I haven’t written in awhile because I haven’t been writing.

There. I said it. For reasons that are numerous and mostly bullshit I basically stopped writing soon after my last post. I told myself it was because I was busy, that my brain had too much to think about without forcing it to be creative, that I just needed a break.

As time passed and I busied myself with other things I continued to tell myself that I’d come back to it. That tomorrow I would write. That next week I would kick myself into high gear and start accomplishing things on paper.

Finally, I started to wonder if all my dreams of finishing my book were simply fantasies. Maybe writing wasn’t for me. Maybe I don’t have the discipline. Maybe I hold that dream up as a shield not because it’s really what I need to do but because it allows me to say that my current line of work is not forever. That as soon as I finish this manuscript I can start fixing it up. I can publish it. I can write more and maybe turn it into a job rather than a hobby.

I worried that I was hiding from some sort of truth deep down: that I don’t want to work at my current job for forever, but that I have no idea what I’d rather do so might as well hold up the banner of “writer”. It’s safer to hold up an unattainable dream than confront the problem head on.

I let the self doubt set up residence in my heart while I let my story stagnate on my hard drive.

As I sat, wondering what else I could do with myself if writing wasn’t it I suddenly found myself calling to mind all the times that it felt like writing really was it. I thought of the long-winded stories I wrote for English class back in middle school, of the afternoons in high school spent writing up fanfiction to later post online, the years of participating in group storytelling with an online RPG message board. I thought of the joy it brought me, of that feeling that nothing else was better than imagining a world and putting it on paper.

I’ve been focusing a lot on the struggle of finishing. To be honest, I’ve never attempted anything so large in scope before. Finishing a story never required stamina beyond a few weeks, and to be honest I’ve been working on my current project for almost five years. I started toying with the idea soon after securing my first professional job, and as a person who typically goes for what they want full steam I find it disheartening that I haven’t reached an end yet. That it’s still in disarray.

A few weeks ago I started organizing all my handwritten notes. All the jumbled scenes and snippets I typed up into Scrivener, labeling as I went. When I ran out, I started reading what I had, editing as I went, filling in some blanks.

I’m making progress. It is slow, but it is relatively steady compared to the months of nothing.

This afternoon I looked on my Google drive and found even more I had typed up months ago. Full scenes that flowed from one to the next that I’d forgotten I’d taken the time to type up. So I started copying and pasting them into place.

I started reading what I have and smiled, amazed by what I’ve brought into being so far. It’s more than I realized I had. Not a finished story, but not as big of a mess as I’d lead myself to believe.

A little bit of organization may be just what I needed to help me get back on track.

What You Started

Posted: February 8, 2016 in writing
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So in the plethora of writing advice it’s not uncommon to see one particular shred of wisdom that makes a lot of sense: You have to finish what you start. No amount of pie in the sky hoping and dreaming will change the fact that nothing can happen if you don’t sit your but in a chair, write, and actually finish a project.

In the past year I’ve been guilty of not following that advice.

I didn’t realize how much I wasn’t following it until I took stock of what I’ve been up to recently, where my interests and focus has taken me, and all the shiny things that capture my interest. Spoiler Alert: I have not been faithful.

Particularly in the new year my focus has been scattered. I’ve thought of at least three other stories I would like to write. Worse, I’ve penned  parts of them down. I’ve also rekindled my love of knitting and fed my addiction to video games.

What I haven’t been doing is writing the story I’ve been working on for the past two years. Yes, I really have been working on my book that long, and no, I have not given it the priority it deserves. I haven’t been sitting my butt in a chair and writing.

The sad part about my predicament is that I have a lot of it written already in longhand. Hell, I have a lot of it typed up in snippets that just have to get looked over and edited. More to my public shame, I have just about everything mapped out in my mind’s eye if not on paper. (Honestly, I may have written a story outline as well at some point with just about every main point I could possibly need to know to steer my straight and true.)

What I’ve been lacking in is discipline. I sit down after a long day at work, try to get a little writing done, and then… oh, hey, did you see that? I should really get that done. But I’m writing… eh, I wrote a few paragraphs, that’s more than nothing, and that means its something, right? I tell myself that a few paragraphs every few weeks is acceptable, that as soon as I have the time I’ll sit down and work on it. I’ve been avoiding. (Avoidance is quite possibly its own topic wrapped up in fear of failure, so we’ll leave that here for now.)

The problem is that avoidance doesn’t help anything. I keep telling myself, “This year I’m going to finish it. I have it all planned out. I’ve created a deadline.” But I don’t hold myself to it. What I need to establish is some sense of habit. A way to push past my sleepy brain through training.

In short: I have to be more strict with myself.

