2015: A Year in Review

“2015 was a year of struggle and perseverance… but it was the year that defined me as a writer.”

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My 2015 can practically be summed up in the sentence above, and though I could very easily leave it at that, I will go into depth, because I feel that in some ways it was one of my worst years, and yet, one of my best. A statement that is difficult to understand without explanation. Because how can it be the best and the worst? Yet, that’s just part of life, isn’t it? We take the good with the bad, and we come to realize that we only recognize the good things when we’ve experienced the darkness. It’s the only way we can see the contrast for what it really is.

 
Because so much happened in 2015, I struggled a bit on how to write this post – and maybe that’s why it’s taken me so long to commit words to screen. But I finally decided to go about this in parts, because in a way, that’s how 2015 shaped up in the end… all these separate parts came together to make the whole.

 

OF DECLINING HEALTH

Though it’s hard to admit – not only to myself, but to others – I won’t sugarcoat this. I’ll let it be known that I spent far too much time within the past couple years not writing at all. You’ll hear, time and time again – from authors and artists alike – that the best way to hone your craft is to work at it every day. And I really do believe that. One of the hardest things I’ve discovered about writing over the years is that the longer you allow yourself to fall out of the habit, the longer it will take you to pick it back up. I’ve reread entire drafts of my story more than once due to allowing myself to fall out of writing too often. The best thing you can do as a writer is to do exactly that – write. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, but just the act of writing, keeps you in the writing spirit. It’s one of the reasons that I have a dedicated writing journal. Because I’ve found that even taking the time to complain to yourself about how much your writing sucks or how far you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole in terms of actually working, it’s still writing and it keeps your mind in the habit.

 
That being said, I spent the majority of the last few years lost amidst depression and failing health. I don’t know when the problems began, but I remember when they truly culminated – probably 3-4 years ago – and feeling terrible became the new normal. I had terrible brain fog all the time, making it difficult to focus on writing and keep things straight in the story. And even when that would clear, I was tired all the time. So tired that it didn’t matter if I slept 3 hours or 12, I always felt like I needed a nap a few hours after I woke up. I had panic attacks for no reason. As well as breaking down and crying for no reason, other than the fact that I was frustrated, not knowing what was going on, and just wanted my life back.

 
In the fall of 2014, the doctors finally discovered that I have an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Finally having a name to place the blame on was half the battle, but it would still take nearly another year of battling symptoms and fighting doctors before I felt decent.

 
So, 2015 continued on much like 2014 ended… appearing like there was no real hope in sight. Trying to align myself with the fact that maybe feeling like shit was just my normal, and trying this, that, and the other to reconcile myself to that fact. I tried different diets, tested out different supplements… hoping that something would take to make me feel at least a tish better. I would go in swings, feeling good maybe once or twice a month. Though, as to if that really made a difference, I don’t know. It almost felt as if those few days of feeling good just made me realize all the more what I was missing out on when I returned to the usual days of feeling terrible.

 
Amidst all this, I tried to write here and there, but I fell into the terrible habit of telling myself that, “I don’t feel great today… tomorrow… Tomorrow, I’ll finally work.” But that quickly became the daily mantra, and a week later, a month later, I would still be telling myself the same thing with nothing to show for it. Even when I did find the ambition to do so much as open a blank Word document, or to open some of my previous writing, I would practically sit there with my vision blurry, trying to figure out what to say, what to write. It felt more and more as if I were losing myself. My art suffered, and in a way, I believe that left me to suffer all the more – as if all that untapped artistic drive within myself was withering in the darkness and backfiring, turning into an internal poison.
One quote that has always stuck with me is:

“A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”

And I really do believe that.

I continued to gather more symptoms – wicked insomnia and hair loss that scared me – before I finally found a doctor that would listen to me. After months on medication that didn’t help me much at all, I was finally able to go on the natural – Armour – that I had wanted since the beginning of this journey since reading that people with Hashimoto’s do far better on it.

 
It still took a month or two to really kick in, but I began feeling better and better.

 

THE WALL OF DARKNESS

A great weight had been lifted from my life, but it took me another few weeks to realize just how much damage had been done in that time – not only to my mentality, but to my writing.

 
I had tried to write here and there along this zig-zaggin journey, though hardly anything of real worth had presented itself during this time. I might have editing a chapter or two – though I remember hitting that brick wall in my edit, and hitting it hard. I danced around the same three chapters for months – hating the story, hating the writing, trying to get it to behave and fit in with the rest of the story. (I actually wonder still if anyone that pays attention close enough could find it in the final book.)

 
But, it was during this ongoing fight that I ran into the worst days ever with my writing, and to be honest, it had nothing at all to do with the writing itself. Strangely enough.
No, what haunts me to this day, is that I was met with what is probably every author’s worst nightmare: my characters themselves actually fell silent.

 
And, sadly enough, it actually took me a couple of weeks to realize it…

 
But I started writing Nyte-Fyre way back in 2006, and since then my characters have always been with me in my mind… constantly bickering, speaking with one another, letting little facts about themselves slip. Writing is probably one of those rare professions that it’s actually part of the job description to have voices in your head, and to listen to them. It had become such a constant chatter that I had kept a notebook by my bed for years to write down conversation pieces that would pop up.

 
Nigh on ten years, I’d had that cast of characters living with me, co-habituating in my mind. I had grown used to their individual voices vying for my attention. So, it would be a bit of an understatement to say that when they fell silent, I felt lost. I had never experienced this before, and I felt so empty, drifting aimlessly into a silent void.

 
And it was during this time, looking at the draft of “Sparks and Shadows” and how much work was still left, and trying to find any shred of voice of my characters to cling to, that I began to horrifically wonder if maybe this wasn’t the end. Maybe this was my sign that I should give up. Rather than my characters talking, my inner critic – that had always been there regardless – was given all the more room to rear her ugly head and repeat to me all my fears. That I had never been meant to write. That I wasn’t an artist. A writer. That I was wasting my time. Just how many times could I tell people that this would be the year that my novel would finally be done. That it would finally be published…

 
Maybe it really was time to hang it up and find something else to do.

