writing recap 2019: w2

Not very productive this week. I worked on plotting for a couple short stories, started season 11 of Writing Excuses, and wrote a poem. I’ve been dragging my feet on getting the requisite structures back in place — the inertia is no joke. I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too badly, but that’s kind of difficult too.

Episode 11.04 of Writing Excuses was about Newton’s Laws of Writing (or, rather, Howard Tayler’s Laws of Writing). They are:

  1. A word count at rest tends to remain at rest. A word count in motion tends to remain in motion.
  2. Word count equals motivation times focus.
  3. Writing is its own reward.
    • Sanderson variation: Every word you write is worthwhile.

For the last couple of weeks, my word count has been at rest. And I’m starting to think that, while breaks work well for many people, they don’t work as well for me. At least not right now. I get kind of drifty and mopey and self-flagellating. MRK mentioned that sometimes the easiest way to get out of a funk is to simply start small, because it doesn’t end up staying small once you get going. Maybe three sentences. Maybe 250 words. But just starting there and letting it build. And, of course, the gentle reminder that time spent thinking about your story is still work towards your story. It’s not always just the new words (though those are obviously very important).

As for law two, my issue right now is the focus bit. I’m letting too many things distract me, and I’m being too lax with some of the rules that I know work for me.

So this week, getting structures back in place, and figuring out how to set some writing goals.

writing recap 2019: w1

I spent most of the week reading and reflecting and figuring out how to actualize my plans for the new year. Finished setting up the new bullet journal. Did some more beta reading.

The short story intensive for this weekend got postponed, so I spent a good amount of the week kind of at a loss. My original plan was to kind of take it easy since it was a shorter week due to the NYE/NY holiday and since I was going to essentially have a writing jam this weekend. So that was just my general mindset the rest of the week. I did some edits on short stories and went through the rest of the feedback DVA gave me, so that was useful.

I still have trouble knowing what to do when I have some plot issues. My best (in my own opinion) stories so far are the ones that feel like they come easily and naturally. I tend to write relatively clean prose, so it feels like flowing. But I have a couple of story ideas that I really believe in that I haven’t been able to get into that headspace for. And when that’s the case, my inner editor comes alive and I spend time line editing when I should be pushing the story forward, writing from plot point to plot point. That’s a big thing I need to consistently work on this year.

writing recap 2018: w51

Not a particularly productive week. Tooled around with outlining more. Worked on polishing a few short stories. Felt mostly bleh all week. That feeling where you know you should do more, where you even want to do more, but then you just… don’t.

It’s a stupid feeling really. Because it’s not like I don’t know what I need to be doing and it’s not like I don’t know exactly what’s happening. But even still, I let some of the structures crumble and I milled about listlessly. Drifting.

And I can rail at myself mentally, and I can scold and exhort. But the fact remains that I already made the decision at the beginning of the week (semi-consciously probably) that I wasn’t going to be super productive, and then I followed through on that decision.

I need to make better decisions.

But also, I suppose I need to have a little forgiveness for myself, a little grace. Because it’s okay to have a few off days here and there. It’s not the end of the world. And part of the whole not self-flagellating (as much) thing is also focusing on what I did manage to accomplish.

So, here goes:

  • I figured out a couple major places where the plot of my novel breaks down, and I figured out a good fix for one of them. Unfortunately, this means some MAJOR rewriting, but I’m okay with that actually. Still excited about this story and these characters, and I want to make it work.
  • I did a few readability passes and light editing on a few short pieces, and FINALLY sent them off to DVA to look at. I’d been putting it off for almost two weeks at this point under the guise of editing, but mostly it was because I still feel nervous about letting other people read my work. Definitely need to get over that.
  • I got some good feedback and some great insights, and now I have a list of things that I want to add and play with to try to make those short works as good as possible. I’m pretty excited about them too actually. (This being proud of my own work thing is a little new for me. I’m literally realizing this as I’m typing it out because typing out that I’m excited about the stuff I’m working on feels… weird.)

Then, some not writing things:

  • Play tested some Levelhead, which is the new upcoming Butterscotch Shenanigans title.
  • Made six types of Xmas cookies and put together a few care packages.
  • Restarted The Artist’s Way.
  • Worked on the next episode of a podcast my friend and I are putting together.

That’s not a lot of things, but it’s not nothing.

I didn’t get that many new words written, lost to the fog of bad habit loops and dopamine fixes. But it’ll be okay. I will.

Next week is all holiday/family shenanigans, so I’m not planning to do anything too heavy. I’ll work on a few short story edits, do some feedback for DVA, and otherwise take most of the week off, I think.

writing recap 2018: w50

Continued outlining this week. Although about halfway through the week, I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m outlining in part to put off writing new words on the project, so that actually needs to stop. There are no rules that say that I can’t do these things concurrently. I succumbed to the deceptive idea that I needed to finish outlining first, which I don’t think is a true thing for me.

