5min – Just keep swimming

It’s been a while since I started these five minute writing excersize, and I’ve learned that taking some time off is a bad plan.

A rolling stone gathers no moss…right? So if  you keep moving, keep progressing toward your goal, it’s less likely that you will stop and start growing moss, or in my case, procrastinating.

It’s so easy to procrastinate though. You have games to play, movies to watch, meals to eat. You can even procrastinate by cleaning the house. You need to clean the house, of course, but when  you’re looking for anything, even the little tiny things to clean just to get out of doing something then it’s more than cleaning. It’s procrastination.

The last couple of weeks since I finished “Dragon’s Flame” I started working hard on the procrastination. Games, mostly. A minecraft pack that I wanted to try, and West of Loathing (which is a WONDERFUL game and I highly recommend) were great distractions. Talking to my children, spending time with Bjorn when he took a moment from his own work. And so much more.

But I suppose it’s time to stop procrastinating, and start writing again. I am half way finished with the next book in the Half Blood Sorceress series, and it’s time to get to finishing it. I still haven’t gotten the edits back for the first book, but… that will come.

And there’s my five.


5min – Writers Block

I was listening to an episode of The Creative Penn today and she mentioned that all the pro writers at a recent convention she went to all have the same idea about writers block….it doesn’t exist.

The idea I see is “a plumber can’t have plumbers block, they have to go out and do their job.”

And they are right. Each and every one of them. A pro writer has to be able to get past “blocks” and just write, weather or not they feel like it. I have to go to my day job and do my work, or I don’t get paid. Same with a writer.

But, the idea of writers block is a thing. Perhaps it shouldn’t be called writers block though. Rather it is something causing the writer to spend their energy elsewhere.

For me it’s often bills. I have to pay bills, so I go to a day job, and I spend a lot of time on that day job. It’s a tough, and stressful day job. I often come home with a need to just close the door, and stay away from words for sometimes hours. That’s because my day job is using words. Talking to people. Trying to explain to them how to fix things. Depending on the day that is easier sometimes than others.

Other people might be “blocked” because they have family problems, medical issues or stress going on in their life that they are spending so much time on those things that they just don’t have time (or don’t think they have time) to do something creative.

Then there are the people that actually do sit down and try to write, but end up staring at a blank page for hours instead of writing. Now that, I think, is true. That isn’t a block so much as a lack of confidence. Inability to progress. Or plain don’t know what they are supposed to do.

I think I’ll come back to this idea later. But for now, my 5 min are up, and I need to go finish writing.


Today Gregg came home and I was playing Minecraft. I love Minecraft, I find it relaxing. I usually listen to podcasts while I’m playing, or catch up on the news.

But then he asked how my writing was going. I was honest, as I always am (even when it hurts) with him. I had been writing earlier and I’d get back to it soon.

Then he hit me with the hard question, after stressing that he wasn’t trying to be judgmental or anything, he was just honestly curious…And I mostly believe him, but the question cut through me a little deeper than any other question he’s asked me.

I’m just curious if you make more excuses to write, or not to write.

Ouch. There I was, playing a game when I knew I should be finishing up that novel I’ve been trying to complete, and he was cutting to the quick of it, yet again. It hurt, but he was entirely right. I had been making excuses just like I usually do, and letting myself get away with it.

Excuses are insidious things. I use to think of them as the things I did to get out of an assignment, like washing dishes, or cleaning the lint trap. ANYTHING to get out of doing something I dreaded. But I love writing, right? So I wouldn’t be making excuses to get out of that. WRONG.

Writing is fun, just like painting or playing music, or making a vase. But when you try to shift from doing art for joy to doing art for a living you realize you have to do this thing all the time instead of just when the mood hits you. You realize it’s not always going to be fun anymore. Sometimes it’s going to be a slough and you’re going to have to do it anyway.

Oh I love my stories. I love creating worlds with fantastic creatures roaming through dark woods, and witches flinging spells across wide oceans, and men being cursed to live as hawks. I love the fact that all of these mystical and magical worlds that lived inside of me for decades now get to be seen by others. And I love that they will live on beyond me.

But that only happens if I actually write them. They only have a life of their own if I put in the work.

