Creating a good writing ambiance.

One of the more important things for me, when I’m writing, is to have a good ambiance to encourage my creative juices to keep flowing.  Although with poetry I have to write by hand (otherwise I can’t actually write poetry – nothing good comes out of it when I create on the computer), fiction comes to me naturally as I sit at the computer.  Usually when I am working on my WIP(s), it’s either before my husband is awake, or after he’s gone to classes – so I am alone in the small den where my desktop computer is located.  My desk is messy, which seems to be entropy at work… but that doesn’t normally bother me.  Other people may need a clean writing space, though… do whatever suits you best.

Always, though, I have to have music playing.  Usually it’s something quiet, like Enya or classical.  Sometimes, however, when I am writing more aggressively (or if I need something to help me pound out a word count, during NaNoWriMo especially), I will listen to groups such as Avenged Sevenfold or Blindside.  Sometimes I am more in the mood for softer/acoustic music, in which case I will listen to singers/groups like Sara Groves, Sixpence None the Richer, or Sufjan Stevens.  If you haven’t tried writing with music playing, I encourage it.  It may be a distraction to you if you are not used to it, but – and perhaps especially – if you are suffering from writer’s block, it may help you come up with words that you had previously been lacking.

Another part of creating a good ambiance for writing is being in comfortable clothing.  I can’t imagine sitting here, at my computer, trying to write anything, being dressed up.  I am very much a sweatpants and tshirt sort of girl.  Often you’ll find me writing in a pair of old fleece pajama pants and a tshirt, bare feet tucked under me as I sit cross-legged on my office chair.  Other days it’ll be a pair of my university sweats and a sweatshirt.  Wear whatever is comfortable for you to wear – whether it’s jeans or sweatpants or anything in between.

Another thing I have noticed that is important for me, perhaps because of medication side effects, is having a drink available at all times.  No, no, I’m not talking about alcohol, silly. *grin* Whether it’s hot tea, iced tea, coffee, sweetened buttermilk, hot chocolate, or – most commonly – water, I need to have something available for me to grab if I am thirsty.  It disrupts my concentration if I have to go get something something to drink in the middle of an exciting paragraph in my novel, or, if I am trying to hit a particular word count, it makes me lose impetus to reach that word count.  I don’t know if many other people are similar to this, but it can’t hurt to have a bottle of water next to your writing space, especially if you write for lengthy periods of time.  Staying hydrated is important, even as a writer. *wink*

Lastly, although it may not be an obvious part of creating a writing ambiance, is smells/scents.  Since we live in an apartment complex, often there are smells from other people’s apartments that drift into our apartment.  Stale cigarette smoke and cooking meat are the most common ones.  While the den is furthest away from being next to anyone else’s apartment, sometimes the smells do bother me.  Sometimes it is just a bad smell in general, like sewage or a dead critter somewhere in the walls.  I haven’t yet figured out how to counteract this, but I think that I would probably use an air freshener in here, since I like the scents of most air fresheners – or sprinkle some of my husband’s Axe spray around, since I adore that smell. *grin*  If smells bother you, then figure out what your favorite scents are and have them be available to you in case a bad odor hits you mid-sentence.

What are your favorite ways to create a writing ambiance?  I’m curious now!! 😀

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Creating characters.

For me, this is one of the most fun parts of writing.  I love creating my characters – making them come to life on the pages of my novel(s), making them live, breathe, talk, make mistakes… be human.  My current MCs, Tess and Lance, are truly flawed human beings that are facing extreme odds (well, I haven’t gotten to write that part of the story yet – perhaps I should skip ahead to it, as a friend has suggested I do), yet they will be able to overcome the odds that they face with grace – but not without making their share of mistakes along the way.

