It’s all happening in 2015

I feel a little bit overwhelmed by the goodness of 2015. A little bit undeserving, a little bit stressed out, very grateful and a touch pissed off. I am a medley of emotions and not really sure what to do with  myself.

I talked a little bit about how difficult 2014 was. I also talked about how I was going to make a change in January, and try out some new resolutions (goals), and I was going to make them a heck of a lot more realistic.

Well, halfway through January, a job opportunity landed in my lap: a part-time one. I applied, and after a few weeks, was offered the job. There was no hesitation. And now, I’m working 20 hours as a communications coordinator and freelancing another 20 hours a week. I’m still in the midst of my second week in this new schedule, but it’s different. It feels so good.

I did something in January and February that I haven’t really done in a while—I put some serious effort into my life. I stopped eating so much junk. I bought a hula hoop (and, um, I can do some sweet tricks… 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time, I hit myself in the face). I read more. I called my loved ones even when I didn’t want to, because it always makes me feel better. I finished up a short story, worked hard on some writing. I started to send out queries.

In hindsight, it is no wonder that 2014 sucked so damn much. I didn’t try very hard. I tried hard at some things—at work, and with Jacob—but there were so many factors that I let stop me. The seas were too stormy, so I decided I’d just drown instead of try. Maybe it was a necessary thing. It’s hard to be productive in the middle of an existential crisis.

The point is, I’ve been putting a bit of elbow grease into my life (as my dear friend Kim says). And I’m seeing such a difference. Even before I was offered and took the new job, I was able to handle things better, because I was working toward something and I had set these small goals in place that I knew were going to make a difference in my life.

I don’t know exactly what my dreams are yet (especially when it comes to my career), other than the vague and seemingly impossible (become a great writer and always keep learning), but I feel like I am heading out of a fog and toward something clearer.

I recommend this, friends.

p.s. Nicole’s blog, where I got my New Year’s Resolutions worksheet from, has some seriously inspiring and helpful articles. Go. Read. Enjoy.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Stuck

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 4.04.37 PMIt happens to me all the time. I’m writing and I’m excited and I have ideas and then suddenly—I’m stuck. Sometimes I need to push through it, but that doesn’t always work. Let’s take my NaNoWriMo 2014 novel, for example. I tried to push through it—but I knew something wasn’t right in a big way (as it turns out, the problem was the bad guy and the overarching plot). I tried to talk to friends and rework the ending, to see what they thought I should do, but even their great ideas (which would mean delving more into the politics of the novel) made me shrink further away.

How did I get unstuck? It turns out that the answer was very simple. Booze.

After work one Friday, I went to the local beer store/bar with my notebook in hand, and I began to do some serious brainstorming. Right around the beginning of beer number two, I had a revelation—I needed a different villain. With a few scribbles and one more beer, I had a new plot that I liked infinitely more than the first one I’d created.

And then I thought, I should tell people about the miracle of writing + booze (although, if you’re a writer, you probably already know it). So, without further adieu, here are my tips to getting unstuck.

Booze

Seriously, booze is great. It unlocks things in my mind that I wouldn’t have considered before, or perhaps wouldn’t have let myself think because the idea is “stupid.” Booze doesn’t think it’s stupid. Booze loves me.

Note: Getting smashed won’t get you anywhere. I like to sit down with 1 – 3 beers/glasses of wine or a few hot toddies. Maybe a margarita if I’m gettin’ fancy.

Add a villain

This technique has actually solved many a problem for me. Often, I’m trying to force a storyline around a certain villain/antihero, and it just isn’t working. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing your bad guy, and other times it’s as complicated as adding another bad guy and working the plot around the duality of bad guy vs. villain vs. society vs. mean girl.

Step back

Back when I was trying to figure out what the heck to write a novel about in October, I had an idea. I mapped most of it out but then I decided that I absolutely hated it. When I read back through my prompt journal, I realized that hey—this actually does have potential. Sometimes I’m too stressed out or hard on myself in the moment, and I need to step back and come back to it later.

Edit

Go back and edit the thing you’re stuck on. Edit a different thing. Take yourself out of the writing and into the editing—it’s a huge shift in my head, for me, and makes a big difference in how I tackle being stuck when I come back to it.

Do something crazy

I don’t mean you—I mean your characters. So, you’re stuck in your writing. Make them do something that they would never do. Put them in a terrible situation. Kill a loved one. Get someone addicted to something. Switch up the plot—that neat little outline you had? Put it away for a while. Sometimes making a drastic change can do a lot.

What are your tips for getting unstuck?

Read More

This year, I made a few New Year’s goals (small things). One of them was to read more and write more. Writing has always been a goal of mine, but the reading thing is new. You see, I am a very good reader. I love books, I love discovering new books, I love reading. Neither high school or college deterred me one little bit from my love of books.

But having a full time job did.

You see, it’s easier to go home and plop on the couch and turn on Netflix than it is to pick up a book (why? Not entirely sure). It’s easier to go home than head to the library (which is a whole 10 minutes away). Now, it’s not like I didn’t read in 2014. I did.

