Pursue

Technically I’ve already written about yearly goals. But this isn’t just about the resolutions and goals I have for this year. It’s about the resolutions and goals I have for my entire life and what I’m doing now to work towards them. It’s about pursuing my dreams and thriving in every moment along the way, hence my word for the year: Pursue.

I tend to over-plan and set too high of expectations for myself, especially in my creative efforts. Considering how I’ve done the last several years in achieving the goals I’ve set, I don’t have a chance of coming close this year.

But I’m doing things differently.

Not only am I setting goals, but I’m also planning everything out in detail—scheduling my writing, editing, posting, and sharing; creating rewards for my accomplishments and punishments for my failures; and finding people to hold me accountable, inspire me, tell me off, and rant with.

If you aren’t already aware, I have five major writing goals for the year:

  1. Post at least one blog a week.
  2. Finish the rough draft of my first novel by the end of June.
  3. Write, edit, and post at least one video a week.
  4. Write at least one poem a week.
  5. Write at least four short stories this year.

I know there will be times I exceed these goals, and I also know there will be times that I fail gloriously. But the point is to keep creating, no matter my mood or lack of belief in myself because these are my dreams. And I will not let myself give up the things I love because of my own self-doubt.

I’m also working towards doing yoga and other forms of exercise more regularly, eating healthier, saving up money (which is difficult when I might not have a job after next week), and taking time to relax. Doing all of this and trying to achieve my creative goals may be awful on occasion, and I’ll definitely want to give up sometimes. But I won’t. I won’t be happy if I do. Goodness, I’ve already fallen a bit behind. Even so, I will not stop trying to accomplish these dreams. I will work to catch up when possible, and I will continue turning to people who can keep me accountable.

I did the cliche thing and started most of my goals at the start of the year, even though doing so is rather arbitrary, because it feels easier and somehow more inspiring. Also, it’s just loads easier to track my progress when I start a goal at the beginning of a year instead of the middle of a random month.

Anyways. Whatever goals you set for yourself at the beginning of 2017, I truly hope that you are able to meet them. In this third week of the year, when motivation and inspiration start to fade and you start thinking about giving up on those goals, know that they and your dreams are attainable. Don’t give up on yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your goals or terrified of what others’ opinion may be, think of how you’ll feel if you give up and then think of how you’ll feel if you push through and achieve those dreams. Because very few things feel as good as meeting goals that you once felt were impossible. And, love, you can do it.

What are some of your goals for the year? Let me know in the comments!

What Do You Do?

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
The twists, the turns, the lifts, the dives.
It all comes at different speeds,
at different levels, at different needs.
Once you think you’ve caught your breath,
you’re off again.
A completely new adventure.
Sometimes the water fills your lungs—
your world turns dark.
At others, your eyes are so full of colour
that it starts to leak through your tears,
your pores,
your fingers.
You struggle to release it,
either because the expression is difficult
or because there’s too much to share.
But what do you do when it’s both?
The veil pulled down,
and the colours revealed?
You dance,
filling the air with bursts of colours and smooth lines of grey.
You paint,
overflowing the canvas with black and blue and shades of the day.
You sing,
pouring rivers of red and purple into our ears.
You love,
pouring out the melange of pink and green, yellow and orange, brown and turquoise that’s consumed you through the years.

You be.
You be you.
You be who you long to be.
You be the people you look up to.
You be you in your greatest dreams.

You
be
you.

And breathe.

Setting Goals

I think everyone knows the struggle of setting goals. Whether it be writing, exercise, reading, creating, or monetary goals, we can’t seem to stop ourselves from creating giant mile markers in our lives. We usually set the goals when we’re feeling on top of everything and ready to tackle the world, but we don’t often take into account that once that motivation starts to fade, the things we’re enjoying and planning to accomplish tend to become the same things that stress us out to no end and are put on the back burner because life just gets in the way.

My writing goals for 2016 are a great example.

Goals Accomplishments
Screenplay(s) for Eragon

(because everyone knows it needs to be redone)

It hasn’t even been started.

…but I did reread the book.

Novel It has been started, but it is only at 4187 words out of a minimum goal of 65000.
Ten short stories Three shorts stories were plotted, but none were finished.
Twenty poems Eight poems were written.
YouTube scripts (one a week) Only about ten YouTube videos were written, and only five recorded.
Blogs (two a week) Well, this went well for a few months, and then everything went awry, and I’m just starting back up (yet again) with a goal of one post a week.

Originally my goal was to finish my novel and the screenplay by June on top of half of the other goals as well. What I didn’t account for was my motivation or stress levels. I quickly encountered problems with that blog of mine disappearing, trying to balance part-time fast food work and a few full-time level freelance gigs, trying to find new roommates, looking for steady work, and traveling.

The thing is, though, that if I had taken a few things into account and simply structured my goals and my schedule better, I could have easily accomplished these goals.

  • Set aside specific days to work on specific projects.