 
And for one of the first times in my life, I actually considered it.

 

THE STRUGGLE AND THE PERSEVERANCE

That very easily could have been the end. There are probably a lot of people that would have taken that as a sign and moved on.

 
However, if I am anything besides creative, it’s stubborn.

 
It was tempting to toss it all to the wayside and allow myself to be defeated, but there’s something stinging in that word… defeat.

 
2006, I had started with a small seed of an idea and went with it, allowed myself to be drawn into the magic of writing, of creation.

 
Was I really going to allow 9 ½ years to go to complete and utter waste?

 
So many days I felt like I hadn’t really gotten anywhere with the story… but look at the Nyte-Fyre folder on my computer and it’ll tell you otherwise.

 
A 421 page first draft of the first novel. Half of what had already been rewritten for the edit. Side stories and back stories. About 25% of the second novel and half of the third, and some of the fourth, thanks to three consecutive years of participating in NaNoWriMo. Not to mention the copious amounts of notebooks filled with thoughts and notes and character conversations and whatnot floating about the room. Those years hadn’t been entirely wasted, and I had a story blossoming, waiting to finish blooming to tell me that.

 
Was I really prepared to give all that up?

 
No… I wasn’t. Because I knew in a way, that even if I had reconciled that I would never write another word on Nyte-Fyre again, it wouldn’t go away. That unfinished business would haunt me for the rest of my life, and it would feel as if the word ‘failure’ was stamped on my head for everyone to see.

 
The thing is that I’ve always taken on projects that might have been challenging, or more than I needed, because I’ve always been stubborn enough to pull through. It might take me awhile, but I don’t take failure as an option.

 
I bought a daily desk calendar last year of Latin quotes, and one of them that stuck with me is something that I’ve kept and pertained to my writing ever since, if only because it’s the mentality that I have:

“Either don’t try, or else carry it through.”

Basically, if you don’t plan on finishing it, don’t even bother starting. And though it may sound harsh, to me, it’s inspiring.

 
And that alone is one of the things that kept me going throughout 2015. It acted as an inspiration, and at the same time, almost a taunt. “Why did you even start if you didn’t think you could finish this project? If you had planned on giving up?”

 
Because I couldn’t be haunted by that. I wouldn’t allow it.

 
So, I did what needed to be done.

 
I sat down and I began to work.

 
It was difficult, no doubt. Especially at first. Though I had half of the edit/rewrite done, I was stuck in a compromising position – I had left off at the part that had tossed me headfirst into that brick wall, essentially leaving me with a writing concussion. Not a great place to start. Not only that, but my characters were still missing in action, and I still felt so far from the end it wasn’t even close to being funny. But I was tired of telling people that “This will be the year!” with nothing to show for it come January.

 
I did what I never wanted to do with my writing – instead of fun, it became work, it became my job. Some days that I would grudgingly drag myself to.

 
But, I made it work.

 
I printed off all that I had of the rewrite, and I read it through – realigning myself with the story and the characters. I perused my endless notes and all the entries in my writing journals. (I knew I had kept those journals for a reason, though I never thought when I began that particular venture in my writing in 2012 that they would actually at one point become detrimental to my continuation as a writer.)

 
And once I re-familiarized myself with the story, I began to edit again. It was a slow process, but I dutifully worked, day after day. Sometimes it would only be a paragraph at a time, other times I’d get a whole chapter done in a day. My biggest problem was that I still wasn’t straight editing. I was still stuck in parts of the book that I knew needed to be rewritten and reworked. Some of the hardest things I discovered in that process was deciding what to keep, and if I was going to keep it, where to put it. There were certain lines that I knew I wanted to keep for certain, and in my drive to make sure they were back in the story, they ended up in the writing multiple times, causing more frustration.

 
One of the things that cut my rewriting time down a bit was that I left myself a note about where that brick wall had assaulted me and taunted me for months and moved on. I knew that I would still have to return and smooth that over, but I moved on to what I knew I could work with.

 
For the longest time, “Sparks and Shadows” has been broken down into sections – maybe 5 in all. So, I moved on to my final rewrite section, and though difficult at first, I was given the chance to enjoy myself again, if only briefly.

 
One of the things that I discovered that I hated about editing was that this story has been with me for nearly 10 years. I knew what happened in the first book. I’d spent years with it. It was no longer new and exciting to me. I didn’t want to remain stuck in limbo there. I wanted to move on, to explore new writing and to feel the magic of discovery again. And though it wasn’t the height of that, moving into this section that had so much rewriting left, gave me just enough of a taste of that to keep moving on.

 
It took me a couple weeks, but once I moved on from that section, so began the tedious work of the actual editing. I began this novel when I was 15, so needless to say, my writing style had changed a bit. So, it was my ongoing goal now to smooth over that writing so that it read cohesively, readers unaware that there were 8,9, almost 10 years writing difference between some sections. This was a slow and tedious process, but I plucked away at it daily.

 
There were times during this process when I began to wonder if it would ever end.

 
And then I ran into a day where as I was going through, the writing seemed to grow better dramatically. I suddenly wasn’t having to edit nearly as much and it was making the process go a lot faster. This right here was when I felt that heavy weight finally lifted off my shoulders. And I knew that though I still had a bit to go, the end was near. The light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t a train, it was actual daylight.

 
It wasn’t long after that that I finally, after all those years, finished what I had started with the edit. I reached the end of the book again. And I returned to those chapters in the middle, and sussed those out to something workable.

 
I had finished what had begun to look unattainable.

 

TRIUMPH

However, that wasn’t the end.

 
I may have finished the final draft, but I still wasn’t done.

 
Had I decided on taking the traditional route of publishing, then I would have begun the waiting game. I’d have written a query letter and sent it off to agents and publishers with my fingers crossed. But I had decided a number of years ago, that although it would be difficult, I wanted to try my hand first at self-publishing. I didn’t want to give up the majority of my rights for a small royalty after all the work I had put into it.

 
Yet, that left me with a lot of work that most authors don’t have to deal with.

 
And one of those definitely proved to be far more hassle and frustration that I remember, and that was a demon called ‘formatting.’

