I Want To Be

The shower thought of the day was “You have to stop thinking ‘I want to be a writer’ and start going ‘I am a writer'”. I then realized after having this thought that I think wanting to be a writer is silly. Not for other people. But for me. It is. It’s silly. Growing up I always expressed myself creatively. I was in plays, musicals, took voice lessons, played piano, taught myself new musical instruments. I played games with myself in my head to get things like homework done. I pretended I was a world famous journalist whose important essay on geologic rock formations (or whatever) for my earth science class wasn’t really for earth science, it was for Time magazine (or whoever) and it was going to rock the world. I played that game with myself a lot. My writing assignments were for important magazines or books. And it made it so much more fun to do them.

Somewhere along the line I got it impressed upon me that being creative was not a career. Sure, you could have a fun hobby of that, but to be successful and financially stable you must have a real job. I also got a bit pushed into graduate school (that’s a whole other post) and while I wanted to quit halfway through it, I didn’t. I told myself I had to finish. And I did. But that didn’t stop me from hating what I studied and not wanting to have a career in it. Strapped with astronomical student loans that I didn’t really understand how large the payments on them would be, I have now been stuck in a career and job I sincerely dislike in order to make ends meet. Such is life.

So when I tell myself I can be something else, I feel stupid. I feel like a kid wanting a unicorn and to be a fairy princess for a career. Being a writer? Being in the creative arts for a career? Ha! That is for someone else who didn’t fark up their money situation like I did. That cannot be for me. It makes me die a little inside. Part of me that needs expression and fulfillment through creativity has been quietly crying inside my heart for that past 13+ years. I also tell myself I’m too old now to switch things up. I had a chance when I was a teenager, or even in my 20s. But now? In my 30s, I’m too old to make a change. I have to be an adult now. I have to be responsible. And how can changing careers be responsible? No no, I have to just let my creative urges be a hobby and just be happy with that.

But I can’t. I just can’t! Spending my days at an office job that is stifling my creativity and boring beyond belief is not a life I can live anymore. So I have to be the change right? Nothing will change unless I change it. I can’t just want to be a writer anymore, I have go out and be a writer. Or a musician. Or whatever. Obviously I can’t throw all responsibility into the wind. That would just result in more distress. It wouldn’t be fair to my family either. So it adds another piece to the change it up puzzle. How do I keep my day job and do something else with enough dedication that I may be able to make a career of it one day? This is a large conundrum. It’s the place where my eyes start to glaze over and there is a buzzing in my ears and I feel beyond stressed out and want to throw my hands up and give up. I think it’s the reason why NaNoWriMo became so important to me this year. And why the fact I’m failing at it is making me even more dejected. Somehow I pinned my hopes of changing my life onto completing NaNo. If I could really dedicate myself to writing (almost) every day for NaNo then maybe I can be committed enough to changing my life that I can actually change my life. I’ve already documented a lot of the hurdles I’ve felt here. Today adds more. How do I stop feeling silly and childish for having a dream and pursuing it? And why is that even stopping me? Who am I silly and childish to? My parents? Forget them – they had their chance to influence my life and they put up roadblocks instead of helping. My husband is supportive. So am I worried friends will laugh and go “ha, silly Rebecca, always wanting to do stuff she fails at.” If it’s true I keep failing it’s partially, if not all, because I keep stopping myself. By over thinking. By not living in the moment. By imagining the future and thinking it’s impossible. I just need to calm down. I need to stop trying and start being.

Easier said than done.

The Abyss of NaNo

My lack of ability to decide on plot points is killing my NaNo writing. I’m pretty settled on and happy with my main character. I think about her a lot. It’s easy to do. She’s kind of the girl I wanted to be back a few years ago. I know where I want her to start in the story and where I want her to ultimately end up, but I have no idea how to get her from Point A to Point Q. I have a few ideas about key interactions I want her to have or places I want her to go. For example, I want her to have a quest story. She needs to go somewhere to do something or find something or find someone or leave something or . . . crap . . . see? I don’t know. I know where I want her to go, because I have this imagine in my head of this scifi universe I want to create. I have some pretty clear images in my head of places to take her. But What. The. Fuck. Is she going to do there?

