NaNoWriMo 2018 – 37,500 Words (75% Complete!)

Yesterday was the 18th, 60% done with the month, and 75% done with NaNo! Well, 3/4 of the way to the 50k word goal, at least. I’m feeling pretty good, very pumped to continuously be ahead of the word count, and super proud for spewing out words every day, even if some days that count is paltry at best. It’s building the habit that’s important right now. I do wonder, though, if when I’m editing I should continue some kind of daily first-draft-type writing and how to balance this kind of work with the more conservative, delete-heavy, stress-out-over-every-word work that editing brings.

So here’s the way the last week looked:

Almost 12,000 words in under a week is very exciting!

I’ve done a little writing this morning, so I’m a smidgen farther than this now, but I am behind my goal of 50k by the 20th, obviously (that would be a miraculous 12k in a day. I mean, not impossible, but not bloody likely). I’m in the hardest part of the book now which is the end bits. I’m just at the edge of the climactic arc (is that a thing?), and tying everything together. I’m really excited about this part in theory because I’ve been imagining it for quite a while, but the specifics are still too vague. Just more evidence that a well-thought-out and tightly constructed outline is the way to go before banging out a first draft.

Bumping up to 20 minute sprints, I’m not seeing the jump in word count that I should be. In fact, I’m doing worse. I averaged 469 words per 15 minute sprints which works out to 31.23 words per minute, but at 20 minute sprints I’m averaging 563 words which works out to a lower 28.15 wpm. It’s very close, and I find myself checking the timer during the 20 minute sprints, worrying I didn’t start it, so they feel longer and are clearly less productive. It may behoove me to jump back down to 15 minute sprints, but I perhaps haven’t given myself enough 20 minute sprints to get into the groove. Technically I’ve only done more than one 20 minute sprint a day twice so far, so I’ll give them a few more days to work themselves out–they deserve that, though I might be done by then!

I’m developing a better voice for my characters now. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go humorous with this story, especially since I opened with a pretty dark scene, and I was trying to set up a world that was full of esoteric magic and walked the veil between life and death, but some of the concepts–like vampires and werewolves–just don’t feel right to me without an injection of self-awareness and whimsy. These characters by no means live in the same world as Vacancy, but their world can’t take itself that seriously. This does mean, though, a lot of editing is ahead of me, and finding a healthy balance between that eerie darkness that I love and recognizing that the word “fireball” is very silly.

And I’m still not sure what to do with this story when it’s edited and done. I contemplated self publishing, but that’s not an alternative to traditional publishing, it’s just a different road with a LOT of work behind it. I may release it by chapter on Wattpad, or maybe even here, or both! I hope that giving away some of my work for free will eventually develop me an audience for the future, but I also struggle with the idea that that devalues one’s work. Case in point: the 99 cent novel. I could write a whole ranty blog about that and still end on the note: I JUST DON’T KNOW.

Anyway, I’m headed back to the giant text file that Google Docs can hardly handle and am very hopeful that I’ll report #winning in a few short days. I’m headed out of state for the holiday soon, so I may get pushed out to the end of November, but I am determined. Happy writing, Dear Reader!

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Why Do You Write?

Chris Fox, who I’ve written about before, posted a video recently asking this question: Why do you write? I love listening to videos and talks when I’m doing chores because it gets me in a creative mood, and this was no exception. It’s short and sweet and motivating.

Like most animals, humans are, I guess, compelled to pass on their genes. That or sex is just pretty nifty and babies are a natural outcome of copulation. Either way, I think it’s pretty natural to want to be remembered after we die. My experience in life has been that I am incredibly forgettable. I mean, the year I was born, my name ~Ashley~ was the second most popular, and still I have been called every other A-name under the sun. The likely hood of me being an Amber, Amy, Alison, Adrian, or Aaliyah is significantly lower than Ashley–AND STILL! I am just not memorable, and it’s been a little hurtful and embarrassing, reminding people of my name, how I know them, and just passively listening to them tell me the same stories over and over because they don’t realize that yes, we’ve met before, you blowhard!

Of course, I shouldn’t care, but it’s made me feel pretty insignificant most of my life (though it’s been less prevalent the older I get), so at least part of why I want to write is so I can leave something behind, something to be remembered by, a way to impact other lives. But I realize as I think over what that would be like, I kind of don’t care if people really remember me anywhere near as much as I just care that they get joy out of my work.

Like Chris mentions in his video, there are approximately two camps of people: the artists and the entertainers. I think I fall much more squarely in the entertainer category. Yes, I want to write good books, and I’d love if someone found a paragraph or a sentence that sounded like beautiful prose to them, but if I can bring someone joy, give them an escape from the drudgery and torment of life (not to be too dramatic, but you know) then I’ll have really felt like I’ve achieved something.