 
The thing was that I thought I had that under control. Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I had a coupon code for a handful of free printed books from a company called CreateSpace. I used that in 2014 to print off what I’ve been calling since my test-copies. Essentially, these were never meant for resale. I only wanted to see what the book would look like in print. In a way, it was a token of all my previous work and a physical reminder of my goal at large. My 2014 test copies were a print off of my first draft. But, though it’s writing that I wouldn’t necessarily send out to the world (save for my close friends who read that draft), it challenged me to pick up those editing and formatting skills.

 
Having done the formatting once before, I mistakenly thought that it was going to be easy the second time around.

 
Oh, how wrong I was.

 
Though a good majority of the formatting process is still a copy and paste job, what you’ve got to watch out for is the pesky formatting that Word likes to throw at you. Though a wonderful program most of the times, it definitely has its downfalls once in awhile. Especially when trying to format. Word has a nasty habit of taking what you tell it to do, and doing something different.

 
Not only that, but I made the mistake of thinking that 10 chapters a day would be a good goal… that is until you realize just how long ten chapters is. I have 81 in all. So, essentially, my 8 day project turned into a month.

 
As I copied and pasted, I wasn’t only transferring over my chapters, I was doing a final run-through grammatical edit. I had to figure out what my chapter headings would look like – what font to use, what size, and the spacing from the top of the page and in between. I had to add page numbers, and figure out how the dreaded headers and footers worked. Something that was all the more difficult when you add in the conundrum of wanting different odd and even headers, and no header at all present on chapter title pages. That was where most of the headache came in. I would get one thing figured out, and then something stupid would take its place – like all my odd page numbers disappearing.

 
But again, my stubbornness came into play. I know that self-publishing sites offer these services – but I did my own formatting and my own cover art. I spent numerous hours searching forums for answers and playing around. I learned more about headers and footers, and a spectacular feature called ‘page-breaks.’ It was a long process, but I feel like I learned so much in the long run. And with seven or eight books total in the series, I’ll be using that knowledge again.

 
Though long days of frustration and my vision going blurry from staring at a computer screen for so long, I crossed that bridge as well.

 
A bridge that had felt off limits to me for so long.

 
It was a long and twisting journey, but I had finally reached the end.

 

ENTER THE DREAM

Now I would, after all those years, get to reap the rewards.

 
I remember feeling so jittery when I sent those final files off, wondering if there were things that I had missed, if maybe I should have spent more time honing the story or if people would even want to read it. I had experienced for so many years what probably every artist has heard in their lifetime… “Oh, so you write (draw, paint, etc…). That’s nice. So, what do you really do?”

 
Of course I was nervous.

 
But then I got that first box of books. It was only 25 copies, but it’s certainly surreal to open a large box and have multiple copies of your own book looking back at you. To have people buy it. To create the Kindle file and to be able to look it up online. To see your novel and your name on big name sites like Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.
To be honest, it still feels like a dream. Like some fantasy world I’ve stepped into.

 
So far, I’ve sold probably 100 copies in person and online. I’ve run a giveaway through GoodReads (which I will be doing again soon), and I’ve received numerous comments.
Most of which consist of “Holy crap!” when they see the actual size of this novel (a whopping 694 pages), to “I couldn’t put it down! When is the next one coming out?”

 
It’s been a long time coming, but all of this is just fuel for me to continue what, deep in my heart and soul, I knew I was meant to do all along. I may have lost my way a few times, but maybe in the end, it’s the struggle that brings out our true colors and shows us what we were really meant for.

 

I still remember starting the novel way back in 2006, and I remember that day in 2011 (December 29th) when I wrote the final word of the first draft – long before I even knew that “Sparks and Shadows” would be the final chapter. I was high on that ultimate thrill and magic of writing, of having completed such a long project, and knowing that I had faithfully stuck with it for all those years. Most of those years I had only written 5 chapters a year.

 
I could have given up anytime during those early years. Those statistics alone should have left me with a dark cloud over my head, taunting me and telling me it couldn’t be done. Yet, I was never deterred. I soldiered on. And honestly, I don’t think quitting ever once crossed my mind those first few years.

 
There are times when I wish I could return to that carefree writer that was filled with that blazing spark.

 
Now, it’s not to say that I don’t enjoy writing anymore – if that were the case, I wouldn’t continue to do it. But, I’ve walked the other side of that line now. That realization that writing isn’t always easy. That, as much as you can love it, you can also find yourself loathing it as well… the long days of not writing a word, of spending more time hitting the backspace key as opposed to committing words to paper, and wondering if there isn’t something better you can be doing with your time.

 
It’s hard to come back from that.

 
Though, not impossible.

 
And, maybe I’m one of those people that needed that harsh slap in the face.

 
I’ve felt the magic of writing, and I’ve also danced amongst the flames of writing hell.

 

But, I think what makes you a true writer is when you keep going despite those difficulties, and instead of living on one side or the other, you find a way to balance those two hemispheres and to walk that thin line in between.
Because, really, what is the light without the darkness? It’s all about contrast.

 

~ Kendrick von Schiller

 
P.S: And if anything good at all has come out of this (besides finding the drive and the courage to publish my first novel), it’s that my characters voices have returned to me in full force. It was as if they had picked up on waning ambition and had collectively decided to test me by gathering in a corner and remaining silent. Yet, as I got back into writing, they slowly returned to me, as if they could tell by my returning to the writing that I wasn’t going to give up. I wonder if they hadn’t planned that all along. The thing is, they haven’t shut up since… and to be honest… I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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My Worst Start to NaNoWriMo Ever, and Why I Will Persevere

So, I’m just going to (sadly) go ahead and admit this: As the title claims, this is my worst start to NaNoWriMo, ever.

However, does that mean I’m going to give up?

Nah. And you know why? Because I’m a writer.

Writing is what I do. Sometimes, the words flow without pause – feeling more like you’re reading a good book than feeling like you’re the one creating the story, the world. And, well, then there’s the times when they simply don’t. The well is drier than the desert, and there doesn’t seem to be a light on upstairs. In fact, someone stole the damn lightbulb.

But, that’s just the way things go. What separates the writers from those that simply say they write, is that the writers do just that: they write. Whether the words are there or not.