I don’t know.

And I’m getting really frustrated. As is my usual train of thought I start going down the “Well you must be making a mistake” path. Oh, gee, having a hard time? Well clearly you aren’t cut out for this creative writing thing. Better just stop. I’ve kind of conquered that thought though. A bit. Last night I was really hurting to get myself writing, but I did. However I spent half my writing time with my head in my heads going “Ugh that was so stupid this paragraph is boring what am I doing where is this going AAAHHH!!” So that was productive. I patted myself on the back for even writing anything at least. I now have successfully written about half a dozen different openings to the story. And I’m not talking even in-depth openings either. These are bare bones 1,667 word openings that go nowhere. Here is typically what happens:

1) I come up with something I think is an awesome opening line. I write it. WEE! Here I am! I’m writing!
2) Okay the second sentence needs to be just as awesome and make me feel just as warm and fuzzy as the first.
3) Time passes.
4) Okay I need more than just one sentence to keep this ball rolling. Just start writing and we can edit later and I’m sure once I’m on a roll the magical lines of perfection will just ooozzzeeeeee out of me.
5) I write. I actually write for a while! Lets say I write for 42 minutes.
6) I stop. I start re-reading what I just wrote. Oh god . . . that last paragraph was utter garbage. Like, seriously, what the fuck?
7) Okay, I can get this back on track if I just edit it. I may lose some words for the war of the word counts but they’ll be honored later with other better words so it’ll be fine. I start editing.
8) I stop. This crap can’t be edited. It’s boring descriptions of boring things that just need to get cut. But I’m writing this for NaNo! I just need WORDS right?! I can’t cut things right now.
9) I realize I need a drink.
10) I realize it’s gotten too late at night for a drink and I should just go to bed.
11) I toss and turn in bed all night thinking about what drivel I wrote and thinking about how I can get it back on track.
12) I get up in the morning and decide I should just ignore last nights pile of poo on the page and start over.
13) I start over at #1.

Quality. I’m sure this is what Stephen King does too, right?! Oh Mr. King – evoked as a pillar of authordom – do you, good sir, write pages of drivel, hate them, try to edit them, decide they suck, throw them out, and start all over the next day?! Oh wait you don’t? Cool.

Being new to this whole idea of making an effort to write something good (because lets face it, in any situation growing up where I had to write something for school, I half-assed it as fast as possible with no real editing and I turned it in and forgot what grade I got on it promptly after getting my grade) I’m at a loss to know whether or not this is just “part of the process”. Will something finally stick? If I just keep re-doing the opening again and again and again will I eventually tumble on one that I love so much it pushes me into the next part and the next? Do I just make my main character walk around town until I stop describing the color of the stones she is walking on and the smell of the breeze coming out of the sewer and have her actually be involved in something and have feelings?

I am floating in the abyss of uncertainty . . . I hope there is chocolate in here somewhere.

The Hair Dryer Is No Longer Magic

The hair dryer is no longer magic. I was really starting to think that I would be gifted with writing inspiration every morning when I dried my hair, because it happened a few times in a row. NOPE. Not happening. I’m dried up. I can’t even really say I’m blocked because doesn’t that require having something good to start with? I’ve been looking back at my piddly NaNo work so far (a dangerous thing I should probably not be doing) and feeling utterly discouraged. My word count is so far behind. And I have no good ideas. No big conflict, no amazing resolution, no bad guys, nothing. I’ve been aiming for a fantasy/scifi book because that is fun and I want to write that genre. But I find myself utterly stuck trying to devise a conflict. I know what I don’t want to do, namely, an alien war or a corrupt government or a murder mystery or some cheesy romance. But what does that leave? A questing story? Okay, I could get into a questing story! Now. What is the quest? Uh. Hmm. Well . . . I have no clue. Should I set it on Earth? Should I go to a new planet? Should I make a nifty futuristic space shuttle where all this is happening? Or space station? Or Biodome type thingy? WHAT?! Where are they? Why? What is going on?!

