am i still a writer?

its strange how something that was so central to your life can become optional

im thinking about writing. there was a time when writer was synonymous with my identity. there was a time when writing was the only thing that kept me alive. there was a time when i lived and breathed for the beauty of words. there was a time when words spilled out of my ears and eyes and skin.

of course i still write. i write everyday for at least one of my three english papers. i write texts to my love. i write through comments and posts on social media. im writing notes, essays, and lab reports.

i suppose i write now more for some other reason than writing itself. and thats whats changed. i dont write because i must write. i dont write so much to sound beautiful. but most of all, i dont feel this drive. i feel that writing is something that has become less and less a part of my life. when i think about it, i realise it is not so because ive never stopped. not at all. but i feel its become more about obligation than love.

so am i still a writer?

do i like to write? do i want to write? do i need to write?

does it matter?

of course it doesnt. it only matters for this tricky little thing called identity that i still havent quite grasped.

no it doesnt matter but i still wonder because how can i no longer be a writer when writing made life worth living? how can something that made life worth living suddenly become unessential?

how strange. how ephemeral

yet now im an english student. im someone who looks at the art of weaving words. if im not a writer, i write about being one and i write about what other people have written. i suppose now im on the outside.

im not sure how i feel about it

id love to get into writing again but i dont know if it gives me the same kind of feeling of magic and i miss it

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braindead 

Im rather appalled when I think of it at how dead my brain has become

It feels like it’s been far too long since I’ve used it at all

I can feel it’s definitely worse for lack of use. It’s essentially like a muscle that needs to be worked or it gets weak

The other day I was having trouble getting my brain to absorb information from my psychology homework. But I decided that if I was going to procrastinate, I might as well procrastinate in a “productive” way. So I opened up my folder full of my novel drafts – finished and unfinished – and plans, with the goal of finding something to work on.

I was – and I can’t find a better word for this – rather amazed by what I’d done. Don’t get me wrong. My work is nothing to shout about and needs much improvement. But … I had written novels. I had written multiple novels. There were a lot of words and a lot of effort put into them.

I couldn’t imagine doing that now. I struggle to write a paragraph of fiction … how am I supposed to write 50,000 words? And yet I did it and I can only imagine the focus and determination that went into it.

I was inspired to brush up on my French language (pretty much non existent at this point) and I remembered how I passed three years worth of French … how I completed Duolingo and was attempting to read classic French stories like Sylvie.

I can introduce myself and order food now (badly). That’s about it. And every time I resolve to learn it for real this time, the resolve lasts a week at most.

I could go on with these examples … how I listen to my old songs from 2015 and haven’t written a full one for months … how I was learning the piano and reached Grade 3 and would sit there for hours learning new pop songs but I can barely muster up the effort to remember how to play my own songs now … how I used to write fricking English essays for fun and I haven’t put a word to my essay for my upcoming exam.

In short, I’ve stopped trying. I give up so so easily. At the slightest sign of difficulty, at the slightest blank of my mind, at the slightest suggestion that my brain will have to work, I run. I shut my laptop. I switch to facebook. I go to bed. I. Give. Up.

I’ve lost resilience and my brain is losing strength. I’m terrible at focusing. You don’t understand how huge the temptation is to switch the tab from this post and go to social media instead, or watch a video.

Yes, social media plays a huge part. I can’t deny it any longer. It does. I still can find a million ways to procrastinate without it … but it gets boring much faster. And there comes a point when my own thoughts interest me more than no thoughts at all … when working my brain becomes entertainment. But with social media, I am constantly entertained by a barrage of …. stuff … that I have little incentive to use any form of entertainment that would require effort. It’s too easy now.

That said, eventually social media too can become rather repetitive and I do feel the urge for something different. I long to stretch my brain … even as I panic because it’s hard and it makes my brain hurt.

Mostly, I need to learn to stop giving up and that’s more a case of willpower than anything else. It’s a mentality that if you start something, you goddamn finish it. No excuses. Because that’s how you progress.

writing and loneliness

I haven’t written any fiction for a long time … the last time was perhaps early this year, but even then, it was only a short bit of flash fiction. The last time I wrote extensively was February when I was finishing up my novel Eunice. 