And I think that that’s why I’ve come to love NaNoWriMo – though I’m sure that anyone else that has spent the month of November in a caffeinated, “I haven’t slept in a week haze,” knows that it’s more along the lines of a love/hate relationship.

The people that don’t write look at that final number – 50,000 words – and think we’re crazy. “There’s no way that that’s an attainable goal!” While us writers look at the daily average of 1,666 words that will get us to that number, and think “well, that doesn’t look bad. I can do this.”

And plenty of those that participate do, every year. And then, there are those that don’t. However, that doesn’t make us failures if we don’t reach that ‘magical’ number. The fact of the matter is that whether you get the 50,000 words, or only manage to write 2,000 we still managed to write. If anything, it’s more than you had at the beginning of the month. Sometimes all it takes is a fleeting idea, or a sentence or two to start a whole story.

If you only wrote two sentences, you may never look at them again, or you might start a whole book three years down road simply because you jotted down the beginning kernels of an idea. Who knows where a few words can take you, because, honestly, the imagination is a wonderful – and sometimes frightening – place.

I actually started NaNoWriMo in 2012 with low expectations. I started writing the first book of my Nyte-Fyre Prophecy series way back in 2006, averaging about 5 chapters (anywhere from 15-40 pages a year). In other words, I wasn’t getting anywhere fast. I loved to write, and yet, I seemed to have a problem getting the idea from my head, where it sounded fantastic, amazing, and downright magical, to the blank page that sat staring back at me with that blinking cursor that made it feel like it was laughing at my aspirations. So, when I had a friend a fellow author friend at the Renaissance Festival tell me about NaNoWriMo, I originally scoffed at the idea. There was no way I could do that. How could I? I let this be known, and yet, he insisted (Thank you, Dave!). So, I grumbled, said maybe, and went on with my day, with my week.

As November approached, I followed his Facebook updates that frequently made mention of WriMo. I heard it other places on the internet. And I began to wonder. Could I maybe do this? What could it really hurt? Would participating in this make me feel more like the author I wanted to be? That I dreamed of being?

Looking back on my own writing, I reminded myself that I had just completed my first novel December 29th of the previous year. And I remembered that feeling of putting the last word on the page. That thrill that I had accomplished something huge. Nyte-Fyre had begun as a project for myself, a challenge to myself to actually finish something. To this day, it’s still one of my largest undertakings. Yes, I wanted to be an author. But, whether anybody ever read a word of that story or not, I had made myself proud. And, honestly, I wanted to feel that again.

Unfortunately, I’m a wicked perfectionist, and also a defiant procrastinator. Two things that do not go well together. That’s probably why it took me so long to write. I could stare at a paragraph of my own writing for 6 hours, rewrite it 100 times, and still end up deleting it at the end of the day. The problem is, that that’s not going to get you very far.

Still grumbling about the idea of it, yet intrigued by the challenge, I signed up on the NaNoWriMo site at 11pm on October 31st.

I went in with exceptionally low expectations. And yet, I had the time of my life. I sat down and I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. I told my inner perfectionist and editor to piss off, and I just let the words flow. I actually ended up completing the 50,000 words on day 9. I had never felt so damn invincible in my life. Though I had a few slow days after that, I met the end of the month with just over 100,000 words. And you know what? It ended up being some of my best writing.

I honestly think that that’s because having to keep a certain pace, you’re not really given the time to stop and think. You don’t over-think, you don’t edit, you just do.

Now, I’ll admit, all my NaNoWriMo years have not been equal. As a matter of fact, that first year almost feels like a fluke, or just the fact that it was the excitement of something new. The second year wasn’t quite as magical, but I still managed to complete the 50,000 on day 15 and then continue on to validate my novel at 80,000 words.

Last year, I almost didn’t compete at all. I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going to do. I had resigned myself to the fact that I had other things that needed attending to first – like continuing to edit my first novel for publication. I was fighting health problems and I was battling depression from the health problems. In a nutshell, I felt like absolute shit and writing was one of the last things I wanted to do. I would have preferred to curl up in a ball in the dark and watch Netflix forever. And yet, there was this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I had done NaNoWriMo for two years. I almost felt obligated to not participate. I started to feel bad about not wanting to take part. Not because I felt that I would be judged by my friends on there, but because it was a month of writing, and wasn’t that what I wanted to do? Yes, it’s hard at times – really hard at times… just as any author – but, down or not, writing is my happy place. Even if I have to fight for it tooth and nail… sometimes feeling like trying to pull a ten ton tree out of a lake of molasses… there are those times, sometimes brief, when you’re writing that you simply feel like you can conquer the world.

So I begrudgingly got on the NaNoWriMo site, entered my novels info for the year, and sat my butt down to write. Though I had planned on starting the fourth novel – feeling that I HAD to start a novel – I decided to continue where I had left off on the second novel that had been plaguing me. I reread the chapter I had left off, wrote a bit of an incredibly sketchy timeline, and opened a new Word document and started writing. There were days when it felt like pulling teeth. The writing didn’t always flow as I would have liked. And it was super dark. I actually think that one of the reasons that I had been so slow to write the second book was because I had known even before writing that first word that it was going to be a dark novel, and in a way, it scared me to write that. I didn’t want to explore that part of myself. And thought I only just managed to make it past 50,000 words last year, the fact of the matter is that I still did it. And, reading through it afterwords, it’s some of my best writing yet. It’s incredibly dark, and I love it. I think that having a word goal per day gave me the drive to power through those scenes that I didn’t necessarily want to write, reminding myself along the way that I was the author, I could make those scenes as dark and as gritty as I wanted. No one ever had to read them. If I wanted, I could edit those out later to appease readers. And yet, uncomfortable as they may be, I’ll actually probably end up keeping them.

Now, fast forward to this year:

I don’t know where things went downhill to be honest. I was excited to start NaNoWriMo this year. I honestly was. I haven’t touched the second book since last year because I’ve been editing the first, and I published it the end of September, finally! Which was super exciting! I still can’t believe that I have a finished product, available for people to read. Now, when people ask – “Oh, do you have anything published?” I can give them a big smile and declare that, “Yes! Yes, I do. You can find it here, here, and here.”

