Technology: Friend or Foe?

Oh technology, my strongest ally and my fiercest foe. Why do you constantly deem it necessary to torment me? My dearest laptop, after all of the time I have invested with you; all of those hours we logged together clickity clacking away on that keyboard, scanning page after page of research, bonding with faraway strangers at the speed of light, creating worlds and galaxies with nothing more than twenty-six letters constructed into infinite possible words. I’ve been good to you, haven’t I? I’ll admit, I’ve been a tad clingy in the past, especially during the frazzling Nano months; but we had a good time, didn’t we? And I’m sorry I spilled my coffee on you once- but your lid was closed, I cleaned you properly- will you ever forgive me for that accident?

You see, I hate to admit it, but I’ve come to depend on you. A lot. And yet lately it just doesn’t seem like you care as much as you did once upon a time. You are distant, you keep locking me out of my word documents- documents we created together, I can now only look at them through Microsoft Windows, but I cannot touch. I cannot even copy them to a new word processor. I can simply stare at that spelling error mocking me without the tools to correct it. It’s because you’ve disconnnected- from me and the worldwide web. You don’t like your old friend, the router. And so you just arbitrarily decided that you were done with it. But now I can’t even back up my work to the cloud, and my word processor locked me out because it can’t verify my ongoing subscription if it can’t connect to the internet. It’s a sad day when your best technical ally becomes your enemy, hiding your written secrets even from yourself.

I don’t want to move on, I don’t want a new laptop- and truthfully, I can’t afford one. I just don’t know why we can’t work together anymore. I always tried to do right by you. I’m not perfect; I didn’t always put you where you belonged, I let the baby type on you (with supervision), and yes, I have spilled my treats on you. But I’ve always tried my best, I’ve always ensured you got your updates and were protected from outside viruses. I thought we were close. 

And yet, here I am, having to pull my old laptop out of storage- you know, the one that is slow and clunky, the one that just got worn out and tired- the one with the exposed wires for a charging cable. It was supposed to be resting, enjoying its technical retirement- but it’s having to join the workforce again- my workforce. Because you left me. Because modern computers now need an internet connection for even the most mundane of tasks. Because the world has evolved and my dependence on your abilities is so much stronger than it used to be.

Please, I hope we can work this out. I dream of a day when I log in and see those little bars that mean you’ve decided to reconnect to the outside world. I won’t give up on you, my friend, even if it feels like you gave up on me. Because at the end of the day- we need each other. We are peanut butter and jelly, popcorn and butter- sure you could get by with one of us, but it is the combination that knocks it out of the park. Until then, I will miss you my friend. And I hope the old laptop is okay with coming out of retirement. I am so glad I held on to it.

Impromptu Weekend Write-In

I have a confession to make- I have been really struggling with my writing lately- especially these last few months.  I’m sure that’s probably not a huge revelation for anyone, considering the drop in the frequency of posts lately. I will have little bouts of energy, I’ll write feverishly for a day or two- and then it’s crickets the rest of the week. I could give you excuse after excuse; I could tell you that it’s because my laptop has decided to lock me out of editing documents due to a complicated technical issue I’ve been unable to fix. I could tell you it’s because I got sick again (seriously, this has been the year from hell in terms of health for me). I could tell you that life has just been too damn busy and I haven’t been able to squeeze in a few extra minutes to put some words down on the page. Or I could mention that everytime I sit down to earnestly start writing, that seems to trigger my dog to demand attention by singing me the song of his people and being a general booger. And while there is a trace of merit to these arguments, deep down I know that they are all a bit disingenuous. The bottom line is that I have been floundering and lacking motivation. I could have made time. I could have stayed up late an extra ten minutes to write just one paragraph. I could have pulled out my old trusty notebook when my laptop decided to toy with my emotions. I could have shoved tissues up my nose and medicated myself enough to type just a couple of sentences.  I could ‘down’ the dog when he decided to be crazy (this may sound scary- but it’s really just a trick he learned at puppy boot-camp where he has to lay down and relax for about an hour. Think of it like doggy meditation, I promise, it’s actually quite good for them). But I didn’t. I didn’t do any of these things, not on a regular basis at least. My motivation was gone, and sitting down reading a book or catching up on a show just sounded like the easier option.

But then I realized that this is the last weekend in February, and I have goals I want to accomplish, I have this shell of inactivity I’ve been hiding in, and it’s time to smash right through it. At the beginning of February I told a friend that I would do a little Nano-event with her this month. And it sounds like she is kicking ass and taking names, she is owning the page! I am so proud of her and all that she’s accomplishing. And me- I don’t think I’ve even hit 10% completion on my goal so far. And to be honest, it feels kind of bad, I am a goal oriented person, and I am highly competitive with myself. I know I can do better. But I’ve procrastinated. And there is only one weekend left, plus two work days that are already expected to be very busy. I’m sitting here in panic mode.

Lucky for me, I know how to rally when I start to see myself getting close to the wire. So you know what this means? It’s time for a weekend write-in! I haven’t done one in ages, and I am actually excited. Zach left early this morning to go skiing with some friends, so it will just be the fur babies and myself for most of the day- so much quality writing time right here at my fingertips. I have a mountain of ideas for this blog and a laundry list of my novel projects that need a touch of tlc. So in spite of my cranky computer, I am going to sit down and get to work.

