Eighth Notebook

Cover of the Embellished Manuscripts notebook with a draft by Chopin and his signature.

The Embellished Manuscript collection is back! This one has the music sheet of one of Chopin’s Polonaises on the cover. Beautiful, right? I’m in love with this notebook. Chopin means a lot to me because I’ve studied piano in the past. I’ve probably told you I touched a piece of music handwritten by Chopin once, right? It was in one of the Writing Workshops I attended as a teenager. A historian brought one from her private collection and I was shocked when she let me hold it in my hands. You may laugh, but in that moment I thought that no one had trusted me with something so important before. I still feel humbled and honoured whenever I think about it.

Ahem, well, let’s get to the most important part in a notebook: what’s inside.

Of course, there’s always a lot of ideas and worldbuilding for the long fantasy story, so no need to keep telling you that. What I find interesting is there’s always something I’d forgotten I’d written. In my previous notebook, the new stories I found weren’t worth your time, but in this one I saw a couple I haven’t dismissed completely yet.

One of them looked like fun, but I didn’t know where it was going. At first I thought it was related to a fantasy story I had, but I’m not sure now.

Then there was a long outline for a thing I restarted in a different notebook (my current notebook), so I haven’t transcribed that one yet. I feel a bit like cheating because it took a quarter of the notebook, but I’m not going to write an outline 4 times.

I also found some notes I took during one of my research trips and a couple of weird dreams I’d forgotten about, so it was quite fun.

Seventh Notebook

A dark green notebook with the Google logo.

This small notebook was a present from a friend who lives in Ireland.

As mentioned in my previous notebook post, it contains some drafts for my blog in Spanish. Since I had already posted those, transcribing the notebook didn’t take as long as it could have. I was aiming to finish by the end of June, but you can see I’ve finished much earlier.

In this notebook there were some unexpected snippets. For instance, I had no memory of writing an outline for a gay retelling of Pride & Prejudice. And I’m always doubting and second-guessing myself, but for the first time I’ve felt 100% sure about something: I don’t think it’s worth writing. The main conflict was Darcy not accepting his sexuality, and… nope, I don’t want to do that. But because one may be able to use parts and pieces of unusable writing for something else in the future, I’ve transcribed all of it.

I had also written down a couple of dreams I’d forgotten all about. It was interesting, because they came back to my mind as I was transcribing what I’d written down so long ago. Reminded me of a dream diary I used to keep when I was a teenage.

I also had some notes about my trip to England… which was ages ago, now I realize.

In any case, I had lots of scenes for stories I’ve already mentioned, and these three new stories that I’m not going to start with. I’m looking forward to the next notebook, which I used during 2017, because it must have some new ideas.

Sixth Notebook

Small notebook with an embellished cover that depicts the illustrated letter "The Song of Songs which is Solomon's" by Rudyard Kipling.

One of my small paperblanks from the embellished manuscripts collection. Among its pages I found maps, dead flowers, and lots of ideas for my long fantasy story (including some notes about linguistics).

A friend of mine helped me choose this notebook so I would want to focus more on my Thesis (Rudyard Kipling was mentioned in it). Judging by the amount of academic work I’ve found in this notebook… it only worked towards the end (but it did work!). Of course, given that I’m now writing for myself only, I can say that it’s a good thing I spent so much time plotting stories instead.

This is the third of my four 2016 notebooks, and I only discovered it came before the last one because here I chose the name of my blog in Spanish, while the next one had some blog posts already.

2016 must have been a fruitful year creativity-wise. This notebook is full of short snippets for a variety of projects I don’t even remember now. I’ve been trying to make sense of everything, but it’s impossible to know at this point whether I’m doing it the way I intended. Maybe it’s for the best, because now I can see errors and tropes I couldn’t have noticed at the time.

Fifth Notebook

 

I’m back with a new (old) transcribed notebook.

This was another of the bigger ones, so it took me much longer. Fortunately, there was stuff about a fanfic, book reviews and my thesis that I had already transcribed a year ago, so those saved me some time.

There was a lot of information about the new main characters of the fantasy story, and even an old first chapter written from a secondary character’s point of view. I was surprised to find that one at the beginning of the notebook, but apparently this is a very old notebook I bought in 2012 and recovered in 2016, so that must have been something I wrote back in 2012. It was only a few pages long, probably because I lost my confidence.

