Monday, November 18, 2013

“Don’t be offended if you encounter some good-natured ribbing; the idea of writing a novel in a month deserves to be laughed at.”

Oh, November.  The one month a year when I, and writers everywhere, actually panic over how much writing we actually get done, and if we will ever be able to hit that 50k word mark by midnight on the 30th.

And after 5 years of participating in the month long ordeal, I've come to the conclusion that I, like so many others, cannot.

The most I have ever written in one month, for NaNoWriMo, is approximately 25k give or take a few.  However, there have been days when I have written 5-6k words without even realizing it, because I'm not keeping track!  I don't check every hour what my word count is, and there's no pressure to write so many words in such a small amount of time.  And I have to be honest with you, the pressure of NaNoWriMo is more stressful than any other writing experience I've ever had.

So why do I put myself through this every year?!

I'm starting to believe that doing NaNoWriMo is purely egotistical.  I have this undying need to prove to myself that I can write 50 thousand words in 30 days, and have it be something worthy of possibility.  Being a writer, there is a lot of competition, especially self competition.  You always want to top your last project, write something better than all your previous work.  But sometimes, it's not.  Sometimes it's worse, or just the same as the rest of your work.

But every year, I sign up for NaNoWriMo, and by the end, I normally end up with a range between 15-20k words, and I feel like a failure.  Which is stupid because it's not like you actually win anything for finishing NaNoWriMo, except for the satisfaction that you were able to write 50k words in 30 days.  Even if the story make no sense because you're not supposed to go back and edit (even though I do because it drives me insane not to edit blatant typos and misspelled words.)

I love writing, and I like the idea of a bunch of writers getting together and writing.  But after 5 years of pressure, stress, and constant word count checking, I can officially say that writing a good, solid book in 30 days is nearly impossible.  The majority of published books are 80k words or more.  Publishing companies won't even look at a book unless it's at least that, so why do we push for 50k when it's 30k less than what a book should be?

I'm sorry if you came here thinking you'd get a pep talk. I am all about encouraging each other to write and keep writing, and to believe in yourself and your story.  But to me, NaNoWriMo seems to be more about quantity over quality, when we all know real books are about quality.   And it takes more than thirty days and fifty thousand words to get there.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"I wonder what would happen if you say what you want to say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave."

      When I was 15, my mother took me to this country bar/restaurant in Rochester where Country Music Artist Keith Urban was playing, before he was famous. He was brand new to the country music scene and I had no idea who he was, and I don't remember much of the event (notethis was pre-camera phones).

     The part that stands out in my memory was after the concert was over, when he was signing autographs. Everyone lined up in front of the little stage and he had his black sharpie out and was signing anything anyone handed him.  I do remember him being a very nice guy because my mom asked if she could have his water bottle and if he'd sign it for her, and he did. (She later sold it on eBay.)

      She also told me to bring my writing binder with me.  The one filled with all of my song lyrics and poetry that I had written over the last year, and give it to him.  And I did, bring it with me, that is.

     I had my thick black binder in my hand and was holding onto it during the entire concert.  But when it was time for us to approach him for an autograph, my mom asked me, "Are you going to give it to him?" and I'm standing there, surrounded by all these people (some of whom were not very nice, I remember there being a lot of budging in line and this one girl being really nasty to me) and I was terrified.  I'm thinking "What is he going to do with it?"  He wasn't going to have time to read it, and I wasn't about to just GIVE all my emo, depressing, really personal poetry/lyrics away to some guy I didn't even know and had no idea of just how famous he would end up being.  So, I didn't give it to him.  I panicked and just took the water bottle and said thanks and walked away.

      My anxiety issues had started around then and I was in a room full of people I didn't want to be in, listening to music I didn't know and didn't really like (not a big country music fan...) and I got scared.

      Did I lose out on an opportunity by doing this?  If by some chance, he did read my lyrics and did think they were good enough and give them to someone he knew, or maybe he himself could have composed music for them and sang them, would I be living a very different life right now?

      Or would he have given me advice and moved on? Or said, sorry kid, I can't read them right now?

     My point is, I was young and scared, but I allowed that fear to take over my life and not take that chance of something happening.  There is a very big chance nothing would have come of it, because I am sure a lot of people have given him stuff like that before, but then again, he was just starting out himself and maybe would have given me a chance.  I don't know what would have happened.  All I know is that I learned a lesson.  Looking back on that day and the choice I made, I learned to never give up an opportunity purely because you're scared.

     Change is scary.  Taking a risk is scary.  But sometimes, the risk is worth it in the end because the outcome will be so much more than you could have ever dreamed of.

     About a month ago, I took a risk.  I reached out to another writer I know who also runs a small publishing company and asked if they were accepting new submissions.  They weren't, but she still wanted to read my story.  A week later, she replied with, "I want this story."

     Now, a short story I wrote back in 2009 is being published in a short story anthology.  Now, I have my foot in the door.  Being published, even by a small company, is STILL BEING PUBLISHED!  This will get my name and my work out there and people will read it!  Does this scare me? Of course it does, because I know that not everyone out there will like me or my stories ... but everything you want in life is just one step outside of your comfort zone.  And I want this more than anything.

