Week three went about as good as I expected, which wasn’t great. I honestly have no idea what I’m doing. I mean like literally, I still don’t really have a story. I’m working with a vague idea and couple of characters. I thought working with workshop drafts would have inspired some new ideas, but not so much. I expanded on a few of them, but they weren’t as productive as I thought they’d be. This week I had to start from scratch and it was an uphill battle all week.
I had the added bonus of feeling kind of sick all week. Nothing major just a little congestion but also feeling really run down. Didn’t get much of anything done all week. I still managed to write everyday, which at this point is a bigger goal for me than my wordcount. I’ve completely given up on catching up and reaching the 50,000 word mark by the end of the month. I’m going to keep it up though. I lost of a bit of momentum, but I feel like writing everyday has had an effect on my productivity. I hope to keep it up after this month.
This year’s project revolves around Dante, a character I’ve been writing about for quite a few years. (Check out her fictional blog) I haven’t posted to the blog in some time, but she’s still very much in my head. For a while every workshop prompt would end up being about her or somebody in her world. So I have all these bits and pieces that I decided I would type up, finish, expand, whatever. Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m doing. I don’t really have a story in mind yet, just barely the tiniest spark of an idea. But I decided to go with it any.
Week 2 Writing
So far it’s been pretty easy, mostly I’m just typing up handwritten drafts. As I go along I’m adding extra little bits and expanding or finished incomplete scenes. I’ve still been running behind on my daily wordcount. Hosting the write-ins have been extremely helpful, days I really didn’t feel like writing, I pretty much had no choice. While I didn’t want to overwhelm myself, it might have been a good idea not to skip days. It pretty obvious the days without write-ins I’m a whole lot less productive. Wednesdays seem to be the worst day, two weeks in a row, I only managed a few hundred words. I’m trying not to stress too much on it. Instead I’m focusing on the achievement of writing everyday. That a big win to celebrate no matter what my actual output is. I knew this would be a big challenge, especially since I’m not solely dedicated to the NaNo project.
This week I finished all of the drafts I had. Now I am working completely from scratch. So, we’ll see how I progress going forward. Today is officially the halfway point and I’m at 19086 words, my average words per day is 1272 and I’m on track to finish by December 9th.
The majority of my working life, I haven’t worked typical Monday to Friday jobs work weeks. Yet I’ve always felt the pressure to conform to that standard. With it has come the dreaded Monday syndrome. While it includes the feeling of having a fresh start, it also includes not wanting to go back to work after the weekend. It’s continued now that I am freelancing with no day job. Many a weeks have passed where Monday came and I just wasn’t really into doing anything productive. It was a day for me just to really begin preparing for the week ahead.
Image credit: 7thplanetout via DeviantArt
I wonder sometimes if it’s not just peer pressure to align my schedule with the rest of the business world or if it’s ingrained in me from years of school. Actually for a long time I’ve based my life according to academic calendars, whether I was in school or not. I spent many summers wasting away time, more concerned with hanging out and enjoying the weather. But the minute September comes, it feel like it’s time to buckle down and get to work.
I’m really not sure how to break out of these cycles. Honestly I feel like its a major roadblock to being more productive and successful. I also wonder if other people that work odd schedules feel this way. I’d like to know how many writers work out routines that resemble normal office hours. Reading about successful writers I realized I do need some sort of schedule but I haven’t been able to successfully implement one. I’ve tried but honestly unless I am accountable to somebody else I find it hard to stick with it. I wonder if there are any successful writers that simply wing it doing what they want whenever they feel like it. I suspect that doesn’t work very well.
I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this subject. If you’ve found a way to chase way the Monday blues, or embraced a totally different weekly schedule fill me in on your secret.
The one part of nonfiction writing I dread the most is interviewing people. Well actually I think it’s asking that I hate the most. It seems weird to ask a complete stranger and I’m tired of asking people I know. As a result I haven’t done many interviews, but I have made plenty of mistakes. Here’s a few I thought might be helpful. I know I’ll be avoiding them in the future.
Interviewing friends I thought everything I needed to know was already in my head. I didn’t think there was any need to do research like I did for strangers. But I realized that research stage was helpful for many different reasons. It gave me a chance to narrow down what information about them would be relevant to the final story. I’m also able to brainstorm questions and start to form the main topics that will be covered.