I have always been a sucker for a good write-in. The trick is to set yourself up for success. Fist step for me is usually a quick trip to the store. I am a highly food-motivated person, so a little treat like Hershey’s kisses are a perfect reward after I’ve hit certain goals through the day. Not to mention the drinks: tea and coffee are top on that list, although I do occasionally splurge on a Monster (don’t judge me too harshly, I know they are terrible for me, but I’ve really decreased my consumption, and dang it, I like them). It’s also imperative to have some simple meals and snacks ready to go, otherwise you will find the excuse to go out and pick something up far too easy.

Next step: organize your area (if only just a little). I personally like a touch of chaos, but when my area is just a pure mess- I can’t handle it and wind up getting distracted along the way. Straightening up really fast before you start will typically save a world of frustration. One tip: dusting. I never notice how dirty my shelves get until I’m trying to write.

I only occasionally write with music, so at this point I may decide to pick out a playlist. I have to keep my kindle and my phone out of reach until my break times because I lack all sense of self-control (at least I can admit it). I might pull up a few little writing games- the nano message boards are usually perfect for this. Every now and then I’ll pull up the timer on my laptop and start running time-trials as I go to keep myself motivated. Like I said- I get very competitive with myself.

But in the end, these are just my own little tricks to stay on task and get the work done. The words won’t be perfect, and I will probably feel mentally exhausted by the end of the day. But I’ll have one hell of a word count to show for it if I did it right. So here goes nothing, my friends.

If anyone feels like joining in, if only for 30 minutes, let me know. It’s always nice to have others to commiserate and bounce ideas off of. Cheers to the weekend write-in, may the odds be ever in our favor. May the words come smoothly and the goals get scratched as quickly as I do when I try putting the cat in his dreaded carrier. Happy weekend my friends, with luck we will meet again much sooner than last time.

Dreaming in Stories (unconscious me is one odd little duck)

Last night I dreamt that I was a witch who also happened to work in a science lab. We were studying some kind of small ancient tree; I was rocking the white lab coat and oversized glasses while serreptitiously casting spells on the unusual object to figure out why it was so different from other bark-entombed entities. As it turns out, I must not have been a very good witch, because I accidentally cast a spell on it so that anyone who touched it would also turn into a tree. And of course, I touched it. My co-workers found a woman-shaped tree laying mossy-face down in the lab the next morning clutching a notecard in its hand-er-branch with a simple warning scrawled on it: do not touch the tree. One of my co-workers, apparently understanding what had happened, then hid tree-me in a closet when the evil boss came to check on our progress. And that’s when I woke up to the cat yowling for food because I had been so insensitive as to allow his dish to get to the dreaded halfway point. I know, will the horrors never cease? Looks like I’ll be getting a visit from kitty-protective-services soon. 

You may be asking yourself what the point was to that odd recitation. I mean, who really cares about a strange dream where I turned myself into a tree? The answer: we all should. The creative process is one that has no rules or regulations, and the body has an innate sense of what we truly need; the process of storytelling has created bonds and built bridges since Homo sapiens first came into existence. Humanity itself was build on story-telling; you can find paintings on cave walls in France that tell tales about hunting, sharing their knowledge with distant ancenstors they could not have ever pictured. Stories were the building blocks of our societies, creating lasting bonds and sharing knowledge to help those that came after them. We told stories to explain the world, to understand why life was the way that it was, to understand ourselves a little better, to share hopes for an unknown future, to bond, to tear apart. We have told our tales over flickering campfires, drawn them on cave walls, scrawled them on papyrus, and infinitely more have been coded onto computer screens and sent out into virtual existence. Our venue of storytelling has changed, but the innate nature of it within our souls has not. The telling of tales is in our very DNA, it is the cornerstone of our continued existence.

The brain can do amazing things. It codes, catalogues, interprets, directs, and creates every single moment of our lives. If you stop to truly appreciate the beauty that is the mind, it is deeply moving on a fundamental level, though difficult to fully comprehend. Our brains keep track of our stories; the ones we live, the ones we see or hear, the ones we personally create. Even when we are too tired to tell our own stories, it sings us to sleep with one of its own. We live in stories, we always have. Even when we are not conscious enough to fully appreciate them (or notice that it is perhaps a bit odd that when you start turning into a tree you decide to scrawl a warning instead of- oh, I don’t know- maybe the counter-spell that will turn you back into a human?). But this right here is the art of a good writer- to make something fantastical seem perfectly plausible in the world that you have created. A witch scientist? Why not.

Many of my dreams are bizarre and disjointed. They make perfect sense when I am enmeshed in them, but once I regain the world of the conscious, I begin to realize the flaws. And yet, there is still usually a kernel of something special left behind. Some of my best ideas have come from my unconscious self (and these are just the ones I remember the next morning). They send my into a tizzy of creative efforts, my mind lingers on them as I get ready for my day, scrawling a few quick notes before I completely forget about the magic I had been immersed in. Some of these stories stick with me for days, weeks, even years. Others are as fleeting as the gentle flitting of a bird’s wing. 

