Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Writer's Block Pt. 2

Woo! Pt. Two. If you're just tuning in, be sure to check out Part One so you get this lame joke: stick with me here, because this is a long one, but it's good stuff, if I do say so, myself (<~Virtue #3: flattery)

I managed to beat my own writer's block back into submission, which I did through the technique of writing through it. Wait. Isn't that what I said not to do a few steps back? There is a time and place for everything, and writing through it happens to be the virtue to counteract...

#4 Distraction
Which is exactly what happened to me.

Promoting ourselves as writers is important if we're seeking publication. Publishers don't want to just sell books, they want to sell authors. Building up those connections, and branding ourselves is important, but not as important as our writing!

What we need here is balance between the two. Hard as heck, I know, especially if we get as addicted to social media as I have in these last few weeks (thanks everyone for checking me out!) But when we start obsessing over the outside world, the inside one might make us cringe. Suddenly, we've lost our drive to write, and it comes off as a block, one we have to muscle through to break.

It isn't just networking that can veer us off track. I told you to take some time, read, watch movies, play video games, but if we get too sucked into them (like I just had with Attack on Titan) writing our own stories might become less and less appealing. While we have to always immerse ourselves in stories, we cannot forget our own. That's the whole reason we're doing this, right?

But sometimes there are other distractions out there—ones we can't avoid and ones that make writing unattainable. But what about when it seems like nothing's wrong and we still cannot bring ourselves to write? Well, that's because there is something distracting us that we may not even realize. That is our...

#5 Physiology
We need to take into consideration what it is we're putting in our body, and how that affects our internal chemistry. Forget about health, this affects our writing! How we eat, what we eat, when we eat (plus vitamins and exercise, but I'll go into that another time) will be the deciding factor of when and how we write.

Know how sleepy you get after a huge, fatty meal? That's the parasympathetic nervous system kicking into overdrive—our brain telling our body to slow down and focus on digesting all of those high-carb, high-fat, sugary foods you just gorged on. Hard to focus on our writing when we're putting that much mind into our guts. It's best not to write after a big meal, but we should be keeping track of what we eat and how much regardless if we're writing or not. Overeating, or eating poorly does affect our brains. If you have a set writing time of day, try eating small, healthy things throughout the process. There are tons of snacks that will not only fill your tummy (as much as it needs to be filled) but also wake up that brain power of yours in a way no energy drink could compare.

Oh, yes. And while we're on the subject of energy drinks...

Inducing tons of stimulants (such as all that coffee or those energy drinks we think will rev us up to write) can damn well near paralyze us by exhausting both the brain and body. While there are health benefits of caffeine (not energy drinks) it's best to wait an hour or two between your caffeine fix and a writing session. At the very least, we ought to research what we're putting in our body and how that might affect our writing.

I could go on forever about physiology (and will in a future vlog-blog) The body is an amazing thing that we must study, again, to connect with that human aspect of our story telling. If you have any questions about the physical side of writing, I will be all over that in a heartbeat (hah) For the ladies, I'm going to go ahead and embarrass you by leaving this link here. As for everyone else...ugh, fine, I'll move on.

#6 Boredom
Okay, stay with me, we're almost done, and boredom is definitely one of the seven sins. For me, it's one of the scariest. 

It goes back to sin #3 (fear) because boredom is a sign that our story is leaving us. Of course, it's only scary when we snap out of it and realize our momentum's long gone, and our story's sailing off with it. But it doesn't have to be this way! Our story might not be leaving us, it could very well be us leaving our story, and if this is something you don't want, you have the power to turn this around.

Just like the virtue for sin #1, we counteract boredom by going back and scanning our writing. There must be a point in there that took us down the wrong path. Again, our story's telling us that we screwed up somewhere and need to go back and fix it. But unlike sin #1, we can't take a day off. We can't distance ourselves from this, we have to be in the middle of the action to get the story's blood pumping again, or it will die.

Something we have to keep in mind: if the story's boring us, it's boring our readers. We can't lie to ourselves, saying, "This is okay. It's just filler. It'll pick back up in a second." Depending how invested our reader is, they might not take that second. For the sake of caution, assume every reader is hanging on by a thread, and we have to do all we can to keep that thread from breaking.

