3

Performance Anxiety

There’s always a period of time before I start a project where I’m afraid of what I’m about to do. I’ll have everything planned out– unless it’s one of those woah where’d you come from, let’s get you over with quickly then, ideas– and I’ll be excited to get to work so I can see my quiet thoughts live and in colour in front of me. Except, the closer I get to my start date, the more I balk.

I feel like anyone who’s serious about writing doubts their ability; I have days where I’m like, psh, I’m so good at this, I was born to do this, why did I ever want to do anything else? Those are the rare days, if I’m speaking honestly; the other ninety percent of the time I’m left scrutinizing ideas or already written works and thinking about how hard this stuff is. For every good sentence I write, there’s about sixteen more awful ones, and if I’m not tearing my hair out at that point, there’s likely a screw loose. But then I suppose every author has felt like that before they really got going, and continued to deal with that apprehension after they discovered that they could make a living from their scribbles.

I know that with enough elbow (knuckle?) grease I can write good stories, ones that people will read and talk about. It’s just that it’s easier to imagine success than it is to actively achieve it, and that scares the hell out of me. I’m not afraid of the work, believe it or not. There’s nothing I love more than a good heavy writing session (editing is a completely different story; editing is a process Satan himself invented, I’m sure). I also revel in the rush I get when I finish a large project. (Again, editing excluded. Because that is like pulling teeth.)

What I’m scared of is starting. Because once you start, anything can happen. Once you start, there’s a possibility that you can get thinking about what crap the whole thing is and give up before you’re done. Or you can reach the end and cut off all the rough bits and slap a fresh coat of paint on your piece and send it out into the world with a bow in its hair only to be ridiculed by all who see it. Once you start, you can fail, and doesn’t that just scare you to bits?

It doesn’t always happen that way, I know. There are books on the market and short stories in magazines to prove that. But in the beginning, at that place where everything is rusty, and getting anything out is a whole lot like trying to get the first few sips of a chocolate milkshake through a plastic straw, it always feels like you’re headed straight down the not-so-nice and difficult path. I find myself thinking about quitting more in those beginning stages than I do at any other part of the project.

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It’s probably not even that bad; I’m a total wuss.

I guess in that way, writing–like starting a workout plan or committing to piano lessons– is very much a test of faith in yourself. Nothing good ever comes easy, but whether you finish– regardless of the outcome– comes right down to how bad you want to get to the end. And because of how bad I always seem to want to get to the end, I push through the terror I feel at the beginning, right through the muck of the first few paragraphs, and then, once I’m up to a good clip, I keep going, because that’s what I was born to do.

But don’t you dare mention the word editing, yet. That shouldn’t come in until it is absolutely necessary. Before that point it is a forbidden swear, and until then, the project is beautiful and everything is perfect and don’t you ruin it, you little wretch.

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(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

After a few weeks of letting the story I’ve dreamed up settle and grow in my head, at the beginning of this week I started to seriously undertake the process of writing my novel. I remember that when I started this blog, I talked a lot about another book I was writing. There were entire posts dedicated to the earnestness of my venture and how much time I put into it. One year, a scrapped project and a massive revelation later, I can’t help but notice a difference between the first time I tried to do this, and now.

If you remember, I wrote a post about a week ago on my motivations for writing before versus my motivations today (I’ll link it here, if you’re new and think I’m cool, or something–> https://mercysbrainscrapings.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/something-beautiful-sorry-audience-this-isnt-for-you/). While I was in high school, I developed an image of two friends, and their interactions became a full-fledged plot-line, filled with enough action and cool science-fiction-y stuff that I became sure that once it got published, Tom Cruise would read the manuscript and be like, “OPRAH. I’M IN LOVE. I’M IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK AND I DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS. I NEED THIS TO BE A MOVIE. CALL SPIELBERG, CALL BAY, THE PEOPLE NEED THIS.”

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Tom, it’s okay, we both got excited about things that didn’t last.

