Don’t Seek Inspiration

Right now I’m in a fiction writing workshop in school and I wrote the first draft of my short story in about a day.  Now, that is not trying to brag or anything because it was actually something I wasn’t very proud of and will probably never share with anyone outside of that class.  I didn’t have a great idea for it and I didn’t have a lot of passion for that particular story, but I kind of consider it a practice story.  It’s not a story that will necessarily be published, but it helps me to learn the process.

One of the major things that I have always complained about is lack of inspiration.  There are a lot of areas in my life where inspiration is what I’m seeking and I have recently come to the realization that seeking inspiration is actually the wrong way to go about things.  Just. Write.  That whole “Just Do It” campaign is really true.  And it is proved by this past Monday night.  Every Monday I meet a couple of friends to hang out and (supposedly) write.  And I rarely write anything.  Why?  Because there are people there to distract me, mostly.  But the main reason they are able to distract me is because I don’t feel “inspired”.  This past Monday they were late.  I spent an hour and a half in the coffee shop by myself before they got there.  I did not feel “inspired” when I first went in there.  But I opened my notebook and I started writing.  I wrote two pages.  (And my handwriting is tiny so it’s more like 3 typed pages.)

Is all of that stuff that will actually end up in the final novel?  I don’t know.  I have to get to the end of it and start revising to find that out, but I was writing.  Writing breeds more writing.  I started writing and I got distracted a few times (primarily because I forgot my ear buds) but the more words I wrote the more words crowded into my head.  When they actually came in I was actually a little bit disappointed.  Not because I was unhappy to see them, I was actually very happy because they are two of my favorite people in the world, but because it interrupted my flow.

My biggest problem with writing (right now) is discipline.  I need to discipline myself to actually write every day.  Even if it’s only a few minutes before I’m totally out of ideas.  But I need to be better about that.  I know that I won’t do particularly well with a specific schedule, meaning I will write from x time to y time and I will clean my house at z time, because I will fall off track a little bit and I’ll get really angry with myself and I’ll be really discouraged.  (I do at least know that about myself.)  But I can make goals.  So, my goal is to write something, at least one sentence, on my novel every day.

As I said before, I am in school.  I also have a full-time job and I own my home so I am fully responsible for the cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, and such and I’m also working on getting healthier so I have to have time to exercise.  However, despite all of the things that are already on my schedule I absolutely have time to write a sentence.  This sentence took me less than a minute to write.  Even with all the backspacing I did.  And even though my hand writing is slightly slower than my typing, it will still take me MAYBE one minute to write a sentence in my novel.  Maybe.  I can spare one minute.  Especially when I spend most of my time at home watching Criminal Minds on Netflix.  Even if I write my sentence while I’m cooking or on the toilet!  How long to we spend on the toilet every day?  I can totally fit in a sentence there.  Probably not when I’m at work, because people would give me weird looks, but certainly at home.

So, there it is.  Don’t seek inspiration, create discipline.  That is my goal and that is what I will probably have to continue to strive for for a long time.  But it is worth it.

Showing Love for Writing

I.  Love.  Writing.  It doesn’t really show on a blog basis, but I really do write pretty much every single day.  Not always my novel . . .  But that is a story for another time.  😀  I journal basically every day because I love writing.  And the days I don’t journal, I do write fiction.  Again, not always my novel, but I do write and that is part of the battle with getting a novel written, right?

 

So, instead of getting down on myself for not writing more often or always being mad at myself for not meeting my writing goals or something like that, I’m going to try a new tactic for getting my novel written.  And this idea just came to me today, so I haven’t been doing it for the past two weeks or anything.  Anyway, the plan is to get back to loving writing and focusing on that instead of focusing on writing goals (word counts, pages, etc.).

 

I’m not going to totally do away with writing goals, because I think that without goals you have no motivation, but I’m going to focus more on how fresh and creative I feel when I write rather than “Did I hit my word count?”  I still want to write a first draft every month (I haven’t finished my NaNo2014 Novel yet, but I’m still working on it!) and to that end I do still have a goal of writing at least two hours every day and roughly 10,000 words per week.  But I’m going to focus more on the love of writing.  I think I have gotten far too caught up in being mad at myself for not being finished and in what MIGHT happen after I finish (i.e. getting published).

