Are you already prepping for NaNoWriMo? My thoughts – Please share yours!

I know… it’s August, but there are a couple reasons why I’m already thinking about November.

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This month, I’m finishing up my novel The Witch’s Uprising, gearing up for another year of teaching kids, and reading fantasy fiction as part of a 25inFive challenge.

I like keeping busy, but I also like balance.

I have a tendency to overbook myself when I don’t plan ahead. November is a particularly interesting month in terms of being busy:

  • My birthday is at the end of November, and I thought it would be a nice gift to send The Witch’s Uprising out to as many publishers as I could before my birthday. This feels like a the right step. I’ve already begun my research, and I feel more and more confident each day.
  • November is a nexus of obligations, celebrations, and explorations. I have to plan anything I’m doing ahead of time. Wedding planning, my teaching job, family, and friends obviously come first. So I need to manage my time and energy well if I want to continue writing during the year.
  • NaNoWriMo is in November, and I love the intoxicating energy bubbling through the online writing community. Even now, I imagine myself participating, just for enjoyment.

As I research and study several avenues of self-publication, online publication, and author-related social media, I notice that I often daydream about writing new pieces outside of my mainline series. It would be nice to draft a quick 50,000 word novel, if only to have fun writing with other people in the exquisite madness of NaNoWriMo. I’d like to reconnect with the joy of writing a new piece really, really, quickly.

Here are my questions to you:

  • Are you thinking of participating in NaNoWriMo?
  • Are you already prepping for November?
  • Are you working on something else?  

Share your thoughts in any case! I WANT TO KNOW.

-Curtis


 

(Psst….. You Can Read The Witch’s Uprising: Part One on Wattpad!)

Witch's Uprising Experimental Cover

 


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What just happened? Why I had to temporarily stop writing and re-asses how I create . . .

In the last two weeks, I have not written a single word, despite my original goal of reaching 180-300 hours of writing this summer. Why?

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A Downward Spiral of Inactivity

My relationship with time management is a funny one.

For weeks at a time, I feel like the most productive person ever, and then, for an equal span of time, I am the least productive person! I know some people can relate – especially writers.

Sometimes, I stop writing, because thinking about lost time causes a unique type of anxiety within me. It makes sitting down to write harder, and the inactivity perpetuates a negative emotional cycle. Usually, I feel a mixture of imposter syndrome and frustration. I view my work through an overly critical lense, leading me to abandon projects or spend less and less time towards writing my books.

These emotions lead to a lot of time spent thinking about my creative projects without actually doing them – biting my nails as to why I wasted two, three, or four days.

This was part of what happened this month, but not all.

Life Took Over in July

Earlier in July, I had other priorities to take care of in my life.

I needed to spend my time with important people that needed love, care, and attention. Attending to family was far more important than anything else going on. I have to spare you the details, as they are extremely personal and private.

During this last week, I needed to spend time away from writing. Just seeing my fiancé, my brother, and my immediate family, while getting back into exercise was what I needed. I had to take time to think about my life’s overall priorities and bolster my health and spirituality practices.

While taking this time, I had so many questions: What do I want to accomplish before my last breath? How can I be of service to other people in the next ten, twenty, or thirty years? Am I spending enough time with my family? In light of that question, does it even matter what I want to accomplish?

I realize now that this past week was about reminding myself of my priorities.

Yes, writing is important. It is meditative to me, and it is a thrilling hobby. However, my family and friends come first, before my creative projects.

My health comes first, before writing my novel. I needed to be present with all of it.


Despite My Frustrations…

I still need to finish my book, and honestly, I’m biting my nails!

My project The Witch’s Uprising, has taken me too long to write because I initially didn’t know how to manage my time. Earlier in the summer, I had finally reached a successful streak. I was running with the manuscript, full of creative flow. In July, life took over as mentioned above, I needed to take time off. And now… Now I’m trying to get back to writing again.

My gut tells me that taking time off it’s ok. It tells me I should take my time and that I shouldn’t rush. Still, my ego reminds me of the goals that I set. It reminds me that I should have been done, that I should have worked harder, that I should have pushed.

So which is right? Maybe both? Can I embrace the duality of this situation?

