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.

Story — Know My Name

A weary sigh. A balled fist over heavy eyes. White, blank light pouring into my eyes as I stare at the screen. The screen that needs to be more than it is.

As I sit in the chair, wondering why I’m actively avoiding sleep as the sun threatens to lay its routine siege on the cold night sky, I can’t help but laugh. This is the fifth night this week that my sleep deprivation is only getting worse.

After a relaxing night playing online with brothers and friends, midnight comes and goes. “Alright, time for bed,” I lie. They all voice their agreement. After all, we’re responsible adults. We don’t have fun fooling around through the unholy hours in the morning. But neither do I sleep.

It would be so simple to write blog posts and fiction during the day. It must be. But my schedule is so crammed, it would take conscious effort to squeeze in that writing time. Time I’ve been spending frantically, and often without success, to curb back my weariness with a power nap. A vicious cycle, for the only free time I truly have is the only part of the day I could really enjoy myself, and my personal responsibilities dictate that realistically, I should be spending that time more wisely.

And yet here I am. I’ve done this every night the past few days. I successfully trudged through that day. What’s the harm in doing it again?

I’ve been spending these last few weeks anticipating a move. A desperate change of pace. Finishing the semester and having time to truly dedicate to writing. My inner conscious says “I’ll force a daily two thousand word minimum over the summer!” But I don’t really know where my life will be then. What if it gets even harder to write?

I’m at an impasse, it seems. I need a good night’s rest, but there isn’t enough time in a day to accomplish that and all the things I’ve laid out for myself. This brief, two week hiatus on my next novelette is soon to hit it’s fifth week.

“Do I need a break?” I argue. Perhaps that’s the answer. The only other time I took a break on this blog, it did me wonders. I felt invigorated. That break lasted ten days, and it started in grievance, when I had not the presence of mind to write. How could I personally justify taking another one?

“Nobody reads your crap anyway,” an internal voice replies. “Taking a break isn’t going to affect a single person beyond yourself. Just let yourself breathe.” A pretty harsh way to argue this to myself, but it is logic I can’t refuse.

A moment of silence as I move my hands from the keyboard to my face once again, reading over the last paragraphs. This isn’t even a story. Not really. This is a rant; berating myself for falling into this cycle of perpetual weariness seasoned with a lack of inspiration.

But, there is hope. Being able to force myself to write past two in the morning even when I’m immensely tired is a relatively recent development. Days like these are encouraging. If I can write in this state–even this sorry excuse for a fiction piece–then I can forge a career out of it. Right now, this is a hobby.

But one day I’ll be out of school for good. And the world shall know my name. Sooner or later.

Life — Having What it Takes (390)

I’ve been writing since I was around twelve. I had this idea in my head about two friends that were so powerful they could fight an entire army on their own. One was a wizard, the other was a ‘dragon keeper’. I even had a bit of a plot twist set up where it would be revealed that they were literally the same person with different fates and lives, somehow. No, I didn’t figure out how that was supposed to work, but it was an idea I had.

I have been writing more and more in those seven plus years since, but before I started this blog early 2016 you could have read everything I had ever written in two sittings (one, if you spent the day doing it). Nowadays I have a substantial amount of output (several novels worth, if you count my blog in that tally), and I’ve finally gotten into the habit of writing even when I don’t want to. Not to mention the fact that I’m starting to be able to enjoy certain aspects of writing.

But if you had asked me the probability of me becoming a “published novelist” only five months ago, I would have said “at best, fifty percent” (this being an almost direct quote from one of my blog posts). Why? Well, a lot of reasons. Writing is hard, even when it’s fun. It has never been something I do in my spare time, and even now I don’t consider writing time “free” time. Instead, I would liken it to going to the gym with the hopes of being a bodybuilder one day. You don’t get in shape without putting in the work, and it’s the same thing here.

But if you asked me today the chances of me making a living off of my writing one day, I would say over ninety-five percent. Because a few things have finally clicked.

When I was first starting out, I read Jim Butcher’s LiveJournal that he did for aspiring writers. In his parting words, he said something that never really resonated until this moment in my career.

If you stay the course and break in, you are going to acquire a ton of absolutely necessary skills. You have to learn to motivate yourself to write even when you don’t feel like it: Discipline. You’re going to have to learn the ropes of the business, and how to work with an editor: Professionalism. You’re going to face what might be years of adversity, facing a monumentally difficult task and you’re going to overcome it: Confidence. You’re going to do it with very little active support, and when you look back at this time in the future, you’re going to know that it was something YOU did all by yourself: Strength.

My brain understood that an author’s path is a hard one, and most walk it alone. But now my heart finally gets what that even means. In the Writing Excuses podcast, Brandon Sanderson mentioned that his editor commented on how young he was for an author. He was twenty-six. For me, that’s another seven years.

