Can I be real a second? For just a millisecond?

 

Yes, thank you George Washington in Hamilton for giving me that line. But seriously, can I just be real for a sec?

I'm tired. Like so tired I think my blood has turned into a shambling hoard of lost zombies. I have crawled through Nanowrimo and now we've landed in the middle of the pit of 50,000 words. Right now, I kind of just want to wallow in the mud and give up now.

But the way back is just as long as the way forward and we've already come so far. The middle is always, always the part of any novel where I struggle the most. It's where I worry I've completely lost control of the story and my own voice. Every word becomes something to be second-guessed and eye with suspicion.

But it's part of the process. I have to remind myself of that every time I hit it. Every time the middle hangs heavy (much like my squishy tummy) I remind myself it's normal, it's a part of growing and of building a story. (Not my tummy. That is a process of age and a lot of cheese.)

What I have to think about is that even if the words I'm writing suck, even if I end up cutting them all to the ground and never looking at them again, they serve a purpose. Sometimes that's helping sort out the real heart of the story and sometimes that's realizing that the story is totally flawed and finding a way to pick up the pieces and keep up moving.

There is no wrong way to first draft. The point is to get the words on the page and then to play with them (you lucky few who draft and edit together, you do you) and find the story hiding in there. Sometimes you've marinated on an idea so long it comes out in a beautiful shape with only a little polishing needed, and sometimes, like my 2015 Nanowrimo novel, the whole thing needs to be scrapped. But it served a solid purpose and I learned so much from that failed draft.

BUT, because brains are kind of ridiculous, I have to remind myself of that every single time I start a new draft. I want it to be different. I want the story to be perfect from the very first word I type on and that is just no reality. This is the process and part of being a writer is being able to trust in that process.

So, here we are at the halfway point, push on everyone, we're almost there.

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

The start of NaNoWriMo always holds a little magic in it. It's a moment when everything seems possible, the whole story wide open for the taking, you just have to commit to it. During the first week I tend to write over the 1667 words due a day and sail through my words with ease. 


For me, Nano is a time to play and to write without fear for just that month. I write with the idea that these words are all garbage and don't matter. And maybe that idea won't work for you, but for me, that takes the pressure off of me. The idea that I don't have to get the words just worse is okay. If I switch from past to present and back again, it's alright. Shift from first to third? No problem. The draft forgives all my sins and lets me just focus on getting the words down. In my NaNoWriMo drafts I can chase after every subplot that pops into my head and see where they lead. Sometimes it leads to a big mess that I end with an 'XXX' note to delete it all later and pretend it never happened. But sometimes, those detours show me the heart of my story and what I really am trying to convey. Nano gives me the space to learn about my story without getting lost in it. 

Of course, this is all how I feel during the first week, I love the start of a story. The beginning is where I have a lot of fun and feel incredibly optimistic about the whole thing, it's the dreaded 33% mark where things start to go downhill. So, as we creep towards that mark I'm trying to remind myself of a few things and maybe these reminders will help you too. 

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

Growing up, I never would have called myself a horror fan. I liked creepy, gothy things, but horror? No, thanks. I was never into the blood and guts and just avoided it for the most part, even as I loved every second of all things creepy. For me there was a line between creepy and horror, and that line was gore.

The moment that the character is stabbed is not the moment horror is born. Horror walks the line of suspense, keeping the entire world of the story contained within a tightly coiled spring. The moment the monster appears, attacks, maims, etc — that’s the moment the spring comes undone, and then (if it’s not the climax) the spring begins to coil back down, ready to leap again.

The scare doesn’t come from violence. The scare comes from a delicate rhythm of tension and release, of the unknown threat or unseen danger finally being realized. In horror, sometimes the most powerful jolts are based on the things you don’t see or don’t expect. It’s jarring.

But that jolt alone does not a horror story make. The best analogy I heard is that one spark does not start a fire unless there’s something surrounding it to catch flame. A single moment won’t set the way for a horror story unless you’ve done the work and set the rest of the scene.

The moment I realized horror was something I loved came from a video game, Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly.

You can read the rest of this post on Speculative Chic

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AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesPersonal

Getting ready for conventions is always a little hectic. There’s a panic of what to bring, what to pack and what to leave at home. So a few months back, I made a list to help me get my stuff together! I thought other people might find that helpful so I’m going to share it here! Let me know if there’s anything you bring that I’ve not listed here.

 

Foods (Protein bars, water flavor (I like the mio coffee ones for caffeine fixes on the cheap), fruit, sweets, crackers, shareables!) I try to always make sure I have some at least semi-healthy stuff and that I have enough to share with my fellow vendors.

