It’s Kinda Sorta (Almost) Finished

It’s finally crunch time. I’m going to publish this damn book if it’s the last thing I do. I’ve talked about The Fields from time to time on this blog, and that’s all it’s ever been… talk. Now I will do. And it’s going to happen in the next two months.

That’s as risky of a deadline as I’m allowing myself at this moment… god forbid I give myself an actual date. But I am the closest I’ve ever been, and I’m reaching the point where I feel I need to just bite the bullet and get it over with — a sure sign that it’s ready. There are just a few details I need to attend to in order to get it off the ground, mainly dealing with promotion.

Some of you have already obliged me in my feeble attempts at promotion, as I created a public figure page on Facebook. This feels so weird to me. I don’t like advertising myself, but I know I need to in order to get people to read my work, so it’s always an awkward battle with my self esteem.

As I get closer and closer to publishing The Fields, I find myself face to face with questions I do not like. One of those questions is, “who is your audience?”

I hate the audience question. No one sits down and says, “I’m going to write a story for x audience” (Okay, maybe children’s authors do. Whatever. That’s different). When you write, you’re creating a story that you’re interested in, and you don’t think about how it will conform to any one genre or age group. You just write the damn story. It’s only afterwards that you have to think about what the hell you’re doing.

That was definitely my process for The Fields, anyway. I technically started writing this book about eleven years ago, but I didn’t really gain traction with it until eight years ago, and then I didn’t even really figure out what the backbone of the story was until four years ago, and then the message began to piece itself together after that… yeah, I’m a really slow writer. But my point is, I didn’t start off thinking, “This is my audience. This is the plan I have for this book, and I will write within the constructs of this plan.” I was just letting the characters come to life, and babysitting, essentially, until those details began to fade into place.

Turns out, The Fields is definitely a young adult novel. And I tried to convince myself otherwise, but it’s true.

First, there’s the protagonist. Mukisa is nineteen years old. Ironically, when I first started writing this story, I was a teenager, and the protagonist was a 30-something year old man (the character who is now the protagonist’s father. Mukisa didn’t even exist at that point). I suppose as a teenager I hadn’t quite learned that I should push women’s voices into the forefront of my work? But as the story grew, the age of the protagonist shrank (I don’t know, I didn’t write the rules, I just wrote the story).

Now, just because the protagonist of the story is a young adult doesn’t mean that the story is for young adults, but it is a step in that direction, especially when you take a look at the themes being represented in the story. Though technically independent, Mukisa struggles with her relationship with her parents, and being able to make her own decisions. Both of her parents are authority figures in the community, as well, so that conflict is heightened. There are also themes of discovering your identity within a community, and a struggle with morality… a lot of the themes do line up with young adult fiction.

I’m not sure why I was initially so frustrated with the idea that I was writing a young adult novel. Maybe it was because some of the content is a little dark — which isn’t a good reason, because young adult books increasingly wrestle with darker topics. Or maybe it was because when I asked for feedback, some of my readers suggested that I simplify some of the language to make it more accessible to younger readers — the words were too big — which I will never, ever be ashamed of refusing. Readers, if you aren’t able to figure out the meaning of a word through context, then it is not going to kill you to look it up and learn a new word. God. (I’m a little bit too firm on this subject, perhaps).

For some reason, I wanted my book to be for adults. And in a way, it still is — there are plenty of young adult novels that adults read, like The Outsiders, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc. The nice thing about story is that if it’s good, it’s good for anyone.

So I’m learning to deal with this.

Maybe this shouldn’t have been such a difficult thing to come to grips with. Are you an adult who likes young adult fiction? Are you a young adult who reads everything you can get your hands on? I’d love to hear people’s experiences with the books they delve into, and/or prefer.

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Learning To Be Selfish

I don’t know who swore first — me, or my therapist.

But the feeling was mutual: there was a point where my awkwardness began to melt away, and more and more I found myself able to be me.

I’m not sure if she does this on purpose, but my therapist naturally inserts her very being into conversations. I am able to glean little bits and pieces of her life from things she says, and the way she acts. This is not a bad thing to me. I don’t know if it’s at all normal, but I like it – I like being able to engage with a real person, instead of a textbook, and it is good to feel like the therapy process is not just some stiff ganging up on me and telling me how to live my life; it’s refreshing to be able to just connect with someone and be myself.

I started therapy for a handful of reasons, but one of the main reasons was for anxiety. And even with that knowledge, it took me a while to not be anxious about my therapist. Sometimes you end up finding a therapist that isn’t good for you; what if that was happening to me? What if I had picked someone who just wasn’t on the same wavelength as me, and I was just wasting money by going and sitting and telling her about myself?

But something finally clicked in my head these past few sessions. Possibly it’s because I switched to twice a month instead of once a month… I never quite felt like I was getting everything out over the span of a month, I felt like I wasn’t conveying what I was supposed to convey and so was not helping my therapist help me. Ha. How’s that for anxiety?

But therapy is finally starting to pay off. I’ve got a long way to go, but after a while, some of this stuff starts to sink in.

