Restful Thoughts

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Image from Dreamstime

 

Several months ago, I posted a little about how I had been writing every day.  A while after that, I posted that I had stopped writing every day.  And then, these last few weeks have been a little bit hit or miss.

 

Why the inconsistency, you ask?

 

The answer is simple: I needed a break.

 

I didn’t want a break, make no mistake.  I wanted to keep writing, to keep working, to keep developing new things and to finish a project (or five).  But my body had other ideas and essentially forced me to take a break.  Which amused the heck out of me, because things like that usually only happen when I am sick or stressed.  And I haven’t really been either lately.

 

Yes, part of it was recovery from Script Frenzy and A to Z blogging, but a larger part of it had to do with sheer creative exhaustion.  I would sit down for 15 minutes or half an hour, finish a scene or two, and that was it.  My fingers could keep typing but my brain had nothing left in it.

 

So I was forced to rest.  To watch TV, to nap, and to knit.  And, for the first two weeks of May, that was enough.  I’m nearly done another knitting project: one that uses a brand new-to-me technique that I dare say I have perfected.  I’ve got another little something on the needles, and I’m re-watching some of my favorite shows.  I haven’t really had any new creative ideas, but I think that the story that I’m working on right now has slowly been percolating away in the coffee pot I call a brain.

 

I had a good few weeks rest, and even took some time off from work as part of it (I get paid hourly and there wasn’t much to do at work.  Not to mention that we’re in the middle of an office renovation that’s happening right outside my door).  But I’ve been feeling the creative urges stirring again, demanding that I return bum to chair and fingers to keyboard and do something productive.  Which is a good thing, because Camp NaNoWriMo starts in eleven days!

 

Do I have any new and wonderful ideas?  No.  And while that bothers me a little (shouldn’t a rest be a breeding ground for such things?), I am learning to live with the frustration.  I have a novel on the go and another one in the very beginning stages of being re-planned, and that’s enough for now.  Besides, there’s a creative group venture in the early stages of becoming that looks like it will keep me very busy for the next while.

 

I think that the break was good for me.  But now I’m anxious to get back to the writing: the fun and the work.

 

Do you ever take breaks, willingly or otherwise?  How do they help your productivity?

Why I’ve Stopped Writing Every Day

Originally posted February 19, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

STOP SignPhoto from Dreamstime

It was just four weeks ago that I was bragging in this space about how I’d done something writing-related every day.

 

How quickly things change!

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t still write every day.  For the most part, I do.  Some nights I even spend a full hour or two (in between my day job and life things, that’s pretty good for a week night) working at my craft.

But I’ve also come to realize the importance of breaks.

Last week, I was having a pretty rough time of it.  My day job was getting busy and hard to handle (not at all unusual for a February in the oil and gas industry) and I hadn’t been sleeping well.  I’d also gotten some negative reviews on something I’d been working on consistently for two months.  To put it simply, I was run down!

As I’m sure most of you do, I follow a few blogs.  One, in particular, has recently been advocating taking regular breaks from writing (one day a week, in that author’s case).  I don’t have the desire to break all that frequently… yet… but the idea certainly has some merit!  One of my biggest frustrations with the writing feedback that had upset me was that it was right… I was just too close to the problem!

Looking back on it now, none of these things were quite so bad (except possibly for the day job issues, but I don’t see that changing anytime in the near future).  But it got me thinking a little more about how hard I’ve been working and how I manage stress.  While writing every day is a fine habit to be in, this last week, I’ve needed to take a few breaks from my habit.  Thus far, this has meant two whole nights where I didn’t write (one of which was a thirteen hour work day and the other my scheduled time with friends).  I know… I suck at taking breaks.  It’s just my personality, I suppose!

I’ve recently found that the concept is true for work as well.  Two weeks ago, things got rather stressful at my place of employment (to the point where I was ready to start yelling at coworkers).  Fortunately, the ongoing tasks didn’t need my direct supervision at the time, so there was a chance for me to take a mental health break.  I ended up spending about an hour and a half on e-mail answering questions, but it felt good to knit, snuggle the kitties, and watch TV for a while, rather than worrying too much about work.  I’m definitely thankful for the flexibility that my job offers, which allows me to work from home or take mini-breaks like that when needed.

But that day off only proved that a longer break was in order.  Since I tend to hyper-focus on certain things (work, writing, TV shows from the late 1990s…) I find it very difficult to take breaks and fully separate myself from something.  Fortunately, I know this about myself and several months ago we made plans for a long break right around this time!  This week, I’m taking a break from work and all of my related responsibilities.  I think some people call it a ‘vacation’.  I’ve been looking forward to it for a while now, and I think that the rest will be good for me.

If nothing else, I can catch up on my sleep.

What do you do when you just need a break?

21 Days Later…

Originally posted January 22, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

As I mentioned in my Writing Goals post, I want to make writing more of a daily habit.

 

This means, among other things, that I need to write… daily.

 

Wow, I’m the master of the obvious, no?

 

Anyway, conventional wisdom says that it takes 21 days to make something a habit.  Although my goal was to dedicate 3 nights per week to writing, I’m happy to report that, so far in 2012, I have written (at least a little) every day!  And at least three nights per week have been even more dedicated to writing (i.e. – a minimum of one hour in front of the keyboard).

 

I’d say that I’m well on the way to making writing a firm habit.  Most days, I’ve even been excited to sit down in front of the computer, to see where my muse will take me (a feeling I can’t remember having in the last year or so!).  Even though she abandoned me, I still feel her influence.

 

I’m super excited about (most of) the stories I’m working on right now, and hope to use them to enter some contests. Time will tell, I suppose!

