Aimless Wandering…

Staring at a blank screen. All white. Waiting to be filled with words. What words though? A dozen story ideas percolate in the upper layers of my subconscious, grasping them is like grappling with fog. I know if I grab harder, push more, pin the thing down and try to examine it I’ll find the thread at its core to follow. But is it ready? Am I ready? If I pull at the thread will it unwind? Dissipate back into fog after the first few feet? Which to grasp at? There are too many…

For the first time in three to four years I cleared my freelance roster, I had no deadlines looming, no things that needed to be done. I was free to write… But what to write? For a few days I did little more than open a word document and wonder what I should use to start filling that blank page. Which story idea? Which would lead somewhere? I was at a loss. At a loss I turned to what was easy, the role playing game I am working on has a list of things that need to be done. The obvious answer to the sense of gnawing indecision was to start with the first bullet point and work down. I want to write fiction though. I have the lofty goal of writing a novel manuscript this year, and yet, faced for the first time in years with the prospect of having that time I found myself doing what? Idly wondering where I should begin and actively finding other ways to fill my schedule. Avoidance, in other words.

Since late last year I’ve been catching up with a writer friend of mine regularly, and we’ve been pulling apart each other’s work. After schedules pushed our meetings back this month we finally had the chance to catch up again tonight. It was nice to talk. It was nice to mutually lament the maudlin state of indecision and the generally felt lack of progress. The talking itself was spur enough to get me moving. I am reminded of a favourite quote:


“You can’t edit a blank page.”

Variously attributed to either/both Nora Roberts and Jodi Picoult.

I must pick something, and I realise now it doesn’t really matter what. I must pull at that string, whether it leads to fog or somewhere else entirely.

I came away tonight from that catch up with a sense of purpose renewed: just pick something. I have a number of story ideas, I might pull at a few and see what unravels. Maybe they will be worth following, maybe they won’t be ready yet. But at least I have some drive returned.

We didn’t have much work to share with one another tonight, but in conversation I recovered my drive to get words down, to start something, to get things flowing again… Maybe I needed the break, even if it was just a few days, to reset myself, to stop looking at the whiteboard schedule, now empty, and wonder ‘what comes next’, and just push forward with a few things to see where they lead. It was good to talk, and good to be reminded how important talking is. I have to stop now though, there’s a blank page calling my name…

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back…

Last post I put on my rose coloured glasses and gazed back into the mists of the year just gone. With the quiet determination of someone desperate to prove to themselves that their time was not wholly spent on Netflix, Twitter, or picking LOL Dolls up off the floor after my daughters, I busied myself with looking at the achievements of the year. That done the next task is at hand, looking forward, setting goals, gazing at the metaphoric mountain peak that lies somewhere in the cloudy distance of 2019 and plotting the climb. Of course, I’ll probably stay at the base camp for a while… It’s warm, has good WiFi, and watching the social media rage of a bunch of people upset that Gillette dared to suggest that being a decent human being is worth the effort is both depressing and amusing, though mostly, I fear, the former.

Where was I? Ah, Goals! A capital ‘G’. Not capitalised for any of the normal grammatical reasons of course, but for it’s significance. Goals are those things we too often tell ourselves we would like to achieve while quietly recognising that, yes, it would be nice to achieve that, but the scones are warm, the beer is cold, and the cricket is on. Tomorrow will be the day I leave the metaphoric base camp…

The beautiful thing about tomorrow, of course, is that it’s tomorrow, and tomorrow, tomorrow will be tomorrow, and so on. Last year I managed to tick off a bunch of things, and I’m glad about that, but did it get me any closer toward my overall goal? What even is my overall goal? My five year plan? Well ultimately I’d like to Write. Write with a capital ‘W’, as in Write for a living rather than a hobby. So this year, my goal is to take some steps in that direction.

