Monday, October 27, 2014

Writing through pain

This is a difficult thing for me to write, but I think putting it down on virtual paper will help.  There are loads of blogs and books and magazine articles out there that give writing advice, and the main point comes down to one thing - as Chuck Wendig so eloquently put it, shut up and write.

It's not bad advice - a writer writes, after all, and nothing gets written if someone doesn't sit down (or lie down, or stand up - however you feel comfortable) and write it.  I understand it completely, and it's certainly something I've tried to cleave to since I've decided that being a writer was more important to me than whining about wanting to be a writer.  However, that doesn't mean I write every day, and I know there are a lot of people in a similar situation to mine.

In order to write, you have to be able to hold a pen or pencil, or type, or dictate, or in some other way cause words to bleed onto a page (whether digital or physical).  The act of bleeding words on the page may involve sitting or standing in one place for extended periods of time.  It means putting yourself in the minds of characters you've made up, and deciding how they're going to react to the situations you create for them.  It all sounds reasonably easy, doesn't it?  On good days, it is.

Then there are the bad days.  The days when the pain is so bad that the idea of moving to a desk or lifting your hand to hold a pen or reaching for a laptop can leave you in tears.  The days when the depression lies and tells you that everything you write is terrible and no one will ever want to read it, so why are you bothering to write it down?  The days when the anxiety is so high that your hands shake at the thought of someone - anyone - ever reading what you're writing, and you second-guess every letter and word, certain that someone else has done it better and that people will tear it - and by extension, you - apart, if ever they were to read it.  And of course, there are the days that combine any of the above, or add in the exhaustion that can tag along with the pain or the depression, leaving you with absolutely no energy to move, much less create a world and characters out of thin air.

Sometimes, forcing yourself to write can help push the demons back into the darkness.  The words can be like a lion tamer's chair, forcing the lion back and keeping you safe.  The words may not be great, but they help you focus on something other than the pain, either physical or mental.  Distracting yourself won't work forever, but it can keep you moving for another few steps, and that might be just what you need right now.

Sometimes, no matter how much you want to write, and how much you want to fight and win, you'll lose the battle to the pain.  The physical or emotional pain will be too much, and you won't be able to write.  That doesn't mean you're not a writer.  You can still create worlds and people in your mind, and when you're able to, you can memorialize those worlds and people on paper of some sort.  The fact that you can't do that today doesn't mean you aren't allowed in the super-secret Writers' Club.

"Shut up and write" is solid, if harsh, advice.  First and foremost, though, you need to take care of yourself.  You can't write if you don't.

Progress - wrote about three days of the last seven, mostly in preparation of Nanowrimo.  Still trying to figure out what story I'm telling, but I'm getting there.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Very superstitious...(Character and world building)

Speaking with my husband earlier today, I remembered one of the very first things he told me about role-playing games.  "Never touch another player's dice unless they give you permission," he had stated very seriously.  I remember smiling a little bit, but I took it to heart, figuring it was tied to gamer etiquette.  It is, in a way - many gamers feel that having someone else touch their dice might change the dice's luck.

There are loads of other superstitions related to anything randomly determined, which makes sense in a way.  People in general will look for patterns and for anything that might cause randomness to work in their favor.  My mother played Bingo for a long time, and I went with her to the Bingo parlor and saw that some of these ladies would nearly come to blows if someone was sitting in "their" seat.  I saw a woman around the age of my grandmother who had about a dozen stuffed animals that she would line up in a particular order in front of her cards.

Not everyone is superstitious, at least not consciously.  I'm not one to avoid stepping on cracks, and one of the cats at home is black.  I will, however, set all of my dice on their highest possible roll before a gaming session.  There's a lot of randomness in the world, and it can make people feel better to have some kind of ritual to give the impression of control.

What's random in the world you're building?  What might be something that the people in your world will want to claim some kind of control over, even if there isn't anything they can do?  There's always things like the weather that people will always want to believe they can control.

How about your characters?  Are they overtly superstitious, or do they scoff at anything along that line?  Even if they don't claim any kind of beliefs, there may be some things that are considered part of a culture's etiquette that are really just a superstition that's been codified into a cultural norm.

In terms of writing, well...Hi, my name is Stephanie, and it's been six days since I last wrote.  (Everybody together:  "Hi, Stephanie.")  I can give a bunch of excuses, but it won't help me write more.  I need to get back into the swing of things, and I'm hoping to have a couple of "normal" weeks to get me back into the writing rhythm.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The geek girl emergeth

Apologies for the late post - it's been a very busy weekend.  My 12-year-old niece has been visiting this weekend, and I took her to GeekGirlCon, which was her very first convention.

My niece is just starting to come into her own as a self-identifying geek, and she's not that aware of what kind of community is available to her.  She's begun to play video games, and she's started to spend time online with other gamers.  At the same time, she's living in an area that doesn't have the biggest geek community, and she's never spent much time in a face-to-face situation with other people who share her interests.

The first thing she did was hurt herself, of course.  After that, though, she started to get excited about seeing other people like her, and people that didn't make her feel like she "stood out".  By the end of the convention, she said that she felt comfortable, and like she was with people who were like her.  It was one of the best experiences I've ever watched happen, and I'm truly grateful to have been a part of that awakening.

With luck, I'll be able to spend some more time writing in the next few weeks.  I'm going to call it about three of the last seven days that I've written, which is pathetic.  Things will only go up from here.

Monday, October 6, 2014


It's been a rough few weeks in the writing world of the Stephie, and I think I can say that I've been blocked.  Now, I know that there are a ton of well-respected authors out there who say that writer's block is a myth, it doesn't exist, it's just an excuse for writers not to write.  It's all probably true, but that doesn't make the terror of the blank page that much easier.  For me, it means that I now feel guilty for not being able to get the words out, as well as frustrated.  Guilt combined with frustration is usually a good way to make sure I don't make any progress.

I'm trying to work my way through it, which is significantly easier said than done, obviously.  I'm essentially using this blog post as a way to force some words onto a page, and hope that it'll get the words flowing a little more easily.  Considering it took about half an hour to write the last two paragraphs, I'm less than convinced that this is working.

The latest project is coming along slowly but surely.  I've worked on some character sketches to give myself an idea of who these people are, and I need to work out a better plot outline to give myself a better map of where they're going.  I think I've been focusing too much on the research, and that's been sending me into the research black hole that I tend to flirt with.  Were it not for the fact that I find nearly everything fascinating in one way or another, this probably wouldn't be as much of a problem.  On the other hand, I wouldn't be the veritable font of useless knowledge that I am, and I wouldn't clean up at trivia games nearly as well.  Everything has its trade off.

I think my next step to get things going is to interview my characters.  In the past, I've found that it gives me some good insight into the characters, and when I do it this early in the process, they can give me some ideas of where they want (or need) to go over the course of the story.  It also gives me something small and finite to work on, and when I'm fighting the blank page, giving myself a definitive goal (besides "reaching word count" or "finishing the scene") can really help.

Obviously, given all that, the last week hasn't been great - four of the last seven days spent writing.  Still better than half, still not where I want to be.