I left “Isle of Hell” (my second book) at a rather dark place last year, and I was excited to get back to that. Though I know where I want the book to go, how it will end, it took me awhile to actually sit down and sketch out a bare bones outline. In all honestly, I actually just completed that a few days ago. But that didn’t stop me. I was still happy to be facing the month of November again.

So, November 1st rolled around,

And I wrote a whopping 59 words.

Exciting, right?

I thought so, too.

I looked at that, and of course felt disappointment in myself. But, I shook my head, went to bed, and told myself, that’s okay, it’s the first day. Tomorrow, I’ll just make it up. The second day, I made it to 2,500 words. Nowhere near where I wanted to be. I don’t know what’s been going on this month, but for some reason, I just don’t feel the drive I’ve felt in previous years. I look at the page and my mind goes blank, or wanders. I look at my stats on the WriMo site, and simply feel disappointed in myself.

The thing is, that I could very easily just give up and tell myself, yeah it’s just not working this year. I’ll take a year off. But, you know what? I’m not going to. Because that’s not how I work. I might feel disappointed if I don’t make the 50,000. Who am I kidding, of course I will. However, I will feel even more so if I simply give up because I had a bad week of writing.

No book would get written if authors gave up like that. Everyone has bad weeks. That’s no reason to throw in the towel. It’s called perseverance.

It’s just life. The things that we love, tend to be the things that kill us. It’s the artist way, especially. I love writing, but if it’s going to fight me, well then I’ll be damned if I won’t fight it back.
Looking at my stats thus far on the lovely graph that NaNoWriMo gives you on the site, I’ve been riding about 1,00o words below the average line per day. One of these days, I’ll surpass that line. Hopefully, soon. Yes, this hasn’t been my best NaNoWriMo year ever, but it doesn’t have to stay like that.

If you’re feeling down about your own writing, just know that it’s only day 9. There are still 21 days left. Looking at the stats I wrote down for myself over the last three years of participation, I’ve had days where I wrote nearly 10,000 words in a day. I still have plenty of time to do this. And so do you.

So, to any of you out there struggling, I raise my tea to you. Here’s to us. Here’s to writing. Because hardly anything is impossible if you put your mind to it. You simply have to get out of your own way.

So, off to writing town – I have some catching up to do!

P.S. Do these 2,120 words count for today?

Goals of the Artist

Wow, another day. Another year.

2014… how did this happen?

It’s amazing just how fast life passes us by. I don’t know why the beginning of a new year is when this always becomes so glaringly obvious. Maybe, it’s that whole new beginnings spiel that makes us take pause as we give ourselves that moment to think back on the year before to see if it actually amounted to anything. Sometimes it did, and sometimes it really didn’t. What can you say? Just as each passing day has the distinct possibility of being better or worse than the subsequent day before, some years follow the same pattern of being better than others. This is by no singular fault of our own, only the natural ebb and flow of life. We’re not always in control of the life we live and the events that shape us, but what we are in control of is how we choose to react to these events and how much ‘life’ we put into each day. One of the few things that is absolutely certain is that we are not the same person at the end of the year as the one that went into the fresh, new year with all those dazzling hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow.

Yet, that’s not a bad thing.

2013 may not have been my best year, but it wasn’t a complete waste either. No year ever is. Good or bad, each day that is now in the past was still a part of shaping us into the person we are today, and will continue to evolve into tomorrow and the days following that.

It’s never the easiest thing to do, but each day we have to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward. We never know what lies just beyond that horizon until we take the steps forward to cross it. In a way, we are all like the mythical phoenix: rising from the ashes of yesterday and rising again each morning. The problem is that we too often allow our days to remain stagnant continuations of the day before, each one blurring into the next with nothing to show for it, just taking our time for granted. I’ll admit, I’m just as guilty as others are of this malady, and of course, I’d like to change it.  Maybe I would make a goal and a resolution of it, if I did such things.

However, the thing is that I haven’t made new year’s resolutions in years… not because I don’t carry the ambition to follow them through, but because I don’t believe in the idea of it all. Then again, I’ve never followed the crowd, have I, and I’m proud of that. No, to me, making lists of grand ideas doesn’t bring you any closer to achieving those inflated goals. More often than not, that list just stands as a solid reminder of our failures at the end of the year when it comes to a close. Instead of working towards these goals, it just seems to me that we spend more time staring at that list of what had all seemed like good ideas at the time, in that shiny and blinding haze of new beginnings and molding ourselves into a different and improved person.

Now, I’m not saying I’m devoid of goals and ambitions… I have just as many, if not more as any other person. I just choose to keep a generalized list in my head, because, once again, like riding an ocean wave, life pulls us along in directions that we sometimes never intended. The thing is that sometimes our greatest achievements in life are those things that we had never envisioned in the first place. If life throws you a bone of a different shape, we shouldn’t immediately deny the opportunity just because it wasn’t sketched out on some list we made in the past… because tomorrow, that’s just what today will be: a day in the past.

A thought that has occurred to me in the past is that one of the most dangerous phrases in the english language is “I Can’t.” In reality, it puts a stop on even the beginnings of motivation and should actually read more along the lines of “I won’t even try.” You know, if more people viewed it that way, it might help kick them into gear and allow them to get things done, because read that way, it comes across more as a statement of quitting and weakness, and no one likes that. You never know what you can do until you at least give it a try.

Moving on into the realm of goals… I said that I don’t make new year’s resolutions, and that’s true, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t intend to better myself at least a little bit here and there. My biggest problem is that I am and will always be an artist, and that in itself poses a whole new set of problems.

An artist’s goals are ever changing, but one thing that constantly remains the same is the indefinite goal, and creator of internal struggles, of improving our work. Yet, it’s that want of absolute perfection that often holds us back from our goals, that poisonous mindset of what good is even trying if it’s not going to be right. But, who is to say what is right or wrong? The thing is that we need to realize that perfection is a fleeting ideal, and is, in fact, a lie. There is no such thing as perfection… even nature knows this. As a matter of fact, there are times when those little imperfections are a cause, not for sorrow or frustration, but instead, celebration.

