The Vestigial Life of Creativity

The Vestigial Life of Creativity

It’s been a hot minute since I did the last update. Honestly, I haven’t been focusing on writing so much as life. I have a lot of goals I want to reach, and only one of them is writing and finishing a story. The reality is that that particular goal has taken a backseat to what needs to happen. And that is: focusing on health.

We moved in 2017 (the end of), and in 2018, I decided I would “finish” getting healthy (losing weight) and get to my goal. Weight loss is so extremely wrapped up in feels that it is difficult to do anything else. So throughout 2018, and then 2019, I focused on losing weight. The closer I got to my goal, the harder it was to figure out how to balance everything I needed to do with everything I wanted to do with everything I did do.

Am I there yet? No. But, I need to balance this focus out with something else. I lost the drive, the creativity, to make anything. I no longer made jewelry (my environment changed, which made it harder to focus); I no longer wrote; I no longer did anything creative. I focused, instead, on creating my body, I guess. It’s a good enough analogy, at least.

As time has passed, I ‘ve found that I need some creative outlet. The ideas I’d once seduced before are stirring again. The ghosts of the past are whispering that their story hasn’t been told yet and that the story of before is still true. It still needs to be written, but better. More enriched with details. More in-depth characters with a better understanding of the world.

It is in the midst of our garage overhaul that I’ve found the vestigial twitch of a desire to write again. While sorting through papers and old school stuff, I found old notes of a seed of a story. Back then, I was too young, too amateur to build a 3D world. Yet, the ideas are sound and exciting. My gut tells me the ideas of the distant past can help flesh what I’ve put to paper so far. 

So, I’m going to try.

That’s what this life is, right? A series of steps in some direction that possibly carries one forward to one’s dreams. My dreams aren’t what they were when I started out writing. I am leaving behind the trappings of what drove me before — getting published, getting attention, getting anything out of this that is external. I am going to write for myself. Not for anyone else. Not for publishing, not for making money — though that would be nice, of course — but for myself.

I need to enjoy this if it is something I am going to do over the long term. I need to get lost in the worlds I create and see what bears fruit.

So. I am going to try.

Maybe, I’ll succeed at what I want to do. Maybe, I won’t, but rise or fall, at least I will have enjoyed doing it.


A Season of Change

A Season of Change

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted!  Whew, what a busy year it’s been!  Experienced an epic vacation, got a pool, and spent the majority of the year getting my health in order!  I’ve had little time to write since about February of this year, which is crazy.  Writing used to be an almost every day activity.  Stories used to crowd in my head like fleas on a cat.

All of that dissipated in the face of life, a busy season at work, and a general lack of creativity overall.  I hope to start working on something — anything — creative again soon.  I think what I need more than anything else is a clean slate when it comes to a project.  Not that I don’t love the previous project, I do, but I’ve stalled out so much that I think I need to try my hand at different words.  Different characters.  I have a character speaking to me that wants to come out, and I think if I let him out, then the other story will flourish better.  I kept wanting to tell him that he could be in be in that story, but he does not fit.

And so I am capturing errant thoughts that build up a new world.  A new idea.  I have been immersed so long in the words of others that I think I might finally be able to let my own free to fly up to the heavens.

Whether it’s jewelry, photography, or writing, I am determined to capture and hold onto the balloon of my creativity.  Fall is here, and I believe what I want to write is a cozy story best suited to chilly winter days and hot mugs of cocoa.  As in every story I write, there will be prominently featured, a cat.

Why?  Because my girls are my inspiration.  Behold, my dreamer: Summer!

Throwing Out Expectation

Throwing Out Expectation

I’ve been reading a lot of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series.  I’ve gone through Way of Kings, bled through Words of Radiance until the end where I cheered.  And now I’ve started Oathbringer.  All of this since finishing what I felt was the final draft of my book.

As it happens, I was incredibly wrong.  On a number of counts, but mainly that I had arrived at my destination.  What I will say is that The Stormlight Archives words that need be spoken resonate within me.  Well, one phrase.

Journey before destination.

I have gotten so caught up in the destination that I’ve neglected the journey.  I have rushed and produced what I now see as an inferior product.  I didn’t take time to enjoy the act of crafting — something I DO take time to enjoy when making jewelry or painting.  I didn’t take time to consider what I want to be and how I want to be perceived.

Do I want to be a young adult author?  Or do I want to be a sci-fi author?  Fantasy?  What kind of stories do I want to write?  What resonates within me?

