#71: You Are Allowed to Write Outside Your Own Experience — Story Hospital

The question is how to go about writing characters who aren’t like you, not whether you are allowed to.

via #71: You Are Allowed to Write Outside Your Own Experience — Story Hospital

(Hey y’all, I’m bogged down with Life Stuff at the moment and don’t really have the energy to write an original post at the moment, so I thought I might share another Story Hospital response about a subject that’s very important to me as a writer. Hope you find it useful and insightful!)

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Story Hospital on NaNoWriMo and First Drafts

Looking like a finished work isn’t what a first draft is for. It’s a tool to help you tell the story.

via NaNoWriMo: Why “Bad” First Drafts Are Great — Story Hospital

(I thought I’d share a link to this post now that we’re closer to the end of the month. It has many good pointers about not being disappointed in the first draft of a story. It also applies to the first drafts of many types of writing in general. Best of luck with everything this week! – Cinnia)

Stages of Making Empanadas for the First Time

Stage 1: “Oh wow, look at this quick recipe for empanada dough. It looks so easy!”

Stage 2: “Crap, I don’t have a food processor or a or a pastry cutter or a rolling pin. Well, I can just make do, right?”

Stage 3: “Get into little tiny pieces, you f*cking stick of butter. No, stop sticking to the fork. STOP. Argh!”

Stage 4: “Why is it so dry? I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to look like sand.”

Stage 5: “Okay, after adding copious amounts of water, the dough is made and now I need to let it chill for a bit I guess?”

Stage 6: “F*ck I let it chill for too long and now it’s hard as a rock. Now it’s gotta thaw!”

Stage 7: “It’s thawed and now I just realized that I’m gonna have to break it up into little pieces since my impromptu roller a la wine bottle can’t handle all of the dough.”

Stage 8: “Oh, cute little circles! I’m getting so close to finishing even though my hands feel like crap from all of the mixing and rolling.”

Stage 9: “‘Add shredded chicken and cheese.’ F*ck. I forgot about that.”

Stage 10: “Why won’t these damn empanada edges seal? Stop spilling open. Staaahp.”

Stage 11: “Look at all these cute hand pies I finally have. And it’s only 1:30 AM!”

Stage 12: “Well, time to freeze them and go to bed so that I don’t have to reflect too closely on my poor life choices!”

Inspired by a real-life experience in which Cinnia traded 5 hours of her life to make 25 empanadas because she didn’t think things through very well and forgot to follow the rule of “mise en place” before attempting anything.

Note: The picture is not mine; I got it from here. Believe you me, you don’t wanna know what mine looked like, but definitely not this nice!

Best things of 2016

Tonight starts the final countdown to this long and complex and difficult year, but instead of adding to the general negativity, I thought I’d reflect on the good things that have happened to me.

I don’t intend to diminish the bad things that have happened to people, but I do want to ring in 2017 by celebrating what made this past year a little brighter. If you have something of your own to celebrate or if you want someone to talk to about 2016, feel free to leave a comment below.

  1. I got into my professional program of choice. This was by far the greatest thing that has happened to me in a long time because it meant the years of work and choices all the way back to when I was a wee one finally meant something tangible. I still have a long way to go before I start, but I am so happy that I can pursue a career I love.
  2. My family got a puppy! (Picture included below as a gift to my followers.) It was exhausting at first since she was much like a needy newborn for a month or so, but she’s been the light of all of our lives since then. I can’t imagine my family without her anymore; she is a blessing and a joy.
  3. I started reading more books again. Maybe that would sound strange to some people who know me as an insatiable bookworm, but I stopped really reading books, even those useful for classes, for about a year and a half or so. I read maybe one or two at most during that time when normally I’d read at least one a week. Something clicked this past summer and I started to read books for fun instead of viewing them as a chore or something not worth the time investment. I’ve enjoyed so many books since then. It’s made me a better reader, writer, and thinker these past few months.
  4. I finally sought out a therapist when I really needed help instead of pretending I could continue to fight on my own. Without going into too many details, having a therapist has helped me because I had an objective outsider advising me on my behaviors and mental health. It made all the difference for my motivation. (It also helped me to see that I am very much an unreliable narrator of my own life, something I will try to work on in the future.)
  5. Through a combination of seeking out support groups and different communities, I have realized and accepted some important things about myself and others. I enjoyed the countless stories, the great entertainment, developing friendships, attending events, and feeling more comfortable in my own skin.

As for 2017, I intend to keep working on myself and to try to be a source of support and lightness in others’ lives. I want to be more comfortable with both accepting and giving. I want to read more books, listen to great music, rock the dance floor, walk the dog, and enter my career program with a spectacular start.

I wish all of you strength, happiness, and good health in 2017 as well.

puppy_may2016

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Thoughts on Skating and Failure

I grew up in the Southwest, so ice skating is still a bit of a novelty for me. Out there, you could rollerblade or skateboard, but winter sports were out of the question unless you had enough money to travel.

