Category Archives: Writing

Social Media Hiatus

It might seem a bit dramatic to post that I’m going to go on a social media hiatus, as I don’t spend a ton of time on social media to begin with–especially after I deleted all the apps off of my phone, ages ago. But I still spend enough time scrolling through Facebook and Twitter that I know I’m wasting precious time I could be using for something else. But, mainly one thing:

Writing.

I’m still not sure why, entirely, I am so apprehensive when it comes to working on my own writing. It’s been months–monthssince I’ve properly written. I have numerous books that need to be edited. So many ideas that I want to chase. After writing so much last year, hardly writing anything this year and it’s already almost June…it feels like a part of my identity is just completely gone. That I’m living a lie, somehow.

Quitting my second job has definitely freed up some time, but I’ve filled most of it with working out and cooking. Which means  I need to free up some more. I don’t want to hide behind the excuse that I don’t have enough time to write. Writing is my life. It should be priority, not something that always gets pushed aside. For now, one of the easiest solutions is lessening my social media intake; lessening the hours I spend in the evening scrolling through updates and rants.

So, apologies to anyone on Facebook or my Twitter fam. I may not be there for a while.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll be completely silent. I’ll occasionally check Facebook or Twitter. I’ll still post pictures on Instagram and my blogs will still link to both locations, so I won’t entirely ghost out. But if you need to contact me or want to chat, social media might not be the best avenue to go. In fact, I have a couple of email chains going with some friends that I adore (even if it takes me a little while to respond). So if you want to still stay in touch regularly, message me sometime this week and we can definitely get an email chain going. Otherwise, I wish everyone all the best of luck, in every aspect of life luck is needed–and perhaps, sometimes, even when it’s not.

I have some writing to do.

Cheers.


Musings Behind “The State of Unawareness”

imageThis story was definitely not what I expected it to be, when I first looked at the prompt. I really wanted to write a story where the twist was that “they” were humans and the story was told from an animal’s perspective. I thought that would be really fun. Yet when I sat down to write it, I ended up switching to faeries, still wanting humans to be the bad guys.

I wrote about a paragraph before I deleted the entire thing, staring at an empty screen for the next 30 minutes.

I reread the prompt probably twenty times before I finally found an angle to follow: the details.

Rereading the prompt now, I have no idea what about it made me want to focus on writing out details, almost like a vignette more than a short story. I wanted to describe the weight of the pack. I wanted to focus on the difficulty of the grip, how their hands would threaten to slip from sweat. I wanted to describe the harbor, the escape attempt. I wanted to form a plot around the details that I highlighted. So I did.

I wrote about half the story because I switched from first to second person.

I don’t write in second person much, but I do really love it. It’s such a unique perspective and one that I don’t think I’ve ever done masterfully well (for an example of someone mastering second person and making you really feel the story and your presence in it, check out N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season). But I still like to experiment with it and even though I never really had a clear idea of where this story was going, I definitely felt second person was the way it needed to be told.

I didn’t realize the ending was going to be so dark until I got there and it sort of just appeared as I was writing. Like some of the responses from readers (who rock, btw), it made me sit back and just wonder what the heck I just read. It left me with a lot of questions: who are they? What do they want? How did my protagonist get in the situation he’s in? Hell, what even is that situation?

Honestly, I have no answers. And I’m totally okay with that. It was just a piece I used to explore and force myself to write, still battling the funk I’ve been in for months to write again consistently.

I’m really excited for my next short story piece for the Muses. It’s going to have a very different feel than most of the stories I’ve written, I think. As you may have noticed, our posts have been coming with less regularity, with one story being posted every two weeks instead of every week. Life gets busy. To-Do lists never cease to end. And so we’ve had to alter our posting schedule. But we appreciate all of you sticking with us during these early stages of our blog, as we figure out what works best for us, and continuing to read and offer feedback over our work. It’s one of the main reasons we do what we do: to write and to be read.

In case you have no idea what blog or story I’m talking about, here are some links:

Blog: Muse In Pocket, Pen in Hand
Story: The State of Unawareness

Cheers.


Harsh Personal Truths

Months have passed since I began questioning my identity–and my claim–as a writer. Since November, I’ve struggled to write anything, which has hit me harder than it ever has before. Back when I really started writing more consistently (and tentatively say seriously), I’d still always go months without writing anything, before picking a project back up or starting something new.  And it never really bothered me. I never questioned whether I was a writer or not. I got busy. Life got in the way. I was in school, which got harder and busier with every passing year. Not writing for months just made sense.