At the end of attempting to brainstorm I am beat. I sometimes come up with a few quirky lines, an opening to get my writing groove on. But when the second line doesn’t come to me as quickly, I get discouraged. I become more discouraged when I realize I’ve just be babbling about asinine who cares things. Gee, the color of my MC’s rug. Wow. Great writing there. I’m sure some reader will fall in love with my rug descriptions. I’m sure a publisher would just squee with delight and want to sign me and give me millions of dollars because I wrote about the plush, pinkness of the area rug under my MC’s bed. GAH!!

I continually obsess about making my work marketable. I’m pinning all this hope for my future on finding a different career path because I am so sick of my work life. I want something new. Wait, I need something new. My job has it’s perks but it is just not for me. I’ve always been a creative type and my job is less than creative. So now I’ve got the idea in my head that if I can just be the next J.K. Rowling my entire life will be solved. The mystery of why I’m here and what the point of my life is and who moved my cheese and all that will magically resolve. Plus I’ll be cool! People will go “Wow! That chick made it! She totally changed her life and now is doing something she loves! Neat!” And lets admit that I fantasize about sitting at home in pajama pants writing on my laptop all day, and magical trips to exotic locales to promote my new literary masterpiece.

I started looking up famous opening lines to classic novels yesterday. I’m stuck on the opening lines to “Rebecca” now (yes, that is my name too, but that isn’t why I’m obsessed). It’s so gothic and romantic and emotional and while I haven’t read the whole book, the opening, for me, evokes so many images and feelings. Suddenly I started doubting the whole theme and tone and genre of my NaNo Novel. Maybe I should be writing emo whiny dark brooding crap, like the way I usually think of life. I’ve been purposefully trying not to write that way because I want to have more fun in life. I truly do want to write a goofy fantasty/scifi book. I’ve read a lot of them and really like the genre. But maybe it just isn’t me? Maybe me is the brooding gothic novel. Can anyone even write a truly brooding gothic novel anymore? Maybe that genre is reserved for a different time that has passed and now if I try I’ll just failt at that too. And part of me resists because I don’t want to be the brooding gothic novel chick. Resisting who I am makes it hard to get things done though. Like writing a NaNo Novel. How do I write in a genre and tone that is so foreign to my natural thought process though? Maybe I’ll start looking up goofy fantasy/scifi book opening lines today to get inspiration. I’m apparently wickedly impressionable as far as writing styles and genres go.

How is your NaNo Novel coming along?

A Fifth of NaNoWriMo Please!

Hello Day Five. I guess all my November posts are going to be about NaNo. It is kind of all consuming in my life right now. Day Four didn’t go so great. I got stuck in the self-doubt loop where, though happy with my Day Three writing, I started to doubt where I was going again. I’m finding it hard to pick scenes to write when I have no idea where I want my story to go. What is the end? Without knowing this, how can I lead my characters to it? Though I have read a bunch of “how to write” articles lately that kind of bash that thinking. You aren’t supposed to lead the story anywhere, you’re supposed to let the character do it. Huh. This seems ridiculously foreign to me. How do I let a thing I’m making up lead me around? How do I relinquish control to an imaginary character that I am building? That makes no sense to me.

Then I had another brainstorm epiphany when drying my hair in the garage this morning (don’t ask). The “What do I want to write” question was floating around in my head. It also helps that my husband and I are watching Once Upon A Time on Netflix (we just started Season 2) at night. This is providing a lot of inspiration. I am not writing about fairy tales for my NaNo novel but my story wants for magic, and there is plenty of that in the show. So this morning while flipping my hair around in my usual drying fashion it hit me. I want hovering space stations in my story. And I want my main character to be a descendant of some hugely magical family. And I want her parents to be dopey and “missing”. They’re constantly on space cruises or something and my character wants to find them to ask questions but never can (subplot anyone?!). I might make the magical family history one of evil too. Maybe my main character’s parents are the ones who ended the evil by just hiding their skills, which is why she knows nothing about it. Or maybe they’re practicing some sort of shunned black magic and she has to pick between them and her new magic career. I realized I want magic to be part of her career path. It isn’t just for personal use. She’s going to have to use it for some job related purpose.