Business cards, post cards for table

Table cloth and decor

Notebook, pen, pencils, post-it notes, white board markers (I keep a tiny white board on my table to mark what panels I’m on.)

External charger and charging cable

ipad (for newsletter signing up and as a back-up card reader)

Sewing kit (You never know when you may run into a cosplayer in need!)

Comfortable shoes. I usually wear heels at conventions but I change into comfortable shoes when at my table.

Ear buds. Sometimes I need to decompress so I keep ear buds so I can listen to a meditative app in the bathroom and find some calm.

Cash for change, square, plastic bags to give out.

Cough drops, Tylenol, band aids, tums, cough syrup.

Dolly to help load in and out books.

Jacket.  I’m always cold. Especially in the South in the summer. The air conditioning is turned to artic. Vendor halls also tend to either be really hot or really cold. There’s no in between.

Hand sanitizer!

Makeup, chapstick, hair stuff, tide pens.

MY BOOKS and book stands. 

 

Source: Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash
Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

There never seems to be enough time, does there? It's something that I hear (and say) all the time. 'If only there were more hours in the day! I just don't have enough time!' And a lot of the time, it's true. But, since adding hours to the day isn't really a possibility... let's look at other ways to get some time back. 

The number one thing that can make a big difference is focusing on one thing at a time. Don't try and do multiple projects at once. For me, this means that when it's time to write a blog post that means I can't also be... 

  • watching a youtube video (just for background noise I swear!)
  • check Facebook real quick (I'm just looking out for a message about an interview!)
  • have my email open (what if something important shows up?)
  • carry on a conversation with my roommates (It'll just be a second!)

If I want to get anything accomplished and not have the task be a terrible mess then I need to focus on that one task and that one thing alone. I'm not great at. I like having background noise but I'm learning that my default of youtube isn't a great idea. Even listening to songs with lyrics can distract me. 

So to help with that whole background noise thing, I turn on some binaural focus music on spotify. No lyrics and sounds that are supposed to help with focus. 

Now, in the interest of honesty... I have done none of that for this blog post. I have Facebook open and am actively messaging me people. There's a funny youtube video playing on the TV in front of me. My roommates are hanging out in the same room with me and I have my email open where every ding pulls me from my work. 

It means this blog post has taken an hour when it could have been done in twenty minutes if I'd taken my own advice.

So, do as I say, not as I do? 

Maybe next time, we'll both do a little better. 

Source: Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash
Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesPersonal

Self-care has become a big topic lately with a lot of people talking about the importance of taking care of yourself. On the surface it seems like a 'gee duh you should be taking care of yourself' but it's so easy to get caught up in being busy, in getting things done, that you lose track of taking some time to give yourself some love. I know that's been the case for me for a while so now I'm trying to make sure I take some time out each week to do at least 15 minutes of something that relaxes me, makes me happy or fills up that creative well. 
Since starting self-care can seem a little overwhelming (and sometimes feel really selfish too), I wanted to just share some of the things that I've been doing. Don't be afraid to start small, you don't have to go all out on a spa retreat to relax. Also, there is no 'perfect' relaxation. Don't get so stressed out that you're not relaxing enough that your self-care just becomes one more thing on your to-do list. 

So here are some things that I enjoy:

  • Drinking a glass of water slowly 
  • Bubble baths
  • Face masks
  • Watching silly cat videos
  • Playing video games
  • Hanging out with friends
  • Calling friends
  • Sending thank you emails to people who've made an impact on my life
  • Calling my senators and voicing my opinion
  • Donating to worthy causes
  • Volunteering
  • Picking up around the house
  • Making my bed
  • Using my essential oils to make my room smell magical
  • Kitty cat snuggles
  • A good, cute book
  • Great British Bake Off Marathon
  • Simple stretches
  • Journaling
  • Singing in the car
  • Listening to my favorite podcasts
  • A warm cup of tea (without any caffeine)

Self-care doesn't have to be complicated and it doesn't have to look like anyone else's either. Do what makes you feel good, what relaxes you, and remember that you are worth taking care of. 

Source: Photo by 西爾維亞 on Unsplash
Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy


Some of you who follow me on social may have noticed that over the past few months, I've been having a hard time. (I mean, who hasn't been right now?) Now that I'm feeling in a little more steady, grounded place I wanted to talk about this past almost year since this started. 


I wish I could say for sure what triggered this depressive spiral, maybe it was the bad flare-up of my own imposter syndrome at DragonCon in 2016, maybe it was a change in the weather, maybe it was burn out. The truth is, I don't know what exactly happened. All I know is that starting in September of 2016, I started feeling off.