Then, last year, I wrote four books.

I’ve never been so productive writing in my life. And it felt amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more whole, when writing was my norm, something that I structured everything else around; the main aspect in my life that took precedence. I think that’s why these past few months struggling to write, hating what I’ve written when I do, or–the worse of it–choosing not to write at all out of fear, have been so difficult to me; so difficult, in fact, that I’ve begun to feel false when I claim to be a writer.

How can I be a writer if I’m not writing?

Sure, I’ve written books. Half a dozen of them. Sure, I have ideas for more and plans to write them. Sure, I’m part of a short story blog and have been writing those, but short stories have never been my medium. Novels are. So can I still call myself a writer if I allow months to go by and not work on what I’m most passionate about? If I give into fear? If I choose to do other things instead of write?

I’m not sure.

I know everyone will have their own opinion on this. And if you’ve been in a writing rut like me, I don’t want you to think my judgments I’m placing on myself should also be placed onto you. Each of us has our own definition and parameters as to what qualifies us to be labeled writers. And I’m discovering, lately, that for me personally, when I’m not writing, I feel like a fraud based on my own definition. A writer writes. Period. Maybe not every day–I will never deny the power that life has and its uncanny ability to get in the way. But they try. Oh, do they try. Certainly much more than I have these past few months.

I’ve also discovered I hate feeling like a fraud–especially when it’s associated with the aspect of my identity that I feel is most truly me.

Luckily, I also know how to fix that: by writing.

Currently, I’m about to undergo the first round of edits over ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST. And I certainly count editing as writing. I’m excited about these edits. But ever since I started planning out these edits–almost a month ago–that fear, that sense of falsehood, that disconnect between my identity and my actions, has still lingered. Even now, as I finish this post, with every intention to go and work on revamping my first chapter after I finish this, m heart is filled with fear. Fear of what? I’m not truly sure. But I do know that I loathe that feeling. And I miss the elation of writing. I miss the dedication I had. I miss creating worlds that I fall in love with and characters that become true friends. I miss stumbling upon narratives that I never planned in my outline, yet excite me more than anything I could have ever plotted. I miss storytelling. I miss the details, the environments. I miss challenging myself. I miss how dark my stories become, threaded with gore and littered with tombstones–just as much as I miss how they are always glistening with stubborn hope and positivity, despite the darkness.

So, please excuse me as I go search for that elation once more. Because I’m a writer, dammit. And writers write, despite.

Cheers.


Differing Opinions: Part Two

This post is a tad bit late thanks to my body going on protest against functioning in the world, resulting in me laying in bed for three days straight, running on nothing chicken noodle soup and lemon-lime Gatorade. It was meant to go up the day after I wrote Part One, where I talked about how I didn’t like a short story I wrote yet others did and the difference in opinion intrigued me. For Part Two, I want to muse over beta reader feedback and why I think it is not only terribly important to seek out beta readers, but also to always have multiple. The main reason?

Because everyone has a different opinion.

Obvious, I know. But when you are viewing that obviousness in terms of your own work, it is actually quite fascinating. Over the past week, I’ve poured through feedback from five different beta readers over my novel, ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST. It was fantastic because it showed me a lot of places where my novel could improve: from starting in the wrong place (which happens to me with every novel I write, frankly) to being way too repetitive in delivering information in the first half of the book to fine-tuning details to raising questions about how logical something is,; I have so much material to help raise this book another notch. And I’m actually quite excited about it, despite the workload ahead of me being a bit daunting. I was also very lucky in that there were some elements that were praised, as well: the unique voice, the creatures that are incorporated and, one sweet soul even claimed, I have a “knack for storytelling.”

*blushes*

Aside from all of this awesome feedback, the copious amount of notes I took, the editing game plan I finished up this evening and am really stoked to put into motion starting tomorrow, and the crazy amount of line edits I’ve already made (good lord, I didn’t realize how many misspellings I had!); aside from all of this, one of my favorite aspects was the patterns that emerged looking at all of the feedback. Sometimes, in the notes within the actual manuscript, the same typo would be caught by everyone while the next would only be caught by one person. Or everyone could comment on a specific paragraph, even if they were all saying something different. Or how a majority of the comments came in the first 50 pages, cluing me into where the majority of my focus for revision should be. These patterns are so telling.