But when I was asked to name my favorite book that I read in 2014, I found myself stumped. I didn’t… have a favorite book. I didn’t read a single book that wowed me beyond belief that I would go so far as to name it my favorite book that I read in 2014.

I didn’t read enough. I read books that were lent to me, I read books that I got by reviewing them for SFBook, I reread a few, and I read some that had been sitting on my shelf for ages. According to Goodreads, I only read 20 books in 2014 (not entirely accurate, as I reread several books and series). The number of times I visited the library can be counted on one hand.

One hand.

How far the mighty have fallen.

And so, in 2015, one of my goals is to read more. Pare down that really really long to-read list I have. Stop watching so much Netflix and crack open a book instead. Lose myself in another world and emerge with a severe book hangover when it’s all said and done.

Ladies and gents, it’s time to get reading.

Any suggestions? Please leave them for me in the comments, I always have room on my to-read list.

All the books I read in 2014 (according to Goodreads).

All the books I read in 2014 (according to Goodreads).

A Humble 2014

10501995_569905269784458_827290014219254494_n

2014 was a hard year, and it delivered some (needed) humility.

Of course, I didn’t handle it very well. 2014 came at me with harsh reality, a few nice bouts of depression, a large existential crisis, and an added sprinkling of chronic pain. I responded with bitterness and anger.

To be honest, I’m still a little bitter and angry. But I’m more conscious, now. I’m more determined to look ahead with more optimism and more thankfulness. I have a lot to be grateful for, and when I look back on the year, it doesn’t seem so bad. I learned a lot. I grew a lot. I am slowly becoming a person I like, and I see things that I still need to change and work on. That doesn’t sound so bad.

But today is New Year’s Eve, and just knowing what day it is sends me into a spiral of melancholy. Not because I hate New Year’s Eve, or the idea that it’s already 2015, or what the new year will hold, but because this is how I felt last year. Last year got off to a very Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Start, and I can feel the apprehension slipping in again.

What if 2015 is just as awful as 2014? What if it is also just as great? Why do I think that a “new year” means that my fairy godmother is finally going to be here to make things better? That I finally have the resolve to do everything I ever wanted? To finally be happy with my novel, to start learning French again, to start a garden, to eat healthy every day, to do yoga all the time, to figure out what I want to do with my life?

It’s unrealistic.

This year I’m trying something different. Yes, I’m still doing resolutions (let’s call them goals). But these goals are smaller. I am only focusing on five small things, and I am going to do them once a week. One of these goals is to keep in touch with family and friends more—I am going to call someone once a week.

Start small, build up. It’s always been a weakness of mine. I want everything to happen now. I want everything to be great. I want to be deliriously happy 24/7. I want the world to stop being so awful. Oh, and could I please be the most beautiful creature on the face of the earth?

I am unrealistic.

This year, I am not aiming to lose weight. My goal is to feel good in my body, whether or not that means losing weight. Maybe it just means loving myself. It definitely means taking things one very small step at a time.

Nothing is going to change tonight, when the clock ticks from 11:59 to 12:00. Nothing is going to change when I wake up tomorrow (likely hungover). Nothing is going to change by the end of January.

But, after a few months, maybe things will start to shift. Maybe I’ll be better at dealing with stress from work (something I did accomplish in 2014). Maybe I’ll be nicer to myself. Maybe I’ll be a better listener and maybe I’ll feel happier in my body. Maybe I’ll keep up with my loved ones a little bit more.

I don’t hold any ridiculous expectations of 2015 like I did of 2014. I don’t expect that 2015 will fix my problems or finally bring me true happiness. I don’t expect great sweeping changes or for my anxiety and depression to disappear in a great blast of light.

I expect fun. I expect sadness. I expect disappointment. I expect love, family, and friendship, and I expect that my bitterness is going to overstay its welcome. I expect long nights with wine and a book, and I expect to put off cleaning the bathroom for as long as I possibly can.

I expect to grow.

Bring it on, 2015.

NaNoWriMo Summary

I know, I know. It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post. However, I have a really, really good excuse…. NANOWRIMO. And yes, I did win this year, because I am awesome. Now that NaNo is over, I think it’s a good time to do a little recap of the month and what I’ve learned over the past 8 years (because yeah, I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo since 2008, and there was just one year that I didn’t make it).

Week 1
Week one is the easy week. I’m full of excitement for my novel. God, I can’t wait to put write all of these incredible ideas I have, it’s going to be so great, this is my best story yet! I usually manage to write well over my word count every day.

Week 2
Week two starts off well and then things start getting dark… This year, I installed the app “TimeHop” on my iPhone. Basically, it shows me what I tweeted/Facebooked/Instagrammed 1 year ago, 2 years ago, 3 years ago, and sometimes even 4 years ago. During the tail end of week two of NaNoWriMo, I started to really hate my characters. My writing sucked. I was terrible. This was a big fat waste of time.

I opened up TimeHop to see that in years past, I had felt this exact same way about NaNoWriMo at the exact same time. 1 year ago I was complaining about how much I hated my characters. 2 years ago I was whining that this story sucked. 3 years ago I was lamenting and ranting at this stupid thing I was doing.

