Friday, February 26, 2016

Something old, something new

In this case the something old is me. But then old is a matter of perspective and though I'm old to my kids(I'm sure), and I most definitely feel old at times, I'm not old in the strictest sense of the word.

But for this case, it works.

There's a lot to be said for children. They are like sponges and absorb everything. I'm quite jealous of their learning potential.

I struggle when it comes to learning new things. I understand a little more of what my mother has meant over the years about things being harder for her to understand. For me, I hate not being good at something. I can't stand not at least knowing what I'm doing or what I'm talking about.

It's like being the new kid in school. The new person at work. I'm the bottom of the ladder and I know it.

So really, most of my struggle with learning something new has to do with pride.

I get frustrated with myself for not understanding; for not doing better. I hate making mistakes.

At the same time, when I finally grasp something it's like a party. Woohoo! I got it!!!

I sometimes think that if I didn't bother to learn a skill or a hobby, or whatever, by this point, that it's too late for me. I'll never be good at something new. I've missed the golden window of opportunity when my youth sucked up all the knowledge around me. And if I can't be good at something, than perhaps it's better I don't even try. Rather no skill than poor skill?

So what's this post about? It's about sewing . . . LOL. Yes, all that build-up for sewing.

Last spring I took one of those whimsical notions that sometimes float around my head and said, "I'm going to try this."

Every now and again, I will find myself skimming through picture of amazing costumes that people have created. I always think, "I wish I could do that."

I finally took the plunge and decided to learn a new skill. So last spring I bought a sewing machine and some starter items. I've loved the process of learning how to sew way more than I thought I would. I mean, I LOVE sewing. I think it's connected to the reason I enjoy writing; I love to create things.

Now, I may never get to the point where I'm as good as the amazing people whose work I've admired. In fact, I probably won't. I may not get even close. It may take me years to get anywhere near that skill level. BUT I've put aside my issues with not being "great" at something to learn something new.

And I'm enjoying it. I've made a lot of mistakes; I'll make a lot more. I learn something new all the time and feel accomplished when something clicks. I've made some fun things that are probably impressive just to me LOL.

Do you struggle with learning something new? What things have you always wanted to try or learn? And I'd love to hear about any hobbies you have and what you enjoy about them.

I've made a lot of baby items because they're useful and easy to make.

I finally took the plunge and started making clothing. The first two attempts produced results that would've been cute, if they were wearable. I chalked them up to learning experiences.

I've had some rough patches and I can see all the places I went wrong in each piece, but I'm finally making things I'm not ashamed of.

I even got a chance to make my own pattern and try that out.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Writer's Journey

In my first post about writing, I mentioned that I started back up on a whim. I honestly did not expect to get as far as I have, but I'm so glad that I have!

Going back a few years, I was involved in my first (serious) MMORPG. I'd dabbled in some MMO's before, but they tended to be short-lived as I would get bored with them. This time was different. I had met a friend on a "castle building" MMO and we were hunting for a new game.

We came across Forsaken World and got sucked in pretty quick. I loved interacting with people on what felt like a more personal level because there were characters you associated with a person as well as having your own character running around doing whatever.

Now there's nothing wrong with gaming, and it does allow for a unique experience in terms of meeting so many people. I had a lot of fun with the game, but though it never touched my pocketbook, it was sucking my time.

I had started my own guild and we were doing well, having fun. But I needed to step back, so I did.

Shortly before this self-imposed break, one of my guildmates sent me a story she had written. It was comprised of her as each of the characters in the story. Or rather, she'd made each of her game characters into a character for her story.

I thought the idea was intriguing and randomly went, "Hey, it'd be fun to write a story where the characters are all based on people I've met on this game."

I had no more of a plan than that when I began what would become "Heart of the Winterland".  scribbled out a quick idea, which went like this. "I'm going to have a princess and her invisible helper live in a kingdom that's always covered in snow. And they're going to go on a journey and meet people."