So generally not as productive this week, which led to slightly less self-flagellation than what would have occurred previously. That’s progress, in a way.

I’m coming to slowly understand that holding yourself accountable (even if it’s just to yourself) is different than mentally tearing yourself down. That may seem like an obvious distinction to you, but I’ve struggled with it for a long time. The self-flagellation isn’t actually helpful for productivity. It was just a habit that I had been raised with and have had trouble shaking off. I imagine I never will entirely, but I can at least try to minimize it somewhat.

I did manage to set up my bullet journal a bit for the new year. I’m going a little more minimalist, I think, and trying not to spend as much time putting together monthly spreads with their lettering and flowers and whatnot. But who knows, that may fall apart immediately, and I might want to do the detail work again. We’ll see.

This next week, the focus will be on words again.

writing recap 2018: w49

This week, mostly wrote some prelude stuff and little vignettes to get a better sense of the characters. Also spent a good amount of time just thinking about the story for my fairy tale project and re-outlining. Still have some more re-outlining to go, but I feel better about the project. My goal will be to have a full first draft done by the end of January.

Had lunch with my friend David, which was excellent. He helps to reorient me and also points out blindingly simple little things that don’t occur to me. Everyone needs a friend slash professional mentor who can do that. We’re going to do a little short fiction (stories from Inktober) exchange, so I have to make sure some of those are readable and more or less coherent in the next couple of days.

There’s a lot of social stuff happening this upcoming week, including my SIL Diana’s upcoming group gallery show! The dads-in-law are coming down to attend and to hang out, so that’ll be fun.

With all the stuff on the calendar, I kind of think that things will get accomplished in drips and drabs this month, with the furious writing in earnest mostly happening in January. I’m signed up for MRK’s Short Story Intensive in January (I think it’s sold out now, but you can wait list if you’re interested), and I am already nervicited about that.

writing recap 2018: w48

Short little update today, lovelies.

Won NaNo on Thursday, so took the weekend off. When it’s not November, I’m mostly taking the weekends off anyway, so this is more a return to routine than a new routine.

I feel more satisfied about winning NaNo this year than I did last year, but it still doesn’t feel like as big of a deal since I’ve been trying to put in daily writing anyway. Although I did accomplish a substantial amount on one large project instead of a bunch of little ones. I’m not done with the first draft yet — the story isn’t finished — so I’m going to continue on, doing roughly 2000 words daily, until it’s done.

I haven’t done the requisite re-outlining yet, so that’s a Monday thing.

Something about doing writing adjacent things instead of just putting the words down on the page feels at odds with the ethos of NaNo. It feels like losing momentum, like that work (as critical as it might be) doesn’t count somehow. Which is a terrible mindset to have about it, I know. I’ve been trying to tease this out in morning pages, and haven’t quite gotten to the core of it yet. There’s something there — about external motivation and incorrect goals — but I haven’t figured it out.

Because ultimately, I don’t need NaNo to build a writing routine. I’ve already done that. And I don’t need it to give myself permission to write or to let myself tackle a project. So when I’m doing NaNo, it’s almost like I’m disrupting my established workflow to have a bit of external structure. Because it’s still easier (and will probably always be easier) to have some external source tell me what I should be doing instead of having to figure it out for myself.

I don’t know. I have some more thinking to do about it yet.

Word count total: 56,731

writing (and life) recap 2018: w47

Survived round one of marathon family events season. Which, as a moniker, makes it sound rather dire (even for all that it is certainly true).

Thanksgiving shenanigans were good, better than expected even. This year, we went to go visit my family in Houston. Had waaaaaay too many huge meals, which surprised no one. The usual number of (or maybe slightly fewer, if I’m being optimistic) problematic things were said and called out. For Thanksgiving proper, we had an elaborate hot pot, which is our go to holiday meal. My mom and stepdad tend to go all out with it; they event built their own giant hot pot specific table. It’s fun and interactive and social. (Should’ve snapped a pic, but I’m bad at remembering things like that especially when confronted with tasty food.)

Got to see the brother and the stepsister and a lot of dog nieces (and one dog nephew). They were all happily spoiled by my mother who insists on feeding all dogs table scraps. Her own Maltese, named Proton, now eats mostly people food, and has terrible tableside begging habits because of it, to no one’s surprise at all. This has been a running conversation for duration of Proton’s entire life, and this year, I chose to be very ambivalent and vaguely amused about it, which was less stressful. I think partially it’s because the parties involved were more honest about their intentions — whereas previously, my mom made overtures about not wanting Proton to beg or was (seemingly) annoyed at her behavior, now she just fully embraces the fact that this is how she wants to raise her dog. Which makes the whole thing simpler because then I can let it go instead of watch advice that I was asked for go completely unheeded and then hear the same lamentations at each meal.

