AH: 5 Truths to Remind Yourself On Painful Writing Days

Hullo, world!

The weather is starting to warm up, the cherry blossoms are starting to open up, and rain days are diminishing by the week…it’s starting to look like spring! Without a  doubt, spring is my favourite season of the year. In Japan, it’s also the start of a new school year–so I guess that also reminds me of new beginnings. Plus, we have Easter and my Christian birthday…spring is absolutely the best

But enough about me gushing about spring. 

Today, we’re back for our monthly Author Health series. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the week I look at stigmas surrounding writing and mental health and offer tips/encouragement that worked for me. 

Our topic today is *da-dun!* 5 Truths to Remind Yourself On Painful Writing Days!

We all have one of those days when you’re facing a blank screen or a black screen filled with what you deem ‘trash’. Or your mind is scrambling around busily conveying all the wonderful ideas you have  in your head, except you can’t seem to process it enough to turn into words. Or worse yet, you spend all of your precious writing time scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram feeds. And you think, Why is this so hard? Why is writing so…painful??

Which is where I come in with truths about writing. 🙂

1. Writing takes time.

This, I find, is actually a huge truth we tend to miss by the kilometre. (Yes, it’s that highway sign you were supposed to be on watch for and totally missed.) Writing is a task of arranging 26 letters into words that make sentences that set the mood, music, paint, and animate all at the same time. No wonder it might take some time!

I know a while back, I did a post on Stephen King’s On Writing. If you’ve read it, or know anything about his writing habit, it’s that the man writes fast. Like, insanely fast. Or maybe we can say he’s the guru of writing almost everyday. 

Which I’ve tried, and it works to set a routine, but I still realised this: Writing still takes time, even if I write everyday. Sure, you might get down word counts faster. But that doesn’t mean it’s polished. As a whole, writing is a business that takes lots of energy and time. It’s okay if you’ve been writing the same book for the past five years. Donna Tartt, the author of The Secret History and The Goldfinch (a Pulitzer winner) took ten years to write just one book. 

The editing process be like:

2. You’re the only one who can write this book.

The second most common trap a writer falls into is comparison. Once upon a time, I was a happy-go-lucky writer who paid no attention whatsoever to how other people wrote, or when they got published. I would come across articles about comparison and think, “Well, that has nothing to do with me!”

Needless to say, I was wrong. 

The more I grow as a writer, the more I reach my milestones and word counts and project goals, the more I should, in theory, gain confidence. And don’t get me wrong, I did gain confidence, too. But at the same time, I also realised there’s a lot of writers out there. 

You start to realise that there are genres you lean towards, and stories that sound a lot like yours. While before you were proud of your little darling WIP, now you may hesitate to introduce your WIP to the world of writers out there, nervous it won’t receive the novel attention you thought it would attract. 

Yet the truth remains: No matter how similar a story may be, you’re the only one who can write your story. Why? Well, there’s only one of you. No one else here on this earth has gone through the experiences you went through, lived with the exact same culture, grew up with the exact same people around you. And that’s why your story, however similar it feels, will always be different. 

Writers lying in wait for good ideas.
There goes my inspiration!

3. There will be someone out there who’s dying to read your book. 

And yes, I will say this on the pain of sounding cliché: There are 7.8 billion people on mother earth. There will be at least one person in there who’s dying to read your book. Just think about that. 

Someone out there waiting for your book

4. It’s okay to write for yourself.

That being said, I think one of the things I tend to forget is that a first draft is always written for myself. I have a habit of dedicating a book to my Ideal Reader before I start any project, but it’s perfectly fine if that IR is yourself. 

For me, I was writing Juliet before my depression, through it, and after it. It’s influenced my life in more ways than I can count. 

And then there’s Elektriem and Woodstone. Those were the two projects I worked the hardest on when my college plans fell apart. By writing these stories, I was able to reconcile with myself that it’s okay to let go. It wasn’t admitting defeat (something every overachiever Asian should know), and it wasn’t running away. Sometimes you just had to let things be, let go and let God work in your life. 

Waiting for ramen…me, always and forever 🙂

5. The only way to go is forward. 

Lastly, writing is always moving forward. Even when you’re stuck in this excruciating rut of a slump, or just a day when everything you write comes out wrong, everything you put into your writing helps you move forward, not backward. That time you spent staring at the blank screen furiously going over fictional conversation? It’s called visualising what you’re going to write. That time you think you wasted scrolling through Pinterest? It’s called worldbuilding and getting a precise picture of your story. 

Writers write, even when they’re not writing. And that, my dears, is the beauty of being a writer. 

What did you think? Do you have “painful writing days”? What are some ways you remind yourself writing is worth it? What is the biggest thing you learnt as a writer? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

AH: 3 Habits to Write What You Love

Hullo, world!

It’s my lucky day! (I know, when I’m happy, I go off into weird Jack Sparrow tandems.) Raincouver has taken a break, and the last three days have been sunny despite winter still raging, and I feel a hint of spring in the air…

“And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

C. S. Lewis

Anyhow. 