This week starts Lent, the 40 days before Easter when good Catholics are supposed to focus on preparing themselves, on making themselves better. In high school my psychology teacher used the time frame to conduct a habit-breaking/creating experiment. (I think 50 days is the actual threshold for habit formation, but I may be making that up. After all, it has been 10 years since I took that class.) For me… I’m not particularly religious anymore, but I can see the wisdom in taking the time to refocus. In recent years I’ve used it as a time to curb my road rage, stem the flow of profanity, or treat others with more care and compassion than I may otherwise afford them.

Last week I realized it’s that time of year once again, and couldn’t think of what I wanted to focus on. Perhaps I owe it to my creative self, the one who yells at me for avoiding my book, to spend the 40 days refocusing my writer’s craft.

Or I could once again work to minimize my cursing, because Lord knows I’ve become too lazy to express displeasure using anything beyond words that describe excrement and fornication.

 

 

Advancing Years

Posted: January 11, 2016 in Life
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Today the world says I’m 30.

To me this is a rather surreal experience because for at least the past five years I’ve decided that I don’t actually feel any older. People say, “age is just a number”, but I swear to God I’ve been mentally living that little nugget for awhile now. In fact, I broke down crying a month ago when I felt older than my years. My lower back was aching (as it tends to do as I stand all day at work), the pain had leaked into my hips so nothing was comfortable, and one of my fingers was experiencing what I could only imagine was arthritis (stiff joints while interpreting sign language is no bueno). I arrived home and cried out that I was too young to feel so old!

When I turned 21 I was excited that the last barrier (excepting car rental) had been breached. The next year I rejoiced as all of my friends were finally old enough to go to the bar as well. After that…the numbers didn’t mean so much. In fact, they meant so little I caught myself on several occasions lying about my age, not because I felt embarrassed but because I actually forgot.

My most memorable moment of forgotten age was talking with a classmate at a conference. She was worried because she would be turning 25, and didn’t know how she felt about that. I boldly told her, “I love being 25! It’s been the best age yet. You’re going to love it, too.” She smiled, felt better, and a moment later I wanted to scream at myself because at that moment in time I was 23. Soon to be 24…but in reality I had not yet reached the very age I had just professed I had experienced. I didn’t tell her that, though. In my defense, 25 ended up being a pretty kick ass year, and I do not regret telling her that 25 is awesome… my mind was clearly a time traveler.

A few years ago I had to actually count birthdays and do math because I somehow believed myself to be a year younger than I was. I think it was my 28th… but as I was confused, what’s the point in trying to remember?

In any case, I just don’t feel like 30-such a large number- belongs to me. I may look a bit older around the eyes, I’m sure my hair has started plotting a sneak attack against its given color, and I now roll my eyes at the antics of “college kids”, but I feel like 30 is a number bestowed to a person older than myself.

My sister, four years my younger, is the opposite. She feels her age. When she wakes up on her birthday she nods and agrees that the new number suits her.

Maybe young at heart really is a thing. For the good of the human race I’m going to continue believing it to be so, see if it makes a difference as the years advance, and will report back my findings in the name of science.

It may be awhile before the results come in. You don’t mind, do you?

2015 Retrospective

Posted: January 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

There’s something about starting a new year that makes a person want to look back on the old one. Perhaps it’s the idea of starting fresh. Maybe we are simply looking for proof that the year, which has already so swiftly passed us by, has not been wasted. Whatever the reason, when I look back I always find far more achievements and milestones than I expected.

And so, without further ado, here is 2015 as it flew past me: Read the rest of this entry »

A Girl’s Best Friend

Posted: September 20, 2015 in Life
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Henry is 12.

I forget that sometimes.

He came into my life the summer before my senior year, and quickly became a member of the family. Perhaps I forget how old he is because time has flown by so quickly I hardly remember how old I am now. After all, I wasn’t even old enough to vote when I got him, and now I’m pushing 30.

Perhaps the bigger reason is because much of what I love about him has remained the same. When the weather gets nice we get to go on walks. Henry tells me when its time to go, anxiously anticipating the fun time he’s going to have sniffing everything in sight. It starts with the stare down, and as soon as I say, “Let me get my shoes on,” he goes crazy, barking and rushing around with excitement. He doesn’t stop until the leash is on and we are outside. Then all bets about the pace are off, because he needs to stop and sniff EVERYTHING.

Typically I’m on a time crunch, and we go two blocks at most. To be honest, that can take a half an hour if he’s really involved in what he’s sniffing. The only good thing about his one track mind is he often ignores birds and other wildlife, so no fear of him tearing off and ripping the leash out of my hand. He used to perk up when he encountered a dog, but his sight is going and his hearing must be as well. Dogs can pass Henry by and half the time he doesn’t even care.

Sometimes I have a day with nothing planned, and then we can go on an adventure. We cross any street Henry deigns is necessary in his quest to sniff out new life and new civilizations. Today was a popular day for walks, as the summer weather has softened to the mellow warmth of fall, and we encountered people out and about. A few of them left some nuggets of wisdom with me, and it compelled me to write this.