They say that a person is most creative when they first wake up; right in that moment when you have your rational mind in control, but there is still a dusting of that unconscious magic about you. I don’t know if this true, I may try to find out this week if I can get myself up early enough. But it wouldn’t surprise me. The dream world can be a curious place; but it can bring out the best in any creator, no matter your medium. Your unconscious mind will make connections that the wakeful version of yourself might miss. It’s like a dear friend on the other side of the veil whispering secrets and answers to you. If you slow down long enough to listen, you just might find something worthwhile. And just for the record- yes, I may have to see what kind of trouble this witchy-scientist can get herself into. And how on earth will she ever get out of that tree?

One Word Trailing Another (The Motivation Mambo)

When that beautiful mistress, the muse, is showering you with attention and sincere affection, writing is simple, the words rage from your pen like a river during flood season (apologies, my local area is currently under flood watch, so apparently these types of analogies have climbed excitedly to the top of my brain). This was me last week; like a snake who has been charmed, I could not look away from that lovely beauty, could not ignore the words that desperately wished to find solace in the blank page before me.

But then this week came. And can I just start off by saying that I am exhausted? You see, that balance between the literary life I crave and the real world that demands my attention- it is a hard line to walk. Some weeks I am a boss; I kick ass, I take names, I dance backwards in high heels while juggling legal briefs and homemade cupcakes. Some weeks I am a superhero; I can do it all and still manage to have enough time for date night on Wednesday, happy hour on Friday and meal prep for Sunday (did I mention homemade cupcakes- with pacman fondant?) Yes, some weeks I rule my own little corner of the world.

But other weeks I scrape myself out of bed after my second alarm. I grab my cardigan and I run out the door- only to discover when I get to work that it is not, in fact, my cardigan, but instead it is my fiance’s dirty t-shirt from the night before (true story). I go to sip my coffee only to realize I forgot to rinse all of the soap out. I hit the dreaded ‘reply all’ when I only meant to reply to one (that button really should come with a pop-up warning that asks you if you are really sure you want to send your message to the ENTIRE contact list). I guzzle immunity-boosting tea to fight off the cold that is once again nipping at my heels. I get yelled at by sweet old ladies who are deceptively mean when they don’t get their way. I dodge camera crews that are planted outside my office trying to get a sight of the defendant in our most recent media case. I burn the chicken at dinner and trip on the dog when I try to carry the plate to the table. I smile all day long, and crumple onto my bed when I get home.

Some days I’m the windshield, and some days I’m the bug. I used to just cave into these moments, chalk it up to a bad week and drop my writing goals at the door. I needed a break, I would reason (and occasionally still do). But the thing is, if you constantly push aside what you really love, what you deeply want in life- just because it gets hard sometimes- you aren’t going to get anywhere. You can drown yourself in your own pity, but it won’t help you float.

Trying to maintain a successful job/career, relationships and relatively clean household while simultaneously chasing that dream of writing; it’s not easy. It wasn’t meant to be. Chasing your true passion never is. It’s something you have to fight for, even when there’s nothing left inside to fight with.

So how do you do it? How do you sit down in front of your keyboard when your body and soul are drained, when you want nothing more than a strong drink and a soft bed? I’ve searched for the secret, climbed figurative mountains, read all of the articles the internet has to offer; but really, the answer is quite simple. You just do. You sit down. You put your fingers to the keyboard (or hand to the page) and you string one word after another until you reach the end of the sentence. And then you do it again. And again. Until you reach the end of the paragraph. And then you do it again. And again. Until you reach the end of the page. There is no mystical solution, there is no get-rich-quick scheme, I can’t spin this straw into gold. There’s just hard work in the face of adversity. Sometimes the frustration will make you want to cry- so you do. And then you string together one word behind another. Even if you only manage to fight through one sentence- you still took a step, you still did it. You are still a badass fighter, a hopeless dreamer, a dedicated writer.

Tonight the last thing that I wanted to do was write. I am exhausted, this week has been one to try my patience and seriously make me wish I had the kind of job where I could just call in sick and hide under my covers all day. But alas, life waits for no one (and neither does my boss). I got to work an hour early, pushed through the day, stayed late, and picked up a salad on the way home. And while right now I would love nothing more than to find the comfort of watching Netflix until I’m comatose, I know that tomorrow morning I will regret that decision. So here I am, typing away, stringing one word behind another. And the funny thing is, once I started typing, I found myself enjoying it, finding comfort in the mere act of writing. Words breathe life back into my soul, no matter how hard I try to fight them sometimes. You must persist. You won’t regret it. Even if you hate every word that makes its way to the page; at least there is more than yesterday. Prove it to yourself- that you deserve this, that you were meant for this. Fight for it, even when the fight is hard. That’s what passion is all about. You are a badass, a fighter, the superhero to your own story- even if you don’t feel like it. You can do this. I promise (and have I ever lied to you?)

A Writer: Socially Acceptable Version of Insanity

Every writer contains within their soul a world of stories desperately fighting for attention. Their desire is to drive their creator so mad with the very thought of them that the author will have no choice but to bleed the words onto page after page until the fevered passion dissipates. Every story clings to the hope that it will see the light of day and be sent off into the world to open minds and inspire the passions of other creative souls.

