Tag Archives: learning

Camp in July: Motivation Stops Here

Camp Nanowrimo has famously been difficult for me, except for a couple of times. I do this to myself, of course, over and over, because I must be a masochist. Really, I’m just ambitious. After finding my groove with an older story again, wanting to finish and spurred on by my great energy with the revision of my erotica in April, I picked up where I left off.

And got firmly stuck in the mud, days later.

This has had to be my worst month. I didn’t really keep track of wordcount. I could barely get myself to write every day. I was avoiding the camp website. It was sticky and awful and kind of depressing, to be honest.

I was also having the hardest time trying to figure out why it was so hard for me. When I know there’s a goal in sight, I’m usually steadfast toward it, and make great strides and bounds. This time it was like my neck was craned back, staring up at a billboard that I thought was too high to climb, with a ladder right in front of me.

I refused to think it was motivation. I’ve wanted to write and finish this novel so badly. Inspiration was all there, I knew how to tap into more, how to get my mind going.

But there it was, at the eye of the storm. I wanted to write but I didn’t want to. Were my ideas good enough, was I making enough sense? Had I really read through the more crucial chapters again and actually gotten a feel for what was going on, so I knew the tone to start off with? How was my pacing?

Every question just came at me. I didn’t want to accept it, but I couldn’t deny it, either.

More commonly known as Writer’s Block, it sucks. And sometimes there’s really nothing you can do about it but let it pass and relax and not worry until it leaves you the hell alone. Trying to force it away may or may not do something for you.

Even now, I’m having a hard time getting through this. I question my credibility and my ability and whether or not I’m getting off topic or staying on track. Everything is questioned, because I don’t know if I should trust myself or not just by plowing through something. Quieting those questions can be harder because there’s always a nag at the back of your head wondering if you’re doing it right, and that you don’t want to have to overhaul it completely…

It’s the Hot Mess Express, and I’m the conductor, apparently.

But it makes sense, when I think about it boiling down to trust. Trusting myself and what I do and how I do it makes me less likely to move forward. Friend has been having a particularly nasty case of writer’s block as well, where he’s very uncertain of himself. Along the same lines, where he wants it to look good and be a long, great read, but it’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot for him to live up to with every piece and he’s not trusting himself to simply write and come up with something, at all, that’s readable.

The big hurdle here is to let go of all of those insecurities and just do it. Forget everything holding you down and just go. But that is much easier said than done.

Hopefully my NaNoWriMo experience won’t be this terrible. I’m looking to do just as well as last year, if not better. I just have to find a story I want to write…

-The Novice Wordsmith

 

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Guest Post: Dare to be Stupid

(…with apologies to Weird Al)

One of the things I noticed the other day in a conversation with Wordsmith was that I tend not to write stupid characters. My protagonists are invariably clever, brainy, wisecracking, wise, and have things to teach the secondary characters. On the Hero’s Journey, I am the wizard.

It’s not that I’m afraid to write characters who don’t know a lot, or who lack intelligence, it’s just that I don’t live in that headspace. I learned to read and write when I was three, and I was testing in at 12th grade reading levels in fourth grade — by the time I was nine. I’ve been called a geek and a nerd for decades, and it wouldn’t be far off, considering my love for science fiction, fantasy, and all the shades of worlds between.

When I write mystery novels, the detective always solves the crime at the end. (Can you imagine a mystery novel where the detective -doesn’t- solve the crime at the end?) The point of a mystery novel is that the mystery is solved and the villain (usually) is caught, or at least their crimes are foiled and justice prevails. Otherwise the reader is left without a sense of fulfillment for taking the journey of discovery with the detective.

The ending _has_ to make sense.

…orrrrr…. does it?

At one point in my writing training I took a class writing for children. One of the things they said was to observe children in their natural headspace — and you discover pretty quickly that Kid Logic Doesn’t Make Sense All the Time.

At one point in my comedic improv training we had a workshop where we were encouraged to let our grips on what Reality Was slip, in order improve our improv skills — to act like kids again, turning the ordinary into extraordinary. Where a bus wasn’t a bus anymore, but a spaceship. And nobody questions you if they’re playing along, but the adults are quick to deny your reality substitution (hat tip to Adam Savage).

Wordsmith and I had the privilege of keeping company to someone’s six year old, who blithely ignored the conversation of the adults around them playing their own alternate reality game (Ingress) to talk about her plans to build a Cheetah Machine, so she could go fast in some sort of race she was participating in. That sparked an idea for a story about her kid characters (which originated from a prompt I gave her: ‘show me your main character’s childhood favorite TV show and cereal….’). “Build a Cheetah Machine” is now one of our inside jokes.

