Friday, September 18, 2009

A Heavy Mind

What did I write today? Nothing today or yesterday, but 767 words on Tuesday.

...Is not a creative one.

Lately I've been having some problems, mostly regarding money and my current lack of it, which have been weighing heavily on my mind. Despite all my attempts to put it out of my head when I try to write, I think it still lingers in the back and I cannot bring myself to even try to motivate myself.

I feel like my attention should be spent on more important things, or at the very least not on something as hard as writing (especially RE-writing). Doesn't help that I gave myself extremely ambitious goals and I still (for some insane reason) intend to meet them despite how behind I am.

I guess I just don't like to give in.

This is probably why I prefer writing in the very early hours of the day. It's too early to worry about anything because it's do early to do anything about them, but the problems have gotten to the point that even then its hard to focus. Even at night, it feels as if I am burdened with guilt of "why didn't I do more?" or "what am I going to do tomorrow?" or "what will I do if ______ doesn't happen?" etc. Even if I make a plan and put it out of my head, I still feel that lingering stress that doesn't want to leave.

Maybe I'm just down because I missed so many days of writing. I think most writers just don't feel right if they don't get words down in the day. I know my day will be absolutely dreadful if I don't do my Morning Pages.

I suppose the trick is to write when I can (in the morning!) and not be too hard on myself. Even a little productivity is better than none. If it isn't even writing, that's still good. I also had college responsibilities I also had to meet and so it isn't really surprising that I couldn't bring myself to write anything creatively yesterday.

In the end, these are all excuses.

An empty is a productive one.

If I just stop worrying so much about everything and just sit down and write, the words will flow.

I know this. It just feels a bit too hard to do at the moment and I felt like ranting a little.

Don't we all at one point?

(Sorry for skipping a post. That time I actually had homework and ran out of time. Next time though I have an interesting post already planned. An idea inspired during my Morning Pages. ^^)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Originality is Overrated

What did I write today? 263 words of Chapter 2. Am I officially in a slump?

Got your attention with that, didn't I?

Actually I enjoy originality. I love when a story surprises me in a good way and takes a well-known concept to a whole new level.

But notice how I said taking something already known. Though originality is good, it's near impossible to be the first to create a completely original idea.

Today at class, I was reminded of this. I'm a Communication Major and it was a T.V. Production course. At the end of the lesson about storyboarding, we had to make our own on the spot to see if we grasped the technical aspects of it. So, the professor played on some instrumental music and told us to create.

I listened for a few minutes and I instantly had the picture of a beach in my head. I then saw a woman standing on the beach, waiting. Who was she waiting for? Ah, her boyfriend! He appears and hugs her from behind. The end.

I knew it was nothing special or terribly original, it was the easiest thing I could grasp.

The professor took my paper and asked me what it was out. I told her and suddenly, a fellow student exclaims, "No way! Stop being creepy! That's what I did."

She also made a storyboard about a girl, waiting at a beach...and meets a boy.

And the professor asked who else had a similar idea, and at least one more raised their hand.

But the interesting thing is, I went over to see what she did and besides being a totally better artist than me, her story wasn't exactly the same thing. Her woman was younger and appeared lonely. Then when the boy appears, she looks at him surprised and happy. She rushes to him and hugs him. The end.

Same idea, but done differently. Mine, I had the boy go to the girl and they seemed to be much older, like their twenties. In hers, the girl was the one to hug the boy and they seemed much younger, like teenagers.

I think this happens all the time and it's fine. Many say Twilight and Harry Potter are completely unoriginal, but I disagree (though I didn't read Twilight and I don't really like using them both in the same comparison, but it serves my purpose). True, teenage vampire romances have probably been done a billion times before and a story set in a school for wizards probably done even more.

But its the way they handled it that inspired readers to go crazy over them. The author's unique view turned something that was supposed to completely unoriginal and overdone, into something groundbreaking (the popularity, the sales! They're insane!).

So what do you think? Is it possible to be truly original anymore? Or are we somehow destined to share the same ideas and all we can do is put our own unique spin on them?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Responsibility of Self

What did I write today? A little over 500 words for Chapter 2.

For the last few days, I've been seeing blog posts about this article written by Josh Olson titled "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script" about aspiring writers asking professionals to read their work and how that's wrong.

A lot of people agree wholeheartedly with his opinion. Well, at least agents and professional writers do from what I've read. I only read agents and author blogs, so maybe there's another view I'm missing out on.

But this has been popping up so much, that I finally read the article and felt a strong opinion about it.

There are some things he said that I totally agree. Mostly the quotes you can find on the previously mentioned blogs or even being twittered around. And I agree with them, but I don't agree with Josh Olson's view on the whole situation.

Most of my life, I've been miserable and it took me long time to figure out how to be happy no matter what. I discovered it and though I've yet to master the art, I am practicing it daily. What is it?

Responsibility.

