Writing

Cold Water Kickstart (sequel to In the Cave)

So here’s the part where I explain the reason why my recent life has been like the cave at Enchanted Rock. I’m about to start a whine session…

I’ve been having a really hard time getting my life together lately. I graduated from a top-tier university within three years, and eight months later I’m still living with my parents because I can’t seem to find a decent job. I’m working around 25 hours a week to make around $420 dollars a month (that’s freelancing for you…) and my novel has been the only thing that I really feel that I have going for me. And of course, because I recognize that it’s the only thing going for me, I get an insane case of writer’s block. Meanwhile, my friends are hundreds of miles away and I’m too afraid to call them because I feel like every time I do I’m risking a huge emotional breakdown and spending the next hour sobbing to them about why I’m so dissatisfied with life. (In case y’all are reading, just be glad I haven’t put you through this….) Because of this mild rut of depression that I’ve fallen into, I’ve been lazy about my schedule. I get up at 8am, don’t get my ass into work until 10:30, and then I when I get home it’s a struggle to get my butt out the door to do my daily run. I’m basically dying inside from self contempt.

So the obvious response to all this whining is:

It’s only by the grace of God that I have a roof over my head at all, and at least I have the freelancing gig to keep me going and at this point, I’m in a great position to experience the pressures of life and the benefits of God’s unending grace provision. This is a huge point of spiritual growth and development for me, and I shouldn’t waste all my time feeling sorry for myself just because I don’t have a road map to tell me every turn that my life will make.

It’s true, I’ll admit it. But letting go of the wheel is probably my most difficult challenge seeing that I’m a major control freak, and eight months of not having a clue what’s going on in my life is probably one of the worst kinds of torture you could put me through. All my life I’ve known exactly where I was going, what I wanted to do when I got there and how I was going to make that happen. That’s how I graduated with my bachelor’s degree at 20 years old. Suddenly, I’m without a road map, and the only peace I can find is when I separate myself from my very confusing and uncertain life, aka, going on a hiatus from the world at Enchanted Rock.

That being the case, I’ve made a rather unusual decision. I saw a fascinating article on this blog by Joel Runyon that made me realize what I need is a huge kick in the ass. And nobody (except for God) can do that better than myself.

I’m going to take the cold shower therapy challenge. As explained in Runyon’s amazing blog, the idea of the cold shower is to psychologically shock you out of your comfort zone. When you’re in you’re comfort zone, you’re never going to do anything amazing with your life, and you’ll never achieve your goals. The only way to do that is be forcible, self-motivated change. And that’s exactly what I plan to do. Thirty days of starting my day with a run and a cold shower, paired with the revitalization of my job search and my writing.

Run, cold shower, go to work by 9:00 am, apply for one job, write two pages. Every. Day.

I know this method may sound a little odd, but I honestly feel that it’s the only way I’m going to be able shake myself out of the doldrums. I have never been the type of person to just jump face first into something and run with it. I admire those people. I’m a planner. And when I don’t have a plan, I feel lost. So this strange type of therapy is the perfect way to get the queen of planning out of her terribly uncomfortable comfort zone. I need to come to the complete realization that sometimes, the only thing you can do in life is to trust that God’s plan is far greater and far more precise than ours can ever be, and sometimes the best thing that we can do is to trust Him and jump into life. Right now, all that I can count on is that I’m doing ok, and I need to take advantage of this opportunity to get my personal life and my novel up and running, so for the next 30 days, I’m going to cold water kick-start my life.

I haven’t decided whether I’m going to blog about this challenge. I think I should, but it all depends on if I have enough time to do that along with my other self-assigned duties. I invite you to participate in this challenge with me. Kickstart your life!

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Walking in King’s dark footsteps?

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

So apparently I write like Stephen King. That’s pretty badass, even if it’s just based on syntax and structure. I would love to have a style like his. He’s incredibly imaginative and I love his gritty, dark tone. In fact, just yesterday I realized that my work has officially become adult fiction. I had intended for it to be suitable for teens, but I don’t think that’s happening. Somehow, drug references, a rape and murder all found their way into the plot… whoops! *bashful* Most people wouldn’t expect that of me, and I’m a little worried about how it will come across, especially if and when my friends (and oh jeeze, my parents!!!) read it…

For the past few weeks I’ve been going through some pretty severe writers block… again. Thankfully I was able to start up again and I’ve hit the 115 page mark for my novel. I’m pretty ecstatic about it XD Just that much closer to finishing it! In other news, I’ve decided to stop updating about my training. I feel like this blog was becoming more of a workout log for a while, and that wasn’t my intention. Also, I recently visited Enchanted Rock outside of Fredericksburg, Texas, and a post about that is forthcoming. 🙂

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Letter to my 11 year old self.

