Where the inane meets the mundane

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A Late Night Blog Post

I wrote a post tonight that was very whiny. In it, I bemoaned the differences between writing to share the stories in my head, and the fact there isn’t really anyone I’m sharing them with (ie, my readers are near nill).  I didn’t post that blog entry, by the way.

The heart of the matter is the debate on whether to

  • keep writing the sequel to Chrysalis
  • work on something different (like, say, the alpha draft of a fantasy novel you have sitting on your hard drive, waiting for edits and readers)
  • give up, throw in the towel, pursue other fine things in life, like cheese tasting

I do like a bit of fromage, so that last one is pretty alluring. I feel compelled by a promise to finish the sequel, which is in mixed shape. There are about 50k words written, a clear outline, and a direction. It’s getting there that’s been the problem. At the same time, I’m not sure who I’m writing it for. Me? You? Is there a You? Then again, the same would be said for anything else I worked on.

It’s this kind of road that leads to a cyclical spiral into self torment. And it did.

If you are one of my handful of readers – thank you. I really do appreciate you, despite my self-pitying blog post tonight. If you could leave a review on amazon, that would be grand. I also officially accept bribes for coffee to fuel my writing (see the blog, right side column in a desktop browser).

All right, it’s slipped into the next day, so I should head to bed. It was both liberating and odd feeling being able to write a blog entry again. I should try doing this more often or something.

I used to write.

I used to write. Now I just complain about my lack of writing and give feeble attempts at guilting myself into writing.

I think it all went downhill when I self-published my last novel, Chrysalis. I’d been looking forward to releasing it for a while. It was polished, it was the start of a series I’ve wanted to write for a long time, and I was finally going to get to share it. My first foray had had a little success, so with this one I had hopes for. I made newsletters, an author page, I even advertised. I thought I had everything lined up.

It bombed. Worse than bad reviews, it received almost no reviews. I think I can name every person that read it. While I am generally a go lucky, well adjusted and happy guy, I felt a writer’s fugue encroaching. Efforts to work on the sequel floundered. Writing in general began to lapse. I tried to motivate myself, but I couldn’t find the words. I blamed equipment (maybe it’s the software; maybe it’s the type of hardware; this interface doesn’t empower my words), the seasons (despite evidence to the contrary, I feel more productive in the colder months), and the stress of the day job (I got promoted! I’m hiring! I’m a 2 man shop at the moment!), I failed to see the obvious: I was in a writing depression.

Past me never let the real world slow me down. I’ve written in commuter vans at 5 in the morning and on scraps of paper between tasks at work. I’ve given up mornings and/or evenings to be able to get in those needed words of the day. Blaming anything – even the valid – is just masking what was really going on. Although by no means a true depression, I am (as they say) “down in the dumps” when it comes to writing. I’m burned out. For the last month or two, I’ve largely withdrawn from social media. It’s a lot of extra static in my day that, although interesting, sometimes even vaguely informative, doesn’t really add any value. I find I just don’t miss it. Most of the updates I get aren’t personal (not all, but most). I check in on twitter occasionally, mostly because the format lends itself to dipping in every now and then without feeling compelled to catch up on day’s worth of posts. Facebook? Not so much (I check for messages every few days, but avoid most of the timeline at this point). I’m not even following my favorite blogs any more, though based on what I see in Feedly, they aren’t publishing too much either.

So, what have I been doing with my time? At first, I played video games to fill the void. I highly recommend The Last Guardian, by the way, if for no other reason than it’s like playing an interactive Studio Ghibli movie. Then I played and beat Mass Effect: Andromeda. A little too easy in parts, a little predictable, but I enjoyed it. Then there’s the reading – I’ve read 13+ books in just over a month now. I’d like to think my brain is saturated with the primordial ooze of story at this point. I don’t know if that’s fair, maybe that’s just putting more pressure on that weary organ, but surely something is brewing in there.

My hiatus from blogging isn’t over, though. Instead, I’d like to provide fewer but more informative posts. We’ll see how that goes. But for the few of you wondering what was going on in the world of Mike, there you go. Feel free to drop me a line, but it’s time for me to get back behind the screens and see if I can put some words together.

The Week That Was, August 6 Edition #7storychallenge

It wasn’t a particularly exciting week, but I did finish a few things.

Read two books this week (TWO?!?). You can thank the amazing Multnomah County’s public library for that, in particular the amazing array of books they have available in Overdrive (service that lets you checkout books on your e-reader). I won’t give the titles here, because to be honest I was disappointed with both. Each had interesting story ideas, were parts of series – and were plagued by horrific prose. I know my writing must be shite, because I have the lack of sales to back that up. These were bad.

I pulled a story from submission this week, mostly because I realized the “publication” was dead. So, that one went back out, because that’s what we do. But riding high on that tide, I also finished a new(!) short story and sent it out this week. I don’t hold high hopes that it will succeed at the professional market I started at, but go big or go home.

That got me  toying with an ambitious idea. A challenge, if you will. There are 21 weeks (and 1 day) left in the year. In a perfect world, I’d love to say I can do a story a week.

Yeah, I knew that was insane the second I thought it. But...I bet I could do seven new stories, out the door, between now and the end of the year. Let’s face it – some weeks are going to be crap. Work, sick, life, and work will combine efforts to bring that down. (Yes, work was listed twice. Those who understand are just nodding along.  But then, some weeks aren’t going to be so bad.) Some weeks, though, I should be able to crank out two stories.

I’m not challenging myself to write a certain number of words. Word challenges ultimately fail for me. Maybe it’s because at the end of the day there’s nothing to point at but more words. But finishing stories? Those give a sense of accomplishment, a sense of completion.

So here it is:  I’m challenging myself to write 7 new short stories and send them out before the end of the year.  That’s seven, never seen by slush readers before, stories.

I won’t even count the one I sent out this week. But with 21 weeks, seven is the perfect number in my head. Three weeks to work on a story should be completely achievable. And then you get to cap it by sending it out.

I’ll even add this gauntlet – a challenge to my fellow writers. Join me. Embrace the dark side. Remember, a short story is anywhere from 500 to 17,000 words depending on your market.  Ping me on twitter (@kodermike) or use the hashtag #7storychallenge, but join the fun. Mock me when I fail. Celebrate with me when we finish.

Who’s up for the challenge?

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