Make-It Monday: Getting Started

bitmoji_goalsDuring the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the pleasure of getting to know one martial arts friend a little better and meet his wife. I felt a lot of different things when they told me they read my blog and it’s been helpful for their children who are both pen warriors.

Weird, honoured, and shocked were some of those feelings.

It was also a reminder that writing can have lasting affects on others. The further one goes on this path, the greater the affect on a larger scale.

I thought that a post on getting started is in order. It’s a post for those who enjoy writing and are trying to take that first next step towards becoming more serious about it.

Now, I can’t remember how I first found out about the first book related thing I went to in Ottawa. It was a book signing for an anthology *I think*. It’s a bit hazy as it was around 5 years ago. I know Marie Bilodeau, Geoff Gander, and Hayden Trenholm were there. They were some of the first writers I met in Ottawa. Or maybe I went to something else and met Marie there and she told me about it. Perhaps the Small Press Fair.

Actually, I think that’s what happened? Anyway, around the same time, I met several people who were going to several writing related events and I just kind of started showing up to things and while there found out about more things.

Those things included:

1. The Small Press Fair

2. Book Signings

3. Conventions including Can-Con, Ad Astra, and several others I haven’t been to yet.

4. Prose in the Park (Ottawa’s version of Word on the Street)

5. Ottawa Independent Writers

6. ChiSeries reading series

7. NaNoWriMo

I still go to many of these things, though I’ve been too busy lately and thus a bit too worn down to go to Can-Con this year.

Some other important things about the writer life include self-care and doing anything else that will help you replenish your creative energies. After a long weekend filled with a wedding, old friends, family,  and walking by the water, I was filled with new ideas for new projects and tweaks for those in progress. Stephen King talks about this. He’s been in a band and done a lot of living that helps him have a deep well of ideas to draw on.

I also read a lot of writers craft books. Hooked by Les Edgerton is a good one for the first chapter. The Novel Writers Toolkit by Bob Mayer was also helpful. The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier and Screenplay by Syd Field are fantastic for screenplays.

One thing I do to constantly improve is try to pay attention to whether or not a skill is weak, such as writing dialogue or being descriptive, and I work on improving it. I’ll read craft books on specific skills to learn new techniques to try. It takes a lot to be honest with yourself about your weak areas and some writers don’t ever get there.

At this stage, I’m very interested in checking out The Writer’s Festival.

Now, this particular friend lives in the Peterborough area, so I thought I’d list a few events in the area that may be good starting places:

  1. The Peterborough Writers Facebook Group. I have no idea how active it is, but this would be a place one could ask some questions about the writing scene.
  2. The Literary Tourism page.
  3. Meetup.
  4. The Peterborough branch of the Canadian Authors Association. It’s mentioned in this article on My Kawartha.
  5. The Peterborough Library. A lot of librarians read, but they also write.
  6. Writers Festivals. The Writers Union has a long list of these. The Lakefield Lit Festival is marked as being close to Peterborough.
  7. Colleagues can make a good resource too. Everyone knows someone who writes.
  8. A writing group. I met mine at the Small Press Fair. I feel like it’s good to have an idea of what you need in a writing group before committing though. Some get together and push each other to write every morning. Some gather monthly to offer feedback. Really, they come in a lot of forms. I like my monthly one. We touch base, talk about our goals, and give each other feedback. We have a wide variety of age, political views, and life experiences that I find adds a richness to the experience.

There you have it. I hope this has been worthwhile.

R~

Thoughtful Thursday – Jung on Gratitude

thoughtfulCarl Jung said a few things about gratitude when he was alive that really speak to me. One of the more poignant in my life right now is, “Be grateful for your difficulties and challenges, for they hold blessings. In fact… Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health personal growth, individuation and self-actualisation.”