Reading the questionnaire I asked them to fill out, this is where I realized the importance of multiple beta readers. All of them had varying opinions, but four of the five were generally on the same page, with minor differences and ranging suggestions. Then, my fifth reader was completely opposite. Every single time. And while, in the end, I decided that reader simply didn’t connect with the book the way I was hoping, so some of their suggestions I’m not going to follow–which is totally okay and totally happens, by the way–their feedback was also ridiculously helpful, because it showed me exactly how readers would respond if they didn’t connect with my book; some of the issues that would be raised; some of the elements that would turn them off. Sure, I may not be following their suggestions to fix this disconnect, but their feedback was still damn helpful and is still going to shape my book to be better than it was a draft ago.

Quite honestly, it did make me laugh, sitting in Panera and, question by question, never failing to reach that fifth questionnaire and get the exact opposite feel and opinion that was just expressed in the previous four. And I mean laugh in a good way. I was honestly fascinated by this response and, in a weird way, proud of myself. A few years ago, if I had read that questionnaire, I would have been devastated. I would have wondered how everything I tried to do missed the mark; wondered why someone I respect so much didn’t enjoy something I wrote and loved. Now, I am thankful for another viewpoint, for honest feedback and recognize my ability to discern between feedback that needs to be heeded and feedback that is simply a difference of opinion that is respected, even if not followed.

Which, friends who are currently trying to edit the beasts they’ve created, is exactly why you need feedback from multiple sources. Just because someone suggests a change or, hell, even praising something you did well, doesn’t mean you should heed them and believe those opinions to be fact automatically. Because at the end of the day, they are just opinions to be weighed and considered. Just like your opinions change on a dime–one day, you love every word you’ve written, the next, you wonder where the nearest dumpster is and how your manuscript wasn’t born in it. So obviously, you need to marinate on feedback and listen to your gut before you decide to pursue it.

I’m very lucky that my beta readers were so thoughtful, insightful and in-depth with their thoughts and opinions, so I had plenty to muse over and chew through. And now, thanks to their feedback–and their differing viewpoints–I have a course which to sail towards, with much more guidance in terms of which direction I should travel than if I were attempting this alone, like I usually do on the editing journey. I can’t express how thankful I am for them and what a joy it was to work with them all. Hopefully, I’ll get to do it again, one day.

Cheers.


Differing Opinions: Part One

I really struggled writing my most recent story for our Muses short story blog, which ended up being titled The Triggering Scent of Rabbit Stew. The prompt was super interesting and had absolutely so much promise, but an idea didn’t immediately strike me. And in our email discussions, the Muses talked about trying to write some lighthearted stories for the month and that was why that prompt was selected, as it had so much promise to create some much-needed hilarity.

hero-prompt

Before I realized it, almost three weeks had passed and my story was due in less than a dozen days and I didn’t even have an idea yet. A small amount of panic had set it, but I was at work and couldn’t truly do much about it. Listening to the Welcome to Nightvale podcast and catching up on some scanning requests, I grew slightly frustrated that my fingers kept slipping into the frame in order to hold down the peskier pages. And, without missing a beat, I thought, “Well, at least it isn’t a claw.”

And the story idea hit me.

A shapeshifter who can’t control her ability to shift due to the changing environment surrounding her in the office. Yes, that could totally work. The original idea was to have the story be the scene where she was called into her bosses office, because he had half a dozen scans that revealed body parts of different animals instead of your average, intrusive human phalanges. The boss would be aware of her talents and would ask her to tell him what triggered each of these transformations throughout the day. The humor would come from which ordinary things would cause such a drastic, unrealized transformation. I had no idea how I was going to end it.

When I sat down to write it the next day, the story itself obviously had a different idea.

If you’ve read the story, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, it’s linked up above (but no pressure). Instead of changing into multiple animals, she only slipped into one form accidentally, a wolf. Instead of awareness, her boss was ignorant. And instead of a lighthearted, humor-fueled piece, by the time you reach the end, the entire story is dark and the ending ambiguous.

After writing it, I wasn’t happy with it. Even though there was no requirement to write something lighthearted, I felt I had failed the Muses, in a fashion. It made me wonder if I’m naturally more of a dark writer, considering all of my stories have had darker elements within them and the next story is going to follow that vein. I decided to let the story sit for the weekend and then edit it to have a lighter feel, perhaps more akin to the original plot idea. Hopefully, after doing so, I’d like it more.

Yet when I went to edit it, I didn’t revert it back. I kept the darkness. And I still didn’t really like how the story turned out. I didn’t feel it was my strongest work and I felt like the piece could have done more.

Stranger still, the response from those who read it was quite positive.