On the other hand, I’ve always had a soft spot for winter sports, dating all the way back to when I first tuned into the Winter Olympics on our family’s fuzzy television (Salt Lake City, 2002).

It wasn’t until I got the chance to try winter sports for myself that I realized how strongly I loved it. I love feeling the cold chill in the air and being bundled up against it in a much-too-bright athletic jacket and gloves. I love that feeling of my feet flying beneath me across the ice or the snow. I love arriving indoors, breathless and rosy-cheeked, and brewing a cup of tea or coffee or cocoa after a long workout. I’m not great, but I look forward to all of my little wintertime adventures as the days grow colder.

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I’ve recharged

Without really thinking about it, I’ve taken yet another long break from blogging. Two full months, to be exact. I’ve never been good about blogging regularly, but I’d hoped the summer would have made it easier to write more often. That didn’t happen.

I could excuse it on account of career/future planning demands (true). I could try to excuse it on a lot of family matters and shifting dynamics that have come up (also true).

But I know I could have made time for it, just like I’ve made time for other things in the past two months. I really just didn’t feel like blogging for a while; I didn’t feel like publicizing my thoughts/experiences on the Internet. I held them close in my journals instead.

Maybe it’s because (hormonal or stress-related or otherwise), my thoughts/words took a dark turn in June/early July and I wanted to wait until I was okay again. I felt like my writing (essay, fiction, or research) was a lie. False, broken, nothing. I felt like a fraud. Like I had all these hopes and dreams and others hoped and dreamed for me too and I was going to let them all down horribly. I was cranky and rude and cried myself to sleep for over a good week when it got really bad.

I’m still not sure how got the strength to I pull myself out of the rut, but here I am, blogging again with my usual rambling and insertion of personal details that are maybe a bit much.

One thing I did do is recharge. The last few months (and year, really) have been stressful and emotionally draining for an idealistic dreamer like me and I haven’t been practical enough to let some of the burdens go or make real progress in talking them out with others. It’s been too tempting to escape instead, but fortunately I’ve had time to turn some of those escapes into chances to recharge.

So, I’ve done things I haven’t been able to do in a long time. I’ve hiked. I’ve slept in. I’ve woken up early. I’ve eaten healthy food and junk food and experimented with recipes. I’ve paid for a ridiculous amount of Kindle e-books and finished two book series within days of each other. I’ve updated my library account and avoided reading too many current events or negative websites. I’ve reached out to old friends and new friends. I’ve visited a place where my career could take me and loved the experience. I’ve tried not to stress to much about my future or how difficult it is to articulate what I want in 4500 characters or less. I’m starting to think about being kinder and practicing more self-care and including more socialization—even dating—in that category of self-care (something that used to terrify me).

So even though the summer has mostly gone by without my blogging input and I’m not sure if I’m able to keep it up on top of everything else without sacrificing bigger priorities, I’m glad to be back on my feet, more or less, and I’m grateful that I had a chance to at least talk about it here.

I hope all of you are doing well, but know some of you might also be struggling to stay afloat. If you need to talk to someone about it, I’m happy to listen. Best of luck to all of you today with your current problems, your hopes, and your pursuit of dreams and futures and happiness.

– Cinnia

How I Write

It probably goes without saying that I love to write, probably just as much as I love to read. I love flexing my creative muscles, but also consider blogging a close companion — it’s been my years-long, ill-kept secret means of unleashing my energy and weird thoughts on the Internet.

In many ways, writing makes me feel like a guest invited to another world or into the lives of my characters and my readers, though this probably makes the process seem more formal and organized than it truly is.

A more apt description, perhaps, is that I become a fly on the wall, privy to scenes and thoughts and emotions that seem to spring from my mind to my fingertips when I start writing them down. It’s almost like I hear the words and the descriptions and the poetry, but not quite — it’s something that becomes heard once it’s written, but until then it’s far away but ever-noticeable, like a train horn sounding off in the distance.

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The Glorious Twenty-Fifth of May

Today is May 25th, the day Terry Pratchett fans wear the lilac as a reference to his beloved Discworld series (and also, more recently, in honor of the author and other Alzheimer’s patients). It is also, quite wonderfully coincidentally, Towel Day for Douglass Adams fans (author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series) and, as Jack reminded me, World Tarot Day. Let me take a moment to remind you, in case you forgot: DON’T PANIC.

But for me, this day is particularly special.

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Revisiting Stories: Bitterblue

From my past experiences of reading books and watching movies, I know that I tend to intensely identify with one or two of the characters. Sometimes I think about how they would behave in my life situations and how I would in theirs. I don’t think this habit is all that uncommon, but if you want to read up more on it, see exhibits A and B.

This post, in contrast to the thousands of reviews on Kristen Cashore’s Bitterblue novel, explores the connection I developed while reading this book a few years ago and my recent re-reading to explore why it affected me so strongly. Rather than focus on the plot, I’m focusing more on the points of personal connection as a bit of a psychological exercise.

Slight Spoilers Ahead!
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