Sad and Dreary


I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been writing a lot of sadder stuff than is my normal. I don’t know if that’s a reflection on my life right now, or if it’s just a reaction to writing working on something so lighthearted (Raising Trouble) for so long. But all of my short stories lately have ranged from bittersweet to downright sad. Everything from a man who kills his father-in-law (who he loves deeply) because it’s the right thing to do, to a (long) short story, that felt like a Twilight Zone episode, about a man who winds up being responsible for ending mankind. I’ve had other ideas that have been even worse, I haven’t written some of them up because I didn’t want to depress myself. Or end up crying on my keyboard at McDonald’s. That would be awkward.

On that note- am I the only one who gets so emotionally caught in their work? Sometimes I wonder. I’ll laugh at the characters, get tense/grind my teeth when they are in danger, and tear-up when they get hurt. People do that while they are reading, sure, but does anyone else do that while they are writing? Or is this just another quirk in my box?

Recap: Week 10

One Million Words Challenge

Recap: Week 10

OK, so I’m not doing so well at this. I know this is my common theme but it’s still true. I’ve been neglectful of my writing, and I am falling further behind. I’m still committed, still going to keep striving forward. I will do this. It’s just harder than I imagined.

Writing is fun for me. And reasonably easy.

Not this past month. It’s been hard to hit the totals this whole time, yes, but over the past month writing has been incredibly difficult. I’m struggling to write anything. I’ve journaled almost daily my entire life and last week I only wrote once. The words are stuck in my head. Additionally I feel scattered, distant, lethargic. My mind hops from one thought to another with no connections or warning, it’s hard to hold onto a train of thought. I can’t finish books, follow movies, have long conversations. It’s like the part of my head that keeps my attention in one place has been removed.

I have dealt with this my whole life- ADD, ADH, any set of initials they can throw at someone to say that their brain is active have been thrown at me. I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to help myself focused, how to pay attention, how to help myself stay on track.

But lately none of my tricks have been working and it’s frustrating. I feel like if I just had more discipline I would be OK, but I don’t have the discipline to get disciplined. Plus, discipline had never really helped me. I do best when I’m playing. Competing or taking a class work too- when I can convince my brain that something else is going on it will cooperate. I’m a loner, but I need people to stay on track. If I didn’t have such a busy summer ahead of me I’d form a writing group in the area, the closest ones I’ve found are over in the city. Still, even if I’m going to be moving soon it might be worth driving over for one even just for the next few months. I know from past experience that it does help to talk to other people and to feel like I have to keep up.

Also, re-reading The Artist’s Life reminded me about the idea of filling the well. Cameron talks about how if we do nothing but draw from our mind it will eventually run dry, especially during a very productive stage. It made me think- I’m demanding that my brain give me 3,000 words a day but I’m not giving it much to work with- few books, few movies, few events or fairs or new things to look at. Plus, I adore improv but I often feel mentally tired/drained after, as if it has sucked off my top level energy. The same energy I need for writing. So I’m writing and acting and creating and I’m not putting anything back in. And that is undoubtedly part of the problem.

On top of all that I am putting too much pressure on myself. I want to write something good. Something entertaining, fun, exciting. I’ve forgotten that all first drafts are shit, and that my first million words are practice. Hopefully I’ll get something good out of them but if I don’t it doesn’t matter, I’m learning. I need quantity, not quality. I tell myself that but remembering to believe it is a little harder. Maybe with enough repetitions it’ll eventually sink in.

That’s a big part of why I’m doing the million words challenge. I want to learn to make myself produce work even when I don’t want to, don’t feel like it, or have nothing to say. One of my career goals is to write for a TV series and if that is my job I won’t have the luxury of waiting until I feel inspired or have a great idea- I will have to sit down and write on a deadline and make it worth reading. This is my deliberate practice.

Here are my totals this week–

  • Journal 692
  • Brazil 4,505
  • MPs 6,804
  • Total 12,001
  • YTD 126,016
  • Where I should be 191,800

Recap: Week 9

One Million Words Challenge

Recap: Week 9

Realized yesterday that I never posted this last week. Oops.

Here are my totals this week–

  • Journal 152
  • Brazil* 2,595
  • MPs 5,832
  • Blog 761
  • Letters 641
  • Out Spaced 611
  • Total 10,592
  • YTD 114,015
  • Where I should be 172,620

*Brazil is the working title of a new novel I started.

Pretending for $$$

This week I earned money for doing improv for the first time. It wasn’t a lot, and it’s not even a big deal, I have a lot of friends who routinely get paid to do shows.

That wasn’t the point.

The point was I realized it was the first time I’ve ever been paid for any kind of creative effort.

I got paid to make things up.

What a weird and amazing concept.

Recap: Week 8

My little sister, Sara, was married this past Saturday. It was a beautiful wedding, and she was a gorgeous bride.

Also, I mailed out my first copies to readers. Later than planned due to printing issues and then a wedding, and then them getting into the wrong vehicle and leaving the state, but they finally made it out. My writing totals, however, were dismal. I got some done but most of my words were spread across only two days. I decided that I would focus on my sister and her wedding, not word totals. I think that was the right choice but now I am going to focus on getting caught up over the next few weeks.