Obviously, an artist and their audience are bound to have different opinions (so bound, in fact, that I’m writing another blog post this week over the very same topic, only in a different setting). But I really didn’t expect anyone to enjoy this story because didn’t enjoy it. Yet people did. It was a needed reminder for me, as someone who has been having a bit of an identity crisis recently in the writing department (which is another blog post to be happening this week).

Just because you doubt yourself doesn’t mean you’re right.

Cheers.


Blogger Recognition Award

I received a sweet and heartwarming nomination from the lovely, inspiring and talented AZ Pascoe, whose post is filled with some really fantastic advice that I recommend you check out. This award is really neat and I really like how it is different from the tell-us-about-yourself type of awards (that I’m also addicted to and love, don’t get me wrong). But I found this to be refreshing and really fun, so let’s hop right to it.

The award rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Write a post to show your award.
  • Give brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Select 15 other victims bloggers you want to give this award to.
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

The Story:

I can’t even tell you how long ago I started this blog. I think it is around the four or five year range, in July…ish. Though I really should only count two or three years, because that’s what I started actually blogging more than once every six months. Quite disappointingly, I can’t even tell you why. I have no memories of what inspired me to start a blog. I do know what it’s become, though: a limitless journal that anyone can access. My outlet. Nothing is forbidden, here. Writing is obviously my main content. But sometimes, I just need to vent about my (non-existent) love life. Or I need to rant about why it sucks to have a period. Or write a review over a videogame I really loved. Or use this as a letter to say things I want to say to someone but don’t know how to confront them in person.  I write it to process, rant or rave, but I share it in hopes to connect, inspire or challenge. Though I have no recollection of why this blog began, I have a very clear idea of why it still exists and how it is definitely going to continue existing in the future.

The Advice:

If you’re a new blogger, first off, I want a link to your blog. I want to follow it. I want to help encourage you to keep posting. Hit me up in the comments below.

Now, if you’re a new blogger and are looking for advice on how to run a blog, how to obtain a readership, how to write awesome posts or how to write on a consistent basis, well…you may want to read the responses from the victims I tag below. I bet they are better equipped. Because for me, personally? I wing it and I stay selfish.

So I guess that is my first piece of advice: stay selfish. Write the blog that you want to have. If it is themed and really easy to find a target audience, awesome. If it is completely random and makes no sense half the time like mine, Weird Humans Unite (we meet on Tuesdays in the break room at 5)! Either way, keep writing. But keep writing what you want to write. There is no better way to stay true to yourself and be completely and authentically you than in your own blog. So write what you want. Post as often as you want. Be as serious or silly or sappy as you want. Don’t get bogged down by the number of likes, follows or comments. Don’t get discouraged if the world doesn’t respond the way you hoped–and definitely don’t change in order to increase statistics. Stay selfish.

Other piece of advice I’d give new bloggers? Take the time. Another vague phrase to throw out at you, but it’s flexible that way; it has a lot of meanings. Take the time to dedicate to your blog, but more than that, take the time to interact with the blogs and bloggers you enjoy. I’m not saying you need to create a rigid routine you must follow and feel like the worse human to ever exist on the planet if you stumble and miss a post (I’d actually recommend against that destructive approach). Or that you have to write three paragraph responses on every post you stumble upon and enjoy by someone you follow. But take the time to create the blog you want. Take the time to write the posts you want. Take the time to find other bloggers to encourage and inspire you; to cheer and support. Take the time to comment. Take the time to read another draft before hitting “publish” (cue embarrassing moment when you find a typo in this post). Take the time to do research. Take the time to add pictures or drawings or art. Take the time to spice things up. Take the time to do it right, whatever right looks like to you.

Bonus confession: I’m sure you could research the “hows” of blogging, but honestly? Like so many things, there is no “right” way to do things. Trust your gut. You’ll figure it out.

The Victims: 

I have a nice net of bloggers who I adore and really have to thank for being the cause of sticking with this blog so long (as I am still guilty from being too excited/concerned about statistics from time to time). And the amount of tags I’ve put them all through is a bit daunting. So, my victims this time are a group of new bloggers (or blogs that got revamped) who I’ve recently (re)discovered (which doesn’t mean their blog is new, just newish to me) and hope to get to know better as we continue our journeys and record them like the fantastic, 21st century archivists that we are (using our blogs, in case you didn’t catch that and suddenly became confused). Also, I didn’t reach the 15 requested for the award, but I got halfway there, so that’s gotta count for something, right? Check ’em out and give them a follow, yeah?