There is a stage amidst the roiling waves of the creative process where the passion of the story becomes all-consuming. You can call it inspiration, the work of the muse, or simply the art of the craft- your terminology doesn’t truly matter, all writers know this feverish stage. All creatives are dreamers by nature, it is written into our very existence, coded into our DNA. It is at the heart of who we are as people.

Lately I have found myself lost in the possibilities of another world, another person, another untold story. When this happens I can’t help but blindly and unequivocally obsess like a fifteen year old girl who has fallen for the guitar-strumming ‘misunderstood bad boy’ she sits next to in science class and who has only spoken the words ‘can I borrow a pen’ to her. There is no rhyme or reason to this newfound mania, no matter how many reasons she may be presented with on the subject. It simply exists and must run its course. My writing is no different than this obsessive compulsion.

The stories and characters take up nearly every ounce of useable brain space. I run through dialog as I wash my hair in the shower, finally giving an audible voice to see how the words taste- while maintaining the dignity of a private setting where no one can judge me speaking randomly into open air for no discernible reason. I have to turn off my audiobook as I commute to and from work because I can’t concentrate on the words of their story, given the preoccupation of my own. I politely decline lunch offers because ‘I’m trying to get a few things done on my break,’ without mentioning those ‘few things’ run heavy on the daydreaming with a slight peppering of frazzled note-taking I won’t be able to decipher later. I’m constantly having to put actual effort into concentrating on my tasks at work without letting my mind wander at the slightest provocation of a spare minute. I’m struggling to stay focused on polite conversations as I go about my daily business, my mind is consistently meandering it’s way back to the same consuming thoughts. I stay awake with plot lines darting through my mind and dream about this world that does not yet exist, not even on paper.

The passion propels me, redirecting my gaze back every time I try to look away. This is what we mean when we say that a writer writes because we must, that we need words like we need to breathe, that our stories are our souls. If I don’t write I become consumed by it, embers burning from the inside until I burst into flame. I can’t put my feel back on solid ground until my story finds the sanctuary of the page. I do not write because I merely like it, because it is a hobby I find pleasing. I write because I would suffocate if I didn’t. I would go insane and finally start talking loudly to those pesky characters that live in my brain. As writers, we walk a fine line between passion and insanity; ignoring the words will only send us over the edge faster.

So please, if you see a wandering, dreamy look in my eyes while you’re speaking, or you wave and I don’t seem to notice- please be kind to me, I sincerely apologize. It’s just that some days I cannot escape the myriad of worlds I carry in my head. Perhaps in a few weeks you will ask how the story is going. I will invariably turn bright red and stumble over my words as I try to instantaneously craft my response (which will probably contain a lot of meaningless hand gestures and a few disjointed sentences). But inside I will breathe a sigh of relief because you understand this one thing about me. I dive into my passion because I have no choice. I have lived my stories a thousand times before their words have ever met the page. Perhaps I am a bit crazy as I stare glassy-eyed at my screen mouthing dialog by nonexistent people, complete with facial expressions I don’t notice I’m doing until someone else mentions it. Perhaps my preoccupation with imaginary worlds means I am a tad unhinged. But then again, if you take a peek at literature through the ages, the best of their creators always were- so at least I will keep good company.

Escaping an Off-Kilter World (finding a balance when it all falls apart)

In my personal life, I am a political person (don’t worry, I can sense the tension emanating from you with those simple words- this will not be a political post, so heave a deep sigh of relief). So, as I was saying- in my daily life, I am politically minded, I pay attention and I have formed a lot of my own opinions, I join organizations or events that I feel strongly about, I donate time and money to causes that I believe in, I have even gone so far as to attend rallies and similar events to bring light to certain issues. I continually try to read and learn differing perspectives. I don’t force my views onto others, nor do I really talk all that openly about them unless the other person is willing to have a genuine conversation without letting it slip into the hateful and unproductive speeches we’ve been seeing all too frequently. Even here- if anyone wishes to have a conversation about views and opinions, I would be more than happy to share ideas in a constructive way. Though, I must admit, I am sure most won’t be too keen to take me up on this offer.

I’ll be honest, I have contemplated bringing some of my views and opinions to this blog. I have had deep internal debates on the merits and responsibilities towards fighting for what you believe in and bringing light to causes that may otherwise be ignored. I have fought internally about sharing my views so that others might feel like they are less alone, or to share the resources that I have used to personally educate myself on the issues that I care about. This has been a big struggle for me, because writing a ‘fluffy’ piece when it feels like the world is falling apart at the seams- well, it feels wrong. It feels like I’m ignoring what truly matters. And that’s part of why I haven’t been able to write much the past few weeks (well, that and a pretty rough time I have had being sick for over a week now with a fever and sinus congestion that hurts so bad I can feel it radiating in my teeth). I guess in part, it almost feels morally irresponsible to not at least mention the state our society is in. For a girl who processes the world through words, it’s been strange trying to keep myself from writing specific ones right here.

