Saturday, 14 May 2016

Pain and Anguish

Well, maybe not the anguish so much. But it's a phrase I love. Pain and anguish. 

I found this intriguing quote on Pinterest. Sometimes I can't help myself and I surf the Pinterest in between drawing words out of my brain and trying to put them in some semblance of coherent order in a Word document. 

We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons. 

Jim Rohn

I'm always a little doubtful about attributing quotes I've found on the internet. It's too easy to fool a gullible person like me, but I like the quote.

Discipline is pain. Sometimes anguish. Maybe that second one is a little melodramatic. I have trouble sitting still unless I'm reading or drawing. I don't settle well into routines. Life changes also throw me off my stride. (I used to think there was a limited amount of those in a year or a month but this is naive.) I don't travel well or change easily. I'm not convinced anyone really handles change with actual equanimity. But maybe these people exist. I am not one of them.

But regret is something I dread. I'm not sure if it's possible to get to the end of your life without some regret but I'd really like to try. Regret is it's own brand of pain... and anguish. And this is why I write, even when I doubt, even when it's hard and even when I don't really want to. The fear of regret is real and like so many others, I don't want to get to the end of life and look back and just see myself working to live. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Book Hoarding

When the title says book hoarding, I don't mean what you might think. Though there is some traditional book hoarding going on.

I buy books that I know I'm going to love and then I don't read them. They sit there for delayed gratification but some have been on my shelves for years, waiting for me.

For this reason, I'm not good with new authors. There are other reasons, but I don't try new books and new authors very often.  Though I do have three book shelves of books I reread and revisit at different, but regular, intervals.I have so many favorites that branching out goes against my inborn laziness. It's the same for new TV shows, different movie genres and even travel spots. I prefer the known.

I'm not sure what will ever entice me to read a book once it's been put in my 'later because I'll love it and need to devote proper time to it' pile. I know there are a few books I wish I could read again for the first time and somehow, I think these books will be those. And I'm afraid to read them for the first time because then they'll be eaten up and digested and I'll never get to do it again.

Funnily enough, I just had that experience again, not long ago. I read Ursula Le Guin's The Tombs of Atuan, unsuspectingly. I won't ever get to read it again for the first time but I'm so glad I did read it. I doubt I've learned my lesson though. I still have a Robin McKinley book I've been afraid to touch, which is clearly ridiculous.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Numbers as Motivators

Like a lot of 'word' people, I'm not overly comfortable with numbers. I'm not a confident mathematician when it comes to percentages and decimals and fractions and a lot of the things I should be conversant with. But that doesn't mean I don't like the numbers.

Because Excel is more number based (therefore confusing and something I get frustrated with) I prefer to play with my numbers in different ways. I like counting and writing things out in graphs and lists that aren't on Excel.  I have a giant whiteboard that takes up half of one of my study walls where I like to keep most of my numbers.

To motivate myself, I have lists upon lists of numbers. I get competitive with myself, trying to beat last year's numbers or last week's. This isn't always sustainable because I travel a lot and lose time and habits that way. I have a journal I kept for a year where I meticulously wrote down my numbers for the day. Of course this habit has died.

But there are some stats I will always watch. Money isn't one of those. Many people find money motivating but for writing, I prefer to look at the words. I keep a detailed count of my yearly words, short stories, novellas, anthologies. I like to see how many of each thing I'm writing, the words I've put into short story form versus novel form and how much I'm managing each year. I can see the good years and the bad and what I need to aim for.

Last year I wrote 233,980 words. Better than the year before but below what I know I can do. There have been reasons, excuses, a lot of traveling and a lot of busyness. But those numbers are a stark reminder of reality. Reasons and excuses don't end up on the board, just the numbers. This year, I can do better.

Just because we're 'word' people doesn't mean we can't like numbers. Instead of motivational quotes, which I know many people love, I keep my motivational counts where I can see them. Everyone needs to find their own motivator and keep it in sight.

People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing- that's why we recommend it daily. -Zig Ziglar

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Happy Endings

I like a happy ending. I know there are plenty of people who prefer other things in their entertainment, but that's what I need in mine. There's plenty of bad stuff going on around us in the real world that I don't want it in my entertainment.

Sure, it's not always realistic and maybe it's naive but I enjoy stories with a happy ending. And I like to enjoy my entertainment. I don't want to get depressed from it.

It's like the G.K. Chesterton quote.

"Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."