Alex at 11,

You’re starting the sixth grade, at first you’ll get a little caught up in what’s ‘cool.’ Don’t waste your time. You’re only as cool as you aren’t, if that makes any sense. You’re going to make some great friends who remind you that silly and eccentric is a good thing. Cherish it, because high school is going to be rough, and you’ll probably forget how unique and creative you really are until you meet that guy in your university biology class. (Don’t worry, he seems odd but he’ll take you by surprise.)

Don’t stop writing. Write as much as you can. Nothing you write will be worth anything until you grow up a bit, but the best pay off will be perseverance, and you’re going to need that later when you start working on your first novel. Don’t give up on you’re dream, you’ll be a writer, it’s just going to take a while.

You’re going to keep a few of your old friends from middle school and the place where you grew up. You probably won’t call them or write as much as you should, but you ought to. Don’t forget them, they’re probably the best friends you’ll have for the next four years. I know high school will seem hard, being the new girl and moving into a whole new fish pond, but if you stick with your true self and remember what’s right, you’ll do fine.

Don’t forget your strengths. You have the God of the universe on your side, and He’s given you incredibly intelligence, a great sense of humor, and an amazing power of will. Don’t lose touch with how strong you are! Sadly, you’re going to lose a lot of your uniqueness. You’re going to want to blend in order to be accepted. Don’t. Just don’t. Being alone is better than forgetting who you are and what you like. You’re a very sweet girl and will want to people please, and sometimes that will become a problem. Don’t forget to protect your own interests. As much as you hate to admit it, some of the people you hang out with won’t be worth your time, and sadly, you’ll be too shy to make friends with the people who are.

I’m going to be honest, high school will be hell for you. Everyone will seem completely immature and irritating. You’ll have just a few friends here and there, and none of them are people who you can confide in. Just keep calm and deal with it. God has given you all the resources you’ll need. Besides, you’ll be finished in three years! Bet you didn’t think you’d get that lucky. You’ll work extremely hard and be halfway to crazy half the time. I’d say to try to not stress about it, but who am I kidding, you will. You’re going to develop this horrible habit of dating your friends. I really wish you wouldn’t. They aren’t worth your time and you ought to be a lot more choosy. You won’t fit in anywhere, but again, being alone is better than hanging out with losers.

You’re going to think you are in love. You aren’t, but it will take a while to figure that out. Trust me, you have no idea what real, God-reflective love is and you won’t for a long time. Remember what I said about that kid in your university biology class? Yep. (Even then virtue love won’t come quickly or easy, but that’s another story.) Hold on to your ideals and your morals very tightly, because they are the only armor you have against losing yourself. You’re going to struggle on your walk with God because you haven’t figured out how much you matter and how precious you are.

You’ll worry about what you want to do with your life. Don’t panic. You are incredibly smart and you can do whatever you put your mind to. The worst thing you could do is to underestimate yourself. Take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. When mom suggests you apply for that London writer’s camp, get your application in. I promise, it won’t be for nothing. You’ll learn so much about yourself if you focus on what matters. You’ll be distracted here and there, your spiritual growth will be slow and steady, but don’t worry, it gets better, and you’ll soon become the young woman God intended you to be.

After three years, you’re going to feel free. Go to Texas A&M. I know that the scholarship to UofH will be tempting, but don’t think twice. You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t become an Aggie. During your freshman year you’ll struggle at first and you’ll forget your real mission in life. You’ll think you’re in love again and he’ll break your heart. Just warning you, it’s going to hurt. Badly. But again, he wasn’t worth the pain, and if you get distracted by it you won’t see the people who are right in front of you. Those girls from your creative writing and french classes are very special, and don’t forget your soul sister who has been there for you from the beginning, no matter how far away she lives, as well as that odd biology kid who seems to hang around no matter how much you snub him. These people are all priceless, and they will become the framework of like-minded friendships that you need on your walk with God. Don’t forget that they are just as faulted as you are, and they deserve your support when they fall on their asses just like they supported you when you fell on yours. You’re going to need to get over that judgmental tendency you have, otherwise you’ll never love them as much as you could, and you’ll never deserve their love.