Of course, it was geared toward kids my age, and if it had ever become a film, Tom Cruise was the last person I’d want in it, but the ideas I had had swirling around in my head had me thinking along the lines of movie deals and the New York Times bestseller list. And so my baby idea that began innocently enough became so influenced by what I thought people would have wanted that it grew too big for me to handle. I became overwhelmed, trying to connect things that I hadn’t wanted in the story in the first place, and as I got more and more frustrated, I began to doubt my ability. Then, as things got in the way, I– and it pains me to admit it– gave up. Like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, I professed my greatest joy to the world, and ended up divorcing it (Though, similarly to what the press is saying about Miss Holmes, I’m much happier on the other side). I will write that story one day when I’m more experienced, but for now, I will hold on to the original idea, still untouched even after all of the, erm, procedures, and wait until I feel that it’s time to pull it out again.

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That project shall be forever known as the “Joan Rivers Venture”

Now, in beginning to understand myself and understand what it is I want to tell people, something in my writing has changed. And I don’t mean the style– I couldn’t change that even if I tried– but the feeling I get when I do it. I know what I need this story to reveal, and even in the moments where I’m unable to find the words to use to get that message out and have to spend half a freaking hour typing and hitting delete and writing and crossing out until I’m happy with it **takes a deep breath because no punctuation** I feel like I’m going in the write (HAHA, puns) direction. There is this weird sense of satisfaction that comes with finally writing the story you’ve been meant to tell; something that just fits you and follows the current of wherever your mind was heading in the first place. It makes the insane amount of hard work I’m doing worth it. I’m both very pleased and pleasantly surprised with the direction my book has taken; now I can truly start doing what I launched this blog for in the beginning.

I have started, therefore I will finish. And I won’t be happy until I do, so if you care to follow an ambitious nineteen year old on a journey that pulls her in way over her head, be ready to see this through ’til the end.

If you’ve been reading me from the beginning, or have just stumbled upon my ramblings, thank you for the support so far. The amount of encouragement I’ve been receiving is very reassuring.

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You rock so much that if I were this squirrel, I’d totally give you that flower.

 

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Something Beautiful: Sorry, Audience, this isn’t for you.

I discovered something recently that made me smile, and slap a palm to my forehead at the same time (could’ve had a V8, kid.)

I used to write things for the sake of getting noticed. Oh, if I write a book this way, then it’s more likely to sell and I’m more likely to be able to make a living off of something that I enjoy, awesome, whoopdedoo, and all of that fun stuff. So I would take to my laptop, or my 80-page Hilroy– which in the beginning stages of a writing project, I put my first draft in, because my words often flow easier when I feel like I’m bleeding them into paper right from my soul (yeah, morbid thought, I get it, but I’m one of those weird, creative types, remember?)–and write down the idea I thought would be the next bestseller. I would pack it full of action and romance and craziness–though I did my best to keep away from vampires, because the modern generation of that sort of literature has ruined my view of supernatural stories

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Someday, Lestat. Someday.

Seriously; Twilight scared me away from Anne Rice, and I don’t know how I feel about that–

and get to work, confident for the first three weeks that I was going to make it. Except, I would pack in things that everyone was doing. My plots became cliche, my characters bland, and I could tell what was coming next, not because my brain was running as it should, but because my muscle memory was kicking in and writing the ending to the last eight movies I’d watched. I’d get frustrated, try to change up the whole story, while still keeping the things that I thought would make it sell, and then give up because it just wasn’t working.

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If there are infographs about your story type, RUN.

It was only until I started the Gracie Project– which is what I’ll be calling my work for the next three months– that I realized what I’d been doing wrong. For the first time since I started taking writing seriously, I understood what hadn’t worked before. All of the short stories I’d written in the backs of my notebooks or on a whim in planes and cars and in class when I should have been paying attention, is that I was working on things that inspired me, not what inspired my generation to flock to a bookstore at midnight to buy the fourth book in my new, imaginary series. I began Gracie because I had been going through a rough time. She popped in at the right moment, and was doing the things that I wanted to do. She was funny, she was adventurous, and she was completely different from anything I’d ever written before. Suddenly, everything made sense. Every Pinterest quote (yeah, it’s an addiction, so sue me. I’m nineteen; it happens), every page of every author’s interview I’d scrutinized, every memoir, came flooding back to me and I got it.

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I need to tattoo this to my fingers. Seriously.

You must write for yourself, above all. That is your only hope in creating something beautiful.