So, I have decided not to make this a year of striving towards perfection, but of celebrating mistakes.

I will never get better at anything if I always stop halfway through a project in frustration because my writing or my art isn’t lining up with razor sharp precision to the striking vision in my head, and I think that it’s high time that I realized that and lived by that. My art is what I live for and though I may fail time and time again, I plan on drawing and painting and writing to my heart’s content this year, and if this is the year that it finally all amounts to something, than it will pan out that way.

Here’s to the new year, full of beautiful mistakes!

Changing Times in a Manner-less Society

Let me just start out by saying that this is a bit of a personal rant that has nothing to do with my writing and is not very festive, so, be warned. I don’t want to be a downer during the holiday season, but this is fresh in my mind and I feel I need to get it out.

I’m not going to go into any major detail, and leave this pretty general, but let me just say that I’m so sick and tired of obnoxious people who think that they’re entitled to everything. Pretty much this is in relation to a concert I went to last night. I’ve made quick mention of this before, but I really used to enjoy going to concerts and the whole thrill of it, but more and more it’s just become a day of waiting, anger, and frustration all ending in relative disappointment. I honestly don’t know if it’s me that’s changing, the world around me, or if I’m just more prone to noticing things as I get older… in general, it’s probably a culmination of all three.

First off, I want to say that I know that things never stay the same, everything changes, people change… but it’s still a sad realization at times to sit and reflect on just how much things have evolved around you, and not always for the better. I’m not going to bad mouth the band or any people in specific because that’s not what this is about. More so, it’s a general observation regarding the state of our society.

To put things in a bit of perspective, though I’m an incredibly shy, quiet person, there’s just something thrilling about going to a concert for one of your favorite bands and being right up front, lost in the music, so close that you can watch the members strumming every note on the guitar or watching the drummer. However, there’s also a ton of cons to being up in that melee and for me, those cons are now greatly outweighing the pros.

All I want to do is stand there and enjoy the music and take some photos and video… is that really so much to ask?

Apparently so.

~Random note: I want to point out that I’m 23, and definitely feel like an old soul. I’m artistic, quiet… more prone to staying at home enjoying a nice cup of tea while writing than going out and partying like many feel people my age should be doing.

In short, I don’t feel like I belong in my ‘generation’, and that was all the more apparent last night. For one thing, I felt like such a dinosaur because I had an actual camera and not a phone that I was using to take pictures. Looking around last night on that front left me feeling more nostalgic than anything… leading me to lie in bed later that night thinking that I should develop those last few rolls of physical film I still have laying in a drawer, just to see what they contain, and then wondering if any stores even still take rolls of film.

Regardless, that’s not what left me frustrated last night. No, what left me both angered and in a near panic attack (I have rather severe anxiety… but that’s another story altogether) was people’s manners… or lack of.

Is it just me, or does it seem like with each new generation that good old manners are being bred out and lost? I mean, I know people like to have ‘fun’ at shows, but since when did that fun include being a complete and utter asshole? Is it really that enjoyable to flail around so much that you’re hitting the people around you (and don’t even get me started on the amount of hands in my videos and pictures) and are you even enjoying the show in your crazy, drunken state? Do you really know what’s going on? Or are you more concerned with seeing how much you can drink and taking selfies (by the way, I absolutely hate that word…) with your equally drunk and obnoxious friends? I just don’t understand how that’s fun… to go out into public and make a complete and utter ass of yourself.

And then there are the ones that I don’t even know if they’re encouraged by alcohol or if that’s just their personality, sober or otherwise… and those are the ones that feel like they’re entitled to everything. These are the people who don’t even weasel their way up front, but push, shove and barrel their way into the middle of an already packed crowd where there is quite literally no space anyway and then get all defensive and angry and ready to punch people and throw harsh words when the people who were there previously (sometimes for hours) get annoyed and try to tell them to leave or regain the space they lost. Not only are these people annoying as all hell, but then they stand there and act all haughty like they know they won the game and deserve some kind of prize. They can’t just stand there and enjoy the spot they stole, they have to make sure that everyone knows they’re there, and that on top of that they’re the hottest shit in the room. (Spoiler… you’re not).  … and keep reminding them, continually honing in another two inches on your space. *sigh*

And then there’s the people that… heck, I don’t even know if it’s moshing… but like to bump into each other and everyone around them in some kind of drunk dance. Isn’t that what goats do… bump heads… in some kind of male dominance thing, in the wild?

Whatever happened to manners? Being civilized? I wasn’t aware it was such a hard thing for people.

It’s not even just concerts either. Pretty much no matter where you go, there’s bound to be a jerk or two. Overall, I’m just sick of people in general. I’ve always had a hard time finding people that understand me and that I get along with anyways, but now it’s just getting harder and harder to find people that I like and connect with. There’s all these people out there that can’t function without their phones and the internet. (I have a TracFone… and I’m perfectly happy with it. It makes calls and texts. That’s all I need and even then I hardly use it. And I don’t drive, but if need be, I can read a map. I don’t need gps.) I’m sorry people, but going out and socializing shouldn’t revolve around sitting around a table with your ‘friends’ with everyone staring at their phone, nor should it be about making your presence known to the whole world in a continual ritual of who’s better than the other.

When was the last time someone held a door open for you? Do you even know what your friends look like, the color of their eyes? Or do you spend all that time ‘together’ lost in the technology in your pocket planning the next thing you do?

Now, don’t get me wrong, technology is great and yes, things have changed for better over the years, but it’s a double edged sword… somewhere in all our advances we seem to have forgotten how to be civilized and well-mannered people. We’ve grown far too attached to material things rather than the memories that can be formed by just hanging out and talking with a good friend or a family member you having seen in ages. The world’s become a place full of people who measure their own worth and the worth of others on how much material wealth they can accumulate… of people who think they’re entitled to everything not because they worked hard to earn it, but merely because they’re alive and breathing… and holidays have become more and more centered around how much stuff you can buy and receive, rather than getting together with family you may not have seen in ages and simply enjoying each others presence. Yes, life has gotten better in many aspects, but in that time we’ve also grown apart as people and have turned into a manner-ess and uncultured society that is really no better than a pack of wild animals at times. It’s a sad state that we live in today…

I could go on and on about this, but I think I will leave it there… I’ve made a point and I don’t want to dwell on it too long, leaving it to poison my mind.

