Admittedly, that title got away from me.
I am currently debating whether or not I will be participating in NaNoWriMo in 2016. At this point, I have less than a week to decide. I have an idea for a story, some brief character concepts, a general sense of what I would write…
…Here comes the but(t)…
Wait, that doesn’t look right. Anyway. I haven’t finished editing my book from last year. There. I tried to poorly diffuse my shame with a butt and it still didn’t work. And it kills me, guys, because editing is a slog. It’s boring. I hate editing.
I do not know what to do.
I brought this up to a fellow NaNo participant, and I asked, “Do you think I should do it and then have two unfinished manuscripts?”
Without even pausing, she said, “Two. Absolutely.”
I want to agree, but at the same time, I’ve tried to move away from unfinished projects. I always end up with accumulating a stack of ‘to do’s instead of feeling accomplished. And, sure, in many cases I come back and finish, but it doesn’t feel quite as gratifying as having something done and then getting to share it openly.
Now, with that in mind, however, most of the things I do finish are short pieces: short stories, flash fiction, poetry, fanfiction, that sort of thing.
So I pose this to you, dear reader: which is better? One finished manuscript or two unfinished manuscripts?
Now excuse me. I’m going to go wallow in artistic angst (which mostly consists of watching youtube videos).
Literally wrapping this up at the time when, 32 years ago, my mom decided that she had gotten through all her favorite shows and would go have me already, even though frankly she didn’t know what the big deal was about.
17. Take care of your teeth as much as you’re able to. And on that note…
18. Forgive your genetics. There’s nothing you can do about it. Take it easy on yourself.
19. Choose happiness now. Don’t wait until you’re in another place or ‘until I accomplish this thing’ or ‘until I am finally doing that thing.’ Make your happiness a priority this instant, even if it’s not easy.
20. Stretch. Take deep breaths.
21. Surround yourself with things and people that you love. Even if people try to tell you that you shouldn’t, or people disagree with your tastes. It’s your space. You get to choose who you let in it.
22. One day, you’re going to realize that your parents are just like everyone else. And that means you get to choose what your relationship is like with them, especially when you are making your own decisions.
23. Try not to burn bridges. You may want to cross them later. But if you do, grab a boat. Swim if you have to.
24. Always get your feet wet. This isn’t actually a metaphor; like, when you go to the beach, put your feet in the water. Jump in the pool. Never say no to hot tubs.
25. Never be afraid to laugh or cry or be excited or be down. Your emotions will always be there. If you internalize everything, you’ll explode.
27. Ask for help. It’s never easy. It never gets easier. But do it, when you’re able to. You don’t deserve to suffer in silence.
28. Sing in your car. Dance in the grocery store.
29. Stretch. I swear by this, actually. As much as you are physically able to, even if it’s while you’re sitting down or lying in your bed. Move.
30. Read self help books, but know when it’s time to write your own book. Not everything will work for you the way it works for other people. Just keep trying until you figure out what is effective, and then develop yourself from there.
31. Nobody is perfect, and everybody has been at a point where they have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing. Maybe it’s something big like LIFE™ and maybe it’s just taxes. Don’t be afraid to find someone you can talk to and ask if they can walk you through it start to finish. Ask questions.
32. You are awesome, and you deserve love.
So, tomorrow is my 32nd birthday. And I thought it might be fun to share 32 lessons I’ve learned during the span of my lifetime to this point. I like doing lists like this anyway, but I hope maybe it will be interesting for people who follow me or read my stuff. I’m dividing it into two posts: 16 today, 16 tomorrow. Enjoy.
1. Travel, when you can. Even if it’s just within your own city. Check out places you’ve never looked before. Wander. You don’t have to talk to anyone. Just experience the world outside of your home.
2. It’s always easier to say ‘no,’ so say ‘yes’ whenever possible. Try everything. Open yourself to new experiences, even if they seem inconvenient or uncomfortable.
