Things Will Change For A While

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It’s Tuesday and it’s time for a new blog post. However, this will be the last Tuesday post for a while. Let me tell you why.

For the past 16 weeks, ever since the beginning of H.E.R. (that’s more than three months!), I’ve been writing three blog posts every week. One on Tuesday, one on Thursday and one on Sunday. They all have their own theme: on Tuesday I share something more personal, on Thursday I connect that personal to something more abstract or theoretical – to things seen from a wider perspective. And the short-stories I publish on Sundays conclude the week, or prepare for the beginning of the coming week: the day of Still Life Sundays.

Until now, I’ve been able to put down the time and energy to write three posts a week. But things have been somewhat different lately.

  1. As you know, I’m juggling with three different writing projects at the moment: the blog, the thesis and Yellow Tails. That means I’m glued to my computer from Sunday to Friday, writing on or researching for something. Two of these projects, i.e. the thesis and Yellow Tails, have a more strict deadline (one dictated by the university and the other one by me) and require therefore more time and energy to get done in time. The deadlines are also closing in on me which means I need to invest more time and effort in these projects to be able to finish everything in time.
  2. In addition to that, there has been many social situations (and they’ll keep on coming) that have required a good deal afterward-processing. As a part of quitting my people-pleasing behavior but also practicing better communication, social awareness and analyzing the body language and words that are spoken, these social situations are filled with data. Processing that data takes huge amounts of energy and time. It might sound weird, being tired because of being social, but I’m not all that used to these situations, and especially not analyzing them as I am today. It is also something I hope to become better at, reading and analyzing people on the go.
  3. As a third thing, the Winter. Here in Finland the amount of light changes from 22 hours a day in the Summer to whopping 4 hours per day in the middle of Winter. We have been entering the darker time of the year for some time now, the daylight lasting for 8 hours and 54 minutes at the moment. The darkness in the evenings (as the sun goes down at 4:41 PM) and the shortness of the days make me feel tired and like there’s nothing I’d really like to do. It takes time and energy to get used to the darkness – and when you get used to it, the days will start to get lighter again (but it’s going to take a while before that period comes again – sometime in March maybe).

This is why I have decided to do the following: at least during November I will cut down the amount of blog posts from three to two posts a week. This means the Tuesday posts will fall off and the Thursday posts will become a sort of mix of Tuesday and Thursday posts, starting on this Thursday.

This way I will hopefully be able to keep things more realistic and not drown myself in my self-made to-do lists. One post less to write each week will hopefully also help me 1) finish my first draft by or in early December, and 2) finish the theory part of my thesis in the end of November.

In theory, cutting down one blog post a week doesn’t sound like anything major. But for me it feels like a huge weight being dropped off. It feels like I can focus on other things for a while. I’ll stay active on WordPress, still publishing twice a week, and will keep on updating Instagram – but I’m also allowing myself to refocus and steer my energy and time to things that need it the most.

So, this will be the last Tuesday post for a while. But as you know, I’ll see you again on Thursday. Have a good one!

 

Why Make the Words Public

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My story is in no way unique. It’s the typical tale of a youngster who wants to become a writer but is pushed down by an authority who tells the youngster to strive for something else. The youngster pushes aside the dream and decides to go for something else – only to realize later in life that they got completely side-tracked by the advice from the authority. Whether they make it back to the real dream or not, I guess that’s where the differences lie with each similar story.

I was listening to an episode of the podcast Write-minded (hosted by Brooke Warner of She Writes and Grant Faulkner of NaNoWriMo) where they talked about how every story deserves to be told, how every story matters. Warner herself had her writing dreams pushed down by her school teacher which reminded me of my own story. In my narrative, however, it was my parents who managed to convince me to put my writer-dreams aside, not my teachers at school (who actually were extremely supportive of my writing which I appreciated a great deal at the time and still do today).