Lately I’ve been overdosing- constantly keeping an eye on my social media and news outlets to the detriment of other aspects of my life. To be honest, I never expected to live in a time like this, I never expected to face the dilemmas we are facing, I never envisioned my country looking the way that it does. It’s easy to get pulled in- after all, these issues matter. The course that we set right now can have a drastic impact on our future. And if I’m being honest, I’m scared for us. Which is why I read, why I ask questions, why I listen, why I play devil’s advocate with my own belief system, and why I fight for what I believe in when it seems like there is no other road to travel.

However, I’m learning that there must be limits. I have kept myself informed, but I’ve torn myself to pieces in the process without providing any solace to build myself back up. We all need an outlet; somewhere to go when the world gets too crazy, somewhere to hide away and recharge when we feel battered and bruised. That doesn’t mean we are being socially irresponsible or burying our heads in the sand; it just means that on occassion, we need a time out. It means that we need to remember why balance in all aspects of our lives is so crucial to our general wellbeing. We need a place to feel strong after the world has worn us down to the point we are far too weak to take another step. That was always what this blog was about; it was about finding my place in a world gone mad. It was about fostering a dream that I still carry. The novels I write in the future may be different, the words and the tone may reflect the state of the world that we are currently living in. But this spot right here is still going to be my sanctuary. True- I am not promising that my views may not occasionally slip in, that I might not have some personal insight to share, or mention of a book that helped shape me. But rest assured, every word that I write here will be one of peace and understanding. Because these are the values that I was raised to believe in. 

My friends, I am a political person. But that does not mean that I have to be one right here- and it took me months to come to this simple realization. This is where I go to hide away and remind myself of the life that I am fighting for, the dream that I am carrying, the hopes that I still hold. And truthfully, if this desire to speak up about policy and opinion persists, well, then perhaps a sister-blog may be in my future, one that is more geared towards that side of my life. But for today, I just needed to touch base with something that matters to me outside of the political sphere. Tonight I needed to remember that the written word can bring comfort, not just opposition and hatred. And tomorrow, I will be back, charged and ready for what comes next. Balance is key, I cannot forget that again.

My friends, if any of you need anything, or just want to talk- my door is always open, my inbox is always waiting. You can contact me anytime and know that I will welcome you with open arms and respect. Because that’s what we’re about here. Small acts of kindness will always find their way into our hearts and lives; that is where we will find our hope. This blog is a small act of kindness to myself, and I hope that others may feel the same way. Goodnight my friends, may tomorrow be a brighter day.

The voice of a writer (or: that one where I compare all writers to fish)

It’s a universal desire to be good at what we do, to excel within the parameters of our passions. As writers, this is no exception. We are all in search of that spark- the little flicker of a flame that will light our way to those we hope to reach. We hold ourselves to the highest of standards and stare in defeat at the work we continue to denounce as ‘not good enough.’ We are writers, our existence by its very nature is mired in self-doubt.

And yet…and yet…the more I immerse myself in this world, the more I realize- I’m chasing a rainbow that has no damn end. You see, becoming a ‘good’ writer is subjective. I adore Victorian classics, while my friends thinks they are only good for putting you to sleep after a long day. I have found certain books that I could not for the life of me get past the third chapter; and yet literally thousands of other people proclaim that same title to be their all-time favorite; their own copies battered, well-worn, and (gasp) dog eared. Oh yes, my friends, the dog-ear epidemic is a true horror story. And buying the afflicted readers their own bookmarks does not seem to cure their ails. Once infested, they must never borrow another book ever again. I know- Harsh punishments for harsh crimes. 

I have a slew of writers I wish I could emulate. I am deeply envious of J.K Rowling’s eye for detail. I turn green with jealousy at the easy way J.R.R Tolkien created a world almost more elaborate than our own. I lust after the idea of creating a nerdy-science-action thriller like James Rollins. And yes, I have been known to swoon for the adorable play-on-words you will discover in the lines of Norton Juster. And no, my dear friends, do not get me started on the creative concepts and thoughtful breath of life that Neil Gaiman and Patrick Rothfuss give their creations; they are deliciously diabolical in the best possible ways. 

And yet, to some of you, these names will mean nothing. Perhaps you may find them a tad overrated, or not all that enjoyable. And why is that? Because what I find to be good is subjective. We do not have to agree to both be right. 

Which brings me to my main point (believe it or not, I did have one, though I only discovered it somewhere amidst the third paragraph). Why are we constantly judging our work by other writer’s standards? We can be good and not be like them. I will never be J.K Rowling, sad fact. I will never weave elegant phrases or silly quips quite like some of the masters I adore. But does that mean that my work does not have credence, does not do me justice? No. It means that if I keep judging my fishy self by my ability to climb a tree, then I will forever live my life feeling like I am not good enough. I’m a fish. And damn it, I can swim with the whales if I want to (okay, not realistic because I’m actually afraid of deep water, but let’s get temporary amnesia and roll with the analogy).

The craft of writing is mired in the pits of self-doubt. We would not be creators if we were confident in every little bookish-beast we kissed on the head and sent out into the world. And yes, some of our work may soar, and some of it may sink deep below the roiling waves. But guess what, my friends: to someone out there- you are J.K Rowling, or Neil Gaiman, or whoever it is you love and feel inspired by. You do that for someone else. Because you love your craft and you have a distinct voice that someone out there is desperate to hear, a voice that cannot be mimicked or emulated. You are a writer because you love it, and you love it because, when all is said and done, you were meant to do it. The passion burns inside you for a reason. And you, my friend, will someday be the rainbow that another writer is chasing.

