Writing Fiction is Hard

One night last week, I got the crazy idea in my head that I wanted to write a book. Now, this was not the first time I’ve considered this, but it was the first time I’d thought about actually sitting down to write a goddamn book. You see, the concept of having written some great story that reflected all my ideas in life that gets published sounds like an amazing idea! But writing 100,000 words that interweaves plot, character, setting, and a theme? Never mind doing it well? It just seemed impossible. I have an even deeper admiration for authors than I had previously.

So, I went about making a plan. If I am going to write a book, I’m going to write a goddamn book. I’m not going to half-ass it, it’s not going to be shitty. I’m going to do it right. 

I’m going to start with a less lofty goal of writing some short stories in order to hone my craft. The way I see it is, with any form of art, you have to have some skill before you can begin to truly express yourself in your art. I don’t know if it’s true, but I feel like it’s what I need to do. Then, once I have written and have been enjoying writing for a good while, I can make the decision to make the leap into novel kingdom. I need to make a sure this commitment lasts.

But it turns out that writing fiction is MUCH harder than I expected! Once I had a story idea, I sat down with a notebook, and immediately wrote myself into a corner. So I tried again- and immediately wrote myself into another corner. Then I got frustrated and ended up convincing myself to hate my story idea!

My biggest mistake was not planning ahead of time. I know this is a highly debated topic in the writing community- To map or not to map? That is the question- but for me, planning is definitely the way to go. See, I only had a very vague idea of my characters and no plot at all. I had set myself up for failure and frustration by trying to jump in right away.

Luckily, my journey doesn’t end here. I have pondered my story for about a week, and I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do with it, and I am ready to start my first draft!

I guess that’s what I should be doing in the first place- actually writing instead of writing about writing. See? Right there- I wrote myself into another depressing corner. This is an important subject to write about, and I bet a lot of my writer friends out there can relate. So no, this isn’t a stupid post, but yes, I will write today. So there, anxiety.

Ah, another blog post sidetracked by my trusty friend anxiety. To summarize and conclude: writing fiction is hard, props to all the writers out there, and the secret to writing is to plan and then to just fucking write!

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“Tell me about yourself.”

This raw and uncut journal entry was inspired by this pin I found on Pinterest:

“Tell me about yourself.”

Well, I love reading and I love writing. Reading introduces me to new ideas, and writing allows me to introduce my own ideas to the world. I guess I’m an addict to the English language. Animals can make me laugh and cry, maybe more so than humans can. I want to travel and fall in love and live life 100%. I love warm weather. I miss my childhood home dearly, and I’m both terrified and excited to grow up.

“Okay, now really tell me about yourself.”

To be honest, I’m more insecure than I thought I was- I guess I got insecure about my insecurity. I’m scared that no one will love me for who I really am, on the inside, underneath all the bullshit I present myself as. Have I mentioned I bullshit my personality? ‘Cause I do. I’m scared I’m not as mature as my peers- socially (in terms of partying and drinking and dating and shit, which I have done none of), as I honestly believe I am more mature mentally. Is that bad to say? Whatever, it’s what I believe. I could probably live in isolation for a few months. I’m scared that I’ll never fall in love, and I’m even more scared of falling out of love, and I’m even more scared of someone falling out of love with me. I’m not really living life right now (I leave my house 2 times a week for therapy and only have 2 barely friends). And I hate that I am doing nothing to change that (I could go out and be social and go on adventures, but I don’t). I get exhausted all the time. I get obsessions over weird little niches. I don’t feel ready to grow up and leave home. To be more positive, I am the most compassionate/empathetic person I know. It is a blessing in that I have deeper emotional connections with people, and a curse in that I feel everyone’s negative emotions as well. I love my smile- or maybe I love to smile. I am fascinated by my own mind. I am really bad at keeping a conversation going. I am an introvert and a homebody. I am scared I am alone in all of these things. I didn’t know I was holding all this inside me. I guess I was just waiting for someone to really care about the answers to this question.

April Movie Wrap Up

This month I read… drum roll please… 5 movies! Man, I guess April was a bad month for watching movies too. What the heck was I doing all April?! Anyways, here are my reviews:

1. Beauty and the Beast: 7/10 stars 

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Maybe I’ll make another post on my, ahem, opinions on the, ahem, Disney remakes. Nonetheless I gave into the hype and saw this in theaters, and it was pretty good! The CGI made it an extra magical experience, and I liked how they made the Beast, and others, into a deeper character. My biggest criticism would be the pacing- it draaaaaaged on at some points. Also, don’t be expecting any new story lines or anything- this is a true remake that doesn’t stray from the original plot. So, do I think this movie was necessary? No. Did I enjoy it? Yes- Disney played their magic on me yet again!