All I want to say is that there is a phrase that declares “Stop and smell the roses” and that should be even more pertinent in today’s age. Just stop once in awhile, maybe to think about how your actions effect those around you, or even just take a moment in life to pause and look around you, enjoy the fact that the sun is shining. You may be surprised at what you find lurking just outside your peripheral vision that’s always locked on the screen of your phone.

Find a quarter on the ground.

Listen to the chatter of birds.

Hold the door for a stranger.

Live life.

….

I left this on the ending of my last post, but I will repeat it again, because it applies just as much here as it did last time, and that’s:

“Don’t wait for tomorrow, because tomorrow is never guaranteed.”

And that’s just the truth of it.

If you were to die tomorrow, what kind of person would people remember you being. I don’t know about you, but I would like to think that people would remember me fondly or at least have kind thoughts, and I hope that holds true to any reading this.

Enjoy life, but don’t get so wrapped up in things that you forget how to live.

~~~~ Now, that all said, I’m going to go take a nice relaxing bath and return to writing as well as a digital painting that I’m working on. I have a few boxes of tea that have inspirational quotes on the tags, and the one I drank today was “Failure is success if we learn from it – Malcolm S. Forbes” So, back to my art I go, because although it may leave me frustrated at times, each misstep is just another stepping stone on the path to being better at it.

Procrastination Station

So, yeah, the train of motivation, ambition and success that I was enjoying the ride on for NaNoWriMo seems to have dropped me off without warning at a station at the crossroads of procrastination and fail…

Ok, maybe not fail, but it feels like it. I think it’s just this time of year… cold, pretty much dark all the time. A lot of time gets wasted zoning out online for no good reason or watching endless hours of movies and television shows. I feel so unproductive lately and that in itself is kind of getting me down. It’s not so much winter depression anymore as bed is warm and cozy and I just don’t want to get out of it.

I have good intentions, and yes, maybe it’s the thought that’s meant to count, but “I thought about writing today… but watched a three hour movie instead” doesn’t get me any closer to getting my book published.

I should be proud of my word count from NaNoWriMo last month and allow myself a short break after that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m insanely proud of my 80,000 words I managed to pull in November, but right now I just feel like I’m wasting time. Procrastination is like a bottomless pit… the “Oh, just one more day of being lazy. I’ll work on that tomorrow,” quickly just becomes a daily excuse and a habit and before you know it, a month is gone and you’ve got nothing to show for it.

I still like my initial idea of an extended WriMo challenge to add an additional 50,000 words to my second novel before returning to the edit of the first. In fact, I’m in love with that idea because it’s been a long, long time (about a year) since I’ve returned to the second book, and as dark as it is, I miss it. The fact of the matter is that if I write 5,000 words a day – which is no problem on a good day of writing – I can get this done in ten days. I still have plenty of time. It’s just getting off my lazy butt and… sitting on my butt at the computer… (without the internet!) and writing. Not checking email. Or any other site. And heaven forbid I finally entered the ridiculous realm of Pinterest. Don’t get my wrong. I love the sight. So many cool things and a good place to store all the pictures on my computer. But, it’s way too easy to spend two hours on the site that you can’t get back.

I have to admit. I hate this time of year and the times like this that it leads to because it honestly makes me start to question if I’m really a writer. Writer’s write… right? So why do I have such issues with it some days? I’ve read quotes before that if you really love something you won’t make excuses not to do it… so does that mean I’m really not cut out to be an author and I’m just fooling myself? I will never let myself believe that. I have too much invested in this story. But I can’t help but step back and wonder once in awhile if I’m not pissing my life away.

Ah… the bipolar life of an artist. I really do believe that unless the people you talk to are also artists, that most don’t understand just what a blessing and a curse being an artist really is. Of course, it’s rewarding and fun, but there’s also the fact that our minds are wired so differently, leaving us on the fringes of society feeling like we just don’t fit in. And then there’s the fact that we seem to feel emotions all the more deeply, but most of us – me included – hide it away. It makes for some very messy situations at times.

I think it’s actually my over emotional mind right now that’s preventing me from getting any work done. And no, it’s not me thinking about if this novel is actually going to have any audience again or if I’m going to be able to make this all work in the end as per usual. No, instead I think that there’s a certain level of latent fear that’s preventing me from writing. I love this story, I really do, but there’s a certain level of darkness blanketing this particular novel in the series that seems to be holding me back. Of course, I’m writing a fantasy novel with the whole good vs. evil cliche background thread, but the second book has a new level of darkness that the first didn’t contain. And I hate to say it, but I don’t even think that it’s me that’s afraid to explore that darkness of the human soul, but I’m honestly afraid of how my audience is going to react to it all. I know damn well that I shouldn’t worry about that, especially at this point in time, that it’s my story, but even as a reclusive artist, there’s still that bottomline nature of wanting our artwork to be received in a positive light. Maybe I feel in a way, that the events in this novel will tarnish my reader’s view of me. *sigh*

The thing is though, that I seem to write darkness exceptionally well. I guess the thing to do right now is to just put all these thoughts aside and just write because I enjoy writing (when I’m not over-thinking it.) Words seem to take on a new fervor when you write for yourself and give up caring what others think, and honestly, I know that I’m the one holding myself back. I pretty much know this second novel from front to back. There are so many scenes that I’m dying to write… so, why haven’t I yet?

So, my self-induced challenge may seem like a lost cause at this point… but, hey, it’s time to put that negativity aside. The sun is shining and I’m alive… right? So, it’s time to do something.

Not only that, but lying in bed last night, a thought came to me, which might actually end up being a quote in one of my novels. So, I leave you with this:

~ Don’t wait for tomorrow, because tomorrow is not guaranteed ~

Writer’s Block… or Mirage Wall?

“Writer’s Block” It’s like the dreaded computer blue screen of the writing world: the one thing we all as writer’s fear, but will inevitably run into regardless. I could never quite understand this phenomenon, yet, alas, I’m not immune from the lull of these dreaded times.