See that gem? That came from Gustave Flaubert. I’ve read it at least fifty times over the past few years, and most of the time I agreed with it. And then I’d turn around and act as if I didn’t, even though I had completely tricked myself into writing the things I thought other people wanted. Gracie was, and is, my way of curing myself of things that got stuck in my head and made me hurt. She is my medium; she is who I have chosen to tell my truth, and you know what? Though I haven’t worked out all of the details of her adventure, more and more of them are coming to me every day, and that is exciting.

What joy it is to be invited by your own characters to explore new worlds with them. I don’t have to leave my couch to see the things she sees, and I’ve reached a point where I’m not dying to make a daily word count. Instead, I wake up wondering when I can squeeze more of her world into mine. The way I see the world is changing. I’m creating something beautiful, not for a reader (who, if, by some miracle, picks up my manuscript and falls in love with the world the way I’m beginning to, great) but for myself. How can I expect someone to read my work if I haven’t breathed whatever life I could into it?

If you’re reading this, whoever you are, whether you’re a writer, whether you’re a businessman, cab driver, chef, dancer or Office Depot clerk, my challenge to you is this: carry out your passion in such a way that you find yourself inspired. If you exist to serve the opinions– please note I said opinions; helping other people is probably something people should do a whole lot more–of others, how could you ever enjoy what you’re doing? I’m not going to tell you that happiness doesn’t take work. I can’t expect the Gracie story to be easy, but even when the going gets tough, I still want to like what I’m doing, ya feel me?

Do it for yourself. Somehow, the more your work pleases you, the happier you are, and–I swear this is a thing– others begin to see the merit in it. You’ll discover very quickly that those who don’t particularly enjoy what you have to offer don’t matter as much. If, at the end of the day, you are pleased with yourself above all, then off to bed with you, solider, you done good.

Now if you excuse me, I’ve been wanting to make stuff with words all day.

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Road Maps and Novel-Writing: Keep Me Away from Indigo.

I went to write in a coffee shop today because being home meant distractions. I started to work on my book while sitting on my parent’s loveseat, but plot thread and character development were replaced every minute with imhungrymyfacehurtswhydoesmyfacestillhurtthedentistsaiditwouldonlytakeaweektohealmaybeishould

takesometylenolohtonightsepisodeofdrphillooksinterestingmaybeishouldtapethatohshitishouldprobablycheck

andseeifmylandloardpulledmyrentdoihaveunderwearfortomorroworshouldidolaundrybeforeigohomewhydidyou

evenbothergettingallfourwisdomteethoutthisissoannoyingPINTEREST

Replace a few of these with endless YouTube video mini-marathons and I lost a good two hours of writing time being home. At that point, I took a stand. I refused to lose to the curiosity of my twenty-first century teenaged brain, and so I packed up my things, left my laptop at home and headed to my local Starbucks to grab a latte, scribble out a dozen pages of draft one and praise my decision to put my Master’s degree on hold lest I join the ranks of overqualified baristas who serve people like me and wonder why they aren’t working at a job they’re qualified for.

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Sorry, Starbucks folk. Our job market is awful, but you do make a mean chai tea.

I got some pretty important work done before I realized that I needed to do some research, not necessarily for accuracy, as most of what I’m writing is indeed fiction, but to give me an idea of the sort of thing I was getting myself into, and how to write it. Most of the subject was unimportant; probably something I could look up online later, but as a kid who still can’t comprehend things unless she’s underlining them on paper, I did, in fact, need a road map. Why I needed the map isn’t really worth telling (at least right now), but I should note that I was in the perfect position to get one. See, in Canada–and I’m not sure about anywhere else, so don’t murder me for thinking we’re unique–our main bookstore chain, Indigo, and its sister stores usually come with a Starbucks on the inside. Of course, I was sitting twenty feet away to the gates of this chic and modern Heaven-on-Earth. If Indigo didn’t have a road map for the area I was looking for, then I don’t know who would.

So I wandered from the Starbucks into the main store and was immediately caught by the adorable Kate Spade collection of journals that looked like old library books. No, I didn’t buy one. But I contemplated it. Oh yes, for five minutes, actually. (Ten points for self-control, what what).

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Not for long.
Can someone freeze my credit cards, too?

