Let’s Get Serious About Creative Slumps

I think all bloggers, artists, writers and creators of any kind know what I’m talking about. And I’m lying at the very bottom of that nasty slump.

It’s something that happens for creatives when they stop creating. That voice in the back of their mind tells them that they just can’t do it anymore, that they were never very good at it anyway. We fall into this irritable depression that slaps a lot of gray over the world around you.

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You know what the cure is. You know what could make everything better, even a little.

But you just can’t bring yourself to do it.

You can’t bring yourself to create.

My excuse is that I don’t have enough time. It’s an hour to work and an hour back and after driving on top of my shift, I’m beat. I don’t want to do what my mind is telling me is more work. I let myself get away with it by telling myself I’m not good enough anyway. It isn’t going to be the best seller that I want it to be.

I’m letting it affect other areas of my life, too.

And it has to end. In someways, writing this post is the first step back. I’m making something. I’m stringing together words in a way that no one else would. I can tell myself I’m not that awful at writing. I can tell myself that every first draft is shit.

The next step for me, I think, is painting. I truly, deeply love watercolor painting. I always wanted to be able to paint as a teen and if I’d discovered it then I might have gone to art school like I wanted. So, perhaps when this next paycheck rolls through I’ll go nuts at the craft store. I’ll pick up all the things I’ve seen the artists use in their tutorials.

And use them.

Just for the fun of it.

Eventually I need to get back on track with the book rolling around my head. I’m almost thinking that meditating on the setting and characters might bring each of them more fully to life for me so that writing them flows so much easier. Also, finding the right playlist helps bring emotions to the tips of my fingers while writing.

Moral of the story is when that creative slump hits you and tells you that you’re worthless or that you can’t do what you want, flip it the bird. Then, don’t do your art for profit (or dreams of making it big).

Do it for fun. Do it for you.

Then the beauty of it will come back, bit by bit. I know that any kind of creation can be tasking, but we all know that it’s worth it. That our souls we meant for it.

Five Fandome Friday! 5 Geeky Hobbies

Today’s prompt is kind of cool. There are all sorts of hobbies that one can fervently fall in love with, but it’s kind of what you do with them or how you look at them that came your hobbies geeky. (I’m going to list hobbies that I love, but really I spend most of my time pinning fanart on my Pinterest page. Shhhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone.)

Cooking!

There is an art and a science to cooking that can make it super geeky. Baking is a science. To take a conglomerate of powders and wet substances and turn it into a pan of gooey brownies takes a lot of chemical reactions and a leap of faith (or witchcraft, you decide).

Watercolor Painting

I really enjoy making watercolor splash art. It begins with a rough sketch of something geeky, like Totoro. Then I throw a lot of pigmented water at the paper and push it around until I think it looks pretty. Once that dries, I use caligrapher’s ink to outline my sketch and VOILA cute, geeky splash art!

Writing Fiction

This isn’t so much a hobby for me, but something I’ve desired to do with my life since I was small. I’m working on it. This is so geeky because I’m trying to create the very thing that other people are out there gushing over, fandoms.  I’m creating lovable characters, irresistible worlds, and stakes so high your ears will pop.

Decorating

I don’t get to do it often, but I do drool over all of the sick art prints and such out there on the internet. I adore being able to take the things I love an placing them in the open around my home. I have some cool Adventure Time art that I’m dying to hang somewhere! I just haven’t found the right spot.

Renaissance Festivals

I’ve only ever been to two Renaissance Festivals, but there’s one every year a couple hours from here. I’m excited to go back again this summer and take part in all of the goofy fun. The first time, my husband pressured me into renting a costume. I was a common wench with a bustier that killed after three hours in the hot sun. My sister in law had a much nicer dress with more layers. She must have had it worse.

We all like to do so many things. Some of you may like to knit or crochet and use that to make sick blankets or cute amigurumi. Others may like to craft super cool household objects or make webpages and macros.

That’s because we’re cool like that.

I Can’t Get My Head On Straight

I can’t help myself.