Today, we have another installation of Author Health, which is my second favourite series after Afternoon Tea. (And happens to be the only other series besides that.) We’ve covered grounds of self-care tips & c. so far, but I thought it would be fun to cover actual writing habits–3 Habits to Write What You Love

Now, the Golden Rule in writing is to “Write what you love.” C. S. Lewis says so, and so does J. R. R. Tolkien. If those two could agree on something, it probably means a lot. 

Over the years in my writing career (as if I have such a long time frame to claim), I’ve come to realise this is the key component in being a happy writer–writing what makes you happy. 

Sure, it might not sell at that moment. No one may want to read about classical composers with superpowers based on their famous compositions. *Totally not ripping off BSD* But as long as it makes you happy, it will eventually make other people with niché interests like yours very, very, happy. And what’s a writer who doesn’t like their work? (Just outed every writer in the vicinity, I did.)

1. Take an inventory of stories you love

The very first thing I went and did was to create various book lists. For those of you who don’t know, I’m either a 5 or 1 enneagram, INFJ, Ravenclaw, and Planner leaning towards Plantser. I would spend my spare time creating and reading lists. Neatly organised lists make me so happy I could cry. 

“Ice is my life!”

So naturally, I created a list of stories I love. I also made a list of my favourite things (Theology, conspiracy theories, things that sound hard…), elements I like in stories (Intelligence in MC, Antiquity, weird people…) and so on. From those lists, it became pretty clear what I appreciate in stories, thematic elements I’m drawn towards, and what I place importance on.

Like my Review Policy states, I can’t stand books with terrible prose. (Or modern-ish prose? I’m not entirely sure about the technicalities…) I can stand reasonably bad characters, but I can’t stand stupid MCs. *totally not looking at HP* I’m not too particular about plots, except I would like them as convoluted as possible. Et ad infinitum. 

2. Stuff your story with elements you love

After you have a good idea of what you like in a certain story, proceed to stuff yours with those elements. I have a twisted sense of humour. Combine that with a wanna-be neuroscientist’s knowledge and non-denominational theology, you have entertaining conversations wondering which part of the cut-up concubine got sent to the 12 tribes of Israel in Judges 19. I mean, seriously, which tribe got the head? (Although, I do have to credit Mum for that one. She and I tried to figure out how to divide a body into 12 parts one night.)

The reason I can stand otherwise obnoxious characters like him–we’re similar!
Okay, now I’m just having fun at Sherlock’s expense

3. Build a solid aesthetic for each story 

After I cram a certain book with things I love, I usually figure out the aesthetic for that story.

For Juliet, it’s mostly clean minimal, although the backstory has dark academia feel to it.

Woodstone is a decidedly academia feel–both dark and light.

In Elektriem, it’s grunge and vintage combined with west-coast nature aesthetic.

Having this clear aesthetic for each story gives me an idea of personality for my WiPs. Although it’s clear I lean towards DA or minimal aesthetics, I like changing the sub-genres within them. (Juliet is sci-fi, so the DA elements are more STEM oriented than Woodstone, which is based on the seven liberal arts as magic systems.)

I find that habitually going back to the story’s origins, figuring out which elements I want to write about, and collecting aesthetics for them recharges that energy and  “first love” feel that wears off after plodding through a specific WiP. It’s important to know the theoretical side of why you write but it’s also as important to know in your heart what sparks joy in writing

It sparks joy! Who cares if it’s a little creepy?

What sparks joy in stories? What do your favourite stories entail? Why are you drawn towards them? Once you find those answers, you’ll be surprised at how much on a deeper level you can take your writing. 

(FYI, I’m probably Academia crazy because I love studying. I’m also wild about classics because I grew up on them. On a deeper level, I find comfort in gaining knowledge…when I don’t know things, that’s when I start feeling stressed.)

So, when you find you’re stagnated in a certain WiP, take a step back–what was it about the story you first found fascinating? What’s something that you can add to the story to make you love it even more? Why does it matter to you personally?

And that’s it for today. 

Thank you for reading! What do you think? Which stories or elements do you love? What’s one thing that sparks joy in your writing projects? Do you have a favourite aesthetic? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

AH: Dreams, Goals + Plans for 2021

Happy New Year! 

(Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!)

I can hardly believe that 2020, with all of its quirks and whirlwinds, is past us. And not to put off 2021, but I think 2020 will be that year we’ll keep talking about when we’re old and senile…(“Yes, sonny, you wouldn’t remember what a year we had in 2020, but that’s the problem with all the young ‘uns today…”)

Anyhow. 

Today, I’m back here for my first Author Health blog post in the year 2021. *inserts fanfare and cheers and confettis*

One thing my family has always done is reviewing the year on the 31st, then setting goals on the 1st. It’s become sort of a tradition alongside pounding up mochi (sadly we don’t own a proper pestle and mortar set like our neighbourhood used to back in Japan) and eating all the delectable New Year’s dishes. 

I know some people loath goal setting with all their might, while others (like me) find a certain comfort in them. So I’ll take a look at what my goal setting methods look like, how it helps me realise my dreams, and how it works into a daily plan…and what it can look like for us writers. 

