Short Break

Goodbye, Puerto Rico

 

 

I’m moving to Georgia on Tuesday and I have lots of stuff to do, so I’ll be on a short break till July 22nd while I finish last minute touches here and get situated over there.

Today I had planned a post about What Avatar The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra Taught Me about  storytelling, but it was long and messy and I want to do it right, but ran out of time.

So instead I share you other blogs and articles that are awesome!

 

This article shows how its actually true that being in the moment and enjoying the journey is much beneficial than focusing on the destination:  How Goals and Good Intentions Can Hold Us Back

Everything at Terribleminds.com is just pure awesomeness and today it’s interview day with Lisa Cron, author for Wired For Story which teaches storytelling using science! Lisa Cron: The Terribleminds Interview

Also, everything at The Art of Non-Conformity is great too. Here’s a blog post about taking responsibility for making decisions about your life. This blog and his books started me on my path of really taking my life into my own hands: How to Make Decisions

 

There. Go. Read. Play.

See you next week!

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Rekindling Dying Passions

 

Today, I got up early (or early-ish in my book) and worked on my WIP. I haven’t done this in months.

I used to do this all the time, used to do it every day for over a month during the Golden Age of Writing back in November 2008. That was a long while ago.

I’ve worked on becoming a novelist for a long time now. Seriously for nearly six years now. Well, on and off for nearly six years, if you call that being serious.  After so long, the dream got stale. I sort of forgot the reason why I wanted to write novels. I found myself putting it off more and more, and taking up other goals, other dreams. Like becoming an illustrator.

I stopped going to writing blogs, and started going to art websites. Soon, I stopped reading about fiction writing altogether and simply lost all passion for it. I was just going through the motions. I had a story in me and I was simply, slowly, getting it down. But that was it. My heart wasn’t in it like it used to be.

Due to my latest epiphany/breakthrough/breakdown/relapse/recovery I realized that perhaps art isn’t for me (I still wanna do it, but probably not full time).  My love for Story always comes first.

Then I realized the first chapter for my novel for the novel writing course I’m in is due March 2 and that I’m very much behind.

I brought out my lesson binder, caught up on the writing blogs I used to frequent (QueryShark, Terribleminds, etc), and started Fire in Fiction by Donald Mass I had bought a million years ago, but never touched.

And just like that. It returned.

I’m excited again.

Today, I finally got up earlier than absolutely necessary to work on my novel before taking Jesse to school. It was easier to do it this time. I wanted to get up early. I had worked on my assignment all last night and kept it fresh in my mind as I went to bed and on my mind when I woke up.

And man does it feel GOOD.

Have you ever lost the fire for something you loved to do and found it again?

How did you get it back?

The Word War is a Crutch…

 

…if you let it become one.

For the past few days, I’ve finally started to kick the habit of always being connected to the internet and begin working on my novel without that distraction.

It wasn’t easy. I had to move to a internet-free room to resist the temptation, bringing my computer to the dining room table (funny how now the table is just as if not more cluttered than my work desk. It seems being surrounded by books and notebooks = productivity).

Before, when I was on my computer, I was online. The only time I did writing while not being connected was when I was working in my notebook, which I rarely did.

One of the things I noticed I also did is I went into writing chat rooms whenever I began to work. The idea was that being in a chat full of other writers would help me focus.

Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t.

In one way it helped me to focus was being able to participate in word wars. If you don’t know, a word war is when two or more writers race each other at the keyboard for a specific amount of time. The object is to write more words than the other person during that bit of time, but usually any words written is praised.

I started doing word wars a few years ago when I was first introduced to NaNoWriMo. Back then I faced off a monster of a typist who I could never beat, so I never even tried, right from the beginning. Mostly they were 15 – 30 mins long. But then I learned about the glorious 1hour word war, which was a godsend that helped me write my NaNo08 WIP. For me, the word war just needed me to get started, then I took care of the rest myself and I hated stopping early because it ruined my flow, so the longer the word war, the better.

But soon it became something like a trigger. A crutch. Whenever the internet fell, the chat didn’t work, or no one was interested in writing or warring, I didn’t write. I couldn’t focus. And the internet itself didn’t help much either way (Damn you adultwimgames.com. Damn you.) So I was always online and logged in to one form of online social media network or another.