It has been feeling difficult lately and it has partly been because I’ve been a bit disorganized. That’s not usually me. A few months back, I decided to separate my home task list from my writing and work task list. I thought it was a fantastic idea to be MORE organized. It turns out, I prefer to see everything in one list. It’s easier for me to deal with it all in one convenient place. Not that it was inconvenient as I use KanbanFlow and it’s easy enough to switch between lists, but I can prioritize it all better in one rather than flipping between them.

Anyway, hopefully this period of challenge is leading to something amazing. Right now, I feel rather like I’m in the same place I was before I went back to school only I am more equipped to write the pieces I want to write. But I’m not any further ahead in learning French. I have Fridays blocked off partly for self-study in that area, so hopefully I’ll improve enough, so I won’t be completely useless for a job that needs it.

Jung also said, “If our religion is based on salvation, our chief emotions will be fear and trembling. If our religion is based on wonder, our chief emotion will be gratitude.”

What if we replaced the word religion with something else? Let’s put life there instead. If our life is based on salvation, if we wait for others to save us, it will be full of fear. If we look at the world in wonder, it will be full of gratitude. I like that much better.

And it can be hard to be grateful sometimes. When you’re unemployed and you’re behind on your chores and your neck is acting up so much you want to refer to it as several other parts of the human anatomy, it’s easy to forget about the things you do have.

I have a really good emotional support system. People who care about me. And that means more to me than money ever will.

I’ll leave you with this other thing he said, “The word ‘happiness’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced and contrasted and compared to sadness. In comparing how an experience could have been worse we develop gratitude and happiness, while if we compare it how it could have been better we develop bitterness and sadness.”

R~

Thoughtful Thursday – My First Tablet

thoughtfulI got my first tablet. It’s a Surface Pro 3. I had a lot of difficulty setting it up as it would overheat and turn off in the middle of Windows Updates. It’s a known issue and now that I’m done installing things, I can turn off the thing that causes it, which is the Microsoft installer. I also had trouble because the battery was at zero percent and the cord is made to disconnect easily rather than drag it to the floor and smash it.

I’m also gifted at misplacing the pen that goes with it … In my lap.

I don’t have a case yet, so I will have to be really careful with it. It’s coming. Hopefully I can keep it safe in the meantime.

There are some settings that I need to find like keyboard sound because I really don’t need that on. It’s warm right now doing WordPress, so I’m off to find that windows installer and turn that off.

Once I have the kinks worked out, I think it’s going to revolutionize my writing life.

Guide cheerio the nou,
R~

Merry Monday – New Toys

merry_monday

Image created using Bit Strips.

I have received a new toy, well, it’s more of a medical device, but it’s like a toy for my neck because it brings feelings of not pain. It’s this dense foam wedge that I put under my neck for 10 minutes and after one use, I already feel loads better without pain killers. It wasn’t fun to use as it’s not entirely comfortable to put a bulging disc against it, but after a bit I began to feel things I didn’t expect like a reduction in abdominal discomfort and reduced jaw tension. What a wonderful tool! It’s called the Posture Wedge.

I never thought a bunch of my problems could be connected to my neck and posture. It was after I hurt my neck the first time that things like food allergies and teeth grinding began to appear in my life. What if the inflammation in my body is in part because of this one thing? Seems crazy. I’m not going to get my hopes up, but I’ll definitely keep using the thing and see what happens.

My MS Surface 3 is supposed to come sometime this week. They estimate Friday. I hope it comes sooner, so I can get it set up and stop lugging a heavy bag around.

I’m not bringing much with me today. I think it’s a good idea to use my phone and a small notebook rather than lug a heavy laptop around. It’ll give my neck a break. I wonder if I can try this all this week? I should check with my other teachers.

My parents dug out our old LEGOs for me. I need to figure out how to clean them, but I have a much larger collection now. Not that I have anytime to play with them anyway, but I’m looking forward to it eventually.

Part of my Halloween costume is here. The rest I have to make. If I can ever get the time to…

I snagged an old Walkman from my mom on the weekend to use because I have a couple of books on cassette that I’d like to listen to on the bus at some point from now until Christmas.