I admit I’m a big procrastinator. More than once I’ve waited a long time to start writing. The longer I’ve waited the harder the writing process become. It’s harder to focus, remember details, or feel excited about writing.
I once did an interview with my notes in three different places. I don’t know why but I had everything organized in different ways. It ended up making things kind of complicated for me during the interview. It also made it harder when I went back to them in the writing process. The best part being I misplaced one of the notebooks that had most of the notes I made during the interview.
I think my biggest mistake has been avoiding doing a live interview. I started doing interviews by email because it was convenient and easy. Especially if scheduling was an issue, it let the subject answer whenever they had the time. It became my go to thing and I didn’t even consider other options. Then I realized that email can also easily be forgotten or ignored. I’ve had people commit to an interview then never respond after I sent the questions. After a reminder or two I finally gave up. I lost out on an interview and experience that I needed.
In December of 2001 I was back home from school after a year and a half. I struggled to find a steady job full-time job for almost a year. I eventually stumbled upon a bakery that was hiring retail sales people. I spoke with the manager and gave him my resume. I called to follow up several times until he finally put me on the schedule. It started part-time and I grew to really enjoy working there. It was a relaxed workplace where I easily learned and quickly took on new tasks. It taught me a lot of patience and great people skills. Working at the bakery my goal was to pay off my debt and eventually return to school. However, as my role at the bakery continued to grow I became comfortable and in no hurry to return.
Not expecting the bakery to be long-term I occasionally looked for work and made attempts at improving my skill sets and experience. I searched for internships that didn’t require school credit and found a work at home program promoting bands. I was sent a package of promotional posters, cd’s, stickers, etc. that I was to post and give out around the city, then take pictures and send them back to the company. I wasn’t motivated enough to do the work on my own, especially since I had no interest in the band I was assigned and quit very early. Since I was interested in writing for the web I tried learning HTML with a self learning kit. I learned basic coding easily but I didn’t really have a way to put it to use. I wrote stories and poetry occasional. I also tried to improve my writing with free online classes and joined the website DarkPoetry.com. The site is a community for writers to post work, receive commentary and support. I also submitted for publication once in a blue moon. But due to a lack of discipline my I wasn’t very consistent and easily let other things in life take priority over writing.
After several years at the bakery I moved into a full-time position handling wholesale business. But I was getting restless and there wasn’t much more room for growth. I still wanted to work in a field related to writing but lacked the experience or degree to gain a position. When I did start applying to jobs, the only offer I received was in accounting for the food service industry. I don’t mind accounting work, it’s easy and I’m good at it. But it still wasn’t something I wanted to do long term. With my failed efforts on my own to gain the experience, knowledge and skills I would need to move to something else I realized it was time to go back to school. I turned down the offer to stay at the bakery after negotiating a raise and a flexible schedule, both of which I would need to return to school.
When I was younger I didn’t really plan ahead long term. I did well in school each year to move up to the next grade and eventually go to college, get a degree and a good job. What college that should be and what job it might lead me to wasn’t something I thought too hard about. I imagined and day dreamed about different careers but it seemed so far off that I’d have plenty of time to plan for the future. I was also over confident that everything would just fall into place as they had in the past. I didn’t really put much effort into applying for college. I waited until the last minute to take the SAT’s, didn’t research many schools and didn’t visit any.
I stumbled upon DePaul University as part of a scholarship program I applied for. I wanted to go because of their communications and journalism program. I didn’t get the scholarship and ended up at SUNY Brockport. I was also accepted to Nazareth College but financial aid only covered half the tuition and boarding. I didn’t see anyway I could afford it and didn’t think it really mattered where I went anyway. I went mostly because I felt obligated. I didn’t think I’d learn anything useful, it was just a hurdle to getting a better job later on. My main motivation was to get away from home. I was very independent, wanted to get away and experience different places. I didn’t even look at any schools in New York City. I’m not sure if I would have gone to school right away if I stayed home. I was tired of learning in the classroom and more excited about hands on experience.
