October Hiatus? NaNoWriMo?

hiatus:

[hahy-ey-tuh s] 

nounplural hiatuses, hiatus.

1.  a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.

(Thank you, dictionary.com for that fabulous definition.)
If you’re a person (like me) who follows any TV series, you know full well the definition of this word Hiatus.  For people who watch certain shows, it means a long wait between seasons that can be quite annoying. *Cough* Sherlock *cough*

Anyways, here’s a little blog post to say… this blog is going to have an October Hiatus.  I want to take some time off to focus on my actual book-writing projects (and on my homework) as well as on some other creative endeavors.

I hope to see you all on November 1st, where I’ll probably have a post up about how great the first day of NaNoWriMo is going and how excited I am for the month ahead.

Until then, keep your hearts in your story and your fingers on the keys.  Good luck.

P.S. NaNoWriMo starts in a month!  Are you lovely folks signing up?  If you’re looking for a buddy, my NaNo username is SharpieBeth, and I’d love you to friend me.  I’m always looking for more friends to sign up for that crazy adventure with me.

gandalf share in adveture

 

P.P.S If you’re super sad that I’m not filling your October with lots of posts about NaNoPrep, feel free to check out all my previous blog posts in the NaNoWriMo category right here.  You might find some inspiration.

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Cheyenne, Wyoming

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This is John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in our Stars (and other great books). He’s one of my favorite YouTubers, as he and his brother Hank make weekly videos about nerdy, silly, serious, relevant, and random things. They make you laugh, make you think, and make you want to make a difference in the world.

Oh, and John Green occasionally talks about book-writing. ANYwho, a few months ago he made a video called Cheyanne, Wyoming, in which he brings up something really interesting: the idea of mentally going away while writing.  Here’s the video if you want to watch it, otherwise, just skip down below!

 

I think there’s definitely some merit to this: to write, we have to live in our story a bit. I think this is why NaNoWriMo works so well for so many people: writing a novel in a month forces you to stay in your story for that time without getting out. It’s like signing up for a month in Cheyenne, Wyoming – and you tell your friends and family about it, so they hopefully understand that you’ll be mentally checked out for 30 days.

But what about when it’s not November?

For most of us, we have Day Jobs (or as my friend Amie calls them, ‘Muggle Jobs’) that take up our time.  Or we’re students, and class and homework are our day jobs.  We have family and friends and responsibilities.  We encounter things every day that make it hard for us to exist in Cheyenne.  How do we apply this to our busy lives?

Here’s something I’ve found: the longer I go without writing, the harder it is to jump back into my story. Or on the flip side, if I write every day, it’s so simple to climb into my story when I sit down to write.

That being said, the sentiment “WRITE EVERY DAY” tends to make me angry, because it implies that if you miss a day of writing, you can’t be a writer (which is NOT TRUE). But if we look at the heat behind it – that to stay mentally connected with your story, you have to visit it frequently – then I think we’ll learn a lot.

I traveled a lot this past summer.  I visited two different continents (Europe and Asia), three different states in the US (Virginia, New Hampshire, and Vermont) and flew over 23,000 MILES.  It seemed like I was gone more than I was home. But now I’m home, and settled, and ready for somewhere new.  I’m packing my bags for Cheyenne, Wyoming. Anyone wanna come?

Not Just a Writer

Let’s talk identity.  Let’s talk self-esteem, self-worth, labels, and life.

The first year or so after I started writing, I found it a terrifying thing to try to talk about my writing.  What would I say?  How do I explain that I’m writing a novel?  How do I talk about my story?  What do I say when people ask “so, what’s your book about?”  My little novel felt like something so personal, like a dark secret that I couldn’t share with anyone I knew.  (Sharing with strangers online to get my work critiqued was oddly unfrightening.  The opinion of strangers mattered much less to me than the opinion of friends or acquaintances.)

It took me a long time to be comfortable sharing with people the fact that I am a writer. But eventually, I learned how to bring it up in conversations.  How to give a few-sentence synopsis of my story when people asked what my book was about.  How to deal with people’s response to me saying “I’m writing a book.”  I was ready; I’d made it.

I was ready to call myself a writer.

When NaNoWriMo came along, I posted about it on Facebook.  I updated a couple times, sharing bits of my writing journey.  When I finished editing my first novel, I even got so bold as to letting friends read my work.  *gasp*

And then I got to the point where it /maybe/ went too far.  I started to find my identity in being a Writer.  *I* was working on getting published.  *I* had written two novels.  *I* was an Amazing, Outstanding, Uniquely Awesome type of person whom everyone should admire.

And then –

Life got busy, and I stopped writing as much.

I decided I probably didn’t want to publish my first novel.  (The simplified version is that I outgrew it.)

Another story idea that I’d run with for a while didn’t want to be made into a novel.

Suddenly, I wasn’t the “Ideal Writer” anymore.  And that made me feel not-so-great.

What if I never got published?  What if I never finished this WIP?  What if I just never sat down to write again?  What if life is just too busy for me as an adult?  What if _____?

You know what?  It doesn’t matter.

