Me — Writing Paradox

One strange thing about being a writer, and I know I’m definitely not alone in this, is that I have never found writing easy. I honestly don’t like writing. I like having written, but that certainly isn’t the same thing. Rarely do I get any enjoyment from the act of writing, but I’ve learned that I get a lot of satisfaction from producing stuff, so all I really need is the discipline to force myself to write. Like this! Here I go: words words words.

As you may know, I monitor my mood twice a day and keep track of the things I was doing that may or may not have influenced that mood. I’ve been doing that since December, and along with a myriad of other things, I’ve learned that when I don’t write, I get tired. I found that astounding.

Let’s take an implausible hypothetical and say that I’m ahead on my writing. It’s Thursday, and everything I plan on publishing to the blog is already written and ready to go up until the next Thursday. I don’t have a full time job, and weekends are generally pretty open for me, so I could, without consequence, play video games for three days straight.

I’ve learned that if I do that, I get tired. I start to feel like I’m wasting my life and my time. It sucks, because I should feel great about the fact that I’ve written ahead of schedule, but no. If I don’t produce at least 500 words every other day, it actually starts to fatigue me. How strange is that? I don’t even like writing! That great sense of pride I get for doing a thing is so strong that I need to administer it constantly. Now that I think about it, I actually get withdrawals. It’s like an addiction. Weird.

It makes me think back to a few years ago before I had the blog, when I wasn’t forcing myself to write nearly every day. I certainly feel much better about myself now than I do then, but if I stopped writing altogether today, would I go back to the person I was? I think it’s easy to say no, because I’ve grown in more ways than just my writing, but that drive to keep writing is largely responsible for lots of the improvements in my life.

I don’t think I will ever enjoy writing. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t dishearten me a little. But I won’t let that stop me, either. I like having written too much. I can’t actually foresee a future where I’m no longer writing. I used to say my chances of becoming a professional author were 50-50. But even now, if I land a dream job becoming the lead writer for a video game company, and I’m handling the story construction rather than the actual writing, I don’t think that would actually stop me from writing my own personal stories. Nothing will.

It’s impossible to say what the future holds. But I’m relatively certain that whatever else I’m doing, I’ll always be making at least a little time to write.


Me — March ’18 Update

I’ve been pretty swamped with work lately. The last few weeks I’ve kept a notepad near my desk with a to-do list, because I’ve been having trouble keeping track of everything that needs doing. Because of that, the list always seems to be disappointingly long. I’ve been managing, though, and while I’ve run the risk of burning out and crashing a few times, I’ve managed to teeter on the edge quite well so far.

And as always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

Like last month, no blog changes are planned. I feel as though I’ve found a schedule that works really well with my school semester and work load. I’ve been posting “Me” posts pretty much every Wednesday even though they’re freebies, but that’s mostly because not a whole lot of “different” things have happened lately. I haven’t been playing D&D the last two months, for instance. I also don’t know what I’m going to do about Sunday posts. I’m not ready to dive back into Spear Gate. In fact, I’m writing this before Sunday’s post. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do (or what I will have done, as you would see it). I’ll figure something out, obviously. I don’t want to just not publish on Sundays. Wait, I’ve got an idea. More on that later… Well, I mean yesterday, for you.

Which leads me to my writing plans. They’re pretty short and simple. I plan on outlining Part One of Spear Gate soon, and then going back to work on it. Lots of stuff will be different. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to rewrite it from scratch for the most part. Lisa Stenton is doing pretty well. The second story was hard to write, and I’m hoping March’s won’t be so difficult. They also obviously need work, and if I’m going to publish twelve as a short story collection, they’ll need some serious edits. But as of now I’m still enjoying it and I think I’m certainly up to the task.

Video games. Not a whole lot to say, actually. I’m still mostly playing Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone. I’m eagerly awaiting the next expansion for the latter, because I’ve got a bunch of in-game money saved up for card packs. I’ve also been playing Dungeon of the Endless, but less so the last few days. It takes a big time commitment to play properly.

In conjunction with whenever I’m playing games, I’ve also had the time to (finally) relax and listen to podcasts, too. I’ve caught up on Writing Excuses, and I’ve also been listening to Julian Smith’s new podcast: Spellbound. Each episode is basically an in-depth discussion about a different topic such as space, psychology, technology, etc. The content isn’t out of the park amazing, but since I could start with Episode One as it aired, I’ve been keeping up. It’s nice to not have to play catch-up, like I’m still doing with Voice Acting Mastery. I’m still about two dozen hours away from being up-to-date with that one, as I’m at December of 2015 at the moment. Luckily that one doesn’t post a whole lot of new content. I’m not reading anything physically at the moment. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the time, but reading has always felt like a chore, and with how busy I am, I just need to relax with my free time.

