Aesthetics – Heroes Project

I hope you liked my first aesthetics post, because I wanted to share another one.

This is the one I made for the Heroes project:

A collage with 9 different squares.

First row, left to right:
Make-up pallettes with bright colours.
The Tower Bridge in London.
A rainbow flag made of glitter.

Second row, left to right:
A fox stretching with its tongue out.
The central square has "HEROES. Sol Vera" written in blocky letters directly on top of the royal blue background.
A black cat is hissing.

Third row, left to right:
A group of friends walking while hugging each other.
The "oso and madroño" statue in Madrid's Puerta del Sol.
A lonely man sitting down in front of the wavy sea.

I wanted to do this project next because it’s the one with the second lowest word count among those in the list, so I’m trying to think about it and write a bit more. I’m always surprised when I realize this project placed so high in the first of my word count posts, because I always had the feeling I’d barely started and would probably never finish it. The rest of the WIPs have surpassed it in the last year, but I’m still confused when I see it has more than 1000 words.

As you know, it was supposed to be a superhero short story set in Spain, but will probably end up being something longer. It’s contemporary, set mainly in Madrid, and the main characters have superpowers and use alter egos to fight crime and injustice. Depression and anxiety are very relevant to the story, maybe as much as in Fireflies or even more.

I’m very unsure about this project, since it covers very difficult subjects, but it’s supposed to be mainly fun. It’s hard to balance things out while treating the heavy subjects with the depth and seriousness they deserve. I may need more experience to make sure I don’t bungle things up. And a sensitivity reader or two.

At the beginning, this WIP was just a game. I was having fun imagining how Spanish superheroes would look like, how the stereotypes could be used or subverted, and what they would fight against. But would it make sense without a superhero that was more or less the opposite of the main character? That’s when things started to get complicated. I’m still wondering whether I should keep going forward or just revert the project to its early stages: a fun short story with lots of stereotypes that could be read as satirical by those who are familiar with the image of the American superhero.

I’ll have to think about it.

Disclaimers:

I’ve made all of these collages using free stock photos (and a couple of personal photos) on Canva, so to my knowledge all of them were free to use. Please let me know if that’s not the case for any of the photos.

All of these WIPs are still in progress, so everything is tentative. Things may change as the stories and the characters develop. Also, the images I’ve chosen might not be 100% accurate, but they have some elements that might be important within the story.

August 2021 Update

I gotta be honest: this has been a tough month for me.

It started well enough, as I managed to continue writing the short story I mentioned on my previous update and it unsurprisingly got longer and longer. I also updated the backups of my projects and joined the tent for people who want to finish projects at the virtual writing camp, but then life happened and I couldn’t manage much more.

Still, I found alternatives and adapted my goals. I realized I felt like doing something artistic, so I decided to start making aesthetics posts. I realized I wouldn’t be able to finish that not-that-short story, so I changed my camp goal to finishing my current notebook instead. I felt like talking to some friends, so I contacted a few. One of them, who is a crochet expert, helped me with some WIP-related questions. Another one, who is a writer, talked to me about making decisions, self-doubt, and second-guessing one’s WIP. Plus, her questions about my Oracle project were very enlightening even for me.

You might have seen it already, but I also made a new pinned thread on Twitter to tell people more about myself!

So I guess I should be proud of taking care of myself as well as I could, and I do feel thankful for my wonderful friends, who are always there with their kind and encouraging words ready for me. But I also can’t help feeling a little bit guilty because I wasn’t able to do more, one way or another. Old habits die hard.

At least I’m getting better at choosing feasible goals, so for September I’ve chosen two that I need to achieve in here before I do anything else: I’ll make an aesthetics post for my Heroes project, and I’ll share with you the word count I couldn’t share today.

Maybe I should make my Word Count posts different from my update posts? I’m thinking that, right now, I have data from different months, so I could even make a bar chart on Excel? We’ll see.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your holidays, if you had them. And, for those who didn’t, I hope you’re taking care of yourselves. See you next month!

A mosaic with tiles of shattered glass that reflect rainbows.
Photo from Pexels

Aesthetics – Fireflies Project

I wanted to start posting something different, and the only good idea I had was to share aesthetics with some information about my WIPs. I hope you find these posts interesting!

First, a disclaimer: I’ve made all of these collages using free stock photos (and a couple of personal photos) on Canva, so to my knowledge all of them were free to use (or mine). Please let me know if that’s not the case for any of the photos (for instance, if you recognise your photo and it was uploaded ilegally to Canva).

A second disclaimer: all of these WIPs are still in progress, so everything, even the titles (especially the titles), is tentative. Things may change as the stories and the characters develop. Also, the images I’ve chosen might not be 100% accurate, but they have some element that will be important within the story (if it remains there in the future).