But then I started to think about the girl I have on the page so far. I’m not sure she’d want any of this. I’m not sure what she wants. I know how she is feeling where she is – and with these new writing urges and plot points I’m going to have to scrap some of the crap I’ve written already (after NaNo – or rewrite it to fit the new ideas) – but I have no idea how she is going to feel about finding out any of this or getting to space travel or whatever. Maybe that is what people mean by letting your character guide you? Do I just sit down and start writing the fun things I want to write and just see what pops into my head as a reaction?

As a result of all this thinking I wrote nothing yesterday, so I have writing to make up tonight. Though I don’t think that will be an issue tonight. I’m really determined to write out the scenes and explain the new magic world ideas I came up with this morning. Even if the result with be disjointed masses of inconsistant goo. At least it will be words, and another night of writing practice I didn’t have before. Though it is tempting to just play Pokemon X and zone out to television.

I am finding it difficult to squeeze in reading time too. Usually I read at work during breaks or times of boredom, but now I’ve been wasting my time on NaNo forums and writing down brainstorming ideas for my book. Side note, it feels weird to say I’m writing a book. Who am I to write a book, let alone a novel? It sounds like a little kid who wants a unicorn and to grow up to be a fairy godmother kind of thing to me. “Gee, teehee, I’m writing a book!” I still struggle with finding a point to all the writing if the world wil never like it too. What if I write these 50,000 words and then it just sits there, and never gets published, or read, by anyone. What if I never write another thing? Will it be satisfying enough to say “Well, I tried! No more dreams of being a writer, off to find a new dream!” They make drugs for my kind of crazy don’t they?

What Will Day Four Bring?

The self-doubt has once again set in. I really only had a brief sketch of an idea outline in my head for my NaNo novel. I know I want my MC to be involved in a Society Within Society. Something hidden and special, that only select few get into. At first I thought it would just be an application system to get in. The Society would observe you doing . . . whatever . . . and based on your natural abilities you’d get in. Then I changed it, because magic would be so much cooler! So okay, now my MC lives in a futuristic world and is a bit of an outcast because she has things going on in her head that other people don’t. She doesn’t talk about it because she was told not to, but one day she starts to figure out how to control it, and then the magical society shows up and YAY! Fun and gummi bears and magic wands for everyone! Okay, so I didn’t want it to be like magic wand magic. More like, being intuitive and able to access some sort of realm that others can’t. Then I started thinking that was too close to copying other authors whose works I love. Don’t want to be opening myself up to infringment suits! So then I started thinking I’d change things a bit. The Society Within Society now had some magic, but primarily their powers would come from advanced and really cool technology.

Awesome! Look at me with all these ideas! But as I started to think of what I wanted to write next, after my epically good session yesterday, the self doubt arrived. The hyper critical mind started barking at me. I was merely copying the genius of others. I have such a shakey system I will never write well about it. I need to know my magic or tech or both systems inside out before I can write them out. And I don’t. I don’t even know what I want the system to be, let alone:

What are they doing?
Why are they doing what they’re doing?
How are they doing what they’re doing?
What are the limitations of what they’re doing?
What are the costs of what they’re doing?
What characters will I create for the new society?
Wait, now should this really be Sci-Fi?
Should I make up a planet or a space station or some shit?
Would my MC even like doing whatever the crap they’re doing?

I started off wanting my MC to get pulled out of her humdrum life where she feels largely unhappy and doesn’t get to be herself. I wanted her to go on a magical adventure, and find new amazing cities to visits, shops selling curious wares, someplace her creativity would flourish and help others.

