Only a Year…?

 

small butterflI’m not sure what prompted me to do so, but I found my way back to this blog tonight. Though it’s not been quite an entire calendar year since this project took shape, it truly feels like lifetime ago. It’s not so much the number of days between me and this project, as it is about the amount of change I’ve undergone in that time.  I credit this to the transformation moving forward in school. Seeking a graduate degree in Library Science has stretched and grown me in ways I never imagined it would. There have been excessively difficult challenges to overcome. By God’s grace alone, I have been able to meet these challenges.

I’m now at the beginning of a new semester, one that is certain to be intense. There are a whole new set of challenges before me, not the least of which is continuing to make progress on “The Prince and the Pirate Princess.” I recently had an opportunity to receive feedback on the opening scenes of the novel from professional writers. Even though I will be re-writing the scene, it doesn’t feel like I’m going backward in the project. Rather it feels like I’m filling a narrative gap, strengthening a weakness. I can’t recall a time when a re-write felt more like forward movement instead of a re-tread of something that should already be complete.

Progress, overall, on my novel has been helped along the most by participation in a writer’s group. I located a writer’s group via meetup.com, and have been attending for the last five months. I’ve met some incredibly talented writers, and received some helpful feedback on a couple of projects.  The group has been around for a few years and has a well-established feel to it. I visit the group twice a week, and each time I do, I just write. This has resulted in no less than an additional 20,000 words added to the novel, and something I plan to continue with as much as possible, despite the education crunch I’m facing over the next few months.

Depression Descends

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It truly was only a matter of time. Given that I had just achieved a major life goal, I shouldn’t have been surprised when it happened. I just hoped to find some way of channeling the forward momentum of completing my Senior Project, and finishing my degree with such high marks, that perhaps I could prevent the onset. Nothing I’ve done so far has helped. Depression has descended.

For those blessedly free of this condition, let me fill you in on a few things. 1) It is not something I can just snap out of. 2) It has been the most constant companion of my life.  Depression, as I experience it, is like wearing lead sneakers while trying to run through molasses. Every movement, every thought, sometimes just breathing is a massively exhaustive task. Crying helps, but sometimes, I’m so sad, I can’t even cry.

I’ve heard depression described as the state of being emotionally exhausted. There is a deep seated sadness within my soul that never goes away. It will grow smaller, fade to the background, but it is always there. Distractions – like entertainment, and socializing with others, are both helpful and not helpful. They can make the experience bearable, but they also extend the length of the episode when it finally hits. No, depression will have its time and its attention from me. Each bout is a little different, and each has a particular course to run.

No one interacting with me right now would believe I’m struggling with this. As I said, socializing can be a distraction. In the face of fun, I can smile, converse, serve, and focus on something other than the emotional black hole sucking all the hope out of me. When I’m alone, however, it’s a different story.

Speaking of stories, this has brought progress on The Prince and the Pirate Princess to a near stand still. I have added a few hundred words to the writing in the last couple weeks, but it’s been difficult to motivate myself to live, let alone be creative.  The creative activities I’ve felt any desire to do have been anchored in other modes of expression (jewelry making, watercolor painting, etc). I plan to persevere through this, and continue to write, even if at this much slower pace.  This, though difficult, will help with the depression. Failure after trying and failure from lack of trying are two different things. One feeds the depression, the other starves it.

Persevering in my goal to add another 12,500 words to my story by the end of July is not the only thing I can do to help with this process. I have other coping mechanisms. None of these coping mechanisms, though, would offer any comfort at all if God did not will it as so. Therefore, I also pray through my depression and seek the Author of all earthly comfort. I give thanks to Him for the help these techniques offer. I will increase the number of hours I sleep and listen to music designed to help with depression.  I will laugh. I will watch lol cat videos, and cute furry critter videos, and squee-worthy baby videos. I will lift my head and continue to look for the rainbows of life. These always appear after the rain.

 

Scene by Scene…

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If you’ve been paying attention (and I don’t think anyone actually is), you’ll notice my word count hasn’t jumped since I achieved my goal of 25,000 words in 30 days. Ah, the SoloWrimo, good, stressful times. Drafting on the Prince and the Pirate Princess continues, and the word count will be updated shortly (it currently stands at 25,557).

It will, no longer, however, show as a goal. Though I have no insanity inducing, grade-dependent goal in mind, what I have is a writing process I enjoy. I’ve returned to the original process of writing a few pages by hand, then entering those pages, and I have to say I believe the writing is better for it.  For those efficiency experts out there, this might seem incredibly in-efficient. It might seem like a doubling of the work.  The more I think about it, though, the less I’m inclined to agree.

When an artist creates an image, they start with what’s known as “Broad Strokes,” where the general shape of the image is defined on the pristine, blank sheet of paper. I tend to think of these intial, handwritten drafts as my “Broad Strokes.” When entering my text, I can then refine those strokes by a second pass over the same material.

This process has really brought to life the phrase “Writing is Re-Writing” in that it has become my everyday writing plan. I review my outline, make notes on how the draft deviated and it’s execution, then handwrite the next portion of the story as noted in the outline. I will then re-write that same portion as I type it in. Clarity, plot-holes, loose threads, these elements are all address in that second pass over the same material which is all fresh in my mind.

I’m not only writing my novel, I’m re-writing it, bit by bit, scene by scene. It isn’t inefficient because my typed draft actually becomes the second draft of my novel. When I have this fully written second draft, the edits I make to it will result in a third draft. I come out ahead in the long run.

Writer in Waiting

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So, the project been submitted for grading, and now I’m just waiting.  Waiting on the grade. Waiting on a somewhat unclimactic ending to completing my BA degree. The last few days has not seen any new words added to my project. I haven’t been resting, rather, I’ve been completing the assignments for my other classes. Today is the first day I’ve really rested.

But it’s not resting. I feel like I’m waiting on something, and I’m not entirely sure what thst is. Seems strange, even to me, and I’m fairly strange. Perhaps, and this seems very likely, I’m just waiting on my final grades. Do I have a 4.0? Only time will tell…and it won’t be too long of a wait. The grades have to be in by a certain time.

I don’t want to just wait, though. Rest, maybe, but I feel my life has a good, positive momentum, and I want to keep moving forward. I’m just not sure how. I am a writer in waiting, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to wait around. There is a lot to do, I’m just not sure what to do next.