And, lets face it, playing a video game is fun. It can be mindless entertainment. It can be a complete distraction from everything else around you, including the art you want to create.

Substitute TV shows, books, train rides, sky diving or whatever in there. If we are using these little distractions as an excuse not to seek out our creative fulfillment then we are just hurting ourselves.

Now…I have a book to go write.

Tales from Radcon 2016 and a Question

2016-02-13 12.20.50Now that I’m getting over the con-crud I thought it was time to share what happened at RadCon with everyone, and what I took away for myself from it.

First: Radcon was amazing! So many amazing things happened, so many new friends, so much new information. Gregg and I had to take some time to process it all. It’s been a week and the excitement of RadCon wore off a little bit, but the knowledge and encouragement are still working.

For Gregg this was a moment of validation. He won the best in fantasy for the masquerade, then he was invited to stand up at a panel and talk about his armor, and the road to it’s completion. He had several of the speakers (men and women currently working in prop/armor making for TV and movies) there oh-ing and ah-ing over his armor. Then they invited him to be on a panel next year as a full member. It was overwhelming. Gregg might have done a happy dance a few times, and then just collapsed from sheer joy.

It was so amazing to watch him transform from the unsure, self critical person he had been into this massive beast of a man walking through the crowds with his head held high, clad head to toe in red and black armor that he made with his own two hands. The pride, the smile, the final moment when he could say “I did something great!”

Sure, there are still little imperfections that bother him, little things that stand out as “I need to fix that.” Every creator has that little voice in the back of their mind saying those things, and we wouldn’t want to make our stuff better if we didn’t. But…as one of the panelists (a man who works on Grimm) said “There is only one person who sees all the little mistakes, and that’s you. Everyone else just looks at the overall piece.” (paraphrased, of course.)

I watched his transformation with pride, and happiness…and maybe a little jealousy. I realized that I needed that same transformation for myself. The same validation that yes, I am a good writer, and yes I’m on the right path. And I realized that I didn’t know how to get there. For me…it was a moment to realize that I need to get my shit together and figure out what the hell I’m doing.

So for the past week, while I’ve been battling con-sars, I’ve been thinking about my writing career, where it’s going, and what pieces I want or need to change.

First of all, The Bradbury Challenge has been a fantastic thing for me to do. NaNoWriMo has it’s good points, especially in learning to write faster and let go of the inner critic, but the Bradbury Challenge focuses on finishing things, and really need that emphasis on getting things done.

I haven’t been doing well. It’s been seven weeks and I’ve completed three stories. That’s not a story a week. This week I had a good excuse. First the convention, then a horrible head cold that knocked me out for three days, and left me incapable of writing. But what about all the other weeks? What excuse did I have then? And were they really good enough?

Now the truth is I have written almost every day since November first, and accomplishment in itself. I put down 6.4 thousand words on my novel last month, getting it closer to publication. I wrote 11k more on the short stories I worked on. But I didn’t finish all of the Bradbury stories. I didn’t send them to my newsletter as I promised. And this month I’ve only written 5k so far.

I should at least be continuing with a story if I fail to finish it the week previously. Instead I have come up with new stories every week since January first, and written plots and paragraphs for all of them. I LOVE the idea phase of a story a thousand percent more then actually finishing a story. Brainstorming is second nature to me, and if I get an awesome idea for a novel I have no problem jotting down 3-5000 words in a couple hours on that idea.

But ideas don’t make a career. Ideas are just that…ideas. They have no form, no function, and no monetary value. If all of my stories stay ideas I get nowhere. I get no actual career.

This, I think, is what I saw with Gregg and his armor. At the end he was sleep deprived and his body was screaming for relief. He kept telling me about pains in muscles he didn’t know existed, or his hands cramping, or being surprised he didn’t break something when he hit his hand with a mallet. But he kept going. He wanted to finish that armor. Not just a few pieces, he wanted the whole set.

Do I want my writing career even half as much as he wanted that?

It is no surprise that they invited him back to speak at the conference. It is no surprise that he had many people in his industry talking to him, encouraging him, and telling him how truly awesome he was, and is. Because he is amazing! He has persistence, and he has a passion, a real hunger, for his craft.

Do I? Or is this more of a hobby that I just enjoy when I’m not playing video games? I don’t think it’s a hobby, but then again, where are the finished products?