But where is the conflict? Will there be evil there? What kind of evil? What do they do?

I started thinking about all the things I don’t want my story to turn into. I don’t want to write a murder mystery. I don’t want to right about tyranical governments that suppress everyone and now people are trying to rebel. I felt like a lot of my Society Within Society ideas were starting to travel to that type of thing, in order to achieve the right feeling of boredom and suppression for my MC. But I don’t want to write about that. I want to write about the fluffy unicorn farts and that nifty over the ear headset that lets people hear what dogs are saying and crap like that. But I just cannot figure out a point! What is my point! Without a point, how do I have something to shoot for with my continued writing?!

Oh the glories of this process. I’ve never gotten this far into it honestly. So I guess I can throw that pat on the back into my piggy bank of positives and hope these issues clear up by the time I go to write tonight.

The Terror of Day Two

Day Two of NaNoWriMo was a bit of a bust. My first writing session on Day One got off to a bumpy start. I tried to attend my local NaNo event. Life and family came first though and I didn’t arrive till pretty late. There was barely anyone left there writing, and those who were mentioned their thousands of words written already and were mostly chatting. Loudly. And then the room we were in was also an area for used book purchasing. Suddenly, after maybe 45 minutes there, hordes of college aged hipsters (yes, hipsters) began to mingle and search for used books. Loudly.

I felt awkward and silly. I’ve always done badly with social situations. Really badly. I had gone hoping to introduce myself, jump right into the group, but once presented with the situation I felt so, well, ridiculous. Why? I don’t know. I may try to attend a future event, but arrive on time or only fashionably late instead of ridiculously so late no one else is writing anymore.

The writing I managed to do, a mere 500 words or so, I hated. Even as I was writing it I said to myself “This is not the tone I wanted at all. This is not the way I wanted things to start. This is totally a chapter I want way later into things but now I’m writing it at the start and it’s hard to not remember I wrote this and try to start again. AARGGGHHHH!!!!” I came home and wrote more. I got up to 2K words, and I did manage to jump back in time and do a new start. I actually felt really good when I closed the laptop for bedtime on Day One.

Then Day Two arrived. I brainstormed in the shower, which is really the best place to brainstorm. I came up with what I thought was a super amazing idea!! I wrote it in my Novel Brainstorming Notebook (also super important to brainstorming). Then I went out with the family for lunch. And we ran errands. And we got home. And I thought more about it. And I thought even more about it. And then I realized it was dumb. What a dumb idea. So cliche. So done. Like, lots of times done. Plus, I probably stole it from some book I read. Because I’m not capable of original thought.

Then bed time for the baby came. And I was free to write. So instead I browsed NaNo forums. I tried to find posts to give myself motivation to just write my stupid idea. I mean at least then I’d have my word count. Instead I just browsed my time away, till I was passing out tired. And I went to bed. Without any additional NaNo’ing.

I also chatted with a friend during the forum browsing. I told him how I was having anxieties and fear, imagining that my novel was so stupid no one ever wanted to read it. Let alone have it published so I could validate my existence with being a Super Famous Writer. I then realized I am constantly trying to validate my existence with things like this. I have to prove that what I’m doing isn’t a waste of time by having other people think I’m amazing. I do this at work. I drive myself insane trying to do extra work so that my manager notices and tells me what a good job I’m doing so I feel like my time spent there in the right way and my life is somehow meaningful. Now I’m doing it with this novel. I’m even afraid to tell people I’m writing it. I think my family would say they want to read it when it’s done. And then man, what will they think of me when it’s a pile of drivel?!

My friend said I should put the worries aside and just write the book I want to read. I’m still working on letting go of my perfectionism with this project. Now I also have to let go of the validation psychosis. I’m really just seeing how crazy I am. I guess that is sort of good. Maybe if I actually follow through and do this I’ll be committing self-therapy and be less crazy. Actually . . . doubtful. Okay I take it back. I’m not crazy. I’m a child of a generation that expects instant results and minimal efforts for those results and bases identity and worth on being able to be perfect without trying.