No worries, my steel will didn’t hold up too long. I bought literary magazines. I bought the newest book from an author I’m going to see at the end of the month (Joseph Boyden; I first read Three Day Road, a story of two Cree friends who go off to fight in WWI, and fell in love). I bought a neat little question and answer book to fuel thought and make my evenings a little more fun. I bought a collection of C.S. Lewis essays (I love that man, impeccable genius, both as a fantasy author and Christian apologetic), and then, and only then did I reach the travel section to collect my map. They had it, just like I knew they would, but as I did the walk of shame to the cash register, I did not feel triumph, but sympathy for my debit card.

My addiction to literature– and cute things and shopping in general– is getting out of hand. I suppose it could be worse, but sending me into an Indigo is like sending a recovered drug-addict into a crack house to pick up a jacket for a friend who left it there.

If you were wondering the map did come in handy.

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Sorry, little guy.

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GeekyRed Reviews: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I’ve got this rule about books that I’m quite sure I share with many literature lovers: if there is a screen adaptation I MUST, no IFS ANDS OR BUTS, read the story before I watch it. Why? Because, nine times out of ten ALL THE TIME, the book itself is much better than the movie.

Relax, film buffs. I’m not saying that movie adaptations are bad. In fact, some of them I find quite enjoyable. The thing is, you can’t critique a film and a movie in the same category. Why? Because trying to fit 350 pages into two hours (as the days of the 90-minute epic come to an end) is just impossible. Things that went so well in the novel just won’t work with the plot the producers are trying to squeeze into their scripts. Most of these come out very nicely; there are quite a few book-films that I would go see more than once, however, as a self-proclaimed bibliophile (I promise, that word isn’t dirty, look it up) I will always and forever love the books more. Unless it’s The Notebook. I’m sorry, Nicholas Sparks, that novel just didn’t do it for me.

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Now why on God’s green earth did I start a book review with that little spiel? I must confess– and I feel positively wretched for admitting this to the entire internet– that I was introduced to Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo because I watched the movie first.

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I know! I know! I can’t believe I said it! But, you’ll have to cut me some slack, I did watch the movie in class, and because it was required, I’m not going to think of this as a complete breaking of my rules. Besides, I enjoyed the film so much, I went out that week and bought myself a copy of the novel. Except, because university is a parasite whose favourite meal seems to be free time, then I had to leave it on my shelf until about two weeks ago when I finally got to pick it up again.

And my oh my, what a fantastic read. For those of you who haven’t heard of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, stop reading this post, and do yourself a favour by going to get it right this second. In about 380 pages, Larsson brought adrenaline raging through my veins like those bullet trains in Japan. He made me so uncomfortable at points that I wanted to put the book down but couldn’t– you sneaky bastard, talk about a page turner– and by the time I made it to the end, he had me screaming like a pre-teen after an episode of Pretty Little Liars, or whatever kids are watching these days (even though I’m nineteen, you catch my drift). Oh yes, it’s one of those books.

Larsson manages to mix a riveting murder mystery into a political-slash-financial drama into an insane commentary on modern maltreatment and abuse of Swedish women– did I mention the book has been translated into dozens of languages and has been sold worldwide?!– and through this intricate plot web, spins readers along, keeping them willingly caught until they’re forced to set the book down at the very end. I mean, I knew how the thing was going to end and I STILL broke a sweat in the climb to the climax. I fell in love with Lisbeth Salander– the most badass character I have ever read, like, ever— and Mikael Blomkvist, two protagonists who were written so well I felt I had gotten to know them as friends by the end of it, which is weird and totally made me feel like I’d checked out of reality for awhile, but if that’s what I book is supposed to do– and I wholeheartedly believe it is–then four for you, Stieg Larsson.

Of course, because I had seen the movie first, I found the ending of the book to be rather long. Without ruining too much, I felt that the climax I had seen should have been how the book ended, but there were still eighty or more pages to go before I hit the true ending. Not that those pages ruined my experience at all; but I would send out the warning to anyone who is taking the path that I did (curse you, Strategies class!). The other thing to be wary of is the immense amount of violence that appears in the book. There were moments included that I felt that anyone, regardless of gender, would cringe upon reading. In fact, the original, Swedish title for the book directly translates to Men Who Hate Women, if that’s any hint toward what is coming. That being said, the book is a commentary on a pretty uncomfortable topic; I don’t think that it should deter anyone from checking the book out (unless they can’t handle that stuff, of course), especially because it’s something that I think people need to talk about, but that’s a topic for another time.