It’s funny about therapy… I know plenty of people who scoff at the idea of sitting and talking about feelings with a person they don’t know. And that was completely me a few years ago… I refused to believe that talking to my friends about my thoughts and emotions wouldn’t provide the same comfort.

But that was because my perception of a therapist was someone who listens. I didn’t think that a therapist could tell me anything I didn’t already know about myself. Now I realize, regardless of what I know, it is the matter of taking action that’s the problem. Deep down, I don’t trust myself — I’m not willing to follow my own advice.

So a therapist is part accountability, and part… well… teacher. She tells me that a lot of emotional stability is conditioning, working to continually correct my thought process until it naturally goes in the direction I want it to. That’s wicked hard to do on your own. But the goal is to eventually be able to do it without help.

I do feel like this blog has gotten a bit me-centric lately, and I almost want to apologize for that. But I will hold my tongue… I never promised that I would treat my readers to issues only pertaining to them, and 80% of what I say in this blog is me just sound-boarding my thoughts and ideas. I realize that may not be what people want. I also realize it’s what I need.

I’ve always announced that perhaps an additional benefit to writing about personal stuff is that someone else may read and gain something from it. But I have begun to realize something else: I didn’t see that as an additional benefit, I hoped for it to be the benefit.

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Maybe my relief in finding a therapist whose personality I can see is because I like focusing on others instead of myself. And maybe my hope that others will relate to my posts is really just a hope that people will take the me out of what they read, and insert them.

Oftentimes, I feel uncomfortable taking ownership of something that’s solely about me because I feel that people may not be interested in it, or that it’s selfish in some way, and essentially discredit my own personal journey in hopes that someone else will find their focus. But is it so wrong for a personal blog to focus on the person who writes it? It’s like writing a story… You obviously must recognize the audience you’re writing for, but if you don’t gain anything yourself in the process, why write it? To some extent, the act of writing should be selfish.

I’ve got a long way to go with therapy, but I’m learning more and more every day that sometimes I just need to working on satisfying my own needs, instead of freaking out about everyone else around me. Sometimes there will be things in my life that no one cares about, and maybe I shouldn’t hesitate to write about those things like I have in the past. Maybe I should just let the chips fall where they will, and if one happens to land in someone else’s cup, then lucky them. But otherwise, they’re my chips.

All Work and No Play (aka A Very Skewed Worldview)

This week, I had two unexpected sick days. This means that I had two days to sit and analyze myself and realize, among other things, that I’m a bad writer.

Okay, clarification time. I realize that some people are going to get mad at me for saying that (*cough, cough* Mom), but I don’t mean that I can’t put together a story. What I mean is, how can I claim to be a writer if I don’t do any writing? Sure, I’ve done some writing here and there for work, but really writing — sitting down and getting lost in a story — I haven’t done that in a few weeks. Which is pathetic, considering I have an entire novel that I need to edit so that it doesn’t just sit and collect dust for the rest of eternity.

But so often I let my passion get shoved to the side; I have other things that I need to do first. What is passion if it is not bubbing over the day-to-day, if it is not itching under the skin of basic survival? Why is something I get excited about trumped by things I get less excited about? It can’t be that I don’t have enough time… the amount of Netflix that I watch basically demolishes that excuse. I literally have several hours every morning before I go to work that I fill with Netflix and Facebook and naps.

I think that sometimes we need to regard our passions as work in order to keep them a part of our lives. Just as elementary schools thrive with art classes, so we thrive with the things that make us tick. But if we don’t schedule a period for such activity, it will never happen — when we write something off as “play” instead of “work”, it immediately  holds less priority. But it is that “play” that keeps us vitally connected to our humanity. Scary, huh? The thought of becoming disconnected from our humanity because we don’t make time for it?

Therefore, I have decided (once again… let’s not pretend that this is the first time I’ve ever decided this, but this time I’m broadcasting it) to spend three mornings a week in an environment that makes it impossible not to write. This means, for starters, no access to WiFi — if I need to do any online research, I can save it for a day not scheduled for writing. Seeing as how I live on the same block as a coffee shop, I hope that I won’t cave and ask the baristas for the WiFi password.

If anyone wants to join me in my endeavours, feel free to do so in whatever form you see fit. If you want to write, then pencil in a couple of hours to write. If you want to read more, then go to the library right now — then you’ll at least have a book to stare at you accusingly throughout the week. If you want to dance, then why the hell are you not dancing? Do so every morning before you go to work.

We won’t ever be able to reach our ideals if we keep labelling them as possibilities instead of probabilities.

I’ve Been Challenged: Catalytic Reminiscence

The ever-lovely Hazelnut Pie has nominated me for the challenge of writing about my first blog post. Weirdly enough, I was scrolling through old posts to get to the beginning, and it dawned on me that I’ve come a lot further with this blog than I initially thought I would be able to pull off. I thought I was going to give up after a month. So, spurred on by that realization, I gladly take the challenge.

Copy-paste, link, pingback (or whatever way you want to) your first post:

And so it begins.  

