When I was growing up, I read books like it was no one’s business. I would purchase books on a Saturday and have finished all of them by Sunday night. It was a glorious time. I was full of ideas and the world was endless when it came to reading material.
I didn’t discriminate on whether or not I thought the writing was good but based on the story. If I liked the story, then that was it.
I collected a lot of books over the years. I could typically pare down the amount that I had, but in recent years, I have filled up my bookshelves with the best of the best that I have read. There are some books on my shelf that don’t make a ton of sense like the Twilight series. But there are classics. I have Pride and Prejudice, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and so much more. These books might not always be the best, but they mean something to me.
But my college days changed how I approached books. As an English major, most of my collection was now my curriculum. I was reading constantly, but not because I loved the books. I did find books that I loved, but it wasn’t me that was doing the searching.
I was reading less and less. I was writing less and less. This was all happening while I was reading and writing more than ever. College does this to a lot of people. I am not an isolated incident when it comes to reading and college. Friends and family have both said that the reading leaves when you’re in college.
“There are more important things.”
But that isn’t true.
Reading has always been a way to learn. I pick up books on stories and subjects that I want to understand. I have read books that discuss philosophical concepts just because it sounds cool. I find myself wanting to know more about the world.
But I’m not searching for those new books that push the boundaries of what I know. I’m not expanding my mind and really looking for new stories to write.
I’m reading kind of trashy books on my phone because they fill the time. They’re not good quality and I’ve found errors in a couple of them. So why am I bothering to take the time to read them? They’re readily available and they’re cheap. They’re a lesson in what not to do. Some of them have good stories and good ideas.
They keep me reading and thinking, but they’re not good. I try to revisit the classics and reread things like Greek epic poems, but it doesn’t always fill the kind of literary void.
It’s a product of the fact that I’m spending a lot of time working and I don’t have the mental capacity at the end of the day to really work through some of the concepts in books that I want to read. I have to find something more bite-sized to fit into what mental space I have left.
I’m sure that one day I’ll be able to read for hours again, but that day isn’t today. That doesn’t mean that I should let it get to me. I need to keep aiming for the day that I can read all of those books and write all of the stories. Working hard and making sure to write when I can will move me towards that future.
When we’re in school, we’re taught over and over about what the rules of grammar are. You learn about spelling what it is supposed to be and how you’re supposed to remember it. And there’s always an exception or seven to every rule you learn. This is part of the bullshit of the English language. Grammatical correctness has many different ways of being defined. Your English teacher may have harped on you about the way that you should say things and the incorrect way that you typically say things.
But that’s not how the English language really works. While we like to think that we have a list of rules, we really just have a list of suggestions that we can follow. An editor isn’t going to just go back to the rules of grammar and judge everything you do based on that. If it was that simple, then your grammar checkers (both in Word or Grammarly) would really be able to help you when you’re editing a paper.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Grammarly. I use it to double check work that I’m doing all the time. But there’s a reason why someone needs me to go through their writing and make sure that everything about it is really correct. Editors aren’t just there to make sure that the plot follows through right. We’re there to make sure that everything follows a style of correctness.
There are style guides out there to create rules that we lack when we’re learning about grammar. The Chicago Manual of Style, Associated Press style guides, and the more specific style guides that are produced by all sorts of companies out there are there to guide how writers work and how a company is portrayed. While you could try to program a grammar checker to follow one of these guidelines, it would be nearly impossible. If you’ve never seen the Chicago Manual of Style, then you will be surprised to know that the giant book is hundreds of pages long and full of so many rules that you need to know if you want to be able to follow the style guide.
And because there are so many rules, it’s hard for a robot to know when to apply what. This is why Word’s grammar checker is often wrong and it’s why Grammarly is sometimes wrong as well. There are just too many variables. There are styles that people write in that are also so different from what Grammarly might know. When an editor takes a look at a piece, there are better able to judge what needs to be done.
I’m sure that one day in the far future, the editor might be replaced by a robot, but that day is far, far off. Most writers aren’t going to trust a robot to edit their work when the ones we have still aren’t perfect in any regard and the technology isn’t ready yet. One day, we’ll get the hang of it, but that day isn’t today. Which is good news for me.
Since I was a little kid, there have been arguments about what we should be spending our time on. I’ve never had problems finding enough reading material. I read all the time. I’m not saying that I always read the best kind of content, but I’m always reading. So why should I argue against everything that has been told to me since I was a kid?
Simply because I don’t believe it.
We were told to not spend too much time in front of the TV and then to not spend time on the internet. But reading was fine. We were supposed to read. If you read a lot, then teachers and friends and parents would praise you for all that you were doing. But what’s the difference?
