Falsehoods and Uncertainty

I am not immune to the problem of jumping to conclusions. In fact, one might say I am especially vulnerable to it.

I’m trying to say that yesterday’s post wasn’t strictly true. I said to myself and everyone who could hear me: “I’m done with this book.”

But the words of Chuck Wendig kept hitting me. “You must finish what you start.”

And what’s more, I found myself saddened by the idea that I wouldn’t finish this book. Another lesson was masked behind what I thought I had been struggling to accept.

Between Wendig’s words and my own sadness, I have concluded that this book may be the best thing to work on right now. I’m still not certain. I think I’ll try some paring back and rebuilding and see what happens. Then, I’ll make a final decision.

As for today, I am happy not to finish 50,000 words this month in this project. It was both too new to me, and too familiar in concept for me to muster the excitement I needed for the NaNoWriMo goal.

Let the experiments continue, and thank all of you for reading.


Today I am officially OUT of NaNoWriMo for the year. Last year I thought about this time I would never try this challenge again. I’ve succeeded at this task before. I’ve done the same word count goal multiple times outside of the month of November.

This year my book was a badly cooked egg. For writers who don’t count on production to make money, this would not be a big problem. I am happy with my progress, but I pushed forward in a project that isn’t going to be useful for years. I need to edit. I need to finish projects with better premises. This one is going on hold.

I understand that the month isn’t over yet. I am not quitting writing. Hell, I know I’ll use at least parts of this story somewhere else. But for now, it goes in the trunk.

Until another day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Gentler Mind

I am a little behind my goals for the month. Well, a little behind on the rough drafting, and a good deal behind on the editing. To be honest, I’m not pushing myself. That, at least, is a win.

Those of you who haven’t picked this up from this blog (I’m not sure how clear I’ve been about it in the past) may well be wondering: Why do I say not pushing myself is a win? I don’t do well when I push myself, and I usually feel crappy when I do it, as well.

I’m not entirely sure why I feel this way, but it is definitely how I feel.

But the good news is that I’m being more gentle with myself lately. I haven’t felt the need to attack myself over my falling behind, or for my distractedness. Because I have gained this improved approach, I think I may be able to catch up on the things I’ve lost time on.

I’ve also been far more open to possibilities lately. That’s a gift I can see gains from all the time, and can foresee even more goodness emerging from in the future.

Thanks for reading.

Second-Week Syndrome and Too many ‘I’s

I have noticed a pattern in my writing process. I mostly write novels, and I’m working on what is likely the last work I’ll complete this year. It will also be only the second novel I completely draft this year, mostly because I haven’t figured out how to break through this pattern.

Step 1 is brainstorming and outlining. This part is fun and exciting for me.

Step 2 is the first week of rough drafting. I write roughly 4k-5k words a day on average for each book in this phase of the project. At this point, I feel immensely powerful and simultaneously at ease. Everything feels possible.

Step 3 is from the second week of writing forward. Writing slows down immensely, seemingly without matter of how much I have preplanned. hough I mostly haven’t mapped things out as thoroughly, it’s difficult to guess where I would go after the flurry of little changes that take place during week one. I get frustrated and then I start getting distracted by other stories. Writing falls to around 1k-2k per day for the duration of this part. I have decided to call this ‘Second-Week Syndrome’, and it is a very disheartening proposition. It’s what I have arrived at this week. Excitement has begun to wane.

At first I feel like it’s not so bad to slow down a little. But as time goes on I get more and more frustrated that I can’t seem to reclaim the glory of week one. I start thinking of tricks and tactics to improve my words per day. Please be patient with me. I have a lot to learn, and I’m trying to figure out how to tackle this problem. So far, here are my ideas.

1. Refocus by making a few new notes and modifying the existing outline to reflect the changes in direction set up in week one.
2. Reread the notes I already had, and try to remember what excited me the most about the story when I began. This could be assisted by devising a core pitch or mission statement for each book during the initial planning process.
3. Throw in some new ideas (large or small), and new twists that excite me to keep moving.
4. Focus on characters, especially POV characters, and their motivations and try to bring out their personalities more (This could be more difficult in the current book because of the many POVs I am attempting).
5. Read more to inject some inspiration in form and story.

That’s plenty of ideas. I can try all of them, but the technique 3 and 4 are the ones I haven’t really tried before. They seem like they could be very helpful, so we’ll see how this works out.

As to the second part of this week’s title. It goes to an issue I think comes up during Second-Week Syndrome. You see, I begin to think, as my enthusiasm fades from a project, that the problem is with me. Granted, I have a hyperactive imagination, but blaming myself is not helpful for feeling better. The focus on myself, on ‘I’, is almost entirely useless.

When focused too far inward, on opinions, on the past, on the future, feelings begin to spiral downward.

This is a habit I need to break, and not by focusing outward too much once again.

If I focus too much on the world beyond my personal sphere things feel far too bleak and impossible for me to act.

Yes, this is a delicate balance. No, I don’t think it’s impossible to be informed without being disheartened by the bad news of the world at large and quarrels of media personalities.

My focus during writing must be on the story, not on me, not on the world I live in. I need to be selective about when I think about things other than the book. This seems to be the way to break out of Second-Week Syndrome. I’ve frequently complained about my sense of productivity of my time prior to college. Allow me to harp on that one more time.

Back in high school I really did not care about the greater world very much. I only cared about my goals, and my stories, and what people thought of me. Except for worrying about what other teenagers thought of me, I think that is the beginning of a healthy way to move in the world. The mind of the individual is on the business of the individual. The mind of the leader is on the business of the nation. In the same way, the mind of the writer is on the story.

This is not to say ignorance is good. Ignorance is the risk one runs when focused intensely on any one thing. At the moment, I have decided that some small ignorances of the real world are preferable to ignorance of my stories and the direction they are going. In the same way, progress in the games I play is not worth losing progress in my novel.

Everything needs to be measured in a way that makes sense. As pointed out by James Altucher in his wonderful book, ‘Choose Yourself’, opinions do not make much (if any). I would say this goes double for a happy and productive mind. I’ve often buried myself in opinions. When I watch news and Internet programs I am constantly formulating opinions. I do not need these opinions because I do not have the power to change things. Yet, my focus has been on what I think. What I believe. What I want to happen in a world outside of my control.

In last Saturday’s post, Friday the Thirteenth, I referenced the prayer of Saint Francis as it applies to the world following the terror attacks in Paris.

Today, I can’t help but remember another classic Christian prayer. Serenity.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Please be patient with me. I am still learning what thing I can change and cannot change.

Thanks for reading.


I have been working pretty solidly this week, except for Monday. The issue of creative work is one of taking ease. If I relax when I work things come out easier, and quite possibly better.

If I try to work so hard the work seems like ‘work’ I know I am doing it wrong.

My problem has been the fear of not working hard enough. For a long time, this felt like a catch 22 because I wouldn’t usually work while relaxing, and I couldn’t work if I stressed out. Over the past month or so, going to the coffee shop where I am now taking a break to write this blog post, has changed that.

So far this place sometimes makes me a bit nervous, but with a little extra nervousness has come a little more focus. The two may not be connected. The nervousness seems like a matter of the mild social anxiety I’ve had in the past. That said, when I was in college I did a lot of writing in the cafeteria on campus.

There is a major set of similarities between the coffee shop experience and the cafeteria experience. For one, there are people I don’t know around. For two there is free water and pricey food, so I can keep hydrated but not risk overeating when I should be at my keys.

There are probably more similarities, but those three are the most evident to me as factors that put me at ease to write.

And writing is difficult enough without having other obstacles. I find it’s more natural in places like these.

I hope you’re all well. Thanks for reading.

All Ways

So I took yesterday off, as planned, but on Saturday I had a lot of difficulty writing. Guess I’m not quite perfect at this productivity thing. That goes double because my editing has been really slack lately, and I had fully intended to do a couple of chapters a day.

I’m not pressuring myself to produce at this exact moment, hence the blog post. The reason I decided it was okay to let up the pressure is my knowledge of what happens when I clamp down on myself to push forward. Notice how ‘clamp down’ and ‘push forward’ are opposite metaphors? I don’t make much headway when I overly pressure myself to write.


Work still needs to get done, but it will get done only if I can relax.

Perhaps this is just the second-week doldrums I suffered during the last book I wrote. That makes this my second chance to tackle the problem since I realized it existed as a pattern. I hope to beat the doldrums by brainstorming more and injecting the excitement I get from storming into the current story.

Last week, at the apex of my glorious charge through the first 20,000 words of the current work in progress, I had an appointment with a counselor. I’ve been talking to this counselor about my life (And my writing productivity) for over a year, but this time I really ran at the mouth with excitement about the current project. That excitement is still present, but it is beaten down at the moment.

Pause that thought. Insight just struck.

I think I need to refocus on the POV character in the scene I’m stuck on. I like this guy, a special agent with magical powers, raised since childhood for this role, along with the other members of his team. He has an addictive personality, which is something I need to bring out. This scene will be good for that.

Hmm… Anyway, back to counseling.

What I talked about with the counselor is the same sort of thing I just mentioned about adding more idea. This book is already packed with craziness, from giant human-controlled monsters to spirit possession to magical powers mixed with near-future technological advances. Even so, I think there is room for more ideas, if not ones that are so obvious in the story-world.

I think it’s time to give this another try.

Thanks for reading.

Friday the Thirteenth

Like most of the world, I was stunned by the news coming out of Paris over the past twenty-four hours. I was so stunned I froze for a few hours from the writing that has occupied me over the past week. I meant to blog yesterday, but I couldn’t manage it once I started hearing about the attacks.

One part of me said: “Why do you care so much?”

“You don’t know these people. This is happening far away. Terrible things happen every day.”

High profile attacks like those in Paris are a reminder of the dark possibilities of our world. I can’t help but remember another time I felt a reminder like this. The attacks on September 11th, 2001 naturally came to mind, but not just because of the terrorism and the connections with fanaticism.

I remembered where I was over half my lifetime ago. I had just begun going to an alternative school where many of the more problematic students from the local systems ended up. Central Community School was split into just two classes, elementary school, and high school.

Despite being only eleven years old, I was assigned to the high school because of my good grades. This is not meant as a brag, not even a humble one, just a fact.

As I watched the news with a class of delinquent or dysfunctional students, all older than me, I couldn’t help but feel sadness at the knowledge that people were dying in those events. I don’t recall being afraid at that moment though I did fear of flying for a while after that.

One of the older students, a guy with a fluorescent green stone on his eyebrow ring named Tom, quoted a line from, I think, Cheech and Chong. I don’t remember the exact words, but it concluded with “Fuck the World, let’s all get high.”

That turned my sadness and horror into anger. I got into my first violent altercation in alternative school. I’m sorry to say, the first of many. It’s funny, by the end of that year, Tom and I became friends. But in the wider world, wars began as a result of the fear and pain caused by the 9/11 attacks.

By the time I returned to the mainstream school system, George W. Bush’s War on Terror had been going on for only a few years. Fast forward to the present where we continue to treat impoverished, angry people as if they are the only savages out there, when our War on Terror is still nowhere near resolution. It’s war without an end, war without victory conditions.

I’ve played wargames since before I went to alternative school. Even in the worst, most interminably long wargames there are ways to tally up points and declare a victor at the end. Those are games. In real life, there is no final measurement. No one is going to count the cost of a never-ending war and tell us we won.

Veteran’s day was just last week here in the states. I am grateful for the service of our troops, but I also wish the government would prioritize protecting both civilians and soldiers rather than igniting destruction in the name of vengeance. I can’t speak for the people of France or Syria, or really anyone but myself, but I can do my best to try to understand their pain.

Words from the Prayer of Saint Francis come to mind. Allow me to paraphrase for the present situation.

“May we not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love with all our beings.”

I will offer my paltry consolation to those in pain.

I will seek to understand your position, your troubles.

I will try to love each member of humanity, even when it is difficult.

Hope only fails if we give up.

Thanks for reading.