System Overload

I did a lot today… probably too much.

I went to work, I sketched, I drew, I read, I had dinner with a friend, I had second dinner with family, and I dealt with car troubles. I did not get to write however. And that’s a result of poor planning.

I was so eager to do so many other things today that I stacked my tasks in the wrong order. By the time I got to writing, I was exhausted. And worse yet, by the time I got home close to midnight, I had nothing left in me to give to those I care for the most.

In he pursuit of my dreams I need to remember that marathons are completed by knowing yourself, including your stengths and weaknesses. You must compensate for the areas your are lacking in, and create opportunities to shine in areas you excel.

I think going forward I will start my day off with writing, even if I don’t feel totally energized to do so. Then I will shift to something that eases my brain like drawing or exercising, and then go back to writing or one of my other projects. This may keep me from burning out, since it forces my brain to shift gears when before it starts to become fatigued. But only practice will tell.

Daily Breakdown

  • Sketchbook — Time: ???  Note to self: remember to keep feature three dimensional, especially in the face
  • Drawing — Time: ?? WIP portrait study. Current plan: ink and add value with Copic markers Original photo 

—Johnny Eoin

Cinder Day Fifteen — The First Two Weeks

Words: 0 / Time: 0 / Total Count: 2,336

It’s funny how we make the same assumptions over and over again, despite seemingly learning our lessons. This time I though I would be able to knock out the first draft of my first novel in one month. After all, I already completed the hard work of plotting and planning. But telling a story isn’t as simple as plugging fluffy descriptions into pla pre-framed outline. There’s so much more to it.

There are an endless number of choices and decisions that get made every step of the way. What color is this barn? What magazines are strewn about on the bedroom floor? How to convey the history of character’s relationship using action verbs and not by simply telling? 

And biggest of all, how to swallow all my fears and buckle down to put in the necessary time?

I’m still learning. Rather than being frustrated, maybe I should take pride in that growth and just enjoy the journey. 

—Johnny Eoin

Cinder Day Fourteen — BGM

Word Count: 2,336

Time: 1 hr 15 min

Do any of you write with background noise?  I’m a fan of instrumental music, especially film scores. They are filled with energy and emotion that often helps get me in the zone. I also write to music with lyrics, depending on my mood. However, at times I find it distracting. When I was younger, I had the bad habit of keeping the television on while working. But there came a time when I felt I was doing myself a disservice by splitting my attention. Writing is hard enough without having to simultaneously pay attention to two plots. 

As I’ve come to discover during this process, not every plan works every time. Some days, I need silence. Others, I’m so overwhelmed with extra thoughts and emotions that I need a little more than music to drown it out. Today was one of those days. At first I hesitated to turn on the television. I felt it was a bad habit that I had finally nicked. But something called me to make the decision. And logically, what’s the worst that could happen? I lose productivity for one day, but then, how would that be any different from many of my other sessions? At best, I could just learn more about how to mange my down days.

I know myself well enough which shows I can and cannot work to. It’s best for me to stick to ones I’ve already seen, those I have little investment in, or shows that create a soothing and enveloping atmosphere. So I threw on a few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and got to work. It’s too early to tell whether this technique will become my norm, but today I managed to increase my word count, and push through my insecurity. It gave me the comfort I needed to keep going. 

One day down. God only knows how many more to go. But today, I am thankful I listened to my gut and didn’t tether myself to rules that don’t always apply.

Cinder Day Thirteen — Chit Chat

Word Count: 1775

Time: 45 min

Dialogue is a beast. It is a true test trying to get characters to sound natural while giving exposition and moving the story along. 

Today I deleted much of the dialogue I wrote yesterday, putting a damper on my word count. But it was necessary, because even though what I wrote sounded cool, it wasn’t genuine to the character at this stage of his or her development. That’s another hurtle. You have to juggle who a character is versus what they will be, and sometimes that knowledge colors what you choose to write. Other times it serves as a good reminder as to what a character can and cannot do at a given point in the story.

I’m just happy I managed to get through my first scene of dialogue unscathed and with better knowledge of the people whose lives I will be playing god with for the foreseeable future.

— Johnny Eoin

Cinder Day Twelve — Come Rain or Shine

Word Count: 1523

Time: 1 hr 30 min

I wish I could start everyday with a full tank and my eyes on the prize. Alas, not all days are created equal. But lately I’ve been reminding myself of something a character from one of my favorite shows said. She was talking about being an aspiring writer, and that she writes everyday, come rain or shine. 

I may not always feel like writing, but each time I let fear, pain, discomfort, sadness, or insecurity stop me, I make it stronger. I make the mountain bigger so the next time I go to climb it, I have to go harder and longer to achieve my goals.

I felt pretty shitty today. But still I managed to push myself through the pain. I’d like to say some magical moment happened where I realized it was all worth it and that made me feel revitalized and better about myself. But it didn’t. And I’m not sure it ever will. I don’t write to make myself feel good. I write because it’s a calling deep inside of me that draws me to it. I feel good when writing sometimes because in that moment I am living as my true self, doing my best and brining new creativity into this world. Those times are a luxury and a blessing. 

The chance to write is a gift, and to squander it because I don’t feel like facing the discomfort and frustration of it, isn’t who I want to be. It’s time I stopped putting myself down and act on my love.
—Johnny Eoin

Cinder Day Ten — Distractions

Word Count: 747

Time: 0 min

Distractions are a part of life. And that’s okay. Some days we just have to play with the deck we’re given. That being said, I think it’s important to be cautious of two of the biggest distractions: regret and fear.

Today, both of those stopped me in my tracks. I compensated by obsessing over minor details that I could control. On the plus side, it made me aggressively productive at work, which allowed me to resolve problems quicker and more effectively.

But when we trap ourselves in the regrets of the past, or lose our minds over fear of the future, we rob ourselves of the strength to do what we need to do in the present.

—Johnny Eoin

Cinder Day Nine — I v. He

Word Count: 747

Time: 45 min

Okay, so, I’m finally off to a good start. I still need to carve out more time to write, but I seem to have overcome the problems that plagued me a few days ago.

I’m finally focused on telling the story through my character’s eyes; no longer worried about fancy sentence structure or creative descriptions. One of the biggest improvements happened when I switched from third to first person. 

I’m fond of both, but somehow I got it in my head that writing in first person would be “too easy” and it would tempt me into using exposition rather than description. 

First off, good writing is good writing, no matter the narrative style. I can just as easily overuse exposition in either voice. Second, so what if it’s easier to write in first person? Shouldn’t I be looking towards any and every thing that will make this undertaking easier? It’s like the time in college when I decided I wanted to do my animations using 24 drawings a second, instead of the equally acceptable (and easier) 12 drawings a second. Needless to say, I didn’t finish my project on time— at least not the way I intended— and my career has suffered for that. What was I trying to prove by making my work harder for me? No one cares that you lowered yourself on your sword and scribbled the pages in your own blood. All they want is a good story.

Another point I failed to realize is that you can’t force your writing into a format that doesn’t work, just like you can’t force a character to speak in a voice that isn’t their own. It just doesn’t work, and your work suffers for it. My story is an intimate dramedy about identity and self discovery— why wouldn’t I use first person to put the reader as deep as possible into the protagonist’s head?

Lesson of the day:

Let your creations speak for themselves and they will tell you all you need to know.

—Johnny Eoin

P.S. Remind me to talk about overworked outlines and committing to writing processes before trying them out.

Cinder Day Eight — Here We Go Again

Word Count: 316?! 😵🤔

Time: 3x 15 min sessions

So after completing the first scene of my book, I read over what I had, not in a premature attempt to edit it (like I usually do), but because something didn’t feel right.

Writing is hard, but it was never this hard. I was pulling out my hair and my teeth but everything I came up with was complete shit. The dialogue. The descriptions. The framing. The exposition. For a few desperate minutes, I wondered if all my dreams had been for nothing. Maybe I didn’t have what it takes to be a writer. 

It was at that moment I happened to flip through the posts on this blog, finding short stories I wrote when I started. Now don’t get me wrong, they weren’t masterpieces, but they weren’t horrible. In fact, it had been so long since I’d written anything that I’d forgotten what my voice sounded like, and for a second I thought my stories were written by someone else. 

I stopped that pity party quickly after that, realizing the reason why none of my words worked was because they weren’t genuine. I was so wrapped up in how everything was going to look, how it would be received, that I lost sight of the whole reason I chose to write in the first place. I was making decisions for my characters that weren’t reflective of who they were. In some ways, I’m not surprised. Despite all my planning, characters don’t come to life until you sit down and commit their actions to paper. That’s when they truly reveal themselves.

So I scrapped the scene and toggled my perspective. I grounded myself in my protagonist and aimed to see the world through his eyes, rather than those of a writer stuck in his fear and insecurity.

So I may have taken a step back in terms of word count, but it was necessary to prepare myself for the marathon that lies ahead.

—Johnny Eoin

Cinder Day Seven – Reckless Abandon

Word Count: 1,753

Time: 1hr 45min

I’m getting antsy. Why is it when I’m not sitting down to write, words flow in and out of my head, but when I’ve spent months prepping and planing out all my steps that my brain flatlines? 

Maybe I’m overthinking everything? Putting too much pressure on myself? Perhaps I should treat my first draft like one big info dump rather than trying to weave the perfect string of words. After all, isn’t that what editing is for?

I’ve had this trouble with other mediums as well. For some reason I expect drawings  to come out perfect the first time. I don’t give myself the chance to mess up and create with reckless abandon. Maybe that’s why I don’t make as much as I’d like.

It’s been 14 years since I decided I wanted to pursue a creative career and while I’ve made many improvements, I still feel impeded by a lack of well roundedness and refinement. I still can’t take what I see and bring it to life vividly. I keep thinking the fault lies in me— my lack of skills, discipline and commitment. But perhaps I’ve been looking at it all wrong. Maybe I already have all the weapons I need to do what I want, I just lack the proper plan to execute it. 

I mange to express myself here without any problem, and why is that? Because I’m simply writing from the heart, without looking it over with a fine tooth comb or editing myself as I go along. I allow myself to be expressive however that may be. Then I review it once or twice before I commit and let the chips fall where they may. 

The first draft of anything is shit.

—Ernest Hemingway

I think a shift in focus is in order. It’s not going to be easy, but my old methods haven’t been working, and I want this so badly that I’m willing to step out of my comfort zone to get it.

—Johnny Eoin