forcing it

If there’s anything I’ve learned this past NaNo, it’s that forcing it ain’t fun. Duh, you’re thinking. Well, duh back at you. Sometimes when the words don’t come, you gotta force it or face the blank page forever. Yeah, you can step away for a while. Read a book, go for a walk, watch TV, meditate, eat, etc. But eventually, you gotta get back in front of the screen and put some words down. Even if that means having to force it.

I’ve done a lot of forcing it this month in my mad effort to reach that 50k. So I made it, and that’s that, and wonderful I can move on. But the lesson sticks with me. Sometimes forcing it is necessary. Sometimes forcing it is not the right way to go.

Aside from the writing, part of the hair-pulling insanity has involved the evolution of whatever scene I’m working on. I have a pretty decent, detailed outline that I’ve been working from. But, as in war, no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. My outline has been through several changes this NaNo, much to my frustration. Its current incarnation feels alright to me, but I won’t be surprised if it goes through major changes yet again. All that aside, I have been hard at work typing out a scene for it to suddenly try to veer off the rails. And I don’t mean my characters start speaking for themselves. I’m talking a full-on train wreck of the bad variety. When creativity goes wrong–which is totally possible. You’re not happy with the new trajectory of the scene, and you work and sweat and grunt to force it back on track. Well, good luck with that. It doesn’t always work out. But good luck.

This month, I’ve lost touch with some people I wish I hadn’t. And I know what you’re thinking–why not just pick up the phone and reach out? Yes, I could do that. But at this point… that would be totally forcing it. I’m not in a talky mood with most people. On the flip side, I’ve reconnected with a few others, and that’s been pretty awesome. But even that involved forcing it. Yeah. Sometimes with friendships, you need to force it. And sometimes you need to just let things go where they will. Even if that means they go nowhere.

There’s a young woman I’ve been doing the whole on again/off again thing with. Not intentionally, of course. (I’m not that much of a jackass.) But it is what it is, and things have been a little rough with her. We even tried forcing it (it being the relationship, don’t misinterpret me) because we’re obviously into each other. But it’s really not working out, and sometimes it’s okay if things don’t work out. There’s no need to force it just because you’re both into each other. Some people just don’t belong together, for whatever reason. Of course, neither of us seem that willing to call it quits, so… on we go with the efforts to force it!

Finally… and perhaps I mentioned this before, but I reconnected with my old, original writing partner. Well, it hasn’t been the blissful reunion I envisioned. She’s a busy woman, and I’m a depressed, antisocial sort of guy. So I don’t call. When I do call, she doesn’t answer or doesn’t return my call. Or when I do call, she really doesn’t have a lot of time. Sometimes we connect and spend some time working story out, but… it feels like (surprise) we’re just forcing it.

You sense a recurring pattern here? Am I being too subtle? Alas, she’s not so great with forcing it, so trying it in those moments involves some angry feelings about not having to write all the time, especially when we’re not feeling it. Fair enough. Hell, I agree with her. But for me, that leads to flabby writing muscles.

I just had a similar conversation with my mom a couple days ago. Sometimes, the temptation is to vegg out. Do nothing. With depression, this temptation quickly becomes the status quo, and–in my opinion–that is not a good thing. Relaxation is one thing. But lethargy is something else. With me, it’s usually just laziness. I have spent most of my life coasting through one endeavor or another, relying on my natural talent to carry me where I need to go. (Yeah, maybe that sounds a little dick-ish, but it’s true.) I never had to work hard at school to earn good grades. Writing papers was always easy–except for my last year in grad school.

I’ve wasted a lot of time not doing things I should’ve been doing. Why? Well, part of it is the depression. Those of you who are depressed or bi-polar know how hard it is to get started. It’s like running up a hill made of ice while wearing tap dance shoes.

Ironically, I took tap dance as a child. Now if I could just find those shoes…

nano… achieved

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

So today I validated my word count, and woo hoo I have indeed reached the 50k milestone and then some!

But I’m not done yet. As tempted as I am to kick back and call it a year (and believe me, I am very tempted), I’m gonna keep going this month. Just… at a much more relaxed pace. After all, I’m planning to attend a buddy’s end-of-nano event, and I’m told there will once again be bacon chocolate chip cookies! So, it was a good nano. I’ve gotten a lot done on a new book. Is it the book I want to be working on right this moment? Of course not. I’m still eyeing to finish with my previous one. But this is a book that I’d have to write, anyway, no matter how things go with the other one.

Which, by the way, I feel a lot less worried about. I’ve revised some mid-term goals, and I’m sorta liking them at first glance. After finishing my synopsis and sending out my queries to the agents I’m looking at, I plan to return to a very old story I first worked on as a child. The goal with that one? Self-publishing! I’ve long been opposed to the idea of self-publishing my own work, and I do still fully intend to take this book (this nano one, too, when I finish it) down the traditional route. But I really do enjoy the possibility of promoting this new, self-pubbed story idea. Like I said, it’s a concept I first developed in my tweens, and I’d like to try giving this the adult-me treatment and see what happens.

It can’t hurt, right?

On another, completely unrelated topic, I’ve decided to dip my toe back into an area of life I left behind a couple years ago. WoW. (For the noobs out there, that’s short for World of Warcraft. I know what you’re thinking. What a time sink, right? It can be, sure. But I remember getting a lot of happiness out of that. The people I met online I still keep in contact with (as much I keep in contact with anyone), and I think I’m in a much better place now as a writer than I’ve ever been. Obviously, I’ll have to keep an eye on my WoW investment to make sure it doesn’t overshadow anything else (like my writing).

