I don’t have much to report in terms of output for June. I was steadily working away the first two weeks of the month on my writing, and then life responsibilities conspired to get in the way. I learned from a writing challenge I tried though; 500 words a day is actually realistic, and I need to give myself grace for skipping days and taking rests.
I am doing Camp NanoWriMo in July and working on a horror novella. I will be setting aside my grimdark fantasy for a month, which is now at 20,107 words, to work on this new project. Alternating between WIPs will hopefully keep me interested. With my novella idea, I don’t think it’ll be ready for release in August; I had originally planned it as a novelette, but I think the idea has more to it. I will be releasing excerpts to my Patreon subscribers during the month of August. Since I don’t have much to report, I’m going to offer an article for this month’s newsletter instead: How to keep going with your writing when life gets in the way.
On the blog
Continuing with my occasional series on mental health awareness, I posted an article about disassociation.
I didn’t read much in June other than keeping up with The Economist, but I did manage to finish an ARC that I enjoyed; an escapist sapphic fantasy romance.
I decided to stick with just a $3 tier for now to make things easier, given my productivity levels that come and go some months. Here are two of my short stories available exclusively to $3/month subscribers.
Short story - Fantasy “When the first pains thrummed like a demon’s fist crammed into her belly, Magda gasped with indignation and fear. A day later, she squatted over the pit toilet in the shack outside - the hole in the ground that the villagers used. Flies buzzed around her face as the stench drifted past her nose. Those things almost distracted her. Almost.
The rag she had used to wipe was streaked with blood.”
CW: menstrual blood
Writing when life gets in the way
It happens to all of us. We have kids that constantly interrupt us. Our family members get health problems. We get stressed out at work. New writers always seem to obsess over this question, “How on earth do you write and work a full-time job?” Sometimes it’s not even about how busy we are; we’re depressed, we’re struggling emotionally, we’re feeling a lack of confidence in ourselves. Here are some things I’ve found to help me emerge from the writing rut when I’m feeling this way.
First of all, don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself a little grace and empathy. I hate to break this to you but every writer goes through a crisis of confidence at one point in their writing careers. Sure, some people are arrogant. You need a little arrogance to persist in writing a novel even through stress. But I really believe the best writers are humble. They know they always have something to learn. They always have room to grow. Modesty means you’re probably better than you think.
Set a schedule. Think about how much time you can set aside to write. Is it twenty minutes? Is it an hour? What can you say no to in order to write more; perhaps less TV or social media? Don’t think in terms of word count - unless that helps you. Think in terms of time duration. Plan appointments for yourself; you’re going to write on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Maybe you’ll squeeze in an hour after dinner. Maybe you’ll wake up at 5 a.m. and attack the keyboard. Do what works with you; experiment. Inspiration doesn’t wait to strike, as they say; it waits for you to be working. Writing requires practice, just like exercise needs to be done consistently to build up your muscles.
Are you burnt out in other areas of your life that are preventing you from writing? Maybe you’re caring for a sick child. Maybe you are working a toxic job. Maybe you are saying yes to too many projects and activities to stay afloat with your bills or social life. Figure out things to which you can say no. Maybe you need to apply to new jobs and obtain a more humane work situation. Maybe you need to arrange for help from other family members. There’s always a way, even if it feels like you are stuck forever. Sometimes you have to look out the window for answers, instead of the front door. And just sometimes, maybe it’s not the right time to write for you. Resting can help you be more productive. Don’t feel guilty for resting. We all need balance in our lives. The only thing that is constant, that you can count on, is that life will change.
Keep a journal. I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron a few years ago, which inspired me to hand-write three pages of journal every morning. I admit I haven’t done it this year at all. But it has helped me when I haven’t been able to write. It’s a safe space to explore your reasons for not being able to write. Even if you just write over and over again, “I don’t know what to write.” Write down your ideas. Experiment with outlining.
Read in a variety of genres. When I was a kid, I was inspired to write in the first place because I was an avid reader. The library was my refuge. I devoured books as my form of escape from dreary suburban life and social awkwardness. Books were my dearest friends. And the more I read books that I cherished, the more I was jazzed up to write fiction of my own.
Maybe you need to try out a new genre. Could you feel stuck in a rut because you’re bored of writing about monsters and magic? Maybe you need to give historical fiction a stab. Don’t be afraid of the research involved. Even fantasy can’t make stuff up; you have to research things like battle tactics and weapons to sound realistic if you don’t know anything about militaries. The research, too, could inspire you.
Listen to music; change your routine. Sometimes, when I sit down to write, I have to have little rituals in place before I can write. I sometimes write in silence, and I have to drink a glass of water. But sometimes, also, I need to change things up. Do I need to go to a coffee shop to write? Sit in a park? Go wild and write with music in the background? Different scenery or instituting small rituals can help jog your imagination loose.
Life will always conspire to get in the way of your writing. That’s what writing is, really; a constant struggle of absolute persistence. That’s the magic and the mayhem of this craft. Those who can stick with it are rewarded with your ideas coming to life. Then you have whole new struggles with which to contend; how to market your book is almost just as hard as writing it. But first you have to write it. A reader out there will be moved by your words. But your writing can’t change a life if it is still residing in your brain. Let it out on the page. You could change someone’s life; that’s reason enough to keep going.
What I’m Watching
Spinning Out on Netflix. Were you a fan of Riverdale? If so you may like this soapy, dark teen drama that tries to do far too much but is nevertheless compelling, edgy and original. It was canceled too soon, after just one season. This show delves into sensitive topics like mental illness and drug use with a deft hand. I plowed through the whole season in a blink. Then again, I am a nut for any and all ice skating or ballet movies and shows.
Black Spot on Netflix. In French with subtitles. A dark, moody crime drama set in a fictional town with supernatural vibes. I have only seen the first couple episodes and I was hooked immediately.
Seaquest DSV on Peacock. I am rewatching this cult sci fi TV show produced by Spielberg in the early 90s. One of its actors, Jonathan Brandis, was lost tragically in real life at a young age; Roy Scheider of Jaws fame offers a quirky, curmudgeonly touch as reluctant scientist-turned-captain. Though this show is cheesier and more overproduced than I remembered, it was quite well done. It takes the idea that humans settled the oceans and Sequest is a submarine bound for adventures and war. Plus, there’s a dolphin. Got to love the talking dolphin.
That’s it for now. See you next month. Stay cool out there and keep writing and reading.