News

Cinematic Short Story Contest Update!

Squeeeeeee! 🤩

Ahem, forgive me. The email took me by surprise this morning (pros of living in a different timezone?), but very excited to announce I’m a semifinalist for Screencraft’s Cinematic Short Story Contest!! 😍

unnamed

I’m part of the top 12%?? Wow. 😲 WOW! 😳😁

Now I have another month (ish) to wait for the winners announcement, but I know the odds are… quite steep. 174 contestants hoping to win, or even place Top 5. Regardless of the end result, I’m very, very happy with how far I’ve come! But yes, a tiny part of me is hoping I’ll place, who wouldn’t!?

I’ll focus on the baby steps, and this fancy dandy badge is doing wonders for building confidence in my writing. 😎

Maybe it’s time to create a Library page for this story, for future reference. (Some changes have been made, which I will go over in a future post.)

In any case, w00!! Great way to start the day, so don’t mind me skipping me around! 💃🏼🎉

Dance on,
Ali J.

Advertisements

Fear Not Resistance, It Lights Your Path #DIYMFA

I’m back, as promised! (Wait, I can actually keep those??)  A bit later than I promised, but I made it back, so that’s a win in my book.

DIY MFA Book Club has actually ended, but I still want to answer all the prompts (im)patiently sitting in my inbox, and no one can tell me otherwise, so hah! 😇

Today’s prompt is a bit harder to tackle:

Prompt-6

“Resistance comes from fear, and fear has a purpose.”
Gabriela, DIYMFA

Certainly rings true. But how do you break through the fear? Do you break through the fear, or work around it?

I suppose I’m still in the midst of resisting my novel. It’s only been what, a mere five years!? (Minimum.) Yikes! Even writing this post took a week longer than I anticipated! Resisting the Resistance… does that make me evil!? 🤔 (Presuming the Resistance is always a force for good… Moving on!)

Nobody told me to prep a speech! I’ll just blast the Resistance, easy peasy.

Every time I sit down to work on said novel, I either start somewhere else, exhibit A:

  • “I’ll review my notes, get an idea what the timeline and flow should be like.”
  • “I’ll just reread this chapter and write what follows.” (cue hair pulling because half the things need serious editing)
  • “Maybe I’ll just research (a thing) and then I can keep writing…”

or I just staaaaare at the blank (ish) page forever. Scroll up and down between bits and pieces of story and scattered notes. Back to staring. “Oh hey I’m hungry!” Rinse and repeat.

And thus it’s been for a long, long time. (Disclaimer: slices of life do vary in length and subject.) To me, that’s writer’s block. (Sorry Gabriela, agree to disagree? At least for the moment. She states, “For the record, ‘writer’s block’ does not exist. It’s an excuse lazy people tell themselves to justify not writing.” A topic to re-explore another day.)

Thus, my terrible procrastinator still drives the car, with the writer in the trunk! But is my procrastination actually fear in disguise? That, or my Resistance (aka fear) feeds the procrastination. I’m in too deep, and I’m stuck.

open-uri20150608-27674-1i3058r_43e8a17d
Help! Anybody?? … body … ody … dy … dy …

That’s not to say Resistance hasn’t been helpful. I’ve resisted too many essays far too often to know that the huge wall fear builds up in self-defense is only going to crumble the minute a crappy sentence makes it alive onto the page. The rest (usually) follows shortly after. All part of the process?

But for my novel, I’m still building a wall while trying to kick it down at the same time. I’m SO very excited about my novel (all the feels I’ll have reading it when finished, not to mention the possibility of others liking it too!), and yet so deathly afraid of it. Afraid of the plot and the many possible plot holes, of bad character development, and most of all, afraid that the finished product will ultimately be disliked, heavily criticized, ripped apart, stomped on, and promptly set on fire (for starters). 😬

But is it worth avoiding my novel completely for the (mostly irrational) fear that a few will dislike it?? I know we can’t possibly please everyone, ever, but if I think in terms of comments on fanfictions, as much as I get an endorphin high (research needed 😜) from positive comments, it only takes one negative comment to stop everything in its track and kick the self-doubt to lightspeed.

Overthinking, here we goooo!

I’ll answer with a big fat no. What am I waiting for!? The world needs my book! (Big head deflating in 3, 2… 1…) Part of being a writer, and indeed, any creator (or let’s be honest, person) is to come to terms with criticism. We can let it hit so deep it’ll cripple us forever, or we can armor up and learn to deflect, counter, or embrace. Constructive criticism still hurts, but it’s necessary pain. A learning curve that leaves a mark. But we can still grow tall and beautiful, and indeed, we must! How else will you spread your roots and share your wisdom? That it is possible to weather gale winds, tempestuous rain, and arid summers, and still come out in one piece on the other side with your beautiful finished creation?