Now a lot of people have off days, and that's what I assumed was happening. Oh, I'm just really busy right now, things will get back to normal soon. I kept working, pushing past all those warning bells as all of my carefully built routines started falling apart. 


I started sleeping only 3 or 4 hours a night despite laying in bed for 10 hours. I started eating nothing but junk. I stopped brushing my teeth. I had to force myself to shower. Eating became either a chore I was forced to do or a binge I couldn't stop. But still, I kept trucking right along. I had dreams to reach and dreams don't work unless you do, right? 


Then in November things took a sharp turn (and I don't just mean from the election). I lost my ideas. 


I'm not talking about writer's block, about not wanting to write, about not finding the right words or avoiding the page because I don't wanna. I mean that the river of ideas in my head dried up. I couldn't imagine anything. Instead of my usual daydreams of epic sword fights or daring rescues, all I could imagine was a barren field. Nothing grew, nothing reached out for me to create it.

I tried to keep writing but against this field of empty, I felt hopeless. I forced myself onwards, finished manuscripts by piecing together outlines, tried to make myself feel enough to write compelling characters. I didn't stop but I did reach out for help, kept going to therapy, started taking medication. 


But nothing changed and when the new year hit, usually my favorite time of the year (I fricking love goal setting y'all), I just didn't care. I didn't want to set any goals. I couldn't even think of the future, everything was a gaping black nothing consuming everything and giving nothing.


I decided maybe I just needed a little break. I gave myself a week off... still, nothing returned. I tried to read but even that was a struggle. I could enjoy the flow of the words but even with some of the most vibrant prose, I couldn't see the story. It was like someone kept trying to play an empty film reel where the daydreams should be. 

I wondered if maybe my time as a creative was done, that maybe I wasn't meant for making things, that I'd been wrong my whole life about what I loved and what I wanted to do. 

But I kept quiet about it. Told absolutely no one (including my therapist, yeah I know) and kept faking along like everything was fine and that I had stuff on the back burner just waiting to be published.

I was ashamed of how broken and empty I felt. I've always prided myself on being a fast writer, on producing, on making content, on never having a shortage of things to do. I felt like if I didn't have that, then what did I have? Who was I really? Would any of my friends even like me if I couldn't write ever again? Had the past 20 years just been a fluke of creativity? 

I've never not been able to at least daydream, never not been able to at least turn inwards for some ridiculous story with swords and magic. But this time, those daydreams left me too. It felt like a literal part of me had just packed up its bags and left in the dead of night. I didn't know how to function, who I was or what to do. I decided I would finish my 2017 conventions and then hang up my writing hat for good.

I believed that I wasn't able to create any more, that everything I was, was a lie and that I just hadn't been able to see it. Even as I was promising to write books for people, talking about my upcoming projects, I was making plans to leave the creative world. (Here's a big caveat here, when I say leave the creative world, that's exactly what I mean. I did not/do not have any intentions of harming myself.)

I wish I could say that then there was a big light bulb moment and the light and daydreams returned with a thunderous roar that swept me away. But it hasn't. I've been able to dig through the barren earth and force out a few things, with a lot of work, a lot of effort, and mainly a streak of stubbornness a mile wide and the depth of the Mariana Trench. 

But y'all: today, I had an idea. 

An honest to goodness idea. I hid in the bathrooms and wept because of this one, honestly kind of shitty, little idea. It's just one and it might be terrible but it's my terrible baby and if that trickle means that the well is starting to replenish then I will welcome it with open arms.

But the truth is, I'm not back. I'm not anywhere near 100% again, I'm maybe at 15% and for right now, I'm learning to be okay with that. It's hard because I like things to move quickly, I like to always be busy and right now I'm trying to learn that slow is okay too. There's no shame in taking a day to play a video game and do nothing productive. There's no shame in taking time to stretch and walk. There's no shame in not being able to be perfect all the time. I'm not a fast learner y'all so I'm still working on it. 

So all this to say, hey, sorry that I was planning on quietly dropping out of the convention, writing world that I so dearly love, sorry about lying that things were fine and that oh yeah I'm totally writing that thing we talked about (don't worry John, I am for real writing that thing we talked about).

I'm putting this all out there because the worst part of all of this was how utterly alone I felt. I felt like I couldn't tell anyone, that no one would understand but that's not true.

I'm not alone and neither are you. 
 

Source: Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash
Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

Sharing time! I'm obsessed with productivity tips and blogs. Articles like '7 Habits Only Happy People Have' and '12 Ways You Waste Time Every Day' devour my morning and leave me feeling productive even when I have literally just spent 3 hours on LifeHacker and have nothing to show for it but chapped lips, dry eyes and a lingering sense of guilt. 