I also just want to see my name on a physical book in a bookstore. Hopefully by the time that happens Barnes and Noble will still be around, but I’d really just love to walk into one and see my name on the shelves, pick up a hard copy, flip through the pages, hold it against my chest and twirl around–you know, the typical things you do with books. I know it’s a very superficial thing, but it will certainly be a marker of “making it.”

And do I want to make money doing this? YES. OF FUCKING COURSE I DO. Will I ever be Stephen King or J.K. Rowling rich off writing? No, I will not be, that just isn’t in the cards–BUT I do think I can pull an upright seven of pentacles on this bitch if I work hard enough.

This is a great time, I think, to ask yourself this question if you’re doing NaNo. You’ve slogged through a few days, maybe you’re super pumped and ahead of schedule, maybe you’re super far behind and suffering from a block, maybe you’re completing the exact amount of words everyday and it’s going just fine, but contemplating your truth can only help you. And it’s not too late to start or to catch up right now. Hell, we were just given an extra hour by the universe and the American government–use those 60 minutes to poop out some words! Even if it’s a manifesto on writing, just do it.

Blogoween Day 7 – An Introspection or Why Do I Love Spooky Stuff?

blogoween

“Hey, kid, why are you so into all this macabre shit?”

That’s what my uncle asked me two years ago just about this, the spookiest, time of year. It really struck me for two reasons: 1) it’s a very funny combination of words, and 2) wtf, for real @me “Why??”

Mostly people don’t ask me why I like spooky things, they just accept it when we meet. But my uncle’s known me my entire life, albeit on an off, so when we saw one another for the first time in many, many years, and I expressed so much excitement about ghosts and witches and the undead, he actually asked. And I didn’t have an answer.

So I’ve been thinking about it since then–yes, actually for two years–and I still don’t really have a good answer. I thought maybe there would be some triggering moment in my childhood or one aspect of Halloween that really dug its claws into me, but there seems to be no one thing. I’ve attempted an intro-spook-tion, if you will, but don’t get excited for a conclusion.

Halloween is, in many ways, the last bastion of imagination for adults. As an only child, I used my imagination a lot when I was kid.

AD Alone Always
Don’t worry, I enjoy it immensely.

And I didn’t really let it go when I grew up. I’m a big fan of “what if” now. It’s not a particularly useful characteristic when you’ve got anxiety (it actually might be a core component), but it does make life more interesting. My what ifs aren’t always “what if I trip in front of these strangers and am then forced to relive that moment of embarrassment every night before falling asleep for the rest of my life?” sometimes they’re “what if my pharmacist with the long blond hair and pronounced canines who always works evenings shifts is a vampire and is developing a pill to replace the vampiric need for blood?” or “what if when I go into this completely empty public restroom and all the sound is shut out I really have entered into another dimension and when I go back out I’m in a different *timeline?”

Halloween makes those what ifs not exactly possible but more people seem to entertain them in their own minds. So ultimately, I’m less weird for a short time every year, and that feels kinda nice.

Speaking of being a kid and also a total fucking weirdo, I’ve always had a strange relationship with my own emotions. I guess, really, everyone does, so maybe this isn’t unique, but I feel like I’ve been on this roller coaster my whole life where for a few months or years I was a complete slave to whatever my tiny mammal brain decided I was going to feel, and then there would be a span of time that I was so in control of my feelings that I would barely be able to experience them at all. I’ve come to find that throughout all that, fear has been the only constant. I can’t step back from it and analyze it. I can reason with myself when I’m feeling almost every other emotion, but fear happens to you in a way that the others don’t. Fear is sudden and, frankly, reliable.

And fear makes you forget everything else. You can’t worry about the distant future when you’re concerned with surviving the next ten seconds as you run up the stairs from the basement, you know?

But why ghosts and goblins and zombies and skellies? Honestly, no fucking clue, dude. The supernatural has always been such a draw to me. I guess I look at the world, and it’s so damn boring and like, I KNOW it’s just like how it is, right? I believe in science, I would like to believe there’s a cool place you go when you die or you get another chance at life, but I know logically that probably not (don’t get me wrong, I’m holding out hope, Dear Reader, I’m just sadly able to rationalize a lot of it away). But having these fun concepts and these things that people have believed in a feared across cultures and millennia as an active part of my life just feels…right?

Modern American life is so sterile. I don’t think this is necessarily bad, it’s actually great that things are clean, and we’re very aware of the way the world around us works, and yes I am incredibly privileged and lucky to be safe and healthy and surrounded by opportunity. But doesn’t that just all lend itself to a longing for something…mysterious? Something dark?

Something…spooky?

 

*I used to think I should come up with a code phrase to use with Husband for the timeline situation; however, I’ve figured that it’s quite likely the code word would be the same across most dimensions because if I am in an instance where I think I’ve fucked off into the wrong dimension, but it’s only a feeling and everything else appears to be the same, it would be INCREDIBLY coincidental that the only difference would be the code word which ultimately nullifies the code word.

