Tag Archives: enjoyment

Intimidated Part 2

Continuation from here and here.

I’ve struggled for years with the idea of being good enough. That stretched into this blog, especially when I was updating it more frequently. Inevitably, I found people who were doing so much better than I was and they were putting in less effort.

I never really found out what pulled people into those blogs. What was I doing differently? What wasn’t I doing?

And it’s a maddening process in its own. I know I’ve spoken at length in many different posts about not comparing yourself to others and how the ladder you have to climb could vary from someone else’s. Shorter, longer, thinner, wider. What they do with their style and their words is much different from what you can do with yours.

With a fresh fear of failure, I’ve spent years being passed over any time I’ve tried to put myself out there. Things I thought I was a shoe in for, I’ve been rejected for other, more talented people.

But in spite of how much I’ve seen rejection, both in my searches for a job, and for my writing, I have a strong confidence in my stories. Whether it’s well founded or not is to be seen. Though I believe I’ve got decent skills, I’m shown time and time again that not many people probably feel the same.

Still, it doesn’t stop me from feeling a surge of need whenever I see others getting published, whether its on their own or through publishing companies.

I feel like I can do it, too, and have decent success. But if I can’t get many people to read a blog, then what good am I going to have with a book? Hell, what kind of luck would I even have on a bigger platform like Wattpad, for that matter?

This is just me beating a dead horse. Expressing fears I’ve had and voices before. That I want to keep trying, but I’m afraid of being hit on the wrist and told no. Of being shown that my writing isn’t actually as good as I think it is, but rather poor.

Someone I “work” with (I volunteer at the organization she works at), has been working on a novel that’s been such a pleasure for her to write. Her excitement is just absolutely infectious, and even when she’s just starting to get it cleaned up, she’s already thinking about publishing. She doesn’t care what it yields, she just wants it, and I wish that vigor followed me.

I guess I have to regard all processes with the same attitude: Go for it, no matter what the outcome is. Just enjoy it.

But I can’t deny the need to be recognized. To feel like I’ve reached people and they enjoy what I’ve written just as much. Part of me still feels like I’m doomed to be in the background and that my work isn’t worth the attention.

I’ve also had the inevitable, “Well, everyone loved Twilight and 50 Shades, why shouldn’t I be given some time?”

To their credit, both of those stories are easy to read and have a broad, easy message to understand. They’re easy to devour, to get into, if you can ignore the repetition and spelling mistakes and stiffness of the writing.

As competitive as fuck as I am, it’s hard for me to say it’s simply for enjoyment, but I am trying. I know better than to have expectations, but I can’t help that hopefulness that’s burned inside of me since day one. To be seen, recognized, and celebrated.

Whatever this burst of confidence brings, though, at least I’ll have tried. Right?

The Novice Wordsmith

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Guest Post: A House of Prose, and Don’t be The Lauren

Everyone’s a critic.

When you ask for an opinion from someone on something you’ve done, what you’re secretly asking is ‘do you like this?’ And you secretly want them to like what you’re showing them. It’s the author’s curse; we want to be published, but we need to write something that people can relate to enough to want to buy.

The underpinnings of our society dictate that we have to ‘get along’, ‘be liked’, and ‘hold approval.’ Popular people are who we hear about; unpopular people are spoken about derisively or with hatred sometimes.

Books and writing our expressions of our writer’s soul. It is the innermost child (..or occasional lurking adult) seeking the light of day and the likes of others.

We pick our genre, the one we feel the most at home with, and we decorate the house of our novel home with the things that belong there. A family of characters, or a single person looking out the windows. A bunch of good-natured or mean neighbors to challenge the family. And then there are the things that try and burn the house down or break in and steal their stuff.

I say it’s a house here because the analogy is apt to me; we ‘live’ in the space of our novel when it’s going good, and then when it’s done, we do our best to spruce it up and invite guests to come visit.

I’ve lived in a few places over the years; that first moment when someone new sees my new place they always look around. Form impressions. Some of them look at the things I have on the walls, some of them look at my knickknacks, some of them look at my furniture, and a few of them poke their head in the bedroom.

“Nice place.” they say. Whether they’re being polite or not, I don’t know. But then again, I live in a rental, so it’s not a house I can do a lot of decoration with. I’ve been in a few houses that I’ve said, ‘this is a gorgeous place.’ I have things that I want in my house, so when I see one of those things, I appreciate it.

Now apply that idea back to books again.

Some folks can write an amazing epic tale that grabs you from the get go; some folks write a ramshackle tale that barely holds itself together; you can see the holes in the plot like you notice crayon marks or holes in the walls.

