It Hasn’t Sunk In Yet

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog. That was because of the amount of work I had to get done between June and October, but as of today, my project is officially over. But the book isn’t done yet. I am still processing the end of my project, but I thought it would be good to share some of the things I’ve learned, and give you an update of what’s happening now. Let’s get into it.

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Writing this book is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Dealing with heavy emotions day in and day out wore me down a lot more than I expected and challenged me in ways I never considered. I had to look at my actions, understand why I did what I did, and then create a character who made the same choices based on different experiences. Sorting through my past and having a character grow from it forced me to analyze how I’ve grown from the situation and the book itself. I’m more confident now, and able to talk about what happened in a way that could be helpful, rather than one that’s clogged with emotion. I can now use my experiences to try to help others.

Condensing a book from 500 pages to around 175 is a mammoth task. I am naturally long-winded, and shortening my experiences into a well-paced story for others to read, was hard. I had to dismiss what was meaningful to me and exchange it for what would be helpful for others, turning my experiences into a learning opportunity. Shortening chapters took a lot more time than I expected. I had to adjust to seven-hour workdays, which ended with only a chapter and a half to show for it. It was humbling, and it showed me where I truly am as an author, and where I need to improve. I have a long way to go.

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Keeping myself accountable was a journey in itself. I have a strong work ethic, but, as my deadline approached, I found myself avoiding my work and seeking comfort on the internet instead of buckling down. Not being a procrastinator means I don’t do well with stress, and running out of time makes me want to give up instead of work harder. I didn’t give up, but the work isn’t up to the standard I would like it to be. That taught me that, even though pride in my work is important, sometimes I have to be realistic about what I’m asking of myself, and prepare for that in advance, working harder throughout instead of crushing myself with stress later. To give myself the best chance to succeed, I need to take the time that I need and accept that I’m a bit more human than I would like.

When I started this project, I planned to write, edit, and publish the book in a year. That isn’t what happened. I spent a year writing, editing, and drafting until I produced something I’m mostly happy with.  Next, I plan to have the book edited professionally and then officially published. I’m excited.

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Thank you all for joining me on this journey and showing your support along the way. You’ve all made it so much more bearable and a lot more fun. We still have a ways to go, and I hope you will be encouraged to come along.

Final Tally
Word count: 45,942 words
Chapter count: 27 chapters
Page count: 170 pages
Draft count: 4 drafts
Total hours: 1167 hours 40 minutes worked

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Project Status: My final committee meeting is on the 24th, where I will get feedback from the project. I haven’t decided whether or not to take the extension yet (the book will be published either way.) I am considering returning to the blog, as I figure out my next steps, to talk about things I’ve gone through in the months of silence, but that isn’t confirmed yet. For now, I’m just going to rest. It’s been a long year.

Thank you all,

Going Forward… (And Anthem Beats)

Sometimes change is necessary, especially in light of my slight mental breakdown and a professional halt. Returning from my vacation, I feel rested and more relaxed than I’ve been in months, but resuming my previous routine would be a mistake. This week I’ll be discussing changes that I will be making in regards to my editing process, the blog, and the state of my head. Let’s get into it.

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It’s no secret that editing has always been an issue for me, mainly because I have no idea what I’m doing. Before this project, I’d only ever edited short stories. Working with short stories is easy because each work is whole and self-contained; a book must tell an overarching story with many parts that relate to a larger whole. I find it easy to become overwhelmed when editing a chapter and trying to account for the larger story at play, so I have decided to try a new method: to edit each chapter the way I would edit a short story. I will work on each chapter until I am fully satisfied and then move on to the next. That way, I will be able to build a cohesive whole by making sure each piece is independently formidable, and I will feel less overwhelmed doing so.

Changes will be coming to my blog, as well. Don’t get me wrong, the blog has been nothing but a source of encouragement and support, and it’s a fun way to share my thoughts on the journey that is this project. The problem is the time it takes to finalize a post. On average, the one blog post takes about four hours to complete; that is a fifth of my minimum time requirement for the week. On weeks that I lack motivation, it’s easy to use the blog as “work time” and neglect more imperative aspects of the project, such as writing. I need to take time to focus on my work, even at the cost of my blog. I am not stopping the blog. I’ll still create posts; they just won’t be a weekly occurrence. I will post when I have something important to share, or I feel inspired to write one. That will allow me to get more done and maintain a digital presence.

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My vacation was good. Getting away from work and its stresses, and the ideas and opinions swarming in my head allowed me to think clearly about myself as a person.  During my break, a friend reminded me that I am the only person who can bring my vision to bear for this story. Other people can offer opinions and suggestions, but I am the only one who can tell my story. The song “Born For This” by The Score has become an anthem for my work, reminding me of my purpose as a writer. The song energizes me and gets me in a “writing mood” and reminds me of my innate value as a storyteller. I was, in fact, born for this.