When I first tried working offline, I couldn’t do it. It felt weird. I felt like something was missing, and my mind wondered. Eventually the internet itch needed to be scratched and I was back online.

But I had to keep working at it.  Cold-turkey I went! I mentioned this before, wanting to work more by myself. It makes a lot more sense once I realized that most of any writing gets done offline, when you’re alone. So it made sense to spend more time there.

What really convinced me I needed to embrace doing it on my own was when I realized I wasn’t really warring unless I was in the mood to write to begin with. I couldn’t force a word war if I was in the wrong mood. It was much easier to pretend I was warring in order to keep procrastinating and not have the other person judge me.

I had to accept the reality that I wasn’t getting anything done this way, or it definitely wasn’t helping anymore. In the end, I realized the word war and the writing chat room was just a need to be watched, for my work to be acknowledged before it was even close to being completed.

It was just a way to get that sense of satisfaction without actually doing the work.

The other day, I met with a passionate, 15-year-old writer. It was looking in a mirror of how I was when I was his age (or maybe even now?). He couldn’t stop talking about his story. He was in love with it. Obsessed. But he was all over the place and hadn’t completed anything.

I felt like one of the transitions between an aspiring writer and a working writer is that there’s a whole lot less talking and a whole lot more writing.

Of course, complete isolation doesn’t work either. The writing community is a wonderful thing. But I think should be like a place you go to unload after a full day of work and productivity, rather than before.

Where do you get most of your work done? Connected or Offline?

My NaNoWriMo 2011 Attack Plan

 

 

 

It’s that time of year again! When writers all over the world consume vast quantities of alcohol, coffee and sugar for their own good as they attempt to push out 50,000 words of creativeness in thirty days.

I’m doing it again this year (hopefully with better results than last year), but I’m going to be the absolute NaNoRebel!

First, I already wrote it! My NaNo2008 success has been my WiP for three years now. It needs to either get done or get shelved. I want it to be the former, so this year, I’m gonna try to recreate my personal Golden Month of Writing and write the entire thing again this November, and hopefully add the Second Golden Month of Writing to the history books.

Second, I have a solid plan this time. With it being already written, I already know what I’m gonna write, from start to finish. I have been working tirelessly and will continue these last four days on finishing an extensive outline that will tell me what to keep, what to scrap, and just how to make it better overall. This will be my novel’s Map, the User Manual, my Eternals: Book One Bible.

(Though I never actually have done NaNo with an outline before, I don’t know if this will indeed make the challenge any easier. But I will officially agree that NaNoWriMo’s weakest point is that fact that if you do it at the seat of your pants and write whatever comes to mind, the novel will have unnecessary, deep seated problems. I doubt it would have taken me this long and be this difficult to fix my WiP if I had done it with less desperation. I do believe in the Zero Draft, but there’s a difference between running and sprinting. I recommend the former over the latter.)

Third, I probably won’t finish the novel in the month. 50k is no novel, but honestly, I think it’s impossible to write a 100k fantasy novel in a month, which is my word count goal for this novel (perhaps 115k-120k or less). But I want to come at least close. I will aim for the minimum 1,667 words a day, but then I will take it further and go for 3,000 words a day, making my NaNoWriMo goal 90k instead of 50k.

At a reasonable pace, that is 4 hours of writing a day, something I believe I can manage.

Hopefully with the outline and the fact I know this story and its characters by heart at this point, this will be much easier than last time.

Even with 90k, it won’t be finished. So, my point of view will be to not see this as a dash, but as a marathon to keep going until the novel is finished. Not so much a monthly challenge, but an Until-The-Damn-Thing-Is-Done-I-Won’t-Stop-Writing-3k-A-Day Challenge, which will probably cross over into December.

That’s the Plan.

Is anyone else doing NaNo and if so, what’s your attack plan?

Visual Time Schedule

I love lists and I love to follow instructions, the more specific the better.

But for some reason, the more organized and scheduled my day is, the more I resist it and don’t get anything done.

Scheduling specific tasks for specific hours of the day just doesn’t work for me for some reason. I rarely, if ever look at a daily planned and only recently have I finally kept the habit of checking and reviewing a paper calendar with important deadlines (bills, appointments, etc. Mostly blank. Non-crucial deadlines like personal ones are rarely—if ever—met so I don’t bother to place them on here).