It is not a reflection on the owner/author; it is all about the _everything_ in the house/novel, rather than the bits that you notice that stick out to you.

I’ve got a friend that I’ll call Lauren. She wanted to be a writer, because I was one. She participated in the NaNoWriMo, because I did, and people really liked my first novel.

When she read it, the first thing she asked was, “Is this about you? Is that character there me?”

(The answer was no and no. Because I am not a six foot tall efficiency expert who drives a convertible.)

Then she started poking holes in the novel. Pointing out typos, a half-finished sentence here and there, that sort of thing.

“I know.’ I said, defensively. “It’s a first draft. Thanks.”

When she won NaNo for the first time, she gave me her first effort at writing a full length novel. Asked me what I thought.

It was a pretty good tale, but she got lost in the weeds when she hit Week 3 and there were two very similar characters that I kept getting mixed up, and there was another point where she was missing parts of the description because she was in what I call ‘fugue state’ — you can see the action in your head, and it’s rushing fast, but she didn’t put it all down on the page.

“Did you want me to make edits or did you just want an opinion?”

“Just an opinion. I know my writing sucks.”

“I liked it. It had some good suspense elements, and your heroine is genuinely likable. Your supernatural elements are solid, too. And your writing does not suck.”

“Do you think I could get it published?”

“I think it needs some work before you can get there. There are some elements that need more details, and your ending is a bit rushed. I’d like to see more of the world, too.”

“You hate it.” she said.

“No, I don’t hate it. It’s good! It’s a first draft and I like what I see here. That’s the nature of the Nano — nobody ever produces a perfect first draft, but the Nano makes you actually finish that first draft. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have finished it.”

Later, I heard she’d shared it with some of her other friends, with the additional rider comment that she felt I didn’t like it, because I didn’t think it was good enough to get published. Of course, she was giving it to friends who liked her as a person, and since she had predetermined for them that she was looking for praise, not critique, by way of ‘Friend didn’t like it, I’m hoping you will’ — she was told what she wanted to hear, rather than the truth. And when one of her friends, who is usually bluntly honest, said that it was ‘scattered and disorganized’, Lauren was done showing people. The manuscript went somewhere dark and never saw the light of another person’s eyes again, for fear of disapproval.

She tried her hand at writing the sequel the next year, because like many first time successful novelists, they still have a story left to tell. And it’s easier to work within an existing world than it is to spin up a brand new one.

But she got sick the first week, and stopped writing, and because she was a week behind, she gave up. This was the same year I wrote 100K words in the month.

She hasn’t attempted the Nano since.

For me, the NaNoWriMo is one of my life’s passions. I’ve done it every year for the past twelve. I talk about it a lot. Whenever I’m with friends or family, and I bring up the idea of Nano and they like the idea and are impressed with someone who can write that much in that little time, none of them really ask, ‘Yes, but are they good novels?’ If they do, or they ask when I’m getting published, I just grin and say, “I’m still working on that part. It’s a first draft, and a story that needs to be told, and one of these years I’ll like something enough to edit it and try and get it published. But it’s great practice and a grand adventure that I willingly take every year.”

They are invariably encouraging.

Lauren, if she’s also present, frequently jumps into the conversation with the “Hey, I wrote for the Nano too…” (Subtext: I want some of the positive attention you’re getting.)

“Oh cool!” is the response. “What are you writing this year?”

“Oh, I’m not likely to. I did it once about six years ago.” she says. “I have a bunch of good ideas, but I don’t have the time.”

Predictably, that means the focus goes back to me shortly after, because I have Ideas and Advice and Encouragement That You Should Play This Year. Nano is my passion, and I believe everyone should play at least once — if not more than once — because everyone has that lurking story in the back of their heads, triumphs, troubles,tasks, thoughts, tribulations, trout that traversed the trawler’s tail temporarily, those things. Tall tales. Truth, too.

At the end of one of those days, Lauren asked, “How come they never acknowledge me as an author like they do you? Do I suck that badly?”

“You didn’t show them your work.” I said. “You can’t know that they won’t like it until you show them, and the people you showed all liked it.”

“You didn’t like it.” she said.

“I did. I’m sorry you don’t think I liked it because I offered constructive criticism.”

“Well, I’m not a writer anyway.” she said.

Don’t be the Lauren, ladies and gentlemen. Write because you want to. Write because you have an amazing idea that’s half-baked — and understand that it’s okay to write a story that goes awry in the first chapter, as long as you follow the prose wherever it goes.

Don’t write because you need to be loved vicariously through your writing. I’ve written some of my best work when I was miserable, because pain is a crazy good resource to write out of sometimes.