 

So, to kick off my new focus, I love writing because it means I can release all the emotions pent up inside me.  If I have a bad day, I can write a murder scene or a fight scene or even just a guy throwing a tantrum.  Then I purge those emotions and essentially have the tantrum without looking like a two year old.  (And I hope you all know I would never actually kill anyone, but I do write murder mysteries so the scene is convenient)  If I’m having a great day but can’t seem to find anyone to share it with, I can give my characters an awesome scene.  These people are like friends to me and I love being able to see them happy.  If I’m feeling lonely I can write about it, or I can just spend time with my characters.  Again, they are like real people to me.  That may sound kind of crazy, but they are and I’m less lonely when I’m spending time with them.

 

I love writing because the movement is familiar.  I’ve been forming letters for as long as I can remember and the very act is soothing.  Even if I’m not writing words.  Sometimes when I’m anxious, I literally sign my name over and over again simply because it is a familiar movement.

 

I think I’m making myself sound a little more crazy than I meant to.  Hopefully some of this actually does make sense to some people out there.  Writing is my love and my passion and I think I may have lost focus of that a bit.  I’m going to try to refocus and get back to that passion.

Starting Fresh

If you read my posts from November, you know that I didn’t finish my novel for NaNoWriMo, I only got halfway through.  You also know that my plan was to finish the second half in December.  Well, that didn’t happen either.  It probably would have if Christmas was the only thing in the way, because I really don’t go to a lot of parties.  The big problem was that I bought a house (YAY!) which meant I had to move (BOO!).  Signing papers over and over and moving took up ALL MY TIME!!!!!!!!!  I’m still not fully unpacked.  To be fair, though, I was never fully unpacked in my parents’ house and we lived there just over 3 years.

Anyway, the problem now is actually FINISHING THE DAMN BOOK!!!!!  And I’m seriously sick of having little bits of novels scattered around various notebooks.  So, with the craziness of December and school starting in January I essentially took time off from the novel for most of January.

But now we are at the end of the January and it is time to continue.  I have not spent the entire month away from the book so I am still aware of what has happened.  The challenge is really figuring out how to “start fresh” on the project I have so much written on and not feel anxiety about the inconsistencies I’m creating.  I’ve been thinking about this for most of the month because picking up where I left off has never really been an issue for me.  It’s the inconsistencies in the first draft that happen.  And no matter how many times I read or hear that you are supposed to have a shitty first draft I get anxious trying to figure out “where it’s going” while I’m writing and thinking about all the things that don’t match the most recent turn.

So, I have come up with a few strategies that will, hopefully, help me to actually get it written.

1) Just Do It — as much as I’ve heard it, it still rings true that sometimes you have to just write.

2) Don’t Look Back — I am going to flip through and make sure I have all the current characters names on my master list, then I will not look more than a page back at a time until I reach the end.  That should keep me from wanting to edit too much.

3) Stop Writing, Stop Thinking — when the timer goes off (or when I stop writing for whatever reason) I will not think about the novel until I am ready to write again.  If I think about it I’ll plan and if I plan I’ll over plan.

4) Word Count — I have a box on my daily planner pages where I will track my word count every day.

I don’t know exactly how well these will work.  Maybe not at all.  Maybe they’ll need a little adjusting.  Maybe I’ll even come up with some new things to try to keep me on track.

I also have a goal for the year to write 12 first drafts of novels.  That is ambitious.  I am fully aware that I probably will not reach that goal.  But my thought is, if you reach for Pluto, surely you’ll hit the moon, right?  So I’m reaching for Pluto.  Who knows, maybe I’ll actually get there.  That would clear up a few of the bits and pieces.

Did She or Didn’t She – NaNo Results for WishfulWriterTwo

I DID!!!!!  And I didn’t.

 

Let me explain.  I honestly don’t remember if I mentioned my personal goal for NaNo this year or not (and I’m too lazy to go back and look).  I did NOT hit 50,000 words.  However, I DID get further than I have ever gotten with NaNo before, so I do consider it a success.  And I learned a lot about time management over the last month.  To be honest, I know why I didn’t hit it this year.  I am in school and I’m buying a house and I’m working 40 hours a week.  All of those things add up to not a lot of time to write.  However, I know that other people have just as much going on and still it 50,000 words.

 

BUT, and this is a big but, I am not going to put away what I’ve written because today is December 1st.  I’m actually going to keep writing.  I only got halfway there, but even though I’m still in school, still working 40 hours a week, and still buying a house (and will start moving in halfway through the month if everything goes well) I’m going to keep writing.  I’m going to keep writing and I’m going to finish the 50,000 words.  And then I’m going to edit it.