State what type of post that was – for example: introduction, story, poem:

I suppose it’s both introduction and story — though I was wary of the idea of a blog to begin with, so a lot of the post is just me rambling.

Explain why that was your first post.

Well, I wanted to start a blog, but I didn’t have a ton to say. Normal people would postpone their initial foray into the blogging world until they had a more concrete tale to spin, but I’ve always tried to push myself to do things that scare me. So post I did.

Rereading my first blog post has actually been pretty beneficial to me. I’m remembering promises I made to myself back in January, promises that I’ve woefully broken… like posting my film reviews here so that my entire body of work could at least be slightly more cohesive. So to begin that remedy, here are two of my most recent reviews: one for TheBurg and one for general use at Midtown Cinema. I’ve got my Twitter feed on the sidebar, so in the future I will be a little more dutiful about posting review links via Twitter.

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It’s really good to be reminded of why I started this blog in the first place. I wanted to flex my writing muscles, which a weekly blog has definitely helped me to do; and in a way I wanted it to hold me accountable for the progression of The Fields. I have made some headway with the manuscript, but not as much as I’d hoped to make in the last five and a half months. So, I’m going to give myself a deadline (the most terrifying of things to give yourself):

By August 15th, I will have The Fields ready to send out to a literary agent.

You wonderful people should make a note on your calendars and inundate me with messages on that day, asking if I’ve finished my work. Or better yet, the day before, to really freak me out.

There. I’ve set that wheel in motion. May it continue rolling, and may its best friends be hills and gravity.

Nominations (if you haven’t already been nominated):

Until All Have Seen
The Finding Felicity Project
Oneironesia

Enjoy!

Doctor Who and the Joy of Writing

Bear with me, guys, this is gonna be a post about writing. I promised myself I would never go too in-depth with anything too writer-ish in this blog, because I’ll scare all of you away, but I have some quick “writer love” I want to give, and I’m sorry.

I started this blog for two reasons: 1) to force myself to write something every week beyond my other duties, and 2) to connect with people. I was told that all writers should give themselves a platform, so that whenever (or if ever) they publish a book, they’ll have more than just their family interested in reading it. So when I finally succumbed to the idea of a blog, I thought, better not make it one of those how-to blogs that only interest the people who have an agenda. The decision was two-fold: not only am I interested in attracting readers who are not writers, but I also am not a professional author… far be it from me to pretend to have the ultimate authority on a subject that I only participate in because I’m a story nerd. I don’t want to tell people how to write, because how I structure a story is not the One True Way to structure a story, and who am I to claim that it is? I don’t even like reading books about writing, because it makes me mad that people are getting paid to tell other people that writing is a formula, some scientific equation that has nothing to do with life and love and inspiration and sheer curiosity.

That being said, I’ve been reading a book about writing, and it’s AWESOME.
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It’s not a how-to book. It’s a book specifically about the writing process for Russel T. Davies, the previous head writer for the TV show, Doctor Who (nerds unite). It’s called “Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale (The Final Chapter)”. This book contains nearly 700 pages of email correspondence between Davies and journalist Benjamin Cook, through which you can see the fourth series of Doctor Who come to life. It’s not a book for everyone… You first have to eliminate those who (criminally) have no interest in Doctor Who, and secondly eliminate those who don’t want to read nearly 700 pages of a man picking through the clutter of his mind to discover his new protagonist’s character arc. But to me, this book is fascinating. I’ve already annoyed my roommates by reading snippets of it aloud — and I’m the one who gets irritated when people do that. Look at what this book has turned me into!

IMG_0570What I like about the book is that it reveals the writing process in story form — I have a hard time reading anything that is not a story — and provides such an imaginative (and yet vastly realistic) view of RTD’s relationship with his writing. To him, a character is not just a series of words on paper, or the actor playing the part; to him, the character is a person ready to be written, already there but in need of being revealed; and there is a difference between the character and the actor’s portrayal of the character. This man gets sad when he has to put a character on the backburner, and excited when he’s discovered something about a character that he already knew but didn’t know he knew.  He writes the Series Four Breakdown (the episode description list for the writers and production team) like a kid in a candy shop, gleefully pointing at different sweets and throwing them into his basket as he goes. The dreams and wishes of a head writer — or is there any differentiation between the two?

It’s reading stuff like this that gets me excited again about writing. Because, let’s face it, lately I’ve been in a kind of mellow place when it comes to writing… I get too in-my-head about plot points, or how readers will perceive something, that I forget what it’s really about: telling a story. Telling a story because it’s there and you want people to know it; because you want others to meet the people who have been walking around in your head; because you have something to say, and it just happens to align with what a character has to do. I miss feeling like a kid as I write, throwing sweets in my basket because they look delicious, and why not try them out?

I’m only about 70 pages in, so I can’t say that the rest of the book will capture my attention like it has… but so far it’s been a joy. I can only hope that it will stir in me a desire to write more than the bare necessities every week.  I want to write because it’s an addiction, not a requirement.