Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stomping on Writer's Block

No one said it'd be easy. I know that and never expected revising my manuscript to be anything but difficult. But revising under deadlines are not to be messed with. I have about three weeks left to revise my manuscript into something fashionable for submission. I crunched the numbers for the minimum word count of 50,000.

I'd need to get through about 2500 words a day.

Let's just say that one more time for comedic effect:


Good. I think that was good for both of us to get out of our systems.

And well, when I ran the numbers, my head spun for a little bit. I paced around my cold room, blew into my hands, and slapped my face. Then I sat down and started. It's been like that for a week now.
And, of course, the sleep is dropping off.

There may be a problem when I wake up and my computer is sleeping beside me on the bed like a faithful pet.

Sometimes, I laugh at myself as I wake it up from hibernation. "Yo, who told you you could sleep on the job? What do you mean I fell asleep first? Don't talk back to me!"

But always, I keep going. Late at night, early in the morning, after you've finished work. These are the times when night-writers have to get their work in. Let's be honest: we're hardly in the mood when we think about it, but when we sit down, it's glorious. Usually.

Sometimes, the mood isn't there, manifesting its ugly head as "writer's block." But that stuff is just hearsay and scuttlebutt and boogeyman speak. I don't buy it. You can get past any of your desires and false-gods pretending that you don't have the chance to write. It'll take some creativity, but luckily for you, that just happens to be up your alley.

Here's a small list of things I do to jog myself into writing:
1. I get up and breathe deeply.

This kind of gets at why you feel sleepy at some parts of the day. Subconsciously, when we're a little bored, we only take in shallow breaths. Something like running in energy-conservation mode. And your body, with less oxygen, feels more tired. So, get up, breathe a lot. Walk fast in tight two meter circles. I dunno. But breathe. Then, when you sit down, maintain good posture to keep the air flowing. I dare you to try it.

2. I find other ways to engage in my created world.

Are you writing a fantasy book? Do you have a map of all the crazy places your characters are going?  Why not? DRAW THAT RIGHT NOW. For me, it feels amazing drawing maps. It gets me involved with the world and I get down into the world itself, imagining the hills, mountain ridges, glades, rivers, plains, and run-down villages. You gotta do something that gets you back into the world.

3. Read out loud.

This serves two purposes. First, it lets you know that, yes your accents are truly as horrible as everyone says they are. I recommend doing this in public for truly pressured writing. Second, it manifests your characters in a totally different way for your mind. Some people can imagine the voices of their characters really well. That's awesome, but for the rest of us, it can be helpful and comforting to have that character's voice (even if it is yours) in the room with you.

4. Write your characters in a different setting.

I rarely do this, as the other methods are more effective for me, but I do think that putting your characters out of setting can help you gain a better feel for them. You get to know them better, and they'll drive your (or their) story for you. It's a little something like magic. I think you know what I mean.

Anyway, every writer is different but hopefully, some of you are kinda like me and these tips are helpful.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Glazed Wall

So in my "About jey" page, I say that I don't mind people texting while on the bus. And I don't. But I do think it's a hilarious new norm.

I'm a suburban kid. If I had grown up in the city, I'd have seen what riders would have done without phones and Kindles and headphones worth $5. It may have looked sorta like what I saw today, but I'll never know.

Just about every single person's face is glued to a phone screen. Almost literally (I wish though, because that'd be hilarious).

And if they aren't looking at it, they're listening to something through headphones that suck their minds out their eardrums. They just stare listlessly into space.

To be clear, even if they weren't doing these things, I wouldn't want to talk to any of them. That's just not my jam, talking to strangers on a bus after work. So I understand the reasoning behind it. The dude sitting behind me just wants to relax and watch slasher films on his iPad, screams busting out his headphones, while the girl next to me shifts uncomfortably and continues cooing into the phone with whomever on some other bus (Oh, so her face was totally glued to the screen, HAH).

I get it. They have other things to do.

Me. I bet they're making all kinda wayward judgements of me too. I'm sitting there, super awkward, because those chairs can never be comfortable, and I sometimes scribble in a notebook, or I'm struggling to stay awake and my face keeps zigzagging across my chest like I'm trying to draw a figure eight with a pen in my mouth. To each her own.

I do, however, enjoy the off-chance that someone wants to strike up a conversation with me. It's a rare thing but enjoyable; perhaps because of its spontaneity and scarcity.

I wonder how consistent this aspect of nature is, though. I hardly think it's a phenomenon of technology. I mean, if everyone were just sitting there, I wouldn't try and talk to any of them. I like to daydream and that doesn't require teamwork. There's a lot of hubbub (here is where I cite evidence that you believe) that technology is killing people's ability to actual communicate with one another.

Well, maybe for some people, but my mouth isn't in a constant state of motion anyway, which leads me to believe people weren't made to always talk to each other. They pick and choose. It just so happens that now they're choosing to do more entertaining things because they can. I think that's fair. No need to force it.

So, there's my spiel on human disconnectedness. It is what it is. If you want it, you can try for it, but you may get shot down. Oddly, I think that happened even before people had phones.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Theory Behind Why Worknight Is Not A Word But Workday Is

It's not natural. That's what it is. A worknight—or, the terrible thing I have dubbed writing after dinner hours—is so dastardly, unpolished, and turdlike that the dictionaries have refused it. But it exists.

(And let me say, I understand that work night is a thing, y'know, a composition of English words. BUT, worknight is not a thing.)

I got up about half a hour ago to stretch my legs and think about the bad and awful writing I had just written. What the hell am I doing? I AM WRITING, SHUT UP. I took a few deep breaths, some push ups (gave up), climbed on some things around the house, and looked in a mirror and HOLY CRAP, I LOOK LIKE GARBAGE. That's what a worknight is. A lot of shouting, and you have so little energy, that your body quits trying to make your face and complexion like a creature that deserves food and sunlight.

I remember stuff like this. It was called college. But it's not quite like this. There are no classes that last for 8 hours, are sandwiched between commutes, and are every single weekday. Sure, you had some class, strolled between places, chatted with bumped-into homeys, went to a lab, left early because you felt like it, ate something, went home, napped, and then did your diligent studying and homework. Then you got to go out. Hey, not bad.

But this... this workday into a worknight thing. Totally unreal. Let me break it down into the multi-variable equations that haunt my sleep cycle.
1.5 commute hours
8 workDAY hours
1.5 commute hours
0.5 hours dinner
5 workNIGHT hours
= – 800 hours of sleep


But hey, I'm not a needy guy. I'm just a dude, blarging about my totally normal and generally complacent life. Phew. Good, thanks for listening to that. The whining has ended and now I can officially get back to writing.

Seriously though, not sure how many of you out there are fighting the good fight on these worknights, but let us band together and tell all those people struggling at 3pm on a workday to SACK UP.

PS. I totally wish blarging were a viable thing at work. But, as we can all see, it's not very conducive to me writing my novel! Now which work am I talking about?

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

So, there's been this small contest that Amazon has run for the past few years, and they've just announced the next contest! Basically, they accept a bunch of pitches for manuscripts. This contest has been upgraded in that there are FIVE possible winners, with a grand winner receiving a $50k publishing contract and the other four getting $15k advances. All told, pretty amazing. You should read up on all of it right now. NOW.

I'm really stoked on this contest and will be spending quite a bit of time working on my pitch due February 16th and then the rest of the time on the manuscript! It's not even halfway edited so I've got a way to go. And even if I don't make it. Well, whatever, because this gave me the boost to working feverishly on my manuscript.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Alms giving

So last night, I gave 8 dollars to a man on the train. Is that a lot or a little? Based on the ordering of my words, maybe it's a lot. But based on the regular expenditures of my life, maybe it's only a little. How do you judge it?

I had been out with friends at a bar, had a few drinks, watched a basketball game, bid farewell, and boarded a train back home. It wasn't too late, just about 10:30pm, and the train was barely lined with folks. Just about anyone could grab a seat if they wanted one, though the seats are grimy enough to make that decision a difficult one at best.

I decided to stand. I wasn't going to be on the train that long anyway, just about 15 minutes.

