Posted in Challenges, NaNo, On Writing

That NaNo Time of Year

For the past 8 years I have participated in NaNoWriMo and this year is no exception.

On November 1st, NaNo seemed like an insurmountable challenge akin to my first few years when I was recovering from surgeries and under heavy pain medication. Those years I didn’t win NaNo; in fact, I didn’t even come close. With all the stress involved in my life at this time, I was ready to give up on NaNo before I began. I thought I would end up writing nothing because all of my time would be spent working overtime and helping with my father-in-law’s estate. I was in a panic because I had nothing figured out and I was stressed more than I can ever recall.

Then, today, I did something amazing. I started with a blank page and the words started flowing. They weren’t quite the words I was expecting and certainly not the genre I tend to fall back on, but they were words and they were written.

While I have yet to post my word count on the site I am progressing. Despite the stress involved in figuring out my father-in-law’s estate, I have managed to write a fair number of words. Despite losing hours to working overtime, I have words.

I don’t claim that the words I’ve written are masterpieces of literature. I don’t claim that any of my writing today has been grammatically correct. I have run my post through the WordPress proofreader and through several spellcheck programs. I am hopeful that my worst errors have been caught and corrected. However, right now I feel such freedom from having written through the stress that I don’t mind if I missed something.

I will allow my perfectionist self to deal with my stress levels in a separate area of my brain. For now, my writerly self is going to write.

What about you? If you’re taking part in NaNo this year are you keeping on track? Are you pantsing like me or do you have detailed plans?

Posted in A.P. Roberts, Challenges, Writer's Hub

Dear A.P.

A.P. Roberts,

You are a wonder to behold. You may not get told that as often as you would like, or need, but you are amazing. This is why your name is Awesome Person Roberts.

Of course, we also know that A.P. doesn’t actually stand for Awesome Person. The A does stand for amazingly awesome but the P is what you tend to forget about.

You know the P stands for perseverance in the face of writers’ block and procrastination in the face of deadlines. But you don’t realize that it also stands for “potential magic”.

You have the power to release magic into the world with a stroke of your purple pen. You have the power to create people and the worlds they live in. You have the power to entangle readers into any story that you weave.

But you’ve only begun to accept this power for what it is. Until you began Writing 101 you allowed your inner perfectionist to run rampant through you creativity. You would edit and rewrite pieces meant to be free-writes because you felt unworthy.

This is why I’m writing this letter. I see you allowing yourself to fall back into those habits you worked so hard to get past.

I don’t want that potential magic to be permanently forgotten.

There are many people who will tell you that you need to “get over yourself” and others that will say you “don’t want it hard enough”. But all those doubters and naysayers are wrong.

Don’t get over yourself, work with yourself. Free the insecurities and anxiety by letting them out on paper. Regardless of who reads your work, you will feel better by letting out the negative emotions.

Your problem is that you want it too much. You want perfection in yourself and your work but you don’t expect perfection from others. You are aware that perfection doesn’t exist outside the realms of personal preference yet you constantly chase it. You spend so much time staring at the goal of perfection that you are missing the steps that lead to accomplishment.

Do you remember how accomplished you felt as you finished each assignment of Writing 101? Do you remember how proud you were that you were posting on a consistent schedule?

Keep it up! I dare you to post at least once a week. Then you can play WoW and Minecraft with your SO. Then you can allow yourself to watch Dr Phil and Doctor Who.

Then you can feel accomplished because you deserve that feeling. You deserve to feel proud of your work and proud of what you have done. And you, Ms Amazing Pixie, have all the tools necessary to accomplish this goal.

Sincerely,

A.P. Roberts, writer extraordinaire

 

The Writer’s Hub challenged you to write a letter to yourself. Your topic, should you choose to accept it, is “who you are as a writer”.

 

Thank you Kaygy for pointing out some of the typos I missed. 🙂

Posted in Challenges, Writing, Writing 101

Writing 101: Serially Lost 2

This post was written in response to Writing 101: Death to Adverbs. To avoid the use of adverbs I used Edit Minion (which was made by the people who brought us Write or Die). This part is linked to Serially Lost.

 

 

The Cailleach Bheur was active in the square today. People pulled and tugged on their cloaks.

Mouse shivered as he waited. He held his breath. His glance darting from person to person. It wouldn’t be long.

“Are you alright?” The woman’s eyes pierced his soul. “Where are your parents?”

“Off.” Mouse shrugged. He knew how to get rid of her. “Bartering.”

“Well, you’re shivering.” The woman slipped the cloak from her shoulders. “Take this.”

Mouse shook his head. “I don’t need no charity miss. I’m good as is.”

“It’s not charity. It’s a gift.”

Mouse didn’t see her move until the cloak wrapped him in its embrace.

“But how is it I can give it back? I don’t know you?”

“It’s a gift. Think of it as the return of something lost.”

Mouse shook his head. He opened his mouth but realized the woman was gone.

At least the cloak held back the winter wind.

Posted in Challenges, Writing, Writing 101

Writing 101: Serially Lost

This post was written in response to Writing 101: Serially Lost. As of now, this is a stand alone; however, I am trying to come up with two more parts to complete this short tale.

