Current NaNoWriMo word count: 10,011

Two more days and I’ll be at my all time highest word count for NaNoWriMo. I’m surprised at how giddy that makes me. It isn’t a constant giddiness, but one I feel every time I think about it. There’s a certain sense of accomplishment working towards that end goal that I haven’t felt in a long while. There’s a mix of trepidation and dread thrown in with that giddiness and I don’t know how to handle that. It is invigorating and life changing.

I don’t know if that’s the way most people feel about this. I’m sure that most people have dealt with some greater hardships in their lives than I have. But the thing about comparing hardships is that once you’re doing it the only out come is that everyone loses. Nobody is going to want to admit that they had it less bad than someone else. It’s a dick measuring contest with misery. At the end, whoever is the winner is going to be there feeling like their life really is shit, and everyone else is going to feel guilty for making that person relive their misery. Then people are going to go off and those who “won” are going to feel like acting like a miserable bastard is justified, because no one else can lay a hand on their misery. Those who “lost,” in turn, are going to feel like their woes and difficulties are less important which will make them miserable trying to be supportive of those they view as having it worse.

That’s not healthy nor how humans work. Misery and suffering aren’t objective, but subjective. There are people who have a high tolerance for physical pain and those who do not. There is no reason to expect people’s ability to handle mental anguish to be any different. We each have to recognize how much mental pain we can stand. We also have to accept that others cannot handle as much. I know I’ve been guilty of telling my girlfriend to buck up from time to time, without a thought to how much of a strain she can handle. In certain ways she is much more delicate than I am, and in others she is stronger. As someone who loves her, all I should recognize is when she needs my help and when I need hers. We’ll both be happier that way.

 

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Current NaNoWriMo word count: 8,203

I’ve realized I have a bit of a problem while I write. I begin to get into that creative head space and I start to think of new and great ideas that I want to write down so I don’t forget. I don’t, though, because I’m in the middle of writing something else and if I started writing out all the little brain storms that pass by I’d never get further in my manuscript. Still, I’ve lost some great ideas to the current manuscript. Some of the ideas I’ve lost, I’m sure would have been terrible. Still, it would be nice to have them all.

It’s raining today, in a way. Really, it’s just fog condensing to the point of water appearing across your body. A cold and humid day, the kind that I always imagine when I daydream about my time at the keyboard writing. Today, I will hit ten thousand words. I’ll be so close to unknown territory, and in two days I will have passed it by, flying on to the next point in my story, and then the next and the next until it’s finished and I have the feeling of finality. And then what? Will I end with the ideas that I’d passed up coming back to me? Will I find inspiration for my next piece? Will I just sit day and night for months editing until I feel it’s good enough to send out?

I read once that your first novel is going to be bad. It’s your first foray into the format and it will be amateurish at best. Then I look at all the authors whose first book is the only book they publish because they wrote it in graduate school. The thought of never being able to recreate what I’d written in my first book scares me.

Perhaps I should use post it notes like Stephen King does. Write out the general ideas of what the story is about, and stick them in folders. Then pull out a folder when I’m looking for something to write. I’m scared of losing this momentum, even after I took the weekend off. Still, here I sit, ready to move forward in my manuscript, pushing aside thoughts of tomorrow to focus on today.

Just Like Guardians

Thor Ragnarok

Last night, my girlfriend and I went and did something a bit unusual for us. We went and saw a new release on the opening weekend. I was excited because I saw a lot of references to things like Planet Hulk. I’m a huge fan of the actors that were on screen and the villains that were portrayed there. It seemed like such a great conflagration of events and there is a lot that was great about it. Still, something at the back of my mind just kept bugging me about the film, and what I found was it was too lighthearted.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a good bit of humor in my action movie. In fact I think it’s necessary for what an action movie is to have humor mixed in with the over the top violence. I’m also a fan of Taika Watiti’s What We Do in the Shadows that will be getting a well deserved sequel soon, but it was just a bit too Guardian’s of the Galaxy for Thor. After the over the top seriousness of  Thor: The Dark World, it comes off as an over-correction from where they were. Where being an irreverent jackass works well for the character of Star Lord, for Thor it comes across as hollow because he only does it when he is confident of a decisive and swift victory. For Star Lord, it’s a way of masking his uneasiness and it helps us relate to him as a character. Other jokes are made, largely at Thor’s expense, during the movie, with one particular one made about halfway through the film where Thor attempts to throw a ball through a window and it bounces back and strikes him in the face. The joke served no real purpose, destroyed what little tension had been built up, and destroyed the flow of the scene. But hey, at least we got that one giggle.