“Stupid” is a stigma. We live in a literary society, where the lack of the ability to read and write is a barrier to communication, something to be embarrassed about. And yet we all started out without that ability at one point in our lives — and many of us are still ignorant of foreign languages, written and spoken. No matter how much I claim to be a writer and speaker, airdrop me in Russia and I am mute and unable to read street signs.

We should never, therefore, consider someone’s lack of ability to communicate on our level to be ‘stupid’ — but rather simply unable to meet us on our literary landscape.

And that brings me around to the front of this article — I’ve gotten too used to operating on my own level when it comes to building ‘my’ character in my universes. It’s my strong voice, yes. But expanding my palette of personae ought to mean getting out of my comfort zone. Creating a believable Luddite or similar without being trope-ish or cliche’ — those are caricatures of people rather than real people.

In reality, _all_ characters who grow are ‘stupid’ in their own way — not for lack of intelligence, but for lack of knowledge of needed skills or understanding to prevail against obstacles. Even our vaunted hero, be he or she a superscientist with PhDs or a celebrated crime detective, comes into the story with no specific truths defined save what they bring in with them. We follow them as they make false assumptions, or did not bring the right tools to address an obstacle, and we see them fail, not once, but multiple times. We see them struggle with their lack of actionable intelligence and learn from the experience in order to win the day. Their insights and deductions do not pay off on page 1, 2, or 3, but more like 201, 252, or 303, when they are (by the author’s decree) now smart enough to put all the pieces together to solve the puzzle.

No matter how outwardly smart a character may be, they are just as clueless as the people around them — the difference is that they step up to the head of the class first. But the wizard may be there ahead of them, giving them that added Cliffs Notes study guide to get off the ground, or redirect them when they fall off the rails.

So this one is for me; the next character I write? Will have no clue. I can be the Moon Moon if I want to be. I do not need to know how to Cat at the front of the tale. I do not Need To Be The Smartest Person in the Room, because when I was in school, I rarely was. And it was fine then, and it can be fine now.

It’s a worthy challenge, and I plan to play dumb and feel it out. We were all clueless once, and it’s been awhile since I remembered how. My head is full of trivia, and I got a swelled head because of it, when people react, ‘How do you _know_ that?” — the older I get the more I remember, and so it’s been tough to pretend not to know things.

You should all play with me. We’ll build our Cheetah Machines together and have a race.

Return

Last year, in January and onward, I was working on a piece that would turn into a project I’d pick up in April and try to work on for the Camp Nanowrimo of that month. I was sluggish and it was difficult to maneuver through it; though I had a general idea of what I was doing, that was pretty much all I had.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, when I’m about to close out the front of it after doing something of an overhaul on it.

I find it kind of funny, really. I’d sort of been on autopilot with it after camp, and then I just kind of faded and stopped working on it. In August, I found new momentum with it. Parts of the whole story that had once been difficult to tell and sculpt together were coming together with ease. I knew how the story got started, I had villains, I was making a stronger novel out of it. A proper one.

A year after going into it somewhat blindly, with only some interest to back me up, I finally found out how to run with it.

It’s sort of odd in its own way. Usually when I find myself interested in writing something, I actually manage to turn out a decent story. Now I wonder if I just plainly wasn’t ready to write this one at the time. It’s a new experience, to deal with this, seeing myself flounder at first and now flying through it with renewed fervor.

Partially, it reminds me of the ideas we have when we’re young. Our first ideas, the less developed ones we’re rapt with in the beginning and then they fade off, and we pick them up and then they fade off until eventually we get our fingers around them again and don’t let go, to the point we finally finish and have a product we’re immensely proud of and were excited to finish in the first place.

I have yet to get to that part, the forever-with-me idea from my youth, turning it into something, but I’ll get there eventually. It being a supernatural story in essence, I fear it’s been done to death.

But other than the undead story that off and on held my attention, I seem to always come back to one genre. I think we all do, really, we have that go-to that speaks to us and finds us better than the others, because we enjoy writing in it and we’re confident with our knowledge.

My go-to genres seem to be sci-fi, but not action, and not horror or thriller or crime (though I have a space opera waiting to be worked on some more), no. It’s drama. The nitty gritty of social gossip and class warfare in the name of romance. Maybe not so much class warfare, but I think you get the idea.

