6 years, 5+ drafts, 83k words, and a whole lot of procrastination. The work is ready to go out into the world.
I couldn’t bend. Physically and mentally. I was sitting with my legs spread wide, then I was supposed to bend forward, forearms on the mat. Deep breath and bend. And… nothing. My body couldn’t do what I was prompted to do. All I could do is sit with my palms pressing into the floor, my head bent… because I could at least bend there.
This pose that I simply couldn’t do usually wouldn’t be a big deal any other day, but today it seemed like a bad omen.
I know my body’s limitations. I know that I need to bend my legs to get into a sitting forward fold, I don’t have the core strength to do crow pose, I’ve just started being able to do upward facing dog. That’s fine. 99% of the time. Today, my headspace was not a place of rainbows and unicorns, so this limitation was met with plenty of self-doubt and frustration.
This has happened before in my writing. Something just wouldn’t bend in my brain the way it needed to, in order to get onto the page in some remotely successful way. The words weren’t right, the feeling wasn’t there, the dialogue was unnatural. I knew what I needed to do, I could picture it in my head. But, when it came down to it, it didn’t happen the way it was supposed to.
And that’s okay.
Sometimes words don’t come out the way they need to; sometimes that yoga pose doesn’t look the way it’s “supposed” to. But, that’s life. Life is frustrating, it doesn’t bend, it’s a little awkward and messy.
My favourite yogi, Adriene Mishler of Yoga with Adriene, has a great saying that can be applied to life as much as yoga: Find what feels good.
Basically, it means that the shape of the pose doesn’t matter as much as how it feels. If your one-legged pigeon is a little wonky, that’s fine as long as you’re not hurting yourself and it feels good. If you look at it from a wider perspective, it can easily apply to most things in life. My process of writing isn’t going to be the same as yours. What you need to do to get your story out isn’t what I need to do. If it isn’t what the “professionals” are doing, that’s just fine, as long as it feels good for you.
The thing is not to let your feelings of self-doubt be in control, as it seems they inevitably will be when you compare yourself to someone else. That’s what I needed to take away today, after some self-reflection and mindfulness. Maybe there will come a time that I stop comparing myself to those I admire, but today is not that day.
This is a short story I wrote for Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass: The Art of Storytelling. I liked it a lot, so I wanted to share it here! This is my first short story I’ve posted here, so I hope you like it.
It was the First of November—the night of the burning—and Nan knew that something was different. A brisk wind blew the shriveled leaves, still clinging to the branches, making them shiver. No clouds hung in the sky, which meant no rain would spoil the fun. But Nan felt impending doom.
Nan stood in the village square with Chase like they did every year. They were both dressed in white and not talking. Not many people were.
No matter how long this tradition continued, there was always an uncomfortable feeling that accompanied the familiarity. Who knew what would happen the night of the burning?
The bonfire would be lit at sundown and burn all night. The village square was already full of people. Pumpkins from the night before sat on porch steps and in windows. Branches of red and yellow leaves adorned the doors.
Nan and Chase watched the sunset, in a display of pink, orange, and purple, and the officials—also dressed in white—lit the bonfire. In moments, the flame was above both their heads. Soon night cloaked the village, but the square glowed brightly.
In the light of the inferno, the crowd quieted. The sound of drumming grew out of the crackling of the burning wood, like the heartbeat of the village. A deep thrumming Nan felt in her bones.
Nan wanted to smile but didn’t. The calendar had turned. It was time for a release.
She snuck a glance at Chase and found him looking back at her. She looked away, willing the redness to stay away from her cheeks.
The village elders went first, as per tradition. Their voices rang out above the drumming, a traditional November song. As seasoned participants, they were full of all the wisdom and maturity of being an “elder.” The flame flickered as their bits of paper were tossed into the fire. Once they were done, the flame was open to all.
As people were ready, they stepped forward and threw their own items into the fire. Sometimes it was a cardboard box, sometimes a shoe, sometimes a paper crane.
Nan caught Chase looking at her again. He gave her one of his half-smiles. His eyes were sad, though. He always got sad on burn day. Nan did too, but she was better at hiding it. She was better at hiding everything, even from herself. But Nan could see something hidden behind Chase’s sadness. Things were changing, despite Nan’s best efforts.
The past year, Nan and Chase had both turned fourteen. As if by magic, their lives changed overnight. Chase started spending more time alone; they didn’t share all their secrets anymore. There were some lines that had been drawn and couldn’t be crossed.
Chase stepped into the flickering orange glow. He placed his hand on his chest and joined in the singing. His voice blended with the others’, but Nan could make it out. He sounded so sad.