2.  The Social Network: 9/10 stars

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This was a rewatch, but it doesn’t matter because this is still one of my favorite movies of all time. It is such a great example of showing flawed characters- even Mark freaking Zuckerburg showed his asshole side in this movie ABOUT HIM! Everyone is complex, and this makes you, the viewer, conflicted as to whether you should be cheering for them or booing them. And this movie doesn’t have a happy ending either- it ends as many things do in real life, and it leaves the viewer not knowing what to think, but in a way that they will continue to ponder the movie for days after watching it.

3. The Fundamentals of Caring: 9/10

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This one was beautiful. It is the story of a disabled young man who dreams of seeing the world but never ended up leaving his house, and his caretaker with a sad past who wants Trevor to live his life to the fullest. Remember, this is my able-bodied perspective of the movie, so take it with a grain of salt and try to seek out reviews by disabled people. In my perspective, this isn’t some movie that uses disabled people as inspiration-porn (trust me, Trevor can be a dick) but rather shows the real life of this disabled man. I am having trouble describing why I love this one so much. It is funny, it is sad, and it is real. The relationships Trevor grows with people, especially Ben his caretaker, are so phenomenal. I’m sorry if this one wasn’t very coherent- just take it as a sign that I loved the movie.

4. Keeping Up With the Joneses: 5/10 Stars

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Meh. I don’t ever LOVE action movies, and I’m tending to find the same with action comedies. There actually wasn’t a whole lot of comedy outside the occasional Zach Galifianakis gaff. It served well as a family movie night movie, but it was just another case of Hollywood throwing their money at well-known celebrities and at stunt men to create another haphazard “film.” I’m being a little harsh- I did laugh at some of the jokes, and I did feel the suspense it was building, it’s just nothing new from the Hollywood action scene.

5. The Circle: 8/10 Stars

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The Circle, based on the book by Dave Eggers, is the story of a monopoly technology corporation, and an intern who goes up its ranks and discovers its dark secrets and the power that it wields. This movie has been getting bad ratings, but I don’t really see why. Well, that’s not right. I do see where people are coming from and I myself was frustrated with the abrupt ending and with the amount of questions the movie raised and didn’t answer. But overall, this movie blew my mind. It brought up so many interesting controversies like our codependency on technology, the importance of privacy from corporations, and how power can become addicting. I would say to watch this movie just for its premise and theme, but you can decide for yourself if you liked the rest of it.

 

April Reading Wrap Up

This month I read… drum roll please… 4 books! April was probably one of my worst reading months of the year. Something needs to change- I need change my priorities and put reading and writing first. But anyhow, the books I did read were some great books, so here goes:

 

1. How to be a Bawse by Lilly Singh: 5/5 Stars

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Wow. I was blown away by this book. The biggest lesson I learned from this book was that there are no shortcuts to success- you have to let go of pride and FOMO, and you have to just get the work done. Maybe this was already one of your values- have no fear! This book was so full of real advice, it is definitely one I will be returning to at different stages of my life, and whenever I feel lost or unmotivated. The motivation factor alone that you receive from this reading experience is enough for me to beg you to buy it.

I should probably mention that I was already a fan of Lilly Singh before I read the book. When a heard she was writing a book, an ADVICE book, I was already sold. I watch her vlogs and receive so much motivation and inspiration from her work ethic, and I am so glad she delivered her message in the way she did.

I should note that if you are not familiar with her work, you may find her humor… different, or hit-or-miss. She also includes lots of stories about the production of her projects and about Hollywood business in general that some may find completely unrelatable. But honestly, those are my only criticisms.

In conclusion, this is a book I will definitely be rereading and returning to through my life and also recommending to people in need of motivation. 5 stars!

 

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: 5/5 Stars

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Wow again. This book blew my mind. I related with the characters so deeply- especially with Charlie as I am a wallflower that tends to only observe life while others are actually living it.

At some points, this book did seem to be trying too hard to be deep. (“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” Who says stuff like that?!). But overall, the plot, the characters, what we learn about Charlie in the end, it all worked so beautifully well. Maybe the personal impact the book had on me skewed my rating of the quality of the book. But then again, isn’t it the impact the book makes on you that is the true test of quality?