Yes . . . that was my grand idea. So I started writing somethings down, though still not very serious. I ended up getting involved in Forsaken World again. I really loved my friends there and at the time I could get a bit cagey at home.

I had quit my job, which was led me to game hunting in the first place. I found out 2 days later that I was pregnant so did not try to find a new job. This gave me 9 months of staying home and only seeing my husband after his combo work/school schedule. Not to mention all the college homework. After Cheyenne was born, I slowed down a bit, but there's only so much a baby can provide in terms of social interaction, especially since we were in a little apartment at the time.


So the game was my social outlet. When Cheyenne was 19 months old we moved and I stepped away from gaming cold turkey. Because we moved to a place where we couldn't get internet(so glad we can now!), I said goodbye to my group of friends(since we talked off-game as well).

After that, I refocused on my story, but at this point I started wondering if I could stick with it this time and finish.

I had been part of a writing site for several years and posted a few chapters of my work there. After awhile I got frustrated with the lack of response. It was nothing new for that site. I'd never seen many comments on anyone's work. But this time it bothered me. This time I wanted feedback. I started reaching out to people who were listed on the site as willing to "beta read". 30 people and not one response.

It was then that I decided that I wanted to shop around for a new place to post my work for feedback. I wanted constructive feedback, not just "this is good" or "this sucks". After doing some research I joined Scrib and posted what I'd written.

The difference was . . . wow. I got immediate feedback, and though there is a lot of networking that goes into finding exactly what you need out of the site, it was obvious from the start that it was worth it. It took some work and a lot of trial and error to find the right partners, but I eventually met so many people who were interested in my work, and me in theirs.

Having people reading and enjoying my work pushed me to keep going. I watched as my writing improved and I learned new things.

When it's all said and done, I have something to show from the time I poured into writing. I'm also able to fit it into my schedule and not have it take away time from my family. I'm learning and enjoying myself, and that's something I'll have even after I publish.

 Winterland grew from 2 lines about a story I fully expected to drop shortly after beginning to a complete novel. I'm still not sure what happened LOL.

Friday, February 5, 2016

To be a writer

So my initial intent for starting a blog was to create a social platform for myself as a writer. There's a lot of discussions about what a writer should or shouldn't have on their blog. I feel like there's tons of blogs with advice about writing and informational posts on writing. I don't have the credentials or the skills to feel like I can create "writing posts" that can compete with what's out there.

In order to(hopefully) write a blog that intrigues people, I decided to just write whatever strikes me. This means I have posts about my life and a lot of times they won't have anything to do with writing. I think writers are just like any other person out there. We have lives that extend past our writing. Maybe its a job, friends, family, other hobbies, but we all have things that fill up our days.

Some people are organized writers, others are scattered. Some have lots of time to write, or more accurately some make the time to write a lot. And then others don't. We all have the same amount of time in our day, we just split it up differently. I believe most people could find time to write more if they wanted. Like myself, I write at night after everyone is in bed until I get too tired myself and go to bed. That span of time is about 11pm - 1am. I'm not always writing that entire time and I don't always stay up for that length of time.

As far as writers go, I'm slow, very slow. But that's okay, that's what I've made time for and it works for me.

While most of my posts probably won't be about writing, writing is still a part of my life and on occasion I do want to post about it. They probably won't be the educational posts that some people create(as I said, I'm not qualified to write anything that can top what's out there), but I hope they'll be interesting all the same.

If someone asked me how long I've been a writer I wouldn't know quite how to answer. I suppose it all depends on a person's definition of "a writer".

To answer as best I can, I must take you back in time. A long, long time ago. In a gala-- wait, wrong story.

But yes, I started writing at a young age. I would most accurately have described myself as a dreamer for most of my life, rather than a writer. I loved to invent imaginary worlds and stories. I liked inventing games where my siblings and I would be in an imaginary world. We'd be wolves, or Indians, or orphans, or fairies, or whatever struck my fancy(I say my because I was usually the jerk dragging them around). Boxcar children, we'd pretend we lived in a boxcar.