 

 

“I lost it. I can’t believe I lost it. Wolf is gonna bury me when he finds out.” The mousey haired boy chewed on what was left of his nails as he paced. “I’m gonna be underground. I’ll be so far I’ll never get out.”

The creak of a door seemed to underline the boy’s last few words. The boy jumped and started chewing faster.

“Relax Mouse. It’s just me.” An older version of the boy stood by the door. “Wolf sent me to check on you.”

Mouse’s eyes went wide and his breathing picked up. “N-n-n-nothing’s wrong. I’m f-f-f-fine.”

The older boy rolled his eyes. “Tell me another story. Maybe I’ll live that one.”

Mouse shook his head.

“If you don’t tell me, I’ll send Wolf up here. He’ll get it outta you.”

Mouse’s skin turned several shades whiter. “He’ll bury me. I lost it.”

“You’ll have to speak louder than that if you don’t want Wolf here.”

Mouse glared at his brother. “I said I lost it. Wolf will bury me when he finds out.”

“What did you lose that would send you underground? You know Wolf don’t care about most things.”

“He cares about this. I lost his knife. He gave it to me and I lost it. I needed to keep it safe.” Mouse put his hand back up to his mouth and resumed his chewing. “He’s gonna bury me.”

“He ain’t gonna bury you. If he was he woulda done it years ago the first time you lost something.” The older boy placed a hand on Mouse’s shoulder. “Now come on. We gotta tell Wolf before he finds out by himself.”

Mouse swallowed hard but followed his brother out of the room.

Posted in A.P. Roberts, Challenges, Writing 101

Writing 101: 20 Minute Free Write

This post was written in response to Writing 101: Unlock the Mind.

 

Today marks the first day of Writing 101. While I am excited to start this adventure in writing I am also very anxious about how it will turn out. I’m worried that I’ll give up half way through (or in the next day or two) or that I’ll produce horrible pieces of writing.  I’m nervous about what some of the prompts and twists will be. I’m terrified that someone I know will read what I write and judge me based on how bad it is.

Of course, being a person who has be diagnosed with anxiety, these fears are not new to me. I’ve debated in the past about joining the Daily Post’s Blogging U. However, as many times as I’ve debated joining Blogging U, this is my first time registering.

Over the last year I’ve allowed my anxiety to get between me and my writing. I’ve gone from writing every day to once a week or less. At one point I hadn’t written anything in several months.

I’m not sure why I allowed my anxiety to get as bad as it did. In my mind I know the different tricks to calming anxiety. There is mindfulness of breath, the freeze method, self-hypnosis, isolated relaxation, and more that I can’t think to name at this moment.

But there is a difference between knowing something and using it. People can know first aid but if an emergency occurs they may not be able to use it. There are many students who know the course work but fail the exams.

So, I suppose it’s not that strange for me to know how to calm my anxiety but not be able to do so.

The best I can hope for is to attempt each prompt for Writing 101. I may not post all the pieces I write but, despite my anxiety trying to stop me, I will write something for each prompt. And perhaps I will walk away from Writing 101 with a new daily writing habit.

What about you? Have you joined Writing 101 or Blogging 101? What are your hopes and fears for the course?

Posted in On Writing

Play With Your Words

Writers need to give themselves permission to play. I think I’ve forgotten that. I set myself writing goals but stress over reaching them. Even small goals seem like insurmountable obstacles.

I need to remind myself that I don’t have to follow the canon in my head. I don’t have to adhere strictly to outlines and character descriptions.

I can play with my world. I can turn the sky bright pink for a day just to see how my characters would react. Towns can grow and cities can disappear if that works better.

I’m allowed to play with my characters. I can change my stubborn male character into a female. If Jennifer doesn’t answer to her name she can change it to Aimee.

I don’t have to write in order. If I want to write the scene where MC1 kisses MC2 for the first time I can, even if the scene doesn’t come in for several chapters. If I think a scene is boring I can cut it out complete.

First drafts need to be played with, not agonized over. I need to keep reminding myself of this. First drafts are not worth the added stress of making them perfect. That’s why we have editing and revising.

Posted in Challenges, On Writing

Boxed Inspiration

For the last few years before I moved to Alberta I was one of the MLs for NaNo. Part of my duty was to come up with pep talks and ways to inspire my wrimos to write more. Luckily the MLs have a separate forum on the NaNo site where they share ideas that have worked in their regions. One of these amazing ideas is the Box of Doom.

The Box of Doom is a box that has timed writing challenges. The idea is that these challenges are written on coloured paper or popsicle sticks. There are three colours; green for easy, yellow for medium, and red for difficult. When wrimos need that extra push they can choose a paper or stick from the colour they feel they can complete. Once the challenge has been chosen the wrimo has a set time to write a certain number of words.

I took that basic premise and changed it to suit my region better. Not only did I use the timed writing challenges but I also typed out prompts in different colours. I added them to the box and my wrimos were able to use them when they were running out of ideas.