However, I’ve found a scheduling method that so far has worked for me. I guess this proves I’m a highly visual person.

I have no idea if this is actually a method used by others. This is the first time I’ve seen something like this, but it’s simple and obvious enough that I doubt I’m the first to figure it out.

Instead of writing specific hours to specific tasks, I draw circles. Inside, I write a category of the actionable tasks I’ve written already in my handy dandy notebook.

I place the circles in different sizes depending on the category’s priority (much like those tag/category clouds you see on the side of the most blogs) and put them in the order I feel is most logical to me.

It looks like this:

 (WORK AM and WORK PM are placeholders for when I’m scheduled to work during the day or night at my part-time job since it changes week by week. The AM cirlce would take the place of the big green circle or the DRAW circle would be moved up when I do have work. I either draw the diagram over again in my notebook day by day, or just have the one schedule and do it mentally)

These are just things I need to keep in mind and are important. I don’t put in “shower” or “dress” or “brush teeth” because I don’t really need a reminder for those things. I mean, come on.

 

I can probably make it prettier with a computer program, but this works for me at the moment.

I still need and have a list of all the individual actionable steps/tasks  so I know what to do during the “WRITE” time place or the ERRANDS or DRAW or whatever, so it’s not like I get out of bed, sit down and don’t know what to do.

For me, this simple and loose way of scheduling my time makes it easier for me to focus and not overthink about what I should be doing and when.

I don’t get anxious anymore when I don’t write every day at 6am on the dot. As long as I write first thing after waking up, I’m good regardless of what time I actually do it.

It’s a good thing.

(I’ve always wanted to say that!! *gets sued*)

How do you schedule your day? Do you schedule at all or does it stifle your productivity?

 

Balance

“The Juggler” 1981 Oil on Panel by Michael Parkes
The Juggler by Michael Parkes

 

I feel the greatest factor in order to maintain consistency and focus is balance.

It’s about skillfully balancing practicing your passion while juggling all the necessities of life.

I’ve learned that it is very, extremely unproductive to compare myself to others who don’t share the same situation as me. I have the bad habit of being a perfectionist and wanting to be the best at everything I’m into. So when I hear people write or draw or study those things six to eight hours a day, I feel like I need to do that too or even more.

But most of those people either figured out a way to balance their life or sacrificed or just simply have the time to make that work.

I know I’ve allowed myself to feel bad by an aspiring artist friend of mine. Drawing for three hours a day is slacking off in his book. And often he’s lectured me about my inconsistency….which I cannot deny.

I am extremely inconsistent. I’m very much aware of it and if there’s one thing I want to change most about my behavior, it’s that.

But I also have to face reality.

I’m living with my 17 year old brother (I took him back in. Inconsistent, I know) with a house that is falling apart, working a part-time job. I have to pay the bills, do the laundry, stock up the fridge, budget my spending, clean the house, monitor my brother’s whereabouts, drive him to places, go to work, make sure my brother is taking care of his pets, etc…

AND pursue my dreams and somehow start a career.

Needless to say, writing and drawing eight hours a day isn’t going to work.

For me, it’s very easy for me to freak out and lose focus, especially with a history of crippling anxiety and depression since I’m way too hard on myself.

Balance is the key.

Flexibility and sacrifice helps in creating Balance. It’s like juggling. You need flexibility to catch everything and sacrifice items, juggling less than you’d like in order to make it work.

It’s all about doing whatever it takes.

How do you achieve balance in your life?

Love the Journey, But Don’t Forget the Destination

I took a good look at my surroundings and realized I lost my focus.

I lost my goal.

I lost my Destination.

It got lost due to new plans, setbacks, mini crises, and non!hiatuses. I’m still determined and committed. I’m not out of the game, but now my writing and drawing is only for the sake of writing and drawing, with no end game in sight. Well, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing…though without any purpose, I seem to have lost some drive.

In other words, my productivity and consistency are still lacking.

We’ve all heard the many different yet still wise quotes about how important it is to enjoy the Journey and how little important it is to obsess over the Destination.

But now I’m starting to believe that regardless of how less important the Destination is, it’s still pretty damn necessary to at least have one.

Thus, it’s time to recommit and clarify my Destination—my short and long term goals.