Millennial Motivation

One of the many things that my FitBit does that I love (#notsponsored by the way, as if I needed to clarify) is offers “Sleep Insights.” When you look at your sleeping pattern on the app, there’s a little box that usually says something generic about getting better sleep or offers an average data point like “people your age usually get 6 hours of sleep per night.”

But sometimes, Dear Reader, it praises me. And as a millennial, I NEED THAT. (At least, that’s what the Baby Boomers who hung out with one twenty something and tangentially figured out the internet have been telling me.)

So the other day, my Sleep Insight was basically “you’ve done a great job this week with a consistent wake up time!” and I’m like HELL YEAH. It’s the little things, really.

Screenshot_20180117-075140
Note: That Wednesday night I got an INSANE amount of sleep because I loaded myself up on melatonin and sleepytime tea and went to bed super early to stave off sickness.

And then you can “like” or “dislike” the tip, and if you like it, well, let me just show you:

Screenshot_20180117-075150

IT’S SO CUTE, AND I CAN’T LET THE MOON DOWN.

So I won’t. I’ll keep going to bed consistently (not at 6pm, don’t worry) and being a super good adult and getting the right amount of sleep and be rewarded for it not through anything tangible or actually important, but via a cute little image on an application. And is that really so bad?

Maybe it actually would be bad if it were telling me I was doing a good job when I wasn’t, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. FitBit routinely tells me thing like “looks like your sleep pattern is off, no wonder you’ve been feeling like shit recently” (well, not exactly that, I did say “like”) and in general I can be pretty hard on myself in my mind anyway, so this little bit actually helps. Like for real genuinely helps.

Generation Y (born between about 1980 and 2000) takes a lot of shit, probably because we’re the first generation to be growing up with the internet so every fucking thing is so public and anyone can hop up on their soapbox to bash anyone else. It’s also got to be hard to be from a previous generation and to have suffered under elders silently, just waiting for their turn to be the authority and then to have that last beacon of hope taken away from them by uppity youngsters who demand bullshit like “equality” and “work-life balance” and “pumpkin spice lattes.” But I think the most pervasive dig at Millennials is that we’re lazy and require recognition for even the littlest things.

First of all, it was you fucks who handed out the participation trophies in the beginning, so I don’t know why you’d talk shit on the very thing you created, but what-ev-er. Also, you gotta realize that there were real-world rewards back then that don’t exactly exist now: tuition is up 150% and homes cost three times what they used to while Millennial salaries are 20% lower (adjusted) than when our Baby Boomer counterparts earned at the same stage of life.

But more importantly, I think we should take a look at why requiring recognition irks some people so much. The concept of shutting up and keeping your nose to the grindstone, doing more than your fair share, never questioning, never proposing new ideas, and above all else, NEVER complaining just seems so unhealthy and very much the mindset of someone who is either already in charge and happy with the status quo at the detriment of someone else, or someone who has never been in charge and feels like if they suffered, then everyone else must as well, neither of which are appealing–not to me at least.

There’s so much we can all learn from one another, and nothing can be learned in a world where questions aren’t allowed, and I’d argue that friendly incentives or inspiration are only helpful, so I’m going to keep loving my little moon friend in lieu of a debt-free college experience and call that fair. I hope that’s okay, but what do I know, I’m only 30 (and a half).

The Liberation That Comes With Asking Questions

I suggested in my how to not fuck up 2018 post that if you want to make any kind of change in the new year, you shouldn’t be afraid of asking for help, and I think part of that is just in general asking questions.

This may only apply to me because I’m a god damned weirdo, or more broadly to people with anxiety, and probably also people who were praised a lot as a kid for being smart, but hopefully some of you will be able to identify with this sentiment: I used to be terrified of asking questions. Like legit sweat dripping, red-faced, fluttering heartbeat, all that bullshit at just the thought of asking someone what something meant or how to do something. With the ability to look back now, I know I was afraid of looking stupid or being a nuisance, not to mention my underlying fear of just speaking up in general, so the thought of doing any of that threw me into an almost instant panic attack.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to ask questions very frequently because I was very well rounded as a kid and inquisitive on my own. I watched a lot of (adult) television so I was exposed to many things that I was lucky enough to retain, and I had access to the internet from the time I was about eight-ish, so I could easily look just about anything up (granted it was significantly harder 20 plus years ago!) From doing my own research and basically never taking anything at face value, I quickly learned that people believe in a lot of things that just aren’t true, and since I was privileged enough to be exposed to so much, I was super judgey as a kid when other kids asked questions that I already knew the answer to, so I had a very “damn, I don’t want people to feel that way about me!” mentality.