But here I am now, writing almost on a daily basis, feeling alive and fulfilled by what I do. I’m in that phase of the story where the main character decides to get back to the real deal, The Dream, and make her way into ’writerhood’. But why do I want to put my word out there, to the world?

Thinking about us writers who are yearning to publish their written world, I keep wondering why we do it. Why do I do it?

Why am I publishing these blog posts, why am I planning on sending my book to a publisher? Why do I have the need to make my words public instead of just keeping them to myself?

A Writer’s Doubt of Power

Because as I write down word after word and create these entities, the blog posts, the Instagram captions, the fictional works, I can’t help but think this: isn’t there enough words in the world already? There are millions, if not billions of people out here in this world creating as much if not more words than I am on a daily basis. They are telling their own stories and are having their own impact on this world.

Isn’t there enough stories, enough influencing through storytelling? Why do I have the need to add to that? Why do I consider my story to be so important, so unique, that it needs to be shared with the whole wide world? Where does this need of sharing come from?

But then I think: is this just the Resistance talking? Is this simply one version of a writer’s doubt – the thought that my story isn’t unique or important enough to be told to the world?

And maybe the doubt has also to do with this: Is my story powerful?

Because every day that I string together words that build sentences that create entities of knowledge and meaning, it feels like I’m doing something magical. It isn’t quite like creating-air-out-of-nothing kind of powerful but I do feel powerful by the fact that ’no one else sees the word the way I do, so no one else can tell the stories you have to tell’ (a quote by the author Charles de Lint). In other words, everything I write is, in a way, unique and can therefore have an impact, be powerful.

But is that what I want – to be powerful?

The Hierarchy of Words

Do you remember in biology class the teacher explaining the food chain and how energy is passed in an ecosystem? Eagles, lions and other tertiary consumers/carnivores are at the top of the pyramid while primary consumers/herbivores, such as rabbits and grasshoppers, and producers, i.e. plants, are at the bottom of the chain. In the food chain, the strongest and the most powerful are at the top of the pyramid while the ones at the bottom have the least power over other species.

The power structure or power hierarchy is an interesting thought to play with, so I took the principle behind the feeding hierarchy and applied it to the world of words. How does the hierarchy of words look like? Who has the most power in using words and in what way? Here is what I came up with:

Word Hierarchy

As you can see, I have placed the makers of the words on top of the hierarchy because if there were no words there wouldn’t be any stories like the ones we have today. The word creators are at the top with quite a lot of power but they are only a few in total. Next, I have the people who give meaning to the words. They think about what words like society or jealousy or sexuality really mean to us. These people have a good deal of power as well but the reason they are under the word-creators is because if there were no words there wouldn’t be anything to give meaning to, right?

After that the hierarchy presents those who take these created words and the meanings given to them and use them to express knowledge, to create something completely new. That could be new findings, for example, or new ways of expressing oneself. These people are followed by those who take this knowledge to produce their own version of it. The majority of all written word finds its place in this category. And at the bottom of the hierarchy we have the consumers. Those, who take in the new words, the meaning of those words and entities built from them, and consume them, giving them their own personal context and meaning. All the readers out there (me included) – you are in this category with the majority of the population.

I am aware that the hierarchy I’ve created isn’t exactly very strict (or scientific, for that matter) and that all categories pretty much go into each other. Makers of the words tend to give a context for the words to be used in and those who give meaning to the words tend to build on new knowledge when defining that meaning, and so on. But I think it’s a fun way to think about the hierarchy of words created, written and thought of. It also describes the power structure of words: the higher up you are in that hierarchy, the more power you have over communication and people.

The Power Of A Writer

In this hierarchy of words, I find myself in the two bottom layers. I am definitely a reader, a consumer of words, but I’m also a builder of already existing entities. However, if you think about the Charles de Lint quote mentioned earlier, that no one can see the words as I do and therefore everything I writes is unique, I could be boxed into the third category as well.

Hmm.