Here are my totals this week–

  • Journal 856
  • Out Spaced 2,774
  • MPs 3,888
  • Blog 424
  • Letters 1,034
  • Raising Trouble 2,340
  • Total 11,316
  • q

  • YTD 114,739
  • Where I should be 151,640

Recap: Week 7

Edits on Raising Trouble are done until I get notes back from readers. It’s a weird feeling, to let it go. Mailing copies out tomorrow, have to get them printed first. Took me a little while to figure out how to bind them so they’re stay together, finally realized I could go script style.

My sister is getting married this Saturday and I’m at her place, out of state. So writing has gone down the tubes. I even decided to not worry about it the last few days because I needed to focus on finishing my edits so I could get copies out and helping her with prep work. Because of that my numbers are very low. I will feel the pain later but right now I just don’t care, my book is ready for first readers. A satisfying feeling.

Also, I passed 100,000 words this week. 1/10 of the way to One Million Words!

Here are my totals this week–

  • Journal 806
  • Out Spaced 2,521
  • MPs 6,804
  • Blog 255
  • Letters 290
  • Raising Trouble 2,188
  • Total 12,864
  • YTD 103,423
  • Where I should be 134,260

Singing like a crow

Taking a musical improv class was an interesting experience. My singing ability is non-existent in general and making the songs up on the fly didn’t help. This is not me being overly modest or critical of myself- objectively singing is not a skill or talent I possess at this stage in my life. I’m one of those people who if I went on American Idol everyone at home would go, “Why did she audition? What made her think she had any chance at all?” Yes, I could take lessons (and I’d like to) but until then I don’t see things improving.

Anyway, this one night in particular was unusually bad and I was annoyed at myself and frustrated on the way home. Then it occurred me- I am upset that I am singing badly in class. I am singing. In public.

I doubt anyone understands the amount of work I’ve done to get to this point. I’m not trying to be melodramatic here, it’s the truth. I can tell you that until a year ago I didn’t even sing when I was completely alone, I was so ashamed of my voice that I hated to hear it. Hated it.

If I sang anything out loud enough to hear I would be washed over with a sense of humiliation and would immediately stop and do something else. I have always used the automated voice mail on phones because I couldn’t bear the thought of having my voice recorded and making people listen to it. When an improv teacher wanted me to name two singers to do a duo together as part of a character building exercise (not that we were going to be them, it was just going to influence the scene) I completely panicked and he had to come back to me, I froze up even thinking about singing to the point that I couldn’t name anyone.

A few weeks later that same improv teacher made me sing in class and I wanted to cry, and he knew it, and when I panicked and said I didn’t know any songs he told me to sing Happy Birthday and kept my attention while I did it, probably so I wouldn’t run off. When someone told me singing was going to be in an audition I had signed-up for I literally slept an hour or two a night for the days leading up to it because I was so terrified at the thought that I couldn’t calm my mind down.

That carried over into other areas of my life as well. I didn’t realize until this summer that I don’t do accents and voices in improv for the same reason- I’m ashamed of my voice. To the point that we were learning an accent in class and I was so scared and tangled up and frantic that our teacher, a different one from before, finally got on stage with me and had me breath and worked through it with me one word at a time. Awkward, yes. It did help though.

There is no one defining moment in my life that made me feel this way. No dramatic scene where someone cut me down or humiliated me. I think was just a lifetime of being told I couldn’t sing and being teased when I tried, of being laughed at because my voice is deeper and lower than most women, and of a lot of that coming during a time where I had other stuff on my plate I was trying to deal with. Plus, there was a feeling like nothing I had to say mattered or made a difference. I felt very unheard in my teens and I came to despise my voice. As if that were it’s fault.

Improv did not, can not, fix this issue. It has taken a lot of prayer and effort and reading and talking it through with a friend and work and crying and frustration and sweat and nausea to get to this point. What improv did was force me to face the issue. I had to confront this or I had to quit doing improv. Status quo was unsustainable.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to sing (even terribly), or do an accent, or hear my voice on tape, without having to shove a tentacle of shame back into my brain’s basement. Then I catch myself being frustrated, rather than ashamed, over the quality of something I’m doing and I see hope. Shame is a powerless state but frustration, frustration leads to growth because it implies I can do better.

Frustration with myself is a hopeful sign.

Recap: Week 6

This was a stressful week, but also an exciting one. Stressful because I had planned to have my novel ready to go out to readers this week but it’s going to be next week. And even that is going to take a lot of work, if I’m going to get it done on time. The actual edit is almost done but I still have to type all the changes in. On the upside, that will let me finally count all those words into my totals.

Exciting because I started a new project. I was looking for something I could work on that was larger than short stories, so I won’t have to think up new projects every couple of days. And I came up with one. Not quite ready to get into details but I’m excited about it and it will be a long-term project so it should keep me busy. Not so busy that I can’t work on blogging or side projects, even short stories if I have a great idea, but overall it should hold most of my attention for awhile.

Here are my totals this week–

  • Journal 1,496
  • Out Spaced* 4,683
  • MPs 6,804
  • Blog 1,467
  • Total 14,450
  • YTD 90,559
  • Where I should be 115,080

*This is my new project!

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