being even close to a finished first draft, and I never got around to starting the new Spark story I had been thinking about. And recently I started a new short series documenting the history of Nacre Then: The Writings of Toreshide.

This leaves five projects, and this doesn’t even bring up the fact that I’m still going to be writing at least five hundred words per day on the blog. The smallest of these projects I could finish in a day, sure, but I can’t focus on all of them at once. It is a nice problem to have, though. Years ago I would have been astounded at all the things the current me is trying to juggle. And I think setting a time to write will help with this a lot. I can be writing the ‘Chess of Gods’ book one hour, and then for a small half hour break I can kick back and write some more Toreshide pieces. On one hand, this will allow time to refresh my own head space, but since I’m still just speculating, it could completely burn me out.

And this still doesn’t even address the elephant that’s always been in the room: getting bored. My single largest shortcoming as a writer is that I still get bored with my ideas way too quickly. The one and only time I wrote a full-scale novel was about five years ago at this point, and I’ve pretty much stuck to short fiction ever since. It isn’t terrible, of course, but I want to be able to consistently write novels. Most of my short stories are really the Chapter One to a book that will never be written.

I think I’m doing fine. My philosophy of only writing what interests me has carried this far, but part of me wonders whether its keeping me from really developing the ability to commit to a longer work.

Life — May Update

Alright, we’re back in business, folks! From now on I’m going to resume my daily schedule as normal. As far as the blog goes, nothing new is on the horizon, so in typical order of a monthly update, I’m going to talk about writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

 

My writing plans are a little hectic right now. I never finished Windcaller, and never started that Spark Novelette, a story I tentatively titled Breach. More than likely, I’m going to make some edits to what I have with Windcaller and then finish it up before moving on. That might take about a month.

The reason I don’t really know what I’m going to do in the near future is because I recently had not one but two awesome ideas for books. One idea is the premise of a book, and the second is very large scale worldbuilding; one that can span different series on different planets without them being directly related to each other. In fact, one idea can fit into the other one pretty seamlessly. The problem with these ideas is that they’re entirely new, and they require a ton of forethought. I don’t usually have to plan stuff out because in Nacre Then, I already know where everything is going, I just need to write it down. In short stories, I don’t even need to know where it’s going, I just need to write it down. But with these new ideas, I’m going to need to plan ahead. Way ahead. So we’ll see where those ideas go in the future.

As far as video games go, there isn’t much to say. Now that school is over, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to myself because I’ve been so busy (which seems so backwards to me). When I get some free time though, I’ve been playing Heroes of the Storm pretty much exclusively, and I also played through Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild over the past several weeks. I’ll talk about that more later.

I am a little ashamed to admit I haven’t been exposing myself to new media lately. The only thing I’ve read or listened to in recent weeks was Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson. I do plan on finishing up the Writing Excuses podcast soon, though. Also, once summer begins in earnest, I’m going to actually try to physically read more. We’ll see how that pans out.

There isn’t much to say about school, either. The spring semester is over, and I might try to stay in touch with a few people I met in those classes, but I don’t think the chances are very good. So there won’t be any more school related news for a few months.

Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve got some big summer plans. I was originally going to move to San Fransisco for a few months, but that fell by the wayside, so it looks like I’m staying home for now. That said, I’m not going to let the days fly by twiddling my thumbs. I plan on actually writing more. Way more.

I set this into motion with three phases to help change my place and my mindset. First phase was to deep clean my room. I went through everything I owned and tossed out most of it, and rearranged my decoration to give my living space a visual upgrade. This took me close to sixteen hours worth of work (moving lots of boxes, organizing things together, that sort of thing), but phase one is complete.

Phase two and three are a lot more simple. Phase two is just a wardrobe change. I’ve been running out of usable clothes lately (I had to do my own laundry every week), so this just means buying more clothes so I can wear new things. This will be easy, as it’s just a couple hours worth of shopping.

Phase three is the day planning. I’m going to set a daily schedule that organizes everything I should be doing on a given day, and when I should be doing it. For example, 11am to 5pm would be “writing time”, when the only thing I am allowed to do is writing related work. If all goes to plan, this schedule will get more and more strict as I acclimate to it. We’ll see how this goes.

Once all that is finished, I’ll be in prime condition to boost my writing output substantially. And hey, even if it doesn’t work, I’ll still end up being much more productive the first few days, and I’ll be left with a bit more insight as to what does and does not work to help my writing.

Life — Nacre Then’s Beginnings and Summer Plans

I have returned! With the conclusion of the spring semester, and the onset of summer fast approaching, I have some super exciting news. For today, I have two big things to share, and my blog’s weekly schedule will resume this Monday, starting off with a May update. Fun stuff.

First things first, I’ve self published my first book. It’s a short story anthology titled Nacre Then’s Beginnings. You can find it on Amazon for $7.99! “Why did this happen so suddenly when I’ve been working on other projects?” you may ask. Well, I was going through the writers group edits for my stuff, incorporating changes and setting aside copies that had no notes on them. I don’t go through this process often, mind you. This was several hundred sheets of paper I was going through looking for notes, and some stories were given to my group several months ago. By the time I went through everything, I had lots of copies that were left blank, and it seemed a shame to throw them away.