But sometimes, we do have to abandon ship. Sometimes, a story's unsalvageable, and that boredom is a sign that it's time to move on. Horrifying, right? Only if we're still in love with our story. If that love is there, even by the tiniest spark, the story can be turned around. We may have to put a ton of re-plotting, re-writing into it, but if we love the story, it's worth it. If you work hard to bring it back from the abyss, it'll come to love you even more, and your relationship will be stronger for it (okay, my insanity gauge raised quite a bit there, didn't it?)

#7 Overload
And now I present to you, the big one. The sin that encompasses all other sins. It has the ability to shut us down, whether we're still in love with our story or not. It can kill not only our relationship with our story, but ourselves as writers.

Overload is just that, it's overloading ourselves with too many stressorsWhen I say this sin encompasses all other sins, I mean it. Overloading ourselves might start with stumbling on the path somewhere. That might come from boredom, that might come from fear, then we go into perfectionism and we end up exhausting ourselves. We might try to counteract that by adjusting our diet, or go straight on into stress eating. Or, like myself, forgetting to eat and exercise all together! This only adds more stress on the body and mind. Ultimately, it can shut us down.

But it might have nothing to do with writing. This is the tough one, because it'll seem like you're doing everything right to battle your block, but it still ain't going away. Again, it comes back to too many stressors, if not in our writing life, then in our outside life. If you have tried all other methods, and you're still not breaking yourself free, stop and think about it. What's going on with you and your story? Are you taking on too much? Are you dreading its and your future? What about your outside life? Are bills piling up? Are there issues at home or work? 

We can't always counteract outside problems, but we can take a break and deal with them. Same with our story. Sometimes we need to step back and organize ourselves. With life, think of ways to balance everything out, or at least, find positive ways to counterbalance the negative (for the time being, not writing) For me, it's martial arts. For you, who knows? Gaming? Reading? Whatever puts you at ease and gets you away from the stress of life. But we can't try to avoid it. These are just ways to push it aside at the end of the day, or before we trudge off to work so our brain doesn't shut down from all the crazy. These are methods to help us cope with the crazy so we can get back to our true passion—writing.

If it's our writing causing the problem, stop writing. For now. Set a date on your calendar to start again. Make sure it's not too far off, but don't stress about making it too soon. If you need more than a week to relax and get things sorted, don't freak out about it. As I said a million times before and will a million times more: writing is organic, different writers work different ways. Some might be good to go after a day or two. Some need a lot longer than that, but if we don't take this time off, we'll find ourselves in that block that doesn't budge for much longer than the time we'd have taken off. Months. Years. Maybe indefinitely.

Well, I don't want to end this on such a dark note, so here's what's up: no matter what kind of rut we put ourselves into, there's always a way to get out of it. It'll take time and practice to recognize these blocks and how to deal with them, but take it slow. Really think things through. You can do it. You're an awesome writer (<~flattery. But no joke. You've got this)

That's all, folks! I swear I'll never write this much again. That's a lie. But thank you so much for sticking with it all. I'll be back next week with more writing advice. 'Till then, keep being a badass. See ya'll soon! (Now I've got to go make one heck of a video out of this. Ugh. Can't I just have writer's block?)

Current Stats
Watching: 107 Facts on Frederator's You Tube
Listening: The Faint (shut up, I'm still an angsty teenager at heart—that's why I write YA)
Reading: The Ask and the Ansert: Chaos Walkin Book 2 by Patrick Ness (I'm a slow reader)
Playing: Zelda: Wind Waker
^^^What are ya'll up to? Comment below!^^^

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Writer's Block Pt. 1

Welp, the plan for this week was to discuss notes, but then the monster known as writer's block came busting down my door, demanding a cameo. So guess who our special guest is tonight?

It's a real jerk, ain't it? Partly because it's not really an it at all, but rather, a they. Writer's block is like the seven deadly sins, each with their own stupid flare that makes them all the more detestable. But it also makes them vulnerable. The trick is identifying which sin you're dealing with, and teaching yourself to wield the virtue that'd counteract it. Easier said than done, right? Just like with getting started, these identifications and counteractions are something you'll need to discover and create for yourself, but maybe I can guide you in the right direction.  If nothing else, I can give you something to waste your time on when writer's block insists upon your procrastination.