I have this tendency to obsess over things. One at a time a subject or an idea will consume me. While obsession has the foundation of passion, which is healthy, my capricious nature can make it rather unhealthy.

It can be anything. One week I wanted to work on cut paper art and I was being moody because I couldn’t go to the craft store for supplies. Well, I got the supplies and haven’t touched them. That was a chunk of money that I don’t have to begin with dropped on something that I completely lost interest in once I obtained it. Other weeks it’s the cafe I dream of, or it’s the idea that I could learn to tattoo.

This sends me spiraling from one thing to another without really having anything to show for it. So, when I see people I graduated with having careers, I’m entirely embarrassed. Why haven’t I gotten my shit together yet? Why can’t I maintain that kind of passion for one thing? Everything was just so distracting.

All of my life I wanted to write fiction. Then, in 2012, I wrote a book. And in 2013 I revised and revised and revised that book. I did the thing and immediately lost my love for it. Like usual. I let all of that passion dwindle and die. I let my work gather dust and fall from my mind. I’m frustrated with myself. I kind of want to erase all of this and find another topic, even.

Hubs said I wanted all of the good without the work. At first, I was mad at him. I have done so much work and been put through so much already. I was done working. But, he’s right. The easy part of my writing was done and now it was time for the hard part, boring ass nitpicking and spelling error correction. Even harder is getting back on the path to constant writing. My desire to do anything other than browse the internet is minimal and I’m ashamed.

I am a writer, damn it. I always was and will continue to be. There are times that I fear what I’ll do when we move, but the idea was always that I’d continue writing. While moving definitely impedes writing time, I can always pick up and move my job.

Breathe easy, Leah. Breathe.

Life will be okay. I need to stop letting every little thing distract me. Inspire, yes. Distract, no.

Writing is Hard

This was said by one of the best Supernatural characters: Chuck.

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He was the “prophet” that wrote the Supernatural books in that universe, kind of doing this odd Inception shit. I still think that he’s God and has either forgotten or needed to get away from his asshole angels for a while.

Anyway, back on topic. Writing really is hard. Back in the fall of 2012 I wrote a novel for Nanowrimo. That was possibly the easiest part of the job. I sat down every day and wove my story for the first time. It was messy and there were some days I would just write a trash scene to write something. So much of it didn’t make the first cut.

Hubs and I moved to California and I used those first few unemployed months to make the first round of cuts and revisions. This is where I weeded out the unnecessary and replaced it with firmer storytelling.

I cannot believe that I’m still doing just that. It’s been four freaking years and I’m still revising. I think I’m on draft six or seven. I haven’t been able to get the whole way through the story lately because it is such a drag to look at. Four years of reading the same paragraphs over and over again makes you kind of wonder why you thought this was great in the first place.

But it has to get done. Hubs commissioned cover art for my Christmas present and while the artist is still working on it, it’s coming. I have got to get this done and put out into the world at some point this year. But, it’s just so hard to find the love and enthusiasm I once felt for writing. I put it off, I blog, I clean the house, I find reasons to leave the house entirely. All just so I don’t have to work on revisions.

Writing is hard. You doubt yourself. You struggle through paragraphs, pages, chapters of words. You struggle to make sure your character grows and isn’t too whiny. You struggle to make sure your story weave is tight, patching up plot holes. You struggle to make sure your villain isn’t just evil for evil’s sake.

This has been the underlying reason for my depression lately. I feel really guilty that I just do not want to work on it anymore. But, I’m trying. Once upon a time I loved this story. I loved my protagonist and the world she belonged to. I want to feel that love once more, to dive deep into her world and begin pulling the strings of story together again.

When my cover art is done, I’m having it blown up into a poster to look at every day. I made this. I made a whole world with multi-faceted characters. I wrote a whole novel and I actually have the sequel (a shitty first draft) sitting on the back burner, waiting for me to give it tough love. I made this thing and it might help pay for my future dreams.

Writing is hard, but it’s worth it.

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My Feelings on Fanfic

All of  my life I’ve known at least one thing.

I wanted to be a writer.