All I know is that I’m getting quite tired of it. I honestly don’t know why this has been so hard on me lately. After what feels like forever, I’m finally getting back into these writing moods where I actually want to sit down and work on something, anything (yes, I desperately want to work on my book and finish the edit of the first, but I consider any writing on any of the books in the series progress). Yet, time and time again, it seems that as soon as I actually sit down to put pen to paper – or fingers to keys – I lose all that prior bright ambition and can barely focus, leading me to stare blankly at the screen for awhile before ultimately giving up. I’ve watched entirely too many movies and have been reading far more as of late. So, what is this? Writer’s block? Still? Or just a mirage wall? Maybe I’m using the term writer’s block as nothing more than an excuse, though I can’t imagine for what. I love to write, so what the heck do I need an excuse not to do it for? Unless, deep down I’m still saddled with that stress from the time when I was trying to do too much.

– Back in the beginning of the year, I had the immense ambition to pull off a full edit/rewrite of my book by June and have it published and ready for the Renaissance Festival here in August. Let’s just say that it turned out to be a far larger project than I ever could have imagined. Those that think manuscript editing consists of merely fixing punctuation and some grammatical errors have little knowledge of the authorial world. I will admit that I initially had the same thought… it died out very quick, only to be replaced with the fear and stress that I wouldn’t meet the constrictions of my own deadlines. As you can see, I was right in that assumption. Yet, therein lies the beginning of my problems. In my rush to try to meet that deadline anyways, telling myself that it was just my own negative thinking holding myself back, I did wind up getting a large chunk of the edit/rewrite done (over 200 pages of straight rewrite – I basically set the initial draft aside and wrote the beginning from scratch). However, the writing that I had once enjoyed had suddenly become a job that I came to hate. At the end of May – the last time that I honestly sat down and worked on anything regarding the first book – I finally allowed myself to admit, not just to myself, but also publically on my book’s Facebook page, that I was not going to have it done this summer. After that I allowed myself a much needed break, yet it seems to be a lengthy vacation that I have yet to return from. The good news is that I do miss my writing and the joy of it, I think I just still retain that fear of returning to that place where I found myself hating the one thing that I have always loved and want to eventually make a living out it. It’s an extremely difficult discovery to wake up one day and find that you want nothing to do with the one thing that makes your world. It’s like standing on the edge of a cliff and staring out into a void, not knowing what makes sense anymore, like the world had shifted and no longer revolves around the sun. All in all, a scary feeling.

And though, I think I’ve finally begun to rise from the ashes of that fall, I still haven’t been able to let all those negative feelings go. The worst thing about being a writer I believe – at least in my own case, not sure how it is for others – is that I think it’s actually made me more emotional as a person and far more susceptible to bouts of depression. It’s wonderful, being able to explore those deepest depths of the darkness of one’s mind and then effectively putting it on the page for other’s entertainment, but to actually feel it yourself really saps your strength of character after awhile. I’ve noticed as well, that there are times when my own moods reflect those of my characters and how they’re reacting to events in the story as I’m writing.

The worst part of all this is that within the past year I’ve become so overbearing hypocritical of myself and the talents I possess. Once again, I don’t know why. I’m much more talented than I give myself credit for. I’ve gotten a number of positive and raving reviews from the few friends I trust to read my novel at this early stage, and yet it doesn’t seem to be enough, the shine of those words wearing off far too soon. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to see the brilliance of my writing as opposed to being so hard on myself.

It just gets to be a little disheartening after awhile, especially since all my little self-imposed hissy fit hiatus’ keep pushing my loosely constructed deadlines further and further away. People keep telling me to take my time with my writing, let it grow, and that everything will eventually come to me and fall into place. Yes, yes, I know that. I really do. But is it so bad of a thing to want some progress, some finality after nearly 8 years of work? The elation of wanting to run down the street and jump for joy when I finished the first draft of book one in December of 2011 has long since worn off. I just feel like it should have all been done by now and that I should be working on subsequent books in the series. I’m still effectively hoping to have a e-book out and a few editorial copies out to a handful of friends for a final revision by the end of the year, but we shall see. I want to take the time off in November again to do NaNoWriMo again, since I had such success last year, but all I can think of is that that’s a whole month dedicated to NOT working on getting the first book completed. Yet, if I want to be honest with myself, that’s no different than this whole summer. Maybe, I need to allow myself that break. The greatest thing about NaNoWriMo is that is focuses on that fear. Instead of wasting all that time being perfect, wanting every word to flow just right, it forces you to just put words on the page and keep it going, whether it sucks or not. Maybe I need to let go of my perfectionism and allow myself that ultimate freedom again. Yet, when you’re trying to polish your book for publication that’s a hard thing to do. Though, perhaps this blog could be good for me, because I’m certainly not editing all this – just letting my thoughts flow.

My biggest thing is that I feel like you can only tell people so many times that you’re writing/editing your first novel and that it will be out soon before they come to the ultimate conclusion that your words are merely hot air to keep your ego inflated and that nothing will ever actually come from it. The one thing I do know is that I will NOT give up this unconventional dream of mine. I’m far too invested in this story and its characters. And when I allow myself the freedom of mistakes, I really do love the writing and the world I’ve created. It’s just that, for wanting to make a living on writing – not an easy thing to do – I really need to get a move on, because I honestly don’t see myself doing anything else. If this all crumbles down around me, I don’t have much of anything else to fall back on…

Well then… deep and depressing thoughts aside. There are a number of projects I’ve had on my mind regarding my writing – a few little side stories involving my main characters, the urge to finally get back into my editing, drawing up a timeline for the book I want to start during NaNoWriMo, and a few vivid pictures in my mind that I want to attempt in the digital painting world. As for good news, I think I wrote a three page poem about the sea last night. It basically just flowed through my fingers and onto the paper and I haven’t read it yet, but I will probably post it whether it’s terrible or not in the next few days.

In the future, I will try not to let my posts be nearly as depressing as this one.