Monday, February 19, 2018

Typing vs. Writing by Hand

What is the sound of writing and creativity to you? Is it the clicking of keys on a keyboard? Or the scratch of a pen or pencil on paper? Do any of you ever handwrite any of your stories anymore?

Writing by hand and typing are two different processes you can take when you write a story. Both are writing, yes, but both are so different from each other. I've done a fair share of creative writing using both methods, and today, I'm going to talk about the pros and cons of each of them.

It's faster. I know people who can type faster than they can think, especially faster than they can think of words to write down. So when you type, your hands don't have any problem keeping up with your thoughts. (Especially if you compare it to writing everything out by hand!)

It's easier to change things. If I just misspelled a word at the beginning of this sentence (like I actually did, haha), I can fix it and no one would know. If I was handwriting? Well, I could erase the mistake - if I was using a pencil. Or I could cross it out, leaving an ugly disfigurement to the paper. Or I could let it be and pray no one minds too much. Typing gives me the freedom to make mistakes and fix them, and lets me stay focused on what's right for the story.

It's so much easier to share. Beta-reading, critiquing, or just showing others your work is hard when the only copy out there is in a notebook. But a typed document can be copied and shared in a few seconds. This can also work to the author's advantage in other times. Recently, I was at the library without my laptop, and had time to kill. I was able to log online and go to Google Docs, and work on my novel from there.

But typing does have its downsides. I think the biggest one is that it's so easy to get disconnected to your story. I find it similar to digital books and print books; for me, it's harder to feel emotion and connection to the story when it's separated from me by a screen. Typing can feel so clinical, so mind-numbing and receptive, that it's harder to focus on the content that you're writing.

You feel productive, like a millionaire tech boss. Alright, not as serious, but surely I'm not the only one that feels like an important, productive company owner or tech guru when my fingers are flying over the keys like crazy? The sound of clickety-clackity busy-ness? Come on guys, you know you feel it.

As our technology advanced, typing becomes more and more viable. However, there are some things that I think technology can never perfect, and writing by hand also has its merits.

It helps focus. Writing by hand takes time - your hand literally cannot keep up with your brain. And that means that for every word that you write, you have time to think about it. You have a few extra seconds to decide if you really want to chose that word or follow that little plot bunny.

It improves creativity. According to multiple studies, writing improves creativity, and allows you to think of more options. From personal experience, I can vouch for this. There's so much freedom when you have a pen in hand that can glide down a page. That sense of freedom kind lets me relax and breathe - sets my mind free, you could say.

It's portable. When I didn't have a laptop, this meant I could write from any room in the house instead of the family's desktop. Once I got my first (clunky, heavy) laptop, writing in a notebook meant I could write on the go. With my second (oh-so-much-lighter) laptop, writing by hand means that I don't need to carry my laptop around in a large backpack or purse, and I can pull out a small notebook in just a few seconds.

It's slow. Like typing, writing by hand does have its fair share of cons. I know that I discussed how great writing slowly is, but there's also a negative side to it. You can start to over-think things, and start to entertain doubts about your project and your writing in general. when you go slow, you can plan and that's great, but there comes a time when you may be constantly questioning whether this word or that word really works there.

You feel like an author. A steaming mug of tea or coffee (or your drink of choice), a cozy sweater, holed up at your desk as rain drums on the roof. You know - the picture-perfect author? (That is actually barely ever accurate) The pen glides across the page and you think "This is how Shakespeare wrote his plays." (Except Shakespeare probably didn't use a gel pen. Hmm.)

Until the past year, most of my writing was by hand. I didn't have a laptop and handwriting was the easiest option there was. Even my Nanos were done by hand - and you could tell what season it was based on the size of my writing. My letters would get tiny in November and December, around March it would start to get a little bigger, and by August it would be maybe normal size. And then it would start over.

When I got a laptop for school use, it took some time to actually move my writing to it. I didn't - don't - like the idea of spending all my time staring at a screen. But soon, the speed and flexibility won out, and I was doing most of my writing on the computer. That was definitely cemented this past Nano, when I typed my novel through the entire month.