Halfway through our walk today we met a woman with her little Shih Tzu. The cute little guy was so excited to meet Henry. Henry was more interested in the grass, but gave the dog a sniff on the nose and was done. The woman walking with her complemented Henry’s “cute little face”. As always when words of “how precious” or “how cute” are doled out upon him I reply in a way I feel captures his very nature. “He likes to think so.” (Yes, my dog is adorable and he knows it. It’s how he gets away with everything.)

The woman then said something that struck a cord. “Isn’t it amazing how they just take over your life?”

Yes. Yes it is. Henry has become so ingrained in my everyday life that I sometimes find myself altering plans to suit him. Around 10:00 at night he gives me the look telling me it’s time to go to bed, and I go. Sometimes it is simply the destination that he requires, and I can stay up late reading as he sleeps. Other times when he tells me to go to bed he means it, and will be very harsh with me until the light is off. In the morning he tells me it’s time to get up and eat.

“Can I sit in bed a little longer?”
“No,” he tells me. “I’m hungry and I need to use the facilities outside. You have to get up now.”

Sometimes his desire to sit with me plays at my heartstrings and I set aside the work I’m trying to get done in favor of spending time with him. Of course, this is often a result of his demands bordering on terrorist efforts as he will stare, bark, and whine until he gets his way. No one can get anything done under those conditions.

I feel guilty when I’m the last person home and I have to leave him. “Dad will be home in a couple hours,” I tell him. “You won’t be alone for long.” I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do. I feel as though I’m abandoning him.

This guilt becomes more prevalent as I take up residence in another city. He’s my family’s dog. We’ve had him for 12 years. He sneaks into my bed at night and greets me when I get home. Yet the time comes when a person needs to move out, and I hate leaving him. I can see the betrayal on his face after I’ve been away for a week and come home to visit. The first week he was happy to see me. The next he feigned indifference. “Oh, it’s you. The person who leaves me when they are supposed to love me. Did you know that I went looking for you in your room last night? You weren’t there. Mom told me you weren’t, but I thought she was lying. She wasn’t. You’re going to leave me again, aren’t you…”

The sting of my betrayal mends as I stick around the house, take him for a walk, and do the things I normally did when I lived with him. But I know that this evening I have to go back to my new home town, and I will once again have to say, “goodbye”. I’ll pet his head, and tell him how much I’ll miss him. Henry will just look back at me with the same dark brown eyes he always has.

A man on our walk today said, “Is that a Westie? I once had a really good friend who was a Westie.”

“Yes,” I answered. “He is really good.”

At book club I don’t feel like a nerd.

When asked, I will readily admit to being a nerd in regards to a great many things. I like comic books, I play Dungeons and Dragons, and I read a lot of books. These are all things that lend themselves to various forms of nerd-dom. What’s odd, however, is that even when I have these commonalities amongst peers I rarely get the opportunity to “geek out” over some of my loves.

Reading tops the list of things I am nerdy about but don’t often get to geek out over. I have a several friends who are equally book wormy. Heck, one of them just started a blog about books they love. But no matter how much I may gush over how fantastic a book was, how funny, sad, or sentimental I never get to fully geek out.

It’s because I’m a Literature Nerd.

When I was still in school my favorite subject was often whatever literature class I was currently enrolled in. I love discussing the hidden meanings found in books, the themes that are laid out among the pages, all those things that a great many people loathed when they sat in English class I thrive on.

When I gush about fantastic reads to my friends I don’t get to talk about that sort of thing, though. I focus on the surface. The characters, the events, the story. Half the time I have to keep it cryptic because it’s a book recommendation rather than an actual discussion. No one wants to have a book spoiled before they even pick it up.

That’s what makes book club so great. Everyone has read the book already! No spoilers!

This month we read Michael J. Sullivan’s Hollow World, a sci-fi time-traveling romp into a future where a far less diverse humanity is thrown into chaos when they are visited by a 21st century man. As the time traveler navigates through a strange land he ends up learning a lot about himself and what life is all about.

Since the book was my pick I was given the task of leading the discussion. I was more excited about this prospect than I probably should have been. As I flipped through the pages of my e-book I made notations of questions I wanted to delve into, and highlighted passages that I found intriguing. This evening I then got to lay it out in all its geeky glory.

One member mentioned that I had really gone deep with the book, that by comparison their thoughts were far closer to the surface. I just smiled. It’s the kind of thing I haven’t had the opportunity to do in over 6 years: actually discuss a book and the questions it raises about life. Since Hollow World runs in a similar vein to the classic H.G. Wells classic The Time Machine there was plenty questions raised about humanity and what it means to live life as a human.