He didn’t stop walking. He didn’t toss an object into the fire. Singing, he disappeared into the flames, his back figure quickly consumed by the heat.
Nan screamed. She reached forward as if she could still reach him.
At the edge of the fire, where Chase had just been, there was a carved wooden heart. Nan’s own real beating heart broke. Whatever someone produced for the fire was a symbol. A regret. A negative “what if” from the year past. She knew everything had changed, but she couldn’t have imagined this. A friendship full of childhood innocence disappeared like smoke into the starry sky.
Nan pressed her hand to her heart. A heart that was just starting to learn about life’s complications. In her hand, an object started to form. A carved wooden heart—the matching companion to Chase’s. Through her tears, she hurled the heart into the pyre of regret.
How to Tell Your Family You’re No Farther Along with Your Book than the Last Time They Asked
The holidays have just passed and I’m sure you saw at least some form of family or friends, and if they know you’re a writer I’m sure they asked you how your writing is going. It happened to me at least twice.
While it’s nice to have family that cares and is interested in your writing, it can be a little awkward if you don’t have much to report.
Here’s a quick and easy guide to come out of those situations looking like an impressive writer person!
Step 1: Be as vague as possible.
Depending on where you are in your writing journey, you can use different buzzwords like: draft, revising, narrative, plot, characterization, dénouement, Freytag’s pyramid… in the hopes that using such words will make you sound well-educated and knowledgeable about writing in general.
Example: “Thanks, uncle Darrel. I’m drafting my novel and really working on my characterization. I want to make sure the introspection of my protagonist through flashbacks is especially efficient during the falling action.”
Step 2: Prepare for the question, “When can I read it?”
There is a good chance that whoever is talking to you will ask if or when they can read it. THIS IS SUPER NICE! Having someone who wants to read your writing is the best thing. When you don’t have anything worth reading yet, it can be awkward.
Be honest! Tell them it’s not ready yet, but you will let them know when it is.
Example: “I’m glad you want to read it, cousin Carol. The story isn’t done, but I’ll let you know when it is and you can be the first to read it.”
Step 3: Appreciate having such a supportive family
Example: “Thank you so much, aunt Beth! I’m so glad you’re interested in my writing.”
Step 4: Believe in yourself and your talents
The fact that you have people who want to read your writing is amazing! You are putting in time and effort to create this piece of art and that is amazing! It might not be getting done as fast as you want, but the process of writing is a complex and unique journey.
Enjoy the journey and don’t sweat the awkward questions! You can do it! Keep writing! You’re a rockstar.
2018 has been a year. January feels as if it was 5 years ago, and I swear it was October yesterday. But here we are, in the last days of 2018 and I have feelings.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the things one wanted to do in the space of 12 months, but it’s important to instead focus on one’s accomplishments (big or small). This year, instead of looking back and seeing all the things I didn’t do (*cough* meditate, eat better, finish novel *cough*), I’m going to focus on the positives.
This blog post is in three parts: accomplishments, favourite things, and goals.
While I may not have FINISHED my manuscript, I did get it to its final draft. 11/29 chapters are fully edited and I’m happy with them. I’ve still got a little ways to go before it’s completely done, but I think I can safely say that I can/will start querying agents in 2019!
In 2018, I wanted to get more involved in the online writing community. I was more active in my online writing groups and I was better at maintaining my social media presence (aka actually posting on a regular basis). I also learned about twitter’s writing community and I’m more active in the weekly hashtag thingies.
One thing I feel especially proud of is investing in myself by starting a real, professional-looking blog. This one! I’ve been posting semi-regularly with content I’m passionate about, like the book reviews and blog posts about my writing journey. It feels more coherent and better put-together than my old blog.
Something that’s not quite so writing related, but I’m still proud of is that I read 36 books in 2018. That’s the most I’ve read in one year I think maybe ever. If you want to see what books I’ve read, you can find them here.
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post of my favourite books that I’d read up to that point. It’s time to look back and actually pick a favourite… I’m so bad at picking just one favourite anything…
I read Practical Magic before this one because I LOVE the movie version, but I found that I enjoyed reading The Rules of Magic a lot. A LOT.
A very close second (because I can’t resist including more than one) is The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden.
There were a lot of really good movies out this year and with amazing diversity, which I am HERE FOR! But, according to the horrible rule I gave myself, I had to pick one. And I’m a sucker for Natalie Portman. Annihilation also happens to be based on a book, which I read after watching the movie. All I can say is… wow.
I’m very bad at picking one.
This year I discovered the amazing power of eating soup. As a child, I didn’t really like soup, but this year my love for soup has gone up exponentially.
