I’ve been a little quieter this last week due to taking a road-trip family vacation through parts of the American West. And since it was rather a lot of time cooped up in a car, I’m needing a break from my vacation. So nothing forth coming from me as far as posts until next week. I’ve got day-job work and writing work that needs caught up on first, then I can make a return to blogging.
So, enjoy a slight break to our usual programming.
The most obvious if you’ve been to my site before is the change in theme – been contemplating a change for a while and then accidentally hit Apply while testing. So we’re going with it.
Next, this previous week has seen me returning to a good groove with regards to my writing, which had been very sporadic over the last few months. However, I’ve completed most of the planning work on my latest novel and am starting back into actual prose drafting tonight. I also sent some more query letters to agents. Daily writing is back to being the norm. /SITREP
All that leads to my thoughts for the rest of the post today.
I’ve noticed that my personal productivity, regardless of the area of my life, waxes and wanes. During some weeks and months I’m focused, committed, and driven – even if the nature of the projects themselves are slow, my dedication to working them doesn’t waver. Other times, my productivity seems tied to the accomplishment of tasks – if I can tick things off a list, see progress being made, or ship something off I have energy to keep working; but the desire to grind something out just for the sake of grinding depletes my energy = I don’t want to do it, and often won’t. And then last, I have those times where it is a struggle to get anything accomplished – distractions reign supreme, frustration and tiredness sap my will power, and a desire to do nothing permeates my thinking.
For a long time, I’ve tried to fight against that wax and wane, the push and pull. But in the last year, I have worked on learning to better embrace that aspect of my persona. I am not a Type A personality – I am not the extreme go-getter. In fact, like many aspects of my personality, I find myself of two minds with regards to work: sprinter and marathoner. I am both the tortoise and the hare.
By that I mean there are times when I spring ahead fast and furious towards a future goal, working hard until…something pops up. While at the same time, long term, I keep trudging away towards that goal, making small, meaningful progress over months and years. Writing is very much this way – I will hit a project hard and work myself to a standstill on it, then that project might sit for months during one of those wane periods. But during that same standstill period, I’ll be re-configuring my blog, seeking out agents, feeding my creative centers with story, recharging – always knowing that I’m coming back to the project that is waiting for me.
I find that more and more, I am embracing the truth espoused in Ecclesiastes 3:1, and popularized by Pete Seeger and then The Byrds in the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and learning to accept that seasons change.
Seasons are cyclic. They come and go. And while each time we hit spring, we recognize it as spring, no spring is exactly like any other. Weather changes day to day. Climate shifts or butterfly effects cause each one to be unique. So while this time around I’m feeling productive, compared with the last time my productivity waxed I feel more secure in letting it be what it needs to be right now.
When I need to wane, I have started to lean very heavily into the idea of relaxation and rejuvenation, taking it as a sign that my mind, body, and soul have given all for right now, instead of fretting and trying to push myself to keep working on thing and mentally flogging my exhausted horse called “will power”. Really accepting that idea of “Now I’m going to rest,” and being truly intentional about it has started to pay very real and very precious dividends. Anxiety melts away faster, sleep comes more readily, play becomes more free. I don’t recover any faster it seems – those wane periods still last a few weeks. But I get more out of them in the moment.
Managing those seasons, learning to embrace the moments as they come and making the most of them when they do seems like a good focus and goal for me right now.
My cut revision to remove 10% of the words from my first novel has been completed. My target final word count was 98,792. I finished at one word below target. Cutting 11,000 words from a story that I already felt was reasonably solid has taught me a lot about concrete writing and about removing redundancy. If you’re a writer and haven’t yet tried doing an extensive cut, I recommend it. From a craft perspective, it has already changed the way I write, and made it for the better.
This is also the point where I tease that I will be asking for beta readers of the completed cut to make sure I haven’t gone too far and ruined what I had. So be watching for a post recruiting beta readers.
Up next, for the next two weeks will be business related writing – I need summaries, queries, and bios built as I start sending this book out for representation. And I’ll be returning to blogging on the series I have planned – writers productivity, mechanical keyboards, and podcast reactions.
And most especially towards the idea of what constitutes a trustworthy writer and what I can do to foster a community of them.
So, expect a few more posts over the next few weeks as compared to the recent past.
I loved what it made me feel even thought I didn’t exactly love how I felt (WARNING: this film will cause feelings, especially if you have experienced familial loss).
I loved the themes, the animation, the music, the characters, and the voice acting.
I loved that it never felt as though the filmmakers were trying to “pander” to anybody or assume the audience was stupid. By that I mean that I, as a non-Mexican who has only limited understanding of what the Day of the Dead represents, never felt like I was being coddled nor that the subject matter was too precious that it couldn’t be shared with “outsiders”. Everything played straight.
But what I think I loved most of all was that this showed that two people/writers/groups/films can have the same story idea (on the surface at least), and yet tell completely different stories.
One of the first things that I learned from Brandon Sanderson via the Writing Excuses podcast was that often, the difference between a good story and bad story lay less in the nature of the idea and more in how that idea is implemented. To paraphrase:
A great idea written by a mediocre author will not be as good as a mediocre idea written by a great author.
The understanding that you don’t have to have the most unique, the most entertaining, the most transformative, or the most artistic “idea” to be successful was liberating.
On the surface, Coco could sound very similar to another animated film from the recent past – Book of Life. Both are about the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead. Both have music as a central theme, and how music relates to the protagonist. Both have the protagonists’ families as being VERY against music and trying to “force” the protagonist into the family business. Both feature visits by the protagonist to the underworld and a need to escape. Both discuss families and forgiveness. Both have prominent participation of Mexican directors, writers, and actors. Both are CGI.
But these movies are as different I think as one could get for having what seem like similar trappings.
And that’s what I love – both Coco and Book of Life are films worth seeing. Both are worth enjoying. And both have place in helping us learn to forgive our families and in teaching us to make room for the rising generations.
Writing Prompt: Write down five different story ideas in 150 words or less. Generate these ideas from these five sources:
From an interview or conversation you’ve had
From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc)
From observation (go for a walk!)
From a piece of media (watch a movie)
From a piece of music (with or without lyrics)
From an interview or conversation you’ve had: What would Spiderman do if he lived in Kansas? A question that came up during a conversation I overheard and I loved the idea of Spiderman standing in a field, looking around without any buildings to swing from.
From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc): Girls sci-fi adventure story (ala Heinlein Rocketship Galileo or Rolling Stones) featuring asteroid clumps held together by van del Waal forces. Was reading an Ars Technica article about van del Waal asteroids.
From observation: Story of a girl who is homeschooled on a train. Her mother has died or left or wasn’t know or something, but she travels with her father on a train (conductor or engineer or coal man) but the nature of his life is such that they have no permanent home. He lives on the train at night, sleeping in a car, paying for his meals from his salary, and ensuring that she is educated. As they travel, she experiences in real life the locations she’s learning about. Like a personal tour of the historic site in Europe or the US. Haven’t decided which.
From a piece of media: From BOM reading, the story of a man who survives the complete destruction of his people and had to integrate himself into the encroaching society. His people killed themselves off and the wanderer runs into a new civilization. Would he pretend he was mute? How would he survived?
From a piece of music: Jack Johnson song “Situations” on the In Between Dreams album. I’ve always wanted to do sci-fi story that coincides with these situations. There’s a race that lives in the Oort Cloud that does not like us that is directing comets at us to kill off our race. The way of writing the story would be to make it all seem like some natural occurrence (the situation that’s just begun, but is too late, only chance for you controlled by denizens of hate, the one that no one sees dismissed as fate.)