     So I'm taking a leap forward and seeing where I land.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Creating is terrifying. It's actually not, it's the sharing of the creation, or even *the thought* of sharing the creation that's terrifying."

I have been writing the Aubrey Nightingale Series (originally entitled 'The Grand Awakening', and before that, I believe it was called something along the lines of, "Get me the fuck out of this town before I kill someone with my magic" because I could not think of a name that did the story justice) for so long now, that I feel like it will never be finished.  If you aren't familiar with this story, I will give you the gist of where the idea came from and the process of where it has come to today.

It started in 2006, when I was living in the Southern Tier of New York state, the cesspool that is the tiny, dismal, depressing city of Binghamton.  I don't mean to offend anyone by saying that, but in all honesty, I don't think it's possible to offend anyone because everyone who lives there, has ever lived there or has even visited there, knows that it is nothing more than a pile of decrepit corpses with a mixture of snooty SUNY kids, most of which are from NYC, whose parents are too cheap to send them to a school in NYC.  (BU is actually a really hard school to get into. It is the SUNY equivalent of Harvard or Yale, but it doesn't change the fact that the majority of the students are still stuck up, arrogant, inconsiderate, butt-faced miscreants.)

I moved down there to be with my sons father and was able to finish my A.A.S. degree at BCC (Broome Community College), which wasn't that bad.  A lot of the professors there were adjuncts or fresh out of their Masters program and in the process of getting their PH.D., so they knew what we were dealing with.  (School is hard, even community college, believe it or not.)

The time I spent living there, I did not know anyone outside of my son's father's family.  I was quasi-friends with his cousins, who were our age, but it wasn't easy for me being so isolated.  Once we moved out of his parent house, things got a little easier as far as relationships went, but also got a little harder because I did not drive at the time.  I didn't have my own car and my ex's car was a stick shift, as was his parents.  He tried teaching me to drive it, but I'm going to be completely honest, have no patience for a manual transmission, and every time we'd get in the car and I'd attempt this frustrating  task of switching back and forth between the clutch and the shifter and gas and break and OMG TOO MANY PEDALS.  Even now, seven years later, I still sometimes hit the wrong pedal when I'm driving... (oops...)  Granted I just got my drivers license not even three months ago (March 4th).  I've always had anxiety issues with driving because there are just so many things you have to pay attention too and it was very overwhelming.  It's easier now that I've been doing it more often, but I'm not a pro yet.

So, we'd moved into our own apartment in August of '06, right before the semester started.  The only people I had were my son and his father.  I had no friends, I had no family, I was really isolated.  I remember one day, we'd gone to the store to get groceries and I was standing in the parking lot of Wegmans while he packed the groceries in the trunk, and I looked at the scenery around me, and realized we were surrounded by hills, to me they looked more like mountains because of how I was feeling at the time, and I just thought to myself "Holy shit, I really am trapped in the middle of a fucking valley, with no way out."  It was a moment of sheer panic and claustrophobia that I had never experienced before.

And that is how the Vale got it's name.

The character of Aubrey is partly based on myself (I, unfortunately, do not have real magical powers, BOO), and my time spent living in Binghamton; being "trapped in the Vale" became an inside joke with myself, and soon, the only friend I made down there, my Katie.

I met her at Mom's House; a free daycare for single women who are attending school full time.  It was a program run by a church, but did not overly push their religious beliefs on us (thank the stars because we all know I'm not religious), and the Mom's had to give 3 hours per week service time to help the program, duties that included making breakfast,lunch and snack, cleaning toys, bathrooms and playground equipment, paper work, etc.  It was a lucky break for me, because I had no idea how I was going to pay for daycare, and when I called them, they had one opening available in the room for his age group, and that was the same room Katie's daughter was also in.

We didn't really become friends until the second semester.  We both attended BCC and our "service time" at Mom's House was at the same time on Tuesday's and Thursdays.  I had come into a problem that semester;  my son's father needed the car to find a new job and I didn't have a way to get to Mom's House to do my service time, and since Katie had the same time as I did, I asked her if I could meet her at BCC and ride with her to Mom's house and I would chip in gas money.  Katie, being the nicest person alive, said sure no problem.

It was so nice because we became friends pretty fast.  She was a single mother and didn't have a lot of help so I offered to babysit her daughter anytime she needed, whether it be to study or go shopping or just to take a nap.  That was when our kids became best friends, and they still are to this day.

I told her about my isolation and about the Vale and Aubrey and everything came together in my head.  Slowly, I started writing the story.  The first draft was with paper and pen and it's probably the worst thing I've ever read in my life, looking back on it now.  I had no freaking idea what I was doing.  But it was so exciting and cathartic and healing.  Katie ended up moving into the same apartment complex as us, only a few buildings down the path and that was one of the best things that ever happened to me, having the only person I knew right down the block from me.