There are a lot of changes headed my way, but I can see a lot of good coming from them. Your encouragement and support have helped immensely, but for now, I think it is time to return to the microcosm of my own mind and focus on being productive. The blog will still be around, but from now on, things will be a bit less structured and punctual. It’s time to get back to my roots and see where we go from there.

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Thank you all for your presence and company. You have made the journey this far an adventure, and I am grateful for your support and encouragement. May we meet again where our paths converge.

Project Status: “Feeling the rhythm inside of my chest, all I need is just a pen. I know I was born for this. I know I was born for this.”
See you down there.


About The Author…

It’s official, guys; I’m taking a break. This decision has been a long time coming, and I’ve fought hard to avoid it, but I’m at the point where I can no longer ignore the issue. I need to rest. This week’s post is about how I came to this decision, the current state of my brain, and a note about how the break will affect the project. Let’s get into it.

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I’ll start with my head. To say that I’m frazzled is an understatement. Frustration, exhaustion, and stress have become integral to my mindset, paired with the desire to do better and produce more. I feel overwhelmed by editing and the possible need for a new rewrite.  With many valid criticisms leveled at my work, I’ve sought to address them, but in that, I’ve lost sight of my story. My reason for writing this story has shifted, and the foundation is changing, but I’ve been resisting that. I’ve been holding on to everything I’ve done so far, but have become slightly irrational in the process. It feels like there are too many voices (many of which are my own) all clamoring for attention and I can’t focus on anything anymore. It’s too much, and I need to stop.

I’ve talked a lot about rest in my recent posts, but I haven’t done it. I avoided it due to my fear of running out of time, but that isn’t the only reason. My project guidelines mandate a minimum of twenty hours worked per week. I have upheld this standard diligently, but, recently, I have been filling the time with things like writing classes, or working with my cover artist, rather than working on writing. I am fulfilling the time requirements, but no substantial work is getting done. I keep records of my time worked, and over the course of my project, I have accumulated forty-three hours and fifty-two minutes of overtime. That is enough work to justify two weeks off, and it is my goal to enjoy it.

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Taking time off, in this case, requires a giant leap away from the project. I will spend the week doing unrelated things and hopefully have a lot of fun. As a result, there won’t be a blog post next Friday. I am not entirely sure what will be happening the week after that, but I will most likely update you the following week about decisions made and where the project stands. For now, though, I am taking a break.

It’s been a long time coming, but in the end, I acknowledge that I need rest. This project has been mentally and emotionally taxing, and I am no longer operating at the standard that I want. I need to take time to get my head back together and think about nothing but trees and clouds for a while. That will help a lot.

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Thank you for all of your endless encouragement and support. You make my journey better for your presence, and I am glad that I’ve been able to share it with you until

this point.

Project Status: The Vacation Starts Now.

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Cliff’s Edge and Jumping Off?

Some days I feel like opportunity is a cliff, and I’m standing at the edge. I could jump off, and there’s a chance I could fly, but the fear of falling keeps my feet firmly planted. This week I had my mid-term assessment meeting, and it went well; their reactions were overwhelmingly positive, and the committee offered me a new opportunity for my project. Despite this chance, I have reservations. This week, I’ll be explaining the offer, its positive ramifications, and my hesitation, all through the lens of a metaphor.

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To explain the metaphor, I need to describe what happened at the meeting. I presented  everything I’ve done so far in my project (you can read about that here), and I explained my worries about running out of time, considering the possibility of another rewrite, along with everything else I need to get done (editing, publishing, printing, marketing, interior layout, etc.). The committee offered me an opportunity: I could use the rest of this project term to finalize a draft of the book, and then take part in a second project, with the specific goal of publishing. This plan would give me between six and twelve additional months to get everything done and would reduce the amount of stress I am under, exponentially.

Here’s where the cliff comes in. This second project would allow me to get everything done and could open me up to experiencing even more aspects of the literary field. It would require effort, of course, but no more than what I would already be putting in in the smaller frame. Taking this chance and getting everything done would be like jumping off the cliff and flying: succeeding in my goal and achieving my dream. A failure to do so would be the equivalent of falling. Logically, doing two projects increases my likelihood to succeed, but I am hesitant. Thus, I remain on the cliff’s edge.