While I love reading about these tips, it's just because it feels productive without me having to actually do anything hard. Reading an article? Psssha, that's easy work and a total time waster, but this article will teach me how to optimize my morning so I get everything done and become a productivity ninja! 

That's not to say that these articles don't share good advice or fun tidbits of information that make you feel great about yourself. (I mean, did you know that millionaires tend to smile a lot. I smile a lot, I'm totally on the way to being a millionaire since we have so much in common.) However, at some point, it's time to stop with the fun articles and buckle up for a ride. 

Accomplishing things sucks sometimes. Even things you're excited about can be hard to motivate yourself for. I love the novel I'm working on but some days the last thing in the world I want to do is park my cute, little butt in a chair and sit (or stand) at my desk to write. I love the story, the characters, everything, but UGH WHY CANNOT I TELEPATH MY STORY INTO PEOPLE'S HEADS?

But the work is necessary. There are some ways that might make it easier. For example, setting a timer and racing to see how many words I can type in 25 minutes (My best record was 2,003 whoo!) gets me typing and having fun. Some days though, that just doesn't work. I sit at my computer for an hour and type three words and ignore the timer. 

It's a matter of working with myself and knowing that sitting down to work is the only way this project will get done. So yeah, I might pop on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or the whole of the Interwebs, but eventually, I fall back into my work because I know I have to or it won't happen. A simple motivation? Maybe, but it's the one that stays constant. 

I still dream of being a productivity ninja who talks about how I rise at 5 am to go on a 6-mile run before having a kale smoothie and meditating for twenty minutes, but I don't think I ever will be. And I'm totally okay with that. But what I can do is work with what I am, which is a procrastinating over-achiever who wants to live in a Real Simple magazine but would only break everything I touched there. 

And that's okay because who wants a kale smoothie anyways?

Source: Photo by Michał Kubalczyk on Unsplash
Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesPersonal

I’m an incredibly anxious person. I over worry about everything. For example, I once panicked about what I was going to wear on a flight to interview for a job in Oregon… BEFORE I had even submitted my job application for the position. I’m always thinking 15 steps ahead, and at least 13 of those steps are worst case scenarios and what could go wrong.

I live with the constant thought that people always hate it when I text or email them because I’m bothering them. I worry that I responded too quickly to a message; I worry that I responded too slowly to a message and that either option means I’m a lost cause and this person will no longer respect or like me. I wake up some mornings with a sense of doom that wraps around my neck like a wool scarf suffocating me in the middle of July.

I stress out about what’s going to happen today, tomorrow, in a month, a year, ten years, twenty years. I panic about the imaginary things I haven’t done yet, and I worry that the things I have done, I’ve done all wrong somehow. I worry that every time I mess up even in the slightest, that I’ve doomed myself forever and should just go shove my head in the ground and hide.

It’s an exhausting way to live, and sometimes it flares up in wickeder than usual ways that leave me ill, depressed, and a general mess who just wants to lock myself in my room so I don’t have to interact with anyone.

Sometimes I can write my way through it, and other times I’m so worried that what I’m writing is awful, and therefore I’m awful that I can barely write a sentence. One of the things I struggle with as a writer is building high enough conflicts because tension worries me (yes even fictional tension) and I just want things to go smoothly which doesn’t make for compelling stories exactly.

I write this not because I want coddling or anything like that (and I worry immensely that’s what this post will be taken as), but because I know it’s a problem, and I’m not going to continue to hide from it, instead I’m working on ways to manage it.

·       I run, walk, or just jump in circles in my room.

·       I send a message to someone I admire and tell them why they’re amazing.

·       I look through a folder of all of the things I have accomplished.

·       I keep track of what I do every day, and praise myself for finishing things.

·       I do yoga or just lay on the floor and listen to the sounds of a thunderstorm.

Sometimes these work, some days it’s like trying to run from a swarm of killer bees that I can already feel digging into my skin. No day is perfect, and I’ve come to accept that and to try to not (hahahaha) worry about it.

I know I spend most of my time on this blog talking about writing, but this is a part of my writing (and every day life) that I don’t mention much, and I feel like it’s time to own it. Writing on some days is like trying to wade through a locust swarm in my gut that’s constantly trying to devour me from the inside out. But the things I want to write help me make it through the storm and to the other side where I can see the non-bug-infested light again.

I wish there were some piece of advice, some great tip from a self-help book that I could pass along, but the truth is, I just sort of throw a dart towards where I want to go and blindly push forward through locust swarms and all. Some days I lay down and let the bugs crawl all over me, and some days I walk through beautiful sunlight. But at the end of the day I try to do the best I can with what I’ve got going on, and to just keep pushing forward. You’re not alone.

Source: Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash
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AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesPersonal