A Million and One

The Departure

Just a reminder that your next post is in 2 weeks. Hope all is well with you and yours.

I have to hand it to our post manager. He doesn’t give me shit when I miss that. However, the truth is, things aren’t perfectly good for me right now. All I can hold onto is this: things are getting better. Even if each incriment of improvement is, at times, monumentally small.

Lately it’s occurred to me that I’ve mostly taken a break from writing over the past year and a half. Extreme stress and health crises can do that to a person. Yes, I’ve written a million words, but. What does that mean if I’m not writing now?

The answer? Because in some ways, I have been.

Burn the pages, boil the quills; I’ll still be writing, yes I will

It’s hard to explain this, except to recognize that things have not been quiet in my head. I’ve been feeling creative with ideas, exposing myself to new ways of thinking, still taking notes. Refilling a well that I felt had gone dry. Not in the mythical “writer’s block” sense, but lacking the drive to commit to anything written.

So, how have I been productive in this time of blank pages?

Latent Research. As I go through my days, I’ve absorbed media, whether it’s books, articles, or TV shows. Fiction or non. In a few cases, I’ve spoken at length with experts on specific topics. Most of the time, this was not done with the aim of applying that knowledge to a specific story, but rather, it was fodder for the brain. Facts and situations and people that percolate in the back of the mind, where connections are made and ideas born.

Reading Fiction. Everything I read, I remember in some way. Last time I managed to post, I talked about how I always have music in my head. Well, the same goes for stories. Everything sticks with me in some way, the good stuff and the bad. (We’ll talk about the hate-reads some other time.) All of it teaches me, and I know I’ll be able to one day apply those lessons.

I am one with the storyverse. The storyverse is with me.

Getting My Head on Straight. I talk a lot about mental health, and I’m not ashamed of it. I had a lot of work to do, but the truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know. Figuring out what I needed to actually work on to get myself together. Establishing a way to ground myself and set my boundaries. Dealing with a case of adult bullying in my personal life. Managing and improving my health after several crises. Making time for myself. Not allowing others to dictate my schedule for me. And a little bit of therapeutic fun. All of these things have helped me move forward. All of this has helped bring me back to me.

The Return

Six days before 2018 ended, I finally started to put words on the page. Today is Day 61 (yes, consecutive) of that initiative.

Ever-so-slowly, bit by bit, I am finally writing again, and I know I can do this.

And now that I have? Here’s how I’ve been facilitating my return:

Crafting. One particular dividend of the downtime was that I was able to combine existing ideas in a way I hadn’t considered before, to make something new. A magic system I’d developed for one project, yet which I’ve recently realized was grossly underdeveloped, worked perfectly for another set of stories that I’ve been working on, because they turned out to be in the same universe (rather like the MCU). In turn, further developing my magic system means that I’ve been making changes across the board to help both projects. This means I can approach them with an improved perspective.

Piecing. At an SIWC Master Class one year, Diana Gabaldon explained a bit about her process, how parts of the story come to her and she writes it like a bud unfolding into bloom. At the time, I couldn’t fathom it because in the past, I’ve always needed to write in a linear fashion. (Having an outline helps so much with that.) Yet more often than not I kept getting disheartened. Stuck. That’s where Diana’s method suddenly made sense. Little snatches of dialogue would come to me, so I’d make notes, even if I didn’t know where they fit into my projects.

I have a lot of notes now. I also have some really great ideas on how they can be applied.

Plotting. While I do find myself puzzling things out some (it’s my process), I’ve also come to learn how much better I work with a proper outline. Yet making that outline can prove problematic. Yes, I know how the story ends, but that doesn’t mean I’ve figured out the necessary twists and turns.

So here’s the simple fix, which I forget about until I’m struggling but which has proved very useful over the years. I outline in reverse. This can lead to some interesting epiphanies.

Z is the ending.
Z happens because Y.
Y happens because X.
X happens because — ZOMG! I didn’t know the hero had a son! That’s why he did C and G earlier!

So here we are. I hope that my experiences and strategies mentioned in this post can be useful for anyone else struggling like I’ve been. I’m going to keep up with my daily WOP routine as much as possible, because I need to, and because I’m trying to move forward. Because now that I know how to, I’m ready. Like, really ready. Because I realized that the biggest thing I had to do was get over a warped fear rooted in impostor syndrome and low self-esteem.

Thankfully we now know that impostor syndrome has a cure. All jokes aside, that part’s rooted in courage.


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