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Standing on the edge of this cliff and isn’t so much a reflection of how I perceive the future as it is how I understand the present. In my mind, not publishing the book in the original time frame would equal failure. It seems silly, given the fact that I am literally staring an extension in the face, but the idea of giving up on the original plan, feels like giving up on my dream; by admitting that I can’t do what I thought I could. It’s as if jumping off this second cliff is a reflection on my inability to fly. Maybe taking this chance is denying the hope that something would help me succeed in the original time and I am hesitant to give that up. I am not really sure.

Standing on this metaphoric cliff, I consider where I am, where I’ve come from, and whether or not to jump. I can see the benefits of flight, but the fear of letting go is equally engaging. Even with the second project on offer, I could still just push myself to get everything done and finish on time anyways, but I am not sure if I realistically can. If it does happen, it will be because of more than just me. Regardless of what I decide, I think, for now, I will simply enjoy the view. That’s good too.

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Thank you all for your continuous support, interest, and encouragement. You make things better, and I am so glad you’re all here for the ride.

Project Status: The rewrites have restarted, and will potentially culminate in a new draft.

*Author’s note: Given the current state of my project, I may take a break from the blog to focus on writing. I’ll give you more information when I make the decision.*

The Story So Far

I’ve talked a lot about stress recently. I am hyper-aware of deadlines, not the least of which is a progress report, due next Thursday, which I have to present to the project committee. In light of the meeting, I am going take the opportunity to take stock of all the things that I’ve accomplished thus far, including work on the drafts, my cover art, and my blog. It’s hard, and sometimes it’s good to stop and appreciate how far we’ve already come.

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I started this project last October. I spent a month researching depression, reading and performing interviews, before beginning to write in November. I finished the first draft in mid-January and began editing the the draft, shortening it into what became draft two. While working on draft two, I created an outline for the first draft and, from that, decided on necessary changes to the narrative. I abandoned the second draft and started rewriting the book, resulting in a third draft. I wrote eight chapters of the third draft before losing motivation and winding up where we are now.

I needed a break from rewriting and decided to put my efforts towards my book’s future cover. My graphic artist and I began work on the original cover before I even started writing the book. I had a vague idea of what I wanted, and she worked to bring it into fruition. After a month of work, we decided to shelve the cover until I had written the book, to minimize work lost if the story changed and needed a new concept. This week, we resumed working on it, and, in light of the tone change, the cover was changed to reflect the new, more hopeful look. The cover art has always been the most concrete element of my project, because it is a visual hallmark of what my book will become, and to see how it’s changing and becoming formed is inspiring. The success with the cover and the formatting of the book is coming along well and is a source of hope for the project as a whole.

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At the beginning of the project, I was very nervous about my blog. I was scared to reach out to people and talk to them about something this important to me. I was afraid of running out of things to say or having to argue for validity. These fears were unfounded, and the blog has been a mainstay of support and encouragement throughout. I’ve been able to engage a readership of people who care about the project and support me through it. The support of my audience, from new and old readers alike, is unparalleled and invaluable. This would be a very different experience without you, and I am grateful for your presence. You make the work better.

On the whole, this project didn’t pan out how I expected. I am not as far along as I hoped I would be and I am scared to present my work. Despite this, the project has come a long way from where we began, and it now has a real presence in the world. It has served to create a community of encouragement and has gone a long way to helping me discover my process. Even if it didn’t turn out the way initially hoped, the project is good; what my colleagues and I have accomplished is good. And, regardless of what happens going forward, nothing takes that progress away. The story so far is a good one and will continue on as such.

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Thank you for your presence; the work is richer for it.

Project Status: The project is somewhat on hold until the assessment next Thursday.

Finding Dawn

My writing has ground nearly to a halt. For the past few weeks, my productivity has been at an all-time low. I lack the motivation to write and feel a general sense of hopelessness in regards to my work. Deadlines loom and, paired with the emotional turmoil that has recently cropped up in my life, not much is getting done. Previously, I’ve written about tactics that I use to inspire myself to write; none of these methods are currently working. This week, I’ll be considering alternative ways to increase my productivity.

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Usually, I can induce motivation with an energetic song. I pull up my editing playlist and dance around while I rewrite my book. For the past three weeks, three chapters a week has been my norm. Considering I am more than halfway through the project timeline, I need to be more productive than this. When I wrote my first draft, I assigned myself weekly deadlines (12, 000 words minimum) which allowed me to finish my first draft as quickly as I did (31 days of writing over two months). Though not particularly motivating in and of itself, a baseline requirement gives a solid goal for the week and something specific to live up to. It doesn’t solve low motivation, but it can be a way to work through it, which is helpful.