My first stories that I recall are stored somewhere in one of my packrat boxes. My grandmother took them and got them printed and laminated as little books. One is about a turtle family where every turtle's name starts with "t".

For the most part my dreaming and creating never reached paper. I'd come up with stuff faster than I wanted to take the time to write it down. Thinking is so much faster than writing. I liked writing, but I never wanted to slow down long enough to do it.

At one point I'd created two extensive "worlds" that I'd spent enough time in that I realized they had the perfect elements to be turned into novels. I had organized tons of details in various notebooks. Characters, places, plot lines, worldbuilding, etc. I knew every character inside and out. I knew how the story went from start to finish.

I tried to write both "series" and failed. I couldn't even finish a single chapter of either series. I would try and fail, over and over and over. It was disheartening and I realized the stories I was so passionate about might never exist for anyone but me.

The problem was fairly simple. I figured that out right away, but it was a problem I wasn't sure I could fix.

I'd figured out every element of my story to the point where I could play it like a movie in my mind. It was perfect. But what I was putting on paper was not. And I HATED it. I hated the rubbish I was staring at because it wasn't anywhere close to my perfect vision. I couldn't move forward when I couldn't even stand what I had written.

Eventually I gave up. Off and on over the years I'd try again, but the same thing would happen. I couldn't "forget" my perfect idea. I couldn't just "not recall" the details. And as long as I could remember how the story should look, I couldn't tolerate it looking anything but that way.

Fast forward to 2013. Something happened to make me consider writing again. But this time was different. For one, I wasn't that serious about it. I mean, come on, I'd failed so many times before(not even finishing a chapter is pretty bad) that it would've been ridiculous to take this attempt seriously. The second thing was that since I wasn't taking this serious and it was a complete whim, I decided to write a different story than the ones I'd wanted to create.

This time, though, it worked. For the first time I actually feel like I can call myself a writer and not be a sham.

What was different? It could be as simple as I was older, but I think I can pin down some good theories as to why it worked for me this time.

- I'm a pantser, not a plotter. When I started writing in 2013, I didn't know those terms, but once I did I was like, "yes, that's me. I'm a pantser." This means I make stuff up as I go along and like a blindfolded baby giraffe, I fumble around and somehow find my way.

When I'd tried to plan out an entire story I grew frustrated when the product didn't match my vision. When I make it up as I go there's no expectation. I don't look at what I write and think "this isn't like the picture I imagined" because there is no picture I'm following. I no longer feel like I'm failing.

That doesn't mean that I'm churning out the perfect first draft. It's just I'm putting out a first draft that I don't hate so bad that I quit.

- Support. I have support like I've never had before. My husband has been amazing in encouraging to me write and getting equally excited as I've neared publishing. After meeting several amazing people in an online writing community, I started a small group to make it easier to work with these people(and so they could meet each other).

The group is a bit larger now! But it's been beneficial for me, and I hope for others as well. Knowing that people are there to encourage me, brainstorm with me, and help me improve is a great motivator. Not to mention knowing that people are enjoying my work helps me feel like I'm providing a good story.

- An environment geared towards learning. With my online group I have people from all over that bring a vast array of skills. People who've helped me grow and become a better writer. My grammar will always be a nightmare, but it's improved miles in the past year and a half. I've learned what works, what doesn't, when I'm on the right path, and when I've "lost the plot".

Overall I feel more confident in my abilities.  I'm no longer just a dreamer; I'm a writer. I have confidence that I can not just create an interesting story, but write a cohesive novel.

I went from not being able to get past chapter one, to completing a novel. I'll be publishing my first book this spring and I hope to have more in the future.

I'll try and do another post soon on my novel and how I came up with the idea. What inspired me to start again and when I realized it was more than just a whim.