And for having all of these incredible actiony ideas and blow-you-away profoundness, I feel like it makes me come off as frivolous or silly. But I’ve always loved love. Writing erotica this November was like breathing. Nothing felt challenging about it part from working out pace and flow and how it ended and when things were figured out, so nothing to do with the genre. Writing romance is just my passive skillset, I think, and I love it.

One guess as to what this story is from last April that I’m bounding through now. Yeah. No surprise, right?

Which is why I mention coming back to that genre. You always have something you return to, something that feels comfortable, something you know you can push through with ease. And you’re so good at it because it interests you so much, it gets you thinking, it pulls you in and doesn’t let go.

And no matter what it is that brings you back, over and over, don’t ever feel bad about it. Embrace it.

The Novice Wordsmith

PS- One last little mention. Speaking of Camp NaNoWriMo, it is coming up this April and in June of this year as well. It is unlike NaNoWriMo because you can set your own goal, even if it is just revisions. Give it a look-see over at campnanowrimo.org.

Static versus Round

Every storytelling aspect can be applied to real life, in different ways. Tropes, climax, conflict, heroes and anti-heroes, and, most of all, round (or dynamic) and static characters.

I found this particularly true for the round and static character explanation over the past several months, but it got more into the dynamics and elements of storytelling itself with some fundamental things changing or being different than normal.

Static characters are not typically in the forefront of the story, for example. Every main character I’ve read has had a change of heart or a change of life and has handled it differently in the end than they would have in the beginning. They are round, and called such for the change, the fact that they are always curving and turning when you zoom in on the lines.

I digress, the fact is that there is a shift in view or perspective for those dynamic characters, they learn and in turn their actions change.

Recently, though, I realized that a friend of mine hadn’t changed much or at all, and her perspective, her reactions, her general disposition had all remained the same. When asked a question lately that she’d been asked years ago, her answer was the same.

People who are immovable in many ways are usually the secondary or tertiary characters, or in the background somewhere. They matter less because the main storyline relies on a lot of change, it relies on conflict creating a different view, it’s why you read the story in the first place, to see how something progresses. The definition of progress is ‘movement to a goal or further to a higher stage.’ How do you get there if your sights are in the same place?

Could a story technically still survive with a static character in the front? It becomes more about their struggles and their daily life and how they handle it. Sure, because you’re highlighting the way of life, there’s a message in there somewhere.

Then again, if that’s all you wrote, wouldn’t your writing become very limited?

Someone who is not open to learning or change is stifling the ability to become a better version of themselves. I mean those who outright refuse.

There is a story to be told there, but, as the name suggests, dynamic characters have a lot more possibilities.

I have to admit that I’ve never met someone so stubborn and unwilling to change, someone so against the idea. In 25 years, I’ve met one or two who don’t fully grasp the concept of learning and being shaped by ideas and the world around them. They understand it plenty, but they refuse to let it take hold.

The thought had me wondering about main characters, about stories and novels, and how many of the main characters don’t budge, don’t change or get shaped by the way their world moves. What kind of story does a character like that make for?

In contrast, a lot of my characters tend to be like me in that they thirst for knowledge. Some, like secondary or tertiary characters, aren’t given that much dimension, so they remain static. So there’s a difference there between refusal and not being given the chance.

Usually, how you hear about static characters is by the fact that they aren’t the ones the story’s changing is directed at. They aren’t going through conflict. They simply look on from the sidelines. They are a stationary piece of the puzzle themselves.

Which reminds me of Welcome to Nightvale’s deep quote from the other day: “Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.

Whether it’s a story you’re writing or your own story, static and dynamic characters are everywhere, and each have a place. Just as it is in what we write, our life has lessons for us, if we choose to see it that way. We are what the story makes us, if we’re willing to accept that.

What kind of character will you be?

-The Novice Wordsmith

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

Questionnaire and Questioning

I had been planning this post after the prompt about meeting characters, and then it just so happened that someone who follows me (and who I follow), made a post that coincides, and the results were entertaining.

One of the things I absolutely love about character development and finding the voice and personality of a character so strongly, is that if you had a set of questions in front of you to ask them, you could get answers back authentic to who they are. Jon has an excellent example, an onslaught of varied, unique and interesting questions that you may not have thought to ask before, but it helps flesh out the character well, in unexpected ways.

Friend took an approach similar to this one to figure out the dynamic of his characters he was going to write for for Camp in April and July, things about their greatest accomplishments, what they buy at the grocery store, what kind of character they’d play in a certain game.

It gives you a feel for them, and it helps give them a stronger voice, I think. I used to do these questionnaires when I was younger, for new characters, and for old ones, and just sunk into it on a rainy day. It really is one of my favorite things to do, but for being that, I haven’t done it much at all recently.