Seven minutes or so into the ride, a man goes by, asking for money. He approaches several young men with English accents. They're pretty cheerful, and even seem a bit tipsy and they josh around with the man, before deciding that, between the three of them, they can spare a dollar. For some reason this bothers me.

The man graciously accepts the dollar and continues on. When he reaches my area, he doesn't turn to me, instead turning to the couple across from me. They decline to provide money and he carries on down the aisles, left to right and back again. For some reason, I find myself wishing he'd asked me.

Not four minutes later, another man comes down the aisles, asking for money. He asks the same people. The same English men. Now, they seem less jovial and their collective dollar effort has been reduced to some excuses that they don't carry any dollar bills on them.

This man now reaches my area and instead of turning to the couple, he turns to me. Even before he's asking, I'm reaching for my wallet. I think I'd made my mind up well beforehand. There are several factors that affected me, though this is the first time I've confronted any of them through words.

1. I try to give money whenever possible. There are many things in play here. If the asker smells like cigarettes or alcohol, I'm much less likely to give at all. But for someone who is asking respectfully and earnestly, hey, sometimes a person just needs a hand.

2. I dislike when people, who clearly have money, refuse to offer anything. It irks me when people are listening to their iPhones but can't spare a dollar.

3. I'd just spent about 7 dollars per beer at a bar. Couldn't I spare some money?

So I gave him some money and he thanked me profusely and I was beginning to feel awkward about it when he decided the more thanks he gave, the less time he had for asking others.

There you have it. That's the story, but I've been a little bothered by it ever since. I like to think that I was guided by principles to give that second man money but why didn't I give the first man money? Both of them were nice and weren't the disorderly and rowdy panhandlers you can see on public transportation.

Would it have been better to split the $8 between them? Should I have given more money? Once I've established the principle that I think it's worthy to give them money, how do I know how much money to give? I wish I knew the answer because the result is me acting inconsistently.

As much as I like to think about this stuff, it gives me a headache. I think more so than if I had never given any money at all. It feels like after I hand them my money, I've given them some part of me, I've invested in them a little, and I'd like to know what happens. Are they truly earnest, or am I just the greatest dupe?

Well, I'll keep thinking about this and if I ever figure out what to do about it, I'll let you know. In the meantime, how does this relate to writing? People don't always act the same, or as they idealize themselves. And when they don't, I think they struggle with themselves. Identity or whatever. What-kind-of-person-am-I type inner dialogues.

How much do people adhere to principles? Do people still refer to how they act as guiding principles? Not something I've really talked about with lots of people. Anyway, as a writer, I believe this is an important concept to maintain. Characters can be inconsistent, but there has to be a reason, and I think people know when they've acted differently. They'll reflect. And they'll maybe change after that.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Yay, and so we begin

This is where I shall blarg about the things I think too hard about and also the travails of my writing... career. Maybe. I dislike that word because I only really write since I enjoy it. I've always thought, "Hey, that'd be nice to have as a career, y'know, a writer. Someone who wears their chair thin from typing all day, drinks lots of cafe-type stuff in cafe-type places."

So when I finished college and began a career not wholly defined as the above, I discovered that maybe career is a bad word for it. I think it'll be more like a journey. When I think about careers, I think about money. And yuck. Money, and in my case, the lack thereof, but wherefore meow meow and on and on. So no, not career. 

I don't want to think of my writing as a monetary investment, as the time that I've spent writing being essential to expediting my financial success and pathways to a jacuzzi in a limo parked in my driveway. While that would be sick wicked awesome, that's not what I want out of my writing. And I think it's important to make that distinction. I'll probably never be a professional writer with that mindset, but hey, it won't bug me. 

I like writing. Hopefully it's something that other people enjoy reading, too. That's my main goal here. Provide a bit of an outlet for you (and other people dropping by) to read my stuff. If you like it, awesome! I'd love to hear from you. If you don't like it, if in fact, you totally hate it, and it made you squirm in your seat, I would totally love to hear that too. 

And this blog will cover other stuff too. It's just that most of the time I'm thinking about writing.