That changed when I was in college and tutoring English and writing. I worked with so many different students, kids fresh out of high school, people in their fifties coming back to school, English as a second language students, and students who had a really great grasp on writing but knew a second set of eyes on their work could only help. Sometimes, especially early on in my tutoring career, I’d use words or phrases with students that they didn’t understand, and they would sheepishly ask my to clarify. Almost every single time they would then apologize for not knowing. This kind of knocked me for a loop because while I felt the same way these people did, embarrassed to not know and apologetic to bother someone for an answer, when I was being asked–when I was on the other side of that experience–I very passionately believed they should not be embarrassed or apologetic. See, I knew these people, I knew they were intelligent, and I knew their stories, and for the most part they didn’t know certain things because they never got the chance to know them. I quickly adopted a “no stupid questions” policy, and was always quick to admit to them when I didn’t know something, but we always had a laptop handy to look anything up together.

It still took me some time to cultivate my own ability to ask questions because you cannot reason anxiety away, you just have to fight through it, so while I knew it was okay to not know something, I couldn’t get over that sweaty, scared feeling. I flopped like a fish on dry land over that hump one day when the tutoring lab supervisor, my boss, called me “reticent.” I didn’t know what that word meant, and even though I was in front of him and a number of my tutoring peers, I decided that was the best time to break myself, so I asked. And you know what happened? Nothing.

He thought for a second, defined the word, then we all moved on. I didn’t feel like a moron, and no one tried to make me feel stupid either. Of course, this isn’t everyone’s experience, and since then I have had literally dozens, maybe hundreds of times where I’ve asked “what does that mean?” or “what’s that?” and been met with the dreaded and incredibly unhelpful, “You don’t know what X is???” But let me tell you something: if someone says that to you, you look them right in the eyes and say “No, I fucking don’t.” Chances are they are just being a self-centered prick and are reveling in the fact they’re a gatekeeper to some kind of knowledge and are superior. They probably don’t get to feel that way very often, so just pity them and then google your answer, showing them they really are as useless as they just proved themselves to be.

I find myself now asking “what does that word mean?” most often because I love words and want to collect as many as possible in my tiny brain. I rarely feel stupid asking questions, and I rarely judge other people for asking “dumb” questions. And even if I do think a question is stupid, I work really hard to not let it show on my face and to explain everything. I think I’ve kind of perfected this after working in IT for the last almost two years. And to those of you with anxiety that I just made this worse for: don’t worry. I don’t associate that once time Susan in accounting asked me how to copy and paste with Susan’s intelligence forever especially not if she retains it and uses it going forward. There’s hope for us all!

And now I realize: I CAN KNOW SO MUCH MORE. WHY WAS I SO DUMB BEFORE? The thing I was afraid of being I actually made myself into being by not just asking questions when I should have! And I feel so fucking free.

So ask questions. Don’t be afraid. If someone acts like you’re dumb for not knowing something then chances are they’re actually pretty stupid, or at least mean, and in either case unworthy of you caring what they think about you. Free yourself and learn some shit.

A Question For You (seriously, please comment)

Let’s do a creative exercise, shall we? This is a game I like to play with Husband on occasion, but I’ve elaborated here a lot. You don’t have to post your answers, but by god would I love it if you did.

Tell me about yourself. Not current dimensional timeline you. Tell me about you in dimension 104-D where alternate reality you is a pop* superstar. I want to know the following:

Your stage name or band name (or both!):
You music sounds like a mix between these two artists:
Instrument/s played (voice counts):
First Single:
World tour theme:
Compilation album title:
Name of another famous person you’re rumored to have hooked up with:
Name of the musician you do a Christmas duet with AND the song:
Name of the film or TV show (can be fictional, but please elaborate) you inexplicably guest star in and the role you play:
Your favorite candle scent:
That time you fucked up but everyone forgave you for it because you’re so damn awesome:

*Pop = popular, not pop music per se, BUT IT CAN BE.

Questions Only A Cat Can Answer

Why are you so obsessed with the toilet?

Even after the great plunge of two ought seventeen, you still insist on challenging a one-handed me to keep you at bay.

How can you differentiate the toilet from, say, the couch? Both are sat upon, both are read upon. How do you know this seat is special?

Why do you want to lick the edge of the toilet bowl? Just…why?

Do you think that you pitiful whining when the seat cover goes down will actually change my mind? Oh, of course, kitten, let me just leave this up for you. That’s a great idea.

Why don’t you have enough self preservation to NOT jump onto a surface that is sometimes actually a hole?

How is the sound of a urine stream so mesmerizing?

Where do you think the hole goes? Are you convinced we’re keeping something from you? A magical fun-time world that is, for some reason, at the end of tiny tube filled with water that makes horrifying noises?

Is this obsession going to end? Should I enroll you in some sort of 12 step program?

Kitten, are you okay?