There’s a big part of me that really wants to get back into writing.

At the same time, I’m nervous to do so.

I’ve come to realise part of why writing is such a struggle … oftentimes, such a draining, painful process.

It’s incredibly isolating.

On the surface, writing fiction is typically a solitary activity (unless you’re writing collaboratively which is a different story). You are alone in front of your computer or paper, and it’s just you and the words. Even if there are people around you while you write, it’s you and the words. You’re not communicating to the outside world … not yet, at least.

But deeper … below the surface … writing requires you to truly be inside your mind. This is why I find it difficult to write with other people around. Technically, writing doesn’t have to be a solitary activity, but for me it’s much easier when it is. And that’s because writing requires you to be isolated in your mind.

When I write an essay, it’s typically about the real world. Even if it’s not (let’s say it’s an English essay on a novel) it is still grounded in the real world and, more importantly, the essence of the piece is not fiction. Also, because it’s an essay and doesn’t need a huge amount of creativity, I can write it fairly mindlessly, without applying my full mental powers to it.

The very term fiction, however, indicates that it’s about something that isn’t real. It’s about ideas and characters and places in your head. And it’s creative writing (emphasis on creative), so I really can’t do it with only half a mind. That means I put my entire mind into creating and writing about a world that doesn’t exist … with characters who don’t exist … events that didn’t happen. I truly immerse my mind in this fiction, because I need to if it’s going to be any good.

And that’s a truly isolating experience.

I come out of writing feeling this disconnection when I talk to real people. I feel even a disconnection with the world. I feel an intense sense of my own loneliness – of being in a separate mind and body from everyone else and completely unable to bridge this distance. Even then, this description doesn’t quite describe what I feel after writing fiction. I can only approximate this feeling with words like “disconnection” “loneliness” and “alienation”.

Maybe I can liken coming out of the writing shell to living life in a daze or as if it’s a dream – and not a nice dream at that. It’s more like a nightmare.

It’s switching to a different reality and in this reality you are all alone. Your characters ignore your existence. The real people who would acknowledge you are in the other reality. And you’re not quite able to be fully in that reality either … not with one foot in another place.

The more I think about my stories, the more my mind becomes entrenched in the world of them and the farther I am from reality. When I do go back to the real world, I can feel something is different.

And I feel tired. The whole process is so so tiring.

I don’t know if other writers feel this and, if they do, to what extent. I don’t know if it’s just me, or if it’s something inherent in writing about worlds and places that don’t exist. (I know writing is often based on the real world, but it is still at its core not quite the same). I do think that I like to write. Having written makes me feel incredibly fulfilled and I love my characters and the stories in my head. I want to get them out and make them into something concrete. And the act of writing itself is a beautiful incredible thing. I will never stop being in awe of it and or feeling the compulsion to write.

But I often wonder if writing stories really is good for me (or my mental health). I wonder if it’s worth it. I wonder if it will really make me happy.

And all too often, the answer in my head is “no”.

Bleeding out

There’s a famous quote I’m sure you’ve heard: “There’s nothing to writing. You just sit at a typewriter and bleed”.

It’s frustratingly true.

Ok, on the one hand it illustrates how writing just can’t be analysed. There’s no shortcut. You just have to DO it.

But I think there’s another meaning to it.

Writing is exhausting – mentally, emotionally, even physically. It’s not as easy as simply typing words. It’s more like vomiting words or stripping naked. It takes something out of you.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I can write at any time, but I write best when it’s quiet and I have set aside a large amount of time for writing. That gives me time to “get into the zone” – that space where the words just flow from my brain. It’s almost like being taken out of reality and sucked into the story.

To write a good story it has to have some element of personality. That’s where the pain and the blood, sweat, and tears come in. At the end of the day, it’s the emotions and what the story makes the readers feel that makes it most effective … It’s the personality – the “you”ness that sets it apart from other stories.

So the quote … it’s frustratingly true.

You bleed yourself out whenever you write a story.

You have to think, too, and plan and plot and push yourself to form the ideas and feelings into sentences, yes. There is definitely not NOTHING to writing.

But you also need that rawness and that honesty. That blood. It’s something that can’t be forced and neither is it easy.

It’s guts spilling out on the page and extracting out your essence, slowly, surely, for the world to see.

 

A summary of my novels (and how it’s all sorta worked out)

(Whew! That was a long post and I have terrible keyboard connection so this post isn’t quite as polished as it could be but I’m going to publish it anyway because it’s getting late and I still have a novel to write. If you’d like to know more about one of my stories, do leave a comment! I’m planning on writing separate posts for the more prominent of my stories.)  

It’s true, I haven’t always had a great relationship with writing. Yes, I have despaired more than a few times over a story. I’ve given up on writing as a serious hobby. I’ve abandoned my blogs and abandoned waaaaay too many manuscripts. I’ve started too many blogs, to abandon them and eventually start another, repeating the process. I’ve gone on long hiatuses from publishing any writing, had a moment of inspiration, then disappeared from the writing world again. 

But in the end, I would say it’s been pretty good. Yesterday, I decided to calculate the number of finished manuscripts I’ve written over my whole life and the number of unfinished novels, out of curiosity and so I can announce to strangers exactly how many novels I’ve written when they ask me about my hobbies. It turns out I’ve written –

3 Completed Full Length Novels

-Ten Teens (November 2013) ~50,000 [My sisters drew 10 different characters and I managed to shoehorn all of them into the narrative. It was my first attempt at Nano and I handwrote the entire manuscript too. I also let my brother read it as I wrote. When you think about it, this novel was actually kind of amazing in terms of the writing journey I went through to complete it.]

– Bloody Daggers (July 2015) ~51,000 [This was for Camp Nano and is one of the many evolutions of my fantasy story. This one is very different from the current evolution of that story so I think it’s more fitting to consider it an entirely different novel now. …In future,  as this is the first completed novel I still have a copy of, I can use this as an example of my early writing.]

– Happy Medium (July 2015) ~42,000 [This is another Camp novel – yay for Camp nano! It’s too short for a novel but I’ll definitely bulk it up in edits. I’m actually really proud of this novel. For a first draft, I think it’s kind of decent. A girl tries to matchmake all the students in her class but they end up pairing up very differently … The novel evolved into quite a wider story and the matchmaking part ended up being quite small, though.]

4 Completed Novellas 

– Life on a Mannarerr Farm, Four Years (~2009?) ~20,000? [These were two “novels” (well, I thought they were novels) about a family living on a farm in nineteenth century America. I was really interested in American history during the time so that accounts for the time period (and I was inspired by Little Women). I was about 11 when I wrote these and I’m no child prodigy … but these were my first successful novel attempts and started me off writing seriously so I won’t hate on them too much. 

– Mackenzie (early 2013)  ~10,000 [I’m not sure what inspired me to write this story … it’s about a girl in Canada whose mother dies. She fends for herself and her little sister until a woman finds them and adopts them.]

– Loche’s Adventure (April, 2014) ~20,000 [This was one of the earlier evolutions of my fantasy story. It involved portal travel, war, magic, and basically way too much for 20,000 words. What I wrote is a bit more like a very lengthly plot summary …]

16+ Unfinished Novels (in approximate order of the dates they were written)

– Connelle (A handicapped girl wants to become a swimmer and compete in the Olympics.)

– Peace on the Horizon (Set during the Spanish Civil War, a young man is afraid of fighting in the war while his cousin is a communist spy and his friend adopts a Russian refugee and attempts to make her a violinist. As weird as it sounds, I actually think it has potential with proper research.)

– Magnus fantasy story … (This was the earliest version of the fantasy story, and centered around a boy named Magnus who was groomed to be a murderer and a brutal king who would slaughter a race of magical humans, making them almost extinct, and start a war.)

– Stephen Farrar (A man brings life and faith to a town of deadbeats and backstabbers.  On hindsight, that novel was so preachy it’s cringeworthy. It also involved a forced romance. The only saving grace was the twins Leslie and Lillian, who I’m determined to work into some other novel one day.)

– Iris Texier (Basically a ripoff of Emily of New Moon …)

– Button City (After his parents’ deaths and the inheritance of a large fortune, Cyrus White leaves his home and job as a lawyer to find meaning in life. He stumbles upon the strangest city ever. I do want to write this novel.)

– Eleazar’s story (It’s about a man who commits a murder during an armed robbery  and struggles to put his life back together after that. He comes to fall in love with a girl, Lucy, but obviously he feels he can’t pollute her life with his presence. I LOVE the character of Eleazar and I love his bromance with a homeless guy, Mick, and how he befriends Lucy’s siblings and becomes like a father to them.) 

– Sibling saga (It’s about the lives of five different siblings from an extremely dysfunctional family. I only got around to writing the first part about the oldest sibling but I’ve transported many of the characters into my dystopian story since this novel was kind of lacking a plot.)

– Winteria (This fantasy story began as a story for a blogging tag. I ended up rather liking my character of the Summer Prince and decided the story had potential as a novel. While most of my stories are more suited to a teen or adult audience, this novel is more MG.)

– Dystopian story (It focuses on the forming of a dystopian society and how the people who helped make the government happen react once the dystopian government comes into power. It features characters from my sibling saga and Ten Teens.]

-Irish mythology fantasy (It’s basically  a fantasy inspired by Irish mythology. I tried to incorporate a curse, portal travel, and  other  strange elements but it didn’t quite work out … I  settled  on something simpler, with vampires, fae, mermaids, and giants. It still was simply too overwhelming a world and story that I abandoned it.)

– Grey Wars (The next evolution of The Fantasy Story … The various drafts mixed and matched together would probably amount to a full novel but I never could make it to the finishline due to the enormous plotholes.)

– World Warriors (A shapeshifter kidnaps a bunch of teens to help him save the world. I honestly love this story and it’s a blast to write. I gave it up because I had no idea the logistics of how they would actually save the world. I’d love to rewrite it, though. I think I’ll make the teens transform into superheroes … probably because that would solve the question of how to save the world and because I’m more than a little obsessed with Marvel superheroes at the moment …)

– I Crashed My Friends (A teenager kills his friends in a car crash and suffers from the guilt and reconciling with his friends’ parents.)

– Alex + Brittany (I decided to try my hand at a romance – the result? Mixed. It definitely needed more conflict and more of a plot, but I don’t think it was TOO bad.)

– Stranger Boyfriend (After Michelle breaks up with her boyfriend,  she decides to console herself by finding another guy for revenge. She picks up a random guy at a bar and … chaos ensues.)

****

So basically … yeah, I have too many unfinished manuscripts. Sometimes that was due to plot holes and weak premises but mostly I was just too lazy to keep on writing. But it’s not a terrible track record.  After all, somehow I managed to finish three novels! Not everybody can do that nor does everybody have the craziness to attempt it. Yes, chances are in a few weeks from now, I’ll be writing a post about how as much as I love it, I don’t love writing enough to keep it up consistently …

I guess I just want to make a tribute to writing and my writing journey. I don’t always enjoy writing, it’s true … but somehow I keep coming back to it. 

Some thoughts:

– While I could have been more prolific, I’ve come a long way since the beginning. Over the years and observing the differences in my stories, you can also see how different I was in various stages of my life. 

-Whenever I complete some piece of writing, or reread a completed story, there’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

-I have so MANY different story ideas. It’s awesome and kind of overwhelming and makes me wish I was immortal so I can write all these stories and more. 

-Ah writing …writing has always been there for me. It’s comforted me when I was upset and helped me to sort out my thoughts when I was confused. It’s freed me when I felt trapped, and enabled me to live a hundred lives in one. Life would have been infinitely sadder without writing and I am incredibly grateful that writing exists, that I discovered writing, and that I was given the opportunity to create stories and record them. I’m proud of my writing journey so far and I’m extrememly excited for what lies ahead, as cliched an ending as that is! 

Shameless self promotion – Guys, I have a Wattpad!

  
My moniker is @downtownsong or you can just click here since it’s easier (no judgment, I totally would). 

I have random short stories and poems published, some of them pretty weird (e.g. transparent affection …). I’m hoping to get a novel up someday but we’ll see about that! 

With Time and Space

It’s amazing what can happen with time and space. 

I experienced this phenomenon a few days ago when I felt the urge to rewrite my fantasy novel. Now, this novel and I have had a … tumultuous relationship. I loved the characters but that was about all I loved. My description was non existent and the world was shaky at best. The worst part by far was the plot, riddled with too many holes to count. But I wanted to love the whole story. The story was wonderful in my head – it was alive, poignant, painful, and beautiful. 

As much as I wanted to make it work, I decided the novel was a lost cause and I was simply beating a dead horse. So I moved on to contemporary novels and I did manage to finish one of them, which is pretty impressive for me, given the sheer number of unfinished manuscripts languishing in my drive. 

If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know I fell away from writing prose for a couple months. But just a few days ago, I began to miss that fantasy story. I have to say – and this isn’t just the drama queen in me – that story is truly the story of my heart. I can’t seem to let it go. I formed the idea at 13 and while it’s gone through numerous evolutions, it’s still here and I’m 17. 

And I think it’s not going anytime soon … which brings me back to my little anecdote.  I thought, casually, that I’d try to rewrite it and take things as I went along. It probably wouldn’t work … but I couldn’t resist the story so I reckoned it would be a fun hobby. 

Well, before writing, I made a list of all my characters then I began to summarise the main plot lines of the story and characters’ back stories so I would at least have some clue where the story was headed.

Annnnnd ….. it was honestly like magic. Everything somehow fell into place. The solutions to plot holes I’d been slaving over trying to fix for months came to me so naturally. And each solution would make so much sense, explaining other points I’d been questioning. 

It was amazing and frankly exhilarating. I was mostly just glad as well that my problems were solved!

I didn’t blame myself for not seeing those solutions before either, because I knew it wasn’t from any lack of thought on my part. I’m quite certain I couldn’t have found those solutions earlier. I needed the distance. 

I guess this experience showed me that even if a story seems hopeless, it might not necessarily be, AND that time and distance can really work wonders for writers. ;)

Am I serious about this?

I know I will always be writing. There are a myriad of stories in my head. I am always thinking and I need to get those thoughts out. I don’t want to live a life without writing.

But do I want writing to become my life? That’s another, and a whole different, question.

The truth is, I really don’t know. Sometimes I think I would love to make a living through writing. I would do freelance for income on the side and write as many books as possible to make a living through being a novelist. But I’m not sure about it. I’ve also considered becoming a teacher and the idea has its attractions. A writer’s life can be so isolating. I like the idea of working with people, as well as having structure to my days. I like the idea of getting out of my house. 

And then … do I really want to rely on something creative for work? The thing about that is creativity relies on inspiration. I know a lot of people will disagree with me. You can’t rely on inspiration, they say. And I get that. If it’s your job, waiting on inspiration can be cumbersome. 

But a novel CAN be written on inspiration (with a lot of pushing yourself to take ADVANTAGE of that inspiration, I might add). I have done it. 

When you make a hobby work, it’s inevitable that sometimes it becomes just that … work. 

Part of the appeal of writing is that I enjoy it. Writing without inspiration takes the enjoyment way from it. Do I want writing to become just another thing I HAVE to do? 

At the same time, I know I do want to share my work with the world. More pressingly, I want to find my voice and get better and better at writing. 

A lot of people advise writing every day. And I see the benefits to doing so. But as I said, I think it largely depends on how serious you are about it. 

So I need to find the balance. My balance. 

why i write

Yes. I’m writing this post. I’m tackling this monster of a question.

Why I write … it’s overwhelming to attempt such a post and I think I know why. It’s simply because there are so many reasons I write. It would be easier to write a post of “why DON’T I write”. There would be three answers: 1. I have nothing to say. 2. I’m too tired to go through the often emotionally draining process. and 3. I’m procrastinating. 

But … why do I write?

**rubs hands** Let’s get started. 

1. Writing helps me to understand myself.

I will always be something of a mystery to myself. But writing my thoughts down does help me to clarify them. 

2. I have a billion and one stories swimming in my head.

And I want to share them with the world. Or even if I don’t, simply putting them down on paper means I have some concrete representation of the story … it makes them that much more real and satisfying.

3. I like to have written.

There’s something so satisfying about looking back at my old works or being able to say to myself that yes I have written a novel! Egotistical? Probably. But still awesome.

4. Through writing, I can live a million different lives.

It’s like reading stories – they transport you to different worlds. There’s that saying – something about how a man who reads lives a thousand lives but a man who doesn’t read lives only one. Writing is something like that except  you can influence your destiny. YOU are in complete control.

I think much of the appeal of writing come from the fact that I lived a very sheltered childhood. Writing was my way of living the life I never could.

It’s very interesting. I’ve realised that, if not for my unusual upbringing, I might never have become this serious about writing.

5. I just … have this compulsion.

I was going to list “writing is fun” as one of my reasons. But I realised, that’s not exactly true. A lot of times, writing IS fun. But more often than not, it’s really. freakin. hard. 

But I write anyway, because I just have this compulsion to type words. To vomit thoughts. To move my fingers and shape letters. 

Writers often say they write because they can’t NOT write. As cliched as it sounds, this is kinda true for me. If I didn’t write, I wouldn’t necessarily go crazy. But I would much rather write than not write … and that’s reason enough for me.

If I died tomorrow 

I promise this post isn’t nearly as depressing as the title makes it sound ….

But you know, inspirational advice always tells you to “live like it’s your last day”. The philosophy is, you could die any moment. No one knows what the future holds. So you should live every day like it was your last.

And that always has me thinking – if it were my last day, how would I spend it?

I gave it some serious thought and decided to compile a list. How would I spend the day if it were my last? And … should I spend my days doing these things, given that I could die any day?

– The number one thing I want to do is write messages to each and every single person who has ever touched my life in any way, however big or small. If I die, I want them to know that I was grateful to have them in my life and they really DID make a difference.

– I would publish most of my writings online: short stories, poems, novel manuscripts, unfinished novels … A lot of my writing is terrible buuuut … it’s my work and it’s me. It’s kind of like my legacy to the world, and I don’t quite understand why, but I know for sure that I want to share it with others. But I wouldn’t share it right now because I  am alive and I can always polish it.

– The same thing about writing goes for my music: I would share it with others … perhaps take a video of myself playing all my favorite of my songs and covers. But if I wouldn’t die tomorrow, I would rather give myself times to improve.:P

– I JUST WANT TO GET OUT ALL THE THOUGHTS AND STORIES IN MY HEAD AND THERE ARE SO MANY

– I want to visit all my friends and tease them and be teased and laugh with them and have a general awesome time with awesome people.

– I want to SING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS

– I would spend the rest of the time with my family and savour every moment with them until The End.

So, yeah, I would NOT worry about schoolwork as I do just about every day. I wouldn’t even do the work. :) But of course, we can’t think exactly like that. We have to make plans for the future – that’s the point of studying and such. But at the same time, there’s wisdom to remembering “memento mori” – you will die. Because it can be so easy to become caught up in the future. I know I am – I’m already worried about getting the right grades so I can get a scholarship! But if I died tomorrow, I know I would regret that I spent my time studying instead of doing what I REALLY enjoy and spending time with the people I love, as cliched as it sounds. Even if I lived … will it really matter so much in future? And if I don’t start living the way I want … when will I? I’m only ever going to get busier.

There needs to be a balance, I see that.

I think I would write and make music and shape messages to everyone, then keep them somewhere where they can easily be found and spread around if I actually DID die (I promise I’m not usually so morbid). And I do want to spend my life doing MORE of the things I WANT to do rather than the things I feel I SHOULD do. And of course, not taking anyone for granted and spreading the love!

Most of all, I see that a lot of times, I hold myself back out of fear – fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, fear of failure, fear of judgment. If I was going to die, a lot of that fear would be gone because I have in essence nothing to lose and if things don’t turn out right, I don’t have to suffer the consequences my whole life.

But I can’t and I don’t want to live my life paralysed by fear.

So here goes my final resolution – to live a life without fear.