Anyway, I need to go learn stuff about writing plays.

Guid cheerio the nou,
R~

Review – Bust PTSD (Android)

Bust PTSD

Image from Google Play Store

From helplines that you can call to talk to someone to free counselling services, there is free help available. Some free services only allow a couple of counselling sessions and they mostly exist to help you find the people who can help you more. I used one of those in the past and while I found the exercise of tallying up my strengths useful, it didn’t help me deal with the pain of the past. Some offer upwards around 20 sessions. Some are targeted to specific needs like gambling, alcohol, and more.

It can be hard to get the right help when your issues have many layers like an onion that began growing again over a couple layers of old skin. To get to that middle layer of old skin that isn’t nourishing, we have to go through many other layers first. After peeling away the initial dead layers that all onions have, we see some normal layers and they’re fine; as an onion, they function. But then we come upon that older layer and we have to deal with it before we can get to the rest of the onion.

Healing from the past is like that.

Well, there is an app for that too. There are actually many options out there, but I want to talk about a specific one: Bust PTSD from CCEI Psychotherapy & Research Inc.

I had been really triggered lately. While getting to know someone new, past ghosts came back to haunt me. I realized I had some deep seated fears that I needed to deal with. The trouble is that sometimes doctors in this province spend more effort on not helping than they do on listening to the patient that is sitting in front of them.  Also, the need for referrals for almost anything is a pain in the ass. I think that’s one thing we could do more like the US in terms of health care. Anyway, I digress.

My body is great at armouring itself. My shoulders turn to rock-like structures. My neck and jaw muscles become so tight that I barely know what truly smiling feels like. I’m never relaxed. That’s my default state, or it was.

Bust PTSD helped me look at one of the numerous times I’ve suffered something traumatic and release the emotional pain I didn’t know I was holding onto. I can be sad about the positive experiences I had with that person now and happy that my life has so much wonderful potential in it. I’m also better able to focus as my thoughts aren’t a jumbled mess.

After making use of it, I felt relieved and giddy. I had a ton of energy. It was good I had martial arts to release it. Today, I’m still pretty relaxed and I’m tired. I feel like I have years of lost sleep to catch up on. But I’m not worried about it.

What I’ve learned is that it’s really important to let yourself feel. It’s scary, messy, and totally worth it. You can try and stuff your emotions down deep inside you, but they’ll fester and cause you problems later on. For some people it is the root of digestive issues and autoimmune conditions.

The app cost me $8. Actually less because of Google Rewards. I only paid $2.43 out of my pocket. Pretty sweet deal. Totally worth the $8.

I’m looking forward to using it to deal with the rest of my past and perhaps my new default state will be a relaxed one. I’ve been stuck in fight or flight mode for far too long and all that stress isn’t good.

I’m not just making use of this app though. I’m talking to people in Facebook groups and I’m trying to get into a real life support group because I believe in using a variety of tools when available.

I didn’t expect it to be helpful. I even thought it was a little hokey when I was going through the instruction part, but I did what it said to and I’m really glad I found this app as I felt like I was turning into a moving statue. One can’t live healthily in such a paradoxical state.

Salut,
R~

Fortifying Friday – Plans and Actions

tgif

Image created using Bit Strips.

Lately, I’ve been making some changes in my life. Once upon a time, I worked as a project manager and project planner. After several years of upper management having ignored the plans despite their accuracy, my love of planning had become filled with disdain and I began winging things in my personal life. It wasn’t working.

I have a todo list in Kanbanflow. It’s so large and full of things that I’m not near to accomplishing (I swear I have at least a decade worth of story ideas), that it has become almost useless in terms of goal achievement. I will reorganize it at some point to make it useful again, but I recently started using an analog planner. I plan one week, sometimes only half the week, at a time. I don’t always accomplish the things I want to in a week, but I’m getting more done than I was while I was winging it.