I can overcome this! But now I have to figure out, really figure out, what is the story I want to read that I can write for me? My current ideas and characters are riffs on my life. Characters closely related to how I am, the obstacles I currently feel in life. But they will get to overcome them. They will get to live in a world full of fantastical happenings they never even knew about, but get to be involved in, and love, because they open their minds to the possibility. When I write it like that it almost sounds cool. But the actual logistics are bogging me down. And my inability to write in the tone I want (comical and light and tongue-in-cheek) is really frustrating me. I guess, practice practice practice? I better stop this post then and go off to practice in my NaNo space instead.

NaNoWriMo’ing – 2013

This is my year. NaNoWriMo. I’m going to do it. All that self-doubt of the past is gone (alright not gone but shoved down by newfound hope). I need to write this book. I want to write this book! In past years I’ve gone into NaNo with a sense of dred. Every line had to be perfect. Every part of my plot needed to make 100% sense and be exciting. I didn’t allow myself room to make mistakes. To write a silly scene that I’d laugh at myself about later. I also tried too hard to make some big statement about my own life.

This time I’m going into NaNo telling myself that the entire thing may suck when I get done. But that’s okay. Because it’ll be 50,000 words of practice I didn’t have before November. And after November I’ll just keep going. I’ll perfect my story or start anew. I’ll go to writing events and classes (I’ve already signed up for one that I’m excited about) and hone my skills. Being a writer has been a desire of mine for a long time. I’ve never excelled at it though. I change tenses too much. I talk in a weird, 3rd person narration. And then I don’t. I have characters I don’t understand in places I can’t describe.

I’ve spent the past week or so really brainstorming. I’ve found some online blogs that really help. This post about character development really kicked me over the edge. I went from a uncertain but excited to “I can do this! I can go through these steps and make an awesome character from this!”. So now uncertain has pretty much vanished, and onto just excited I am.

I tried to stay up till midnight to get started, but having a 15 month old and Halloween I just couldn’t keep my eyes open by 11PM. I tossed and turned all night though, waking myself up thinking it was Saturday and I could hop out of bed and write until my son woke up or he was occupied with something. Then the reality that it was Friday set in. A whole day of work. Boring work. Work I don’t want to do at all. But that is a whole other post. Instead I am using the chance to kick off my blog. I made this blog ages ago. Then didn’t post. I re-formated it recently with a different template. Then didn’t post. I was again paralyzed by the power of perfection. I had to write a perfect post. A funny, amazing introduction that would skyrocket my readership with little effort. Because why not? Everything I have to say is amazing an insightful, right? I need to have that attitude, even if I’m faking it right now. Forget perfection. I can just write.

Write Write Write. Until I’m a little better than the day before.

My NaNo story is going to be tongue in cheek, futurastic, and fun. I will take some of my heart and put it in, but I also have this beautiful other world I want to live in too. And so, for a while at least, during NaNo, I will. I’m taking inspiration from Christopher Moore, Jasper Fforde. Maybe even a bit of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Fleshing out the surroundings will be my biggest challenge. I need practice at descriptions instead of just thoughts and feelings. I’m going to make myself a list today of NaNo assignments. Each day will have a type of scene I want to focus on. Subject to change of course based on where I was going in the previous writing, or flow, etc. I also learned a big lesson this past week – I don’t have to write in order. Amazing! I’ve always tackled NaNo and story writing in a linear fashion. But I don’t have to. I can envision a scene at the start and then skip to a fight scene that will actually happen ages later. Because with the miracle of computers I can simply copy, paste, and move things around. I will be using Scrivener to keep myself in order. I’m excited to finish this year and be able to enjoy their NaNo discount too.

NaNo means way more to me this year than just writing a book. I’ve struggled most of my life with believing in myself and believing I can do whatever I want. But I can. If I want to write a book, goddamnit, I can. It will be work. It will be heartache. It will be time consuming and frustrating and hard. But, oh god, it’ll be worth it in the end.