Realisation through Fear

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This past week I gave myself a day where I did no writing or reading unless I really wanted to and not out of a sense of obligation either. Part of the reason for this was because I was tired and needed a break, another reason was my eyes.

You see I’m short sighted and need pretty decent glasses to function in the world and have done since I was eight. But this time was different, for one I couldn’t read, write or drive for long without giving myself a headache and for another I got stronger lenses only six months ago. I was quietly terrified, I didn’t want to find out that my eyes had deteriorated significantly in such a short amount of time. Eventually though, the headaches got too much and I went to the optometrist.

Enter a nervous half hour of testing as I realised my eyes were bad. Even with my glasses on I had trouble reading the letters and the dots may as well have been one for all the distinction I was seeing at certain times. Then came the result. My eyes had deteriorated but only slightly, however my stigmatism in my left eye had changed significantly. This meant that my glasses were no longer giving me the proper focus and my eye was constantly fighting to do it ‘right’. Hence the massive headaches whenever I had to really focus on something. It’s an easy fix and I already have the new lenses.

At the time I could have cried, both from the expense of new lenses and because my eyes aren’t as bad as I thought. You see I have this fear that one day my eyes will get so bad I’ll be legally blind. I’m already classed as such if I have no visual aid so it’s not hard for me to imagine a world where I can’t see much. But I learnt a few things through this.

One, fear makes things appear really bad, it’s much better to face it head on and just deal. Second, people had no idea what was going on. You can see that I have glasses, but not many understand how much I can/can’t see and this got me thinking about how true this must be for other people.ย Thatย got me thinking about my characters and how they it’s the same for them. Which sent me off on an editing angle I hadn’t thought about seriously: who knows what information and why do they know it.

There’s the obvious of a character not knowing because they were not there etc. but then I thought about things like why one of my characters flips a knife when agitated, why another resisted love at first and why another refuses to show emotion. Some of these I already knew the answer to, but I went more in depth, really getting down to why my characters are the way they are (yes I know I created them, but sometimes I don’t understand them, it’s the writer’s paradox). And it really has made editing easier.

I wish I hadn’t had to get new lenses to have this realisation, but I am grateful for it and I hope you get something out of it as well. If you have had any insights like this, let me know in the comments. The sharing of knowledge is fantastic and you never know who it might help.

Have an awesome and creative week everyone ๐Ÿ™‚

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Do Less With More Focus

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I’ve read a few articles and blog posts lately describing how writing can be the hardest thing you will ever do but also the most rewarding. This is true, but I happen to think this about a lot of things. Why? Because if it matters to you, you’ll be trying your best. It’s automatic because you are putting in 100% effort and that is a hard thing to maintain. Hence it’s hard but also rewarding.

This was brought to my attention yesterday while watching my oldest compete at sports day. He was determined to get champion boy for grade 8 and therefore entered nine events, two of which was against grade 11 and 12 boys (to put that in perspective, my son is 13 the grade 11 and 12 boys are 16-18). He placed second five times, third two times, 4th twice and ended up champion boy runner up. He was slightly disappointed but happy with himself because he knew he had put in his best effort.

But what does this have to do with writing? Well my mum, who was also watching him, asked what would have happened if my son had concentrated on only a few events instead of spreading himself out so thinly. I could see her point, he was tired by the last event and really couldn’t give as much as he could earlier on. This got me thinking about my writing and the articles I mentioned above. At the moment I’m editing a manuscript, running this blog, commenting daily on various social media accounts as well as doing my own and writing a first draft. I had also contemplated writing an essay for a competition that is due in a few days. I applied what she had asked about my son to myself and realised that if I was running true to form and giving 100%, something had to give. I don’t want it to be myself.

I have a young family, they come first, my writing, comes second. I’m not sure why it suddenly hit me in the face yesterday, perhaps because I had such a concrete example right in front of me, but I realised that I need to pull back a bit on the writing front. This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my dream, far from it. It just means I’m going to be more selective about what projects I give my energy to. Do less with more focus is my new saying to self.

Cheers to not spreading ourselves out too thinly and have an awesome and creative week everyone ๐Ÿ™‚

Lessons From a Boring Book

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The other day I read a book that was boring. The concept was great, it was that which drew me in, in the first place, and the grammar and punctuation was perfect, but there was still something missing. By this time I was ย two or three chapters in and wondering if it was worth continuing, but then it hit me, I couldย learn from this. So I went back to the start and this is what I found out.

Info dumps are bad, like really bad. In short order I found out that the main character was not like all the other werewolves and they expected him to live a short life. Also he couldn’t shift and they, as a group, hated vampires. No problem, except I was told all this in pretty much one giant paragraph. There were plenty of opportunities for this information to be spread throughout the first few pages. Also, the characters already knew all this info and they were talking about it like they didn’t, which was strange and clearly only for the reader’s benefit. That was jarring and reminded me that I was reading instead of getting so caught up in the story I simply forget about the rest of the world.

There was an over use of description. I completely agree with the Stephen King quote,ย ‘Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.’ย This book described nearly every detail so I felt like I was reading a textbook on the story concept instead of enjoying a story.

Stereotypes.ย They can be done well, but they are predictable. Predictable leads to boring and that leads to the book being put down and never picked back up. The further I got into this book the more I realised I pretty much knew where it was going and it was because the characters were acting in very typical, expected ways. All of the characters. There was no surprises at all and that made it hard to be excited about the book.

In the end I made it three quarters of the way through before skipping to the last chapter and making sure there wasn’t a surprise ending. And there wasn’t. So I put it down, grateful for the lesson in what not to do. Needless to say I’m currently examining my manuscript for these no no’s. Hope they help you.

Have a wonderful and creative week everyone.

Romanticism and Motivation

For those of you who read my post last week, here is the original post I was going to publish. For those of you who didn’t read it, you can read itย here, I highly recommend that you read it before this one ๐Ÿ™‚

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There is a certain romanticism to being a writer. Whether you picture the starving artist slowly typing away at their masterpiece or one that manages to commune with some greater power and write with enthusiasm, an image is formed. That’s great, but I have to tell you, it’s not like that. Firstly, no one likes to starve so quite often a writer has another job. They also usually have a family/social life so can’t devote endless hours to the writing craft. And while a lot of writers usually can’t tell you where the words come from, they usually can tell you what inspired them to start writing the story. Picture smashed, romanticism gone.

What I can tell you is that there is nothing quite like that first burst of inspiration, nor the feeling I get when I suddenly realise why part of my story isn’t working and how to fix it. You see, there is something about creating a story which really motivates me and that’s what is important when writing, motivation. It’s that which will keep you going when the romanticism is gone, when it feels way too hard (and it will at some point) and you want to throw it all in.

I honestly believe that you can teach anyone to write, but you can’t teach someone to love it. And I do love it, even when I don’t like it very much because the words are just not cooperating. That’s my motivation, what’s yours?

Let me know in the comments and have a happy and creative week everyone!