And when I changed it up, I noticed a shift in my writing. Typing helped me when it came to speed and getting words down on a page or editing and making frequent changes. But when it came to planning, plotting, brainstorming and writing short pieces to help me solidify character and world building, writing by hand helped me think in new ways.

In the end, both typing and writing by hand has their strengths. Both of them work, and it's up to personal preference. Each of them has something to offer. But the difference between them might surprise you.

So try changing up your writing sometimes. Use a laptop or a pen and notebook or a typewriter. Does it change how you write or think?

Do you like to type your stories, write by hand, or some combination of the two? What do you think about writing by hand vs. typing? 

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Procrastinator's Battle: What if You Fly?

Last week, we talked about one thing that drives procrastination: fear. Today, we're going to expand upon that a little more, and talk about how we can use that knowledge to procrastinate less. Because it's all well and good to know what causes us to procrastinate, but that doesn't necessarily stop it.

Also - I'm sharing some of my writing! Savannah, over at Scattered Scribblings, is featuring a short story I wrote last fall for a writing contest she hosted. She is such a sweet, amazing person and has a gorgeous blog, so you should totally go check it out!

We've talked about fear that keeps you from acting, and there's a poem I found a while ago that I think describes this quite well. The poet "e.h.," or Erin Hansen, has a way with words - her works are breathtaking, and they can really make you think. And this one goes:

There is freedom waiting for you
On the breezes of the sky
And you ask "What if I fall?" 
Oh but my darling, 
What if you fly? 

What if I fall? That is a question I ask myself so many times, in so many ways. It's one of the many disguises that the monster Self-Doubt wears. "What if I can't?" "It looks too hard." "I'm not ready." "What will they think of me?" "What if I fail?" 

This fear is so powerful that it leaves me paralyzed. I’m on the edge of a cliff, and I can’t decide if I want to commit to jumping into the wind. Instead, I just let the minutes tick away, let time pass until it won’t matter anymore. I'm putting off a decision. I'm procrastinating.

Because in the end, even not closing to act has its consequences, and I have to make a decision one way or another. Action or inaction. Now or later.

I can stay still. I can watch the wind, and wonder, and put off jumping for another few days. And do exactly nothing. Because staying paralyzed means taking no chances. It’s playing it safe, but safe means never changing, not doing anything.

Or I can jump. 

And I know that there’s always the chance I might fall, mybody plummeting towards the bottom of the chasm and hitting the ground with a sick crash. Maybe I’ll float, slowly sinking lower and lower until I stumble onto the ground and collapse. But if I do fall, I’ll pick myself off and I'll climb up the cliff and start over, having learned a few things. Because the fall won't kill me.

But maybe I'll fly, spreading wings I didn't know I had. Soaring in the air and looking down at the land below like a bird. But if I don’t jump, I’ll never know that I even had wings to fly with. I’d never give myself the chance to try. And I’d never be able to know how wonderful it to soar in the sky.

With that being said, how do you battle procrastination? Knowing your adversary is all well and good, but how do you overcome it? 

Confront your fear. Why are you procrastinating - what specifically are you afraid of? And once you answer that question, ask yourself what is the absolute worst that can happen? Often, it's something that you can deal with, or something that you deep down know will not be so bad. Defining your fear can have 

Get others to hold you accountable. It's not uncommon for my sister and I ask each other "Hey, are you working?" during the day. Sometimes, we'll hold things captive - such as books or tablets - so that certain distractions are out of the way. Other times, I'll ask her to check up on me every so often, just to ask "What are you doing?" Knowing that someone is watching me helps to stay on track. 

On a similar note - work with someone else. Recently, I went to the library to work and unexpectedly saw a friend. We talked, and I sat down across from them. And even though they couldn't seen what was on my screen, I noticed a huge change in my work. I was able to get the rest of my schoolwork for the day done in an hour because I was motivated to be serious, because someone else was there. 