Katie became the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Not long after I graduated from BCC in May of 07', my son's father and I broke up.  He moved back in with his parents and I was stuck up on the hill, within walking distance to NO WHERE, except for a special needs school that was right across the street from the entrance to the complex, (which is where I got my first job only a month after graduating, only because I could walk there and didn't need a ride from anyone...) I fell into a deep depression.  My anxiety level rose through the roof because I couldn't afford to pay the rent by myself or any of the other bills.  And I had no one. I had no way of going anywhere, I started going grocery shopping with Katie, or asking my son's dad to take me to the store, which I hated having to do.  I had become so dependent on others, I didn't know how to survive on my own .

I ended up losing my job after only six months because it got so bad.  All I wanted to do was be with my kid because he was the only thing keeping me sane at the time.  And, of course, Katie.  I am not one to need a lot of friends, but I am one who needs a few close, trustworthy friends, who understand me, and she was the first person in my entire life who I felt completely understood me.

So much to the point where she inspired the character of Rhea Kenti, which you don't meet until the second book, BEYOND THE VALE, that I am still working to finish...

And here is where my problem comes in.

Writing is an absolutely terrifying experience, and it's not so much the writing part, but as Hank Green said so brilliantly in his YouTube video "We're All Scared", it's the sharing of that creation that scares us.

When you write a book, or poem, or short story, or song, or painting, or ANYTHING IDEA YOU HAVE, you are creating life.  You are, in a way, playing God.  You come up with these characters, these people, who to you are amazing and wonderful and you love them like your own children, but as soon as you share that life with another person, you give them the power to potentially rip your soul apart.  And GIVING SOMEONE ELSE THAT KIND OF POWER OVER YOU IS ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING.  And it makes you completely vulnerable.

Now, I know that not everything you or I write or create is going to be horrible, but the anticipation of not knowing what they are thinking is just as bad as them telling you "Wow, this is the worst piece of garbage I've ever read."

Even though I am in love with Aubrey and Azra and Rhea and everything that makes up the world of Aubrey Nightingale, I also know that doesn't mean everybody else will be.  It doesn't mean anybody else will be.  And lately, I have been feeling so TERRIFIED of my story being rejected, that I haven't written anything.  Every time I open the document for BEYOND THE VALE, I re-read what I've already written, and edit almost everything, and rephrase it because I think it sounds stupid, even though I've read so many books that write a similar phrase just the way I did (not in a plagiarizing way, but somethings are just said a certain way in the American English language, in books, TV shows and normal everyday dialogue.)  I have to force myself to stop reading what I DON'T NEED TOO, and just scroll down to page 51 and finish where I left off... but the fear takes over me, and the self doubt is floating around in my head, and I have this overwhelming feeling that some invisible being is standing behind me, reading over my shoulder, telling me how much I suck at writing.

Watching Hank's, and a few other's, YouTube videos last night, all of which were about being scared of this, has REALLY helped me to see that, not only am I not the only one who feels this way, but that I need to find a way to get over the fear, and remember that everything I do in my life, I am taking a risk.  Getting in the car and driving to the store, I take the chance of getting into an accident.  I walk outside and take a chance at getting stung by a bee or hit by a bus or exposed to some random toxic chemical that was released into the air by a group of crazy terrorists and dying ...

{Anything could happen.  I'm not saying it's likely, but the possibility is always there.}

I don't want to live my life in fear anymore.  I've been doing it for so long; allowing the anxiety and societal pressure to be what they want me to be to take over my entire life, to the point where I can't even work like a normal person because real people scare the shit out of me.

"... Which is why talking to a stranger is always scary ... because when you talk to a new person, you are making you inside of them, and you don't want to do a bad job!  And that's why we all fear judgment so much, because judgment is just someone creating you inside of their head without your permission, without full knowledge of who you are, they're making you, but they're making you improperly. It's terrifying." (Hank Green)

It works the same with that we create.  Because everything inside your head is only 100% when it's inside your head.  When you give it to another person, they can change it and twist it and form it into how they perceive it from their point of view, and I want to make sure people really see what I'm creating.  I want people to understand that there is a point and a purpose to what I write...  Now, I don't want to tell you what to think, please don't get me wrong, that's a terrible and very wrong thing for anyone to do.  I just want to make sure that I'm doing a good job of creating myself, and my characters, properly.

I apologize for the length of this post. I really needed to get all of this out, and sometimes a lot of word vomit is the only way to do it.  Thank you for reading.

"Don't Forget To Be Awesome." ~The Green Brothers   ;-)

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Four (Five, really) Agreements.“Humans hardly know what they want, how they want it, or when they want it.”

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. (“Whatever happens around you, don't take it personally... Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” )

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are tired as opposed to well rested. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Don’t believe yourself or anybody else. Use the power of doubt to question everything you hear: Is it really the truth? Listen to the intent behind the words, and you will understand the real message.  (“I will no longer allow anyone to manipulate my mind and control my life in the name of love.”)

~ Miguel Ángel Ruiz