When Bad Novels Turn Good

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Photo from Dreamstime 

 

My apologies for the horrific grammar of the title.  This post is a follow-up to “When Good Novels Go Bad“, where I wrote about a novel I was none to pleased with.  The writing schedule was going well, but the more that I worked, the less I liked the story: the plot was thin and the driving actions weren’t believable enough.  The beginning dragged on and on (and on…) and nothing seemed to be coming together after 30,000 words.  I didn’t like how the story was going, my critique group didn’t really care for it, and if I don’t like the story, I can’t very well expect my readers to like it!

 

So I put the writing on hold and spent my efforts overhauling the plot.  It took longer than I would have liked (only about 25 hours of actual work over two months) but Script Frenzy got in my way.  Besides, the hardest part was thinking up what to do next, which for me is the opposite of staring at the screen trying to write.

 

About three weeks ago, I started writing again.  I’m only two chapters (6,800 words) in, but it’s already feeling much more exciting and engaging to me.  My critique group even seemed to think so too!  Now, of course, there are still problems with the opening scene(s) to fix, but those will be relatively easy now that the basic plot is a little more workable (I hope!)

 

I guess only time will tell, won’t it?

 

What project has returned to life in your writing lately?

Clinging

Originally posted February 12, 2012 (before the disaster)

 

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Photo from Dreamstime

 

A little like the gibbon above, I was clinging to my sanity this week.

 

It’s not that I’m a particularly unstable person, but every so often (once or twice a year), things combine to create the perfect storm of stress in my world.  I don’t always handle stress very well or, rather, I handle it well until it builds up to a certain point after which I just can’t take more of it.  Here’s what hit me this week:

  1. My day job is very stressful and involves working with people (both teammates and clients) with whom I don’t always see eye to eye.
  2. My writing life wasn’t going very well.  I was anxious about the critiques that I sent out last week, and was beginning to feel like the novel I’m currently re-writing just wasn’t going the way that I wanted it to.
  3. I wasn’t sleeping well, so was tired and a bit depressed.
  4. My boyfriend was busy and not sleeping very well either, meaning that our quality time together was… lacking.
  5. My cats are little brats who like to try and trip me and pee on my clothes.

 

When I write it all out like that, it doesn’t seem like much, but each of those items had been building for a month or more.  Items 1 and 2, with some “help” from item 3, managed to bring me down this week.

 

Unfortunately, item 1 isn’t something that I can fix very easily without changing jobs, although I am working with management to try to improve things within the company (one of the perks of being with a small company for nearly four years is that management are friends and tend to listen to what you’re saying).  I hope that things will get better soon, but in the meantime, it’s also the stressful time of year in my industry, where everyone’s trying to get everything done right NOW.

 

Fortunately, item 2 seems to have resolved itself (for now).  Most of my critiques were positive, although one critiquer in particular had some very thought-provoking things to say about the structure of my novel.  Given that I’m currently at “that point” in the novel where I’m questioning its direction and purpose, that hit me a little harder than I’d been expecting.  Still, the short story that I submitted gained some rave reviews, and I’ll probably start sending it out to publishers once I’ve tidied it up a bit.  That’s exciting, and heartening, even if “Fighter One” isn’t going quite the way I want it to… yet.

 

Items 3 and 4 seem to slowly be sorting themselves out as we make more and more positive changes to our lifestyle (more on that in another blog post!)  And item 5 will probably never change.  Cats will be cats!

 

Although writing may be stressful in and of itself, with characters that never do what you expect them to, plots veering off in unexpected directions, the dreaded Writer’s Block, and the stresses associated with an unpredictable but particular audience, I still maintain that I could manage them better than the more immediate and personal stress of my day job.

 

It remains my dream to figure that out one day.

 

What about you?  What is your major source of stress?

An Apology

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For the non-gamers among us: an explanation

 

I wish to apologize to my readers, as well as any of you who follow me on RSS feeds.  I had a bit of a blog crisis when I followed some ill-thought out advice in an attempt to “optimize” my site.

 

I optimized it right into oblivion!

 

I also found out, through the same accident, that my backup program wasn’t working nearly as well as I had thought.  So I’ve been doing some testing and I think I’ve figured that one out as well.

 

My apologies to anyone who’s comments were lost or who received a bit of spam in their RSS feed.  All technical issues should be accounted for.

 

I’ve managed to recover my content and I will be slowly re-posting it as time goes on.  In the meantime, look for something new and exciting in the month of April!

When Good Novels Go Bad

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Image from Dreamstime

 

As you may have noticed from the sidebar, I’ve put my current novel on hold for now.  I did this after a lot of very careful thought, and it certainly wasn’t because the writing wasn’t going well.  Actually, the writing for this project was going extremely well – I knew exactly what I was writing and I was even ahead of my schedule.

 

Unfortunately, the more I wrote, the less I liked the story.  I still loved the characters and the setting (partly because I’ve been working on this series for over a decade) but the plot seemed a little… thin.  The driving actions of the plot weren’t believable enough and the beginning dragged on and on (and on…).  I forged ahead because I wasn’t quite willing to admit that the story I’ve been working on for so very long was so very broken.  But the more I thought about it and the more people I talked to the more I realized that the story needed work.

 

A lot of it.

 

So I’ve decided on a complete overhaul!  I’m still re-working the details, but I’ve moved the entirety of the plot line “back” in time (earlier in the timeline of my world).  Unfortunately, it means basically throwing out everything that I’ve written to date, but it gives a lot more opportunity for action and conflict and tension and all those good things.  It can now involve fights and political intrigue and conspiracy and treason.  I think it will not only be a more exciting read, but a lot more fun to write.

 

Now I just have to get to that point (again)!

 

What do you do when a project stalls out?