Maybe I’m overzealous. Maybe I’m setting goals that I cannot meet, and maybe that’s a recipe for disappointment.

Taking time off from my creative hobby made me understand a fundamental problem in my writing practice: I had not yet developed a balanced practice. Meaning, I had not yet found a way to work writing into my life where it wasn’t a high-octane endeavor at the exclusion of other important activities.

It’s time to try something new – an emotionally healthier way of writing these books. I’m going for balance, and I as I reach towards it, I’ll keep you posted.

Be well!!!

-Curtis


Share a comment below, or, you can connect with me here.

 

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“Just writing” – How a summer of writing is teaching me to do life better

This is one of a series of posts for my writing challenge, Minutes to a Better Book. You can read more about the challenge, and see all related posts here.  


 

 

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I Wrote an average of 2.5-3 hours a day, for ten days…

I’ve reached the 30-hour milestone for writing my books. I’m happy with the results:

  • An almost-finished manuscript of The Witch’s Uprising (TWU)
  • A longer manuscript than expected
  • Meaningful changes to character arcs and conflict
  • A completely posted Part One of TWU on Wattpad – You can read it here.
  • Rankings on Wattpad going up: 

    Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks
    One of my Instagram stories. @CurtisWritesBooks

Other Results:

  • I was able to work through some writer’s apprehension I’d been having over the last few months.
  • My mental health is better, and I’m starting to balance my life. This was the biggest success.

(There are, of course, always more details. You can check out my public posts on Patreon if you interested.  All public posts are available here. )


Just Doing vs. Meeting Quotas: What writing without a word count made me realize…

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Why does it feel so easy to write, all of a sudden? Maybe it’s because I have more time this summer than usual, but the very task of writing feels so different when I sit down to do it.

The real answer?

Between work obligations and commitments to friends and family, it had been hard to find time to create, and when I found the time, I didn’t write well.

I was out of balance. I touched on this briefly in my last post.

My time is balanced now, and when I sit down to write, I’m just writing and enjoying writing. It reminds me of a Zen Buddhist idea of being fully present while “just doing” something.

On that note, I stopped using word counts.

Writing without them has helped me be more creative. For example, I focused last week’s time on crafting scenes, and I wasn’t worried about reaching a quota of words. My characters came to life instead of robotically moving through their conflicts.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been a fan of using word counts in the past, and why not? Word counts are useful. It’s nice to set a challenge. It’s nice to do a writing sprint every once in a while, but any method can become a crutch. The act of writing was no longer fun when I was just aiming at a particular goal.

I learned a valuable lesson this summer. By taking care of myself, my commitments, and my time, I was better able to enjoy writing – just writing. Setting aside blocks, without any arbitrary word count or quota to meet. Just writing for however long I can.

An hour. Two hours. Three if I have them.

I know I won’t have this much time forever. In fact, in a month and a half, my work-life balance will tip towards work. But after this summer, I won’t forget what I just learned:

-Make time for writing that doesn’t intrude on valuable family time and social commitments.

-Taking care of your mental health.

-Just write… Just write and enjoy writing. 

Before this summer, time was scarce, but more specifically, my imbalance negatively impacted the quality of my time. I was putting goals on a pedestal, and while goals are fine, experience has taught me that putting goals before balance leads to burnout.

Balance is important. This whole process makes me want to do a better job balancing my life…  I mean, who would want to miss a morning of this:

 

I hope you find a routine that works for you, and that you find a way to “just do” too.

Be well.

-Curtis


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A Summer of Writing: Minutes to A Better Book

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I write books as a hobby, and last month I had to push that hobby to the side.

The school year was ending, and I spent the first two weeks of June wrapping up loose ends and taking trainings. I was busy, to say the least. The three days that followed were fraught with mental fog, and quite frankly, guilt. I avoided writing at all costs. I looked at my work, and I thought, I could have done more.

 

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I felt guilty for not writing.

I felt guilty for putting my hobby to the side.

On top of that, I made a pretty big deal about writing my books for the last nine months, and I feel like I don’t have a lot to show for it.

I do not want to belittle the important steps I have taken, however tiny those steps were. I do, however, feel like I could have done better.