You see, my self-worth as a human has never been based on the fact that I’m a writer.  Sure, writing has brought me a lot of joy and fulfillment and made my life better and more interesting.  It’s introduced me to new friends and taught me about hard work and perseverance.  But my value as a human being has never been, and never will be, tied to my writing.  I am not a word-count.  I am not “worthless” if I never publish a book.  All of those ideas are fallacious and dangerous.

My self-worth is found elsewhere.

Someone decided long ago that I was worth dying for.  (His name’s Jesus; he’s a pretty cool guy and I highly recommend being friends with him.)  My self-worth is based off the fact that I’m a child of God, more loved than I could imagine.

As a human being, I have intrinsic value that is not tied to what I do.

Furthermore, I’ve never been just a writer.  I am so many other things, and to describe myself as just one thing would be an oversimplification.

I am a student, studying to get a degree in English with a concentration in Secondary Ed, so that some day I can pass on to others my love for literature, stories, and semi-colons.

I am a book-lover, one who finds pieces of herself scattered across the pages of a hundred different stories.

I am a nerd, one who uses Doctor Who and LOTR quotes to relate to the world around her.

I am a creator, one who finds joy from writing blog posts and making videos and drawing fanart and making cards for people and touching the world in little ways.

I am a friend, one who will support people through literally whatever life throws at them.

I am a (novice) musician, one who finds peace and joy from learning to play an instrument.

I am an equestrian, one who has studied the Silent Language of horses, and can speak back to them in their own language.  When I ride a horse, we do not walk or trot or canter – we fly.

I am a traveler, one who has seen bits and pieces of the world, and has caught a bit of Wanderlust, wanting to see more of the planet I live on.

And yes, I am also a writer: one who turns caffeine into stories, who dreams things into existence, whose fingertips on keys bring unrealities to life.

I am a complex human, and putting pressure on myself to write so that I have value is neither healthy or helpful to my writing process.

 

Okay.  I think that is all for now.  Remember that your self-worth does not come from what you do, and that you should write because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.

Just a Little

In the past four or five days, this is all the writing I’ve done:

Tuesday: 75 words

Wednesday: 73 words

Today: 315 words

These numbers might not look that impressive.  But each of those numbers represents a small victory for me.  None of those were days I wanted to write.  I felt uninspired, unsure, and a little annoyed.  Will this book ever end?  Will it ever be publishable?  Why am I even doing this?  Where is this plot going?

After writing another 75 words today, I was ready to close my laptop and call it quits for the day.  But I didn’t.  I decided to write one more sentence.  And then that spawned the idea for another sentence.  Three paragraphs later, I feel like I’ve finally written myself around the little wall of writer’s block that’s been in my way all week.  I got through the hard scene, and now I’m onto the exciting one.  Now I have a new idea to work with when I write tomorrow.

The longer I’m a writer, the more I’m learning that I need to push myself to work on my novel every day that I can.  And the more I do that, the easier it is to write.

So don’t stress if you can’t write 1,000 words every day.  Make yourself goals and try to stick to them.  For the next week, my goal is to write something on my novel every day.  It doesn’t have to be a ton, but I’m going to try to write consistently every day, even if it’s just a little.

Artsy Stuff and Learning Curves

Hello lovely writers!  Today’s post includes fanart, a poorly-drawn graph, and some rambling about learning to be a writer.  Hope you enjoy!

Long before I was a writer, I was an artist.  (Not necessarily a good one lol.)  I’ve been making things since I was a really little kid.  I’ve been drawing horses and dogs for as long as I can remember, and I’ve taken art classes since I was in middle school.  I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when I finish something I’m proud of.  I’ve always enjoyed art for the escape it provides: when I’m working on a piece of art, the rest of the world is entirely gone.

I’ll sometimes still get out the ol’ pencil box and do some fanart or whatever.  (Some examples below because why not?)

And just recently, I picked up the guitar!  My brother has had a guitar just sitting in his closet for the past few years, and I earlier this summer, I had the sudden idea to ask to borrow it.  So for the past several weeks, I’ve been teaching myself guitar!  (This is why I love the internet, guys: YouTube tutorials, online tuners, free guitar chords, and pretty much anything else you need.)  And it’s been so much fun.  I love the learning curve that exists for when I first learn something new.  It seems like every day I practice, I learn something new.  I’m constantly making big strides; I’m growing exponentially.

For example, the first day of playing guitar I could barely play a few chords.  On the third day, I could play a simple song really slowly.  By day 5, my fingerstips no longer felt like I was slicing them open.  Within just a few weeks, I’ve learned how to use a capo, I can play chords in quick succession, and I’m able to pick up new chords really quickly.  I’m starting to learn strumming patterns and put everything together to play songs at regular tempo.

I fondly remember my early days of writing, when I’d just started out.  Every chapter I completed was uncharted territory; every blog post I read taught me something new.  I was like a sponge as I discovered found craft books and online blogs.  And then about halfway through my first novel, I found the website Critique Circle.  I used to get so excited when my chapters would come up for critique, because I was always learning.  New terms, new ideas, new things to think about.  Characters, tension, showing vs telling, passive vs active voice, dialogue, setting.  So much to learn about.  Writing was so exciting.  It was new and special and a bit scary.  It was also so exciting, because it was so easy to find resources that broadened my knowledge.