I admit part of me was trying to run away from a life that I was unhappy with. I thought maybe leaving home would change how I felt. It didn’t work, my heart wasn’t into school and it possibly made things worse. I ended my first year on academic probation because of my low grade point average. Having little else to do in the small college town I let myself get wrapped up in partying and enjoying the freedom of being away from home. I focused on enjoying the present instead planning for the future. When I returned to school in the fall things didn’t get much better. By October I realized I was wasting my time upstate and it would be my last semester there. I came home depressed and discouraged. I owed the school my full tuition for the last semester because I never finished the financial aid paperwork and had bills I neglected to pay. Before I could think about planning for the future I had to get a job, any job in order pay my debt. I planned on going back to school after I payed off the debt and had a better idea of what I wanted to do. I still occasionally wrote but didn’t invest any real time, money or energy into writing. Instead I pushed it aside for later when the time was right.
So I’ve made a lot of mistakes, we all do, right? I would have made just as many no matter what I decided. So I would probably do it all the same if I had a chance to do it over. I may not have learned anything in classes but the experiences were well worth the time upstate. My writing career may have been stalled because of the lack of planning. Then again I’m not sure if I would have a writing career if things played out differently. I needed to make those mistakes and take some detours to realized what it is that I actually want. The only thing I regret is not making writing a priority in my life. I let it become something to do when I had the time, instead I should have been making the time. I got caught up living life and trivial little things seemed very important. I wasted many years because I forgot what was really important to me.
I want to start off by recognizing that I am lucky to have a job, and one that I don’t hate at that. I’ve had jobs that I’ve hated in the past, where I woke up and dreaded the thought of spending the day at work. Jobs where every night I had to make a pit stop for a drink or two to unwind. I’ve had jobs where the very thought of it made me sick. Of course it didn’t start out that way. Most of my jobs I had for several years. I stayed because although I had minor gripes I was generally happy. I am a quick learner and usually progressed very quickly. Eventually, that progressed stopped and everyday started feeling exactly the same. Out of frustration, I became discouraged and thought any effort I put into work wasn’t appreciated. I also didn’t really have a passion for the work that I was doing.
This was part of my motivation for going back to school. I always planned on writing but fell back on my early administrative and accounting experience to pay the bills. Eventually, I began taking steps to transition careers and thought a degree would help. While in school I ended up working in the business office of the college. While I was in school it worked out great and it was only supposed to be temporary. After graduation, my main goal was to find a full-time job and pay off the debt I had built up during the years of school. So last year when a coworker decided to retire and I was offered her position, I figured I should take it. I hadn’t had much luck finding anything else since graduation.
My goal was to pay off my bills as fast as possible so I wouldn’t have to worry as much about money. This way I would be open to taking a position based more on the fit instead of the salary. However, I have noticed a huge amount of slacking off on my job search. Not only do I not have the energy or time to commit myself to job hunting, I’ve noticed myself being picky about the jobs I apply for. I rationalize it by thinking why should I leave somewhere I’m generally happy at for anything less than the perfect job. So instead I’ve been sticking it out while not taking any risk to find something better. I’m think I’m holding on to this job because I’m just too comfortable. After almost four years, I’ve proven my hard work ethics and have developed a friendly relationship with coworkers and bosses. However, I have bad days where I feel over worked, stressed or even bored. I have started seeing the warning signs that I missed in the past that got me to the point where I didn’t care anymore. I also realize the longer I stay the harder it will be to leave. At some point, I may begin to hate it, maybe out of boredom or simply because I’ll get stuck and not fulfill my plans.
I’m feel stuck the only way to move forward is to leave my comfortable job. Somehow I have to create that sense of urgency I’ve had in the past when job hunting. At times I found a job within weeks of starting my search. If I really want to move on with my new career I have to take a risk and quit whether I have a new job or not. The only question now is how and when?
For the past year or so I have wanted to get back into writing poetry. However, it’s been a while and I feel kind of rusty. I figured the best way to get back into the flow would be to read more poetry. In high school I took a great deal of interest in poetry reading and writing, but eventually my excitement for poetry faded. I decided to move on to other types of writing and never seemed to find my way back. Other than one or two, I can’t really name poets that I like, inspire me, or that I want to aspire to. To get myself going, I asked around members of online groups for others favorite poets, especially contemporary ones. Armed with a list I hit up the library checking out more than I could carry. I resolved to read at least a couple of poems everyday. However, it was a task I found in reality was just not happening.