  1. Snartasticaly Yours, Liz
  2. Jo Writes Fantasy
  3. Morgan S. Hazelwood
  4. Melissa Caruso
  5. In Principio Erat Verbum
  6. Light A Fire Instead
  7. Gloria Chao
  8. Monachopsis

Thanks for reading, not only this post, but this entire blog in general. It really does mean the world.

Cheers.


A Guiding Focus

If you follow this blog, you may have noticed my resolutions post and then the subsequent update posts I publish every Sunday. I feared that this repetition and constant harping over my personal goals would become boring or annoying to my readers (and there’s still plenty of time for that to be the case), but I’ve actually been really surprised by the amount of responses I’ve gotten in regards to these posts. Overwhelmingly, the response has been coming from a place of concern.

You’re doing too much. Try not to burnout. Cut back. Take care of yourself. 

I admit, those concerns are not unfounded. I have a lot I want to accomplish. I’m really involved in many different jobs, hobbies and interests. I have a hard time saying no, which makes those commitments increase even further. Of course, I always combat such concerns with gratitude while also brushing them off, telling people I know my limits and what I can handle. And there is truth to that. I have always been super involved (perhaps even over-involved) and I function best juggling half a dozen things at once while multitasking, with giant To-Do lists in tow.

Yet, at the same time, with so many different people expressing concern, it forced me to take a step back and ask if I truly am attempting to do too much. That resulted in reflection that didn’t really provide any more answers than it did headaches while repeating pros, cons and questions in circles.

I have five main goals I’m focusing on: blogging, fitness, financial, reading and writing. All of these aspects are very important in my life. All of them are areas I would really like to improve upon and grow within. So when people suggest cutting something out, my immediate instinct is to combat them. I don’t want to give up any of these things, especially because they are all aspects of my life that I want to be important aspects of my life for a long time. I never want to give up writing. I don’t want to reach a goal weight and then suddenly never run a mile again. The unique thing about all of these focuses and the goals surrounding them this year is that, while there is an ultimate goal I want to achieve within each, none of them have a deadline. None of them are meant to. Instead, they are lifestyle changes.

So giving them up isn’t an option. Yet constantly failing to meet my goals on top of balancing everything else in life is also not exactly ideal. Nor is sacrificing self-care. The only thing I have been able to come up with is re-envisioning how I see my goals in relation to balance and focus.

Let’s see if I can make this make sense.

Last week, I didn’t meet most of my goals, but I did meet my fitness goal of working out four times a week. And though I wasn’t shy about admitting what I didn’t do last week, to me, I felt totally accomplished. I felt like it was such a successful week, even though I only wrote once, hardly read any, completely fell off of the blogging bandwagon and am still financially incompetent. And it was that sense of accomplishment despite being surrounding by shortcomings that made me realize a potentially healthier approach to having so many goals I want to work on at once without being forced to give any of those goals up, all while avoiding burnout and giving up entirely.

I’ll always want to work on the five areas aforementioned. They’re lifestyle changes, as I said. Yet I do agree with my sweet friends and readers that trying to meet every goal that I set every single week is a bit overwhelming and is easily a recipe for burnout and giving up entirely due to always falling short.

So, I’ve come up with a plan.

I’m still going to write a goal post every Sunday. I’m still going to write out goals for each category. But instead of being stressed out and overwhelmed that I’m not accomplishing everything that I want to every single day, I’m going to try and focus on a different aspect each week. Last week, I obviously focused on fitness. And through that focus, I was able to achieve it. This week, I can already tell (based on the 200 pages I’ve read in the past two days and the less than 100 pages I have left) that reading is certainly what I’m focusing on, without “deciding” to focus on either category either week. So it’s not going to be a thing where I’m like, “This week, I’m going to focus on X.” Instead, it’s going to be organic, just like these past two weeks have been. Life is unpredictable. So are emotions. And though I love a rigid routine, in order to stay sane, I need some flexibility. I need permission to fail, just as I need a guiding focus on where I want to be.

So not a lot is changing as far as you can tell, dear readers. It’s mostly all what is going on inside my head and how I approach things mentally. Yes, this less-strict approach towards achieving my goals might make reaching each ultimate goal a bit slower or more difficult. But that’s okay, because what matters is that I reach those goals. A week, a month, a year, ten years from now. And, even more importantly, that I enjoy the journey along the way, instead of feeling like I’m in a permanent state of being a chicken with her head cut off, running around a massive To-Do list that never ends and just laughs at me as I stumble each week. I’m not sure if this change in mindset will work, but I’m certainly game to try. Thank you all for your support, your advice, your honest reactions and for your encouragement. You are the absolute best. ❤

Cheers.