What a better way than to list them all here where everyone on the internet can see and judge me if I don’t complete them in a timely way! Oh joy!

Writing Goals:

  • Finish Prophecy of the Eternals First Draft Outline
  • Complete Studying THE BREAKOUT NOVELIST by Donald Maass
  • Complete my many writing courses I participate in online (HTTS, HTRYN, LRWG Novel Course)
  • Receive a Positive Rejection with Comments from an admired Literary Agent (BREAKTHROUGH GOAL)
  • Finish rewrite and final draft of Prophecy of the Eternals
  • Finish first draft, rewrite, final draft of Blood of the Eternals (Book 2)
  • Finish first draft, rewrite, final draft of Avatar of the Eternals (Book 3)
  •  Finish Eternals Trilogy (BG)
  • Acquire a Literary Agent (BG)
  • Finish first draft, rewrite, final draft of BEASTS (Book 1)

 

The list can pretty much go on forever when it comes to my writing goals, so I’ll just leave it there. That’s good for the next ten years or so. …Damn, mortality is a bitch.

As for my art goals, since it’s a more recent path I’ve chosen, I’m not exactly sure where I’m heading. So here’s just a few I can think of.

Art Goals:

  • Get a paid commission to do fantasy art.
  • Win Crimson Daggers Golden Boy Award on ConceptArt.org Forums
  • Finish Art School
  • Get accepted to do a page for GUTTERS webcomic
  • Get a Job storyboarding, doing concept art for film or television or art for a comic
  • Get a Job as drawing fantasy novel book covers.
  • Get featured in an art magazine like ImagineFX (BG)
  • Freelance for Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, Whitewolf, or similar (BG)
  • Get a Job doing storyboards or art for a major film/show or art for a major comic book or graphic novel (BG).

 

All of these are probably too far reaching, but honestly until I can think of small steps, I shall leave it like this for now.

Note: All goals are subject to change.

Nevertheless, the Journey is still the more vitally important of the equation. After all, we spend more time journeying than reaching the destination (and we might not even reach it in the end anyways), so we may as well enjoy ourselves as we go.

Perhaps then, the Journey should dictate the Destination.

Something like…

“Since I want to spend my life doing *insert activities and events I want to occur in my life on a daily, weekly or monthly basis*, then the best direction for such a life is *insert goal/destination*.” 

Like, since I enjoy writing, drawing and daydreaming about my own stories and characters, then having goals such as finishing and selling novels, and going to art school and being paid to draw, are goals that will allow me to have a life, a Journey, where I get to do the things I love on a daily basis, and not just when I’ve finally achieve a goal.

This is probably the reverse on how most people plan their goal lists. The common way is to have the goal, then figure out what you need to do every day in order to achieve it.

I’m saying do the opposite.

I think it’s a good way ( or at least makes it more likely) to create a satisfying life we can enjoy right now instead of in the future, where each moment become mini-destinations and bad days aren’t so bad.

Life is short and my goals are lofty. I doubt I’ll reach all of them or even most of them, but at least I can be happy, enjoying the moments leading up to the Destination…for the most part.

Tell me about your Journey and your Destination(s).

What are your goals and the daily activities you’ve added to your life in order to reach them?

The Revival of the Morning Routine

 

I think I’ve done a million of posts on this subject, but I keep coming back to it for some reason.

Perhaps it’s because for the first time in a while, I actually managed to get up – actually leave my bed and be in front of my computer – at 4am to work on my writing.

I haven’t done this since the Golden Age of Writing ™.

(In case anyone’s wondering, the Golden Age of Writing was November 9th – 30th of 2008 when I wrote and finished the first draft of my novel. I may be a tiny bit proud of the achievement.)

Needless to say, I’m excited.

But on the subject of routine and discipline, I’m starting to realize something interesting.

I can get up, fully energized with little sleep as long as I’ve prepared myself the night before.

As I write this, I’m only on about 4-5 hours of sleep. I’m totally awake.

But wait, doesn’t the body need sleep?

Apparently it doesn’t if you’ve pumped yourself up the night before! I think it’s the same as when you were a little kid, the night before Christmas. You were so looking forward the next day that you barely slept the next day.

I think the same goes to waking up early to do anything else.

Well, this all sounds like common sense, but I know for a fact that people often say they were gonna get up at an insane hours and do the work, whether that be writing, exercising, drawing, whatever, but often fail to do so.