Change your environment. Move from the couch in the living room to table in the kitchen. Go to a cafe or the library and set up shop there. The same distractions are available when you stick to the same areas - and changing it up can send a signal to your brain that "Oh - it's time to get serious." 

Get the hard things out of the way first. That way, you can't drag your feet at the end of the day because It's late I need to sleep I can do it tomorrow right? Wrong. Plan that hard phone call in the morning, before anything else. Work on that tough outline first, and then you can move on to your other, easier work. Which brings me to - 

Reward yourself. Finish one more difficult government questions, and you get a chapter of Harry Potter. Write five hundred new words, and you can goof off for five minutes. Sometimes, I'll have a cycle - fifteen minutes of writing, fifteen minutes of school, one chapter of a book - that keeps me refreshed enough to keep going through a few different tasks. Feel free to reward yourself for getting hard work done! 

And lastly, most importantly, forgive yourself. Don't beat yourself up for failing to do a few tasks. Take a few deep breaths, smile, and say to yourself "Hey, it's all right." Being angry because you couldn't get it done will only stress you out even more. Sometimes we don't get everything done - and that's fine. Your worth is not defined by what you did or what you can do.

I hope that this post helped you to fight procrastination. I would love to hear your opinion on all of this. How do you battle procrastination? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Procrastinator's Battle - The Fear that Keeps us from Writing

What keeps you from writing? Nothing, you may tell me. I'm always writing. All right, fine. Let me rephrase that. What makes it hard for you to write? 

Unless you're some super amazing writer god and writing is never hard for you (in which case, I want all your secrets), you should have an answer to that question. Time. Writer's block. Procrastination. Insecurity. Sometimes, although some writers don't like to admit it, it's like you're battling for the pen. Writer vs. Big Scary Forces. 

And that's what this series is going to look at. Those big scary forces that try to discourage you from writing. (Because no, this completely wasn't going to be only one post until I actually wrote it out and realized I was both rambling and wanted to add some more points. No, not at all.)

A Procrastinator's Battle

One of my biggest struggles against work in general is procrastination. There are times when I can procrastinate an entire day of school away (I'm ashamed to say that's happened more than once).

A few months ago, I heard someone say that procrastination is a product of fear, and that the reason we repeatedly put off actions is because we are afraid of something that might happen as a cause of those actions. When I first heard that, I scoffed, unconvinced. I’m not afraid. Reading a book is just more fun than finishing that essay.

But when I started to examine those times that I put off answering emails or turn away from whatever I was working on, I began to realize that the person was right. What are you afraid of? I asked myself when I took the tenth break in half an hour. What’s holding you back? And once I searched for it, there was always an answer buried somewhere. Each fear might not have been obvious – but it was there.

A fear of failure. A fear of what someone else would think. A fear of the unknown. Each one would appear in simple costumes. I’ll be better rested tomorrow. Just one more chapter. I can work on math now. All together, they work to push away whatever action I need to complete that I don’t want to. That I’m afraid to.

Once I began to notice procrastination in my general life, it only took a few weeks to notice when I was procrastinating in my writing. I didn’t notice it at first; procrastination is sneaky like that, giving you so many good reasons why you can’t focus just yet. But it was there, and it was only a matter of time before I noticed that my writing sessions were becoming less and less productive. Opening a new tab every few minutes. Spending half an hour deciding on fun but unnecessary world-building details.

A little fear and a little doubt is common in writing. Little fishhook questions poke at authors all the time, waiting to sink their barbs into them and reel them in. In all the projects I procrastinated on, I let myself listen to the little doubts that came wriggling into my mind. But what if this plot is too weak? This was stupid. Who would want to read this? What if no one likes it? What if the plot is clichĂ© and overused and way too complex? What if, what if, what if.

I recognized the symptoms, but when I tried to diagnose the fear, it wasn’t staring me in the face. I had to dig for it.As a writer, I’ve learned that what if questions are some of the most powerful and amazing questions there are. Also as a writer, I’ve learned that they can be some of the most terrifying. And when I started to look under all of those doubts, I saw one question that underlied them all: What if I’m just wasting my time here?