Look at all this knowledge! Gnarled, but still beautiful and strong!

I don’t know about you, but this certainly has been an enlightening post for me! My ramblings have led me astray into my own fears, which is one way to break down the wall, right? Identifying them and working from a place of knowledge? That’s pretty powerful. Or I’m just making stuff up. (Entirely, nay, definitely, possible.)

Nonetheless, I know that birthing this novel is, and will continue to be, a painful, arduous process, but oh so rewarding. Why? Well for starters, when compared to those essays I resisted (out of bad-grade fear), my novel doesn’t have such an inflexible deadline, the topic is entirely up to me, and I’ll probably be a lot prouder of the end result! 😇😎

So yeah, Resistance is a tell-tell sign of the troubled times/mind/heart, but it sure indicates a promising future! Acceptance is the first step. You know what you must do…

The Resistance needs YOU! And the world needs your creation.

Fear not,
Ali J.

Have you encountered resistance on a writing/creative project? How did you tackle it; in military gear ready for a blitzkrieg, or with reluctance but an open mind? Did you pursue, or not pursue, that project, and how did it turn out? Let us know in the comments! 🙂

Best (Worst?) Practices, An Odyssey #DIYMFA

Happy February!

I meant to answer this prompt earlier, but I had a story to write for NYCMidnight‘s #shortstorychallenge2018! Sad to say procrastination grabbed a hold of me by Wednesday, throwing all productivity aside (engaging all the fear monsters though), but I managed to write 1,500 (aka most of it) on Saturday and of course had a last minute full on editing session before resubmitting. Judges be all judgy. Que sera, sera!

I’m well behind on prompts, so I’ll try my best to catch up, which may mean more than one update a week (gasp)! Our first prompt this week:

Prompt-5

Ohh boy. Let’s see, how do I keep this short and succinct?

All of it.

Well, nearly most of it.

Write every day

HAH! 😂 You so funny. (Have you met me?)

Sometimes I do (👏🏼👏🏼), sometimes I can’t. This thing called life gets in the way– ever heard of it?

I do write my journal every day. Does that count? (Mm, nope.)

Write 2,000 words no let’s say 3 pages per day

HA ha ha… ha. Nope. Sometimes I write in bursts, and sometimes I struggle for hours on one sentence. (Especially the crucial sentence to pull me out of writer’s block.)

Don’t reread what you write

Sorry to disappoint, but that’s usually how I get back in the flow of things? Especially because I tend to contradict the next best practice…

Don’t edit as you go

Whoops? I can’t help it! When I’m jumping back in a story, either after a long or short time away (writer’s block, break, or whatnot), I reread from the top, get alllllll excited about the story again while fixing small things (or finding big things to fix later) and then keep on writin’!

First drafts are crap

Can’t really argue with that one, except it depends what kind of draft. Ish. I don’t tend to edit the hell out of something unless I know I’m going to submit it to a contest, for example. Mostly because finishing the darn thing is half the battle! And because I tend to edit as I go, I like to think my drafts are less crap. But probably not, because I also have high standards and if someone comes back with comments, I will contemplate/action them foreverrrr! Ish.

So from my experience… I don’t like to follow rules? (When it comes to writing! I don’t go robbing banks, murdering people, or living under a false nam– Um. This is an exception… 😅)

Now I’m trying reeeeally hard to find a rule that I do write by, but I’m coming up empty. 😶 I write when inspired, or when I have a deadline (hello contests, you’re my new frenemies). I definitely don’t count words, sentences, or pages when I write, but I know in my gut if I was productive or not.

For instance:

If I only write a few sentences during my (rare) dedicated writing time, I’ll be disappointed. Rating: 😞 (could’ve done better)

If I squeeze one sentence in before bed time because I was too caught up in #life and #adulting, then I’ll be pretty damn happy. Rating: 😁🌟 (yay!!)

So that’s me, all practiced out. (Technically still building my practice? I only have 5 patients at the moment. Well– 5 complete patients, the rest are in pieces!)

Wri(gh)te on!
Ali J.

What “best practice” have you heard and/or tried? How did you go? Did you change the advice to suit your style? What did you learn about your writer self during the process? Share your experience below!

Creativity: Wh’re Doth Thee Cometh From? #DIYMFA

G’day!