Yes, I’m proud of the revised chapters and new material. Yes – I’m happy to have made new friends and connected with total strangers over reading and writing. Still, I feel like I need to do more.

So . . . I will do more.

Minutes to a Better Book

A few posts ago, I talked about Minutes to a Better Book. My goal was to dedicate 180 to 300 hours towards writing my books – not my stories, not my blog, but rather, my books.

If I write for three hours every day until August 20th, I will make the 180 mark. The 300 Hours bit makes the challenge far more interesting and incentivizes me to just dedicate my time towards writing books.

What does this mean for Paper Palaces? It means that I will only work on posts after finishing my required writing for the day. This will most likely result in one or two posts per week on the usual topics.

You can read more about the challenge by visiting the challenge page here. Or, you can follow me on Instagram (@curtiswritesbooks), where I post stories about my progress, among other things.

If you feel like dedicating time towards your hobby, let me know. I love knowing that other people are putting hours in towards their passion.

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Are you writing to? Do you have a hobby that you’re diving into this summer?

-Curtis

Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks

Facebook: /curtisteichertbooks

Patreon: /CurtisWritesBooks

Twitter: @staghorncrown

WordPress: PaperPalacesBlog.com

How would ______ do this? Three more questions to ask yourself when experiencing a creative block. . .

I knew I had an idea . . . I knew it was great, but where did it go? The blank screen had no answer for me, and only the sound of my cat meowing filled the air. What happened to that shiny object I was chasing? Luckily, I had an answer.

This is the second post in a series on creative blocks. You can read the first post here.

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Ideas are abundant, which is why I take the time to create notes for new ideas that I have.

That is what I would say to you if I was diligent.

The truth is. . . I run with my ideas, big and small, and sometimes, they get lost.

Some writers call this being a pantser from the phrase “flying by the seat of your pants.” I’m guilty of being a pantser; however, there are times when I really do take the time to develop my ideas, like my current project A Thousand Watchful Eyes.

Today was not one of those times. Part of today was a “shiny object” day, where I chased new ideas like a small, eager animal collecting whatever catches its eye.

It’s tragic. I am attracted to new ideas like cats to fuzzy socks. Sometimes I can’t stop.

While this process is almost always exciting, there is always the danger of losing out on an idea that would be a worthwhile investment.  Luckily, today’s shiny-object fiasco came after a morning of creating fiction.

A Full Morning of Fiction

For those of you new to Paper Palaces, I am working on a fantasy saga. The finished work will span twelve novels (a prequel series and main series). Every day, I try to work on the project, but I also have to dedicate my time towards other tasks. Managing this time is often difficult, as everything seems important. Last week, I wrote about a new writing challenge to push myself towards dedicating a large amount of my time towards writing my books. So far, it is working.

Still, I want to write short stories, and I want to start new books. Yesterday, I wanted to a create handful of detailed blog posts and useful how-to articles, and today, I just needed to write fiction. The urge to create more writing ensues, but wanting to write more is not enough.

I fought the urge to chase shiny objects today by focusing on one project: my fiction.

Here’s what happened:

  • I revised chapters for three hours.
  • I made detailed notes about new chapters.
  • I redrafted two old chapters and wrote one new chapter.
  • My chapters look better.
  • I no longer feel stressed writing new posts and articles.
  • I now have time to pursue my “shiny object” ideas, if only I could remember them.

In essence, there is no issue, but I want to keep writing, and my ideas have run dry.

What is a person to do?

What I have done to fight this type of creative block

Keep a list!

Really, keep a list of the ideas that you want to develop. This list could evolve into a document, a database, a binder. . . Honestly, it can be as big or as small as you need.

There’s an interesting technique that some artists use, where they create a portfolio of inspirational images to motivate them through the creative block. In this case, your list would keep your fledgling ideas safe until it was time for them to take wing.

But what if you forgot to add the idea to the list?

Well, honestly there’s not much you can do. But I suggest asking the following questions.

Here are three questions you should ask yourself when your ideas are scattered or missing . . .

  1. What inspired me today?

  2. Are there any other ideas that I have yet to develop?

  3. How would _____ do this? 

These open-ended questions will help you to open up the creative part of your mind, and I’m not just talking about writers. This will help with any project. These questions help me when my brain feel so overwhelmed, or so blank, that it needs a starting point.