One of my major goals is simplistic: Reclaim my routine. Working at home has made me really lax in terms of how long I sleep, what time I shower, how many meals I eat in a day, etc. So far, I’ve been doing terribly at it. Some days I get up at a reasonable time and get about 75% of my tasks completed. Others I struggle to just get food done.

One of my other major tasks is to get all my dishes clean. I feel like it’s pathetic that it has been so hard to get this one thing done, but something always comes up or my energy is sapped and I just can’t. The last couple of days, since there has been more sunshine, I’ve been doing better. Damn winter blues!

French is hit and miss. Some days I feel like I’m really getting somewhere and understand a lot. Others, I might as well be looking at Greek. Learning is often like that though. I know I just need to apply myself a little more.

Some days I wonder if my legs will ever be able to take the full length of class time without making me incredibly sore for several days, but this is the way it is every year at this time. I’m usually fine by the spring seminar that lasts several days. I should buy that ice skating pass because it’s cheap and will help me whip my legs into shape. Perhaps I’ll get it today, after I get a police record check done for volunteering at the library.

And there’s my writing. It seems that when I have a deadline, I have trouble writing anything at all. No deadline? Writing is fun and I’m shocked when I suddenly finish a project. Clearly planning some things doesn’t work for me.

My Alphasmart Neo2 arrived yesterday and I love it. It’s such a simple tool. I can work onto upto 8 files at once. Without all the distractions of a laptop with bells and whistles, I can just write and I don’t have to copy from paper to my computer afterwards. Because I can only see a couple of sentences at a time on the screen, I don’t get mired in rereading text. I seem to have started a YA Sci-Fi tale, but I have other projects to finish first! Naughty fingers running away on the keyboard…

I haven’t found a job yet and EI hasn’t started paying me. I’m going to hopefully get that straightened out today. Several exciting opportunities are available right now. I’m excited to see which come to fruition. Time will tell. Much to do today.

Salut,
R~

Review: Staple Guns and Tiny Me

image

For my garden, I’m building a simple cage for protecting my plants from rodents. This cage features thin framing screwed together with chicken wire stapled to it. Pretty standard. I’ve gone through three staple guns.

The first one I bought was the Stanley TR35 Light Duty Tacker. The fit was perfect fit my child sized hands and it was easy to squeeze. For some reason, it jammed to the point of complete blockage and could not fire a thing.

Next, I tried the Stanley TR110 Heavy Duty Staple Gun. I got about 4 staples in and couldn’t work with it any longer. It took my entire weight and both hands to squeeze the trigger and more often than not the staples would misfire.

Finally, I went to home depot with the intention of buying a specific Dewalt one, the Dewalt Heavy Duty Stapler. Trying the handle it was too hard to squeeze and so I tried the others in the area. I considered the Powershot by Arrow as I used to own one of those (ex got to keep that), but it felt harder to press than I remembered.

In the end, I chose the Dewalt 5-in-1 Multi-Tacker. It fits my hand nicely, isn’t too hard to squeeze, and works well.

I now have hope to finish these cages in a reasonable amount of time to grow food.

Ciao,
R~

Wonder Wednesday: Conflict

Image created using Bit Strips.

Image created using Bit Strips.

It’s funny how in real life I can’t stand conflict. That’s not to say I don’t stand up for myself. It was something I had to learn, though. In the beginning, I would overdo it. I’d be too aggressive because I was overcompensating for all the times I didn’t.

In writing, I love conflict! Whenever a scene feels a little flat I throw a wrench in the works and have my character limp or crawl along. They have to fight against tough odds. The only time I let things calm down is before something worse happens. The calm before the storm. The trick there is keeping enough tension, so the reader doesn’t think the story has ended. I’m still learning to do that.

Conflicting priorities are part of life and it’s no different for writers. To be a good writer I often hear it’s important to have a full life, but then you have to manage your time well. As a writer with a full-time day job, a martial artist, and a hobbyist musician (among other things), I know the struggle well. Add to that the need to read, learn, have a social life, and maybe watch some TV or movies sometimes… (Like Star Wars on May the 4th, perhaps?). Life would be empty without conflict, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Conflict lets me appreciate achievements and downtime more.

At some point, conflict needs to resolve. I managed to get that parking ticket canceled. Happily, I didn’t have to use the phone or drive back to that mall.

I managed to get that parking ticket canceled. Happily, I didn’t have to use the phone or drive back to that mall. I’ve come to hate speaking on the phone. That’s not unusual today, but I think it’s more pronounced because of my introverted nature. We once celebrated spontaneous phone calls or unplanned company. These days it’s a weird thing to do. I’m not sure if it’s a good change. Maybe it has contributed to people having less social skills. I think we’re socializing as though we’re TV characters and that’s bringing about miscommunication and creating unnecessary conflicts.

In writing, conflict doesn’t have to be an axe-wielding wedding interloper. It can be more subtle like the character’s only pants getting soaked. Then we are taken through the steps the character tries to get their pants dry. Once they achieve that, a new conflict that is bigger will be thrust upon them until the theme of the story comes full circle and the character is altered in some fundamental way that changes their existence from that point onward giving them a new “normal”. See how fun conflict is?

Well, if I continue, I’m afraid it will turn into meaningless rambling, so I’ll sign off here.

Ciao,
R

A bad workman…

Today’s proverb is, “A bad workman blames his tools.”

I don’t fully agree with this. There is merit to it as some people just look for excuses to avoid doing something. There are valid reasons to having the right tool though.

Take process mapping, for example. Yes, one can process map by hand or use paper-based methods involving sticky notes (I’ve seen it), but at some point it becomes rather cumbersome to maintain and a realization that the paper could become damaged and a lot of work could be lost, occurs. Sticky notes fall off. Plus, it’s hard to share a very large paper copy with others without them having to come to a specific site to see it. Putting it into a computer-based tool like Visio becomes a necessity. Not all versions of Visio are created equal. Some versions one may spend inordinate amounts of time trying to get something to work, where a newer version lets you document the process in seconds because they constantly improve the tool.

Yes, you can write a novel on paper, in notepad, in Word, or in something like Scrivener. There are benefits to each method. I often start my first scribblings in paper as I have with a recent piece that may or may not become a romance novel. With paper, I often feel like I don’t want too much of it on paper as I’m scared it will be spilled upon or have some other catastrophe occur and I will have to rewrite. Rewriting isn’t terrible as I usually write it better the second time, but there is the odd time I’ve felt that I lost an amazing piece of work (perhaps only amazing in my own mind haha). Notepad is as simple as it gets with a few font options and word wrap being it’s features. I often used to do random notes in Notepad as little pieces of my series that I wasn’t sure where to use. I used Notepad in conjunction with Word because those little notes in Notepad took up less space than they would as Word documents. I was writing in Word for a long time using the outline view option to allow me to navigate through my story without having to scroll through pieces of it. Now I’m finishing it in Scrivener because it’s amazing. I get the benefits of Word’s outline view, combined with the benefits of separate little notes, and a whole host of new features like the ability to take a snapshot of a webpage for citing and referencing. This means that I don’t have to be online to work with my novel if I’ve grabbed the research material beforehand. This also means that I don’t have to take up so much room on my hard drive with pictures of things. I can split the view so I can be writing while having the webpage open in the application. That all being said, I could have finished writing it in Word likely, but it was getting cumbersome to work with and Word is rather prone to crashing.

My point is that there always comes a time where it is necessary to upgrade if getting the job done efficiently is a concern.