Sometimes, now, I find it difficult to be in love with writing.  I’ve grown so much as a writer.  I know so much more; I have a lot more experience; I know what I’m doing.  Not that I’m an expert or anything LOL – obviously I’m always learning and honing my craft.  I’m just… not a beginner anymore.  And because I’m no longer a beginner, I’m not learning new things about writing at the same rate as I was when I first started writing.  For reference, I’ve made this nifty graph:

skill vs time.png

If you’re thinking that it looks like I made this graph if MS Paint, then you’re correct.  🙂

I’m at the point in my writing journey where the speed at which I’m learning has started to level off a bit.  So it’s easier to get discouraged, because I don’t see my skill improving at the same rate it used to be.

That’s why it was so refreshing for me to start learning guitar.  I’m still in the “beginner” phases, where I’m learning so quickly that it’s exciting and enticing.

So here’s a question for all you experienced writers: how do you keep perusing your dreams and your art when the learning gets slow?

I actually do want your answers (leave a comment below!) but I’d also like to add my own answer.  I do it by reminding myself how far I’ve come.  I don’t take for granted the things I’ve learned.  And I remind myself why I learned them.  I didn’t just learn about writing so I could keep all that knowledge in my head.  I learned about writing so I could be a better writer.  

And I’m in love with writing.  Not with being a writer, or knowing about writing, or being a published author, or anything else.  With the actual writing.  With taking an idea and making it come alive.  With editing a mess of a story into a coherent book.  With making magic happen with words and fingertips on keys.  That’s what I love.  The knowledge is just a tool to help me do that better.  So who cares about learning curves?  Let’s go write stories.

I’m Back (in this country)!

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Hello friends!  Sorry for my lack of posting.  I’ve been off exploring and world-traveling, seeing mountains and Lochs and old castles, catching up on sleep and adjusting to time-zones.  In the space of a month, I’ve taken two international trips, plus one domestic trip involving a 12-hour trainride each way.  So while I’ve loved seeing spectacular scenery and cool ruins, I didn’t bring my laptop with me.  (I didn’t really have time for writing anyways.)

But after all my traveling, seeing, and learning, I was a little bit nervous to try my hand at writing again.  It had been a month since I’d worked on this story.  How was I going to jump back in?

Turns out, all it takes to jump back in to writing is to sit down, open my word document, and start working.

Look, it’s hard to go a while without writing.  But it’s also really nice to take some time off and go see the world.  I got to dream and plan and imagine in my time off.  I got to give my head a rest and read some good books and enjoy the beauty of nature.  And now?  Now it’s really nice to be sleeping in my own bed, not living out of my suitcase, and be writing again.  It’s really nice to have free time and cell reception and a story that I’m really excited to be working on.

So no matter where your summer plans are taking you, don’t forget that your writing is waiting.  Your story needs you.  And if it’s been a while since you’ve opened your word-doc, don’t be afraid to grab a coffee, sit down, and write.

 

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On Fear, and Writing for Fun

Bit of a mini-post today.  I just got back from Scotland last week, and I’m leaving the country again tomorrow!  So I’m a bit short on time.  But here’s something that’s been on my mind for a while.

Sometimes, I approach writing with fear or trepidation or pressure or worry or just general negativity.  I found this video (see below) a while ago, and I felt it related really well to being a novelist.  So often, I sit down to write with a voice in my brain going you have to publish story this someday.  You MUST be ‘good enough’ and you MUST write well.  Come on, you’ve been a writer for three years now.  Do better.  Get your act together.  If you’re not good enough, it’s just a whole waste of time.

I found an answer to this problem in a video by Tessa Violet.  She’s a phenomenal YouTuber and singer as well.  In this video, she talks about songwriting, which is super cool – and I think it compares well to novel-writing.  She says this wonderful phrase about two minutes into the video:

“A great way to never write anything is to enter into creativity with fear.”

 

You don’t have to watch the video if you don’t want to.  But she makes an excellent point: fear is the opposite of creativity.

So how do we stop this?  For me, it’s reminding myself that writing is play.  It’s fun.  I have to remind myself that (for now), it’s my HOBBY.  It means taking the pressure off myself to be perfect.  It means reminding myself of the things I like about writing.

It means letting myself enjoy the process, instead of being so very focused on the end result.  It means writing for me, and only me.  For MY enjoyment.  If I share my work later, that’s great!  If I get published later, woohoo!  But my rough draft is only for my eyes, and for my enjoyment.  (Not that every day of writing will be fun, or that it’s all sunshine and butterflies.  But since I’m currently not getting paid to write, literally the only reason I write is because I enjoy it.)

So.  If you’re finding it hard to write right now, maybe take the pressure off for a bit.  Write for the sheer fun of it.  Let your creativity flow, and give yourself permission to have a good time.  You never know what might happen, and you might be surprised by how good your writing is.

P.S. If you’re interested in more YouTube videos about writing and art, I recommend these: John Green, Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Nathan Zed, You’re Not Good Enough.