Everyone should be more honest about their intentions.

Writing was a little more difficult this week, but I got the words in. I wanted to make sure that I wrote while traveling because I didn’t want to feel too tied to location or supplies when trying to get work done. It would be totally like my jerkbrain to try to entice me away from being productive by telling me that I needed to be at my desk or I needed to have x, y, and z. So proving to myself that I can/should work away from home was important. It seems like such a minor thing when you say it (or write it) out loud (or on paper), but I think it’s helpful. It’s sort of like how last year’s NaNo, though I wasn’t totally happy with my end result, proved to me that I could do it.

And it’s not even that I’m proving to myself that I can do these discrete things, not really. It’s more proving to myself that I can hold myself accountable. That I can keep the promises I make to myself, which is essentially the only category of promise I have historically had no compunctions in breaking.

I am worried about a couple of plot points where I think things get a little weak. In those bits, my characters lack some agency and are reacting mostly to external stimulus instead of pushing the plot forward themselves, so I need to think about that. I’m solidly in the muddy, mushy middle, and it’s feeling messy, which makes my enthusiasm flag. (That was a lot of M’s. I should have said motivation, I suppose, to continue the trend.) What it tells me is that I need to outline to where I am and figure out where it breaks down, go back to where I was enthusiastic, and figure out a new way forward. That feels very daunting right now though…

Word count total: 42,460

writing recap 2018: w46

Had a dip in the middle of the week where my jerkbrain did the whole “what’s even the point, you’re terrible and this is terrible and everything is terrible.” And then I remembered there was a bonus Writing Excuses for NaNo that was published this week, so I took some time to listen to that. It was about writer’s block or things akin to writer’s block i.e. things that stop you from writing. Brandon Sanderson mentioned that sometimes when he had students come to him with problems making the words, it turned out the main problem was a confidence one — the words they were making were not as good as the words they wanted to make and it was discouraging.

That’s most definitely my problem.

I could be even more mad at my past self for making the decisions that I made and not making the decisions I knew I should have made, but then I’d still be here, but I would just be more mad. And that doesn’t really help anyone, does it?

So instead, I try to take a deep breath and just write through that feeling. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.

I found myself highly dissatisfied with a bit of plot that happened when I wasn’t looking — it wasn’t part of the outline and I wasn’t sure what the point was, but the characters insisted that this needed to happen. I’m still skeptical, but we’re going to see where it goes. I have started to use my analog morning pages to brainstorm these things, and that has helped quite a bit.

Plus, I’m finally using my fountain pens and some of the very pretty inks I’ve collected but haven’t tried. (This year has very much been about “you don’t need anymore fountain pens or inks or notebooks until you use the ones you have!” Although I’m very much eyeing a stub nib fountain pen… NO. I DON’T NEED MORE PENS. But…) Right now I’m alternating J. Herbin’s Poussiere de Lune (Moon Dust purple, I mean, come on) and Diamine’s Dark Forest inks. They are gorgeous, and scrawling with them in my notebooks is one of my great pleasures in the morning.

Did a few extra words here and there to make a bit of a cushion for next week what with all the Thanksgiving travel and faaaaaaamily stuff. I think even if I only manage a thousand words a day or something like that while I’m in Houston, it’ll be okay. I should be able to find the time though. Should.

Now I’m off to prep for the early Thanksgiving meal we’re hosting here. Instead of turkey and whatnot, I’m making carnitas and we’re going to build tacos. Because I can. And because carnitas are delicious.

Word count total: 35,345

writing recap 2018: w45

First full week of NaNoWriMo down. It is going much more smoothly and consistently this year than last year.

I’ve been putting in my slightly-above-2000 words per day and feel no qualms or apologies whatsoever about taking Sunday off. I used to feel weirdly guilty when I wasn’t writing more and more each day, but I’ve largely been able to let that go (there are occasional flare-ups of guilt where I feel like I’m not doing enough, but I’m working on it).

I’ve come to appreciate more how much the time I spend not writing contributes to my writing. Because when I’m not writing, I’m usually reading. Or walking. Or sewing. And I’m recognizing now that background brain processes are still thinking about my writing and working on little problems that my conscious brain was struggling with. So now, I don’t (usually) begrudge myself time off for baking or reading or doing something else (this doesn’t include Netflix binging (that does not look like the gerund of binge) because that is just a bottomless time suck for me — your mileage may vary (though I haven’t found anyone who binges Netflix productively) (how’s that for nested parentheses)).

As long as I get the words in of course. Butt in chair, and all that, as they say.

In other news, it’s almost cookie season, and I have some GRAND and possibly OVERAMBITIOUS plans.

Word count total: 20,780