The only reasons to stick with old tools are artistic ones or short-term monetary ones. The Woodwright’s Shop on PBS is an example of an artistic or artisan use of old tools. It’s neat watching the way things were made years ago and it’s probably rather enjoyable to be able to take such time and care with each piece he produces. Were he in high demand, he likely wouldn’t be able to keep up using his current toolset. He would need power tools. Still, there is this enchanting element to putting so much care into each piece. He’s not in a rush. He’s truly enjoying his work. How many can say that today? How many times are workers today rushed to complete something and unhappy with their own finished product? Software gets released with bugs and products with extra holes or missing pieces. The world of today is a hurried one. I refuse to take that approach with my novel. Sure, I’ve been at it for a few years, but I’m doing it to my own level of quality. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the first Harry Potter book took 5 years to write, in part because she was planning parts of the rest of the series. Life was likely crazy raising children alone and working whenever she could. I’ve had my own challenges along the way and I’m not worried about it because the time it takes to write it doesn’t diminish the words on the page.

Anyway, I may be getting off topic. I think everyone has tools they prefer for certain jobs. I find it uncomfortable to rollerskate if I don’t have the right socks. Some derby girls can’t imagine playing the sport while wearing underwear. Labeling someone as a bad worker simply because they have a preference for one tool over the other doesn’t make sense to me. They may be exemplary in actuality and know something you don’t about the different tools. Drummers often prefer specific makes of drumsticks and drums. Yes, they can jam with different ones if they had to, but why would you make them? Artists may be at the extreme level of pickiness with their water preferences, brands of paint, guitars, etc, but that doesn’t make them bad at what they do. I don’t believe this proverb is anything more than a blanket statement issued after observing only a small sample. Yes, I can manage to perform my martial art with a longer bokuto than I am used to, but the quality isn’t the same until I’ve had time to get used to the change. I also don’t believe that only rockstars, famous authors, Gotham all stars, or CEOs should be allowed to be choosy with what tools work best for them.

Yes, it may be true that a bad worker will blame their tools, but they’ll also blame everyone else around them and anything they can remotely associate with their poor performance. They’re easy to root out and the rest of us shouldn’t be lumped with them.

I guess this proverb got to me. Sorry if I ranted too much 😉

Ciao,
R~

Converting to Scrivener!

Well, roller derby practice was cancelled tonight, so I finished the conversion of my novel into Scrivener. I had originally started doing this in an overly manual, as in cut-and-paste each chapter, way. I decided that was silly and I have too much computer background to be mucking about with that nonsense. I started using the import feature.

The first attempt with the import just put it in one big file. At first glance, I thought this wasn’t what I wanted, so I tried another one.

The second import attempt, I tried the split feature using the # symbol. It didn’t work. It went through the motions but didn’t populate any information into my project.

I started screwing around a bit and found an option that lets you select text and have it and everything that follows it split out into a new scene. This, I decided, would do the trick if combined with the first import attempt.

I did a first pass of separating them out into the chapters. Next I created chapter folders and dragged-and-dropped each chapter scene into its folder.

I have some more work to do such as:

– Rename all the chapter folders
– Further split the scenes as some chapters have multiple scenes in them
– Figure out what to do with the comments I had in my MS Word version. They copied over, but they are in with my text now instead of being somewhat hidden
– Enter character information into Scrivener instead of having it all over the damn place

Once the comment thang is handled, I think I can compile my current work and have people review it. I don’t think they need to read all of the insanity that is my notes.

Some of my chapters have been earmarked for book 2 or book 3, so my word count has gone down to around 27,500, but this is a good thing, I think. One of my writer’s group friends had mentioned that each novel of a series should stand alone and be its own story and that wouldn’t have happened leaving those parts in this novel. That’s not to say there can’t be a plotline that runs through the whole series, but if you think of a series like Harry Potter, while the major plotline runs throughout the series, each book is its own individual piece.

At any rate, word count is no indication of quality. I just use it as a basic progress marker. Sometimes taking a step back launches you into something greater!!!!!!!!!!

Ciao,
R~