I’m far more likely to work on them and reach my goals, even if I’m still not very good at sticking to it. I’ve been trying to write blog posts on Thursdays so that I can have them ready to post on Mondays. Although I’ve been awful at it for the last few months, when I push myself to do it, I can easily whip out a blog and put it up on the editing page that Azelyn and I use.

Now this technique looks different for writing my novel and all my other projects. Starting in January, I’ll be aiming to write a minimum of 2700 words a week for six months. I’ll be trying to split that throughout the week, but I will be setting aside the most time on Sundays and Fridays to work towards this goal. I’ll be planning like this for my other goals as well.

Here’s what my average weekly writing schedule now looks like:

SONY DSC

Now this might seem excessive (it certainly does to me), but if I routinely follow this schedule and manage my time, it should be relatively easy to follow. I’ll definitely be allowing myself to work ahead on any/all project if and when I like, and I’m quite excited to do so.

  • Set smaller goals at different increments that will help you reach your larger goal.

As you can see in my planning chart above, I’ve come up with specific goals for each week, and even each day. Obviously, nearly every day has overlap, but I vary the degree of difficulty/time commitment from day to day. But the most important factor is that I have a minimum goal for every week.

I’ve found that having weekly goals helps me most, but some people prefer daily, monthly, or quarterly goals. Having the weekly goals, but a daily plan gives me some leeway on what I should/could accomplish in a given day. I’m already aware that there will be days or weeks that I cannot finish the tasks I’ve marked. My schedule and the goal to work slightly ahead will help when those times arrive.

  • Work ahead when possible.

I know this is something I tend to hate thinking about, just like many of my friends do. But sticking to a schedule and getting ahead of the original plans can not only help reduce stress in the future, but it can also help your creativity become an integral part of who you are and get you in the habit of working on your projects, even when you don’t feel like it.

  • Find someone to help keep you accountable.

This can occur in so many different ways. I’ve tried several systems, and each has worked in its own time. Currently I use a combination of a couple accountability techniques: inquiring, nagging, and punishing.

Azelyn and I already talk on a daily (or as close as we can get) basis. However, amidst our regular conversations and fangirling, we still constantly ask each other how our projects are coming along. Largely, this is just because we’re curious, nosy, and each other’s number one fan. But also, we do it to ensure we’re actually being productive. The nagging is very rarely towards Azelyn, and it’s usually just about getting her post on our editing page earlier so I don’t have to edit it super early on Sunday morning. It’s a whole other matter for me. Azelyn is constantly nagging me about any and every project I’ve set before myself because I am the queen of procrastination…which is one of the reasons we’ve added punishments to our accountability. Right now, this is specifically meant for our blog posts, but once the new year hits, it will also include my videos and my novel word count. We’re still working out how those punishments will work out; but for the blog, every day that I fail to write a blog post past its deadline, I owe her a dollar. (Right now that’s up to $13. *oops*)

  • Reward yourself for reaching your goals.

Now I have no idea how I’ll do that this coming year yet, but I have a few ideas in mind, given that I have the money. This could be as little as eating a cookie when you reach your weekly word goal or as big as taking a vacation when you finish your novel. But whatever it is, don’t make the goals too small and the rewards too big. Make sure you actually have to work in order to be rewarded; then the victory will taste even sweeter.

What are some techniques you use to help set your writing (or life) goals?
What are some of your favourite reward systems for reaching your goals?
Let me know in the comments!

Getting to Know Your Characters

There are seemingly countless ways to get to know your characters in anything ranging from short stories to novels. And there are almost as many blogs telling you how to get to know them and what way is the best way. I’m definitely not here to give you a definitive “this is how you do it!” But I will list the different techniques that have helped me most, and a couple that I just recently started on my own.

Character Sketches
Character sketches vary in depth a large amount, but doing them is incredibly helpful. You don’t even need to know much about your characters or story for this, but it’s a wonderful tool to improve your knowledge on your characters and how they affect your story/how your story affects them.

The character sketches that I usually do deal with nine things:
Physical Description
Role in the story
Motivation
Background
Goal(s)
Personality
Quirks/Oddities
First thing that others notice about him/her
Characters with whom he/she interacts and how

Character Interviews
These are a bit similar to character sketches; however, they are much more detailed. There are so many forms of interviews. Mine tend to change from character to character. Countless examples can be found online, and they are full of questions that seem obvious and others that you may not think are important at all, but provide details that come into play later or spark an idea for a scene or another story.

Here are some of my personal favourite interview questions that I never would have thought could become important, but have sparked ideas for scenes for my book:
What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?
What is your favourite animal, and would you keep one as a pet?
Would you rather be the first killed in a group or the last?
What is your least favourite form of travel?
What flavour is your toothpaste?
Who is your least favourite person to see over the holidays?