It certainly isn’t your standard book club book, but it was enjoyed by all and paved the way for some fantastic discussions. If you have a book club and are looking for something off the beaten path you should pick it up.

Crossing my fingers the pick for next month is just as delightful, because I’m really starting to enjoy book club.

What’s up with Hollywood lately?

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like they’ve become a bit remake-reboot-inspired-by happy. I’ll admit, I’m young, and with not even 30 years on this Earth I may have overlooked the obvious back when I was younger, but recently when I see movie news I feel like all the ideas I see have already been done. I don’t mean it in that “Oh, this is so old hat,” kind of way, I mean literally I have seen these movies before.

Let’s start the ball rolling with the book-to-movie trend. I love books. It’s exciting to see a story that I’ve enjoyed brought to the screen… but lately I feel like I could see almost the entirety of my reading habits that way. Seriously, as a person who enjoys fantasy and sci-fi movies I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that wasn’t based on a book or comic. Hunger Games, Avengers, Warm Bodies, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Hobbit… the list goes on and on. Should I broaden the spectrum? Ender’s Game, The Giver, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars. Even How to Train Your Dragon is loosely based on a book series!

The last movie I saw that wasn’t based on a book was probably Jupiter Ascending. Wait, let me fact check that one. Oh, thank God. I thought for sure I was going to have to have a tantrum of some kind. Admittedly, the movie lacked something as it pitted world-building versus character building but hey, there were issues with the three Hobbit movies, too… like the fact that they didn’t need three of them. Anyways, like I said, that’s maybe the only fantasy movie I’ve seen in the past few years that wasn’t a book first. You just don’t find them. They’re like the mythical unicorn of fantasy films. You hear about them existing in the wilds… but you never see them, not when there’s all the advertising for the next book series turned movie!

Hollywood seems to have latched onto the idea that popular books make popular movies. With all the money they can make from it I don’t blame them. You have a built-in fanbase. The problem is that no matter how much I enjoy seeing my favorite books on the screen I can’t help but feel a little… bored. Already loving the book kind of sucks the excitement out of a movie. I know who’s dying, who’s getting together, and how it ends. Half the fun of seeing a movie is to get so engrossed you worry for the character’s safety, on the edge of your seat with anticipation of whether the girl gets the guy. To be quite honest, when I was gifted Horns for my birthday, both the book and the DVD, I watched the movie first. I had neither seen nor read it before it was given to me. I insisted on watching the movie first. Not because I thought the movie would pale in comparison to the book (most people enjoy the books far more than the movie adaptations) but because I wanted to watch a movie and be surprised, dammit!

Thinking of things I’ve already seen before can we spend a moment to talk about the influx of remakes and reboots? The big story lately has been all about Ghostbusters. They have an all female cast! Wouldn’t you know it then word gets out that there’s also plans for another Ghostbusters that features men. Let’s hop on that bandwagon right away, right? Don’t get me wrong, Ghostbusters was a fantastic movie, as was the second one (though Vigo the Carpathian still scares the crap out of me). They were made quite some time ago, longer than the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie (I’m not going to get into that remake/reboot…the lips upset me too much to even consider seeing. Or further complicate it by mentioning the gem of my childhood was a comic book first.). Do we need to reboot Ghostbusters? Can’t we let Ghostbusters be Ghostbusters and keep the awesome story alive by, you know, watching the original?

This morning I looked at my list of headlines and one of them was that Scarface was getting a remake. I nearly flipped my top, and felt myself compelled to click to find out what possibly shenanigans they were talking about. Sure enough, they’re taking the premise of the movie, putting it in a different time, a different place, but basically telling the same story and I’m assuming they’ll title it Scarface because why get the buzz surrounding it now if that wasn’t the plan? The script will be brought to us by the guy who also penned a remake of The Birds. Yes, HItchcock’s classic really needs an update. Just like Nightmare on Elm Street and Carrie did.

What, did people suddenly run out of new ideas? Are they too scared to take a risk on something new? Are we the people becoming complacent as we wallow in the same story in different packaging?

Hollywood isn’t the only show in town. There are tons of indie films that are doing fantastic things. I just wish the indie stuff could go a bit more mainstream, you know? As a person who typically can’t even tell you what’s in the regular theatres I’ll never be able to track down limited release stuff. The fault is in my own preferences for entertainment. I’m far more interested in books, in board games, in hanging out with friends to even be able to see trailers for the mainstream stuff. It’s a problem.

Perhaps I was blissfully ignorant as a child, but I just feel like the ideas running around Hollywood back then weren’t so…used. Like the movies that stand out in my mind were those that didn’t stand on the shoulders books. Of course, mine was the generation that saw such fantastic reboots as The Brady Bunch Movie, and Dukes of Hazard, so maybe Hollywood is exactly as its always been, I’ve just never managed to see the man behind the curtain before.