 

I’m already thinking about this thing I’m doing for the new year.  It’s 12 lists of 12 things for the year.  You can choose whatever list you want to do and you can fill it in ahead of time and check them off or fill them in as you go, but one of my lists is to query 12 publishers/agents.  In order to do that, I have to actually get the first draft of my book to go from “only the writer could love this” to “hey, this won’t make my friends’ eyes bleed anymore” to “this is vaguely fit for human consumption”.  I figure that last one is what most editors get anyway and they’ll help me get to “I am not embarrassed to claim this” at least before they send it out to the world.

 

Maybe I will get no where.  Maybe I’ll get a long list of rejections.  But I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos lately about planning and organizing and journaling (I was mainly getting ideas for the planner I’m setting up and the journal vlogs were linked and I was sucked into the YouTube vortex of doom) and one of the vloggers said something that really struck me.  She said that when all you do is sit and get sucked into the YouTube vortex of doom watching vlogs you are a voyeur.  You are watching other people live their lives instead of living your own.  And that is so true!  And it just struck me that she is completely right about that and if I am a wishful writer, I have to actually get published.

 

Yes, I am working towards a degree in English and I want to move on to get my Master’s.  I’ve always considered going into publishing and I honestly can’t see myself working my current job for the rest of my life.  It just isn’t what I want to do.  But I don’t NEED a degree in order to publish fiction.  All I NEED is a completed draft and persistence!

 

So, there you have it.  I’ll let you know when the draft is actually finished and how I feel about it.  But I’m moving towards being finished with it before the end of the year.

I Am a Writer

Wishful Writer Two

 

I may not be published.  I may not be ready to share most of what I write with the general public.  I may not even be willing to share most of it with trusted friends.  But I am a writer.  Why?  Because I write.  It is not every day.  I can sometimes go weeks without putting pen to paper (at least for my personal writing).  But I write.  And that makes me a writer.

 

I have been making up stories since I was two.  My mom used to come pick me up from Sunday School or Mother’s Day Out and the workers would ask about something I had told them and she would have to tell them that I was making it up.  Then she would tell me not to lie to people.  I don’t really remember this, but she says I always told her that I wasn’t lying.  I was telling a story I made up.  I apparently never intended for anyone to believe me.  But they did.

 

Since I learned to draw letters and use those letters to form words, and then sentences, I have been writing my stories instead of telling them to people.  It provides a creative outlet, as well as an emotional one.

 

I typically write murder mystery stories (though comedy and romance are not unheard of in my notebook), and that has been a great way to take out the frustrations of life.  When someone gets particularly annoying I kill them . . . in my writing.  Generally, it means I have a good laugh.


Writing is also a way for me to work through real life situations in a fictional world.  I can make decisions, have conversations, and express emotions without real world consequences.  Sometimes that is enough to get over whatever injustice I’ve recently been dealt.  Sometimes it is enough to give me the courage to confront whomever dealt it.  Either way I’m able to work through whatever is going on.

 

No matter what anyone ever says about me, no matter what is going on in my life, there is always this one aspect of myself about which I am completely certain.  I am a writer.  I may never be published.  I may never make any money off of it.  That isn’t the point.  The point is that it is something I love to do.  I will always love to do it.  Just like I will always love singing, playing my guitar, and knitting.  It is part of who I am.  And whether or not I ever have fans or make money, it is a part I am proud of.

Kara Howell

One Step Forward – Great News and Not So Good News

The Great News

I GOT A JOB!

Sorry, I have to be raw about this, but it just happened yesterday as my first post went live, this blissful news fluttered in quietly through an email yesterday afternoon. I of course called my mother first, who cheered for me and as much as I wanted to cry tears of joy, my body couldn’t shake the smile and relax my eyes enough to allow any tears. Kinda strange, I could feel the tears in my face and the pressure to let them out in my throat. But even without tears, I was able to fully enjoy the elation of being told “Congratulations!” – Who doesn’t like that feeling? You knew you could do it, but it’s great to be affirmed, isn’t it?

Confession: I squealed and jumped up and down and onto the bed and ran around the house and outside making strange noises. Jax and Kylie (two dogs that live here) looked at me and tilted their head in that confused look dogs give.

I celebrated with my boyfriend with obligatory celebratory food – pizza, soda, and my favorite – Greek salad with a crap ton of red onions and feta. The only thing the Greek salad has wrong – is olives. I know, it’s Greek, but whatever, I tossed every olive I found.

SO – the actual job!

It’s with a growing online magazine called Society South and I am absolutely thrilled to be part of their staff writing team! The magazine has a great millennial vibe and is full of solid content. I won’t ramble too much about it, but encourage you to take a peak at it. After all, it is my new job, you’ll probably be getting plugged with a few posts relating to my work there.