My favourite soup is a potato, bacon, and cheese soup. It’s basically a baked potato in soup form. A close second is the butternut squash soup from the Magnolia Table cookbook.
Honourable mention for “food” goes to the Lobster Tacos from Made in Mexico in Newmarket… SO GOOD!
Can you tell I’m not good at this?
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
This show technically isn’t from 2018, but I discovered it this year. I’m sad I didn’t check it out sooner! This show just tickles me in the best possible way. The first two seasons are on Netflix, so definitely check it out if you like Dr. Who but on Earth with Elijah Wood.
These were a few of my favourite things!
Despite New Year’s resolutions being a bit over-rated, I can’t help but think about the things I would like to do in 2019.
- I’d like to finish my manuscript FINALLY and start querying it (does that count as two goals?)
- Write more book reviews. I only did three this year, so it won’t be hard to beat.
- Read more books! Maybe aim for 37?
- Continue research for viking novel! (At least it won’t be hard since I’m already doing it)
- Start research for fun blog project (it’ll be a surprise so look forward to it)!
- Focus on the positive!
If you have any goals, I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment and spread the love! Best wishes for 2019!
I don’t know about you, but this time of year is my absolute favourite. It starts at the end of August and goes until the end of October. The magic in the air is so thick, you could cut it with a knife. It’s no wonder the celts and ancient pagans thought this was the time when the barrier between the spirit world and the living was thin.
Every October I get the urge to write something magical. Last year I started a novel about wizards going to UofT and fighting a magic eating monster (Harry Potter for 20-somethings). In the past, I’ve also written stories about zombies and other spooky subject matter.
I doubt these urges will ever go away. This year, the story is an elderly witch who has to fight off an evil spirit who’s bringing back the dead.
It does make it hard to concentrate on the novel I’m supposed to be finishing in order to maybe publish it someday. Ahh well. Plenty of time for that in the sad, brown, cold, dreary days of November.
I like to explore magic not only in writing but also visually, through photography and painting. A couple weeks ago, I went on vacation up to Algonquin Park. While the fall colours weren’t at peak (thank goodness because there would’ve been so many tourists), there was still enough autumnal magic to fill my heart.
There were plenty of subjects to photograph and I even did a little drawing of a mushroom.
There were so many mushrooms everywhere, each time we went on a hike. I LOVE mushrooms. They’re so interesting and fun.
I was also able to do some stargazing, which is one of my favourite things to do up north. I love being able to see the milky way, something about it makes me feel so small. Though most of the nights were cloudy and the moon was getting quite full, so stargazing wasn’t really possible. BUT I was able to take a picture of some stars and after a teeny tiny bit of editing, I think it turned out pretty good (for my first try).
Fun fact: We were up there during the equinox and we danced around a bonfire… okay, we huddled around a very sad little fire.
Anyway, this blog post started off so eloquent and on-topic. But let’s not kid ourselves, this was just a way for me to show off my awesome pictures. I hope you enjoyed them!
Have a wonderfully magical autumn!🍂
As a pimply awkward teen, who was a big unabashed fangirl, I loved when authors included playlists of music they listened to when writing. It was a tiny peek into their writing process and into their personal lives–specifically their taste in music. Even now, sometimes when I hear a certain song, it reminds me of the book.
When I started writing, I always made playlists for my bigger projects. Even for novels (and half-written novels), one of the first things I do is make a playlist. It’s a good way to set the tone and atmosphere for future writing. Usually, I’ll add songs as I go, as the plot, characters, or whatever changes.
Since I’m a big over-sharer, I want to share the playlist for my WIP (The Curious Adventures of Winifred McQuary). It’s a strange (or curious [budum-ch!]) mixture of instrumental music and not, even some soundtrack music mixed in. Enjoy!
- One Summer’s Day (From Spirited Away) by Joe Hisaishi
- Summer Days by Kai Engel
- Don’t Let it Pass by Junip
- A Town With an Ocean View (From Kiki’s Delivery Service) by Joe Hisaishi
- Far Away by Junip
- Tristana by Nils Frahm
- Let Go by Frou Frou
- The Sixth Station (From Spirited Away) by Joe Hisaishi
- From Finner by Of Monsters and Men
- Mess Around by Cage The Elephant
- Trip Switch by Nothing But Thieves
- I’m Not Your Hero by Tegan and Sara
- Ambre by Nils Frahm
- Wait by M83
- Closer by Tegan and Sara
- Pstereo by Emilie Nicolas
- Reprise (From Spirited Away) by Joe Hisaishi
- Dreams by The Cranberries
- The Dragon Boy/Bottomless Pit (From Spirited Away) by Joe Hisaishi
- I Was A Fool by Tegan and Sara
- Lover, Please Stay by Nothing But Thieves
- Don’t Let It Go by Beck
As you can see, I like music from Studio Ghibli (specifically Spirited Away, which was a direct influence on the book in general).