As a writer, you think I would place more importance on the physical written word. But also as a writer, I understand that there are a lot of different ways that you can write. Podcasts are a way. TV shows feature writing. Movies have writing. All of that visual media has a written component to it. We shouldn’t discourage people from consuming TV and movies. They’re not garbage media just because of their format.
When it comes down to it. Every form of media has their throw away products. For books, there are dime-a-dozen romance novels and tons and tons of fantasy and sci-fi books waiting to be read out there. For TV shows, you have reality shows and faux-reality shows like all of the different big foot shows that I have witnessed during my time of watching the History channel. For podcasts, you can find tons of defunct podcasts about very specific fandoms that fizzled out as soon as the source material fizzled out as well.
Every platform has its trash. No platform is exempt from the trash rule. What content becomes ‘trash’ depends on what people are looking for. Romance novels appeal to a lot of people for various reasons. There’s a lot to be gained from visual media that I will never be able to get from other forms of media.
Representation matters and when you have TV shows that feature that representation, then they’re going to be popular with some people. It doesn’t matter what kind of media it is, you need to be able to have something to relate to. Most books don’t touch on the subjects that I want to consume and experience. So instead, I look for shows whether they’re documentaries or they’re TV shows or movies based on true events. These are the kinds of things that I want in my life.
I can find meaning in any kind of media that I am consuming. Even all of the YouTube videos that I watch has something to it that a book can never give me. In fact, YouTube channels are actually doing something for me that I cannot get from books. When I want to know the news, I turn to some of my favorite online creators. When I hear about a game with an interesting premise that I know I cannot play because it costs too much/I don’t have the system/it scares the hell out of me, I turn to YouTube. There are a variety of content creators that are helping me find content that I don’t have access to in another way.
Books may be good, but they cannot give me the jump scares that watching people play Outlast did. They cannot give me the lore of the video games like other creators can speculate.
Different media allows you to think about the same information in new ways. There are books that became television that I love because the writing and storylines were actually refined in the process. There are some shows that should stop because they have gone so far that their plot lines are terrible.
I take that television and apply it to my own life. There’s a lot that I can learn about writing from all of these mediums. I can find ways to make my writing faster and slower in just the right ways. I can figure out how writers are failing their audiences and how plot lines can twist and turn until they’re so different from where we started.
So if someone tells you to stop watching TV, then take a look at what you’re watching. If you’ve just got it on to kill time, then maybe it might not be worth it. But don’t write off the whole medium because of a couple lousy products.
I’m sure that we’re past the age of hearing about decluttering. Sometimes it’s a necessary process that we go through when we move or when we’re just trying to make our space more manageable. I’ve always had a problem with clutter. For most of my life, I have been holding onto things. I still have presents from my first significant other and cards from my sixteenth birthday.
I don’t need these things, but I’ve always been attached to little things.
For the last two months, I have been trying so hard to get my room cleaned and ready for me to feel safe in, but I’m not there yet. I’m not surprised that I’m having a tough time with this. Part of this process isn’t just about making my room easier for me to live in. Part of this is about moving out one day.
That day hasn’t come yet, but it will. I’ll have to move out of this house and continue on my life path. That’s honestly one of the most terrifying things right now. It’s not even just that, but it’s the fact that I’ll have to be on my own. I may be an only child, but that’s not something that I’ve done before.
Even when I’ve been alone, there’s been other people around me. But I need to be able to live in a space by myself. This means that I need to be able to par down my life into fewer boxes so that I can move around more easily. For some, decluttering will mean giving you space to breathe. If you find that you can’t get work done, then I would suggest taking a look at your workspace. Do what you can to make the space clean and useful. That may mean using boxes to store things and organize the things that you need. Find places to put the stuff that you don’t need right away and have easy access to the things that you need right now.
Regardless of why you need to declutter or how you figure out how to make your space neater, I wish you the best of luck.
A little while ago, I was asked for any tips on blogging. It’s not a question I get often. I guess that’s because I’m not extremely serious about my blogging. I don’t do everything that I could do to make my blog like other popular blogs. I just kind of dink around and do silly things until I come up with something that works for me.
And that’s my tip for how to blog. It’s always the way that I approach writing. I talked earlier in the week about how everything in my writing changed. That’s kind of how I approach writing now as well.
I try what I want to and see what sticks to my process. Honestly, blogs are a really expanding platform. I want to make a ‘nicer’ looking blog one day full of pictures of my stationery looking neat and tidy, but I’m not at that point right now. I’m trying to get there, but it’s not something that I will be able to do right away or right now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Over time, I will keep trying to reach for my goals. If I don’t reach them or if I get distracted for a little bit, then that’s where I go. I’m not about trying to be perfect.
Perfection is a dream, but it’s not something that I will ever be able to manage. I work on trying to really improve myself, but my idea of perfect will continue to evolve as well. Chasing after a dream isn’t a bad thing.