This post is a tad late, as life happened (including Exciting News!!), but I’m honoring my reality and that is prioritizing writing a brand new story for the NYC Midnight #shortstorychallenge2018!

This prompt, ironically enough, required more thinking that the last one. Who gets writer’s block about creativity!? … Me, that’s who. 😞

unnamed

Perhaps my lazy weekend disconnected some wires? Do I call an electrician? Wait, who’s the electrician? Creativity?? With a smidgen of willpower? They would charge a fortune! … In a way, they kind of do (see: my nonstop inner critic).

Alright, so. You’re creative. Yay! Me too! Why? … Um. Because? I really want to say “aren’t we all, in a way?” It can’t be rare, can it? To think of looking at a situation upside down instead of top to bottom? (Turns out our brains are wired differently, call the electrician back!)

shake things up

I tend to get inspired rather randomly:

  • while theorizing or joking with friends
  • sitting on the bus staring at traffic
  • reading random articles about science or technology
  • anything from a screen (anime especially as it can be quite weird, in an awesome way, even if I haven’t watched a lot recently)
  • getting an emotional reaction in real life (with varying degrees)
  • seeing shapes/faces in objects
  • my plethora of weird (again, awesome!) dreams
  • listening to themed music (action/epic/dramatic etc)
  • looking at pictures (of creatures, fictional places, you name it!)
  • reading books, tout simplement – novels, books about writing, it’s all fair game (two off the top of my head include one I haven’t yet quite completed since the last time I brought it up, Atelier d’Écriture by Laure D’Astragal, and of course the DIY MFA book by Gabriela Pereira)

The majority of the time it feels like a combination of random thoughts while contemplating something.

In case of severe creative droughts, there are thankfully many available resources. An easy go to (with internet) would be Gabriela’s own DIY MFA Writer Igniter (I’m still laughing at some results – is that generator really random!?).

Gabriela also talks about her ORACLE – a box fulfilling the role of muse by holding creative whispers, such as a box of images or words. I really like the option of the dice as well:

I use dice for writing exercises whenever I need to leave something up to chance. I’ll assign each number an option, then do whatever the roll decides.

Another sure way to get the creative juices flowing is to reignite the dying embers of something that thrills me, that still gets my heart pounding with excitement, and has me yelling at the pages/screen no matter how many times I read/watch it. A book/series, an anime, a show, or a movie I love will always get me squealing in delight, but especially those that have fanfiction. Bonus points if it’s a fandom I write for! Whatever it takes to get back into writing. 😁

Perhaps I’ll build my own ORACLE in the next few weeks, and see what I come up with!

Go forth and create!
Ali J.

How do you replenish your dried creative well? What inspires you? Do you have your own ORACLE? Sharing is caring, feel free to discuss in the comments!

Cinematic Short Story Contest Update!

I have Very Exciting News!

I mentioned in my first post of the year that I’d entered a Cinematic Short Story Contest, and I’m thrilled to announce I made it through the first round!! 😄

It’s so enthralling, and yet surreal, to see my name as a Quarter-Finalist! One of about 400 to be selected from over 1,400 submissions!

Quarter Finalist

Regardless of whether I make it to the next round, it’s gratifying, and humbling, to get my story acknowledged and recognized.

While the excitement should fade by the end of the day, the now-polished and glowing pride will hopefully sustain my writing day tomorrow, and ideally mitigate any future disappointments (if we’re being realistic).

Cheers!
Ali J.

How do you react to good news? Do you shout it from the rooftops? Rejoice quietly? Share your experiences and/or tips in the comments!

My Storytelling Superpower #DIYMFA

Welcome back!

I’m very excited for this prompt:

Prompt 3

Who knew storytelling could be so exciting! 🙋 (That’s me, because I did– do… I get ridiculously addicted to my own stories.)

Turns out, I’m The Protector!

Your superpower is writing superheroes! Your favorite characters see their world in danger and will do whatever it takes to protect it and those they love in it. These characters may not wear spandex and capes, but they show almost superhuman fortitude in their quest to prevent disaster, whatever the cost to themselves. From Scarlett O’Hara to James Bond to Iron Man, you’re drawn to characters who stand up to the forces of evil and protect what they believe in.

That is shockingly accurate! For most of my stories, anyhow.

Is it because of my sense of justice? My wishful alter ego? Past lives’ experiences? Over-consumption of books, movies, and TV shows? Possibly. Maybe I’m just drawn to characters able to sacrifice so much, because I can’t imagine doing the same in their situation(s).

Therein lies the magic of writing.