I wanted to create stories, characters, villains, and worlds. I was making things up all the time once I passed the age of playing “make-believe” and into the realm of “young adult”. I wrote short stories in the back of notebooks, on the family computer, or in the corners of class notes. Characters would go to class with me. Stories would weave themselves as I laid down to sleep or in the shower.

Story means a lot to me.

I appreciate stories other than my own, too. I adore Howl’s Moving Castle and the Night Circus. Anything by Charles De Lint sends me into an a week of floating happiness. Kim Harrison and Laurell K Hamilton make me feel strong. But, not once did I ever consider taking on their characters or their worlds with my own words.

That doesn’t feel right to me. Once another person takes on a story it changes. It is no longer the original thing, but something similar with the same name slapped onto it. It’s like ordering the same thing at different restaurants. You’re not always guaranteed to get the same dish, honestly.  Curry can mean a great many different flavors.

I prefer to leave the worlds of other authors alone. They are revered in that way, a piece of art that I don’t dare touch. I much prefer to play god with my own characters. I know them much better, inside and out. There is no set of rules or boundaries that I need to prescribe to in order to create my own story.

Which is how we create new stories that we fall in love with, new worlds we want to fall into. So don’t ever expect me to write fanfic. There’s just so much more in me.

Charlie

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What I Read in December 2015 (And maybe January 2016)

After Nanowrimo I kind of had a falling out with writing. I pushed on into December, but lost the fire not long after. I fell into a kind of writer’s block that was accompanied by depression. I threw myself into reading thinking that there was no better way to learn to write than by example.

It began with Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series. I threw myself into the fun steampunk series, emptying Christmas gift cards into procuring the rest of the series. I wasn’t let down, as you probably know. There are vampires, werewolves, dirigibles, and, of course, Picklemen. 51K4NcinI2L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

There was just enough money left on a gift card to pick up the kindle version of Maggie Steifvater’s Raven Boys. This doesn’t have the same fun that Carriger’s YA books had. It was more of a slow introduction to a very mysterious world, several of them. Steifvater introduces us to a group of teens somehow bound to one another by a magical, Celtic king.

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I haven’t picked up the rest, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to.  I fell in love with Blue’s strange, mismatched family of psychics. I fell in love with Adam’s desperation to become more than his upbringing. I found my own little brother in Ronan. I think this means I need to renew my library card.

I’ve been eyeballing Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows for-practically-ever. I’m beyond thrilled that I found the print version and hubs bought it for me. It is beautifully designed and what’s on the inside is devilishly good. The reader follows six criminals through the biggest heist of their life and all of the ghosts of their pasts in the world that Bardugo built in the Grisha series.

Six-of-Crows

My only complaint was the ending. It’s not even a complaint really. It’s more a growl of frustration. Be forewarned. This is most likely not a stand alone novel like I had assumed. If it is… well, then I’m going to throw it very, very hard…. at Bardugo.

Somewhere in between these books I ran out of cash and turned tot he unread pile on my shelf. I must have picked up Unbreakable by Kami Garcia in the sale section of Books-a-Million back in Maryland and forgotten. I remember wanting it, thinking of it as a YA Supernatural. With nothing else to read, I thought “what the heck” and pulled it.

Kami Garcia/Unbreakable
Kami Garcia/Unbreakable

I wanted to love it. I wanted to defeat awful monsters and see some really kick ass girls. She worked on Beautiful Creatures and I remembered loving that book.

Nope.

The protagonist loses her mother to a vengeful spirit and finds herself pulled up with a group of kids whose families have sworn to protect the world from ghosts and demons. Sounds cool, but falls woefully short. Everything happens so quickly that character development feels very lack luster. One moment the protagonist hates her love interest and the next she’s swearing her love for him.

I was beyond frustrated with this book. It had potential. It had bones, but there was no flesh on the bones to breathe life into the story. I felt the protagonist’s dismay at being normal amongst all the weird, but Garcia let the romantic story take center stage and it ran away from her.

Carriger, Steifvater, and Bardugo did really well with their recent YA books. Choose Carriger for fun and espionage. Choose Steifvater for mystery and magic. Choose Bardugo for story weaving and world building.