So if you’re starting a blog or starting any other kind of project, I just want you to know that you don’t have to be perfect. Be messy, screw up, keep reaching for ‘perfect’ but never feel bad if you don’t get there. Your goal is to keep improving, not be perfect in the beginning.
There’s a lot of stigma about how we should write. But the stigma typically runs two different ways on any subject. You either plan or you just write your story without writing anything down. You either write your story in order or you jump around. You either write fantasy (regardless of what actual genre it is) or you write real life.
None of these are true. I’ve seen these in play everywhere. What I want to talk about are the stigmas of planning your story. Many people that I talk to (that aren’t writers) think that writers plan out their stories, write them, and then edit them. And they’re not wrong. But they’re also not right.
I plan a lot of my stories. I find that I have the most success when I have some sort of plan to work with. However, I do also try to make space for changing my mind on smaller details. Your plan is the ‘first draft.’ It is the story before it is a story. It is something that you have to think hard about before you try to turn into your story. It is a guide and a ruler for you to measure your writing against. Sometimes it helps when you’re trying to make goals about what to write for a day or whatever.
But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I have a sci-fi story that I’m writing. It is edging into the territory of sci-fi/fantasy, but that’s only because I’m not far enough in the planning process to figure out the sci-fi solution yet. I decided this month to start work on this story. I wanted to write 5 ‘acts’ which are broken down into seven ‘arcs.’ All of these numbers are arbitrary. In the end, when I finish writing the draft and start editing, all of those markers will disappear and I will reorganize the story into chapters. But the important part is that I am actively writing this story while I am planning it. I am working on the third act in the planning process, but I’m writing in the first act. That doesn’t sound like a very writerly thing to do.
I’m sure that there are people out there, even among the people I know that would think that this decision sounds a little funny. How can I write this story when I don’t know what’s going to happen later? Well, that’s actually part of it. I finished the second act, got stuck, then started my June commitment to writing 1,500 words every day. From working on that draft, I was able to see things in the story that a plan will never see.
But things changed more. I’ve started changing the format, how I want to handle the story, all of the perspectives that I want to include. This is changing the way that I look at the plan, the way that I look at the story, and the way that I look at the time I am spending on it.
I never intended to change so much. I knew from the start that my format would be weird and difficult and wonderful in that way. But I also thought that it was going to be a later on problem. Then it became a right now problem.
The wonderful thing about drafts and writing is that it allows you to play. That’s what I’ve decided to stop shying away from. My first draft is only mine. No one else will see it unless I want to share a little bit. This is my second plan. This is where all the ideas are starting to come together.
Playing with a draft and messing with the structure isn’t something that has to be done outside of the ‘normal’ writing process. There is no ‘normal’ when it comes to writing. Just do what you have to to get the story down on paper, then move onto the next draft. And keep moving until you can change no more.
I don’t often talk about my mental health issues all the time. I don’t enjoy talking about my anxiety and the problems that arise with it. But after last Wednesday, I felt like I had to write about it because of how it felt. I know that mental health affects many people differently. Not every experience is the same, but I think the one that I had is kind of similar for a lot of people.
My anxiety hasn’t really ever stepped in and affected my life in a big way. I’ve had bad days and bad anxiety attacks that’ll take me out for a little bit, but I’m usually fine in a couple of hours. I might feel a little shaky, but I still can move forward and keep working on the things that I need to do.
Wednesday was not one of those days. I hadn’t been having the best work week. Not bad, but I upped the number of hours I wanted to work and I could have chalked it up to just unwillingness to work hard. But that wasn’t it. I knew that there was something else going on. I knew it because I could not get myself to do anything that morning. Getting out of bad was hard. Making anything for breakfast, even just a cup of coffee was hard. Turning on my computer and organizing my list for the day was hard. I was unhappy and unwilling. Everything felt a little bit off.
I did some work and then I just couldn’t get myself to do anything else. I had to stop. I had to step back from what I was doing and try to evaluate the situation. It’s led to a new habit, but I think it’ll come in handy in the future. I sat down and forced myself to label out my work. Luckily, the items that I labeled as essential were already done for the day. So I threw everything else out and just sat.
I played video games. I watched Netflix. I sat and didn’t move and didn’t do a lot of other things. It was quite possibly the worst mental health day I had ever had. I’m probably being a little over-dramatic, but I don’t have these kinds of really bad days ever. This one threw a little bit of a loop into my day and my week. It wasn’t enough to throw everything off and luckily it was just one day.
But I’m not ashamed of the fact that I needed a day. Mental health is such a hot button topic. I have people in my life that would tell me to get off my ass and work regardless of what happened. I physically could not do anything. And that’s okay. Taking a day to deal with mental issues is really important. If you’re struggling with your mental health, take a day off for yourself. If you can’t take off a whole day, then take off as much as you can.