That Magic Feather

Long time no write, because, well, I haven’t been writing much of anything up until perhaps a week ago.  Not for lack of trying, most of the time, but I suppose much of that “trying” was taken up with “despairing” and not as effective as it should have been. 

Two things that were not really revelations, but somehow still feel like revelations: 

1. I am an introvert, well and truly.  Spending time with people, whether I like them or not, uses up my energy, physical and mental, and it takes 100% solitude to recharge.  As my work demands that I spend more and more time with people,  in meetings, presenting, or just in the day-to-day interaction, I need to accept what I am and figure out how to balance my life.  How to recharge my batteries so I don’t end up like I recently did, mentally incapable of doing anything other than lie in front of the television playing video games. 

2. I can often write when I’m depressed, but not when that depression heavily involves an utter loss of faith in myself.  The day job was making me seriously doubt my self-worth, and it quickly bled into everything.  Again, it would seem obvious, but not in the moment.  Instead all I did was feel utterly confused that I couldn’t at least write in the midst of my depression, and that would make me lose faith even MORE, and the depression would get worse, and… you see how it goes. 

I’m actually a bit startled at how much that lack of faith undermined my writing.  Some of the things I wrote when I was trying to force it were just terrible.  Poor word choices, awkward sentences, absolutely no emotional connection.  Even I felt distanced from the text and I wrote it!

Seriously, I don’t think this is perception, I think it has something to do with how belief, passion, and confidence come across even across a written page.  I’m a shy mouse in person but when writing, I always feel stronger and bolder and more vibrant.  I can express myself in text; I feel less shy and I can consider my word choices carefully.  Or that’s how it usually is.  Also, as mentioned before, I hear my stories as I write, and when I started to lose faith, I couldn’t hear them.  I could only hear my own self-loathing and derision as I fought to put down even a handful of words.  And of course, that would only worsen the cycle. 

What changed?  Honestly, work let up a bit, I got some time to myself at work and time to myself at home, and I think my batteries just recharged.  Slowly, my attempts to write became more focused and the output improved.

And then, just this past week, I revised a short story I had kicking around, shared it with my awesome writing pal Die, and Die handed me that good old Magic Feather: a hearty helping of support and encouragement.  I can get suspicious of praise (thanks, self-doubt) but I trust Die to speak up if something isn’t working, and always has good suggestions for things to improve. 

It was perfect timing, and I feel energized about writing again.  I’m still not where I was two months ago.  But definitely getting better.  Crossing my fingers that this is a real recovery and not a double dip depression ;). 

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The sitting on one’s hands shall continue!

Every Monday a group of friends and I sit down to write for an hour. This past Monday I was worried I couldn’t write, so one of my friends suggested a challenge–to write about a character cooking–and I agreed. Instead of writing about cooking though, I ended up writing a scene that could follow where I’d last left off in the novel.

Which is a long-winded way of saying clearly my brain would still like to work on the novel.

It’s funny. While I was writing the scene I was fighting myself the whole way through. I finally stopped when that fight just got to be too much and I just hated the last bit of what I’d written. I’m so mad I’ve suddenly allowed that demon of self-doubt back in the door when I’d been pretty good about holding it off for so much of the book. I suspect Sue has the right of it, that I’m afraid of the ending. I also think I’m just plain tired–from writing so much so fast for such a long period of time (for me), from shenanigans at work, from a sudden bout of insomnia and blues.

Speaking of the day job, I really wish I could skip it, some times. Yesterday morning I had this amazing nightmare (hm, should those words really go together) which made me want to write a little scene or short story so badly. I wanted to, but I had to go to work. And then I tried to hold it all day, but by the end of the day it was all tatters. It’s still lurking and lurching around the back of my mind, but now I don’t know that I can do it justice. It was so fresh, and well, terrifying.

Also, someone please explain to me why the most horrifying monsters in my dreams seem to be these skinned/naked wolf-dog creatures? 🙂

Monster on my shoulder

There’s a monster on my shoulder. It’s been with me a long, long time. It’s a mutt of a monster, part pride, part insecurity. It whispers mean, undermining things into my ear and convinces me constantly that everything I do is worthless, uninspired, something to be ashamed of. But I think I must love my monster, or want to hide behind it, or something, because I can’t seem to get rid of it.

#

Over the weekend my sister and I were chatting, and she was telling me about her troubles, and I just had to wince with how much we struggled with the same issues. Her troubles are not precisely mine, of course, but the root causes are the same — lack of confidence, perfectionism and a helping of self-sabotage. I can see how our shared upbringing encouraged some of these things, but it makes me sad that neither of us have fully managed to overcome them. For her, it induces creative paralysis or a complete lack of desire to create. For me, I keep creating, but I constantly feel like I’m an idiot, flinging myself at a brick wall and not seeing that I’m never going to break it down. I’m always fighting the voice that says “why bother” and “you suck anyway.” That little voice has warped various teachings into “if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.”

To which I say: screw you voice. I’m doing it anyway.