Now, I wrote a lot last year, and the year before, and the year before that. Somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 words a year for the last three to four years at least. That’s good. Plus it’s nice to be paid for that work, but it’s not my own fiction, it’s not my own produce, it’s produce for other companies. It has helped me to build muscles I wasn’t sure I had, like the ability to sit down and write every night, to plot and plan and execute, and to hit deadlines. It has taught me to save, save, save, then back up those documents I saved, and make sure they’re backed up, and then just to make sure, save again. It’s taught me that sometimes I feel like writing and sometimes I don’t, and that the words that were dragged from my fingers, a month later, are impossible to differentiate from those that positively flew. Those are all good lessons. But now I need to make sure that 2019 moves me a couple more steps in the direction of my ultimate Goal (note the ‘G’). I need to write more fiction. I need to write more things that are mine.

So onto the goals!

I want to maintain my freelance work. It doesn’t pay brilliantly, especially in the Role Playing Game industry, but I enjoy it, and it has helped me get better. I have made some good contacts, and worked with great people. I’d like to keep all those things up.

I want to write at least one short story a month. Just one isn’t a lot, but there are other goals here, and other writing to do, so one is enough for now. I’d like to edit them, rewrite them, and submit them.

I want to finish plotting out one of the many novel ideas I have. I’d like to select one of those many and write it. I mean actually write it this year. Like hit 80,000 words by the end of the year. They don’t have to be brilliant words, they don’t have to be the best words, but they have to be written words. As the saying goes: you cannot edit a blank page.

For some reason or other I started writing a role playing game last year, rules, setting, the lot. I’d like to finish that this year. I’d like to finish it, and then decide what I’m going to do with it next, maybe not in that order. If it feels good I may look for a publisher, I may look to Kickstarter, I may just publish it as an indie game online, but I want to do something with it. It feels good right now, and I want to explore it further. I like the foundation, I like the setting concepts and themes, I like this beginning I have, and now I need to add flesh to that skeleton and see if I can bring it to life.


I want to keep up with the writers group thing I started doing with a friend of mine. It’s been good, and encouraged me to write more, even if just to keep up. Meet up every fortnight, and maybe connect to other writers in our area, who knows.

I want to read, I know it seems silly, but it’s easy to relegate the things you assume you’ll do at some point to some other point that isn’t now. I read more last year than I have for many years, and I want that to continue. I used to read voraciously, and while I have other ways to spend my evenings now, the curse of being an adult, I need to read.

I want to role play on a regular basis. I managed it for most of last year, so it shouldn’t be too hard to replicate that goal. Testing the adventures I am writing for other companies, testing the system I am developing for my own RPG, playing another published game, whatever, just playing.

I want to make sure I game with my family, that’s board games, of which I have too many by any reasonable standard. But a game every night or every couple of nights as a family is the goal. Oh, and gaming with my wife, just the two of us. We used to game a lot together, and then we had kids and that became less, so making sure we spend the time to reconnect over that shared passion, a board game and the occasional movie of course.

Well, I think that’s enough for now. Some goals laid down for the coming year, hopefully achievable. We shall see!

Writing Group

A friend and I have been talking about our respective writing journeys for some time. Tonight we had our first writer’s group. Perhaps it is better to refer to it as a meet up, since there was just the two of us, but calling it a writing group make it feel like more of a commitment, more official.

Photo 18-12-18, 12 25 41 am

He is currently plugging away at a webnovel (which you can find here), while I have been motoring along with my freelance work in the Role Playing Game world (which is mostly listed in my bibliography here). Both of us are wanting to write a novel manuscript.

We had previously talked about getting together and comparing notes, offering ideas and criticisms, sharing resources, and tonight was our first step in that direction. We spent the first portion of the night discussing our goals and what we wanted from our meetings, and then both read a little of each other’s work and made some comments. It was good, and while my work was woefully underdone, I walked away with a real drive to ensure that I’ll have something closer to ready for the next meeting. It was nice to be able to sit down and talk about our goals, about our writing habits, and about the things we needed to change in order to achieve our goals. The act of meeting up in order to compare notes places an onus on action, and this added incentive is something I am looking forward to especially!

 

Some links I found useful while we were planning out what our meetings could and should look like:

Writing Group Starter Kit

Jeff Goins, on Writing Groups

Inked Voices, Writing Groups 101

Joseph Massucci, 15 Tips on Writing Groups