School has been fine. Actually, most of my classes allow me to express myself alongside peers in different ways, so that’s interesting. I have a writing class, an acting class, and a costume design class. None of them are as high maintenance as my classes were last semester, so I’m not stressing out over it. Being at school literally all day two days a week is exhausting, but it could be worse, of course.

Just as a parting thing, I just want to mention how much can change for me in the next few months. If everything goes exactly how I want it to, I’ll be travelling no less than three times this year, and that alone has me excited. I want to start doing more and seeing more, and just generally getting more out of life. I still like video games, but sitting at home and playing them all day makes me uneasy now, even if I have a day off. I have no news to report for now, but hopefully the May and June 2018 updates will be fun.


Me — Writing “Enough”

I’m a big fan of stats and information. I love writing stuff down, compiling it, visualizing it, and while I wouldn’t consider myself obsessively organized, I can’t handle disorganization. Most of the documents I have on Google Drive are kept within four sub-levels of folders. My Spear Gate manuscript, for example, is under “Writing > Bigger Projects > Spear Gate”. The presentation I made for my senior project in High School is under “School > Homework > [Name of School] > 2014-2015 > AP English 12”. Yes, I could pull it up on a moment’s notice if I needed to.

One of my main folders is titled “Data”. I keep track of both information about myself, my writing, and the people around me. It’s not something I need. I could delete the whole folder in a heartbeat and never lose anything I would ever really miss. But having all these lists and numbers is something I like to do, because I’m a visual person.

I have a phone app that is something of a journal. Twice a day I tell it my mood and write a little bit about what I’ve been doing. Knowing how my activities affects my mood really helps me get a better understanding of what I enjoy, what tires me out, and what I can and can’t handle.

I had a tough time getting through this month’s Lisa Stenton. I’ve adopted a bad habit of intentionally procrastinating because I’ve (unfortunately) come to the realization that I can work more productively if I wait to the last minute rather than staring at a blank screen knowing I don’t need to work on it today. I did that with Lisa Stenton last night, and it took me about five hours to write the entire second half of the story. Not too shabby, because that’s almost 500 words an hour. But I wrote in my phone journal before and after I did that, and writing for that long made me exhausted. Maybe that’ll help me learn to write sooner than I need to, because I’m not eager to repeat that.

I’ve only been keeping track of my mood and energy levels for a few months, but I’ve already learned quite a bit. Something that surprised me was the fact that I’ll get a little tired before a big day or big event, and I’ll relax a bit afterwards knowing everything is over.

Another thing I’ve found that doesn’t surprise me is that I need to write in order to be in a good mood. If I do nothing but play games for a few days straight, I’ll feel a little down, because the knowledge of the fact that I haven’t really done anything will make me feel bad. So the best way to keep my mood up is to constantly write. Luckily, I’ve only skipped my 500 word requirement four days in February, and a few of those days I’ve written well over 2,000.

So it’s a balance. I need to write pretty much every day in order to feel productive and thus be in a good mood, but if I procrastinate and let it pile up (like Lisa Stenton yesterday) I’ll burn out and it’ll be way worse.

Moral of the story: keeping track of stuff will make you learn. And learning is always cool.

Me — The Daily Dose Turns Two

The Daily Dose of Derailment turned two years old yesterday, which led me to an interesting realization. If I consider the beginning of my writing career to be the first stories I ever started writing in 7th grade of middle school, the blog now takes up a considerable chunk of how much time I’ve spent as a writer. Roughly 25% of my life spent as a writer has been in conjunction with the blog now.

What’s more, since writing blog posts is considerably easier than writing actual fiction, a good portion of the time I’ve spent writing has been nonfiction at this point. I keep a Google Doc of all the things I’ve ever written and each of their word counts, but admittedly I haven’t updated it since September. It’s simply a lot of maintenance, which is a great problem to have. Even back then, though, over 50% of the words I’ve written have been blog posts, and by now I’m probably well past 500,000 total words published.

I have a lot to thank the blog for. Most importantly it’s held me accountable for actually writing, even when it’s difficult. One of my friends taught me something the other day, and it really works. To paraphrase his paraphrased quote from I don’t remember who: “Motivation is terrible. It won’t get you anywhere because it’s fueled by emotion rather than need. But discipline can give you results and force you to push yourself to be who you want.” I find that sentiment to be surprisingly valid.