 

Stages of Writing the Next Great Novel or Something Like That

So you think you want to write a book? A fiction book?

Well, you might have come to the right place. Might. I’m still not sure about that.

Anywho, fiction writing is something I’ve been doing since I could pick up a pencil. I have all these wonderful voices in my head just waiting for their story to be told because all writers should have minor multiple personality disorder. Some of them are loud and boisterous, their story flowing like water over paper, while others are more timid and only give you snapshots to work with. Remember, I said you might have come to the right place.

I thought I would share with you the things that I’ve learned through trial and error, workshops, and my short stint as a Creative Writing major. Don’t judge me, I was convinced I’d learn more driving across the country for love. And I did.

Stage One, Concept: Before you write anything you need an idea. This usually comes in the form of character for me because I like to write character driven plots. I’ll take some time to learn about my character. Finding out what they want the most stars the path for plotting. Figuring out what will hurt them the most creates conflict.

If that isn’t your cup of tea you can always start with a premise. This has a much wider scope, allowing for more character POVs and usually begins with a theme. Your premise could be love in the time of war or aliens invade earth.

Stage Two, A Really Rough Outline: This will not be the same as what you come out with in the end. I can almost guarantee that. Still, writing down the plot points that you know will happen and filling in the spaces in between helps drive writing later when you’re floundering for ideas. Some of you might be Architects and want to plan out every square inch of your novel. That’s okay. Others could be gardeners, like myself, and only need a few lines.

A cool tool is Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. His theory states that all stories follow the same plot. His break down of that base plot makes for a great fill-in-the-blank outline that I’ve used before. Still, try to create a some kind of outline to keep on hand.

(Stage 2.5 involve dropping the dough for Scrivener. It is a really great writing tool along the lines of Microsoft word, but way better. I got mine for fifty percent off by winning my Nanowrimo.)

Stage Three, Write: You can’t get around this. Nope. Not at all. Nanowrimo taught me that I can write 50,000 words in a month. If I can, you can, too. If you find yourself trying to get around this you can set up a reward system. Go out and get yourself a cheap calendar and a cute set of stickers. Each day you make your word goal you get a sticker. Double that and you get two stickers. It’s cute and you can even top it off with a larger reward at the end month like Starbucks (I prefer Dunkin Donuts because duh).

Do whatever you need to, just write. And don’t worry, it will be crap. Sorry.

Stage Four, Edit/Revise: This is my little black hole of time. I spent years revising my first novel and I’m really hoping that it doesn’t happen this time around. A method that I love is printing out that shitty first draft. Get yourself a good binder, a pen in your favorite color, and maybe even some sticky notes. You can do a read through away from your screen and write changes directly onto the draft so that later you can do a side by side revision.

Stage Five, Publishing: Once you’re sure that what you have is ready to see the world, a scary time for all novel parents, you need to decide how you’d like to publish. There are a crap ton of methods these days thanks to the world wide web. If you just want people to read you can check out Wattpad. If you want to skip rejection letters you can self-publish, something Amazon has made insanely easy. Or, you can try the traditional method, starting with an Agent Query. Literary Agents know the publishing world and are there to get you the best contract. You just got to sell them on your book first.

I plan on self-publishing my very first novel with Amazon/Createspace. It’s kind of expensive if you include the cost of cover art (we found an artist on DeviantArt), professional editors, and formatting. My hope is to push for traditional publishing for my YA books.

Stage Six, Platform: Sure, your stuff is out there, but unless you have a big box name doing your marketing no will know it’s there. Readers want to find you, to interact with you. The best way of doing that is to utilize the internet to it’s fullest. Start a blog. Create social media accounts. Host book giveaways. Get on Twitch. Offer free copies of your book to people that your audience would see. Offer free books to book reviewers.

This is how I go about writing novels. To date I’ve written three and a half, spending too many years of my life only revising one of those. I’m currently working on a YA novel that I’m really excited about. I hope you can take something away from this to help you understand the process better. Next time I’ll get more into the art of writing.