I can take that to mean I’ve got a long way to go before I actually sell anything, or I can look at it optimistically. Sanderson was considered young for a published author when he made it. That means that even if I need another seven years of writing practice before I publish, I won’t have lost any time in the professional field. They’ll say I’m young now, and they’ll say I’m young then. (To clarify, this is because a lot of authors looking to publish are retiring people. Comparatively few people start their working class career as aspiring writers.)

I’ve learned so much with this blog and now my writing group in this past year alone, that I’m finally starting to really see how daunting a task becoming a writer really is.

If I get a job offer elsewhere. If I start making a living off of something that isn’t writing, I’m not going to stop. It’s my firm belief that nothing at this point can stop it from happening anymore. The train has left the station, and I don’t know where the next stop is, but I can’t well get off now.

I’m a writer. I’ve made up my mind to walk this path. There’s no turning back now.

 

As a side note, Jim Butcher’s advice is really inspiring, and they’re words I live by at this point. I found a hard time only quoting one chunk earlier because I kept wanting to expand it more and more, so I decided to leave the whole post below. There’s also a link to the LiveJournal itself, if you’re so inclined to read it that way instead. Continue reading “Life — Having What it Takes (390)”

Life — Hunkering Down

These past couple years, I’ve gotten a lot better at really fleshing out my writing career and taking on the persona of a professional writer. I’ve started writing more. I’ve started thinking of myself as a “writer” rather than an “aspiring author”. Heck, I don’t even dress the same anymore. But one thing I still have a huge problem with is turning on Writing Mode.

I don’t know how other writers do it: sit down and just work for hours and hours on end. These blog posts don’t count. I can scratch one out in less than twenty minutes if I really need to. But when I need to write a longer, dedicated fiction piece, I have to rely on being able to be in the mood, and if I’m not, I just can’t do it. I let myself get distracted way too easily. When I have a day off, the day before my mind says “Perfect chance to get ahead of the game: a week’s worth of blog, get some homework in, maybe even write the Sunday short and work on the next D&D session!” But when that day actually comes, I don’t get out of bed until almost noon, and I take two hours to ‘wake up’, eating breakfast and watching videos until it the sun’s made it’s descent. I probably take an hour or two of a video game break in between what little work I actually get done.

I’d love nothing more than to get out of bed at nine, write a blog post or two every hour with a ten minute Hearthstone match in between. Once I get far enough ahead I can take an actual lunch break before I hunker down and write some fiction. But my mind is just never there. My willpower is never strong enough. I wonder why that is. My days yield four thousand words at their strongest, and I’m not saying that’s a small amount, but those are outliers. Those are abnormally productive for me. I want that to be way more normal than it is, but I can’t get my mind to want that enough.

I keep telling myself that it’s just school. I want the semester to be over so I can get more time to write, but I don’t know if it’s just an excuse. Maybe the problem will get even worse because I have more time to write. Obviously a change in mindset is necessary here, I’m just not sure how to accomplish it. In the very least I want some buffer days so that if I’m caught without work, I can publish stuff without having written that day (I say as I write this at almost 3am).

But I don’t know. Am I asking too much of myself? I write on average around five thousand words a week. I could do that in a day. In fact, I could pretty easily write the entire week’s worth of fiction every, say, Friday, and have nothing that needs doing throughout the rest of the week. It sounds a lot more appealing than the “get it done when I want/need to” system I’ve got going, but our brains don’t always pull the strings. Plus, if I’m that productive on Friday, that would open the week up to more fiction writing, which should be my end goal anyway.

In the very least, I do hope this will stop being a problem come the summer, when I’m left with nothing but a laptop on a week-to-week basis. That’ll mean no more video games for me!

Life — April Update

April is here, and let me say I am ecstatic to see what this month brings. Lots of big updates for games I play, and a lot of big things happening with school, as well. A lot of things will be very different by the end of the month, and I’m really optimistic as to what’s coming. As usual, the order of things I’m going to talk about with my life: blog changes, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

As far as my blog goes, I don’t actually have any big changes planned (for once). I’m going to stop numbering the blog posts that end in ‘5’, because it’s getting tedious at this point, and I haven’t needed to feel validated through numbers in quite some time, so from now on the only posts I’ll number are by 10’s. (Maybe sometime in the distant future I’ll jump to 25’s, but at that point I’d probably just stop numbering the posts entirely.)

My writing plans are in a lot of flux right now. I’ve got a lot of current things I’m working on, and I’ve been pressing pause to start new things without actually finishing anything. I’m still only halfway through Windcaller, and only wrote the first half of the fourth Lisa Stenton piece “Answers”. I had the idea of Cyntheras’ story a while back and didn’t want to hold off on it for too long, so I figured I’d get it off my chest now. Her story may actually end up being the eighth novelette in the anthology Rise of the Riftguard, but that depends entirely on how the rest of the novelettes go leading up to that point.

I plan on finishing “Answers” next week, and especially since the first half didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, it’s already turned out to be more work than I’d have liked it to be. I plan on pitching it to my writer’s group this week to see what they think of the first half before I finish up with it. And as far as Windcaller goes, I need to make some adjustments to the latest part before I can continue working on it, but I plan on finishing Delanden’s story this month as well! Maybe I can move on to that Spark story I’ve been talking about once I’ve finished all of this!