Do write because you have a world you want to share, no matter how big or how small the space is. Do write because you want to finish the story, or at least take it for a spin around the block. Or the galaxy.

You never publish what you never write.

Nobody will ever see the house that you’re afraid to invite them over to visit. And when you decorate the walls with your art, be it imitations of the Masters or kid macaroni art, when you get your furniture of gleaming chrome and exquisite silks, stuff you, personally, might never be able to afford, but your characters can?

Don’t expect everyone who visits to want to move in. It’s your house of prose. You wrote it. You made the installment payments of 50,000 words or more (or occasionally less). Maybe the back rooms aren’t done. Maybe the roof has leaks that you didn’t see. Maybe the patio door is hung upside down. But it’s your home, the home of the tale you had to build from the ground up, and you ought to be proud of it.

You can always redecorate later, but you’ve got to turn the key in the lock and drag the readers in, first.

Build your first story, and you have the beginnings of a homeworld that is uniquely yours.

The Tiniest Voice

“What’s the difference between showing only me something, and showing a bunch of people on a different website?” Friend asked, a few days ago, after I’d had an upset about my writing not being viewed or liked on a bigger platform.

“If I show you, you give me feedback,” I told him. “You read it. When I put it somewhere else, it’s likely to be ignored, and largely, it does.”

If you recall this post, about putting your writing out in the wild, I had just started to get back into a couple of writing blogs somewhere. I have always been sort of cocky about my writing when it’s up against others, thinking that it’s more than decent and that people would like it. So, getting little to no traffic made me feel self conscious, and discouraged.

It comes with a well known frustration for me, of wanting to make some change, do something, and being unable to have much of an influence at all because my voice is so small that it doesn’t reach anywhere. Like talking to myself in a large house and expecting someone in the basement to be interested in my murmurings they can barely hear. Letting out something you’re proud of and it gets sidestepped, no one says a thing, no one manages to look that way at all, and then suddenly you’re deciding to stop and move on to something that doesn’t make you feel like a failure.

Friend’s answer to me, though, was that I shouldn’t be writing for anyone but myself, which is echoed in a year-old post I made. That, in the end, I need to like what I write. The only person that matters when I write something is me. If I enjoy it, nothing should stop me– screw everyone else; if they don’t care for it, fine.

Sometimes it just gets harder to hold onto the sentiment. It’s harder to be okay with just that, especially if you’re looking seriously into getting published. For me, I write because I enjoy it, but I also want to know that other people like it as well. It helps me keep going if I have an audience.

So far, my only consistent audience is a handful of people here, and Friend.

I can write for myself, I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now robustly and I’ve enjoyed it from the beginning. When people get involved, though, it’s a slippery slope for me, and one I’m not entirely sure I like walking down, because even if I do some incredible things, it goes unwatched, unseen. It’s an empty course that you’re going on your own. Or you’re shouting out in the middle of a canyon that no one else occupies with you.

Unexpected frustration came from an infographic I saw, which was supposed to be inspirational. Rich and famous people, innovators, authors, who dropped out of high school or college and made a more than comfortable living, and when they made their money. I get that the message was, “You can do anything,” and “nothing should get you down,” but not everyone can reach that level, especially depending on the country you live in. More often than not, it’s going to be a huge struggle, and no one is guaranteed millions, or even any recognition.

Recognition is another huge chunk of my issue. My little existential crisis. No matter what I say in my life, how many people are even going to remember, or care? What mark am I going to make on the world?

For my writing, I don’t know. I’d like to publish. I’d like to see my work flourish, but I’m not sure it’ll even get very far.

The real understanding, I think, comes from seeing that and doing it anyway. You enjoy it, don’t let anything take the joy out of it for you. Don’t let people ruin it. No one else matters in this world. When everything goes to shit, those random strangers who liked your work aren’t going to do anything for you.

But the partner who supported you through it all, the mother or father or guardian or whoever, who was encouraging you when you were crawling through muck and upset, they will.

Even if my novels tank, no matter what kind of mark I make, as long as I enjoy the process and putting things together, writing it all out. It’s harder to block out, when you learn more about publishing and what will garner the numbers you want, tailoring to a group of people instead of how you see things.

It still gets to me that Stieg Larsson was dead by the time his books were published, and with a different set of names than he originally intended in the first place. He was so adamant about keeping the first book as “Men Who Hate Women,” and the publishers didn’t care for it, so it got changed.

But that’s how it goes, isn’t it? When you see or want one thing, and then you have to do another because it’s better for the audience, to get the numbers.