The best part is, I really do feel like I’m growing as a writer. I’ve looked into how to grow your audience so that more people will read your work. It involves a lot of engaging with other communities and bringing them back to your own. Honestly, that doesn’t interest me much. I do it from time to time, but it’s mostly to see how others are holding up with their own work rather than advertising my stuff. So when I see I have well over a hundred followers without actually publicizing my work, I can be relatively confident that it speaks to the quality of what I produce more than anything else.

I’ve recently started thinking a lot about how I personally view myself, and I’m happy to say that I’ve finally started to unconsciously view my self-worth in terms of my writing. That’s good because I honestly feel like I’m, generally speaking, pretty good at it. I have a lot to learn, obviously, but after eight-ish years of writing garbage, I’m slowly gaining respect for the more recent stories I’ve been working on.

Last year I submitted an application for the 2017 Writing Excuses Retreat. Of the three writing samples I submitted, the three things I considered my best works, one was written in 2014, and the other two were written in 2016. I still think that they’re alright, but I don’t think that they can compare to newer stories like, well, any of the short flash fiction stories I’ve written in 2018. It proves I’ve made some progress.

By this time next year, I hope to be working on publishing a Lisa Stenton book, complete with twelve 5,000 word short stories. It wouldn’t be the first thing I’ve published, but it would still be a huge step forward for me. Here’s hoping.

Me — Losing Interest in Bigger Projects

For the last two years I’ve noticed I have a problem with staying interested in longer projects. I tried writing a shorter work, Dreamscape, intended to be about 40k words. I liked the idea, but wasn’t satisfied with how it turned out, so as I stopped enjoying it, I would skip chapters I didn’t want to write. I got through pretty much all of it, but missing about 8 chapters it ended up being about 25k words long.

So I rethought my approach. I noticed that I started getting bored 10k words in. So I tried writing an anthology that takes place in Nacre Then: Rise of the Riftguard. A series of seven 10k word novelettes, each tied loosely around the impact of one major event but ultimately unrelated to one another. I ran into a very specific problem on that one, because I didn’t like how the third novelette was going. So 25k words in, I pretty much stopped that one, too. (I do intend to come back to it, though… Eventually. Unlike Dreamscape for which I have almost zero interest in at this point.)

A few muddled attempts at other, lesser projects in between, and eventually we come to Spear Gate. For this, I set out to do something entirely different. Originally, it would simply be a web series. No obligation to turn it into a novel, and no forward planning, either. I didn’t — and still don’t — have an outline for the story. But then I ran into the same problem I had with my original attempt at Lisa Stenton: I didn’t have an answer for the conflict I was foreshadowing. It hasn’t stopped me from writing Spear Gate, but it has led me to be a little wary, and though I resolved to finish it until I finished this “story” (however long it happened to be), it got tough.

So, Spear Gate is in an unprecedented situation as far as my writing projects go. I’m still interested in this story. I have lots more things that I want to explore, and several more that I’ve only touched on. But this current story has gotten too slow for my liking. So I’ve devised a plan. I’m going to write three 25k word “books” (which will really just be parts 1-3), and then squish them together into one genuine novel. Basically, imagine the three act structure only it’s considered to be standalone novels rather than the parts of a single book. (That’s pretty much how the Stormlight Archive works, anyway.) So that’s the explanation for the ending of yesterday’s post. The end of Part/Book One.

But Part One needs a lot of work. Esmina isn’t where I want her to be, for one. I have a plan, she just hasn’t had enough screen time to get that far. I want to rework Rozire a little bit. He’s not changing, really, but I want to do a better job establishing his relationship to Maelys. The fact that he’s a major character until Chapter 3 and then is never seen again seems odd, and I know that. And Xan is also referenced a lot, but the only time you see them is in one chapter. So I need to make Xan more important.

So, as daunting as it is, I’m going to keep working on Book One before I jump into Book Two. Things just need to be set up more clearly. This means an outline. I don’t know if this means I’ll have to write it from scratch or if I can get away with heavily editing the first draft. I suppose it depends on how different the outline looks by the time I’m done with it.

I’ll be honest. I’m a little scared. I don’t want to start over, see how much work it is, then lose steam because I’ll decide to put my focus on schoolwork or other projects. I don’t know how well it will work. But this is the best solution I’ve come up with.

