I remember the day I gained the ability to use the internet independently. The first thing I did was a yahoo! search for fan fiction about Digimon, the anime I was enchanted with at the time. I had just turned twelve, and was on the younger spectrum of those writing fanfic for the show, though that’s a story for another post.

For the last thirteen years, I have been putting my thoughts on the internet for free, whether in the form of stories, or discussion posts for TV shows. I loved that I had an instant community of people who loved made up worlds as much as I did, and I loved sharing my views of the characters. As bandwidth increased, it made sense for me to seek out ways of downloading these shows. I bought DVDs, but they would get passed around to family and friends, and inevitably end up scratched or lost. I reasoned that, if I kept them on a computer, no one could hurt the files.

There was also the issue of obtaining the books I wanted to read. Until very recently, it was incredibly difficult for a blind person to have the same access as everyone else to a book on release day. I remember begging people to read me Animorphs or The Baby-sitters Club. Long series books were like television shows, I got to spend pages and pages with characters. I just couldn’t enjoy them on my own.

For me, piracy has never been entirely about convenience, as much as access. Suddenly, there was a way for me to enjoy things independently, and on my terms, without having to memorize the number of buttons in a DVD menu, or convincing someone to read me a series they were both unfamiliar with, and had little interest in. This is by no means a justification, as much as an explanation. It is easy to assume that everyone who pirates content are lazy, or cheap, or even thoughtless. But it’s not always as black and white as all that. Even now, with netflix and e-readers, there are things like copyright to consider. What is immediately available in the united states can still take a minimum of months to reach other countries, and vice versa.

As I have started taking writing more seriously over the last few months, I’ve been considering the amount of time that goes into it. When I was younger, I would pound out a 1500 word story in notepad, give it a cursory spellcheck, and throw it up on the internet. Sometimes, the whole process would be done in 90 minutes. Now, I spend upwards of five hours revising single chapters. This is a fraction of time that authors spend on novels, without beginning to factor in the work that occurs after feedback from editors and agents.

It is incredibly degrading to have your work not be acknowledged. No one can truly appreciate the time it takes a person to create. So, while I understand the complexities of piracy, I also have a newfound understanding for what a betrayal it is for artists.

Clearly, writing regularly has not extended to this blog.

Over the last few years, I have told myself that I want to write daily. I first used 750 words, but their reminder emails felt like mocking pressure whenever i missed a day.

Finally, this summer, I knew I wanted to write a longer piece of fiction. I played around with openings, but could never write a second chapter I was pleased with. It didn’t matter that the only person reading these attempts was myself, I was determined not to go on until I had a chapter I liked. There are writers who can write out of order, but whenever I try, I write the scene I’ve anticipated, and then promptly lose interest in working toward the build up. It’s almost as though I need to experience the slow climb of things with my characters, as you do when reading a novel.

This novella wasn’t going to be more than 30000 words (or so I thought). That seemed like a feasible thing to write in a month. I have never been good with NaNoWriMo, but 30000 words somehow seemed far more doable than 50000. I set a target goal in scrivener, to write 30000 words between the 20th of August and the 20th of September.

The first week of this project was also the start of fall semester. The Friday night before, I sat at my computer, writing attempt after attempt at that stupid second chapter. Finally, around 2AM, I had a breakthrough, and wrote 2000 words straight through. I couldn’t remember the last time 2000 words had come so easily. Freshly motivated, I committed to breaking 10K before the weekend was over, so I could have a nice bank of words while settling into school.

That Sunday, while twitter yelled about the MTV video music awards, I crossed the 10K mark. The next 20K came a lot slower, but I proudly dragged myself across 30K in the second week of September. My novella ended up being around 47000 words, and not completely finished until late October, but i am proud to say the bulk of it was done in that first month.

I would like to say I have had a complete life change, and am regularly writing a thousand words daily, but I’m not. My usual stab at National Novel Writing Month started out strong, but now, just over halfway through the month, I’m stalled around 21000 words. I’ve found that the difference, for me, is belief in my characters. My main nano girls came into my head half formed and unsure, much like this blog post. Instead of feeling discouraged, I am instead incredibly proud of my first novella, and in the knowledge that once I believe in a project, I am able to see it through. People will always scoff at the concept of NanoWriMo, but writing on deadline is not only necessary, but incredibly motivating. For me, it is also important to bring tools – like fully formed characters – to the table.

Now, I just need to work on my own confidence in ideas, and maybe not jump from one project to another so quickly when possible.

Posted by: Lauren | June 11, 2012

Becoming bogged down by comfort

Today, I made plans to meet a friend at a cafe just around the corner from my apartment. I was the one to suggest it, even though I’ve never ventured to it by myself. I had a reasonable idea of where I was going, except when it came to distinguishing the correct business. My friend said she’d keep an eye out for me, so I squared my shoulders, took a breath, and set out.

Leaving any type of comfort zone, be it physical or emotional is always a struggle. However, that same act we may have started out finding comfort in has the potential to become detrimental. I had a rough couple of semesters this last year. The moment life began to challenge me, I found myself diving back into my protective shell of private journal postings and writing short stories in readymade worlds.