And now that you know that, here is the aesthetic I made for the Fireflies project:

A collage with 9 different squares.

First row, left to right:
Fog lifting among green mountains in Asturias.
Two men at the beach.
A hill in Galicia, covered in green, with a narrow path.

Second row, left to right:
A ginger cat looking at the camera with golden eyes.
The central square has "Fireflies. Sol Vera" written in fancy letters on top of a dark green square that contrasts with the lighter olive background.
A brown Labrador is laying on its bed and looking to the left.

Third row, left to right:
San Lorenzo beach in Gijón with the church and the green mound in the background.
A small, hidden mountain lake.
The San Pedro church that appeared in the background on the image of the beach.

I decided to start with this project because it’s the one with the lowest word count on the list, and I wanted to give it some love. I was surprised when I realized this project came last if we just focus on the word count, because it used to be among the first ones in that regard. It’s not that I haven’t written much about it, because I’ve already started the first draft, but that the rest of the WIPs have grown so much in the last two years that they left Fireflies behind.

As you know, it was supposed to be a low fantasy short story, but will probably end up being something longer. It’s contemporary, set in northern Spain, and has both animals and fantasy elements. The fantasy part is related to Spanish myths and legends, which have strong ties with Celtic mythology in the north.

There’s also an illustration made by Helen T Kord that you can see here. So now you know a lot about the main characters and their pets! At the moment, the one holding the cat is the narrator of the WIP. He has anxiety issues and is trying to recover.

At the beginning, this WIP was two separate projects: the one about anxiety and the one about mythology. But they were lacking something, and soon I realized they had to become one and the same. It just makes more sense this way!

July 2021 Update

One more month is over! And I’ve met the goals I set last month. Basically, I’ve joined the virtual writing camp, which has just ended, and I added my OneNote notes to my projects at the beginning of the month (which means I already have more notes to add).

I’ve been very busy at work and I haven’t had much time for writing, but I started a short story thanks to the writing camp. It’s a spin-off story for my Fireflies project, so it’s not a new project. The idea was to make something quick I could finish by the end of the month, so I chose something that already had some world building, but it’s taking more than I thought because it might end up being longer. I’ve finished the first four chapters of Draft 0, and this time I wrote in Spanish, which was both strange and interesting.

In other news, I’m still adding things to the customized Scrivener template I’m creating for my future projects. I also created some more reference files and now I have reference files for more than half of my projects. Making those meant I had to re-read a couple of old projects and it was a nice surprise. I had left those projects on hold when I was feeling all my ideas were bad and boring, but now I think they are not as bad as I remember. Note to self: it’s always good to leave the projects steeping when you get frustrated.

Another good idea is to rest before you get burnout. As I finished writing my post about burnout, I realized I’ve been feeling that way for a while. I hadn’t recognized it because it wasn’t as bad as before, but I decided to stop and rest before it got worse. Three days later, I started to write the short story for the writing camp, so I’m very glad I noticed on time. By the way, being able to share that post about burnout was an accomplishment in itself, as I’d tried to write about it two months ago, but I wasn’t feeling well enough at the time. So thank you very much for your likes and comments. They meant a lot to me.

I could tell you more about the short story, but I don’t want to bore you with the details, especially since I need to finish the Fireflies project first. And who knows when that’ll be? Not anytime soon, that’s for sure! For now, my goals for August are: to join a different tent at the virtual writing camp (this one will be focused on finishing projects, which I definitely need) and to update all the backups of my projects. May this serve as a reminder for all of you to back up your projects as well.

Enjoy your summer/winter!

Blurry close-up of a Mimosa plant with its small yellow flowers.
Photo by Larysa Charnakal on Pexels.com

Writing with Burnout

If you have burnout, this is not a post about what you should do, but about what I’ve been doing so far. You might find something helpful here, and that would make me the happiest person on Earth, but this post is mainly a reminder for myself because it’s hard to break the habits that caused the Burnout in the first place. At least, it’s good to know that you’re not alone in your struggle, so I hope you take that away, if nothing else.

Burnout is a syndrome that affects people with chronic stress. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is an occupational phenomenon, specifically work-related, and its symptoms are:

  • “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

For writers, it can cause what is commonly known as writer’s block.

In fact, when I wrote my post about fighting writer’s block, you will have noticed that I linked it to my anxiety, burnout and depression. That’s because writer’s block is not a cause: it’s a symptom.

In my case, I frequently feel exhausted, I often hate my writing or think I should give up, and I sometimes can’t keep writing, no matter how hard I try (the actual block). I’m glad to let you know that I’m getting better little by little, especially the last part. But I confess that, when my burnout was at its worst, there were times in which I just wanted to throw my whole computer through the window, burn my notebooks and forget about writing.