Each question focuses on different solutions for creative block. Number one focuses on building specificity, number two focuses on working through former ideas, and number three focuses on developing organization and style.

When all is said and done, I enjoy the writing process, but that does not mean I don’t get stuck. In fact, it’s my desire to make write a large body of work that sometimes keeps me away from the screen.

In order to focus, in order to fight the blank page, we must find what works, and that looks different every day.  Here is how I approach each question:

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Question # 1: What inspired me today?

This may be the easiest question to answer. You simply have to remember what you have done today. If you can’t think of something inspiring, try thinking of something that makes you curious.

Were their people you interacted with that sparked your curiosity today? Was there a moment that stood out to you as interesting? How could you translate part of your personal experience today to your craft?

Finding inspiration is sometimes as simple as sitting down and writing stream of consciousness for ten minutes and picking an idea that appears. I call this method a “brain spill.” Caution – don’t publish your stream of consciousness, or “brain spill.”

Your goal is to get to a place of specificity, not to produce polished writing. This is great if you don’t have any ideas on hand because there is always something to use from your brainstorming session. There is always something that you can use from your day if you spend enough time thinking about your experience from different angles.

Question # 2: Are there any other ideas that you have to develop?

For non-fiction, I have a document that is an entire list of questions sorted by topic. Someday, I will answer all of those questions. Each question is open-ended.

I have another document that is a list of story titles, character names, and one-liners. I used to keep these in a handwritten journal, but lately, I like to keep everything digital. These are helpful for writing fiction.

I sporadically collect pictures and articles from the web to help inspire me. Pinterest is a pretty great tool for that, but it’s also an easy way to procrastinate.

Keeping your ideas handy for later will help you build a bank of ideas to develop. These seeds of ideas are not ready on their own, but with enough care and the right conditions, they can grow into better ideas, stories, projects, etc . . .

Question # 3: How would _____ do this? 

This is a great one if you have a personal hero in your field. Sometimes I think to myself: How would J.K. Rowling do this? How would George R.R. Martin do this? Or, more specifically, how would Rick Riordan describe this character? How would Kelly Barnhill explain this to a child? How would my favorite blogger structure this post?

You can get as specific as you want, or stay general. The point of this exercise to think outside of yourself. This gives you a break from your own organization and style, providing a space for you to create something new.

Take-Away

If I remember anything from this today, it is to keep my idea bank full while also dedicating appropriate time to my projects and to never give up, no matter what complications arise.


I hope these questions help you with your creative projects.

-Curtis

Let’s Connect!

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Facebook: /curtisteichertbooks

Patreon: /CurtisWritesBooks

Twitter: @staghorncrown

WordPress: PaperPalacesBlog.com


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When you have writer’s procrastination, try these five simple steps. . .

I sat down at my screen today wanting to write for my project, A Thousand Watchful Eyes. This resulted in the usual pattern of procrastination – surfing the internet, watching a video, writing notes about future projects, eating a snack… The list goes on. I have faced this dragon before, and I have defeated it many times over. When you don’t feel like writing, try these five simple steps . . .

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Stop Writer’s Procrastination in These Five Steps


Step One:

Feed Your Brain So You’re Not Fighting Hunger and Dehydration

Here’s what I suggest… Drink a glass of water. If you have not eaten in hours, eat a light snack with a little protein and fat. You don’t want to lose out on your precious writing time because your body isn’t ready for you to sit down and use your brain. It takes effort and persistence to write, so feed your brain.

Feed your brain so it is up to the task.


Step Two:

Make your writing space comfortable and enjoyable.

I suggest setting yourself up in a comfortable place – a place that you enjoy. Ideally, this is an area that creates the right mindset for you to write. In the long term, try setting up something permanent. In the short term, work with what you have!

For me, my favorite spot to work is at the kitchen table when no one is home. Make sure everything you need is available to you, including whatever writing implements you use.


Step Three:

Clear away all possible distractions.

Put your phone on silent and close all social media, and make sure all your extra tabs and windows are gone. Music is the only exception, as it can get you pumped to work. A playlist is the most ideal, as you won’t shuffle through songs every minute or so.


Step Four:

Set a timer.

Set a small amount of time. I suggest five minutes or under.

The bigger the urge you have to run away from your project, the smaller the amount of time you should set.

For example, to overcome procrastination today, I did Steps One through Three, and then I set a timer for three minutes. I wanted to get three solid sentences finished in that time. This is a simple and manageable task for me.

You should strive for your own simple and manageable task. Maybe it’s just writing for that small amount of time. Maybe it’s describing a character or a detail of your setting.

You could set your timer for thirty seconds or thirty minutes! The point is to set a small goal, and that’s relative to what you are doing.

This tiny writing sprint moves you from procrastinating to actually starting your work. Crushing this tiny goal will give you enough motivation to move forward.


Step Five:

Make what you just wrote better.

Take what you created during your tiny writing sprint and revise it to make it better. This may involve re-arranging the sentences, editing for punctuation, or re-arranging the order. In fact, it may involve a few other processes I failed to mention. The point is to improve what you just created.


Now what?

Now, your brain has switched gears.

Now, you are no longer procrastinating.

Now, you can stop, if you want, but you’ll probably feel like working on your project! Maybe you will even feel like repeating steps four and five again. In all cases, you can say, “I worked on my project today, and tomorrow, I can try to do the same, or better.”


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A Quick Tip

While these five steps work for Writer’s Procrastination, you can apply the same method to any task. You just need to get creative with Steps Four and Five.

If you procrastinate frequently, don’t worry. You’re human. It’s better not to beat yourself up. What you could do, however, is see what can be fixed. Maybe one small area of your life needs changing for you to work on your project.

A desk may need clearing, or a light may need fixing. Maybe you just need to adjust the little things in your life that help you focus 1% better. Maybe you need to rest. Sometimes there are a thousand little things that call for our attention and we have to decide to attend to them immediately or budget time later.

In all cases, I hope you try these five steps yourself. They work rapidly for me, and I hope they work for you.

Do you have any tips for overcoming procrastination?

-Curtis


Let’s Connect

Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks

Facebook: /curtisteichertbooks

Patreon: /CurtisWritesBooks

Twitter: @staghorncrown

WordPress: PaperPalacesBlog.com


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Where is the most dangerous place for your characters to go? – Eight questions for building fictional worlds.

Building Fictional Worlds Part I: Setting and Characterization

When building a fictional setting, the connection between your characters and the world they live could make or break the believability of your creations. Therefore it is very important to deepen the connection between your characters and their landscape.

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Setting Impacts Character

It was 5:45am last Wednesday when I drafted a scene between two characters having an argument about their beliefs. Each character came from a different regions of their fictional world – one from a well-developed medieval city, and the other from a seaside fishing village at the end of Sothgren Reach.

These two characters have vastly different experiences, and to make matters more complicated, their perspectives are shaped by regional differences. Their stories converged in my work in progress The Witch’s Uprising, the first in nine novels about my fictional world – Brylennia.

Crafting Brylennia has been an exhilarating experience, resulting in characters that share a rich history, with a variety of perspectives.

Early sketches and inspirations

 

The following eight questions were useful in my development of Brylennia. These questions have helped me flesh out different aspects of Brylennia, and of each other regions “on the map.”

My goal was to strengthen the connection between the setting and the characters inhabiting it, resulting in a detail-rich experience for readers. Also, I wanted to have some fun creating a fictional world. Hopefully you can use these questions in your own projects or as a way to spark your reading curiosity.


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Here are eight questions to ask yourself to strengthen the connection between the setting and your characters:

  1. How has the landscape changed over time?
  2. How has the geography influenced the beliefs of your characters?  For example, if they are polytheistic, is there an emphasis on one god or goddess over another?
  3. Does geography influence the inequities in your societies? (If there are inequities).
  4. Are any particular people in direct access to resources that others do not have? How does all this influence an intelligent person from the region, or an ignorant person for that matter? Does this cause prejudice between groups of people?
  5. What freedoms or privileges does one group enjoy over others, if any?
  6. Do people dress differently in each region? Is this due to fashion, practicality, some other reason, or a combination of these reasons?
  7. Where is the most dangerous place to go?
  8. What’s the safest way from one place to another in your world? Who has made it through, and who has not?

So you know, I hope to explore each of these questions individually in future posts as part of a world-building series. You can stay updated on these posts as they are published via this blog.

If it’s easy for you, please follow me here on WordPress,  Twitter , and/or via email as part of our reader’s club

I hope these work for you!

-Curtis

Are you depleted of ideas, or do you just need to re-energize? Three questions to ask yourself when experiencing a creative block.

It was Saturday morning, and I stared at a half-written scene in the all-to-familiar agony of writer’s block. My usual urge to craft a scene had left me, and my cat, Horton, made a bed of my forearms. The time had finally come to do something else.

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My relationship with creativity is ridiculous.

At times, ideas won’t stop entering my mind. However, there is the occasion when I feel like my mind has run completely dry. During these times, I often try to re-energize my writing, change a routine, or work on a different aspect of my writing project.

This usually happens after I have planned an arc or chapter and the actual work of fleshing out the scene stands before me. Don’t get me wrong – I very much enjoy the process, especially if the idea is brand new. This was not the case with my current project.

Routines and Low Points

For those of you new to Paper Palaces, I am working on a fantasy saga known as A Thousand Watchful Eyes. I chip away at this project each day in a different way. Last week, I wrote about how little changes in my routine have impacted my writing progress.

While I have continued with my routine this week, I took some time to reflect on how I could revamp my daily writing habits. I added a half-hour writing sprint to my morning tasks.

The results were surprising:

  • 4/5 of the days were successful.
  • On Thursday, I wrote nothing, opting for more sleep from an exhaustive week. (I made up the lost word count on Friday).
  • I wrote an average of 800 words per sprint.
  • With each day, I felt like my scenes were developing, but all too slowly. Some were a little stale.
  • By Saturday, I felt some writer’s apprehension and eventually some blockage with creating new material.

What I do when faced with a creative block:

When faced with a creative block, I usually turn to revision. Revision energizes me and gives me relatively simple task to accomplish. It activates the creative part of my mind, and pushes me forward.

For me, the obvious solution was to take the new scenes from this week and revise; however, I just didn’t want to do it. I was completely tired of writing the novel, which many writer’s know is a dangerous place to be. This is what I consider a low point in the writing process.

So… what did I do?

I worked on something else.

I decided to take the day off  – not from project itself, but rather from the task of generating and revising scenes. Instead, I opted for investing time in tasks that inspire me to write the chapters, refresh my mindset, and help me build a richer, more interesting fantasy world for my characters to live in. 

This is my advice for any person feeling the lull of a project that requires dedication willpower, time, and sustained effort.

Here are three questions you should ask yourself when feeling sapped of creativity:

  1. Is there something else I can work on?

  2. How can I make this more fun?

  3. Am I depleted of ideas, or do I just need to re-energize?

These open-ended questions will help you to reflect on your project, whether you are a writer, reader, musician, dancer, entrepreneur, or anyone else who dedicates time, effort, and routine to a task. They help me revitalize my projects and habits that have devolved into mind-numbing work.

At the end of the day, I write because I love it, because I am fascinated by the world, and because I just really, really have to tell the story of these characters. Some mornings, I forget these simple reasons, as many people do.

In order to keep the momentum going, we must re-connect with the passion behind our passion projects. Here is how I approach each question:

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Question # 1: Is there something else I can work on?

This question is definitely inspired by the idea of creative procrastination. At the end of the week, and the beginning of the weekend, I often want to rest. This was especially true after this week. By shifting my focus to a different aspect of my project – world-building and map-making, I made good use of my time and kept my passion for my fantasy series fresh.

Question # 2: How can I make this more fun?

I won’t lie to you. When I answered this question, it lead me to Youtube, where I began “researching” how to make fantasy maps.

After ten minutes, I felt better.

I cannot deny that this is a form of procrastination, but I would be lying to you if I said it didn’t help me create new material for my novel.

This world-building step was very fun. I ended up drafting new ideas for how the setting of this series will impact my novel without detracting from the integrity of the world I had already created.