I’m also excited to possibly, potentially, probably be working with my friend Stephanie on her latest literary project. I’d share the details, but it’s her property, so I’ll let her decide whether to disclose that info on her blog. Suffice to say, it’s an idea I really love and something I think has a ton of potential both in terms of novels and cinema, so I’m gonna do my best to help her get that going.

Obviously, Thanksgiving is approaching. We don’t know yet what we’re going to do as a family, my mother and I. There’s talk of volunteering at a soup kitchen, an experience I haven’t done since I was a teenager. It was a great time, though, serving the needy and hearing their stories. Now if we could just figure out where one is here in the suburbs, that would be great. 🙂

To those of you who celebrate the holiday, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving. To those who simply enjoy Black Friday, good luck! I am planning on participating myself–for the very first time. I think, judging by the stories we hear and see in the news, it’s an experience a writer ought to have. 🙂

winter is… well, here

I see snow outside my window. In theory, I love snow. Soft. White. Umm… that’s about it. But in truth, I really hate it. Shoveling it, snowblowing it, driving through it, salting it, slipping on it, falling face-first into it.

I dislike it even more when it interferes with my plans. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I am participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo. I’m actually doing really well, but the last few days it’s become like pulling teeth without any anesthetic. (Let’s be honest, any dental work with anesthetic is a cake walk.) 1667 words a month is the daily minimum, barring any days with extreme spurts of creativity. I always aim for a bit more. Last year I had a problem with creativity, and I barely made it. Pretty much reached about 51k with ten or so minutes left. That was exhilarating and stressful and a little shameful. How did I have so little to write about?

I don’t think that was the problem, but it feels like it sometimes when we find ourselves unable to write anything. This past week, I’ve started to question my love for writing. It’s become like a chore, and I guess that’s part of the nature of NaNo. It asks us to obligate ourselves to write a certain amount everyday. Like exercise, maybe, and when you’re not feeling it, to continue is to put yourself through hell for the sake of… I don’t know, principle.

It would be an extreme tragedy, imho, if NaNo converted my love for writing into hate. I think it’s unlikely, but it’s been a really long time since I found the process this distasteful. Maybe it’s the residual irritation over not finishing work with my previous novel while starting this new one. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to worry again about my chances for success. (Yes, I know I still should try. That’s not the point.) Or maybe it’s because of winter.

Some of you may have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a pleasant (sarcasm) little life event that swings around in the colder season. The sun comes out less, and the body takes a hit. Gloom is doom and all that, after all. When you’re already suffering from depression or bi-polar disorder, S.A.D. is a lovely (sarcasm, again) complementary effect that makes things ten times worse. (My insurance company isn’t making things any easier. They just told me they’ve decided not to cover my trips to the therapist! Yay.) So currently prescription medication is out of the question, but I have been exploring OTC options. Good old St. John’s Wort and something called SAMe. And Vitamin D-3 and some other crap just for balance. 🙂 It’s alright, though I suspect the real benefit is in the placebo effect.

Well, as my eternally-optimistic work buddy likes to say, it could be worse. Yes, friends, it could always be worse. Which really makes none of it better. It does, in fact, aspire to make you feel guilty about feeling terrible in the first place. I don’t like that, I don’t really agree, so I don’t listen to her about much anymore. (This is the same friend who doesn’t believe in depression.)

The good news is I’m still writing. I may loathe it but I’m getting it done, day by day. I’m even going to take full advantage of all the perks winning NaNo comes with. A few free prints, discount on software… some other things, I can’t remember right now. And another month of extreme productivity.

To those of you in the same boat as me (the SAD boat or the NaNo boat), good luck. Keep the faith. Stay strong, and a hundred other platitudes about not giving up.

warning: “sad” zone ahead

I wanted this blog to be about writing, originally. And storytelling, and TV and cinema. But it seems like the only story I can talk about right now is mine. Sorry.

Nobody ever promised that depression always had to make sense. Or fight fair. Or take a break. Or even go away. Does it make me a pessimist to admit these things?

I have a friend… who tells me with kind and earnest conviction that depression doesn’t exist. She doesn’t believe in it. She further told me that people–not including herself, she added–would probably want to hang out with me more if I wasn’t so… down. Yes, I can believe that would be true. I know she means well. Friends usually do.

I didn’t say much in response. I was a little upset–and astounded to hear her say those things. It feels real. Its effects are definitely real. I suppose, then, in a way that depression is a lot like a black hole. Which, fittingly, not everyone believes exists as well.

There are days…

Well. There are days, and some of you will understand that undeniable, unavoidable sense of despair. So very much like a black hole, with a pull so strong, it’s really all you can do to carry on with things and not collapse in on yourself. But, I think, people will see… something. They usually call it moping.

You see, depression can’t be solved with a smile, though my friend tried and she did make me smile. We can still do that sometimes, though. The muscles in our face remember. But it’s just a smile. It’s not a cure. Because sadness is just a symptom. It’s not the disease.

nano, nano

Yes, I said it. And yes, I’m doing it.

National Novel… something. Writing? Writer? I’m way too lazy to verify which one it is. Month.

I had a different topic on my mind earlier, but I felt I should at least toss out that I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year, my third year in a row. Last year was a difficult one, I barely made it thanks to lots of homemade confections and bacon chocolate chip cookies.

I’m working on the next book in my fantasy series, and yeah I know I haven’t finished working on the first one, but this is NaNo, so I’m making an exception as to be as productive as I possibly can be.

I’m excited. My region appears to be quite re-energized with dozens of new participants. I attended the sort-of kick-off event. It’s all looking quite good, except that I haven’t attempted this before while working a full-time job. So it’s definitely going to be a bit of a challenge this time.

Well. At least I know I’ll get something done. Not sure if it’ll be great, but that’s not the point! Maybe I’ll even learn how to be okay with that.