Monthly Archives: November 2014

Cultural Progression Part 2: Hierarchy of Needs

( As a disclaimer: I have little to no sources cited for this, as it’s mostly my opinion and things I’ve learned in psychology and anthropology classes in the past. Other than proven things, such as the Hierarchy of Needs, none of this is scientific fact, just a stream of consciousness. )

It occurred to me the other day that it’s not just the way that we develop and evolve as a people, but also what our needs become, which seemed to stick out like a sore thumb after re-reading what I’d written.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs directly correlates to what we do as a people. The reason a majority of the civilized nations’ populations are on smartphones and glued to the internet is because of this. It’s what determines how we tackles problems, what’s more important to us, and what’s not.

This is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, displayed  in a pyramid. 

Most of the developed countries have the first and second one secured by one form or another, unless you’re being tortured or otherwise horribly mistreated. Though I realize that you could go with a less basic view and see it as a psychological safety too, which may or may not be there.

When I thought about it, people in the 11,000 BCE era and backward (and a bit forward) struggled sometimes on the bottom rung of the pyramid. Food was hunted or gathered, winters being the worse for scarce resources, they didn’t have much in the way of healing, and sometimes, more often than not, they were nomadic. Some of their most basic needs were encroached upon by the world around them and the lack of knowledge about the body and what it did or needed.

If we go up, safety was sometimes more infrequent if you consider them being kept from danger completely, but it was not so hard to achieve  for them. Hunter and gatherer people knew how to work together to make the village flourish, from what I can tell, everyone contributed and there was not a total lack of ’employment’ for whatever sense that can be put in. Again, here, the winters are the hardest because they have to live off of the land that cannot provide for them when it’s frozen.

There’s more breakdown than that, but I think you get the picture: that there are things back within the past thousands of years that humanity has been on this earth, that we lack then that we don’t now.

It was something that came to me when I was thinking about ‘normal’ or ‘expected’ behavior of certain individuals in our societies this days as opposed to one hundred or even a thousand years prior. There are things we didn’t know, whether it was how to do it, how to counter it, or how to treat it; we had so many other problems to take care of back so many years ago that we couldn’t focus as much on the frivolity. We were more concerned about the black plague back in medieval times than we were about reading or writing. Learning and education came later when we could handle our health better and knew what was going on around us.

When our scholars learned, we learned as well. And our scholars could only learn if they could live.

Not all of it is about living, though. It was also about keeping ourselves safe and secured, having some kind of work not only to provide for the community we were a part of, but to keep ourselves and our families taken care of. Sex was still mostly about reproduction, but the more we evolved, the more it became about recreation. So the notion of ‘waiting for marriage’ because it was better to have a union established with which to support children, is becoming outdated now because of what we’ve developed in medicine (birth control) and how large our population is now. There is no need to reproduce, is the growing trend, because it’s being replaced instead by a desire to have a family.

Safety, in some countries, is harder to come by than others, where the employment rate and being employed at all is dependent upon how you live. Where capitalism reigns supreme, it’s more difficult to be comfortable. Currency, as I said in the previous post, has evolved to become the trade of choice for how we acquire things. It is our support structure now where livestock and crops and goods like blankets and clothing used to be. When the Native Americans traded with the Europeans for beads and fur, it was because those things would have lasted them, and done very well to provide in a way, that they had high value.

Which reminds me that lobster was once undervalued in comparison to what we see today (HAH, I have a source for that, at least!).

Evolution and development of country and humanity. Whew.

That’s something interesting to do, finding a character that’s seen all of this and writing them through the ages. What have they seen, what kind of loss have they gone through, what has their enormously long life been like through all of these thousands of years?

I sort of let myself get lost in this topic, so apologies to anyone who doesn’t care for it, but I felt the need to share because my head exploded with ideas and thoughts. That it all seemed so obvious after I considered it. All of the religious wars and the high mortality rates and the average death being halved from what it is today, not to mention the way that technology has garnered some flack because of how attached to it we are, even if looking back shows that we’ve done what we can avoid people before.

A love of history also comes in to my writing this. So it’s my inner historian that goes wild at comparisons and the consideration of how we’ve evolved as well as our needs and what we do both for fun and for our well-being.

People who complain about “kids these days,” are more attached to the way things used to be in their day and probably more averse to change, because no matter what century or decade you were born in or live in, things will be forever changing. New things and advancements and experiments are introduced that further our ability to live and do it well.