Placing Characters in Extreme Situations
So this is an idea I’ve heard floating around for a few years, and I always thought it was a bit bizarre though completely understandable. My main thought was that if you’re going to write such a scene, why wouldn’t you put it in your book? Well, sometimes scenes just don’t fit, but you can learn loads about your characters from them. The first time I did it was with a character from a short story I wrote for my Creative Writing course in uni. I didn’t use the scene, but writing about it helped me to understand how one of my characters carried herself and what she might be willing to do to protect herself or her loved ones. Even though the scene was far from fitting for the story, it gave me a few ideas for how she might interact with her co-part. The second time I did this exercise, it ended up making it into my novel, and has helped me learn far more about my two main characters than I could have ever expected. That one will actually be found here on my blog in a few days.

So even if you know or don’t think you would use such a scene in your story, write a scene or two set in dramatic situations so that you can learn how your characters will react and interact. It might surprise you.

Drawing Your Characters
Actually drawing your characters (or having someone else draw them for you) can be a great aid in changing your perspectives of them. It may help you realise how much their height is a burden, how visible their scars are, how comfortable they are in fancy outfits, or how little they care about their appearance.

But more importantly, doing this might also help you see them through the eyes of your other characters as well. I know that I frequently forget about my own moles, scars, eye colour, bone structure, and clothes; and I can guarantee that your characters do much the same. Visibly seeing your characters can help you see what things they tend to forget that others might notice as well as what your character fixates on that others pay no attention to.

Character Playlists
It’s incredibly rare that I do this, but I have found it very helpful. Learning your characters’ favourite tunes or finding songs that make you think of them can help inspire you or help you think more like them. I’ve made a playlist that starts off with a song that reminds me of my main character, even though she would never listen to it, and continues with some of the music that might be some of her favourite. For me, it can be a bit tricky to do this since the only music with words that I can listen to while writing is Christmas music, but I take the music that my character may like most (especially those songs that have lyrics) and intersperse them throughout the playlist. I tend to space them approximately 20 minutes apart so that I can spend a good portion of time writing before something play that could be distracting.

Shopping as Your Character
This one might be the most bizarre one on here, but it’s also been one of the most helpful for me. I’m not saying that you should actually buy things, but going to stores and looking around as if you were your character may help you learn about their preferences for clothing, decor, entertainment, and household/office supplies. These may be things that seem fairly trivial overall, but knowing how your character dresses, decorates, has fun, and how prepared they are for various circumstances in their household/office can help you stage and plot scenes quite well. It can also get you thinking as your character and help you write scenes you may be struggling with.

Blogging as Your Character
I just recently decided to start doing this for Zoe and Andrew (two of the main characters of my novel). I’ve realised that I’ve had a bit more difficulty getting into their minds when I go to write lately because it’s been so long since I’ve worked on the novel regularly. So I’ve started going through various blog and journal prompts and challenges through their perspectives. A lot of them are/will be rather similar to some of the interview questions, but they are meant for going further in depth in choices and explanations. This will not only help me to get to know my characters more, but it will help me to think more like them so that the transition from everyday life to writing life is a tad easier. I’ll be posting my first one from Zoe’s perspective tomorrow, so keep an eye out!

How do you get to know your characters more? How do you get inside their minds and think like them so that writing comes easier? Let me know down in the comments!

Scarlet (Flash Fic)

Some things just shouldn’t be red.

Like eyes or bees or light bulbs.

But her lips were perfect in their shiny scarlet hue. Not everyone agreed though, and I think one of the reasons she wore her shades opposite of blue was because she enjoyed seeing them glance from her lips to the ground with tightened shoulders and frozen faces. Sometimes she would paint on a layer of white before applying the colours of the sunset so that her lips seemed to emit the glow of the sun’s bending rays as they twisted and moved to create their own gorgeous art as she took the stage. She didn’t think that what she did was anything worth mention, but even those who thought her lips were too risqué stopped to listen as she sang and used her painted lips to colour a picture of wonder and dismay.

A New Journey

Early this semester, I was asked to return to France with the Jacques Lefevre Institute as an intern. I’m glad to say I decided to apply and was accepted for a three month trip. I wrote this poem the day I was asked to return:

Longing for Tomorrow (or Sword Beach)

Whoosh! Wave. Whoosh! Wave.
The delicate hum of misplaced air
Mingles with the constant rustle
Of the shining green blades.

This. That! This. That!
Silver speech and pointed hearing
Interrupt the gentle melody
With beautiful clashes of excitement.

Water. flowing Water. flowing
The sweet scent fills the air
As imagined bread bakes
Near the beach so far away.

Pit. Pat. Pit. Pat.
Feet move in the style of the blades
While aching for the foam soaked grains
Piled high with shells of yesterday.

This is an amazing opportunity for me to continue learning French as well as gain work experience in both language as well as art and writing. I will be helping create the language learning content that the Institute is putting together for French learners. However, because I will be working with a non-profit, I need to raise the funds to go for these three months. Please consider looking at more specific information and donating at http://www.gofundme.com/h0cqb0. Also, please consider sharing the link with the people you know.

Thank you. I hope you enjoyed the poem!