Well, good thing I started going to therapy instead of doing that, right? Because, in order to get better, this is what I had to do:

  • Stopped writing or doing anything stressful that wasn’t necessary (hiatus).
  • Got a diagnostic from a mental health professional and started behaviour therapy with a psychologist.
  • Tried to change my habits once I started writing again after the long hiatus.
  • Stopped doing anything that could relate to my job when I’m relaxing after work.
  • Allowed myself to be mediocre, following Tim Wu’s opinion article.

Of course, each person has a different road to recovery, and I’m still working on my new habits with my psychologist: after the hiatus, I wrote only one day per week for a couple of years, and I’m now writing more often, but only 100 words per day and taking good care to stop and rest when I realize it’s getting worse. I try not to be a perfectionist, just writing what comes to mind. I will worry about making it sound better during revisions, but I don’t want to get stuck on one place for long. I keep changing projects, in fact, instead of trying to focus on one single project. Yes, writing will go even slower than before, but at least I’m getting somewhere now and not torturing myself too much in the process.

I’m also still looking for new hobbies I can use to relax after work. And I want them to be something I don’t monetize, I want to not care about being good or bad at them. It’s very difficult to “allow myself to be mediocre”, but I want to learn. What I took from Tim Wu’s article is that being mediocre means doing stuff for yourself just because you want to, even if you’re not good at it. My anxiety tries to make me feel guilty, and some days are worse than others, but I think I’m ready to take on a new hobby now that my good days are getting better with each passing month.

I was lucky, I guess, because I could take a 2-3 year hiatus from writing while still looking for a psychologist and working on my translations (which is the stressful thing that had to remain, as it was necessary to have a paying job). If your work is writing, it might be more difficult to achieve, but, on the other hand, the sooner you start and the more you rest, the better you’ll heal. I’m still having trouble with burnout, especially lately, and it’s probably because I never got to stop completely and rest.

So if you can stop writing for a while, I encourage you to do so. If you’re afraid you won’t go back to writing after taking a break, let me tell you now: you’ll write again.

My first writing hiatus was 10 years long. My second writing hiatus was 2-3 years long. I’ve been taking shorter breaks for the past 3 years.

But I’m still here.

The first time, I also thought I would never write again. I didn’t even try. There was just this story I kept thinking about. The characters would always be in my mind and, one day, I opened a notebook a friend had just gifted me and decided to write everything down so I could stop thinking about it and focus on other things I needed to get done.

As you can see, it didn’t work the way I expected, but I’m very glad it went this way.

Summary

If you don’t want to read everything, just know that these are the steps I take when my burnout is getting worse and I want to write:

  • I just don’t write: Seriously, even if I want to. It’s hard, but if you take 2-3 days before it gets too bad, you won’t need to take 2-3 years when it’s gotten worse.
  • I go to see my therapist: Not everyone can afford this, I know, but please do try if you can find a way (NGOs, universities, the hospital, etc). I had to wait one year just to get an appointment because there’s a long queue for those of us who can’t afford a private doctor, but it was worth the wait.
  • Writing session goals: I used to hate word-counting because I always felt like a slow writer. I wanted to write 1000 words per day, and I spent 10 hours looking at a blank page instead. Now my goal is 100 words per day, and I try to make it an average and not an obligation.
  • Feasible monthly goals: I used to set goals that were too ambitious. Maybe they were feasible as well, but then I had to work long hours, or something came up, and I couldn’t reach my goals. That only made me feel guilty, so now I choose goals I know I’m going to reach for sure. Still, sometimes I can’t, so I swap them and try again the following month. Instead of feeling guilty, I get to feel accomplished!

These tips may not work for everyone, but they work for me, as my Word Count posts can prove. Please take into account that I’m counting everything, not just the manuscript. This is very important to me because I think worldbuilding and research also count as writing.

The Oracle project is too old, over 10 years now, so let’s look at one of the others.

Brothers is very old as well. I’ve been writing that one for… 6 years, maybe? It’s mostly just world building and research. But, until last year, I’d been focusing on writing for one project each time, 1000 words per day, trying to write even when I had to work long hours, and the result was… a disaster. In 6 years, I’d written 19000 words on the Brothers project. Do you know how many words that project has now? 43000 words in total. That’s 24000 words in eight months. And yes, that’s 100 words per day, but as I said, now I don’t focus on one project, so I haven’t been writing only that.

One of my newest projects is Sanctuary. I started it last year, and by November I had written 6000 words. Right now it has about 60000 words. That makes one think, doesn’t it?

I might need to keep adapting to the situation and taking better care of myself. Right now, my Burnout is getting worse and I need to rest more often. I also need to find the new hobbies I mentioned. I’ve been playing videogames and watching series, but I would like to do something craft-related and not too expensive. Do you have any ideas? Do you already have hobbies you only for your own enjoyment? Or do you find yourself thinking of your new hobby as something you MUST do?