Regardless, I encourage it, at least give it a shot. Check out Jon’s blog, the link up above, and I think he has another set of questions in his blog somewhere, too, or just do a random search online. You can’t go wrong. Or, if you think of something random; what kind of coffee do they like, would they go to Starbucks? Do they like flowers, how do they feel about old, classic paintings?

On top of that, it manages to give them some more dimension, making them more human (or humanoid, or humanistic… err… depending if they’re aliens or not). I like what it brings to the forefront, more than just the things you would typically know from reading the novel or the stories, the questionnaires bring forward a lot of random little tidbits, showing off all edges.

I’m a fan of reading things like that, too. I have a friend whose blog is run about and “by” her character, and I see different prompts and questions about odd little things pop up every so often. Inappropriate thoughts or things being shouted, a particular phrase.

Maybe I’ll do one of these sooner than later, myself…

-The Novice Wordsmith

Challenger

One of the things I look for most in finding something new to write, is to see what I have yet to do or get practice on. Do I need a villain, or a healer, or have I had someone who’s a certain kind of artist? What genres have I been writing in? What haven’t I written in?

Comfort zones are called that for a reason. You have your go-to characters, genres, style and etc that you default to, that you feel like you write best in. Such as with drawing; you can draw humans well, or women better than men, or animals better than anything. But reaching out helps not only round you out, but teaches you something, about the dynamic of what you’re working on, and things you may not have considered before.

As someone who writes romance well and has never had a hand at mystery before, it comes more easily for me to write in romantic interest between the main characters than it does to write out sneaky twists and hidden plot lines. The wickedness and greed of the wrong-doer does not come to me as naturally as the subtle, sweet grin of the main character to their current interest.

We find our niche, it is our kind of art, it’s what we see the most of in our head.

But when we venture out of our comfy nook, we find something else to play with. We find all new opportunities, and we can both weave them into our typical writing, and find new possibilities outside of it.

Find what you haven’t touched yet. What you’re not used to, and don’t be afraid to go for it. Think of it like sketching, practicing and finding your way through something new or mostly untouched. It may not be the easiest thing you’ll do, but imagine how it’ll help your skill:

  • Learn from suspense and thrill in action/adventure with scenes that can oftentimes end in explosions. It can help teach good buildup and plot hooks, and add some mystery to keep the reader guessing, and hooked on.
  • Explore the intimacy and personal dilemmas and psyche of characters with romance. It can put the story on a different personal level or show a side to a character that would have otherwise gone unseen, which can help with giving more dimension and dynamic.
  • The limit of the heart and mind can be found in horror, as well as physical limits. Though this is one genre I have not ventured in too terribly much, suspense on a much grander scale without giving too much away helps round out hooks and hints. While scaring the bejesus out of you and your readers.
  • Mystery, though I’m still learning on this one, builds suspense in a different way, and can lend a hand in how to keep your readers in the dark without giving away too much up front, no matter how excited you are about the developments you’ve come up with.

Four among many, with plenty of inter-mixing. That’s a post for another day: why stop at just one genre when you can have three to four?! Of course, you have to be careful, sometimes it can just turn into a mess.

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to something you haven’t been able to sink your teeth into before. Push yourself. Learn something new. Scrape your knees up a bit, get your hands dirty. You may find you don’t care for it, but that’s the joy of exploration, isn’t it?

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Writer: Write Anywhere, Write Everywhere

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed doing this past week with the Wordsmith is just exploring the world.   It’s one thing to sit at home, with Google search at your fingertips, and Wikipedia at your beck and call, it’s another to actually just _go_ places to see them with your own eyes.

Despite having a laptop computer that I do all of my writing on, I still carry a notebook with me anywhere I go, whenever I can’t bring the laptop; it is full of hastily scribbled ideas, notes on things I’ve found, and sketches of fanciful things, along with phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and outlines of novels and short stories yet to be.   I try not to miss a chance to write down an awesome idea, lest I forget it by the time I get home.

Anything and everything you see can be put into a novel somehow.   From the most ordinary objects to the breathtakingly beautiful (or incredibly tacky), to little bits of trivia and history tucked away in corners of the world that don’t always advertise themselves very well.

Then there are those chance events that you encounter in your journeys; live people doing the unexpected,  fellow storytellers able and willing to swap stories, and moments of serendipity — there is no other word for it sometimes.

None of these things will likely happen to you if you remain in your ‘writing space’, content to see the world only through someone else’s eyes.   Text and photos on a web page do not do some things justice.

But is it necessary, you may ask, to go travel anywhere where you plan on doing things on location?    Some of the greatest writers believed so.   While you don’t absolutely have to take a one month vacation to Borneo to write about it, you can’t go wrong with choosing to make your next vacation a writing excercise anyway, wherever it might be.

The world is about textures, smells, feelings, sounds, and local foods you can’t get at home.   It’s unusual happenstances that required the unique combination of ‘right time’, ‘right place’ or occasionally ‘wrong time, wrong place’.    Even unpleasant experiences can be rewarding in their own right — if you survive.

Moments of serendipity are the lifeblood of any adventure novel, no matter what the genre you might be writing in, you can adapt the reality to fit the unreality.

For example, Wordsmith and I visited a museum that had a lot of gold rush mining exhibits and other artifacts of the 1850’s.   A stained glass window of St. Patrick  rescued from a demolished church is destined to find a home somewhere; its sister window had a pair of ornate keys in its display that definitely will become part of a mystery novel.   Meanwhile, the high-pressure hydraulic mining nozzle outside will have a place in a science fiction novel for futuristic mining purposes, while the docent’s recounting of what water wagons (and also where the origin of the phrase ‘on the wagon’ came from)  will likely come in handy in our next steampunk novels, perhaps.

All of this came from a single day, a single ‘hey, what about this place’ and a journey that started by asking not just ‘what if…’  but also ‘when.’

Not all of us are so lucky to have a traveling partner, or a mentor, or a means to get away from it all to see things that are, in fact, ‘away’.   But the truth of the matter is that anyplace that is ‘out’ is some smaller or larger degree of ‘away’.

And every ‘away’ game makes you a visitor in places that are at least passing strange, near or far.

So take a journey, and have a listen.   Maybe stay awhile and make some new friends.   I ran out of business cards today, letting people know I appreciated their time that they shared with me, and offering up a bit more of mine if they ever found a need to share another story.

Don’t just cultivate memories in photos you rarely look at again.  Choose to experience people, places, and things, and tell their story, no matter how imperfectly reproduced or turned into a variation on the theme, and you’ll start understanding that everything you do is a story of its own.  To bastardize a quote from The Lion King:

“Everything your life touches is your realm — of personal experience, that is.   You just have to learn how to be king of it all.”

Update: Not so much Camping

I spent the past six days here in California, soaking up the sun and the heat and the beauty of the land, and I’m just in reach of my 25k goal, with 325 words to go. Mostly, because I’ve been so much more interested in everything else than writing. I’ve had a lot of learning and lessons on this trip, but the writing mojo has been limited because of everything else there is to do.

I have another several hours of travel ahead of me tomorrow, but I’m not sure how much writing it’ll help me get done. Really, we’re kind of at a stand still, where we need to do joint chapters (which feel a lot like roleplaying sometimes), but we’ve been so much more interested in all sorts of other activities to make much headway. Not to mention, he’s had to do work, there have been a lot of naps after coming home from a whole day in the heat, and then there is my need to run at this elevation and without all the humidity.

Still, overall, it’s good for me. I’m ahead of the curve, and this is the first time that skipping days of writing hasn’t super squicked me out. So, progress. In one way or the other.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Failure

I was going to write this post last week sometime. It was going to be giant and filled with a lot of good information, but I realized today I wasn’t ready to write it after all.

Failure, in its own full glory, is something awesome and fearsome at the same time. It is the most powerful thing that can happen to you in any direction. What happens when you are faced with it is entirely up to you. As the saying goes, it is not what happens to you that matters, but how you choose to react to it.

When it comes to creativity above all, we are in a constant state of learning. Someone who is just learning can find just as much of  a lesson in someone whose made their life about that craft, as a seasoned veteran can from a new artist. It’s about perspective, in the end, and how you see what surrounds you. To fail, in writing, in drawing, painting, sculpting, whatever your medium (read: artistic drug) of choice is, is to see what we did wrong, and to move into doing it right. But it takes time. It takes effort.

A drawing you made when you were 12 will not look the same when you draw it again at 25. Such in the case of my first “original” story, which I am still in the process of re-writing. In this, we learn what details we need. We develop with the characters, and we become someone else just like they do.

All in all, failure is growth. It is not falling in a ditch you cannot dig yourself out of or being cast into an endless sea. It is being put in those places and learning how to climb your way out, to success. By failing, we find out how to succeed after all.

In my experience, I’d say that the hard way to learn something is the best, because it sticks with you the most. You’re not likely to forget what brought you such clarity on what you did wrong, and how to do it right.

-The Novice Wordsmith