I’m going to be frank. You’ll work your ass off from now until you’re my age, and it will be a long time before you start to feel like an adult. You aren’t smart enough now to see your childish ego, but in a year or two you will be. Don’t let it get in the way. Don’t get distracted. Don’t forget how strong you are. Don’t regret any of the mistakes that you will make, because they’ve taught you everything you needed and they lead to me, and believe me, you’ll be happy with me.

Love,

Alex at 21.

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Savage.

So yesterday I felt like I was going to tear somebody’s head off. I couldn’t focus at work, and it seemed like every fiber in my body was telling me to get up from my cramped little cubicle and run until I collapsed. I wanted to go outdoors and feel the wind and the heat of the sun, to feel my feet beating the ground. I wanted to scream and laugh and pull my hair. I wanted to be noisy and violent and unabashedly alive. It’s those kinds of moments that remind me I’m still fallibly human, that just because I’m a follower of Christ, a civilized, sophisticated being, doesn’t mean that I’m always demure and patient. I am always an animal, savage and primitive, and sometimes it comes to the surface, raging against the slacks and the laptops and the car washes and dog leashes and administrations. I was born an animal and I will die an animal.

Some parts of humanity must be embraced, and others suppressed. We are self destructive creatures, and all that God does is provide us the knowledge to see our self-mutilating tendencies and to stop them before we completely ruin ourselves. But there are parts of humanity that can and should be cherished. The senses for instance. They are beautiful and strong. If I want to stick my head out of the car window like a hound and mess up my hair just to feel it flying around my face like soft tendrils keeping me tethered to my own existence, you better believe I’m going to do so. And so I did.

This feeling of connectivity with motion and physics and the natural laws of the earth convinced me to pick up my bow again. It has been a long time since I have been an archer, and some part of me felt I may never be one again. But yesterday I dug in a box that sits in the corner of my room filled with all my old playthings, books, stuffed animals, carnival masks, and found my heartstring. I strung the bow and went into a field in the park and let arrows fly. And as soon as I heard the quick whisk of the shaft and feathers passing by my ear, I was calm. I had touched something that hasn’t been touched since men carved their stories into rock. I was stroking the small, previously dormant creature that purrs and grumbles beneath the shell of my makeup and designer jeans. A primitive, wily animal that has not forgotten where it has come from, or what it is capable of. And it sleeps, waiting for the moments when I remember who I am.

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New Revelations and The Hunger Games have got me in the Doldrums…

So I’m going to admit that I haven’t written in more than a week. It’s really depressing. Mental constipation. Mostly I feel like I’ve met a road block. It’s different than the fog I faced before that clouded up a scene or two. This is massive; like I stumbled straight into a brick wall and I can’t see anything around it.  All the sudden I have no idea what I’m doing with my work.

I feel that I’ve lost direction. I think it may have a little to do with the sequel that I’ve been mulling over. The beginning of the sequel might completely change the ending of this novel. I think that’s exactly why I feel like so clueless all the sudden. In the past few months, I had everything about my work developed for the first time in my writing career. I knew the characters like the back of my hand, I knew where they were headed and what would happen to them. I had everything from the first to the last chapter planned out, and now… nothing.

I can’t express how frustrated I am. I feel like I’m losing myself as I lose the plot. What’s worse is that I’ve been encouraging my distraction by a new obsession: The Hunger Games. Fascinating and amazing series. I don’t like Collins’ writing style, but as far as the plot is concerned, my work pales in comparison. I ate up her books like a starving dog. And even when I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about her characters, my beloved Peeta. I’m sure that this distraction is aiding the loss of focus in my own work. I really need to stop reading other book series when I’m busy working on my own. Perhaps I got side tracked because of how similar her constructed world is to mine.

So anyway, I waited a few weeks to see if the wall would crumble and reveal my path. I read the Hunger Games trilogy and waited. Still nothing. My only hope is to suppress the obsession with someone else’s work and thrust myself, fingers first, into my writing again. There is no laxative for the mind; I can only hope that pressing forward, whether what I produce is crap or not, will loosen the mechanisms and get things going again. And suddenly I’ve realized how much I’ve compared my work ethic to an intestinal tract. Eww.