Me — Too Many Ideas

The problem with getting so many good ideas is that you can’t use all of them. Couldn’t even begin to. I’m sure I’m no different from every other creative person in that I have a list of cool ideas I don’t want to lose, but I know half of them (at best) will never see the light of day.

I just thought of a really cool idea for a game, that I could maybe turn into a short story, and then while watching a movie today I caught the tail end of an aesthetic I really enjoyed. I could perhaps marry the two ideas, but in the end, the idea I have is for a game, not a story. I’m not going to say what that idea is (though I will tell you, Dev, next time I get the chance to talk to you in person), but it has a chance of being the story that publishes on Friday. On one hand, this is good. Having good ideas you don’t have time for end up saying a lot about the ideas you do end up putting effort into. But on the other, it’s frustrating.

I had a really cool idea about a novel where the protagonist was one of a million in an army against a small group of (we’ll call them) adventurers. The idea wasn’t so much of putting focus and sympathy into one of the orcs that gets decapitated by Aragorn’s sword, but rather the angle I had presented looked more like “these four people are bad news, and have godlike powers compared to the common man. How can we make the common man have a fighting chance?”

The ten second pitch for the idea was “imagine playing chess where one side only has 16 pawns and the other side has a knight, bishop, rook, and queen”.

I’ve tabled that idea for now, though. Not because I don’t like it or because I ran into problems. Actually, the only reason I haven’t already tried my hand writing that story was because the idea for Spear Gate swooped in while I was putting it together, and it whisked me away. I still plan on visiting it. I even tried framing it into Spear Gate. But in the end, it didn’t work. There’s a lot to the framework of the story that I didn’t explain, and that framework clashed with what I had in mind for Spear Gate. So it’s been on the back-burner for a while.

The worst part is I still haven’t been able to figure out how to hold my personal interest in the novels I’m working on. I resolved to write Spear Gate until I reached the end, but I’m starting to doubt if I can. I really need to get out of the habit of quitting on long projects before I’m even halfway through, but I don’t see how that’s possible when that new cool idea comes along. I would highly doubt this is a rare problem authors face, and yet I’ve never seen or heard any advice on how to tackle it.

Sometimes, new ideas can be a curse.


Me — Daily Habits

Daily habits are a tricky thing. The bad ones are hard to break and the easy ones are a struggle to maintain. For me, my biggest problem is continuing because not seeing immediate results is discouraging. When 2018 hit, I wanted to hold myself accountable for things and not simply force myself to do things, but to do them so often that they became routine.

I had already been meditating for about fifteen minutes every day. It was something I had been doing since November. With this I wanted to find a more peaceful way to handle stressful situations. I’m one of those people that always has to be doing at least two things constantly. Even when I’m relaxing by playing video games I’m usually also listening to an audiobook or podcast. So meditation was supposed to teach me to accept tuning that part of me down a notch.

I haven’t meditated in almost a month now. Not because I can’t or that I don’t have the time or anything like that. Honestly, I just skipped a day and felt no difference whatsoever in my mood. My attitude didn’t change, my stress levels didn’t change, nothing. So I felt no reason not to skip the next day… and the next, and so on. Some time ago I also tried to start a habit of drinking more water every day, but the only difference I noticed was that I had to pee a lot more. So I just stopped.

Part of it, of course, is that these changes take time. You’re not going to suddenly feel great about yourself just because you drank an extra liter of water throughout the course of the day. But it makes me wonder: how much of that habit really changes you, rather than your outlook on the world and your day as a result of you having the fortitude to keep up that habit?

As soon as January started, I also wanted to get into the habit of reading every day. Nothing major, just one chapter every night before I went to bed. This one, of course, doesn’t change anything about your health or day. It’s just good (especially for a writer) to always be reading. But I’ve never been able to reconcile the fact that I’m a visual person. I have to look at each word and read it to myself in my head, and it makes for very slow reading. One chapter a night usually means over forty minutes of reading, and the first book on the list was Return of the King.

I’m starting to think that I’m not reading at the right time. Before bed is just not a good time slot, because that’s usually my relaxing time when I spend time with my brothers playing video games. I can’t do both (not really, anyway). I could perhaps make it the first thing I do every day, but that would only work on days that I don’t have school.

So, despite my attempts, daily habits still elude me. At least I can still be proud of the fact that I can write every day. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I don’t beat myself over falling short — writing is by far the most important of the four habits I’ve mentioned.

I still hope to make all of these part of my daily routine one day. But just like Aragorn said: “Maybe tomorrow instead.” That’s the quote, right? I don’t know, I haven’t read the book yet.