That’s the question I’m going to be asking myself the next couple of weeks as I am working on my short stories, and finishing things. I’m not at 100% yet, still recovering from this sickness, and still very, VERY, tired. But that’s nothing but an excuse, and I know it.

So are my passions bigger than my excuses? Time to put up or shut up, I think.

Explaining the world

I was watching a news piece about the shootings in France on youtube last night and my son wandered over and asked me “Why did they do it?”

That’s a big question, with a bigger answer. I tried to explain it: They drew cartoons criticizing their religion and they didn’t like it. Then my son asked what the cartoons said, and then he had extra questions.

questionmasterMy son is the Question Master. When he focuses on a subject he starts asking about every little thing, and if you let him he will have  you there for a couple hours just answering more questions about the same original subject. He doesn’t understand that it’s frustrating for other people to have to answer 15 MILLION questions about the operation of a stick shift Subaru. (Except for Gregg, he loves Subaru.) Usually once he gets to a certain point I will point him toward Google and say “have at it.”

But this time he wasn’t asking about aerodynamics, or cakes, or tensile strength of a bridge (yes he’s really asked those things. My kids WAY smarter then I am.) This time he was asking about religion, extremism, cultural differences and censorship. Things that are a little tougher to understand. Things that you can’t simply say “this is right and this is wrong.” No, these subjects are more nuanced.

We take for granted this “freedom of speech”, except that it is our right, and then rally against those who would try to silence or control it. At least sometimes.

But not everyone believes in freedom of speech. Not everyone thinks “everything” should be allowed. And I’m not talking about just certain religions or certain cultures. EVERY culture has issues. Even the USA that prides itself on this freedom has groups that ban books, like Harry Potter, or Christian groups that try silencing other groups because they aren’t christian.

When you feel that you belong to a specific group you tend to want to help that group. You might show it by wearing your teams colors on Sunday, or singing a hymn in church. You might wave a banner, or spend a month camping out near Wall Street. And some people take that idea that their group is right and yours is wrong to new heights. Just ask the parents at the last game who started a brawl in the bleachers of their kids school.

How do you explain the world and all its intricacies? Why did they shoot a cartoonist?

We can say it was fear, or pride, or anger… but I think there are some people in this world who hold the idea of being “right” over the idea of life. When a human life is less important then being right then things start happening. Things that sometimes end in deaths.

And I’m not talking about just this incident. Look at any mass shooting, every war, every violent act. Someone believed that they were right, and it was more important then the life they took.

Wikileaks_cantstopsignalI’m not a religious person, and I have anything against anyone who wants to practice a religion. But I do have a problem when your religion infringes on my right to a happy, and healthy life. That includes information. You can’t stop the signal! You can never stop the signal!

Knowledge, science, and progress aren’t going to stop just because someone, or some group are afraid of it. It didn’t stop Galeleo, or Rhazes, or Domagk. If the KGP and Gestapo couldn’t stop it then neither can the NSA or ISIS leaders. We will endure. Knowledge will prevail.

And life will find a way.

Lighting the way

There is a moment when you are out in the woods, lost and weary, and you finally catch a glimpse of a light off in the distance. But your body is struggling to put one foot in front of another. Your mouth is dry, eyes sagging. Your breath ragged. And a fog has descended upon your mind. You don’t know if you can reach that light. And part of you just wants to lay down right there, sleep, even though another part of you knows that if you do you’ll never get up again.

It’s the same with any struggle. You fight so hard to attain a goal, work day and night, and see that light at the end of the tunnel. And sometimes you make it. Sometimes you get there and realize it wasn’t a lantern, it was just a fire fly and now you’re further off track then before.

But finding waypoints along the road will help. Setting markers, attainable goals. Little projects that lead up to the larger ones. Taking chances…

Sometimes it feels like you’re moving backwards. Sometimes it feels like your just stuck in a pit of despair and avoiding the rats of unusual size. But the light is still there… waiting for you to reach it.

More often then not, we are our own biggest road block. Our will fades, or determination takes a vacation, and we let the RoUS get just a little too close. They have to nibble on our toes before we finally get moving again.

Think of them as motivation to keep moving. Don’t get mad at them, but don’t sit around and chat with them either.