The hopelessness of my project is directly related to the feeling that I have so much to do and am running out of time. I feel panicked and unproductive; shying away from the work instead of diving in. Though connected, hopelessness is a different problem than lack of motivation. The former discourages thinking about the project and makes sitting down to work emotionally taxing. The writing process becomes hard rather than unpleasant, and recovering the original passion for the project seems nigh impossible. I suppose the only real remedy for this is to try to remember the reasons I care about this project and the things I love about it. Another idea that spurs me on is the support of my readers. Even when I lack confidence, I know that everyone who has joined me on my journey believes in me. Whether they’ve read my work or are following along in the blogs, my audience has always supported me, helping me to believe in myself and perhaps stave off this hopelessness.

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Sometimes life presents itself as an obstacle to your work. Distractions and crises crop up until writing becomes something dreaded rather than enjoyed. Recently, my life has smacked me in the face, resulting in emotional exhaustion and sorrow. I am hesitant to work on anything, much less an emotionally trying project. In draft three, I have to rewrite the first suicide attempt and, given my unrelated emotional distress, I’ve had a hard time facing it. Even conversations with friends and family haven’t been able to draw me from the literary mire; I feel like I’ve stalled out as a writer. I’ve been trying to combat this by thinking about the positive relationships with the people involved, but that reminded me of something about myself. I am a writer, thus, I write. I will write again, and that gives me hope to press on, regardless of external calamity.

Writing isn’t always easy, and somethings things happen that can make it seem impossible. I’ve struggled with writing for the past three weeks, producing limited work and being generally unproductive; it felt like I lost passion for my work. I’m not sure if my new ideas will help me regain what I’ve lost, but when life gets you down, it helps to have a plan to get back up, even if doing so is harder than you think it will be. Hope never vanishes, and the sun does rise again.  You have to make it past midnight, for dawn to come.

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Thank you all for your endless support and the courage it grants me. My journey is better for your presence.

Project Status: The rewrites continue, hopefully with more fervor starting next week.

But For Just One Day

Recently, my project has been a reasonably big source of stress in my life. The October deadline, my slow rewriting pace, and general uncertainty about multiple aspects of the project caused me to hide from my project rather than face it head-on. That’s not good; mainly because this is my dream. So, I will be taking this opportunity to remind myself of some of the good things about my book and the positive effects it has had on my life. Dreams require struggle, but the appreciation of positive elements is equally important.

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I found the most enjoyable part of this project was the writing itself. I’ve always loved  writing free-style and seeing where the story takes me, and the chance to devote hours every day to a single work was an inspiring use of my time and capabilities. The consistency and frequency of the writing quadrupled my productivity compared to anything I’d done previously. Spending time with my characters and watching them become new and engaging people energized me, exciting me to see where they would go. A chance to write and focus on a mainstay passion in my life is a solid source of joy from the project.

In terms of personal growth, my confidence has evolved in spades since I started. Because I lack many of the skills needed to present a book (internal formatting, cover art, marketing, publishing, even editing), I’ve needed to reach out to others for help. I’ve made contacts with artists, designers, other authors and people who work in the mental health field. My ability to talk to strangers has increased tenfold, and the more I explain my project to them, the better I come to understand and appreciate my work. This project has helped me to increase my self-confidence, my willingness to share my work, (a necessary element of authorhood), and my pride in my growing abilities.

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My book has also helped me to understand the circumstances it is based off of better. It’s no secret that my book roughly follows real-life events from my life, and, in part, I chose to write this story to help myself process those events. Though the book depicts different circumstances and even characters to some extent, by talking to the people who are reading through my work, and the people who lived through the situation, I’ve come to understand my role as its storyteller. I am the person who learned the most from what happened because it highlighted where I need to grow as a person. Walking Sam through the events, and forming her thoughts and actions have helped me to understand my thought-process and consider how I could have acted better. Sam behaves as a mirror for me, highlighting the real emotions in the situation and demonstrating human reactions to it, positive and negative. Because of what I learned and how I grew, there is value in me sharing this story.

Throughout the process, there have been good experiences and stressful ones. It can be easy to forget about all of the good things because I feel trapped in the cycle of editing and deadlines. The confidence that I’ve gained, as well as my new understanding of my role in the situation, are worth the price of the work, as is the achievement of my dream. Dreams take effort, but when you’re committed, they end up being worthwhile. That’s what I’m going for.

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Thank you to everyone who has supported my dream and for your endless encouragement.

Project Status: The rewrites continue slowly.

Naming the Crew

*Trigger Warning: Brief mentions of suicide and abuse.*

Knowledge of one’s work is vital when writing a book. It is also necessary, when writing a blog about said book, for the readers to understand what the author is talking about. I have been sparse when it comes to characterizations and events in my novel, so this week I am presenting you with a summary of each of the main characters as well as their roles in the narrative. Enjoy!