3. Everything makes a good story. Even the terrible shit (especially the terrible shit).
4. You don’t owe anyone an explanation about yourself. Never be ashamed of your interests or the things that make you who you are. So long as you aren’t hurting anyone, do what you want. On that note…
5. Be nice. It takes little effort to be kind. You can disagree and dislike someone or something without being a jerk. Show some compassion. You could literally save someone’s life.
6. Enjoy solitude when you have it. Be comfortable with yourself when you are alone. You’re always going to be stuck with you; might as well make friends.
7. It’s never too late to apologize, if you want to.
8. This, too, shall pass. Depression, anxiety, crises. Pure joy, happiness, sleep. It’s all temporary.
9. Make the things that you would like to see more of. Don’t produce content because it’s what you think you should do. If you don’t like what you’re doing, you’ll wind up resenting it.
10. Say ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘excuse me.’
11. You cannot control how people think or feel. The only thing you can do is decide how you’re going to let them affect you. Don’t take their baggage personally.
12. You’re never too old to appreciate cute animals.
13. Nobody else gets to decide your relationship with the universe. Pursue a faith and spirituality that speaks to you, from your heart, and not out of any sense of obligation.
14. You are made out of stardust. Your existence is magic. You are a miracle. Every day you are living is a day more than so many other people. You are literally awesome.
15. Be honest. With everyone. With your family, with your friends, with strangers. But honesty doesn’t have to equate with dickishness. Tact is your friend.
16. Surprise others. Keep people guessing. It’s really, really fun.
Because that used to be my reaction.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have a lot of things to be grateful for, or that I didn’t think that it was good to maintain perspective of the better parts of life when things were particularly bad. Those were all very important to me. But actually writing it down? Why bother?
Now, after a couple of weeks of doing it, I’m here to tell you that there is a big difference between saying ‘I’m grateful for this thing’ and taking the minute or two to actually acknowledge it with pen and paper. Not only are you bringing yourself fully into the present of the realization, but you’re also face to face with all the things you’ve named prior to that.
You can say how thankful you are to have friends until you’re blue in the face. But you’re not going to write down ‘friends’ seven times in a week. Suddenly you get a chance to consider which specific friends are a crucial, wonderful part of your life. You find yourself realizing what it is about the people around you that lights up your day to day existence.
It doesn’t take long. A minute or two tops. But it makes as much of a difference as saying “I like to bake” and actually cooking a dozen cookies.
It’s magic. Try it. Even just for a week. You don’t need a super special journal or an expensive pen. Just take an index card and update it every day with the things that make you stop and go, “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have ___.” Give it a shot. I dare you.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m still editing my monster of a novel I did during last year’s NaNoWriMo. And y’all? I do not like editing. I am not good at it. Ask me to write something – anything – any length – and I’ll do it. Ask me to take that mountain and whittle it down into a terrarium, and I lose my damn mind.
As I consider this crazy, meandering thing, I’ve found that I have a lot of characters. So I’m trying a technique that uses a tool I’ve read about many writers employing when they are working on books: index cards.
Here is the process I’m using. For now. Until I get tired of it. But you might find it helpful!
- Take an index card. Write the name of your character on the blank side, including possibly a picture if you have one or a brief physical description.
- On the back, it’s bullet list time. Write down what part you want that character to play — are they the hero? The villain? Someone’s foil?
- Next, write down what they want, ultimately. Their best case scenario. Where they seek to find themselves.
- Write down a few of their favorite things and who they are most linked to in the story.
- Write down what you like about the character. Maybe it’s their dialogue. Maybe it’s just the fact that they seem like someone you would want to be friends with (or, on the other hand, someone you’d like to be running from).
Now, take the cards and lay them out on a table or flat surface. How does your cast look? Did you struggle to find things to write about them? Are there characters you could put together into one MEGA AWESOME CHARACTER FUSION? If your book was a movie, would you want to see it?
Over the next few weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo, I’d like to talk more about my editing process. If there are any aspects to this you would especially be interested in hearing about, leave me a comment here or head over to my Facebook page! Or Twitter! Or homing dolphin!