I also gave my wrimos the freedom to add their own prompts to the box. My wrimos took this challenge to heart and the box grew so full that I had to divide it into the Box of Doom and the Box of Prompts.

Because these boxes are so useful and well-loved, I have decided that I am going to share some tips on how you can make your own.

Get The Box

This is the easiest step of the process. All you need to do is find a good-sized box, preferably one with a lid so you can easily mix up the prompts. The box I use is a picture box that I got from the Dollar Store but you can use any box that you think will work.

Get The Prompts

If the last step was the easiest, this step is the most fun. Open up a writing program or grab a pen and paper to get started. I recommend deciding whether you want the paper to be long strips or squares before you start gathering prompts so that you can format as you go along.

There are many ways that you can gather prompts. You can search the internet for “writing prompts” or “writing dares“. You can go eavesdropping and write down random words and sentences you hear. Books, movies and TV shows are an excellent source for quotes. You can also gather prompts from yourself by thinking of inside jokes, favourite words and abandoned ideas.

Make It Challenging

If you want to have timed writing challenges in your box you will have to do a little work. Everyone writes at a different speed which can vary depending on the writer’s mood. In order to have your own timed challenges you need to know your average writing speed.

Once you know your average words per minute you can start on the medium challenges. Take your speed and multiply it by 15, 30, 45 and 60 minutes. Those numbers give you the timed challenges for a medium difficulty. To make easy and difficult challenges just change the word count goals. For instance, if your medium difficulty for 15 minutes is 500 words then you can change it to 250 for easy and 750 for difficult.

Put Them Together

Once you have the box and the prompts it is time to put them together. If you formatted your documents while gathering the prompts and challenges then this part should be relatively easy.

Print off your documents and cut out each prompt so that they are all on a separate strip or square of paper. Once the prompts are cut up, you should fold them so that it is difficult to see what the prompt is without unfolding. This is the boring part of the process and goes faster with friends.

When you are finished you can sit back and marvel at your creation or pick a prompt and start writing.

Posted in On Writing

Never Good Enough (Or Turning Off The Inner Editor)

Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at.

~ Unknown ~

I always have a difficult time with my writing because I always find imperfections. Ever since I was a young child I have tried to obtain perfection. I remember rewriting homework assignments because I noticed that one of the letters was shaky.

While this helps me put out the best work that I am capable of, the downside is that many ideas lay forgotten because I could not perfect them. Most of my poems and stories aren’t given a fair chance to mature because I automatically dismiss them as my worst work or I spend so much time trying to perfect them that I get discouraged and give up on them.

Some form of perfectionism is needed to complete a work. But that doesn’t mean that perfection should over shadow everything. There is a fine line between the type of perfectionism that is helpful and the type that is detrimental. Too much or too little and the work will be unfinished though in different ways. Too much perfectionism and there is a risk of giving up. Too little imperfection and the work will be declared as finished when there are still mistakes.

Currently my perfectionism is in the “too much” league. I am trying to lessen my perfectionism into the “just right” league but it’s difficult. I find myself thinking about the errors and how to correct them. I think about all the ways to improve what I’ve written while I’m in the process of writing it down.

What I need to do, is learn how to turn off my inner editor during the first draft. This is where NaNo comes in handy. Since 2007, I have spent the month of November writing to reach 50,000 words of a story. This has taught me several tricks which help me focus on writing and not on rewriting.

My first trick is to type with the smallest font available or with a font colour that is the same as the background colour. This keeps me from reading what I’ve written because I physically cannot. After I have written my word count for the day or reached the end of my writing spurt, I allow myself to make the writing readable.

Another one of my tricks is to use Write or Die. Generally I use the kamikaze mode because the sound doesn’t work as a good punishment for me. I do have the program for my computer which is wonderful because I can use it without internet access.

My last favourite trick is to use a full screen mode in my word processor. This helps me focus on writing and when I don’t have distractions, I find that I stop less to read what I’ve written.

Hopefully these tricks will help me get through several ideas that I have planned and complete several pieces which I’m not quite happy with.

Posted in On Writing

Just Write

My CureSometimes I find myself staring at my keyboard but, as much as I want to, I don’t write a single word. When that happens, I know that I have fallen prey to the dreaded “writer’s block”.*

Fortunately, I have found the cure. Unfortunately, this cure is like Buckley’s®, it works wonderfully but leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

You see, I’ve found that the only way to cure my block is to write. It doesn’t matter what I write about as long as I write. Sometimes, all I do is to repeat the same word or sentence for a few lines (or pages) and occasionally I will journal about my day in all its boring details.

It’s difficult. I overuse the backspace key and it can take hours to write even a paragraph. But after that first paragraph, comes the second paragraph which takes  less time. The third paragraph takes even less time than the second. Before I know it, I’ve written a page.

I’m not saying that what I write is the next classic. Most of the time, when I’m overcoming a block, I find that I’ve written absolute drivel. But I’m ok with that because it means that I wrote something.

*Writer’s Block should not be confused with a stress block. While they are similar and usually occur around the same time, a stress block cannot be cured by forcing yourself to write. The only way I’ve found to overcome a stress block is by finding out the cause of my stress and dealing with it on a base level.