Note: These descriptions may be subject to change in future drafts.

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The friendship between Charlie and Sam is the soul of my story. The book focuses on their mutual desire to help each other, and the way those goals conflict due to their differing perspectives on the situation and themselves.
Charlie wants others to be happy. She enjoys making them laugh and does what she can to uphold their joy. This changes when she experiences significant loss and becomes depressed. Pain, anger, guilt, and shame become her mindset, and she deems herself a failure and a burden on those around her, which culminates in a suicide attempt. Charlie believes that any affirmation is a lie because of the conclusions she’s drawn about herself: that she is worthless and a failure.
Charlie’s arc is about recognizing her responsibility for her mindset, and the efforts of the people around her. The things she believes are derived from lived experience, and it makes sense that she affirms them but they keep her trapped in her pain. After her second suicide attempt, she realizes that no matter what anyone else does, or how hard they try to help, she is the only one who can affect real change in her own life. She needs to find her own reason for being. Her time in the hospital also helps her notice the ways that the people around her support her and that, even though they can’t fix things, their efforts and love are not in vain; she comes to value their contributions to her life. Charlie’s journey is not over by the book’s end, but there is hope for her character by the last page.

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Sam carries the title perspective of the book. The story is as much hers as it is Charlie’s because both girls end up learning vastly different, though equally important, lessons throughout. While Charlie learns to embrace aid and responsibility, Sam has to learn to let go of control.
Sam is a very type A personality. She likes to be helpful and in a position to make decisions and effect change. When she throws herself into Charlie’s situation intending to help, she tries to take control, often at the cost of Charlie’s agency. Her intentions are good, but her methods are damaging to Charlie and herself, to the point where she must be removed from the situation.
Sam initially takes this removal as a failure, but eventually, she recognizes it as what was needed. Sam’s constant pressure on Charlie to open up and be honest about her feelings was running both of them ragged, exhausting Sam and making Charlie increasingly uncomfortable and strained. Their interactions become toxic, and separation offers them both the time and space to reassess their stances and, for Sam, the rightness of her cause. Her arc involves her realizing that vying for control is making actually the situation worse. Sam has to learn to let go of that need, for both Charlie and herself to thrive and regain the healthy friendship they once had.

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Jo is the situational character on the team. She doesn’t have an arc, but rather uses the experiences from her past to help guide the other character’s arcs. Jo suffered abuse as a child. As a result, she understands the feelings Charlie is experiencing. She has compassion for Charlie and understands her need for self-definition and expression, even as she supports Sam’s desire to help, encouraging it as part of the healing process. Jo’s experiences lead her to demonstrate forgiveness and healthy forms of self-expression and success, as seen in her competitive athletics career. Jo is a visual example of wellness and strength coming from adversity, as well as the calming and soothing influence on the team. Her caring balances health and support, as she shows what someone can become, despite hard circumstances.

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Amy’s arc involves the entire group. Being the most informed character when it comes to depression, Amy has a head-start in knowing what to do and often directed the team, in terms of actions to take. She believes in Charlie’s agency and letting her make the decisions, which often leads to conflict with Sam. The girls foil each other with their different attitudes, Sam wanting action while Amy is more willing to wait and listen, acting only when there is a need for a decisive response.
This dichotomy spurs Amy’s arc, starting with Charlie’s second suicide attempt. Before the attempt, Amy took a step back from her friendship to maintain healthy boundaries and lessen her interactions with the then acidic Charlie. Charlie perceived this as a betrayal and renounced the friendship, but that didn’t stop Amy from helping the other girls decide what to do during the crisis. Sam wanted to send Charlie to the hospital, whereas Amy feared it could spur Charlie towards later action. Sam made the call anyways, eliciting a negative reaction from Amy. She felt undervalued and hurt by the team. Her arc focuses on learning to forgive the team for their actions and not listening to her, despite the outcome and coming to terms with everyone’s unique position in the group, both in their relationship to Charlie and each other.
Amy’s insights and growth help to spur and shape Sam’s character, furthering her journey as well.

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Each member of the main cast brings something unique and special to the story. Knowledge, experience, passion and strength, these characters all bring a depth of personality and understanding that shapes their realities and helps them to learn the lessons necessary to their growth. No two members are the same, and their difference brings companionship where they need it. Each member is vital to the team, and I hope I’ve got you excited to see how their roles play out in the end.

As always, thank you for your support and encouragement, and to all the members of my team: y’all are awesome.

Project Status: The rewrites continue.