What music do you like to listen to while writing? I’d love to know!
As usual, if you enjoyed this post, please consider donating 🙂
If, like me, you are a writer and are editing a piece of writing… please, PLEASE, do yourself (everyone, really) a favour and read your damn writing out loud.
This read-through will pinpoint any grammar errors that can be self-corrected by the brain. It smooths out the sound of your writing and helps you find the best words. And the best words are simply the best. Go for the best words!
If you’re unable to read aloud yourself, find someone you trust and respect to help out.
I promise you, you won’t regret it!
I try to maintain a healthy dose of daydreaming to remain sane.
– Florence Welch
I am an escape artist.
Not in the traditional, Harry Houdini sort of way. I cannot escape from a straightjacket while being held upside down in a tank of water. But I do escape. My straightjacket is reality.
Escapism is the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.
My reality has never been overly unpleasant but it is just a regular plain-old life. I used to go to school, do homework, sleep, eat. Now I go to work, write my book, sleep, eat. The repetitiveness is a bit much for me sometimes.
I don’t remember the exact moment when I discovered Harry Potter (maybe in the first grade?), but since I read the first book, I wanted to run away to Hogwarts and be a witch. The world of Harry Potter was my first conscious dip into the world of escape-through-fiction. My own world was suddenly a bit more ordinary because there was no magic.
Since then there have been many books that have acted as a portal out of my reality; included but not limited to Twilight, anything by Maggie Stiefvater, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic, and Anne of Green Gables. These books help(ed) me have faith that there is more to the world than meets the eye.
Reading is my escape.
Escapism isn’t always about books. I’ve been an avid daydreamer since… ever. The Oxford English Dictionary (online) defines a daydream as, “A series of pleasant thoughts that distract one’s attention from the present.”
From ballerinas to lost princesses, to orphans (thanks Anne Shirley and Annie), to lottery winners, my inner world is full of interesting characters and adventures. As a child, I could play make-believe forever. As an adult, my daydreams often revolve around being an author, paid enough to quit my job, able to buy a quaint cottage by the sea to live in with my cats.
In high school, my internal worlds started becoming external through my writing. It’s no longer me going on adventures but the characters I create. Worlds I didn’t know were rattling around in my head started coming out onto the page. It’s been fun to explore worlds someone else didn’t already create.
Writing is now my escape.
Between reading and writing, the monotony of life doesn’t feel so… monotonous.
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For over two years as I’ve been working on my novel, I’ve also been working as a dog walker. My hours vary depending on how many doggies need walking or cats need caring. Sometimes after a busy day, I just want to fall on the floor and never get up again. But, in general, I think this physical job has helped my writing more than hinder it.
Get Out and Get Going
Physical activity that doesn’t require critical thinking is a known way to combat writer’s block.
Writing is all about what’s going on in your head, very cerebral. Getting out and walking for hours a day means I can turn off the part of my brain that does all the writing. This allows the creative juices to work in the background and solve the plot issues I was having troubles with, or think of new scenes and characters.
Physical activity that doesn’t require critical thinking is a known way to combat writer’s block. While writer’s block hasn’t been a major problem for me recently (knock on wood), being able to put writing on the backburner means I’m not getting creatively drained.
Interesting People and Places
The people we pass and sometimes talk to, add to my internal catalog of character traits.
My job involves spending lots of time with many different types of dogs with lots of personalities. I’ve dabbled with an idea about a dog-walker having to save a dog that secretly belonged to a secret service agent.
But mostly, it’s the places we walk and the people we meet along the way that offer the inspiration.
While out with my fur friends, I’ve discovered many a favourite tree and plenty of inspiring scenery. The people we pass and sometimes talk to, add to my internal catalog of character traits; whether appearance, mannerisms, or personality based.
People are endlessly interesting.
Nature and the Creative Soul
Being in a happy place is great for motivation. Motivation is great for writing.
In my last post, I wrote about the healing power of nature. Especially when it gets warm (for like two months in Canada), I find the green trees and the bright sun fill my soul with bliss. Even though I find winter a little soul-crushing after December, I can still find the beauty.
Even without the direct inspiration, nature is what keeps my state-of-being in a happy place. Being in a happy place is great for motivation. Motivation is great for writing.
I will always find joy in nature and my job allows me to be out in it a lot. Sometimes I do end up a sweaty, dog-hair covered mess, but there’s always an underlying joy that allows me to keep writing.