I realize now that in the past I had lots of free time on my hands. At lunch during high school, I would frequently visit a neighborhood bookstore buying anthologies of poetry for a dollar or two. I’d spend the rest of my break sitting around reading them. Then I had days where I would just wander around the city finding hidden secluded places to read. I’m pretty sure those days ended right after high school granWith all the demands on my time now I can’t even remember to pick up a book of poetry most days. Plus the fast pace of life and trying to keep up with several commitments at once I feel like I don’t have time for it either. I’ve always had this perception of poetry reading as a leisurely activity that needs to be done with no distractions. But my world will always be filled with distractions and I’m not going to be living the life of leisure anytime soon.
Luckily, I think I found a way to get past all of this and get in poetry everyday. I signed up for daily poem emails, one from the Poetry Foundation and the other Poetry.org. Now everyday without thinking about it I am reminded to stop for a minute and read a poem. It may be rushed some days, a quick scan as I clean out my inbox for the day, but at least it’s in there. Usually I’ll save the ones I like in a folder, hopefully to go over again later. One of the best parts of the emails is finding writers that I may have never thought to read or even heard of. Most of my adult life now I’ve let poetry take a backseat to higher priority obligations, but it’s something that always comes back to mind as something I should have always put more effort into. I know poetry may never be a profitable endeavor but that has never been the purpose of it. I just enjoyed it.
As somebody who always wanted a career in writing and publishing, I thought many times of trying out the Gotham Writers Workshop classes. However, after looking at some of the prices and not knowing what to expect I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. Recently, after following their Facebook page I saw an offer for the At-A-Glance free class. Of course, I’m up for almost anything as long as it is free and it was completely worth it.
They had instructors in three different genres discuss major elements and then we worked on a short exercise. We went over fiction writing, focusing on character development. The class answered questions about the character’s occupation, dream job, relationship status, age, and even what she looked like. The exercise got us writing about a conflict like what the worst thing she ever did. We also went over non-fiction and how you could still use your imagination with character descriptions, structure, and even speculating about particular elements of the story. Our exercise prompted us to speculate on a true story.
I think the most fun and enlightening was the lesson in screen writing. The instructor spoke about the tone of a movie. The tone can be another way to describe the perspective of the story. Through changing the perspective the tone will change. This then leads to distinguishing the genre. The exercise we had was to take a log line (short description of plot) of a movie and write it from a different perspective changing the genre. This is a good exercise to help define the genre and lead your writing if you are struggling. Because I enjoyed this so much I’ll share with you what I wrote. I picked the movie, American Psycho.
“A young successful Wall Street Broker struggles to fit in with his overly-materialistic social circle. Infidelity, drug-use and petty jealousy leads to a mental breakdown.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m was really glad that they were able to work in exercises to get us writing. They also had food and drinks for after that class and we got the chance to socialize with the other attendees and the instructors. I’m very glad I got to find out about their classes. In fact I found out that in addition to their courses that last several weeks they also have single day workshops called write-ins. The write-ins seem like a great way to get writing more often and a great way to meet other writers.
So I have been doing a lot of thinking lately and wondering what the hell I want to do with my life. Yet I still have no answers. At the beginning of this year I started my own website, it is dedicated to the music journalism work that I like doing. Now I am starting to sort of regret it. It has been a real eye opener for me. I am starting to not enjoy it one bit. But if I don’t want to do that then what do I want.
I have been looking for internships and this is why this has been bugging me. I’m not sure what kind of internship to apply to now. I was initially going to go for music magazines, or magazines that have a music section I could write for. But now it seems like if I do that I will be just as tortured as any other job. The whole point of school and everything I do was to get into a area that I love. If I feel tortured every time I think about writing an album review how will I get through it for the rest of my life.
I also have started working as the music editor for a local student run magazine. This work seems so much more satisfying. I like being able to reach out to public relations and such to get albums for others to review. I also enjoy the editing process so much more than the writing process. Unfortunately, I know no matter where I end up in magazines I will one have to start at the bottom and two will still have to write certain things myself.
So this leaves me with several questions. Do I continue with working in music journalism? Do I pursue my other interest? If so what?