Speaking of that, it’s been something I think of when it comes to stories that span a society or world or universe of people over a long period of time. You can’t have things be static from one point to the next if it’s over a course of 30 or 40 years, or even just 15 (in the case of one of my novels), because things are always changing. There has to be an obvious point of development. Static makes things easier for you because there may be less to remember, but it’s also difficult to gauge the way the society is progressing.

Evolution is not just physical, it’s not just the difference in gene mutations as we adapt to our world, but the adaptations we make together, in society and with communication, what fits our needs.

Another thing that I was thinking about was the surfacing of terms like ‘transgender’ and ‘pansexual,’ which were on the rise and originated in the 90s. It certainly doesn’t mean that these things didn’t exist back then, hundreds if not thousands of years ago, it just meant that there was less to identify with. The more we learn, the more knowledge we have at our hands to describe and know what we are and what happen with us, the better comfortable we can be with it, if you’re non-binary in gender and sexuality.

Or non-binary in any other way, too. As we develop and learn, the spectrum of which we can identify with grows. Does this mean that those things never existed? Likely not, it just lends to helping us feel more comfortable in our own skin, and to have more to identify with that is acceptable within our societal boundaries.

And on a whole other tangent, what is it really that defines us as being overly offended? What should or shouldn’t we be offended about? Is it the sexist jokes that plenty of people have grown up with being told to them, the gender roles thrown about to shame or humiliate, the plain “jokes” that are about racism and nazis and dead babies and what have you? Or is it smaller things like incidental mistakes and not catering to someone’s whims that really constitute being easily offended?

I could go on for days, probably, about this topic as a whole, which is incredibly broad, when I really think about it. There’s so much to take in about how this whole world works and how it’s changed over the thousands and millions of years, on a basic level and a detailed one.

Thankfully, my huge tangent does apply to writing, especially if you’re building worlds, so it’s not all for naught!

-The Novice Wordsmith

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Prompt: Lazy or Busy?

Quick prompt for you in between all of my stuff today!

Pick a character and run with it: Are they the kind that would do all the cooking on Thanksgiving, or would they completely opt out? Furthermore, are they more lazy, or do they have to have something to do? For those who aren’t in the US, focus more on a day where food is the key, whether it be a birthday or a different holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy Thursday/Friday to everyone!

-The Novice Wordsmith

NaNoWriMo 2014 Weeks 3 and 4 Update: Struggles and Cruises

This month has been an enormous rollercoaster for me and I don’t like really any of it.

Thursday, I soared ahead, nabbing 5.2k words and going from 39k to 44k, and I could have done more that night, but instead I calmed my frenzy down and I did some yoga. The next day was alright, but not as good. The day after I didn’t even turn in a word count, and the following day I was just 100 words shy from 2k. Yesterday was 800 words and today I barely have written 50 so far.

This is how it goes every week. I struggle, and then I somehow break through and manage to get back to my normal self of soaring through the wordcount and just plowing into the story. The other week, I was restless all day up until about 9 at night, and then I forced myself to get with it and hit 2.5k by the end of it all.

I am frustrated. I have no idea why it’s this difficult for me, and looking back at last year, it’s a little upsetting. The minute that the validation for winning came up last year I was on top of it, and I won with minutes into midnight (of the 20th). This time last year, I was hedging 84-86k, and now I’m somewhere around 48k and trying to find some way to kick my ass into gear and win it already.

I’m trying not to let it rule me, but it’s hard. Comparing my progress is a bad habit I’ve done for years now, for better or worse, and this time it’s coming out as worse. I know this month is about daily writing more than it is about winning, but I have five more days and 2k left to win.

In a way, I’m just glad it’s going to be over so I can stop struggling. So I can stop doing incredibly one day and then sink to the bottom the next. I know there are excuses, but I’m not accepting them. I should be doing better. Just because I want to play games doesn’t mean I can’t do that and write at the same time. I’ve done it before.

Bah. I will finish this month, I will get through it, however I make that possible. I hope, if you’re also having trouble, that you know you can make it through, too.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Cultural Progression

Over the weekend, I had an interesting thought about the way that my novel was going.