I was afraid that I was wasting time on any one project.

Right now, I see people my age working internships and at jobs. I hear them talking about their majors in college or their plans to go into the military or their plans at life. I see teens I knew when I was a kid getting married and having children. And I see me, trying to decide if my race of shapeshifters should be able to naturally fly or not.

And a little demon sits on my shoulder and asks me, if this isn’t the story, if this is some two hundred thousands words that will never see the light of day again, then why should I waste my time writing it right now? Couldn't I be doing something more productive? he hisses at me.

That's my fear that holds me back. But there are others, too. The fear that you'll never be good enough. The fear that no one will like what you've written. The fear that nothing matters. You have to find your own fears; I can't do that for you. But there might be a deeper cause of your procrastination than you think. 

So we've learned what's hiding under procrastination. Next time, we'll take a look at your options in the face of of this fear and in the face or procrastination in general. Until then, I wish you all the best, dear reader. 

What do you think? Do you have things that keep you from writing? Do you see procrastination as a form of fear? 

Monday, January 29, 2018

What I Learned from my Sixth NaNoWriMo

Right now, somewhere in the depths of my laptop, is a document I haven't opened it since sometime last month. I'm dying to open it and play with it, even though I've made myself not touch it since early December. But I know exactly what's in it - 55,484 words of a story that I wrote in November. Waiting for the dust to settle on it, and then for me to come and clean it up.

I am so eager to sweep in and save my little gem from the depths of my file system. But even though I'm chomping on the bit to get my hands on it again, I'm forcing myself to wait until at least six weeks have passed before opening it up again. And that deadline is drawing closer! I am so excited to get to work with my characters and make my plot, story world, and writing better.

I've done Nano for six years now - and this Nano was different from the rest in a few ways. I learned things from this crazy month of writing. Some of these were things that I "relearned, and some were more serious and some were flippant. And I think I'll remember them for a while.

What I learned from my sixth NanoWrimo

1. Typing a novel is amazing. 

This was my first year to actually type a novel. I know, I know - a bit late to the party. But before this, all of my Nano were handwritten in notebooks. And hand-counted.

But when I woke up on November 1, I wanted to try typing it. It was a split second decision, but within a few minutes, I had pulled up a Google Docs file and was agonizing over what the first line should be.

And it was glorious. I could delete sentences! I could skip ahead and work backwards! I could get a word count in a few seconds! I could even remove a piece of dialogue from the last page and base my entire next scene on it! 

To many of you, this may be something simple - but I hadn't had this freedom of typing a novel before. And there were times that I remembered my reasons for sticking to notebooks and pens. I was on the computer for a lot longer,  and couldn't write on the go as easily. My eyes and wrists got sore. My laptop was out of commission over Thanksgiving break and I got distracted . . . way too easily.

But despite those minor difficulties, typing gave me so much more freedom. I definitely am glad I decided to type my novel this year, and I know that my story was able to grow because of this.

2. Breaks are good thing

I've always seen Nano as the ultimate writing season. Even if it was only the one thing that I wrote in the entire year (and for some years, I'm ashamed to say, it was), it was time to push everything not important out of the way and get some writing done. 

I felt like I had to devote every spare minute to writing. And when I did take a break from writing to read a book or watch that movie, I would feel guilty. 

Spending time with family on Thanksgiving? Maybe - I have words to write. Decorate the Christmas tree? But I have only four more days and I'm a thousand words behind! 

This Nano, I made a point to put away the novel and spend time with family. And you know what? My wordcount didn't slip. I felt more refreshed and energized when I came back. And I had a great time with my family during Nano. 

I may be able to write when I'm twenty or thirty. I may even be able to write some version of this story then. But I would have lost the chance to make meaningful relationships with my family - and to me, that's more important than anything I could ever write.

3. It's alright to be clueless about what should happen next. 

Normally, I am not a pantser. I need to know what the next scene is, what the characters' motivations are, what kind of climax I'm building up to, etc. 