I can’t be too hard on this film, though. It was fantastic, visually stunning with colorful and varied settings. It really felt like a tour of Marvel’s cinematic universe beyond Earth, with colorful characters, breathtaking scenery, and just enough of a blend of science fiction and mysticism to keep things interesting (at least until they try to explain it). There are cameos that you’d expect, like Stan Lee in one of his best cameos to date, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange doing his atrocious American accent, made all the more painful juxtaposed against Thor’s accent. There are references that can keep a geek working for days to identify all of them, particularly on the Champion’s Tower where my favorite wielder of Mjolnir is depicted, Beta Ray Bill. And frankly, the humor was a fun turn and aside from a few times where it’s just inappropriate, it was well received. Even when it wasn’t, it still got a chuckle. The best part was just seeing the way that Thor had evolved. They highlighted this character development over his three main franchise movies expertly in one movie without the character feeling like he was regressing. It was a masterful effort of writing, directing, and acting that makes this movie well worth seeing.

Current NaNoWriMo word count: 8,203

Current NaNoWriMo word count: 5,082.

That number up there was hard won. While I got through the first day of writing with ease, that second day was a brutal fight right to the bloody end. It took me, for various reasons including illness, exhaustion, and general malaise, until 11:00 at night to meet that days goal and come to a stopping place that wouldn’t make me pull my hair out in utter frustration today. But as I stopped, for all the dragging of feet I was doing, I felt absolutely thrilled that I had made it through another day of writing. I felt accomplished and proud, in a way that put a nice end cap on the day. It was thrilling, and now I have a jumping off point for today’s writing session.

In fact, I’ll be starting from right in the middle of a paragraph. This was a matter of plotting and planning on my part, because I know how it goes when you put down a story. It’s simply a fact of my writing that when I stop writing a story, the next time I pick it up I’ll feel completely and utterly lost. It doesn’t matter if it has only been an hour, or a day, or a week. Once it’s down, I’m not thinking about it and I have to reboot my head to get back to where I was. Starting from the middle of something, be it a scene or a paragraph, I can pick it up knowing where I was going before.

I’ve gone too far with this, however. One day, I had spent the entire day writing this single short story. It was long and grand and I only had a little bit more to go on. Knowing how awful I am about picking up from where I left off, I knew to stop in the middle of something to make sure that I would be jumping right back into the mix. But I was using a very certain tone, with a very carefully chosen wordage. There was a specific theme that I was going for and managing with everything I had written thus far, and I had a great next line that was so perfect and obvious. So I wrote half of it. My thought process was this will be super obvious and clear to me when I come back, it will shove me right back into the head space I need to finish this. The next day I came back to it, fully expecting to be able to finish that sentence without a problem. I sat there for two hours, banging my head on the desk trying to figure out what the next word should be for that sentence. I still don’t know, and that story still seems less than it could have been.

Yesterday, for NaNoWriMo, I wrote 2,690 words.

I’ve started off strong in the challenge, writing a bit more than I was required to write because that’s where there was a comfortable stopping point. It is, so far, the majority of the first chapter of the novel. Not a bad chunk of words and I honestly had to stop myself from writing more. After all, this is a month long marathon, not a one day sprint. Having been a very heavy procrastinator as a student, I’ve done plenty of sprints getting a story done, but that’s always exhausting, and I’m plenty tired as it is with my insomnia.

Honestly, it’s a lot easier to start writing the next day if you stopped before you ran out of ideas the day before. I’ve made that mistake in past iterations of NaNoWriMo. I’ve thought to myself, I’m on a roll, I’d hate to stop now, and then proceed to write for ten straight hours, netting over 6,000 words and been proud of myself. Then comes the next day and I sit down, fully prepared to pump that many words out again, only to find the word well dry, and my mind exhausted. That’s why forcing yourself to do only so many words a day, no more or less, is so helpful. The good days don’t overwhelm your mind, and the bad days don’t last too long.

Today, for me, is a bad day by reasons of exhaustion not to do with writing. The idea of sitting down with my laptop and typing for eight hours sounds overwhelming. I wouldn’t do it if that was the plan. But since I know the pace, and I know that it will only take me three to four hours to hit my word count then I’ll do that. It’s a much smaller job and one I can do in short bursts, and possibly after a nap if I can manage to fall asleep. I will be hitting my word count today. I’m going to write a whole novel this month, or at least the majority of one. I’m ready to run the marathon.

Wordless Typing

Today is the first day of the rest of your novel. That’s right! It’s that most fabulous of months, November. As it is known in America, the month that launches a thousand turkey sandwiches. As it is known in writing circles in America, and possibly beyond (I’m not sure), National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. I love this yearly challenge and have been participating since I was just a wee student of English at the University level.