Set in about 11,000 BCE, I’m challenging my views of the way that things were for people who lived, at most, 30-40 years. To see how they might have structured their societies and communities, how civilized they might be, what they were or were not capable of saying, and  general intellect.

Life was much different for people thousands of years ago, which comes as no surprise, but then, it got my thinking about the evolution of our species. From hunting and gathering, marrying young, practicing religious and cultural rites, to waiting about as long for marriage as it would take, all those years ago, to get to old age, and to formal education, and relying on others to provide food for us that we don’t buy with other goods, but with specific currency.

When I look at the difference between tribal life in those early, early years, to now, I started to wonder, what happened?

I realized that a lot of it had to do with our life span. Marrying or mating early, some as old as 12 or 13, as soon as puberty and reproduction were possible became because of necessity. There was no formal education back then because there was more worry and emphasis on life and staying alive. Nomadic because it meant survival. Telling time was wholly different back then too because there was no formal system, it was reliant on how high the sun or moon was in the sky.

As we started to live older, we had other priorities. As we could live longer and didn’t need to move around as much, we were able to sit still, living in a single spot and farming and hunting as we needed. The longer we could live, the more we could accomplish, the less danger there was, the more knowledge there came to be, the more threats we could eliminate, the longer we lived, … you get the idea. It’s a big cycle.

Progression of civilization is big. Some are not where others are, either by choice or because something is holding them back, or both.

There is an emphasis on the general way of life in places that are so advanced: you’re born, you go to school for so many years, you fall in love, get married, have children, have a career you do or don’t enjoy, provide for your family, retire, have your family provide for you, and then death.

Currency, too, as I think about it, has become a huge part of certain civilizations, and that is because it has turned to become the point of trade and survival. Currency provides for you as it did before, but now it holds so much more of an importance. You provide a good for the currency and then give the currency in exchange for goods yourself. What a cycle!

It’s fun for me to admit that before, I was considering a major in anthropology, and it seems so obvious, I’m sure, because things like this just fascinate the hell out of me.

Anyway, words for thought, because I got introspective.

Maybe I should look in the other direction. What happens in the sci-fi movies? Much of the same, except our influence reaches farther… But will we transcend any of this that we need now? Robots and cybernetics are an option, but what happens there, really?

Curious. What’s your novel making you ask yourself?

-The Novice Wordsmith

Dare/Prompt: Inked Up

One of the fun things I always forget about that I can add for characters adds to a more alternative look. Tattoos, piercings, dyed hair.

Simple as they are, they can help round the character out, while giving something fun or exciting to look at from another character’s standpoint. Some, who aren’t as enamored with these sorts of things, may not think of them so much. Others may not have many characters without them.

Putting marks on a character that’s well established already is only tricky if you pass it off as them having it for long enough that it coincides with other works you’ve written.  Giving them new ink or piercings, or glasses, or any other small, little things that help aid the appearance, however, can do a lot to sway them in one direction or another, personality wise, or establish their attitude or dynamic better, in some ways.

The prompt/dare is this: Look back on all of your characters and really think about which ones have what. Consider if these things dictate the character, or the other way around. If you don’t have characters with a tattoo, or someone who likes to dye their hair, or has piercings that aren’t in their ears, make one, with the conscious decision on whether the personal affects help define the character, or the other way around.

Don’t be afraid to go overboard, go with what feels right for the character. Write what’s right, essentially. 😉

– The Novice Wordsmith

Re-Generator

As a writer, we rely on generators sometimes to help us when we’re stalling out. They help our creative flow and get us thinking, or they fill in where we can’t fill out.

I’ll say that I’ve seen map generators and name generators so far, but I have never seen an appearance generator until today, and I think it is going to be my favorite thing for quite some time.

BAM.

You just have a few things to do in the drop down menus, several specific choices to make, and then voila, it spits out something random for you. It can be as vague or as detailed as you like, including a few physical quirks. From there, be inspired, take or leave what it gives you, but I’m determined to think this is one of the most unique things I’ve seen in a while.

So in case you need it(especially for NaNoWriMo), this is at your disposal now! Have fun!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Editor’s Block

Other than the writing of the story, the editing process is my favorite. As time goes on and you spend more time with the novel or the short story, or whatever it is, you learn what exactly you want to do with it, and you have a better idea of what fixes to make.