According to my self-made Hierarchy of Words, I have good deal of power. I might not be the most powerful, but I do have some power in my hands, in the words that I write. Every blog post, Instagram caption and word in my novel is a new creation, a unique entity that can have an influence on them who read the texts. By talking about comfort zones, habits, self-development and what comes with them, I can create a change. In other words, I have some power in my hands. But is that why I’m doing this?

To come back to the questions I presented earlier in this post, I would like to declare this one thought: I can’t really say why I’m putting my word ’out there’. This blog and Yellow Tails are outlets for my thoughts and observations. I am not writing because I wish to be an influencer or a change-maker. I’m not out here trying to gain power, to use my wise words to do something large-scale. Maybe one can see this blog or my Instagram account as a portfolio but that’s all. I just want to write and hopefully be able to turn my creativity into currency.

It feels like I’m leaving you, the reader, disappointed in the end of this post. I can’t really explain why I wish to publish so much of my writing, why I think my words deserve the space I’m claiming for it on the Internet. I’m happy as long as I am able to keep on writing. The publishing, the social media branding and other similar things come as second to be able to support the primary thing, i.e. daily writing.

And the power of words, the power of writing? It comes, if it does. After all, it’s not me who creates that power, not really. It’s the people who take my words to their minds that give me the power. So, I’m not really in control of that.

Why do you publish what you write (if you do)?

The Good And The Bad Of A 30-Day Writing Challenge

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It’s officially October which means that the National Novel Writing Month of 2018 is right around the corner. Usually this time of the year, if I’m participating in the 30-day writing challenge, I’m in the prepping phase of writing (also known as Preptober): thinking about my idea for the year, brainstorming the plot and the characters and wondering how I want to reward myself if and when I win the challenge.

However, this year I have decided not to participate in the crazy but awesome month of writing. There are a few reasons to it:

1) I already have an idea I’m working on, and it doesn’t require 50,000 words to finish (current word count being 56,675 words, and I’m aiming for approximately 75k).

2) I also work on two other writing projects in addition to my book which means I write about 1,000–1,500 words per day already. That amount of words, adding up to almost 40,000 words per month, is enough for me in my current life situation.

3) And, as I’m finally having the mindset of I’ll become a full-time writer, participating in a 30-day writing challenge doesn’t feel like the right alternative to me, not anymore. For me, it doesn’t feel like NaNoWriMo will help me become a full-time writer. Actually, quite the contrary: I think it will hinder me from becoming one.

And this is what I’ve been thinking about lately: do these 30-day challenges help us get to the place where we want to be?

The Good And The Bad

I wrote down some sort of a +/– list for participating in NaNoWriMo. This is how the list turned out:

The Good Things

+ The ’preptober’: prepping for the month, creating playlists for writing, brainstorming your ideas for the novel, hyping the upcoming month.
+ The first day(s) of writing: you’re energized, jazzed about your idea and about writing.
+ The days you’re flying: your plot is working out, you love your characters and enjoy the writing process – a great, awesome feeling.
+  The feeling of creating something that didn’t exist before (it’s magical).
+ The last week of November that consists of ferocious writing: finishing the last 12,000 words after you have already written forty-frigging-thousand!
+ And, of course: finishing your novel, hitting that 50k and feeling like a true champion.

The Less Good Things

– The second week of writing, almost always: you are finding out about your plot holes, everything isn’t working out as you thought it would, real life might get in the way of writing and so on.
– The deflating feeling you have after you finish your 50,000 words: you’ve given everything you have and have nothing more to give, not at least for a while.
– The continuing deflation when it comes to writing: after finishing something that big, what will you do next? Motivating oneself to get back to that keyboard is harder than one thinks, especially after you’ve finished a 50,000 word literary (master)piece.
– And, most of all: now what? What do you want to do with what you ended up with in the end of November? Should it collect dust on your hard drive or do you want to edit it and actually finish it?

Although the list shows more positive sides to the writing than negative (six to four), I’d like to make the statement that the negative sides weigh more than the positive ones. This is because the deflation, the empty feeling after finishing your novel is a more long-term feeling than the energetic feeling of flow during NaNoWriMo.

So my question to anyone who wishes to become an author or simply a better writer is this: do we actually get better at our writing if we enter (and win) the National Novel Writing Month?

Better Or Worse Off

As in most cases, there is no single correct answer to the question and I think it’s because the answer depends on why we in the first case decide to participate in NaNoWriMo. What does the writer wish to get out of the challenge? Is it because

… you just want to write?
… you want to try writing a lengthy novel of fiction?
… you want to become a better writer?
… you want to have fun?
… you want to make November go faster (because after November comes December which for many means getting ready for Christmas)?

Maybe it’s all five of the reasons, maybe it’s only one of them. For me, participating in NaNoWriMo was a way of trying to kick-off my writing again (because I lacked the almost-daily habits of writing that I have now). It was an opportunity to plan and bring to life an idea I had and thought could be turned into a novel. But for me, NaNoWriMo and the weeks prepping for it were also a way of surviving the dark, stormy and cold November, a way of making time go faster.

And yes, I did experience all the positive aspects of participating and writing that I listed above – but I also experienced the negative aspects. The deflation after finishing eventually led to that I didn’t write anything fictional before next year’s NaNoWriMo. I didn’t want to touch the novel I had written and I wasn’t motivated or inspired to start anything new. And this makes me think: am I better or worse off for participating in NaNoWriMo when it comes to becoming a better writer?

And again, I think the answer depends on how I look at it. If I just wanted to write, wanted to have some fun and give life to an idea I had, then yes – I am better off for participating. But from the perspective of becoming a full-time writer and a published author I really think I would be worse off for participating in the 30-day writing challenge.

Right now, I’m writing Yellow Tails approximately 3,000 to 5,000 words a week which is enough to make me feel like the story is progressing. Of course, NaNoWriMo would be a quick-fix, a way of finishing quicker than I will at the moment, but what will I end up with? I feel lucky for not having experienced the deflation NaNoWriMo usually leaves me with while writing Yellow Tails and I wish to keep it that way. It also feels like I have more time to think about my book, reflect over the development of the characters and the plot when I’m not writing 1,667 words per day.

So this year I won’t be participating in the month of writing. However, for you who do participate I wish the best of luck, no matter the reason why you’re participating! Enjoy the preptober, enjoy your writing, be kind to yourself but remember to have self-discipline as well when it comes to getting those words on your Word-document.

(And, by the way: if you are participating, what are you writing about?)

Instead of participating, I’ll keep on writing. And hopefully, in the end of November, I will have finished my first draft of Yellow Tails and will celebrate some sort of the end just as the winners of NaNoWriMo will.

I hope you are enjoying your Tuesday, I’ll see you on Thursday!

Writing: A Project Update

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On my Author-page I declare clearly (and loudly, I’d say) that I plan to become an author. I have also written a couple of blog posts about becoming an author: you can find a fun description about my early works here and a post about how one becomes an author here.

But today I would like to give you something more concrete, and that means an update on my work-in-project! A little sneak peek of my lengthy Word-document that will become a book one day.

The Legendary 50K

On Friday the 14th of September, I hit the legendary word amount of 50k on my work-in-project. To be precise, 50,250 words. When I sat down at my computer that morning, I didn’t even realize I was going to hit 50k that day because it didn’t really matter to me, as long as I would write. But when I did hit that mark, it felt great. It felt better than I had expected because it felt as if had reached a new state writing: I had never written that many words for one project, ever.

You see, when participating in the National Novel Writing Month, the ultimate word goal one is trying to reach is 50,000 words. And when you hit 50k, you have done it. You have written a novel! But then, November 30th, the month of crazy writing is over and you don’t have to challenge yourself to reach that word goal of 1,667 words every day. Instead, you can take a break, let your novel take some deep breaths and rest for a while.

That’s at least what you might think. ”I’ll get back to that project in a few weeks. Then I’ll continue writing it/start editing it.”

However, the thing with NaNoWriMo is that when you hit the legendary 50k, you will feel deflated. No matter how motivated or inspired you are about the story you are telling or how in love you are with your characters – you won’t be eager to finish the story. That’s, at least, how I’ve felt every single time I’ve reached that magical word goal. Somehow, pushing myself to write 1,667 words every single day leads to deflation in the end of November. And that means that I never finish those stories, never edit them, never do anything with them.

So, on that Friday, when I hit that legendary 50k, I was excited. Instead of feeling deflated, unmotivated, tired or any other feeling of the kind, I was extremely motivated to continue the story. I am still inspired by my plot line, my characters and I’m eager to describe their journey. And that feels really good.

Okay, So What’s It About?

I’m afraid I won’t be giving too many juicy details about my plot before I’ve finished the story. Somehow it feels like I’ll jinx the story if I reveal too much about it (anyone else familiar with that feeling?). However, I can tell you this:

The story is about change (and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you might not be that surprised). It’s also about how a long-lasting life-changing change can be done.

It’s about the cooperation between the rational brain, the willpower and motivation, and the physical body, except that I’ve given all three parts a character: one is a cat, one is a human and one is a squirrel.

And that’s all I’m revealing about the plot to you – for now. However, I will share with you:

Some Fun Facts

Fact Number One

Right now my Word-document is about 129 pages long and has 52,792 words in it. I have written about two-thirds of the whole story so one-third remains. This means that when I reach the end of the story, the total amount of words will be somewhere between 70k and 80k. That’s a lot of words, especially for someone who has always quit the writing project somewhere around 50k, but apparently 70k is a pretty common length for a book, so I have nothing to worry about. Maybe it’s just me who is most surprised and a bit scared for aiming for that amount of words?

Fact Number Two

A comment-thread on Instagram helped me realize who the audience for my book could be. This is how the conversation went:

@uninspiredwriters: Tell me 3 things about your main character in you current project!

@thingsinfocus: My main character is called Jello (he’s a cat) who 1) has eaten food to comfort or reward himself for 10 long years, 2) is an excellent party host and 3) is unsure if he wants to change his way of living or not. I love having a human-like cat as my main character, nothing seems ordinary that way!

@uninspiredwriters: @thingsinfocus love that! Very unique, allows you to write a perspective that’s a little different.

@msmariawrites: @thingsinfocus Jello may be one of the cutest characters I’ve read about so far. Are you writing a children’s book? My 4-year-old would love this story!

@thingsinfocus: @msmariawrites thank you for your lovely comment! Made the rainy day in Finland so much brighter! I think my book will be a children’s book for adults with a deeper thought between the lined. However, I’d say even kids could find it interesting! Have to test the story on a younger reader to find out!

@msmariawrites: @thingsinfocus that’s even better! Children’s books for adults has an awesome ring to it! Can’t wait to read all about it!

And this is how I realized I’m writing a children’s book for adults that even children or young adults could find interesting and entertaining. It has certainly made me even more motivated now that I have a picture about the potential reader in my head.

Fact Number Three

I have had a name for the book since the beginning of writing: Yellow Tails. And last week, as I was diving deeper into the theme, I came up with an idea for the cover of my book. Because change is about cooperation and balance, the cover would have an old-school scale with my three main characters balancing on it. Makes the whole Word-document-turning-into-a-real-book-thing seem like it’s actually possible!

And The Project Continues…

As I reached the legendary 50k and kept on writing, realized my main audience for the story, and came up with a cover for my book, the work in progress has become much more real than it was in the beginning of March when I wrote the first words on that Word-document. I have a long way to go, for sure with the last 20k to write, the editing, the beta-reading and finally, sending it to a publisher but every day I feel motivated to continue the story, keep on writing those words, believe that it’s a story that deserves to be told.

This is the biggest and longest project I’ve ever had. And that’s also a good reason to finish the story – because if I can finish the story, that means there’s a whole lot of other things I can start and finish as well.