On the Precipice, Prepping (Or Not)


This has been a hell of a week, but in such a way as to make it a boring as hell blog entry.  Nothing outstandingly or objectively bad has happened, but my emotional response to things, as well as the amount of mental energy I’ve expended in the last several days made today’s reassurances that, “hey, it’s Friday!” feel a little hollow.  Yeah, yeah.  You haven’t had the week I had.  It should have been Friday three days ago.

Not that I’m going to get much respite from emotional turmoil this weekend.

Thank God tomorrow, April 1st, is a Saturday.  Signing up for both NaNoWriMo and The A-to-Z Challenge has me hyped, but it’s going to be a precarious balance between staying hyped and falling headlong off the cliffs of despair.

Possibly aware of the anxiety/anticipation/excitement/despair percolating in the hearts of NaNo participants, the crew at Camp has been tasking us with prepping challenges, to ensure that all our anticipatory energy is put towards gaining momentum instead of just idling.  It’s a great idea, broken up into manageable steps

So of course, I’ve been doing almost none of it.

Tonight, the crew (can I call them counselors?) tasked us to reflect on what we love to see it stories, in order to craft our own literary arsenal to help combat those moments of writer’s block that will inevitably rear their heads this April: “Take 15 minutes and jot down your favorite tropes: everything you like to see or read in a story. Go for broke: the more you can come up with the better. Then pick out your five favorites for those moments of creative crisis.”

As someone who likes to read a variety of different things, it’s not really something I had considered before — I basically like reading anything in terms of genre (though I shy away from romance, I can’t say I’ve never read/enjoyed it).  I realized there are a number of tropes that I love that are completely disparate; things that I love seeing, but not necessarily in the same story.  There are also any number of thing that I love seeing in fiction that I am utterly incapable of (or at least ill-disposed to) incorporating in my own writing.

So while I’m not sure how useful these will be to me in term of helping me out of my “creative crises,” I’ll play along:

  1. Strong, complex characters who are queer, non-binary, and/or neuroatypical.  Not strong as in “kicking ass and taking names,” just strong as in, “here is a fully fleshed out character who is person in their own right and whose gender/sexuality/neurotype colors how they interact with the world, but does not fully define them.”
  2. Powerful visual descriptions; or, language that captures a feeling, sensation, or emotion I’ve felt but had previously not had the language to convey myself.  I love reading a passage and having that thrill of recognition shoot up my spinal column, like, “yes, this is it, this is that thing I’ve been trying to give a name to, I understand this.”
  3. Bittersweet, ambiguous, or straight-up downer endings.  It’s not that I don’t like happy endings, or that I have a moral/creative opposition to them, but I’ve never understood why some people loathe unhappy endings.  Because sometimes that’s just how things end – badly.  If you’re writing about life and you refuse to allow your stories the potential to veer down the unhappy path, you aren’t really writing truthfully about life.
  4. Stories told in vignettes, snippets, or as multimedia, incorporating drawings or music.  Granted, it’s only been in the last decade and a half or so that these kind of multi-media stories have been readily accessible, but I love seeing people put them together, especially when they explore little slice-of-life moments.
  5. Flash fiction, six words stories, list poems, etc.  Those things that blur the line between poetry and fiction, between gimmick and innovation, that force you to be very conservative and concise with language and really make every word count – I honestly think I love them so much because they seem so far beyond my own ability to do and do well, that I am honestly in awe when I read one that packs a genuine punch in so few words.

So, what about you.  The day is upon us – what will you draw from your arsenal when you need to fight off writer’s block?

Cheers to all doing both/either Camp NaNo and/or the A-to-Z Challenge.  I’m sure I’ll see you around the blogosphere.


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Jessica Cross

Writer, maker, geek, feminist, mom. Not necessarily in that order.

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