I admit that it lets loose the perfectionist in me. I get a second and third and fourth glance at the content and have an ability to make any tweaks or even re-write as I see fit. As someone who is very picky about what she writes, I manage to have a very difficult time through NaNoWriMo, when the biggest principle is simply to “keep writing, don’t revise until the month is over.”

Though, in some cases, revising and editing can be a worse task. John Green said once that he had re-written 52,000 of Looking for Alaska’s original wordcount when he got to the first round of editing.

That, to me, however, is incredibly intimidating, but I can see where it comes from. You have a better idea for the story and its direction, and accordingly, you need to re-write and take things out where it’s appropriate to accommodate.

Others, however, hate the task of editing. Friend finds it rather a daunting process, to go through all of the 60-100,000 words. While I relish in the chance to be able to mark up  my work and get it in the form and pristine shape that I want it, he’d rather leave it as is. There’s so much to read through, to try and fix other than the obvious typos.

If you hate editing and revising, there’s still hope, you can do it! I have faith in you! You can do the thing! <pom poms>

First, take it a little bit at a time. Measure it chapter by chapter instead. If you’re having trouble remembering what exactly happened in the novel, there’s no shame in going back to re-read it and getting it fresh in your head, to return and do the best work on it that you can.

Second, focus on typing mistakes first.

As you go on, you’ll likely see things you do or don’t like, things you’ll want to improve or leave or expand upon. This is where the third step comes in, but it should come naturally. Your writing instincts should be able to tell you what you want to keep and what may need to be re-written.

The more time you spend on it, the more you’ll do. It’s a natural progression, start small and work your way up. It doesn’t deserve to intimidate you, it’s your work, you own it.

Another option is to send it to a friend you trust, who also writes (preferably), and get a second opinion. Take it into consideration, and try to see what you think is the best course of action.

If you’re going the professional route of being published, you’ll likely have an editor who thoroughly checks and rechecks your work for errors and gives you their opinion. A writer back in the 50s (forgot the name), who I was studying for a Fiction Writing class back in college, had an editor that would take out huge swaths of his story and re-write them, or simply take them out. Looking at a revised copy of his original work was like watching the short story go through the chop-shop.

Then again, that editor was credited for the man’s great success as an author.

Personally, that’s a little terrifying. To encounter someone who changes that much of your work and to have to put your trust in them for getting anywhere with the story. Whew.

I love editing, like I said. If you don’t, I know you can make it through; think of it as selective writing! You’ll get to the end quicker than you realize, if you stick with it.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Big-itis

When I was younger, the most intimidating thing for me was writing a novel. I always thought I couldn’t commit or I couldn’t spend that much time, or effort, or put something together that was an intricate, good story.

And now, I have Big-itis, both in the form of finding so many different ideas to create into novels instead of short stories, or to work on long-term, and in the form of running so long with my writing that I’ve barely reached the beginning meat of the novel’s rising action and it’s the halfway point of the month.

Part of it is inflation: I wanted to reach wordcount so many days that had been so badly off and struggling for me that I just drolled on and on without a care in the world and racked it up. I indulged in detail where I could have summarized, and I put in action where I should be just moving forward. So now my main character has had two physical problems happen to her and she hasn’t even gotten on the road yet… Not to mention that I just realized, a love interest hasn’t even been introduced.

It is easy to get caught in this loop. Inflating until you hit where you need to be is a good way to get the obligation done for the day and move on to other things. The other part is lack of motivation, or creativity for the day, stalling out and not being so certain where to go next.

I have a friend who was going to write in a certain style, of extra detail with every little moment, just to get wordcount. When the goal feels far away and you don’t feel like you can reach it, sometimes the first thing to do is just to add until you get there instead of letting your head run wild and coming up with new plot ninjas or something to keep the story running, or to stop it.

It sort of defeats the purpose sometimes, of writing daily. It gets you to sit down and commit, but sometimes when all you do is throw words at it, are you really making much of an improvement?

Don’t let Bigitis catch you! Give everything extra thought, keep those gears turning and continue to drum up new and innovative ideas to get the characters talking. Filler should only be there in case of an emergency, sort of like a swinging door; it can be there, or it can’t. You can even keep it from swinging back in one direction by taking it out later, in revision.

The story, however, needs you to keep writing in a productive direction. Don’t let it down! Bigitis can only take you so far!

-The Novice Wordsmith

PS: Happy Hundreth Post! Woo!