The answer is never simple and one that’s discovered through journey, not destination.  I’d lost sight of that, and focused on “I want to be published!  I want to be an author!  I will rush to the finish to get what I want!”  That never does anyone well, and while I will say that my final product was not terrible, it was not great.  It was not discovered through the journey.  It was not the best that I could be.  It was not worthy of being sent to agents in the hope of finding a champion.

It was the shortest path to a supposed destination I thought I wanted.  I don’t want that destination anymore — not that I don’t want to be published, or that I have lost sight of my dream, but that I don’t want a destination I rushed towards.

I feel a bit like Kaladin, in the stories.  For his ups and downs resonate so well with me — it is easy to become what Kaladin expresses as the ‘wretch.’  To lie down and give up, to turn into nothingness with nothing battering at the senses.  But even my words here are relics of how comprehensive the storytelling is that I can really connect to these characters.

I want to discover that ability on my own.  I want to be like Jasnah, owning the world through action and giving not a wit to what others say.

I can do it, I say.  I can take the time to journey and relish in the mistakes and missteps I make.  I can craft something that may not be magnificent in terms of what else is around it.  It will be majestic to me because I will have woven my experiences through it.  Maybe my characters will never be as vibrant as some, but they will be as human as I can make them.

It is my first journey.  I will never get another like it, and I do my book and myself a disservice by rushing towards it at a speed that denies the ability to experience it.

Thank you, Brandon Sanderson, for your books and your forward at the beginning of Oathbringer for reminding me who I wanted to be.  I had lost it, but now I’ve found it.

And to that, I will enjoy every step in the recreation of this book.  I will enjoy bringing the characters to life.  And it will take as long as it takes, for it is my journey and none others.

So it begins.

In the Process of Refinement

In the Process of Refinement

What a wild ride the last few weeks have been.  I think the hardest part about talking about rejection is the sense of failure that tags along with that concept.  It’s hard not to feel like what you tried to do didn’t work out because of some brokenness within the idea or construct.  You put yourself out there and what gets returned are words that mash together into a belief of unworthiness.

The first rejection letter I received felt a bit like the mumbling of the parents in the Charlie Brown cartoons.  Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah; you’re not good enough.

You’re not good enough to make it.  You’re not good enough for success.  This project isn’t good enough for us.

Rejection isn’t synonymous with failure, but that’s a hard concept to swallow because that’s not what it feels like.  In the case of project completion, it’s most important for me to break the emotion from the business.  A project can get rejected for a number of reasons.  Not the Right fit, not quite meeting the required specifications, not quite invoking the right need for the target audience, etc.  In software development, projects “fail” all the time, though the heart isn’t quite in it as much as something more creative.  Code is cold, logical, and can be easily manipulated.

Not the right specs?  Change the API.

Full of bugs?  Fix the defects.

Not efficient in memory usage? Assess the code and make efficiency updates and load test again.

I understand code.  I understand software development.  I understand release cycles.  I understand working myself to the bone to meet the needs of the business.  So I thought I was ready to attempt once again to publish a book.  Unfortunately, comparing software development with book publishing is like saying that because I can fly in an airplane that I’m ready to take off from the ground.

It’s a different beast.  It feels like more of the heart and soul go into crafting a story that people may love or hate.  Software is ultimately a tool to be used or something that makes life easier.  It solves a problem.

That is the inherent difference (at least for me) between the two aspects of my life.  Writing requires the same amount of work to perfect the craft and the same level of effort in terms of producing a product, but it carries with it this idea of subjective judgment.  A book is good or bad, not only because of the linear mechanics of its plotline but also on how people enjoy it.

What I had to do was separate the feeling of failure with the positive outcome of rejection.  Why was I rejected?  I didn’t entirely understand (rejection doesn’t always come with specifics), but I had a good idea.

So I tackled the problem like it was a software defect.  I identified the potential weak points.  I did more research on better ways to build a well-crafted story.  I tore apart my work and rebuilt it using the broken remains of the old elements.

Now, I have a plan.  More importantly, I am beyond (almost) the hurt of that rejection.  From the fires of rejection has arisen a greater desire to succeed, and to build something not just acceptable.  Not just good, but as exceptional as I can make it.

I had strung all of these false expectations on myself and the project.  False requirements — I needed to be done in X timeframe.  I needed to make sure I had it submitted in a rush to publications. — created a storm of rewriting that lead me down a road full of many-faceted lessons.