These two things just feel at great odds. If I ever get to the publishing point, I’m not sure what I’ll do. And, hey, it’s not like I have much knowledge of it, it could be a different beast than I’m imagining, but hearing about it during dentist visits and what I see from others.

Maybe I’ll just stick to writing for myself and Friend, and you lot. Things are much easier that way, and there’s less people to worry about pleasing.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Basket Weaving for Fun: The Prose and Cons

In many of my posts before, I’ve mentioned character depth and development. Just pick one, there’s likely to be something about it. It’s something I’m constantly writing about it, mostly because there are so many aspects and facets to cover and help bring life to a character that is at first two dimensional.

Among their unforgettable facets, is what they pursue as a hobby. Consider that. Even the most alien of creatures has a hobby, don’t they? Unless they’re a robot with no emotional sensation, there’s bound to be something they want to spend their down time doing.

Whether it’s making art out of an unusual medium (bottle caps, broken claw shavings, old aluminum cans), or just having something to do idly (crochet, collections, coloring), or maybe it requires a lot of focus, getting their mind off of whatever their day held (musical instruments, DIY projects, leather crafting). Come up with your own, to fit the universe, or explore those that already exist.

Characters who go through retirement are twice as likely to have hobbies, just to keep them busy. Maybe they volunteer somewhere, or they’ve taken up pottery, or knife making, or magic. Or, one of my favorites that sneaked over into my life, putting together flower arrangements.

As with every other minor detail, hobbies have a place to come up along the story line. It’s a small mention, usually. Maybe their downtime is being encroached upon by a new responsibility and they’re reflecting on what they’ll lose the ability to do. Their cousin or father could say a word or two in the direction of what they’ve been doing when they aren’t busy with more pressing matters.

There exists the chance of overpowering the story line if you give too much time and energy to explaining what they’re doing, unless it fits with the way it’s going. Maybe a chapter or scene filled with thought and wonder, while their hands move about with a needle or they push off from a balance bar in a complicated dance move.

But let’s tuck away the idea of how to put it into a story first and look instead at how well they do. The usual start is a slow one, steady, bad. “Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at it,” are the lovely words of Jake from Adventure Time, and I have to agree. However, there are others who manage to pick something up and are more than halfway decent at it on the first try. (Those people tend get a lot of hate, though, because how dare they be so great so quickly?!)

Think of it as if it were your hobby, in a way. Writing was simply a hobby for me when I was a kid, and I had an off again on again relationship with it for several years before it punched on hard and became more than simply a time-pass. It’s become a cultivated interest.

Watercolor and drawing haven’t had quite the same click with me. I’ve been wanting to be more prolific with them, but it doesn’t come as easily as writing. Painting was a great escape and outlet for me after the passing of my mother, however, and it’s always a wonder to see how colors play together, and to make my own art that I’m proud of.

Our main characters are an extension of life, and they live immortal in written or typed word. Whatever they find enjoyable when there’s nothing else imminent says a lot about them, as it would for us as the authors.

The meticulous and detail-oriented would find refuge in the ship-in-a-bottle. Free-spirits gravitate toward dance or paint or sculpting. Rule-driven may lose hours in the physical, such as running or martial arts. Creativity can abound in any of these, not simply limited to the arts, though there tends to be more room for it there.

I shouldn’t forget that video games are a hobby, too… Seeing as I tend to spend a lot of time doing them myself, and here’s something for every type of person there. An aversion to them, or a pull, still has something to say about the character.

Whatever it is that’s said, muttered, whispered, screamed or giggled, explore it, find it, away from the novel or the story you’re working on if you have to. Dedicate a small scene for it, all its own, independent of anything else, just to see how it fits, to see what they do and how they do it. Feel out the smaller parts of a bigger picture.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Slow Your Roll

In the midst of challenges, pushing yourself and reaching for ambitious goals way above what you’d set for yourself, there’s a need to slow down and take things easy. That need is often overlooked.

I’m not unique. I’m not the first person constantly looking for challenges to round out my writing and make it better, and I doubt I’ll be the last. Usually, my option, and my desire, is to go above and beyond, that when I decide to relax, to go slower and pick up an easier prompt, it feels like cheating. Or I simply feel bad for going easy on myself instead of using all of my ability.

But sometimes, you need to slow down and be good to yourself. Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s not going to be work.

The inspiration from this comes from Camp NaNoWriMo being around the corner. My choice for next month is to pick up a mild story, something short. I love writing, but being able to sink into it at my own pace instead of gunning for fast and furious feels good. To enjoy what I’m writing and mold it how I feel fit.

Like many of my other posts– though probably not enough– I stress that it’s good to slow down, to take a break. You’re allowed. It doesn’t always have to be push and shove and ambitious reaches for the sky. Breathe and let your writing flow, or take the day off.