 

Tess is a stubborn, willful teenager that is struggling with an eating disorder as the book begins.  As it progresses, she will face trials in her life that will cause her to develop fibromyalgia.  The goal of this novel, eventually, is to show that it’s not just elderly people who struggle with being in pain – that fibro is a real illness, that it actually does occur among the younger population, and that extremely stressful times can cause it to develop.  The science behind that phenomenon is not well known yet – but researchers have made a link between stress and the development of fibromyalgia.  It is thought that there is a genetic predisposition factor also involved; it is classified as an autoimmune illness although doctors still haven’t come up with a tried and true way to test for it.  However, Tess will have to deal with fibro and her eating disorder, which can be a very bad combination, along with the stress of dealing with the trials that life throws at her.

 

Lance, on the other hand, is the flawed yet still strong and true man that stands by Tess’ side through thick and thin.  He has his doubts, yes, but in the end it all comes together.  He has struggled with an eating disorder in the past, but he recovered, and that is the catalyst for Tess learning that recovery truly is possible.  The way to recovery is not easy – but it is something that can be done, with the right supports.  As the novel progresses, she falls more and more in love with Lance, and he with her, and it does end in marriage, although she doesn’t know that yet. *grin* She also probably wouldn’t like to know it, since currently, she’s only just met him, under adverse conditions.

 

I haven’t quite yet figured out how to conclude the novel, since in its original form – the NaNo novel from last year – it never got finished.  I am also going to try and take out the sexual abuse which plot ninjas stuck into my NaNo novel to add to the word count… that’s going to be hard, since some of the main stuff in the book happens around that, but I’m sure I’ll be able to work my way around it.  Conclusions have never been my strong point – mostly because I’ve never stuck out a novel until the end.  My only real experiences thus far with writing a novel have been through NaNoWriMo, and… well, I’ve hit word count the years I’ve done it, but afterwards I never went back to edit my novels since they were such a mess.  I just didn’t want to deal with them.  This is the first time that I am attempting to go back and work on a novel written during NaNo, and it is indeed rather difficult.  I believe that my idea for the novel is a good one, but carrying it out could be tricky.

 

However – here’s to writing!!

Books, books, everywhere!!

I have been an avid reader all of my life, which I do think has helped shape my writing style.  My parents have told me that I was reading by the age of two or two and a half, and, well, ever since then I have been reading voraciously.  Perhaps too voraciously, my husband might say (or my parents may have said), since I have often neglected duties if I am caught up in a good book.  Recently, I have been finding a lot of good books – but then again, since when have I not? *wry grin*

A few posts back I mentioned my goal of moving all of the books that were on the floor of our bedroom to a bookshelf that had been recently cleared.  Well, that got done in a day, and while I have yet to organize it… it does look very nice.  I don’t have a digital camera, or I would take a picture of it (mine died a rather dramatic death about a year ago now, maybe closer to two).  But that is only a fraction of the books I own, and goodness, good luck if you turn me loose in a library or a used bookstore!!  I am not picky in the least – the only books I truly avoid are Harlequin romance and Westerns.  But aside from that… I’m willing to try anything.  Mostly fiction, though, since I’ve had too many college and grad school courses in real world stuff.  I much prefer being able to escape to a fantasy world rather than being subjected to reading about dates and names I feel I must memorize in order to be a knowledgeable member of society. *chuckle*

My one guilty pleasure, though, are memoirs.  I can read any type of memoir, although I do tend to lean towards ones in the field of psychology.  I am currently reading a book called Tweak by Nic Sheff (all links lead to Goodreads) about living as a drug addict.  My mother would categorize it as a “tough book” due to the content, and I would agree with her… but I love it nevertheless.  With the field I am going into (social work) I need to know the rough sides of life, because I will doubtless be dealing with people from all walks of life… and what good can I do if my ideas of how other people live are all rosy?  I know that life is difficult, and reading memoirs is one way – I suppose – of reminding me of that, and also of how very lucky I am to be as high functioning as I am, given the problems I face on a daily basis.