What does this all mean?  It means I have some work to do, but I have reformed my expectations as well.  I will enjoy the process as much as I can but will continue to persevere and move forward.

So my goals are simple:  rework the weak elements of the plot, create a more engaging world, simplify the overcomplicated components, and add more complexity to the aspects that come off too simplistic.  When I am done, I will find an agent (hopefully) that will further enhance my understanding of not only the book world but navigating what makes a book stand out from others around it.

In the beginning, I was unsure of the direction I wanted to take.  It is difficult in this day of changing technology to know what path to take.  Self-publish?  Indie publish?  Get an agent?

I feel that until I understand better what this marketplace is and what I need to do to craft a better book, I need a partnership.  And I hope that I can find that within an agent who can bring about even more refinement to my writing.

I may never find a publishing house for this story, but if that day comes, I can let the book rest knowing that I did as much as I could.

The Dark Heart of Anticipation

The Dark Heart of Anticipation

In comparison to the fervor of last year, where everything was moving quickly, and change was happening at an incredible pace… the new year has felt strange.  Good, in some ways.  I finally have time to relax and enjoy the things I’ve worked hard for, but off-kilter, because there aren’t deadlines.  There aren’t things that have to be done immediately.

Now I wait.  I’m waiting for a lot of things.  Namely, for an upcoming trip to Japan.  I’m getting excited about that, although, I’m worried a little bit about my passport.  I hate waiting for critical things, but I can’t hurry the government or the USPS.

The hardest part of anticipation is maintaining that level of inner emotional churn.  The questions born of excitement: What if I…?  When will I…?  How will I…?  Did I forget something?  How long as it been since I last checked…?

I am not good with patiently waiting.  It’s something I’m working on because life is as much about waiting as it is about doing. I’ve been filling my time with copious amounts of World of Warcraft, as well as some crafts I got for Christmas.  Painting, knitting, attempted crocheting (miserably, but I’ll learn!); I have projects in each, in different stages of finish.  I also want to amp up my jewelry making, too.  I miss making it, but I’ve found myself short of attention span these days.  It is the beast of anticipation, gnawing away at the wall of my resolve.

Two months.  It haunts me, this timeframe.  Will I have enough time to get everything done that I need to?  I have wasted so much time already but will continue to waste more.  Time can seem both abundant and extinct; at once I’m flush with free time to do the things I want to do, and yet, I find myself wondering where it all went.  How did I get as far into the new year as I did?

I’m in-between writing projects, hesitating to move forward in case I must go back.  An idea is percolating in my thoughts, dripping into half-formed ideas.  I hope to use my trip to Japan this year to fuel the creativity beast within and formulate a unique story.

It’s a different story from the last one.  A different world crafted of … what?  I am not sure.  I only have half-formed thoughts and ideas.  What do I want to tell?  I am not sure, but it grows within me.

Whatever world is getting built, it grows brighter each day.  One day, I’ll know it, and I’ll know the stories within it.

And one day, the story that’s meant to be told will be born with the birth of the one expected to live it.

Which Wolf To Feed

Which Wolf To Feed

It always seems impossible until it’s done.
~Nelson Mandela

So a while ago, I finished Origins, and I received some excellent feedback on the manuscript from a Beta reader I’ve been looking forward to reading my story.  I’ve worked on it, but now I’m in the process of submissions for this manuscript.  Which includes a lot of waiting — the hardest part for me.  I am not the most patient person, but I am learning how to be.

Beyond the pain of waiting is the pain of feeling like you’ll never succeed.  I realized as I checked my email for the millionth time in a single day, that I was feeding into the wolf of insecurity.  I could focus on what might happen, or I could turn my energies into the arts of creation.  Whether that be through jewelry making or writing or what.  It is hard because I am my own worst enemy.  I tell myself that I am not good enough and I’ll never succeed and get what I dreamed.

I AM good enough.  I need to stop feeding the wolf of insecurity and feeding a different wolf.  So whenever I’ve found myself riddled with doubt, I’ve focused on a new story, new world idea.  I get two weeks off from work, so I’m going to spend that time researching all submission avenues now that I have successfully written my synopsis over the weekend as well as spending time world building.

I have a tablet I got last Christmas, and I’m going to use that to draw out my maps and flesh out this new world.  I’m excited!

Oh and I’ll probably play copious amounts of WoW.  It will, however, be a good time for my brain to recharge and formulate new words and new worlds.