My video games of choice have been fluctuating a lot recently. I’ve been playing a lot of Heroes of the Storm lately, and I’ve sort of embraced it as my go-to these past several weeks. I’ve also started playing a bit of League of Legends, too, but at this point I don’t like it nearly as much as the Heroes, primarily because there’s so many more moving parts that I can’t hold on to. What’s more, Heroes is getting a huge update later this month, and it’s changing the entire interface of the game in such a way that I can’t wait to get my hands on it! And also Hearthstone‘s latest expansion: Journey to Un’Goro, is releasing mid-April! Lots of cool stuff I’m excited for. I’ve also been playing Minecraft more lately, and my current project is to build the starting city of my Dungeons and Dragons campaign. It’s coming along nicely, I’d say, but the more work I put into it, the larger of a project it’s getting to be. And here I thought it would take me a week tops.

While I’m working on that, I’ve been catching up on the Writing Excuses podcast! I never got caught up with it back when I was giving it a lot of attention (in August I think?), and I’m currently on season 9, which spans 2014 (each season is one year). Since each season is a total of over 17 hours long, hoping to be caught up by May is a long shot for how much free time I have.

My spring semester is still going pretty well. I love my astronomy class because of how much cool stuff I’ve been learning from it. I did a post on Fraunhofer lines several weeks ago, and it’s just one example of huge scientific concepts I had zero knowledge of until I took this class. Especially since Nacre Then has a lot of astronomical phenomena going on, and another universe I’m working on has a lot of weird space stuff happening, this is easily one of the coolest classes I’ve taken period. (It just sucks that the class meets for four hours at a time. I don’t get how people I know can just take three of those sorts of classes in one semester. My brain would be fried!)

And while I’m talking about school– I applied for a bunch of different scholarships this year. The year prior I won the first scholarship I’ve ever tried, so technically I’ve won 100% of the scholarships I’ve applied for. This year I’ve sent applications for about seven-ish, one of them being the 2017 Writing Excuses Retreat. I don’t expect to win any of them (least of all that one), but winning a small $200 scholarship would be pretty neat, at least, and it cost me (almost) nothing to try. I’ll know before the end of the month if I did win any.

Last but not least, I’m going to start trying to publicize myself a bit more. Specifically, I made an official Reddit account and have been trying to learn the community’s ways as I lurk the Writing Prompts subReddit. I figure if I can write cool stories there and submit good writing prompts, I can get my name known in that community and maybe even start building a following. It hasn’t gone well so far. I try to submit a writing prompt every day, but nobody has ever submitted any story based on one of my prompts, and some of my good ideas were even downvoted a few times! I can’t take this to heart, I know. I just don’t know the community or what they like yet. We’ll see what happens.

So, that’s everything that’s new with me. I hope to bring even better news next month, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings!

 

Life — Subpar Results (360)

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of trouble forcing myself to write. I often state that writing is never easy, and I’ll still stand by that comment, but in the end I do manage to maintain a blog with an average of over five hundred words per day. I get it done. Even on the days that suck. On the days that don’t, I get more done than I need to so that when the sucky days come, I don’t have to deal with it.

These past few weeks haven’t had any easy days, however. There’s no reason for it. With everything that’s been going on with my life, you’d think writing would be easier as of late, but that hasn’t. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that getting into the “writing zone” isn’t influenced by anything I can pinpoint. I can say that I know how productive a day is going to be for me based on how I wake up that morning, and I haven’t had a good day in over two weeks now.

It sucks, but you can’t force it. I can force myself to change my mood, but I can’t force myself to want to write. Sometimes the pressure of blog deadlines helps, but on the terrible days, even that won’t work.

When that happens, I’ve come to accept the fact that not every day can be one you’re proud of. Some days will be bad. Some days will be slow. Some days you don’t even have the willpower to get out of bed. That’s fine. But making yourself feel bad about those days isn’t fine. We all have them.

The thing to keep in mind here is your mindset. If you want to be productive, but can’t bring yourself to do it, that’s good. That just means it’s not the right day. If you’re not being productive and don’t care, that’s different. It’s the desire that’s the important part. Now, I realize this isn’t a universal thing, as many professions require being productive whether or not you want it, but drive is important.

If you have the personal drive to work even though you don’t want to, and aren’t getting paid for it, that should telegraph a message to you and those around you. There’s no incentive there. You’re doing work because you know you should and for no other reason. It’s a lot easier to convince somebody to pay you for something if you can prove you’re not only doing it for the money.

So, when I don’t get as much done as I had wanted to that day, I try not to get upset. I could have just as easily gotten nothing done that day and the only substantial result would be how it made me feel. The only profit I get from this blog is the satisfaction it give me, along with the writing practice I know I’m accumulating. If I suddenly stop making new posts, the only thing that will change is how I feel about myself. I can’t stop now. Days may not be easy, but even subpar results are still results.