Revisiting most of the stories (including fanfictions) I’ve written, there is definitely a protector in every one of them. Their capacities and situations are different, but their desire to protect someone from “something worse” is always there. And to be honest, I’m not sure what that says about me.

What am I trying to tell myself? Do I wish someone had been there to protect me for X, Y, or Z? Do I wish I‘d been a better protector of myself? Possibly.

There are really endless possibilities as each story is as likely as the next (#writerbrain). Still, it’s an interesting bit of soul-searching to consider. Just don’t grant me actual superpowers, I’m not sure I would know what to do with them!

Write on,
Ali J.

What’s your superpower? Just take the quiz, and share your results below!

Reality Check #DIYMFA

Happy mid-January! Oh gosh, already…

This week’s prompt brought up a variety of topics, because reality’s messy.

Prompt 2

My reality is always crashing down on my sweet sweet naive dreams. Oh you’re going to write when you get back from work? Did you forget you had to make dinner and lunch for the week? Oh right, you don’t even have groceries to cook with, joke’s on you ha ha HA!

How rude.

My reality also involves a lot of procrastinating. Granted, the procrastination doesn’t stop me from dreaming, but time does tend to slip away in between bouts of “I just need a break” and “it’s already 9:30pm!?” (We’ve all been there, right? … Right??)

Balancing everything perfectly is (probably) never going to happen. At least not for me. None of my inboxes have 0 unread emails, my room is still a mess despite finally moving in back in November and coming back from vacation a week and a half ago, there’s a bunch of things to throw out and/or replace, a never ending to-do list, and only 24 hours in a day.

Time management would be fair advice to give, but procrastination tends to kick that to the curb (I wrote about reigning in the procrastinator, even if that battle is still ongoing). As Adam Grant mentions in his fascinating TED Talk, procrastination is a creativity enabler. Hope at last! If I can reign in the chronic procrastination to a manageable level, productivity awaits?

When I taught in Japan, the workload was pretty light, all things considered, but repetitive and dull. I found myself agonizing in boredom every single day, but that’s also when I started my writing blog, wrote a short story, started a new fanfiction, and had a breakthrough to merge two story ideas into one. Thus, my novel was born. (Actually it’s still being born, moving on!)

When I taught at a French University, I was downright drained and exhausted every day. Coming home, I wanted to do two things: rest/recharge, and preferably not think for a few hours (and definitely not speak). I did write here and there, mostly on my blog, but also a short story. It didn’t feel quite as productive.

Balance, then, comes from those rare and precarious moments where I feel stable physically, mentally, and emotionally, and not weighed down with a five ton anchor. It’s knowing when to give yourself permission to take a break because making yourself do “just one more” thing puts that rare balance out of whack, and frankly just isn’t worth it. It’s forgiving yourself for being inconsistent, just as it’s being compassionate towards yourself because, hey, you’re coping with all that crap rather fantastically! 👏

So maybe I haven’t quite achieved or perfected my balance recipe yet, but I have the ingredients. The basics, anyhow, if ingredients are collected over a lifetime (making life the longest quest video game ever?). Reality will always, always find a way to slap us in the face, punch me in the gut, or kick you in the back. And that’s okay, because everyone else also has to come back from that, bruises/crutches showing or not.

As I navigate my own messy life (why don’t I have a career, where am I going to end up in 6 months, what should I dooooo???) and hide within my procrastinator, I’m beginning to relish the small things, focusing on what I can accomplish today, even if it is only one tiny item off my to-do list. Baby steps become a trail of accomplishments.

  • You can only write two sentences before you’re dried up? That’s fine, you’re two sentences ahead of none!
  • You can only read one chapter? No worries! You’ll finish that book one chapter earlier thanks to that!
  • You only feel like writing anime related fanfiction? Be my lovely guest! Writing is writing. ✍️

I have a blurry image of where I want to go, but an even blurrier idea of how to get there – and no, it’s not just because my eyes are terrible (no offense eyes 👀). I’m not walking on a tightrope, and if I happen to lean left one day and take two right steps to correct the next day, I can still move forward because I’ll simply (re)adjust my center of gravity.

Balance is going with the flow, but knowing your limits.

I’m definitely going to work on that procrastinator re-hijacking plan and try to take my own advice.

How do you honor your reality? As per Gabriela (founder of DIY MFA): Has there ever been a moment when writing felt completely incompatible with your real life–when it felt like there was just no way you could make the two exist together? If so, how did you get through that moment? How did you make room in your life for both things? How did you find balance between writing and life?

Honor on,
Ali J.