I don’t know, but I do know that this is a book I still, and will continue to, think about constantly. I wish I could do it more justice in this review, but its message of the true high school experience hit me so deep that I can’t seem to put it into words.

 

 

3. Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton: 3/5 Stars

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For some reason, I randomly got the urge to reread this book. I have no idea why! But I did, and it was on my shelf, so here we are. This is the story of Bethany Hamilton, a professional surfer who got her arm bit off by a shark when she was fourteen, and then returned to the water to continue her surfing career.

I’d say that the first half of the book is a pretty good memoir. She talks about her life and interests both before and after the attack, and of course goes into detail of both her perspective and of what happened during the attack. I am fascinated by these rare tragedies, don’t ask me why, so I was super interested, and she didn’t disappoint.

The last half of the book, however, seemed like she had run out of stuff to talk about and was just trying to fill up the pages. She just went off topic talking about her parents, Hawaii, and her faith, which are good subjects, but didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the book. Maybe it’s my fault for expecting her to focus on the attack more, but it is what it is. It’s also important to note that this is written by a fifteen-year-old surfer, so don’t be expecting literary genius. All in all, a good story still.

 

4. All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher: 4/5 Stars

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I love Carrie Hope Fletcher on a deep level. She is such a kind and creative person, so I was excited she would be writing a “big sister advice book.”

And this was overall, a solid advice book that covers most, if not all, aspects of our lives. I liked that it gave REAL advice- for example, that being kind will get you far in life, and sometimes you have to make sacrifices in a relationship or when working towards a goal. Too many advice books are too radical, and this was not.

My only criticism is that this was not a ground-breaking book. There was lots of cliche advice that we’ve all heard before. It’s great as a book that compiles all the miscellaneous lessons we learn in life, I just wished it introduced something new.

Nonetheless, I would still definitely recommend this book to teenagers and young adults who are trying to figure out how this confusing world works, as Carrie did a wonderful job guiding me along.

 

That’s all for this month, folks! Be sure to follow me on GoodReads if you want to see my book reviews earlier! https://www.goodreads.com/anniea26

Starting the Journey Towards Minimalism

For about a year now, I’ve hemmed and hawed over taking the leap towards minimalism. I’ve always loved the idea of it, but I’ve also always been a collector and a treasurer (no, not in the government money sense, but in a “one who treasures items” sort of way.) I swear, when I was little I had a doll collection, a bunny statue collection, a marble collection, a rock collection, a stuffed animal collection- you name it, I probably hoarded it.

So if keeping stuff is in my nature, why change that so completely? Well, my curious friend, that is because I get easily overwhelmed. And clutter in the home (aka my bedroom because I live in my parents’ home) just piles more onto that snowball. The bedroom should be a place where you can let yourself relax. But I’ve been noticing more and more that I enter my room and it adds even more weight onto my shoulders. The pile of old magazines I wanted to go through, the storage boxes stacked to the ceiling in my closet, the little knick-knacks EVERYWHERE, it all adds up and makes me so overwhelmed and anxious.

So, I had to make a choice: do I sacrifice piles and piles of stuff I rarely touch, or do I sacrifice my calm in my own home?

Okay, so it wasn’t that easy a decision. There’s a bunch of sentimental childhood stuff I’m going to have to sort through, and I can’t keep it all. I predict that that will be the hardest category to go through. Luckily for me though, my mom has a “grandchild toy stockpile” already going, that has our (my siblings’ and mine) old favorite toys and books that she’s keeping for when we have kids some day. So I can keep the REALLY special stuff, but I will still have to part with lots of, you guessed it, stuff!

But, honestly, it’s time for me to make the leap. I can’t live like this anymore. Woah, dramatic much, Annie? Really though, I have to do this for my own mental well-being.

And yes, I have read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I will be taking the general message of it (that everything you own should be useful or bring you joy) with me upon this journey. But no, I will not be doing a one-week purge or starting to fold my socks ;).

So, give me your best beginner minimalist tips in the comments! And stay tuned for updates!

Advice from a Stubborn Person, to a Stubborn Person

I have an addiction to avoidance. Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but it is my unhealthy coping strategy of choice. Also, I have recently learned that I am a quite stubborn person. If I don’t want to do something, it doesn’t get done. The combination of these two traits leads to a lot of, “But I don’t wanna!” thoughts. Then I start to panic because I have to do something I don’t want to do. And the avoidance is telling me, “All this anxiety would disappear if you just escape.” (But it won’t, it’ll just add guilt into the mix.)