But . . . October of last year was crazy - and I didn't have time to seriously think about Nano. So I took one of the louder ideas in my head, and ran with it. And on November 1, I started with a vague idea about the setting and one character and no idea about how the story would end.

I added a few characters on the second day, because I could. I fell in love with my characters. I created conflict. But I still didn't know how I was going to wrap that conflict up.

And you know what? That was okay. This was a first draft - I was still getting to know these barely-one-month-old characters. And if it took me a while to find out where the story was going, it's fine. I could spend the time understanding what was going on in my characters' minds, and why they're driven towards this finish line. I didn't know what I was doing at times, but I was writing. And that's what matters.

My novel has holes. It has plotlines that look like a bunch of scrap yarn- tangled and knotted and messy. But that's what editing is for. Just so long as you keep writing, and you keep creating, you can make something from it.

4. First draft are made to be messy

Right now, my novel is a fragile, small origami piece. The paper is folded here and there, but it's wrinkled and bent in the wrong places. There are extra wings or horns growing on it. Its words are tangled together in little shreds - and some of those are barely hanging on to each other.  A puff of wind a poof! it could be gone.

This book will have to go over a lot of editing. My plotlines need to be strengthened. I need to decide what are subplots and what are abandoned rabbit trails. My characters could use some more fleshing out, and some could use some trimming. 

A lot of this is because I didn't now about my plotline while I was writing. I was experimenting, really. But what does matter is that I wrote it down, and that I want to keep on going. My story may need a lot of editing and revising, but it's 55,484 words more than I had originally. I have something can work with now - and it's something that I want to work with, too. 

Even when your first draft feels like a waste of time because it's not "perfect," remember - it's not supposed to be perfect. What matters in the first draft is that you write and keep writing. 

And that - in my humble opinion - is what Nano is all about. 

Some other things I learned and relearned this Nano: 

  • There is such a thing as an ankle holster for your gun. 
  • Wrist sheaths for knives look cool, but they aren't practical. 
  • There are different types of drunk people. Writing them is hard. 
  • A hickory tree grows about 80 feet tall, on average. 
  • The Internet is a demon. Especially when you absolutely need to focus at all costs. 

and, most importantly, I relearned that writing is amazing and I love it.

What about you - did you do Nano last year? What kind of things have you learned about writing recently? 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

In Which I Step into the Blogosphere

I think, once upon a time, I had a vague idea about a fancy introduction post. Like starting with an allusion to one of my favorite books. Or with some very wise advice. Or with sparkles and glitter and pizza. But that plan went out the window, and now we have a simpler beginning.

I'm horrible with introductions, but I'll do my best. If you want a more in-depth introduction, you can check out the "Who am I?" page, or you can just stick around to find out more. 

I'm True. I'm a writer. I started writing when I was about nine, and finished my first "novel" when I was about ten. (And that book is a work best left forgotten. And maybe fed to a dragon. *shudders*) But since then, I've grown more serious about my writing. I do dabble in short stories and maybe some poetry once in a while, but usually, my work in progress is a longer work. 

A few other things about me: I'm a reader, and have been devouring books since I was young. I'm a dreamer. I'm a thespian - as in a theater person - and am often working on a show, be it on stage or backstage. I'm just a tad bit crazy (all the best people are - wouldn't you agree?). I'm a homeschooled student, and am currently in my junior year in high school. I like candy corn. And ice cream. I never got my Hogwarts letter, but I'm pretty sure it got lost in the mail. 

I've been stalking exploring the blogosphere for a few years now, and am finally taking the leap and starting my own blog. A lot of this will be trial, error, and experimentation, but most of all, I hope that it will be fun for both me and you, dear reader. 

I'll mostly focus on writer-ly or reader-ly things on this blog (because those are both fun and are both totally words - shh!), but since I have trouble sticking to schedules I set myself and rules I set myself, this may change or get switched up every once in a while.  

But voilĂ  - this is me, and I'm going on an adventure. I hope that you will join me as we journey to, discover, and conquer the unknown!