Stupid Hunger Games.

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Transitions Suck, and…a Sequel in the Making?

So I’ve been finding it really hard to write for the last couple of days. Partly this is due to exhaustion, but I think it’s because I’ve reached a huge transition in the novel, and I suck at writing clean transitions. I’ve reached the point of the book where the world opens up for my heroine, Helen. She’s introduced to the city where Jude lives, and this city will remain the scenic center of the novel until the climax of the plot. This is a very key point in the story, because at this point, my two protagonists are just getting to know each other, and the city opens up a whole new can of worms as far as the main conflict of the story.

The problem I’m having right now is a limitation of sight. I can see the rest of the storyline clearly, but the transition is all a blur. It’s important at this point to develop the relationship between the protagonists, and I’m having trouble keeping their characters constant. I feel like I’m losing them in a fog; I can’t see where they are or what’s happening. What’s even more frustrating is that usually what I do when I’m struggling with transitions is to write the scenes directly before and directly after the fog, just to organize my thoughts. Sometimes writing the figurative destination of a scene can help you to clear up the details of how the characters came to that point.  But in this case, I made a pact with myself when I began writing this novel that I would NOT under ANY circumstances jump ahead in the plot or write the scenes out of sequential order. (I did this because it tends to distract me and lead to a crap-load of re-editing) I don’t want to break my promise, but I also don’t want to get in a rut just because a few scenes are foggy and refuse to be put into words at the present.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to do. I don’t know if I trust myself enough to not get distracted if I temporarily skip over parts of the storyline.

In other news, I’ve been realizing that lately I’ve been developing a new plot line in my noggin. Usually it would concern me and I would fear that I’m losing interest or patience in my current project. The reason I don’t feel that way now is because… (drum-roll, people…) the ideas that are developing are for a sequel.

I have never in a gazillion years thought that I would be able to write a sequel for any project. To be honest, my attention span for my own work is very short, and I’ve always had trouble sticking with a novel let alone thinking of a follow-up. But yet, the ideas are coming forth without warning. This is more exciting to me than pretty much anything right now. The fact that I’m subconsciously developing a sequel means that I am even more invested in my characters than I thought. XD

I love my protagonists to death, and I’m already imagining their lives after the end of my current novel. This fact is extremely motivating for me for my current project; if I know there will be a sequel, then I absolutely have to finish this novel, and ASAP, before the ideas burst out of my head!!! Can I get an A-WHOOP!

 

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Dreaming of my character

I wrote a little last night. I stayed up til 3am and got five pages done. That’s an accomplishment for me, I’m a very slow writer. I feel like I’m losing Jude (my male protagonist) in the story. His character is getting a little muddled. Often I feel that the stronger Helen’s (my female protagonist) character gets, the more I lose my grasp on Jude. It’s a pain. There’s a movie that inspired me to write Jude’s character, and I had to skim through it on YouTube last night to get a hold of him again.

I had a dream about him a few weeks ago. It was pretty rad. I was going into my house, and there he was sitting in my kitchen with my mom. It was the coolest thing ever. He looked and behaved exactly like I imagine him too (obviously), and he knew who I was. XD It’s been a long time since I was that excited. To meet your own character, your own creation, even in a dream, is something that is more fascinating than I could ever explain. It also gave me a really clear idea of what interacting with him would be like. Sometimes I feel that being a writer, you become this omniscient force that observes the lives of the people you create. (You don’t control them, they control what you write :]) You observe them, or at least I do, through this cloud of consciousness. Sometimes it’s hard to see how they see each other, because I’m so very aware of how I see them. It’s difficult to put yourself in the perspective of a limited viewpoint.

Another cool thing about the dream is that I was totally aware that he was my creation. It was like two subconscious parts of my mind were coming together. I can’t explain how weird and fascinating that was. It makes my brain tingle just thinking about it. I would love to hear what a psychologist would think of that!

But this dream gave me a very unique, limited, personal view of him. He was magnificent! I wish I could dream about him more often, that way I wouldn’t get half hazard with his character as I did last night. I was dangerously close to writing my story, instead of writing his. I guess I just have to hold onto that very special memory of the dream so that I can continue to see him as Helen, or any other character would.

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