If you want to talk more about burnout (or anything else) or ask anything about my experience, just let me know. I’m always willing to help if I’m able to.

If you want to read more about this topic on my blog, I also wrote a post about “Writing with Anxiety“.

There's a Halloween skeleton covered in papers and being attacked by a laptop. The skeleton is trying to push the laptop open, but the laptop is closing over the skeleton's head. The skeleton is looking towards us, making it seem like there's a look of desperation in its face.
Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

June 2021 Update

May’s update was very short, but I wasn’t feeling very well about myself or my writing, so I’m just glad I managed to write an update at all.

I had a couple of bad weeks this month as well, but I’ve been taking care of myself and I’m doing better now. I couldn’t finish the Burnout post, but I did start it. In the end, I did fulfill my monthly goals and I was lucky enough to get another illustration for one of my projects so I could share it this month.

I’m now trying to maintain my 100-words daily average, and it seems to be working. I was worried for a moment, because I didn’t know the “Total” in the new Scrivener Writing History was only the month’s total, but now that I know I have to sum them up, I’ve found out that I’d written more than I thought for certain projects:

  • Heroes: 22100 (It was 22000 back in March.)
  • Fireflies: 21800 (It was 21000 back in March.)
  • Brothers: 43000 (It was 42000 back in March.)
  • Academy: 33800 (It was 33000 back in March.)
  • Feathers: 39000 (It was 20000 back in March.)
  • Sanctuary: 53000 (It was 40000 back in March.)

Did you notice I’ve written a lot in Sanctuary and Feathers? That’s because I’m following a new method (new for me, that is): I’m just writing whatever comes to mind and will fix it later. I take notes about the things I already know I have to fix, but I keep plowing ahead no matter what. The result is more elaborate than an outline, but nothing close to a first draft. Still, I’m writing! As long as it works for me, I’m gonna keep at it.

My plans for July involve joining a virtual writing camp in Spanish and adding my OneNote notes to their respective projects.

Take care and Happy Pride, everyone!

Different layers of paint forming several rainbow flags. It looks pretty shiny.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Art – More chibi characters by Helen T Kord

Remember I shared some chibi characters made by Helen T Kord a while ago? Well, I’m bringing you two more chibis to add to my commissioned art collection. This time, the characters belong to a different WIP: the Brothers project.

Two men stand below a tree in a field. On the left there's a man with long brown hair, brown eyes and a beard. He's wearing a long cape, a white shirt, a mustard yellow and dark breeches. A glimpse of a short sword can be seen against his hip. He's smiling mischievously and letting his elbow rest on the other man's shoulder.
The man on the right is shorter, younger, blond and blue-eyed. He's looking away from the other man and has a dignified look while his arms are crossed. He's wearing a short cape, a white ruff, a sword, a black doublet, mustard yellow breeches and tight stockings.

Brothers is a Historical Romance set in Madrid (Spain) during the second half of the 16th Century. This project is still in its research phase, so it could change a lot, but these are the main characters for now. One of them is Spanish, the other one is a foreigner. They are not the brothers the placeholder WIP title mentions or, to be more accurate, only one of them is, so I hope I can finish this project one day and commission a mirror image with the other brother.

You already know Helen T Kord is the person with the most impeccable taste I’ve ever met, but they’re also an amazing artist who can make chibis come to life like this. And they also make portraits and illustrations! Please do check their work and commission information in the following links:

May 2021 Update

I’m afraid I don’t have much to tell about this month.

I’ve been sick, which forced me to write only when I felt like it. I know my brain feels better about resting when there’s a physical reason (which is very ableist and I wouldn’t do it to anyone else), but some years ago it would still feel guilty in those cases, so I will take it as a step in the right direction. I just need to convince my brain that anxiety, depression and burnout are also “valid excuses”. I’m working on it.

I managed to finish changing the Section Type and Label Colours on all my Scrivener projects, and now I can make them more visible thanks to the options in View → Use Label Color In. I also remembered to upload backups of my projects to different cloud services, so now everything should be safe.

I’ve been wondering about what else to post on my blog, since I’m not doing much at the moment. I wanted to ask whether a new post on How I Write with Burnout would be interesting for you. I mean, everyone is different, but you never know. It might help someone feel less bad about struggling and taking their time, right? In fact, it was thanks to a similar post that I managed to write at all this month. And I was really stuck on a transition scene from my Sanctuary WIP, so that was a big moment for me.

And that’s all for now. I want to keep working on monitoring my health so I can take breaks when I need them. Next month, my goals will be to drink a lot of water and to start writing that Burnout post if you’re interested. See you next month!

Peacock feathers.
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

PS: You can check my previous update here.