Olson gives this story about how this bad writer asked him to read this synopsis and how he didn't really want to read it, but would feel guilty because it was a friend of a friend who was asking. The writing was horrible, he agonized over how to critique it, and then after he finally gave the writer a response, the bad writer got insulted. Thus Olson thinks amateur writers shouldn't ask professionals to critique their work for free. For him, that in itself is an insult and a "dick" thing to do.

This is how I understood it anyways.

I felt his words were a little contradictory.

He wrote this: "Because here's the thing: not only is it cruel to encourage the hopeless, but you cannot discourage a writer. If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you're not a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, I've done you a favor, because now you'll be free to pursue your real talent, whatever that may be. And, for the record, everybody has one. The lucky ones figure out what that is."

I believe this to be true. But if this is true, then what is the problem? There is no consequence of giving a honest critique because you either helped someone realize he's doing the wrong thing or helped a real writer get better. True, the non-writer may not believe you and feel insulted, but that doesn't matter.

Here is the point of this entry and the lesson I learned on how to be happy no matter what:

Your reaction to other people's words have nothing to do with them.

Other people's reactions to your words have nothing to do with you.

Take responsibility of your own feelings. If you say no (as politely as possible) to reading a person's script or story, it is not you who are making them feel bad. If you're the one who received a bad review, it's not the critic's fault why you feel like crap. And, most importantly, if you say no to a writer and then feel guilty, it's not the writer's fault why you feel guilty.

Do not blame others or yourself. You are solely responsible for the feelings you feel.

There's a difference between blame and responsibility. Blame makes you feel bad or angry. Responsibility doesn't. Feeling responsible gives you power while blame takes your power away. With blame, you can't really do anything about the situation but feel upset, but with responsibility, you're given the opportunity to do something about it.

The only thing I did not like about Olson's article was that he blamed the writer for his situation and not take responsibility. Not only that, he generalized and blamed all the amateur writers that desire feedback or "a pat on the head."

This is the easy way out and though it will probably make you feel temporarily better and feed your ego, it does nothing for your personal growth. Eventually, someone else will do something that will bother you or you will make a choice and pay the consequences of it (which is what happened to Olson). You will get angry and upset...again.

That article would probably never have been written if Olson just said no to reading the script and simply not cared what the person thought. Olson knows he's NOT an asshole (or at least I hope so) and thus, it shouldn't bother him at all. Its the writer's problem, not his.

If he had put himself first, thinking of his work load and what was more important to him, Olson wouldn't have read that "fucking script." This does not make him an asshole. This would have made him a wise human being.

But it's not the writer's fault for asking. The writer, especially this one, is very oblivious to other people. He would not have known Olson was busy, or that he didn't want to read his story, or understood that it put Olson on the spot. If he did, he wouldn't have asked (if he asked while knowing, then he really is a "dick"). But we're not mind readers. We don't know until we ask.

What I'm asking is not easy. Trust me. I know this advice is true and yet even I have moments where I forget and blame others. Its hard to take responsibility of your feelings and, even harder, attempt to change them through will and mind power alone.

It's hard. It takes practice. It will change you forever.

Finally, if amateur writers never sought professional feedback, how will we ever know when we've reached their level or if we're even on the right path? If professionals never give amateurs a chance, how will amateurs ever become professionals?

How can a broke, starving artist ever know he's great if he has to pay someone-who really-knows to tell him so?

If someone wants something from you and it's too much hassle for you, say no. Don't feel guilty. Or experience your guilt without blaming others or yourself.

If you ask for something and they say no or give you something you didn't expect, accept what they give you. Don't feel bad. Or experience feeling bad without blaming others or yourself.

Sometimes it feels good to feel sad or guilty or angry. Sometimes we enjoy it, and that's okay. But once you get enough of it, move on. Don't blame.

If you do this, you will feel so much happier every day or your life.

This I promise you.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Impatience

What did I write today? ....Does this blog post count?

I'm having trouble getting rid of this belief that I can write a publishable novel and get it published in no time flat. I sometimes think of it like a race, even when I know and tell myself it's about the journey, not the destination. I can't help it.

I really want to get published.

I suppose it's harder because of my financial difficulties. Despite everywhere I left resumes and applied, not a single job has called me back and even my college can't afford the work-study program this year. I applied for a loan, but I'm still waiting for that to go through. My denial will cost me dearly.

If I could just get published, get something money from writing which is easier than waiting around and for a check to arrive in the mail, things will get better. Or at least that's what I want to believe.

But if I listen to the countless of wise and experienced publishing professionals and successful writers, it doesn't work like that. It takes time to get published. It takes time to be successful, no matter how well you write. And then the biggest blow...

It takes time to become a great writer.

I know this. I practice it. I slowed down and started reading my writing books which had been collecting dust for some months now. I enrolled in a writing course and started writing short stories, which I think is great practice.

If I feel like I'm progressing, even a little bit, the feeling is amazing and it can go on forever for all I care.

But when bills pile up, and I read really great writers and how far I have to go, and dream every night of greatness, I sometimes wish it would all just go faster or better. At least, I wish I could know if I'm getting anywhere.