I made a post on Facebook about it, asking if anyone wanted some hard copies of my stuff. I was met with way more requests than I had anticipated, so it got me thinking. A lot of the people that wanted to read my things don’t use the computer very often, or simply wouldn’t know where to look if they did want to read my work. I thought it would be a great idea to make an easy way to access my work physically, and this meant self-publishing.

Putting this all together wasn’t really a big task. In fact I decided to put a lot of my older works into this anthology in case I decide to make this a more regular thing. After throwing in a preface, some author notes, and cleaning up the stories a bit, I went to CreateSpace, an online formatting service, and got it officially published for free. Easy peasy. I won’t get into how long it actually took, though. Start to finish, formatting the manuscript and making small edits took me almost ten hours of work. I partially blame the free service for that, but I can’t complain about free things.

My plans for this book are pretty simple. This isn’t my “debut” novel. A lot of it contains very dated and non-canon works. As a result, I’m not advertising it (much). I’m just going to inform friends and family (and interested parties) that it exists, and anyone that’s interested will be satisfied. As for future publications, that’s probably a long way’s off. I do want my first real work to be a novel, after all, and I haven’t even written anything suitable just yet. Maybe someday sooner than later, though.

 

In other news, I had plans to move to San Fransisco for the summer. I thought I had a job opportunity over there, and I thought it would be cool to get out of the house for a while. I planned on getting some quality reading and writing in, being away from my computer and video games, so while I would have had a full time job, my intent was that my free time would be spent much more productively.

But as it turns out, the job I thought I was applicable for wasn’t. So if you’re one of the people who I told this to, it turns out I’m staying. I’m not upset about it. Technically, it lends itself to the possibility of me being more productive, since I’ll have all day to work on reading and writing more. In practice though, we’ll see how that turns out.

I’ll outline my plans for this summer more thoroughly Monday, when I give my May update. I’ll give you a hint, though: I’ve got a cool idea for a book that involves a board game and gods.

Review — My Biggest Problem (400)

Instead of doing a conventional Review post, I thought I would make the Daily Dose’s 400th post special by talking about me and where I’m at. “Isn’t that a Me/Life post?” you ask. “And shouldn’t you talk about this next Monday where the May Update should be?” These are both fair questions, but I’ll actually be reviewing myself today. My personality. Looking at my life, and especially where I can improve. It’s good to reflect every once in a while.

First things first, I’ve gone through a lot of personal growth since I started this blog in February. And it’s all amounted to me being confident enough for me to introduce myself to people as a writer and not feel like I’m just pretending. It’s only a matter of time before I publish now, and that is really important. But I’ve talked about my growth there before.

Six years ago, I was an introverted elitist. I didn’t talk to anyone because I assumed strangers were beneath me. In fact, everyone was beneath me to a certain extent. Talking to them would just be a waste of time. But then improv came along and I came out of my shell. I’m still introverted, still a little narcissistic, (but I try to express that part in simple confidence these days). I teach high school kids. Being in public and socializing with people I don’t know well takes energy, but I can do it.

But I’ve pretty much spent my entire adult life lonely. I’ve spoken about this vaguely and briefly before, but when I’m talking to my few friends about this, I often describe it as the one source of failure and frustration in my life. Safety is a privilege I’ve always had, success is (in my eyes) inevitable, and the only thing I’m truly lacking is a feeling of attachment. If anything, I should be thankful that it’s the only real problem in my life, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s prohibiting me from being truly happy with where I am right now. It’s a bit difficult to describe, really. I’ve boiled it down to this: I want to feel like people are personally invested in my life. I know friends and family care about me, but I don’t really feel as though anybody is genuinely interested in anything I’ve done or tried, and this feeling isn’t exclusive to my writing.

Yes, you could just say I’m looking for a significant other. That’s bound to curb the loneliness away, but really, I just don’t have any close friends at all. I have friends I’ve known for a long time, and friends I know I can talk about anything with, but none I really spend quality time with to make a true bond. I don’t feel as though I would have lost anything if I packed my things and moved across the country without telling anyone. I doubt many people would even notice, to be honest.

This is the part of me that needs the most work. I’ve talked to a therapist about this, and the conclusion we’ve come to is simply to talk to strangers even when I don’t want to. In fact, I’ve gotten all sorts of advice on “how to make friends”, but knowing what to do and taking action are two different things. I’m afraid of becoming friends with somebody I don’t actually like and forming social obligations, really. I have gone out and done social activities I wouldn’t normally do in order to fix this problem, but it still feels fake.

And unfortunately, I think all of this is starting to affect my writing. The number of times I have gone to bed at a reasonable hour in the last two weeks is zero, mostly because I’ve stayed up late doing writing that should have already been done (this post included). The worst part is, even the writing I do get done is meaningless. I simply don’t have anything to say these days. I have nothing to teach with the Learning! Posts, and nothing to new to talk about in the Review posts. The only thing I can talk about is me, and all it amounts to is whatever this sounds like, which I assume is pointless whining.

So, I imagine this means I need a break. It’ll be the first one since November. Two weeks every six months isn’t bad, and it will also give me time to breathe as I focus on schoolwork as well as some (much needed) free time. My constant fear of failure is driving me to make irrational decisions, putting production and writing over personal health, and it’s time I recognize that and put a stop to it.

All that said, this is the last post for a while. Two weeks, I imagine, but it could be longer, so I make no promises. But exciting news is on the way. Until next time.