Yes, I know that I am not J.K. Rowling, I am not any of my favorite authors. But I am no longer trying to be. Because I am me: I am Kaitlynn Knable (good luck pronouncing that last name, heroes have attempted and fallen at the weighty task). These authors I wish I could be; their skills sets are not mine, and by that same token, the skills that I bring to the table are not theirs. I can do what they cannot just as easily as they can do what I cannot. We have different voices, we are singing different songs, and they are meant for different people who all need them just the same. 

For at least one night, I am going to convince myself that being this writer right here is good enough. No, not good enough. Just good. And you know what, my friends, you are too. You are inspiring. And you deserve to measure yourself by your own standards and not by anyone else’s. Because the stories that you have to share with the world are completely and wholly you. Your words will lose their power if you try to speak them in someone else’s voice. Yes- even if it is a voice you really, really like. Your words will lose their power if they don’t come from you, spoken in the only way you know how. That is what gives them meaning, that is what makes a writer inspiring.

We are writers. And we are good at it. We are fish. We do not climb trees, we swim with the whales. And that’s pretty damn cool. (Also, that fin looks really good on you. And those bubbles- they bring out the color in your eyes).

Reading Dangerously

Books have the ability to shape minds and sculpt opinions, they are as diverse as the people we share this beautiful world with. They can change us if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves and our beliefs. What we choose to read will show in who we become as people, and, as creators, it will become apparent in what we bring into this world. Whatever your chosen medium is, you have the power to make an impact with it, to become timeless and honest. I want to write books that change people, I want to pen articles that make others question what they thought, or provide them with a glimmer of hope that they are not alone, that they have an ally in a world that has too few. I want to write Dangerously, and to do that, I must read the same way.

When I was in high school we had weekly opinion pieces to write and then group debates on a myriad of subjects we originally knew nothing about, and a few key topics our teachers were brave enough to let us choose ourselves. One of their favorite things to do: make us argue a side we deeply opposed. Why? Because it forces you to learn, it compels you to challenge your own views and opinions and, in effect, discover a sense of compassion for those you disagree with.

It is no secret that we live in an interesting time; though not as unique as we may imagine it to be. We have hot button issues that compel passions within individuals that are unrivaled. Passion is a double-edged sword, and in a world of misinformation, skewed propaganda, and sensationalization: passion can be a unforgiving and dangerous blade. It seems that searching for information and challenging our own thoughts has become too difficult a task. It is far too easy to get swept away in the sea of words we have billowing out around us.

At the end of 2016 I started working through some of the books I’ve left idling on my shelf, books that ignited a curiosity and passion inside of me, some of them made me question my current belief system, and others managed to reinforce my opinions with information that I did not previously possess. They gave me a fire, and a deeper understanding of the world around me. And they reminded me of how complicated and colorful our world really is. 

I believe in tolerance and compassion, but there are many cultures and social issues I still only had limited knowledge of. I felt unable to voice my opinion in fear that I was missing something. At the same time, I feel we all have a social obligation to help one another and defend each other from unwarranted hate and preconceived notions.

It was my desire to challenge and educate myself that led to a very specific goal this year, one that I suspect will continue far longer than these 12 coming months. The challenge: to read dangerously, to confront my own views and biases and force them to make a case, to expand my knowledge and, with that, my understanding of this complicated world that we live in. It is a year to remember those long-forgotten facets of our history and find the correlation with our current troubles. It is a chance to propel ourselves to be better people.

I was originally thinking about monthly themes, and while I may eventually transition that way, right now I am simply enjoying the extensive and random selection of books I own but have been sitting unread. I have books covering all subjects: history, religion, race issues, sexuality, the sciences, biographies of strong women, athletes, and world leaders, philosophy, classics and modern tales that shape us in unseen ways. I have books that I suspect will support my current beliefs, and ones that I have a strong inclination will test them. 

Now, I have hopes that this will be somewhat interactive, though I think it will evolve a bit as we go. I have just finished Voyage of the Damned, a phenomenal book I will be doing a follow-up post on in the coming week (spoiler: I highly recommend it). If you would like to see the 2016 books that inspired this, feel free to peek here: Tipsy Typer’s Top Ten Year-End Literary Lovelies

My current selections include an overview of world history in the form of The New Penguin History of the World because, well, I am a bit rusty and I’ve tried to read this lengthy tome many times- darn it, I will do it this time! Also, I am finally reading The Quran; I’ve always had an interest in religious studies and have read the texts of other religions, but have never made it to this one. Thus far it has been very eye-opening in terms of some of its similarities to a few other predominant religions. I think a big part of understanding and having compassion stems with educating yourself on what is important and fundamental to other people. Religion is a driving force for many, and learning to respect that and understand the similarities as well as the differences will go a long way on our road to acceptance and appreciation. I also just started a promising new read that follows my underlying theme: Threading My Prayer Rug

But I want to ask you all: what suggestions do you have for me? What books have changed you, expanded your views or made you ask questions? The genre, the subject matter, geared towards children or adults- there are no boundaries, any book that made you feel something, learn something, or challenged you in some way; I’d love to hear about it and add it to my list. And if you care to immerse yourself in your own Reading Dangerously challenge, feel free to comment; I think sharing this experiment with others would only help us all grow.