#1 Something's Wrong
If you've followed any of my other teachings, you know by now that I'm a psycho who thinks my story's a living, breathing thing, born from the depths of the subconscious to rise up and make your life a living hell. Well, I'm not the only one. In a quote that's way too long for me to want to copy+paste here, Orson Scott Card describes writer's block as a warning sign your story's giving you that something ain't right. Maybe you veered off on a path your story doesn't want you to take. Maybe you missed something crucial. Maybe you worded one damn sentence wrong, and now you have to rake through the whole thing a billion times to find it! (Yeah, not speaking from experience here or nothing)

It's a simple dilemma that's exceedingly hard to recognize. How do you do it? For me, I get this churning feeling in my gut and I know not all is well in the world of (insert title here) Eventually, you will, too, but that takes a lot of experience and practice (and horrible, horrible failure) So until then, begin at the first sign of writer's block. You might not know which deadly sin you're dealing with yet, but the trick here is to take a day off. Distance yourself from your writing, then go back and re-read. Ask yourself, "what's the purpose of this?" or, "how is this connected to that?" Usually, you'll come to one of three outcomes. A.) Delete it. B.) Re-write it. C.) Acknowledge that this is uber important whereas you might not have picked up on that before.

Of the three outcomes, the latter might not have an immediate fix. All you can do is take note of it and keep it in mind as you write, so you don't stumble across this deadly sin later in your writing. As for the other two, they're pretty straight forward. If none of them apply, you've got yourself a different sin on your hands. And maybe, it's...

#2 Perfectionism
The problem with the first sin is that we can throw ourselves in a downward spiral, trying to weed out those parts we think need to be perfected. Truth is, nothing needs to be perfected, especially in the early stages of writing.

But who hasn't fallen victim to perfectionism? When working on your baby, you want it to be the best it can be, and therein lies the irony (rhyme not intended) Getting obsessed with mundane details does, in fact, make your writing mundane. You get so focused on your attempt at sculpting the smallest parts of your story to perfection, you forget the story as a whole.

Getting caught up on these details will only tangle you up in a web of despair, and I'll tell you why: perfection is unattainable. Remember that your story is organic, which means, it cannot be perfect, but it's that imperfection that gives it character—what makes it human. 

So what's the virtue for this one? Basically the same as the last. Go back to your questions (how is this related to that, blahblahblah) and ask yourself, "is this really so important that I should be burning precious time over it?" If it's not, delete it. If it's essential but confusing, re-write it. If it's uber important, take note of it, but if it's none of the above, move on!

It's rough, I know, especially if you're working towards publication. Anything less than the best is terrifying to you because, in your head, if it isn't perfect, it ain't going no where. Thing is, it's that fear that'll hold you back. Which leads to the next sin.

#3 Fear
Now fear, ah yes, fear is my big one. Fear can include anything from, "what if it's not good enough," to, "what if I'm not good enough?"

I've found the best cure for this particular sin is...wait for it...flattery. What? Admit it, all writers are vain bastards (on some level) When we're unsure whether a story's working or not, whether we'll be getting published or not, whether we'll be able to put on our underwear this morning or not, it's always best to have a helping hand to pull that underwear right up on your bottom. Okay, no, but it is nice to have someone remind you that you can do this!

I'm not talking critique partners here. Critique partners are great, but in this situation, critiquing is the last thing you need. You need encouragement. Turn to a close friend, a family member, that homeless dude that'll tell you whatever you want, so long as you give him a buck ( get the point) Ask them to let you rant about your story. Ask them to read some of it. Have them tell you all the things they loved about it. Hell, have them tell you all the things they love about you! Find ways to feel good about your writing and yourself. That's what builds this virtue's armor up thick and gets you barreling through the walls of sin #3.

Whoa now. This is getting pretty long, ain't it? And we're not even halfway done! Well, hopefully I've wasted enough of your time, but if not, check back next week for Pt. Two. And you know what? If you've got writer's block really bad, how about you take the week off until I catch up with ya'll next time? I've covered this before, but it really is okay not to write, if you need to take a breather. So kick back, relax, eat some snacks, and I'll see ya'll next week!

Current Stats
Watching: Ninja Turtles II
Listening: My cat meowing
Reading: The Ask and the Answer: Chaos Walking Book II by Patrick Ness
Playing: Still nothing ;_;
^^^What are ya'll up to? Comment below!^^^

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Battle Begins: Getting Started

You'll never get comfortable with how uncomfortable the writing process is.