This is why I believe a writing partner or critique group is very important. Even a friend or spouse who is in love with your writing is a godsend for a writer's struggle. It's easier to write or work for others than to write and work for yourself. They keep you going for the long run.

Patience is key.

Patience is necessary.

I think the reason there are more successful authors in their 30s, 40s and 50s than in their 20s and under, is because the older you get, the more patient and dedicated you become.

I hope one day I can learn this lesson early from my many teachers (from the books and blogs I read) and learn to go with the flow...

...even when at times it seems like a trickle.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Starting Your Day Right

What did I write today? The first 5 pages of revised Chapter 2 of my novel.

This entry is brought to you by the following realization.

It's easier to start the day on the right foot than it is trying to fix a day gone wrong.

This weekend was long and relaxing. Due to a storm warning, I didn't have class since Thursday. That gave me Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday AND Monday to be productive and write like mad. However, despite all my free time...

I only wrote a pitiful five pages.

(Though if you go by word count, it was a whopping 1,548 words).

I can blame the fact that my younger brother called me and we haven't hung out in so long that I drove the two hours to go see him, saw a movie with him and his friends and then had him sleep over my place. Needless to say, I was distracted. But most of those things took place around or after noon.

So what about the hours before?

I'm most productive in the insane hours of the morning. In fact, my alarm always goes off at 4am in the morning with the intention of writing at around 5am. Unfortunately, my body sometimes doesn't like being dragged out of bed while it's still dark out because I went to bed too late, or I just had a great dream and wanted to finish it. And that's when it all goes wrong.

The minute my morning routine doesn't start the way I like, all productivity goes down the drain for the rest of the day.

I cannot concentrate. Everything distracts me. I spend my hours procrastinating and surfing mindlessly on the Internet, reading blogs and re-reading my e-mail. Even when I realize my behavior is totally unacceptable, I can't seem to snap out of it. I have already convinced my mind that it's another day off and it's having nothing to do with writing or work or anything hard.

If I do salvage the day, it's usually late at night when I force myself to write something before going to bed...thus going to bed late...then waking up late and repeating the cycle.

But this doesn't always happen. I often have great productive days! And today is turning out to be one of them. It's because I started it right.

Step One. Start the night before.

Sick of my lack of productivity, before going to bed last night, I mentally pumped myself up for the day before. I reaffirmed all my goals, visualized them complete and remembered why they were so important to me.

This makes you eager to wake up on time the next day and be productive.

I must have done something right cause that night I even dreamed I was writing.

Step Two. Have a Morning Routine.

Before getting to work, I have a ritual. I write my Morning Pages (Invented by the great and wonderful Julia Cameron in her work"The Artist's Way"), write down all that I'm grateful for, read my goals, write affirmations, visualize my goals completed and read or listen to a chapter of a spiritual book (I just finished listening to the audio book of "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success" by Deepra Chopra).

This sort of routine is also referred to as a daily appointment with yourself by Scott "the nametag guy" Ginsberg.

It can be anything you want to do that gets you motivated and focused.

After that, I'm pumped up and ready to work! Sometimes I get weak and check my email quick before getting started, but I refuse to let myself do anything more than that until I've written for at least an hour.

But I realized that after this great pick me up in the morning, my day sort of fizzles out by the afternoon. So I discovered a new habit!

Step Three. Mid-Day Pick Me Up.

I'm a spiritual person, so I practice meditation. Since I sometimes fall asleep if I meditate right after I wake up, I started doing it during the afternoon. This is a great opportunity to remind myself of my goals and commitments! I can take an hour, thirty or fifteen minutes to simply repeat what I did in the morning.

Again, this can be whatever you'd like, as long as it pumps you up and keeps you positive and focused on being productive. It doesn't even have to take long.

We all need a reminder now and again about why we do the crazy things we do.

So basically, it's a new cycle. This time a positive cyle that creates productivity. You pretty much repeat the same thing once at night, then in the morning and again in the afternoon. I think it's a great way to start the day right and keep it that way.

Do you have a morning routine?

Please let me know in your comments. I'm always curious to see how others start their day on the right foot.

-Till next time.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Just Do It.

I always wondered what is more important; your sanity or getting the work done.

Deadlines are important for writers working with a editor or just themselves. They help us be focused and adds pressure. But when you're writing on your own, when do you know you're pushing yourself too hard? How do you know your time line is insane and impossible, like say revise an entire novel in a month?

The answer I always find is: "it depends on the person." Meaning, it's up to us to decide.

But when you keep missing the deadline and never seem to ever finish the daily to-do list, is it because we're not pushing ourselves hard enough or did we set the bar too high?

I think I've finally found the solution to this problem of mine! I'm going to push myself till near the brink of death to finish everything I said I was going to for the day. Get it done even if it means missing sleep for a few days. At the end, if I'm barely standing or conscious, then its most likely I'm biting too much than I can chew. If I feel great and productive, then obviously I have to push myself and I can.

All it comes down to is action. I can second guess myself forever, but I'll never come to a decision unless I just shut up and do it.