I have never met the goals of NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words in a shocking 30 days is a terrifying proposition. It is categorically monstrous, and I’m not ashamed to say that I haven’t ever completed it in the given time. I’ve gotten to about 15,000 total words. Please remember, I did this while being a student full time and maintaining other responsibilities. This year, work is kind of sparse as I continue to help clear out my sister’s condo, and I’m finding myself with a lot more time on my hands. Maybe this year I’ll be able to manage it. That said, there are a few things that I have to still do, so let’s assume that I take off weekends for the duration of the month from writing. That leaves us with 22 days of writing. There’s also Thanksgiving day, which is another day I’ll likely get minimal writing done, plus there’s a day that I’ll be spending with my girlfriends parents this month that will have to come out of the total. At 20 days, writing 50,000 words will require me to write 2,500 words a day, plus my blogs, which average at around 400 words. 2,900 words is no easy feat, especially when you don’t know exactly how your story is going to go, but that isn’t really the point of NaNoWriMo.

The thing is, NaNoWriMo is a challenge to not edit, more than it is to meet the word count. The horrible, awful truth about being a writer is that we are our own worst enemies. We counter every move we make to be productive with self doubt, unfair criticism, and procrastination. NaNoWriMo is there so we are so busy actually doing the thing that we don’t have time to sabotage it. Having done this before, and failed every time by a large margin, I would have to say that the only regret is that I don’t try harder to carry the lessons I learn during NaNoWriMo each year over into my regular writing schedule. I’m going to make this year different.

The Obvious Pieces

Jigsaw Poster

My girlfriend dragged me to see Jigsaw last night. I went willingly, if not begrudgingly. I hate the saw movies. The first one was okay, with a decent twist, but I found nothing particularly special in it. I tend to think of the series not as horror but as gore porn, for those people with the sadistic urges to see others suffer and not feel bad about it, because all of the people Jigsaw does this to are “bad” people. My girlfriend absolutely loves these movies and I think I need to understand why.

I have gotten into a lot of arguments over the years about my opinion of the saw movies. Of the movies I have only seen JigsawSaw, and Saw IV, or maybe it was 3. I don’t remember. I only recall a few snippets of over the top dialogue about how magnanimous John Kramer’s torture porn really is, about how it is meant to be reaffirming for their lives. Something about him finding them and trying to reaffirm their lives, or other such nonsense. I think I remember this mostly because this is the part that everyone pushes as being part of why it’s so good.  The other thing they say is how inventive the traps are and how awful they are, which, yes, they are. There have been some unique and terrible designs in this series that contain their own point of horror. That’s a good reason to like something, I suppose.

I just can’t get over the premise, though, and I don’t know why. I find it incredibly frustrating that John Kramer, the Jigsaw killer, is such an omnipotent force. Why, though? I love slasher movies where you have a nearly indestructible creature that stalks after teen prey because of their supposed sins. The answer is in those words. All other slashers feel like you can beat them. There is a sense that you can triumph over this adversary, though it will be nearly impossible. With Jigsaw, there is no triumphing over him, there is only playing his game. There is no way to beat him, only his game. There is no triumphing over evil because the people playing are presented as the evil ones, not the sociopathic serial killer. The supposed sins are actual terrible acts that are incredibly illegal, not points of sexuality and cultural contention. These aren’t things you can see yourself doing. These aren’t things that make you think, “Oh no! I also like eating snacks/ am sexually active/ am a minority! This guy might come for me next.” In my mind there is no horror, there is no tension, there is no thrill. There’s just a misplaced sense of justice mixed with a daytime soap opera sense of drama.

If you like the Saw franchise, you’ll probably like this. I found it predictable, implausible, and in denial about its own campy nature, but it had all the hallmarks of a Saw film. If you’re looking for a good horror movie, there is always Stephen King’s It out in theaters, and a boatload of horror on Netflix with some real gems like Most Likely to Die (2015).

Rub-a-dub-dub

The weather is cold, and I haven’t been feeling great. I’m feeling stressed. Pressure is building, and the world is slowly dying around me. It sounds like a good time for a bath. That warm, comforting, slow stewing in the mess of dead skin cells and mint flavored bath bomb is the perfect thing to put  you right as rain. A wonderful panacea for the thirty minutes that the water stays at a pleasant level, a tolerated cough syrup for the other hour and a half that you stay in hoping it will return you to that initial relief.

Baths are the closest thing to a weightless environment that we can experience in our own homes so far. We can go in there and feel a fraction of our weight and the weight of our lives. It comes at a cost, though, as when we drain the tub, that weight comes crashing down upon us. And for that moment, we feel weakened and unable to move under the weight of it all. It really goes to show what strength we have when we just suck it up and do what we have to do, rather than trying to push it off on others. Or perhaps it goes to show that we put an overwhelming amount on ourselves when we could easily be nearly weightless. Or perhaps there’s no moral at all.

Perhaps we just should take baths for what they are: a calm, relaxing experience that can refresh you from a long day, week, month, year, existence. The truth is, baths are a band-aid for the stresses of the world. A lovely and wonderful thing, but it doesn’t solve the problem. It’s an opportunity to figure out how to deal with it ourselves and heal the pains that ail us. I just wish I fit better in the tub.