I still can’t believe it. I will be writing for my job. It’s a true dream come true. That’s all I can really say. My work will not only be read by close friends or trusted colleagues, but by a public eye that can be merciless – that fact absolutely thrills me.

The Not So Good News

As I went about my afternoon with my boyfriend and we ran errands, I was shaky with sheer delight and laughter. I felt like I could breathe a bit easier, I felt that proverbial weight lifted from my shoulders and I just felt a genuine joy for everything around me. But in my ecstasy, I received “that” news. My friend of the better part of over 10 years has cancer. Out of respect for this individual, I won’t reveal more than that. I can’t even talk about the conversation we had because he/she would rather keep this private news for as long as he/she can. I completely understand and I respect that decision.

It was a pretty huge blow to my heart though. I was even in the middle of laughing about something, probably stupid or not-laugh worthy – but I saw the message and it felt like one of those slow-motion transitions you see in movies, in which the emotions are captured slowly, the movements feel static and still, and you have to wait a long time to process exactly what is happening. That’s what getting that news felt like.

Confession: I got angry and wanted to throw my phone.

I told my boyfriend, who is not friends with this individual as I am, but knew the effect this news had on me. We got out of the car at our next stop and gave me a huge hug. Strange, I wanted to cry, I could feel the tears behind my eyes and the pressure in my throat to let it out, but it couldn’t come. Maybe it was in the manner that which the news was delivered to me. It was calm, it was steady and gentle, very much like the person themselves. I know he/she would not have wanted me to react harshly or rashly, despite the blow.  Even now, I am not sure how to react, there are some real concerns with this person’s situation, yet he/she is really taking it well. I guess for now, I adopt his/her outlook on it and let it be. Staying as positive and upbeat about my life which will hopefully allow him/her feel the positive vibes.

All in all – a Good Day.

Even with the downing news, it made me realize how much I value this individual and appreciate what he/she means to my life. I guess that sort of sentiment sounds cliche, but it doesn’t make it less true for me. Also, got a job, so – can’t stay down long, especially when I shared the happy news with this person and he/she was just as excited for me 🙂 This person has seen me go through a lot, so it’s great to see his/her response to the going’s-on in my life.

That’s about it for the day. More of a journal/diary/blog post – but it had to do with writing, so it counts. – It’s the “…” moment as I eagerly await for things to take off as I continue my pursuits as a writer!

Just Do It. My Preamble.

Well Nike sure claimed an incredible tagline for themselves – a simple call to action that is a mentality a lot of us creatives have to implement every day as we work the grind and still have energy to simply – just do it.

I think I must be in the minority of writers out there – I read a lot about people who were just so motivated and driven and yadda, yadda, that they just up and did what they loved to do – write. For me? I am as cautious as they come. I love my plans, routines, schedules, calendars, reminders – all those things that keep me in safe boundaries. I was that kid in school that never crossed the lines with my teachers or coaches. Only when it came to art and writing did I even dare stray from the course, but even then it was at the encouragement of my teachers who said “Color outside the lines!” and “Feel free to write more than the 500 word limit.” – It wasn’t necessarily because I was so impassioned I just HAD to do it – I just happen to have the ability to go a bit beyond what was asked, and even then I nervously put my work on the line knowing there were standards and rules I had to abide to for fear of failure.

All that said – it takes a lot for me to self-start.

And can I be honest? I find myself a bit depressed. Want to know why? Well, click here to get the full story. But if you want to skip the sobs, just know I’ve been in a bit of a rut for a few years, and I am slowly working my way out of it.

Because of the state of heart and mind I have found myself in, it’s all the more harder to just do it. To just write. And you may think, “Then you have no business, or right maybe, to pursue such a audacious and treacherous career path. They’ll [whoever they are] will chew you up and spit you out.” And maybe that will happen. All I know is that I do love writing. When I do write – not for an essay, article, or assignment – just write for my own benefit of getting out what I know and feel – I know I did a decent job. I know I have a good voice. I know that I can encourage other people who might feel depressed, unmotivated, and discouraged.

I want to write because I have a story worth sharing. It’s not terribly exciting, but not many of ours are action-movie worthy, but they do have messages, even subtle ones, that can teach lessons and lift spirits of those who are fortunate enough to read them. Share your stories with me, and I will share my stories with you.

With all that in mind, I invite you to join me in my story and stories I will share – along with my fellow Wishful Writer Two!

So, all there’s left to do now is to – Just Do It.