I’m trying to keep these posts shorter than normal, just because I can go on forever, especially about a book like this. All in all, I’d give it five stars, and a recommendation to anyone who enjoys mystery, action, suspense, a blockbuster film in a novel… (really, guys, I’m just gushing now). The plot is just so clever; I really need people to scream about this book with, and even though it isn’t brand new or anything, it’s new to me, so if anyone out there is feeling what I’m feeling right now leave me comments. I need to relate.

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Somebody help.

Check out this synopsis from Goodreads:

Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there’s always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

 

Go. Go get it. Right now. Just do it. You’re doing yourself a huge favour.

 

Also, if you like book reviews, leave me a comment with encouragement and suggestions. It gives me something to do in my spare time, and since I love sharing stories, this seems like a really fun thing to do.

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There’s Only One Thing That Wrecks The High of a Great Writing Day…

Today was a great day to be a writer. In a span of just an hour and a half I flew through over two thousand words.

My novel now sits at one hundred and sixty six pages, Microsoft Word style, and I’m coming up to the halfway done mark. This is such a cool feeling; even though I’m only hashing my way through the first draft, I can see my characters coming to life and the little plot strings tying themselves together in a pretty little bow. Now that is the definition of satisfaction.

But the emotional trauma I’m causing myself… I don’t know if I like that so much. Stirring up trouble in my little fictional world is hurting me just as much as it’s hurting the people in it, and I’m the only one who knows how it’s going to turn out, for Pete’s sake. I made a whole lot of progress on a whole lot of turmoil… and yet I hate angsty situations. I think they’re silly, and in a world filled with novels like Twilight, I try to keep it to a minimum. Plot can be driven forward without hormone-laced teen angst. But when THE RIGHT KIND of angst (last time I’ll use that word, I promise) is necessary (no hormones required), and you’re forced to fly your way through it like a freight train chugging downhill , you come out on the other end looking like you just escaped from Azkaban. (Sorry, Sirius.) I’m a little wounded.

I think I’ll start a support clinic for writers affected negatively by their stories.

I’d make a killing.

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Productivity: How to Stay Motivated When it Just Ain’t Happening.

I’ve decided that summer is an awful time to decide to finish your book. I made the decision to put it on hold a few weeks ago to work on my other projects– which are going along swimmingly, thankyouverymuch– but when I do actually have time to sit down and tackle a very large plot chunk, there are a billion things I find that I want to do instead.

For example:
Just yesterday I sat down to write one of my favourite scenes in the entire novel– I’ve been waiting to hash that sucker out for months and realized that I had to go pick up some interview equipment for work. So I hopped in my car, and ran that errand, excited to get back home and finish ‘er up.

But on my way out of the office, I passed by my gym. The call of the treadmill was too loud to resist. Already in a pair of trainers and yoga pants, I sneaked in for a quick workout.

And then it went downhill from there.

Got home, ate some yogurt. And some toast. And some cereal. In otherwords, the workout was totally useless.

Looked through some old photographs with my grandmother.

Helped clean out my basement.

Went to see a really bad movie with a really good friend.

Put all my laundry away.

Read a book.

And by the time all that was finished, it was one o’clock in the morning, and the scene I have waited forever to write is still locked away in the corners of my brain. I knew that when I started this blog I was going to record triumphs and failures. And though this isn’t quite a failure, it is a minor annoyance, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s experienced things like this before.

In the end, I’ve just got to remind myself that this is what I want most in the world, and if I want it, I’ve got to work on it as hard as I can. I’ll just start waking up super early to tackle a couple thousand words or so. Kind of like Stephen King.

A novel can’t be written in a month. Or rather, a good, full-sized one can’t be written in a month (sorry Nanowrimo people). I’m going to write it, and I’m going to write it as well as I can, and if it takes me a year, then it takes me a year. Patience is key. Either way, I will finish it. It is only a matter of when I’ll type the last sentence.

Editing though, that’s a whole other matter.

Those be some waters I’m ‘fraid to tread in, son.

I’ll keep ya’ll updated.