I remember the last thing I watched which didn't have a happy ending. I mistakenly confused JK Rowling's adult book, the Casual Vacancy, for her pen name books. BBC did a three episode release of the Casual Vacancy. The whole time I was watching it, I expected there to be a happy ending, that I was watching some cozy mystery. Spoiler alert: there wasn't a happy ending and it wasn't a cozy mystery. And it was really upsetting. 

But now, I'm finding I like to write stories that don't always have a happy ending. Most of them do, because one of my biggest flaws as a writer (that I'm aware of) is that I'm too nice to my favorite characters. But every once in a while, a story sneaks out that has a nasty ending, almost like it was pre-ordained and any other ending would be false. 

I'm not sure what to make of this. I know I would feel betrayed if one of my favorite authors pulled something like that on me. But I'm finding a lot of joy in these twist endings. It's a strange thing for me and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. So at the moment, I'm trying not to make anything of it and just write whatever comes out. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Juggling Genres

I haven't yet settled into a genre and I'm not really sure I ever will. I like reading and writing too many things and like a lot of writers, I'm not always great at identifying exactly what it is that I'm writing. It's fun, it's interesting, and I'm enjoying it so I don't think too much about it.

But one thing I've definitely identified is my habit of juggling genres. Right now I'm writing a novella (which I fear will turn into a novel) and a short story (that's not even halfway through its plot and over 5k words) from opposite ends of the genre spectrum. Back and forth, back and forth. I spend half an hour here and there, on one then the other. In the background, the parts of my brain that aren't engaged with these stories, I've got those three serials plotting away.

I can't say whether or not this is a healthy way to write. I can't even say if it's effective or if it's killing both stories. I'm not sure I'll ever know. But I can tell when I've been writing too long in one 'genre' or the other. I get bored and antsy and I don't want to write. My last novella took three times longer than it needed to because I'd been dabbling in the same pool too long. But then I remembered the juggling.

I'm not a great multi-tasker but I sure love the juggling. And I wonder just how many other people keep themselves engaged this way. Probably a lot more than I hear about.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

What to do with rejected short stories

Last year, I decided to get into the short story market. Now, short stories aren't something I've ever really focused on until I started finding short stories hidden in each of my series. I wrote a collection of short stories for my series, The Swamp Children, that is called The Swamp Witches. This is where i discovered how much fun they could be.

So I decided to start sending out some shorts into the big, bad world of short story magazines. Soon after, the rejections started rolling in. As expected. But I would write more and resend the old ones until just recently.

I have three short stories that have come back with the feedback that they seemed more like beginnings than short stories. I could definitely understand what the editors meant. I love writing beginnings. It's my favorite, easiest part of each story, so it makes sense that quite a few of my shorts ended up like this.

I didn't want to go back and destroy the shorts because I liked them. I liked the story they told and the worlds I'd created. And now, I finally know what I'm going to do with them. Serialization has become a real thing in the indie book world again and that's where these bad boys are headed. Though a pantser by nature, I know I'm going to have to treat these differently. They'll need to be planned because I can't go back and fiddle with them once they're out and about. But its a new challenge and something different for me to try.

Excited. Now I must finish all the other work I'm in the middle of first... while maintaining good, life-affirming habits. Not sure how this is going to go.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Focus, focus.... FOCUS!

I'm really bad at focusing on more than one thing at a time. Two is roughly possible and three is just something that never happens. Possibly it's a lack of self-discipline. Maybe I'm lazy. It's hard for me to say.

When I was younger, I would go through months-long cycles of focus. I loved reading, drawing and writing. Deep in one cycle, I couldn't make myself give much, if any, attention to the other two. There was no interest there at all. Sometimes this would worry me, what if I stopped reading or drawing or writing altogether??

Now that I'm older, not much else has changed. Of course I have to have some adult focuses in my life now so the cycles I go through aren't as deep as they used to be. I can't be completely consumed with reading to the exclusion of all else.

And I've chosen to make writing my main focus out of the three loves. But even this goes through cycles. I'm trying to train for a marathon (anyone who knows me knows this is highly ridiculous) and I'm struggling with day job issues. Writing has taken a back seat to both of these.

While away on a holiday, when I had scads of time to write and didn't manage much at all, worrying over the state of my marathon training, I realized I needed to refocus. Of course this had led to my running falling off.

Surely other people have trouble focusing too? I couldn't imagine doing any of this with a family or others depending on me. Reading inspirational messages or butt-kicking blogs have helped me maintain some focus and try to recommit but maybe this is a cycle too and I'm just on the upward ride of the ferris wheel.

And then maybe it's like that awesome quote from Zig Ziglar... "People say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing- that's why we recommend it daily."