Wow, good job, H. That's about the most depressing way to start off your first writing vlog-blog. Well, hate to break it to ya', but it's true. Writing is the act of digging into our souls, pulling out our innermost demons, and battling them for all the world to see. Even after a lifetime of practice, those demons are still so personal, and so damn tricky to catch, we've got to go through hell to get them down on paper. But with study and practice, we can at least come up with a solid method for getting from "Abandon all hope ye who enter here" to "Yo, Charon! Lemme bum a ride!" (AKA: passing through the gates of hell)

Since writing is such a personal (organic) thing, we've got to approach it with the mindset that, unfortunately, there are no rules. There are methods, and the only way to wrangle one is to experiment with as many as you can find, then Frankenstein them together to form your own monster. This right here is my monster:

Every one of my stories began with inspiration hitting me like a wayward baseball, leaving a big ass bump on my head I couldn't quit poking. About the only way I'll get any peace is to jot down something the moment that baseball hits. If I'm out on the town, I turn to my handy-dandy notebook (which you should always carry) When I get home, I'll open my Google Docs, make me a folder under the baseball's working title, and open a new document called"Notes 1" (Why I call it "Notes 1" I'll cover in the next vlog-blog) Here, I'll copy my idea down to the "t".
And that's when things tend to get messy.

Most of the time, jotting down a few ideas ain't enough when I get that brand new world whirling in my head. In my latest project, I actually had to write down "Okay. Chill. Think about this tomorrow." Of course, it didn't work. Ideas were pouring out of me, and I didn't get to sleep until ten o'clock—the next morning.

Funny thing is, I only used a small portion of what I wrote down. That's the thing, though. Writing is organic, and once I plant that seed, I've got to let it grow like a weed. Yes. A weed. I have to let it get out of control. Why? Because this is where my story really starts to show a pulse. This is where it, not I, decides it's alive and what kind of life it will be living. I'll pound out anything and everything from what the current economic status the world's in, to the color of my main character's eyes. I keep writing, free writing, until the story starts to form itself. Eventually, that will turn into an outline.

Okay, I know I just made outlining sound like spontaneous combustion, but keep in mind, I'm acknowledging I'll probably use a small percentage of what I'm writing, and I've got no real commitment to what I put down—makes it easier for me to get it done. I'll get the story from A to Z as quickly, and vaguely as possible (a few short paragraphs I'll then take the main points of and turn into a bullet list) I'll let myself believe "this is how the story's going to go" only to get the confidence to start. Usually, my first chapter begins similar, if not exact, to my outline, but by the end of it, the story's already started evolving. And that's okay! Your outline is not your end all be all. Your story is your end all be all. 

I know I sound crazy, but I firmly believe that my story knows where it's going, it just sucks at explaining it. That's why it needed to hire a writer. So, when beginning a new story, there are two things I do: trust in the story (that it knows where to go) and trust in myself (that I can write it) Scary, I know. No. Terrifying. You've stepped into the underworld, and you're beginning your battle with demons that are still hidden in the shadows of your soul. But know that you're not alone. Your story is alive. It is your Virgil. Trust it, and it'll guide you through hell.

Okay, seriously, H., you are not doing a good job at the whole "warm welcome" thing. Yeah, well, writing's scary. Get over it. That's how you get started.

Current stats
Watching: Attack on Titan
Reading: The Ask and the Answer: Chaos Walking Book 2 by Patrick Ness
Playing: Nothing :( (too obsessed with AoT)
^^^What are ya'll up to? Comment below!^^^

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What Up World!

Yo! Hello, world, I am the great and powerful H. Foster-Murphy. Wow, that name's way too long, ain't it? You can call me H., you can call me Foster, you can call me Murphy, you can call me Ǖber Badass, you know, whatever floats your boat.

So here's what's up:

For years, everyone's been telling me that the road to authordom is paved with branding, but, honestly, I thought promoting myself was boring. Instead, I decided on a symbiotic relationship. I will be promoting myself and my work, but more than that, I'll be passing along my writing advice, experience, and knowledge to you! (Kind of like Eddie Brock and Venom. Kinda)

Looking forward to working with you. I'll be blogging once a week, but in the meantime, you can keep track of my shenanigans through Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions or requests for topics you'd like me to cover in my blog. See ya'll on the flip side! 

Current Stats
Watching: Steven Universe
Listening: Ugly Duckling - Taste the Secret
Reading: The Ask and the Answer: Chaos Walking book II by Patrick Ness
Playing: Zone of Enders
^^^What are ya'll up to? Comment below!