There were also notes for a trip I was planning with a friend. I wrote down the places in Japan I’d like to visit. I realized I still haven’t been to Tottori, Ise, Mount Fuji or Shirakawa. Maybe one day…

I also found more information about the stories located in Madrid, and this was when I started writing about the other fantasy story, the one with an MC trapped in someone else’s body. So that’s yet another one of the stories I mentioned in this post.

You know, I started writing that one because of a song I like. The lyrics made me think it must be based on some fantasy book, and when I couldn’t find the source, my partner told me I could write one myself. What started to be a sort of fanfic based on a song (weren’t those popular 15 years ago?) turned into something bigger that now has nothing to do with said song.

That’s how inspiration works, right?

 

Writing with Anxiety

As I was working on my post about writer’s block, I realized that sometimes the reason we struggle can be temporary, like lack of inspiration or a particular stressful situation. In those cases, the possible solution may involve doing something else until the inspiration returns or the particular situation has been fixed. But if you have to live with it forever, like some people do with anxiety and/or depression, this might not be a good solution.

I’ve lived together with anxiety as long as I can remember, but depression is new for me, so I’m not as experienced as I am fighting anxiety. I can tell you that, in my case, writing while I was depressed only made it worse, so I had to stop and take a break for a year (while I was looking for a good psychologist), then take another year to come back slowly. So, you know, sometimes it’s good to stop and take care of yourself for a while.

But I have the need to feel useful, so this situation —as you can imagine— didn’t make my anxiety happy. We both had to learn to cope. My problem is I feel guilty if I’m not being helpful all the time, and I can’t be helpful if I’m not doing something “useful”. Writing counts as useful, but since I’m a translator, it’s not very different from my usual job (typing on a computer) or studying (which I was doing at the same time), and it piled up. The solution? I had to learn to relax and compromise.

I try to think of my anxiety as a sort of gremlin (AKA mogwai). It can be a nice pet if I take care of it, but… I can’t feed it after midnight. Or, in my case, after work. I need to spend hours doing something different so I can recharge my battery. It wasn’t that way before, but I overdid it and didn’t notice until it was too late. As a result, I only write a bit during the weekends when I have busy weeks at work. (Or nothing at all, if I’ve been too busy.) I’m slow, but there’s a nice community of #turtlewriters over twitter who are amazingly encouraging. It’s good enough to know I’m not alone, but they also tweet regularly to show their support and understanding. And by regularly, I mean every day!

I also struggle whenever I share anything written by me (yes, even blog posts or tweets) because I don’t want to be offensive, boring or annoying. Which is why I created this blog, so I could start writing and sharing little by little, and hopefully learn that the world doesn’t end and I shouldn’t be controlled by fear. As a result, now I have twitter and this blog to test my anxiety and get used to having other people see what I write.

So those are my plans for the foreseeable future: take my time, keep going to therapy, update this blog and turtle-write.

Tell me, do you have any experience with anxiety? How do you cope?

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How do I fight writer’s block?

Same as any other kind of artist, writers also suffer from this condition. The causes differ and depend on each person, just like the ways to overcome it. Every person should find their own way to deal with it, so if you’re looking for a solution to this very problem… I’m sorry, but I can only speak for myself. My answer to this question may not be able to help you in particular, but I wish it did. I hope you find your way back, and please let me know if I can help in any way.

In my case, writer’s block was not a lack of inspiration. I had ideas, and sometimes I wrote them down, but I didn’t do anything else with them (for years) because of my insecurity. Still, I was struggling at the time, so it wasn’t a complete block. In a way, I’m used to dealing with anxiety and my lack of self-confidence, so I can get things done most of the time. Yes, these are problem I should deal with, but things got worse.

When my anxiety got so bad it reached the stages of burnout and depression, I stopped writing. I had to. Whenever I had to use my computer, I wanted to throw it out of the window. I had panic attacks sometimes.

So I did what I had to do and stopped writing. I changed my habits, reduced my workload and spent one year focusing on work (because I couldn’t stop working) and taking care of myself.

I took walks, played videogames, avoided my computer and didn’t write anything new. Not even on my notebooks. I even stopped reading for a while.

It was hard because I’ve spent all my life working (even school and extracurricular activities are work) and stopping to rest made me feel useless, but I persevered. And then, one day, I started feeling better. I wanted to read again, but I couldn’t trust new books yet, so I started rereading some of my favourite books. Little by little, I started to enjoy it again. And then I started therapy, and it all went even better after that.