Hell, I’ve done that at least twenty times before now (…and honestly will probably do it twenty more times in the future).

The key is not the TIME you go to bed, but more the STATE you’re in when you go to bed.

Well, okay. True, getting to bed at an earlier time would make it easier.

But nine times out of ten, if I “prepare” for the morning before going to bed, even if I go to bed at 11PM and get up at 4AM, it’s a lot easier than say, for example…

…I left my office a wreck of a mess and went to bed at 9PM with the intention of waking up at 4AM to clean it then.

Most likely in the situation I’d just roll over and go back to bed because I’d be DREADING entering that mess instead of being excited to get to it.

But if I spend a measly 30 minutes, prepping the station for work the next morning, suddenly I have something look forward to, a place that is expecting me, a reason to get out of bed and get to work.

So, in case I never do this ever again or forget this obvious piece of advice, I lay it here on my blog for others or perhaps myself to look over again in the future (hopefully the distant future cause I won’t need it!).

Does anyone have a before bed routine that helps you to get up in the morning?

Your own personal tricks on maintaining discipline?

Relapse

Bacchus (Dionysus) by Caravaggio
Bacchus by Caravaggio (Bacchus is also known as Dionysus, God of wine and ecstacy among other things)

 

Hello. My name is Amber J Gardner and I am an addict.

*pauses for applause*

But my addiction isn’t to any type of substance. My addiction is embarrassing.

I’m addicted to stories.

I am serious.

Like any addiction, even one that doesn’t directly damage the body, it’s still bad.

This time it was a mix of anime and manga. Triggered by anxiety and feelings of failure, I went on a 48 hour binge, maybe even longer, meaning I spent practically two days doing nothing but sitting at my computer reading Japanese comics and watching cartoon shows/movies.

This is bad because I haven’t done any writing in the past week (or cleaning for that matter). This is also a serious blow to my self-confidence because I really thought I had this addiction beat. I hadn’t read manga this obsessively in months. It was supposed to be taboo to access any manga or anime sites, but still, it happened.

Relapse.

I know it doesn’t really sound that bad or serious. It really is. I call it a story addiction rather than an anime/manga addiction because I haven’t done this with JUST that form of entertainment.

Back when I still trying to make college work, I spent an entire Thanksgiving break playing Final Fantasy 12 when I needed to work on a research paper I was ignoring (I barely submitted it in time).  I literally spent an entire day, from one morning to the morning of the next day, with my butt glued to that couch, controller in hand (and I STILL didn’t beat the damn bastard of a game).

Another time I spent an entire month reading three fantasy trilogies, earning myself failing grades for all my classes that semester. For four weeks (possibly more), I remained locked in my room, barely eating or drinking, without showering, my face stuck in my books.

A bad side effect of this damn obsession is I often feel disappointed when reality doesn’t play by the same rules as the worlds of the stories I read. I don’t mean magic or any of that. I mean love and friendship and all that lovey-dovey stuff. Most of that stuff doesn’t work in the real world the way it works in the worlds of movies, video games and anime, which is disappointing…and also gives me this weird feeling of being… disjointed from reality.

A feeling I don’t appreciate.

This addiction has really made a mess of my life.

But I have to give myself credit that I’ve improved greatly. Despite my relapse I managed to snap out of it fairly quickly (hopefully), or at least quicker than I used to, with no residual depression.

I suppose the hardest thing about kicking a bad habit or addiction is how to handle when you relapse, how to not let that get to you, to remain positive and still have faith in yourself and your dreams.

This is true for creating productive routines and habits too, like writing or exercising every day.  You miss a day or a week and you feel like crap.

The key is not to let the small failure to get to you and to get back on the horse.

By now, I’m covered in the scars of how many times I’ve fallen of that damn horse. Hell I was off the damn thing this very morning. But now, gently, carefully, I’m back on it.

The past is the past. It’s long gone. All that matters is what you do in the moment.  The future depends on what you do now, not on what happened yesterday.

It helps when you have people looking out for you and people you really don’t want to disappoint.

So here I am. Back in the saddle, ready to try something new (anything new) to stay on it this time.

Does anyone have any strategies or ways to get back up after a setback or prevent one from happening in the first place?

How do you stay on track on your dreams?

 

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