Cheers, my friends, may we forever find the strength within ourselves to keep growing and changing.

Nano Adventure Comes to a Close (raise your glass)

It seems strange to think that we set out on our daring adventure just 30 days ago. And yet here we are, standing at the final stage on our figurative journey. The foes have been met and the dragons slain (or tamed, if you hold pro-dragon beliefs). We are battered and weary as allegories and alliterations dance through our tired minds, sped on by the hyperboles of our rhetoric. Whether you reached that goal or not- we have done this crazy thing, and come out on the other side. We are haggard, but we still stand.

This past month has been a whirlwind. And yet, after the dust has settled, and all has been said or done; I must admit, it has been a truly beautiful chaos we have found ourselves in. Life does not wait for us to finish that last paragraph or discover that awaiting plot bunny, no, it goes on no matter what crazy goals we have set for ourselves. Thanksgiving brought with it family fun and visits with old friends who have moved farther away than I’d like. There have been roadblocks and pitfalls (and I am still not over the horribly-awful-no-good-very-bad defeat of my Cougars at the Apple Cup this year. Luckily, my Husky friends were kind and didn’t run it in too bad.) And I am also a tad disappointed with my loss during our Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. Next year I will bring bribes for all voting participants. I’m just saying- I brought out Carlton! You know- ‘now this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down…’ (you know you sang that to the tune- and probably finished the next few lines). Who would have known that I would get Trumped in the end? (Pun very much intended: I lost to Trump and a reindeer yard ornament that was safety pinned to a sweater- they tied. I can only hope that my step-dad was truthful when his shirt promised to make Christmas great again).


My computer problems persisted (it still does not like the internet), however, it did miraculously decide to reconnect to the internet right after I managed to hit my goal- so I swooped in and validated: thank you computer gods who had mercy on me. I owe you some peppermint hot chocolate…or whatever it is you enjoy- perhaps some 001010110 scarves. 

So, this Nano I decided to try AGAIN at doing something completely and totally insane. I made a goal that I have attempted to reach every year (and every time, I have failed miserably). My goal: 100,000 words in one month. That’s right, I was one of those masochistic psychos that decided to attempt a double Nano this holiday season. I know what you are thinking, why put yourself through that writerly agony when you could instead be eating mounds of pumpkin pie completey ensconced in entire containers of whipped cream? Well let me tell you something: I am nothing if not a multi-tasker. Type with one hand and hold the fork in the other. Boom! Problem solved. (Word of advice, do not forget about the fork unless you think your laptop would look good with a pumpkin coat).

I don’t know what was different this year; I was just as busy as I typically am, life was filled with the normal drama and surprises. But I was determined. I jump in head first and just hoped that I could learn to fly. Sometimes all you really need is blind and reckless faith to force you out on that ledge. But you know what? All of the best stories start right there, with your toes poking over the edge.

This year it just felt right. I was hell bent, I was frazzled, but I was finding my muse and the motivation to dance with her. And so I clickity clacked well past my bedtime. When I wanted to watch my show, I waited to hit my daily goal before turning it on. I jumped way ahead of the curve, I fell behind, and ultimately, I rallied.

And you know what happened? I did it. That’s right, I actually met my crazy goal, not only that: I surpassed it. It was reach for the stars, over the moon World Series kind of stuff. I will proclaim it proudly: I wrote over 100,000 words in 30 days.

But you know what? It took me years to get to that point. It took a perfect aligning of inspiration and circumstances to allow me to even have a shot. And I honestly don’t know if I will ever be able to do it again. I can’t tell you that what I wrote was gold- because I was a tad delirious through half of it, and I am sure that the editing gods will smite me with their well-worded wrath. But for me, this year, that was not the point. This year I wanted to prove to myself that I could push past all logical endurance and achieve something that felt impossible. I wanted to remind myself that these crazy dreams of mine might not be as far-fetched as they have always felt. If I could accomplish this, well then, perhaps I can take another step and reach for something else. Maybe I’ll finally start sharing my work with my loved ones, or find the internal validation that I need to finish editing a project and step out in search of an agent. This year I was searching for my grit. And I found it.

We have fought a hard battle my friends, and I am so incredibly proud of all of us- I have been keeping up with the nano blogs, the message boards, the Facebook groups. Look at all we managed to accomplish- whether we hit our goals or not, we stepped out there, pen raised in the air and screamed our challenge to the blank page. Having the courage to even take that step is inspiring. And knowing that so many other people joined me on that front line makes me feel a little bit less alone in this wide world of ours.