Comfort is a luxury we always need to allow ourselves, but that sense of familiarity is only good for so long. Gradually, as the months went by, I found myself going from documenting my thoughts privately, to not writing them down at all. I had stopped writing creatively weeks before that, and I couldn’t begin to tell you the last time I’d read a novel. Without realizing it, I’d allowed my own coping mechanisms to turn on me, sending me down a sharp slope of uncertainty and self disgust.

There was nothing for me to do, short of finding my way out of that thick, viscous bog of melancholy. I started by forcing myself to journal about my utter lack of desire to record what was happening in my life. Once I’d begun doing that for a few consecutive days, the floodgates opened. I bought Sara Zarr’s latest novel; appropriately titled How to Save a Life finishing it in under two days. The only thing I wasn’t able to coax myself back into was writing original fiction. Without that, I saw no reason to update this blog, but I told myself that was okay.

Today, when I was only a few buildings from where I knew the cafe to be, my white cane collided with a bike. Three people were standing mid-conversation, completely blocking the sidewalk. As often happens, their initial reaction upon noticing me was alarm. They quickly moved out of the way, and then took it upon themselves to follow me, despite my multiple protestations that I was perfectly fine on my own. I was so busy trying to shake them that I was completely distracted from worrying about passing my destination. Then, there was my friend calling out to me, and the bikers falling back, leaving me with nothing to do but smile and buy an iced mocha.

just over a week ago, a friend and i were discussing signing up for Camp NaNoWriMo . On impulse, I signed up at 11PM on may 31st. Last night, I surpassed the fourteen thousand word mark, the most I’ve ever written in my multiple nano attempts.

Roadblocks (in my case very literal ones) often crop up to halt our progress in breaking from routine. When this happens, my initial instinct is always to fall back and retreat. Today, that wasn’t the case. i’ve started writing original fiction again, something I didn’t think I’d be able to do two weeks ago. Now that I know for certain where it is, maybe I’ll also have the courage to visit that cafe regularly.

Posted by: Lauren | July 28, 2011

Self doubt

The first time I attended college, I never really took it seriously. I skipped classes regularly, and the assigned readings even more. My friends would skip to go shopping, but I just hid out in my room, constantly in pajamas. Ultimately, I left early in my sophomore year. When I returned to a different university two years later, I didn’t feel any more prepared.

As a result, my first semester back obviously did not go well.. It was very easy to fall into old patterns of putting off papers and skimming reading assignments. Spring semester, I knew I had to change. I made sure to email a professor every time I would miss class, and to not do so more than once every three weeks. I set aside a specific time each night to do homework, and made an effort to start large projects early.

These were really small changes, but my GPA went from a 1.6 to a 3.5.

You can be told to make changes to your study habits and organization over and over, but until you actively make that choice to change, you’re going to stay floundering helplessly under the ever increasing weight of self doubt.

I feel like writing can suffer the same problems, because it’s extremely easy to get bogged down under negativity. “I only wrote a hundred words today” or “what kind of characterization was that?” are really common thoughts for me.

I recently found an amazing post over at write it sideways on how to flip your self doubts

As writers, it can be second nature to be critical of our own work. I think it’s equally, if not more valuable, to find the positives as well. because I may have only written a hundred words today, but they were good words. And my characterization may have been awful, but at least I have enough awareness of the characters to recognize that.

Let’s learn to appreciate what we did accomplish.

Posted by: Lauren | July 22, 2011

On the fear of writing and autobiographical novels

This is the kind of blog post that actually inspired me to create a blog in the first place. Not that a new 90s block of programming doesn’t deserve attention, of course.

My family are always telling me to write a book. I’m good at the kind of storytelling where you embellish for the sake of keeping people laughing, with characters who always seem to have over the top dialogue. Considering most of my stories are encounters with the general public, who seem to alternately find me terrifying or in need of pity, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there isn’t also a lot of self deprecation thrown in for good measure.

Based on that, I think my family would probably laugh if I admitted that I’m too scared to write a book, particularly one about blindness.

it’s always drilled into us to write what we know. Unfortunately, this can easily translate into your first novel being very autobiographical. If written well, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I don’t think any of us can appreciate how personal writing becomes, until you’re sitting in front of that vast expanse of document, finding yourself paralyzed to start typing.

How exactly does this have anything to do with my disability? Blindness has always been this huge, conflicting void in my mind. When I was younger, I defiantly ignored it’s existence, to the point that when I began to come to terms with the fact I simply couldn’t enjoy everything my peers or siblings did, it was staggering. Around sixteen, I became obsessed, convinced that it was unquestioningly the route of all my life consuming problems. After all, it’s far easier to blame an unchanging facet of yourself on why you’re unhappy.

Now, at twenty-two, I’ve more or less accepted it. I’ve learned it’s a part of my identity, and that I’m entitled to be frustrated at the limitations I inevitably face. So why does the idea of writing about it, even in the form of this blog post fill me with the strong desire to clean my cat’s litterbox?