Question # 3: Am I depleted of ideas, or do I just need to re-energize?

This question is the most important, as asking the question always leads to activity. Usually, this question comes first.

While my answers vary, I rarely say that I am depleted of ideas, even if I feel that it may be true. When I ask this question, I often can find that there is something in my writing for me to investigate, some idea that makes me interested, a character who needs attention.

Although I have experienced writer’s block, I find the notion of “lacking ideas” a little silly. This is mostly due to my experience with curiosity. If I stay curious, I often come up with new ideas. On the other hand, I almost always feel the need to re-energize at the end of the week.

Maybe this is a signal to me that I need to take a closer look at how I work. Maybe I should always revamp and re-energize on Saturday. Maybe I should schedule blocks of time for just having fun with the novel, or maybe I should schedule nothing at all.

Take-Away

If I remember anything from this Saturday, it is to always re-connect with the passion behind my projects, to push forward with my tasks, and not to give up just because a blank screen or half-written scene feels intimidating.


I hope these questions help you with your creative projects.

-Curtis

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A Lightning Storm in My Brain – Navy SEALS, Dark Magic, Middle School, and a Secret Worth Sharing

On my way to work, the sun is rising, I look across a snowy field, and a flock of birds scatters into the air like flakes of debris from a campfire.

I hear a navy SEAL sternly recount the horrors of war.  He talks about discipline in everyday life, and I absorb his experience through my headphones.

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The SEAL’s adventures are far too modern for me to write about, but this field and his words recall an older type of warfare to my mind. The rhythm of horse hooves enters me. When his podcast is over, and everything is silent, my brain is still busy.

I daydream:

Steel clashes and a young woman rides her horse across a snowy field, much like the one I see before me. The woman will travel an entire realm, beyond the forest and the mountains, to a place where she discovers something far more powerful than the enemy she faces.

She is not yet seventeen, yet she tries to save the world from the rise of dark magic.

I breathe in slowly. Right now, she is a twelve-year old girl, a character in my novel, that has yet to grow. She cannot even hold a sword, but someday she will set foot in a snowy field. Someday, after she has surpassed the challenges of the book I am currently writing for her, she will change.

The Lightning Storm in My Brain

When I write, one thought leads to another branching out in several unpredictable directions, like a lightning storm. I feel the same is true when I listen to music or podcasts. One person’s experience leads me to think of another’s.

Sometimes I chart story ideas, plotting possible novels based on these little moments of exploration. Other times, I sit down and draft a scene, discovering the characters within it.

Most of my ideas are forgotten when they are not written down, but there are always a few that resurface. Some even return after years of paying attention to other story ideas, other characters, other plots.

It is as if some themes and some characters have a life of their own, an insistence for their voices to be heard and their stories to be told. 

The thrill of creating fiction, especially pre-writing and beginning stages is often amazing, and most writers know it.

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A Secret Worth Sharing

At times, the act of writing a novel is somewhat mechanical. I found more progress in my word counts and chapter construction simply from dedicating more time towards the craft. Still, one aspect of writing fiction amazes me:

The world seems to change when I’m working on a fiction project. Hours go by while I am absorbed in a scene, and then the next day arrives.

Every detail of every aspect of my life begs to be stitched or weaved into the tapestry of the story. 

Strangers in Chicago become workers in a medieval village square. An unruly beard of a friend becomes the mark of an ancient man in Brylennia. The arguments and discussions of my middle school students remind me of the energetic relentlessness of human curiosity. In the midst of growing from childhood to adulthood, the complexity of human emotion unfolds for us. The world feels – somehow – new and familiar when I write.

It is with this feeling – this thrilling mixture of happiness, introspection, and inquisitive observation, that I share with you one realization I had today. Here is one secret, or rather one truth, worth sharing.

Writing is more than just a mechanical act; it is more than just meeting a word count or completing a novel.

Writing, in many ways, is forging a sword from raw material, imagining the person who will wield it, shaping and tempering the wild steel into something crafted and refined.

It is recalling the family and friends who have loved you, and remembering the lessons within every tarnished relationship.

Writing is the act of bringing together the seen and unseen in any given circumstance.

It is living deeply, and it is a challenge worth pursuing.