So tonight, I raise my glass to you: cheers, my friends, there is no one I would have rather shared this adventure with. Thank you for keeping me inspired. Thank you for giving me the reason to keep on pushing and hit my goals. Because this year, that was the real difference: having this blog and all of you to keep me responsible. Thank you for helping my make my little dream a possibility.
And so, without any further ado, and for the last time this Nano season, let’s take a look at the final numbers:

Word Count: 113,269 out of 100,000

Percentage of Goal Complete: 113%

Current Mood on Project: you know how on Fridays your are happy and exhausted all at the same time? That’s how I feel. So happy I did this, and yet also simultaneously thrilled that I am done and can bury my nose in a few neglected books for the next week or two


 

Rushing Through Halftime: Nano Update #3

We have officially passed the day 15 mile marker and have started the Nano descent; love it or hate it, we are now sledding down the mountain to our inevitable conclusions. And of course: what a week it has been!

Truthfully, my week didn’t start out all that strong on the writing front. I was caught up in some good books I was reading (and listening to on audibles), and was stealing spare minutes to page through to the next chapter. One of them was equal amounts fascinating and disturbing. ‘This is Your Brain on Parasites’ will not only educate you, but convince you that you have little critters in your brain controlling your movements like a robot. It will also teach you that your cat is an evil mastermind. And washing your hands is vitally important. In spite of the fear enduring moments, I loved it nonetheless, and would recommend it to anyone interested in finding some good fodder for a sci-fi thriller or zombie novel (if you are working on the latter, you also have to give ‘Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep’ a shot).

On Friday morning I almost caught my hair on fire. Okay, that might be a tad dramatic, but my hairdryer did start changing it’s speed and then smelled strongly like burning plastic. I opted to risk getting a cold and ran out of the house with sopping wet, stringy hair because I was terrified my little drier would explode in my face. I also left it in the sink far away from any flammibles just in case spontaneous combustion decided to become a thing in my house while I was at work. Good news: it did not.

A weekend dentist appointment (I know, I’m a glutton for punishment apparently) left me with a deep appreciation for things that I generally take for granted. First: whoever created localized anesthetics was an amazing human being and I owe them an immense gratitide for all that they did in the name of pain management. Based on the sounds I heard coming from my gaping mouth, it’s a good thing I was so numb I could barely blink my own eye. I walked out of that office feeling like two-face from Batman- the entire right side was totally numb and unmanageable. I attempted to act like a normal human being while walking through Target (on a mission to replace my aforementioned hairdryer) though I suspect they noticed something was a tad off when I kept running my hand over my mouth to see if I was smiling with both sides. I also rediscovered the importance that I put on the spoken word in my daily life. How, you ask? Well, when your tongue is numbly rolling around in your mouth like a water wiggle, it takes a concentrated effort not to lisp or bite it. Repeatedly. In situations like that, silence is truly golden.

Last night was also a bit of an adventure: started out by going out to a rare little date night to see ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.’ Word of advice: get up right now, find the nearest showing and go see it. Feel free to take my advice with a grain of salt- I am a hardcore Harry Potter fan and love anything and everything about that world. But nonetheless- still see it. It’s cute, it’s fun, the settings are gorgeous and the actors did a phenomenal job adding memorable quirks to their characters. I loved it.

On the way home, however, the real adventure began. It was only about 9:30 at night when we say a car almost hit another while changing lanes in front of us. The offending vehicle veered away before things went south. I thought that would be the end of it- it happens to all of us, I’ve been guilty of those mistakes myself. But then the weaving started- back and forth across two lanes of highway traffic right in front of us. At one point he was driving right in the middle, straddling the line between the lanes. And then he started tailgating an older woman in her car. So I did something I have never done before: I called the police. We kept an eye on him until our exit. I don’t know what wound up happening. He looked really young, too young. I can just hope that nothing happened after we lost sight of him.

Needless to say, it was a relatively eventful week. My writing, however, was starting to suffer; perhaps ‘starting’ is the wrong word- my writing was continuing to suffer. The week two slump hit me hard. And I used my week one progress as an excuse to relax, to do other things, to let my project languish. In fact, I spent a good portion of this past week behind schedule. I had lost all of the lead that I had gained in the first few days on Nano. I had been halfway through my goal before week one was out- a huge lead; I lost all of that. 

But then, this weekend; I rallied. Yes, in the midst of my regularly scheduled life, an amazing thing happen: the muse decided to grace me with her presence again, that fickle little fairy that she is. I had been burnt out- it always happens to me in week two of Nano, I hit a slump and fell face first into a literary rut. Climbing back out feels amazing. I didn’t add as many words as I had originally wanted to over the weekend, but I have the drive to push forward. Last night when we got home I even went straight back to my laptop and started tapping away. I finally had to force myself to put my work away and go to bed at 11:30 (this is late for me).

I’m trying to run with this for as long as it holds out, because that muse does not tend to stick around long. I’m not moving as fast, but I would like to think that I’m getting out higher quality content. At the very least, I’m working through some stronger ideas and plot points than I had originally figured out. So I’m running with it. 

I feel like I’m really going to do it this time, if I can just keep up my momentum and keep the work going steady. I’m afraid to get too excited though; I’ve stumbled at the finish line before. I have had years where I made it up into the 80k range and then fell off the cliff when I tried to fly. The key is to focus on one day at a time and not get too far ahead of myself.

So let’s peek at the numbers and see how it’s going:

Word Count: 81,721 out of 100,000

Percentage of Goal Complete: 81%

Current Mood on Project: feeling like I just drank a Monster energy drink and I’m ready to rock the keyboard (or cry trying)