Dreams 

I think what we can all agree on, whether we love goals or not, is that dreams matter. They can be as silly as spending an entire day touring ramen bars (totally not me) or as serious as becoming a published author who works as a neurologist. (Again, totally not me.) 

For this exercise, take a moment to close your eyes and ponder on a dream you have. It could be a cause you’re passionate about. It could be the strangest thing that only makes sense to you. But whatever it is, have a clear idea in your head what your dream looks like.

Jiro-san’s dream.

Then write it down, as many as come to your mind.

I personally have a list of dreams, and some of them are: Published Author, Homeschool Mom, Classically Educated Person, Entrepreneur…and the list goes on.

Goals 

This is where it can get scary. While it’s fun to look at your dreams and…well, dream about them, but breaking it up into tangible goals can feel scary. What if I don’t achieve this goal? What if someone laughs at my dreams? (I know, some people don’t like ramen! Horrors!) What if–

Okay, take a deep breath. *Inhale, exhale* 

First off, it’s okay even if you don’t finish your goals. 

Shocking, right? But the point of having goals in the first place is clarifying your dreams. If dreams were a destination, goals are broad roadmaps. Think of them as highway signs. I swear, you can go back to Vancouver from Nanaimo or Mission if you only follow those signs. 

Goals come in bigger chunks than what people think. For my dream of becoming a published author, I have a few milestones to hit before I think of querying that looks like this:

  1. Write 1,000,000 words (1,000K)
  2. Find a Critique Partner 
  3. Edit Major WIPs
  4. Find Beta Readers
  5. Research Publishing Companies + Agents
  6. Start Querying
  7. Write some more

See? I have at least seven huge milestones to hit before anything publishing wise could happen. Currently, I’m at the first two steps of writing and finding a critique partner–something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ve almost written 500K, so I’m halfway there! Albeit the fact the road seems long, I’m more confident having these tangible sections ahead of me which helps me stay motivated about my dreams. 

What following your goals can be like

Goals help you realise your dreams. If one thing isn’t working, it’s totally fine to change it up. 

Plans

And this is the smallest segment of a dream, a bite-size, if you will. Plans are the things that you can tick off each day to take a step toward your dream. 

For me, my plans are mostly hand-written and in the form of bullet journals. (I know, I just can’t seem to shut up about bullet journals.) I currently have three bujos I use for planning. 

The first one is where I write my monthly and daily schedule–a classic planner. This is where I integrate and write down tasks, check them off, track books I’ve read &c. 

The second one I have is the Goal setting journal. In Carroll’s book, The Bullet Journal Method, he introduces this method called the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Goals. (I strongly recommend you read the book. He explains it much better, and with actual graphics.)

Five stands for 5 years. This is the goal you’d like to achieve in 5 years, such as graduate med school, learn a language, and the likes. 

Four is 4 months. It’s a shorter frame than the first, so it might be things like finish a course/semester, apply to schools, or start a WIP. 

Three is 3 weeks. Now it’s something you can achieve this month, a mid to smaller size goal that might entail things like finish a science project, start researching your WIP, or read x-amount of books. 

Two is 2 days. It’s what you can definitely finish in this time span, which could be planning your blog post titles, scheduling for the month, or taking a test for calculus. 

One is 1 hour. I would write things like email someone, write a blog post, eat lunch, or have a bath.

In this way, I can keep track of where I am in different time segments. I also write book lists and things I want to learn in this bujo.

The third bujo I have is my own invention. It’s my brainstorm notes. This is where I write down projects and other ideas I want to bring into the world like Reinventing my Japanese blog (which I did) and Rethinking my Reading Ethics (more on this the coming weeks). 

Here, I log all the ideas I have for these projects with the 5W1H, then proceed to break them down into achievable steps I can take, as well as reason out why I want to do this in the first place…

Example:

TitleThe Ramen Campaign
WhoMe and my family
WhatEat instant ramen from different brands
WhenJanuary 2021
WhereAt home
WhyTo see how many ramen brands we can consume in a month
HowEat ramen once a day (31 days=31 brands)

Steps to Take

・Make a list of all the ramen brands sold at the store

・Buy ramen at the beginning of the week

・Eat ramen for lunch everyday

・Keep track of ramen consumed and the brand

Now you know how ramen-obsessed I am

I know, that’s a silly example, but that’s what some of the project ideas could look like. By going a step deeper and figuring out why we’re doing what we’re doing, we can take a purposeful step towards our dreams. 

So that’s the gist of my dreams, goals, and plans creation process. The last thing I want to say is, at the end of the day, what matters isn’t your plans, goals, or *gasp* dreams. It’s where God wants you to be and the plan He has for you. 

2020 knocked me out in terms of many things, but reviewing my goals showed me how much I did get done. Letting go of the dreams I had for so long and trusting God relieved me of the pressure, “I have to do it by myself.” 

I don’t know what  2021 brings me, but with my dreams, goals, and plans, I pray that I can move forward to embrace the plan God  has for me. 

What do you think 2021 will be like for you? Do you make goals or plans at the beginning of the year? What are some of your goal-setting processes? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!