I took some holidays and I just went to the beach and relaxed for the first time in many years. That couple of weeks helped a lot and I started writing in my notebooks again, and also transcribing my old notebooks. I even created this blog. And I started writing a fanfic because I thought it would be fun.

It’s been over a year and I’m still fighting, but I think the way to overcome writer’s block is… basically patience and perseverance. I know that isn’t very helpful, but that’s how you learn to take your time and do what you need in order to get better. The solution depends on the reason why you suffer this condition, and it may involve not writing at all. So if taking relaxing baths and walking in a forest is what helps, don’t think of it as Not Writing. Resting doesn’t have to be the opposite of work. Relaxing is hard work and, more importantly, it’s necessary if you want to keep working (and living), so I now consider it a very important part of my day. Try doing something that makes you happy (or that used to make you happy if you have depression), and remember that the mind needs time to heal.

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Masterlist for new writers

I received some comments saying my post with tips for prospective writers and its accompanying masterlist were helpful for some people, so I decided to write a new post about what I’m doing after that. Here are some links that I found useful when I decided I wanted to try and write professionally. (Wow, that still sounds weird to me.)

  1. How to do your research:
    The British Newspaper Archive.
    -“Things Almost Every Author Needs to Research“.
    -“Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions” by SFWA.
    Research Resources for Writers by dailywritingtips.
    The Ultimate Novel Writing Resource Masterlist by The writers’ archive
  2. How to write your first draft:
    -“How to slay self-doubt and write that novel” by Lee Welch.
    -“Writers: Stop Doing This!” by KJ Charles.
    -“The Theory of Shitty First Drafts” by Wrex.
  3. How to edit:
    Self-editing tips Part I and Self-editing tips Part II by KJ Charles. And another post in her new blog you may find useful as well.
    -“Sensitivity Reads and You” by KJ Charles.
  4. How to publish:
    -“The Author’s Biggest Mistake” by KJ Charles.
    -“Writing Query Letters” by KJ Charles.
    -“Being Edited, or How to take Criticism” by KJ Charles.
    -“What a year of self-publishing taught me” by Talia Hibbert.
    -“Ten Point Author’s Guide on How to Survive in Publishing” by Jackie Ashenden.
  5. How to sell your book:
    -“Marketing unmasked: A ‘how to’ for the reluctant writer” by Lee Welch.
    -“eBook Piracy: What to do if someone steals your book” by Kindlepreneur.

There are more links I can’t share because they’re from patreon and won’t work unless you’re patrons of the author, but I promise I’ll do another masterlist post in the future with more points, and I’ll also share some of the books/eBooks I’ve read about writing.

And please share any good posts here so we can all read them as well!

 

Hands typing on typewriter
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About Romance

It’s about time I wrote a post about the genre I want to explore, isn’t it? You may remember that, when I talked about the books that changed my life, I mentioned that one of them made me rediscover a genre I thought was too homogeneous for me: Romance.

Twenty years ago, I was an avid reader of Science-Fiction. Ten years ago, I read nothing but Fantasy. Now I find it hard to read anything that’s not Romance. I have to confess that, before that book changed my life, I’d tried reading some books and comics with romance elements, my favourite being Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. However, after a while I started thinking that they were all similar; I didn’t feel represented by any of them (in my defense, I mostly read physical books in Spanish, and there was not an ounce of diversity to be found back then). I thought it would always be the same. Never have I been so glad to be proved wrong.

Once I stepped out of my comfort zone and started reading new books, I realized that Romance had actually become the most open and complete literary genre. There’s variety (fantasy, paranormal, historical, sci-fi, contemporary…), diversity (characters who are POC, LGBTQ+, disabled, depressed…) and hope (happy endings are the norm). Romance readers and authors have been leading a loud revolution that you may not have noticed (if you don’t know anyone who’s part of the community), but —I believe— it’s making the world a better place. Of course I’d want to do anything in my power to help! The problem is… that a little is never enough for me, so now I’ve turned to writing.

To be honest, I never thought I’d end up this way. As a person with anxiety, zero self-confidence and a different mother tongue, I know it’s gonna be hard. But hard is not impossible, so I had to try. And who knows, maybe my weaknesses can help me write something that will help people like me. Even if it’s just one person, that would make all hardships worth enduring.

 

Old book with pages bent inwards forming a heart.
Photo shared by congerdesign. Creative Commons.