Slowly, slowly, I’m fighting through the shame of putting out something that isn’t the best thing anyone anywhere and anywhen has ever read. That sometimes isn’t even to my (horribly, impossibly high) standards. Part of that is learning that most people don’t seem to give a crap if every sentence is a shining jewel among sentences or not; if they like the story, or they like the characters, they’ll forgive a lot. That’s not an excuse to be lazy or sloppy–heaven forbid!!–but it is an excuse to stop being frozen by fussing and fussing over three words. Part of it is accepting that there will always be someone who will hate the story, who will think it’s not good, who will laugh at it, criticize it, mock it, belittle it and… I can’t do a single thing about it. And there’s no point worrying about it in advance. It may hurt when it happens, but if it gave me pleasure to make the story in the first place, well–all I can do is try to learn what, if anything, I did technically wrong, and try to improve. And it may well be that it’s simply not the right audience. That does happen.

Anyway, maybe eventually I’ll be “good enough” to make myself happy. But in the meantime I just have to keep working, and writing, and trying to get better, because that’s the only way to actually get anywhere.

Miles to go

Whew, that was an amazing discussion thread yesterday. So much to think about. I’m not sure my tiny head can handle it. *grins*

I think what it’s made me see very clearly is that:
-Despite my best intentions, I have ended up doing a Star Trek style take on aliens, where they are basically humans in slightly different shapes
-I will have to decide (and soon) how much I am going to change, how much I need to change for the story’s sake, and how much I can’t really change for the story’s sake.
-I have to decide the “rules” I’m working with — how much variation, etc — asap

Ultimately it’s an adventure story in space with a dash of conspiracy theory. How much do I want to grow the story beyond that? I’m not afraid or against doing so, if I decide to, but at the same time, sometimes it is fine to be simple. So I just need to make up my mind: am I sticking with “fun jaunt in space with some sorta-aliens” or am I really challenging/examining the difficulty inherent in a possible alliance/trade/interaction between radically different beings? How far do I push this story? Is it just fun fluff, or should it be more?

I’m not afraid of confronting hard questions, and I don’t want to feel like I’m “chickening out” if I go the easy way. I think it’s okay to tell stories that are just fluff. But if it’s just fluff, then I have to be clear on that, now, in my mind, and not confuse it so it’s some sort of in between mishmash. If I want to risk a fusion, or even push it to a fully thoughtful, serious consideration of the topic, then I also have to face that I’ll have to junk/rewrite much that’s been written.

Decisions, decisions.

Even if I do keep it fluff, there’s plenty I’ll now alter, in light of the discussion yesterday, and plenty that might even bring more interest/tension to certain points that were fuzzy or weak. Either way, very eye opening and mind-opening. Thanks, everyone!!

Eureka! — Oh, damn.

I think I’ve figured out why a section of The Red Box was bothering me like mad on re-read. I’ve made nearly all the sources that Trajan relies upon have some sort of history or connection (even recent) to him, and nearly all of them care about him in some way. But there’s one who has none of that, and though there is history I’ve carelessly blown over it, and so it feels like he blasts through his interaction (and subsequent investigations) in a hasty and unattached, more plot-driven way.

I do wonder if this is why I have trouble writing him in the scenes with Instigating Character. They have little connection and my attempts to make them have one feel not-yet-there.

I say “Oh damn” only because I’ve already sent the chapters including these flat, less-powerful interactions to my patient first draft reader C., and I hate sending off material where I know there’s a major problem, because sometimes reworking it causes big changes, and also I’ve forced someone to read something majorly flawed.

Then again she’s reading a first draft and is aware of it, and yet has been kind and encouraging. I guess I’m just afraid of putting her off badly since this is especially raw material, whereas the first half of the draft has been reworked quite a lot, having not been entirely rewritten in the past four months. 😦

… In completely unrelated news, I would like to know why my body seems to feel that sleeping from 10:30ish to 1:30 = a full night’s sleep. *annoyed*

Writing through the bumps

Had really rough weekend, and all my best-laid plans to tackle the novel fell to the roadside. I could kick myself, but what good would that do? In the meantime, last week I did finally finish a short story I was severely writer’s-blocked on. Once again I find that sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to why one day I can’t focus, and one day I suddenly let loose 2000 words in a sitting.

The story I finished is a free story for the project I’m working on with Die Booth, Re-Vamp, so I’ll share the link once it’s up. I still need a title, though.

You know, I often either start out with a title and use it as an anchor through the time I’m writing, or I have no title by the time I’m done and then I never know what to call the darn thing.

Don’t call it a setback

So right out of the gate I… haven’t done so well!  I could blame it on work, which was pretty damn heinous yesterday, or the fact that I just didn’t want to eat after so much stress, so I didn’t, or the fact that I felt thin and like my brain could hardly string together a sentence, much less pages… but ultimately it was my choice.  However, on the same note, I did choose to write something.  I couldn’t not do it.  So I wrote about 200 words.  Pretty paltry, and probably need to rewrite it entirely, but I don’t mind.  I’m just glad I didn’t let that first  day slip by without at least giving it a shot.

Now I’ve got Mama Said Knock You Out bouncing around my head!