Free of the Doldrums

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I think writing is required for my mental health.

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted the entry entitled “Holding Pattern“? Yeah, that sensation of being trapped in creative doldrums lasted far, far longer than I anticipated or liked. It just didn’t make any sense. It’s summer time which means warmth and sunshine, I’m back on my antidepressants, and I finished a book. You’d think I’d be on Cloud Nine and working better than ever!

Not so.

Instead, I puttered around with fan fiction and found myself increasingly dissatisfied with life, the universe, and everything. Sleeping too much, eating too much… low energy, low focus… It was more or less how I felt for eight years before finally getting professional help. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why.

Now I know: I wasn’t writing.

Weird, huh? I took a week off after finishing Courting the Moon to rest and recuperate. But that “break” from writing just got longer and longer. I fell out of the habit and my sense of self and well-being went with it. But I finally worked up the effort to get back into my old routine. I committed to the July edition of Camp NaNoWriMo and set my LeNoWriCha goal to “Easy” (a.k.a. 15,000 words.) Got up early this morning, went for a walk, had a cup of tea, and started writing the moment I got home.

July 1st and July 2nd it was a struggle to reach the minimum of 500 words each day. Today? Over 2000 words and still going. I went from having no synopsis for Courting the Moon to a nearly-complete first draft of it in three days. And the more I write, the more I want to write. The cycle feeds itself in eternal momentum and motivation. Even though I knew this intellectually, I think this is the first time that I felt it viscerally.

Granted, I know that not every writing day will be this good; I had an excellent convergence of energy, sunlight, and time. But, at least I’m working again. I have mental energy, focus, and drive. Heck, I spent last night folding up my clean bed-sheets and blankets to pack neatly away in my linen closet! That, like, has never happened. Ever.

While I know that my momentum will be interrupted by things like work, cats, and trips to the bathroom, I will try to retain this routine for as long as I can. If you have a routine, you can move forward, even on the days when you don’t feel like writing.

Breathe deep. Fly high. Seek peace. 

— a Dinotopian farewell

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“Bright Sunshiny Day!”

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I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day


— Jimmy Cliff, “I Can See Clearly Now”

And so it is!  Actually, these last two weekends have been ridiculously productive, mostly because I’ve been able to sit out on the front porch (like I am now) for hours at a time.  (I just LOVE my Chromebook!)  It’s astonishing how much something as simple as the weather can have such a massive effect on one’s psyche.  While I don’t really consider myself and outdoorsy person (since I like, never go camping or hiking or boating or anything like that), I do gain great satisfaction and pleasure from being outside.  And even if I have to hide indoors during the summer because it is too hot or humid out, I am still more productive, simply because there is sunshine.  I think I may be part lizard and part sunflower.

At any rate, I am very pleased with my progress on All’s Fair.  My characters are talking to me again, I’m filling in plot holes, uncovering motivations… it’s all coming together and that’s a good feeling.  Granted, since I had to rip out or severely alter over two-thirds of the book, I now have no idea how to end the darn thing.  I suspect something will occur to me after my subconscious has a chance to mull over it for a while.  I plan on participating in Camp NaNoWriMo in July, since they have come up with a system to represent editing and not just vomit-typing.  For Camp NaNo, an hour of editing equals 1,000 words, so I’m setting a goal of editing for at least an hour each day, which would be 31,000 words.  I don’t think I’ll do LeNoWriCha this time since I’m not really generating new content.  My ultimate goal this year is to have All’s Fair ready for the submission process by October.

Speaking of time… did you know that The Cat’s Cradle is now five years old?  Yep, I started this blog back in June 2011.  At the time I was just shouting into the ether from Blogspot without a clue of where I was going.  Now I’m here on WordPress with a far more streamlined and professional webpage design.  I update more or less every other week, I’m on Twitter, I offer editing services, and I’ve added the Audio Editions for people to listen to and download.  I try not to look at stats because that way madness lies, but I’m ecstatic that, as of today, 138 people follow The Cat’s Cradle.  Whether anyone reads it or not is another story, but I’m very grateful to everyone who has chosen to read, like, share, comment, or listen to these entries.  I’ve learned a lot over the last five years, and I hope to continue improving so these entries remain informative, interesting, or at least entertaining for you.

ThankYouBlogReaders

2015: The Year in Review

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Okay, seriously, who keeps making off with all this time?  Feels like the year just got started and we’re already on the cusp of 2016!  (And from what I’ve heard, this sense of time distortion only gets worse… ugh.)

I am definitely in a better place at the end of 2015 than I was last year.  Many of my 2014 goals have been reached, and it feels like I’ve got a better handle on life in general, which is a massive relief!  I want to give a huge thank-you to all of my friends, readers, subscribers, and followers.  You make this all worth-while.

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Checking In

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Greetings to you all from the beginning of Week 3 in NaNoWriMo!  I have to say, this month’s writing has gone a lot better than it has for quite a while.  You may have noticed that my last few entries (although few and far between) contained a note of despondency.  Or maybe a healthy dose of it.  Or perhaps entire buckets of the stuff.  At any rate, I’d essentially stalled out on Ravens and Roses, which I’ve been working on pretty much non-stop for longer than I care to remember.  I know that I swore (again) that I’d have a finished draft at the end of this year (sound familiar?) and I still might.  It just may not be the project I was expecting it to be.  