Something for your Time

Stranger Things season 2 comes out today on Netflix. I am not a fan of this runaway hit television show, it just never clicked with me. Still, I’m planning to catch up on the first season and watch season two, all because of a well hidden marketing ploy. Redditor /u/Postermilk posted this ad on the Stranger Things Subreddit, yesterday. To the uninitiated like myself, this may seem like a normal ad in the subway. After all, there are tons of Power companies in NYC. So, when I clicked on the ad as I lurked through Reddit, I was very confused for a moment. What a bland posting to make it’s way into the r/all feed. Turns out, Hawkins is the fictional Indiana town where Stranger Things takes place.

Not being much of a fan, but finding this advertisement way to cool, I took it to my girlfriend. “Close whatever you’re doing on your phone,” I told her.

She gave me a strange look, but said, “Okay.”

“Call this number.”

She gave me a weird look as I explained and she dialed. As I explained what it was, she got a bit giddy. The phone didn’t ring, it was immediately a man’s voice who identified himself as Dr. Sam Owens. We pressed one when prompted to go to the main menu. We listened to every option provided, and my girlfriend even gave her name and address when prompted (supposedly, they’ll send you a box of merchandise with a leaflet). It was a blast, and made me want to watch the show.

I had to take a moment to question this last part. Why was I wanting to watch this show I didn’t really care for? What about the advertisement made me want to do something? I realized that it had given me something. I’m not talking about the supposed box of merch that may or may not get sent to me. What it gave me was a moment of mystery and fun. Nowhere on the poster or in the call is it made clear that this is an advertisement. There isn’t a website, or any modern linkage to it. You will find out what it’s for easily by googling Hawkins Power and Light, but there will always be that last bit of mystery, that last what if writhing in your mind. Now, I’m off to reward Netflix for a brilliant interactive ad campaign.

Misplaced Frustration

I was listening to the first episode of Conversations with People Who Hate Me where the host Dylan Marron confronts people who send him hateful messages through an online medium. The person he confronts in the first episode is an 18 year old who had all the wisdom of an 18 year old but the courage to admit that he was wrong and acted in anger. The episode itself is a mix of moments that will make you cringe and moments that will make you hopeful. The kid spouted a lot of idiotic regurgitated things like when discussing the black lives matter movement, why not just say all lives matter? I hate this argument because it misses the point of the protests, which is to bring awareness of how a specific group of people is being oppressed and made to feel as though their lives don’t matter. I feel like my life matters, and I’ve never had an interaction with anyone that would make me feel otherwise. That’s not true for too many black people in the United States.

As he was making this argument that seems so logical on the surface, but completely misses the mark, I began to realize something. He was not unaware of the injustices of the world, he just doesn’t know how to process them. Frankly, I can relate. It’s hard to understand the problems and issues that other people are going through. It’s hard to relate to someone about something you’ve never experienced, so when people say that racism or sexism is alive and well in the world, there’s a knee jerk reaction to call that person a liar. After all, when you’ve not been on the shit covered end of the social stick all you know for certain is that it kind of stinks. This is a universal response as far as I can tell. It’s not exclusive to white people, or men, or any other slice of intersectionality. Everyone tends to get tied up in their own demographic, whether you’re one of the founders of BLM and you tweet out asking Allah for strength to not kill all those white folks just before a march, or you’re an award winning actress telling black people to rally behind women so that women can be equal.

As a straight white man, it can be difficult to know what to do to help. It’s frustrating, and can add into the feeling that there isn’t really something wrong. If there were then we would have been asked for help, right? Then again, what is a protest if not a request for help? But that’s not a request for our help, that’s a demand for the help of the few who actually hold the law making powers. What about the rest of us? We don’t want to twiddle our thumbs, we have this pent up anger that has no home. So some of us take it out online, or by making minorities an imaginary foe that are somehow oppressing our race. Others of us just get mad and stay mad at those first people but don’t do anything. Some of us do something stupid and punch Nazis, which makes those Nazis feel justified in what they’re doing (in spite of it being primarily white people punching them). But there is stuff we can do that can help make the world a better place.

We can’t fight minorities fights for them, we don’t share the knowledge that they do, but we can support them, monetarily, through social media, protesting in the streets. More than that we can look at things like this from an egalitarian perspective. We can lower a rope to help pull everyone up to the vista we have been standing on. There is plenty of room and we can build a deck if that space starts to get crowded. We can adjust so that we become a society of merit, not of discrimination. We can make things that are unfair disappear. By helping one group, we can help ourselves. By becoming one group, everyone will be helped, by becoming divisive we will only fracture.

I’m not an expert, and I’m not infallible. I just want to help make a better world.