It’s a pattern. At some point, you’re bound to hate your work and to think it’s stupid. DON’T STOP. Keep going. Seeing the pattern emerge on my TimeHop app was one of the many things that made me forge on this year.

Week 3
Week three was a fun week. At this point, I’m really getting into the meat of the book and I’m starting to get pretty freaking excited about it. New plot points emerge, my characters start to assert themselves, and shit gets exciting. Week three might be my favorite week.

Week 4
The week of lost steam. By the time I hit week four, I’m tired. I’m ahead of the game, usually, so why try to get extra ahead? I’ll just do what’s called for, a little bit every day, and stay on top of my game. By the time I’m past 50k, though, I’m back on the wagon of excitement. I MADE IT and I’ll be damned if I am not going to finish this book that I’ve begun (because I have never, NEVER finished a novel in 50,000 words).

If you participated in NaNo this year, I’d be interested to hear how it went for you, and what revelations were made on your end.

Viva NaNoWriMo!

10696367_10152652554704299_1892699931611470474_n

NaNo Prep

NaNoWriMo starts this weekend. Normally, I’d be a lot more prepared, but this has been an interesting year. Outlines haven’t turned out the way that I want them to. I’ve been tired and very focused on work and not able to really prepare for the massive amount of November writing as much as I’d like to. Last year, my prep involved outlining, cleaning, sleeping, reading, and caffeine. Let’s dig into what prep means this year.

Pinning

I know this sounds kind of lame, but Pinterest has been oh-so-helpful. I am not writing an outline this year (because every one I write fails  me), so instead I created a Pinterest board. It’s been so fun to search for things related to my characters and the world I’m creating—it’ll be a great place to go when writer’s block hits, as well.

Writing Notes

I’ve been jotting down notes since September whenever an idea hits me (either via Evernote or in my handy dandy notebook). Having these notes about characters, ideas for the plots/world-building, and brief scenes will help spark ideas when I’m stuck, as well as help keep me on track.

Reading

I don’t generally read during November, so I gotta get some quality reading in before all I have time for is writing. What I’ve been reading lately: Premonitions, Dandelion Wine, A Song of Ice and Fire series (I’m on book 3), and a few more miscellaneous books here and there. Got any recommendations for me for after NaNo?

Fixing my space

The desk where I do my writing is very important to me. I need it to be uncluttered, with pen and paper on one side, books and other reference materials on the other, and not too many distractions. Right now it’s a mess. Hopefully I can get it cleaned up by Saturday!

Snacks/Beverages

This year, I’m not drinking caffeine (gasp! shock!). I know, I know. November will be hell without it. Regardless, I still have a plethora of herbal tea, kombucha (yum), an unopened bottle of tequila, and a four-pack of a super delicious beer (Backwoods Bastard from Founders Brewery—bourbon barrel aged scotch ale, how can you go wrong?). I have snacks that range from rice cakes (I love them, ok? They are delicious… and yes, I put butter on them) to gummy bears to crackers to a delicious mango sorbet. When it comes to food, I’m ready.

Scheduling

I find that scheduling is really good for me. I’ve been using my phone as a calendar for a while now, but I’ve found myself craving the way I used to stay organized—a planner. So, I bought myself one and I’m going use it to schedule out writing time and keep myself goal-oriented. For example, on Saturday I won’t be writing until around 4pm, but when I start I have a plan. Tea + writing until 5:30pm. Break for dinner, then more writing in the evening. Most likely will head out to a coffee shop for a change of pace.

It’s gonna be a great (/difficult) November, guys.

How do you prep for NaNo? Any advice?

bd4f16b03803dcef6948f95d477ca433

Stepping out of my (writing) comfort zone

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a comfort zone, and it’s fantasy.

I love writing fantasy novels. I love making up worlds, creating cultures, and weaving it all-together. I like creating my own politics, because I sure as hell hate today’s politics.

I also love lists. I love outlines. I love character sheets. I love organization.

So, for this year’s NaNoWriMo, I am not going to use an outline. I am going to brainstorm, yes, and probably create a few character sheets, and write notes about all of this, but I will not outline or create a list of things I need to do. WHY would I torture myself so, you ask? Because I keep trying to write outlines and it keeps not working. Every idea I come up with, I hate. I like it at first and then the more than I think about it, the more the ending is not right. The more the characters seem all wrong. The more it doesn’t fit.

I’m pretty notorious for thinking too much, so this year I’m going to try not thinking so far ahead. Going to try to focus on writing now and let that be enough.

Oh, the fantasy thing… I’m still doing fantasy. BUT! It’s urban fantasy. It’s set in today’s world with the elements of a fantasy novel (namely: witches). Which is something I’ve never done for a short story, much less a novel, so it’s a little daunting and very exciting.

I have characters in mind. The barest outlines of a plot. And November is creeping up on me, slowly but surely.

I remind myself pretty regularly that there is no need to panic. We’ll figure it out when it comes, one way or another.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Got any plans, or are you winging it?

CreativePower