I realized a little too late that most of the motivational things I’ll see aren’t very good at reminding you that some days, you’re not going to have the push. You won’t be able to get behind the ball you’d been rolling and keep it going. Some days, that ball is going to feel like a ton and others it’ll feel like a feather.

And consciously choosing to make sure the ball is light is perfectly fine. You know yourself best. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you should be doing more, because they don’t know what your disposition is like. They’re like Jon Snow in that they know nothing!

Nothing is saying you won’t crank out quality work if you go with something simpler, either. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking to be good.

If you want to write a short story about vampires, go for it, find what works, and what you like best, and run. Just because it’s been done by other writers– and made worse by some…– doesn’t mean you can’t try it yourself.

The point of Camp NaNoWriMo, and any writing in general, is to enjoy it. Whether that means pushing your limits or kicking back is all you.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Running and Writing

I’ve made analogies to this before, they’re all spread through my posts, and the obvious reason for it is that I’m both a runner and a writer. I can see too many similarities to the two to ignore.

Both are free activities, but getting more gear and finding things to help your stride both in wordcount and in miles or minutes ran can get expensive. You can do both on your own, or with a group. Most importantly, both are done at your own pace.

In the writing community, our Boston Marathon can be equated to NaNoWriMo. I’ve heard my friend tell me about a woman who beats out everyone in his region to 50k, and she does triple that in the month, but she’s always the first to get it. Though, National Novel Writing Month isn’t so much about how fast you win, but that you won at all, and how many words you got out of the month.

Going at your own pace is a huge point to me, I remember looking at a favorite author of mine writing about how she got out so many pages in a day (which I knew how to translate to how many thousands of words she did, and it immediately blew my mind); she was doing, on a bad day, triple what I was doing on a good day. Then again, I had only just become more prolific, but it was still boggling. How could someone get out that much in so little time?

Practice. Dedication. Hard work. She knew what she was doing, she was a professional author of 20 years, and I was, and am, just a beginner, but I’m getting there.

Sometimes you find people with bad form and posturing, and they may get past the finish line, but what does their progress look like? Let’s take some highly ridiculed books, for example, Fifty Shades of Grey, or Twilight. They get the most praise for crossing the finish line, but they struggled through the race, and none of what they did to get there is recommended.

On that note: rough drafts are like training for a marathon or a 5k for the first time. You go back out again and again to improve as much as possible until you finally finish with a product you love, and that becomes your race day. When you’ve  made it out with a winner’s medal and a grin on your face and the final copy in your hand.

On the more professional side, and in obvious news, you can make a career of both, or you could do either just for enjoyment. It is what you make of it. If running gives you clarity, keep going. If writing fills your head with impossible ideas that you’ve fallen in love with, don’t stop now.

Running in the rain is just as thrilling to me as a capturing story writing itself. Writing without much of a muse or inspiration is like running in thick humidity: so impossible that I’ll hate myself for even trying.

And it’s just as well; there are those who don’t care for running as a way to get active and fit, and those who don’t care or try to get the grasp of writing. To them, there’s no enjoyment in it, which is to be expected.

I’ve written more at length about writing for enjoyment, here, but it’s hard not to brush up on it again. Though there is a lot of focus on writing to get published and getting your works out across the world for people to see and devour and adapt into movies and what have you, there’s also a desire to simply write because you want to. Running has a pressure on races and qualifications, but if it’s not something you want to do, you shouldn’t. Hell, I still haven’t done a 5k and I’ve been running for almost three years.

Races can get pricey, though. Themed races especially, but most marathons and 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, usually require an entry fee. The gear you should have to help you achieve more for running can also get expensive. As a writer, I haven’t run into much expense, other than what I donate to nano, or the shirts I was thinking of buying, or the copy of Scrivener that I got this month… If you wanted to attend the Night of Writing Dangerously, though, it could make your wallet weep. That was the only qualifier I could think of for writing, too, while there are countless races you need to qualify for in running.

Then there are the more obvious splits: running is physical, writing is mental. Running can create or perpetuate health problems, or even alleviate, but writing does not help in any direction physically. Writing instead helps your vocabulary, your imagination and creativity, your brain growth and personal development.

It’s an insight I couldn’t keep to myself for much longer, and one I do enjoy thinking about. Both writing and running have helped shape me as a person, but I’m sure they aren’t the only two activities that hold so many similarities. Whatever you enjoy, however you spend your days, it’s likely not very hard to find likenesses in them. After all, you do like them for a reason, right?

-The Novice Wordsmith