Realistically, not many people know a person who is blind. If I write about something so integral to my identity, I’ll effectively be representing a community. And hell, I shouldn’t be representing anybody! I realize I’m jumping ahead of the actual writing process, to the idea that my novel would actually be sold and published with any sort of hype, but fear is irrational. Writing it here, for all the internet to potentially see, makes it seem far less significant, which was really my point to begin with. Writing is something you should enjoy, and that can’t happen if you’re deliberately ignoring a story that wants to be told.

Jeannie over at The Character Therapist has a post on autobiographical novels, encouraging people that the only way to get them out of your system is by writing them.

In a similar vain, author MitaliPerkins recently tweeted a quote by Kathi Appelt:

“Write what scares you, write what you think you can’t.”

I think those are two incredibly important pieces of advice to live by. What are we going to accomplish by sitting still and being scared?

Posted by: Lauren | July 20, 2011

Raise your squeezits

When I entered the fourth grade, I negotiated with my parents to have a slightly later bedtime than my siblings. It couldn’t have been much later than 9 or 9:30, but it was very exciting all the same.

Around that time, Nickelodeon was launching a block of programming called O Zone, or Nickel-O-Zone, with shows aimed at a preteen audience. Suddenly, I was able to watch something that my siblings couldn’t.

This lost it’s appeal after the first couple of nights, mostly because none of my friends at school watched Nickelodeon, and without my sisters, I didn’t have anyone to talk about the shows with. I still vividly remember standing at the kitchen counter and watching cousin Skeeter, wishing the show was more about Nina, instead of the two boys. Ah, first TV crushes.

The point of that story is to say that TeenNick, formerly The N, is starting a new block midnight Monday, The 90s are all that. Articles were previously reporting this would launch in October, so this earlier date is further exciting. Sadly, cousin Skeeter is not on the lineup.

Beyond the initial excitement, the author of the above article does point out the inevitable fact that none of the shows live up to the hype. Ah well, half the fun of nostalgia is the idealizing. Nevertheless, the writing has to be better than all of Teenick’s current offerings combined. For god sakes, put Degrassi out of its misery already.

Posted by: Lauren | July 18, 2011

Why I write fanfiction

I’ve been reading fan fiction since I discovered the internet ten years ago, and writing my own for nearly as long. I know for a fact my first attempt is still floating around up there, but the damned nostalgia won’t let me delete it.

I write very specific types of fan fiction. Invariably, it’s always directly related to events that have taken place in a book or TV show’s cannon. For instance, I once wrote a story based off an implied scene from a Full House episode (I won’t tell you how recently this actually occurred).

I ask myself why I’m drawn to other writers worlds nearly every time I open a word document. What it comes down to is that I’m just extremely lazy. I love working with readymade characters, and developing them further, or focusing on a backstory already given to them. Shawn Hunter from Boy Meets World had a hard life? Oh, let’s write a few thousand words on that! I once was given a prompt aboutKristy and Mary anne from The Babysitters Club, requesting that they play mommy’s together. I got the impression that the author wanted kinky smut. Instead, I wrote 800 words of fluffy sap, with the girls as 7 year olds, dealing with Kristy’s dad walking out on the family. Surprisingly, they were rather well received.

Fan fiction has been spoiling me. Now that I want to work on more original ideas, my characters feel flat and stereotypical in comparison. It is far, far more tempting to write a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants crossover with BSC than to actually build up interesting people of my own. Basically, I’m just posting to reiterate that writing is hard.

I know this blog is supposed to talk about myself, but sometimes classic children’s literature just needs to be appreciated.

The author over at Archimedes Forgets is doing a series of posts on the men from Madeleine L’Engle’s novels. Aside from reminding me, yet again, that I need to read more than just her time quartet, it’s really… just making me want to reread the time quartet. Particularly when reading Her post on Calvin Calvin and Meg were definitely one of my first ships.

She’s doing more than just the main characters you might have expected, even dedicating a post to Meg’s father (did you know his name was Alex? Because I didn’t). I know he’s a focal point of the first novel, but I honestly somewhat forgot about his importance until I read her thoughts on him.

NOw, despite the fact it’s July, I have a very strong urge to make coco and wait for the Charles Wallace post.

It was probably not the best idea to create this blog in the middle of the night. All I really want to blog about right now is how I wish I’d picked a less cutesy username, because I don’t feel like people will take anything I have to say seriously.

Regardless, hello. I’m Lauren. HOnestly, I’m still a little apprehensive about creating this blog to begin with. I feel presumptuous thinking my opinion about anything will be worthwhile, especially when there are so many wonderfully written blogs on all subjects already out there.

However, there are also a lot of awful blogs, so maybe I can be somewhere in the middle? I don’t have a specific direction for this blog yet, as evident by the rambling I’ve been doing so far. I have a lot of irrational anxieties about my writing, and I thought if I blogged about them, they would be less alarming. Plus, I can’t be alone in all of them. And if I am, then at least my posts will be authentic?

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