My 2015 NaNo project, “code-named” AFiLaW (pronounced A-F-I-Law), also referred to as All’s Fair, has gained a lot of momentum, despite containing two genres that I’ve never worked with before:  Romance and Steampunk.  I’ll admit that at this point the prose is a little light on both; I keep forgetting to add steampunk descriptive details and I haven’t touched the sex scenes.  In fact, I may decide not to write any of the latter at all.  Scenes with that particular kind of intimacy are alien to me, and every piece of advice I can find about writing in the romance genre says: “If you are uncomfortable writing sex scenes, then don’t write them because your discomfort will show through.”  So we’ll see.  Still, even with those quibbles, I’ve been writing at least 1,000 words each day and often pass the 1,500- and 2,000-word marks.  That’s practically unheard of for me; I don’t recall doing that well even when I began Ravens and Roses in earnest back in 2010 for my first NaNo.

I think the reason I’ve been doing so well lately is threefold:

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I’m Still Alive!

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Hey.

Do you know what day it is?

Yes, it’s a Tuesday.  What else?

Okay, the date is October 13th.  What happens on October 13th?

Why, the birthday of one of my favorite fictional characters:

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Milestones & Updates

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Hello, world!  It seems like writers spend a lot of time soul-searching in Angst-ville (myself included) so I wanted to share some good news!

 

1) ARTICLES!

(click image for link)

I got some articles published!  Fellow writer Mark Squirek is a columnist for the online newsletter Scoop.  He asked me to do a pair of articles for his column, “Cover Story,” which discusses the cover art of various comic books.  I got to pick any two covers I wanted and write about them!  I chose Space Family Robinson #23: “Menace from Uranus!” from 1967 and The Chronicles of Arcea #1: “The Athame” by Vyrhelle.  Many thanks to Mark for asking me to write for Scoop and to Mr. J.C. Vaughn, editor at Gemstone Publishing, for taking a chance on a new writer.  Also, my deepest gratitude to my friend Karen; editing all of those art papers paid off!  Working with Scoop has been a lot of fun, and I hope I’ll be able to continue writing for them.

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New Days, New Design

Welcome to 2014!  I have a couple of announcements for my first post of the New Year:

First, I decided to redesign my website.  I liked the old one, but it felt a little too…bland.  I wanted something a little more dynamic, but still professional, and I’ve always loved black…so here we are!  It makes me want to dance and shout, “LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY!”  *ahem*  Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new layout.  I’ve also changed the page called “The Mariner Sequence” to “Novels” so I can list other projects that I’m working on.  All the old links to that page have been updated.  If any links are broken, let me know and I’ll fix them ASAP.

Second, from now on I will be posting a new entry every other Monday.  I’ve been posting on Tuesdays for two years and that schedule just doesn’t work for me anymore.  Since I’m already committed to posting a new chapter of fan fiction every other Monday, I thought I would just make Mondays my day to upload new material.  As always, links to new entries will be posted on Twitter.  (This post is just an announcement; a proper entry will be posted next Monday.)

Third, I’ve added a section to the About the Author page showcasing some pictures of my little feline helpers.  I really am a crazy cat lady, and sometimes my baby boys can be so adorable trying to help me write.  Who doesn’t love pictures of cats being cute?

Last, I’ve created a separate blog called the LeNoWriCha Logs.  (Click here for a rundown of LeNoWriCha.)  Each day I will post an update on my Logs, detailing how much I wrote, what daily level I achieved, a summary of what I wrote about, any editing I may have done, and any other special projects or writing-relating events that seem pertinent.  A link to the LeNoWriCha Logs is now posted at the top of “My Sites” if you are interested.

Thank you once again for joining me this year!

How to Track Your Editing Progress

Last time, I shared David Greenshell’s invention of LeNoWriCha (the Legendary Novel Writing Challenge) as an alternative to or supplement for NaNoWriMo, to give more motivation to write via a more customized reward system and positive feedback loop.  So far, it’s been working really well.  I tend to stay more in the Easy and Normal range with a few more Incomplete days than I would like…but I also get a few Heroic and Legendary days in there, so that makes me happy.  I’m still plugging away on my Dark Crystal Project, and am reaching the end of my first draft.

Which means very soon I’ll begin editing and revising.  Which opens a whole new kettle of fish.

I now have LeNoWriCha to track my daily writing progress and give me rewards.  But what about editing?  How do you track that?

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The Legendary Novel Writing Challenge!

Whew!  I somehow managed to survive Camp NaNoWriMo for July 2013.  It took a lot of burning the midnight oil and frantic cramp-inducing typing on my part these last few days, but I made it!  (Day 28 I spent all day, from 8:00am until 11:30pm writing.  I got 8,876 words done in a single day!  20 pages!  Heilige scheisse!)  Just goes to show that the habits of college haven’t worn off yet; I still put everything off until the last minute.

This Camp NaNo was really stressful and I was way behind my word count for about 2 weeks.  Trying to catch up once I feel behind was probably the biggest stressor, and even though NaNoWriMo always stresses that you get major kudos for trying, I still don’t like falling short of a goal I set for myself.  My writing group can attest to my depression and complaining throughout the month.

However, a good thing did come from all the stress.  Well, two good things, actually.

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