My therapist knows better than anyone else how stubborn I can be. But she said something that gave me a lot of comfort. She basically said that I have a whole lot of strength in me that (almost) all goes towards being stubborn. But if I can learn to harness that strength, I can use it to go towards getting shit done.

Of course my next comment was, “HOW CAN I DO THAT, I WANT THAT NOW PLEASE.” And it turns out the solution to harnessing the strength you have inside of you (that goes towards negative habits) is to find a way to work around it so that it goes towards your positive goals. Maybe I can’t make myself compliant to doing things I don’t want to do, but want I can do is work with the stubbornness and find a way to want the things I have to do.

I don’t know if that made any sense, so let me give you an example: I never want to do homework. But what I do want is to feel satisfied and accomplished with the work I’ve done at the end of the day- I’m a sucker for completed to-do lists! So I take that want and work towards it, instead of working towards something I have no desire to do. So, basically, you must use your strength not to oppose something, and instead use it to work towards something, while you’re really working towards the same goal you set out in the first place. It’s all about changing your negative perspective into a more positive one.

To my future, mentally ill child

Dear child with a mental illness,

I am so sorry. And I want you to understand, I know some of what you are feeling. I may not know what it’s like to have your disorder, but I know the stress it carries with it. I am going to try my best to give you tips that have helped me through my battle, which is still going on as I am 16 and is probably still going on as you read this.

You probably have heard the phrase, “you’re not alone” a lot. Like so much that it’s lost its meaning. But it is important to realize that other people have felt this way and have survived. I’m not trying to minimize your struggle here, I’m just trying to remind you that it is 100% okay to reach out for help, because others can sympathize, and more often than you’d think, empathize with you. So please, don’t ever try to convince yourself that this is a road you need to walk alone. While it is true that this suffering is your own, the comfort of having a hand to hold along the journey is indescribable.

One of the turning points in my treatment was the day one of my (many) therapists finally asked me, “Do you want to get better?” I knew I wanted to BE better, so badly, but in that moment I had to address that recovery/treatment/coping is a long, hard journey. Before then, I had always been hoping for a shortcut to getting better, or just to wake up and be better. But I finally had to commit that: I will get better. I will do the sometimes excruciating work to get there. It will be far from easy. I will relapse, I will panic, but most of all I will keep walking. I deserve to be better. You have to want treatment, and it will be the hardest thing you’ll do, but you have to keep working.

I hold onto my dreams to keep me going. I want to fall in love. I want to have kids (yep, you keep me going.) I want a career I love. I want to make a difference. These seem like lofty goals to where I am now- barely leaving the house, anxious all the time. But if you hold onto your dreams (imagine the life you’d want if you weren’t ill), they will keep you going, because I promise you, they are attainable and if you keep working, they will be yours.

Now I must break the news to you, and contradict everything I have been writing: there is no “better.” You will not wake up and never have a bad day again. It’s more like you will wake up and realize that you’ve had more good days than bad days. And that the pain of the bad days is so worth the sweet, sweet good days. That time will come (don’t worry, I’m waiting on it too) and it will be so amazing. I promise. You will look back and realize how strong you were for getting through these dark times.

I’m afraid I’ve been harsh on you, or that maybe I’ve offended you in this letter. That was not my intention. I just want someone to be honest with you, because I wish someone had been honest with me a lot sooner. Maybe that’s what this whole letter has been: writing it for myself instead of for you. I’m sorry.

Feel free to disregard any parts of this letter, if you wish, but if you take nothing else out of this take this: I know how much this sucks. I know you’ve been dealt a crappy hand of cards, I know you must start the race a mile behind everyone else, and I know that this is so unfair. But I also know you have all the strength you need inside of you to beat the game, to win the race, and to overcome. It may not feel like it, but I promise you do. And the memories of starting in last place will make winning first place so sweet. So please, please, please stick around to get there. Life will get better. You will fall in love, you will have adoring fans, you will travel the world, whatever you want WILL come to you. You just have to survive to get past last place. I promise you that the pain you’re feeling will not kill you. You have the strength to survive another day, and the day after that, so do it. I am here for you. I cannot rid you of the pain, but I can promise you I will be right next to you for the whole road forward.

You are so brave and so strong for surviving. I love you no matter what.

Love, your Mama