But to balance out Tweak, I am also reading I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett.  If there is anything that is more differently written from Tweak than I Shall Wear Midnight, I can’t name it.  I love Terry Pratchett, and recently I have purchased several more of his books for those times when I need a pick-me-up.  When I was younger, I tried reading a Pratchett book, but I failed.  I wasn’t old enough then, I suppose, to understand his dry humor and tongue-in-cheek writing.  However, now, they are delightful.  I’m also reading Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult, which is in between Pratchett and Sheff in levels of seriousness.  It’s actually shown me a different way of looking at the hot topic of gay marriage, which I appreciate… in my family, such things were not spoken of while I was growing up, and even now, with both of us kids out of the house and grown up, discussions of hot topics such as that are not comfortable for my parents to discuss – at least, with me.  But I digress.  Picoult is one of my favorite authors; mostly – and I just pinpointed this – because her books deal with hot topics in society, and as a social worker to be, I appreciate all of the different viewpoints I can get on hot topics (other topics she has dealt with in her novels have been suicide, rape, adultery, and euthanasia, etc.).

Anyway, those are a few of the books that I have read.  If you wish to read my reviews on Goodreads, feel free to check out my Goodreads profile – and if you wish, feel free to add me as a friend.  I am always looking for more people with whom I can be excited about books!!  And now, since it is past midnight my time, I must do something that will allow for me to get sleepy, rather than getting all interested in exploring more of my (too big) book collection. (Wait, is there such a thing as a book collection being “too big”?  …Good, I didn’t think so.)

Good enough?

This is something I have been struggling with constantly for the past two or three months.  “Am I a good enough writer to actually write and be serious about it?” … the doubtlets again, I’m afraid.  I’ve been a writer all of my life – I remember writing stories in a made up language when I was two or three (I used the regular alphabet, but since I didn’t know how to spell real words back then it was just a jumble of letters that said stuff only I knew).  I remember having folders upon folders of stories on our first computer when I was 9 or 10.  I remember having such a vivid imagination that I needed to write no matter what, no matter where.  Even now, I carry a journal around with me in my purse, in case there are things about which I feel the need to write.

 

And yet, still, I doubt myself.  I tell myself, “Well, you can love writing and still not be worth publishing.”  That – of course – doesn’t comfort me in the least.  I know I have a good handle on language usage, thanks to my mom, who got her Master’s degree in English and was a stickler for her kids learning proper grammar and spelling.  I know I have a vivid imagination, I know my writing isn’t that bad, but then I look at all of the books that have been published, and I doubt my imagination.  I doubt my writing skills (although admittedly, I have caught some errors that editors haven’t caught in published books and e-books).

 

Because I doubt myself, I don’t let myself write.  I think that is the biggest stumbling block I am facing right now – I don’t think I will ever be good enough to publish, so I’m not even trying to work towards that.  I feel like a huge fake for calling myself a writer, to be quite honest, since currently I am not sitting down and forcing myself to write, because of my fears.  I am letting my fears win this battle, and that’s never a good sign.  I suppose it’s natural for writers to doubt their abilities, but… that doesn’t stop most writers I know.  I also guess I should give myself some slack since I am in my fourth week of my second semester in grad school, and I need time to unwind after doing homework, but why can’t writing be part of my time spent unwinding?  Why do I have to view it, already, as a chore?  Even when I am at my most inspired, I just feel… very “blah” about this work in progress.  I think it has potential, but I feel so stuck with it at the same time.  Perhaps it’s because I’m reworking my NaNo novel, and feel like it’s not an actual new, exciting work.  I’m not sure.

 

I just know that I wish that I could relax, just let myself write instead of worrying so much about whether or not I’m capable.  That’ll work itself out, right?  Right now, the most important thing is that I keep my brain sharp by writing regularly.  If only I could convince myself that my WIP is not going to be a horrible piece of work, maybe I would do better… but I think the biggest problem here are the doubtlets.  They need to be banished from my queendom… so I will work on that this week.  And perhaps even get some more words written on my WIP. 😉