back in the saddle again.

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{for le blog aesthetic // not mine}

NaNoWriMo 2017. Day One.

This year feels different. I have less of a plan than usual (not to be confused with the time I wrote a NaNo novel starting only with characters and no plot whatsoever), but this is a story that’s been tumbling around my head for the past ten years.

Obviously, it looks different than what I first thought it was going to look like, but that’s okay. It’s deeper now, and more fleshed out – not to mention I’m actually able to write a lot of it based on personal experience.

If any of you remember those two scenes I wrote for school last semester about the little foster care boy… yeah, this is that story.

My Pinterest board for this story is now public, and I’ll be updating via this blog hopefully once a week. However, I’m starting a new job in a week and I’m the lead in a play, so bear with me if I forget.

I’m super excited about this project – almost more so than anything else I’ve done – and I can’t wait to share it with you guys!

(PS: It’s called The Boy and the Theatre Girl.)

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what christians get wrong about mental health.

There’s been a lot of talk about mental health in recent years, usually in reference to those dang millenniums and their diddly darn safe spaces.

To people who don’t understand, it seems like people with mental illnesses are just coming out of the woodwork.  Suddenly, there are all these people with self-proclaimed PTSD and anxiety and depression.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  It’s almost – almost – as if people are figuring out what’s wrong with them so that they can help.

And then people who don’t understand get all offended for some reason, as if that’s a bad thing.

Listen, I get both sides of the argument.  Completely.  But lately, I’ve been siding more with the people who are finally finding labels for the unknown monster that’s been plaguing them.  Because wouldn’t taking tests to find out if you have cancer be better than shoving down the symptoms and pretending like it isn’t there?

And yet people still keep denying it.  It’s almost as if they’re saying, “You don’t really have cancer.  You’re just overthinking things.  You need to be more chill.”

Now, I know that cancer is on a completely different plane than a mental illness.  But I think the reasons why the two should be treated differently are rapidly deteriorating.

A lot of Christians like to wave off the issue of mental illness with an admittedly well-intentioned “If you’re really suffering from (anxiety, depression, insomnia – you fill in the blank), pray and God will make it all better.”

There are two things wrong with this – first, that they’re ignoring a problem, and second, that they’re assuming that, if it’s a real problem, that God can just take it away.

Sure, God can take it away, but sometimes what even Christians forget is that God is not a vending machine, nor is He a wish-granting factory.  We don’t understand why He allows us to go through trials that He has the power to take away.  Sometimes it’s to better us, sometimes it’s simply to teach us how to rely on Him for strength.

And to assume that mental illness is something that God can and will just take away with a simple prayer is blatantly and horrifically wrong.

I can go into all the reasons why mental illnesses shouldn’t be ignored – from chemical imbalance to issues resulting from childhood trauma – but I’m sure you have people in your life who you can talk to, because the fact remains that one in five adults in the US suffer from a mental illness.  The statistic is the same for children, and for teenagers aged 13-18, the statistic is almost one in four.  (See NAMI’s statistics.)

Even if these statistics weren’t true, your response to your friends dictates how you actually feel about mental illness.  It’s one thing to lovingly care for your friends and ask what you can do to help – it’s a completely different thing to essentially tell them that they’re lying (excuse you?), that it’s “not that big of a deal” (just because it’s not a big deal to you doesn’t mean that it’s something they’re daily affected by), or that it’s “just in their head.”  (“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with people trying to find out what’s going on inside their heads.  How else would they figure out how to deal with it?

Instead of arguing with their findings, I’d challenge you to be a good friend and help them with whatever they’re going through.  After all, God loves us all equally despite all of the reasons we think He shouldn’t, so, since we’re called to be like Him, why should we act any differently?

reading as an escape.

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{for le blog aesthetic // not mine}

“Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real.” – Nora Ephron

When I was fifteen, I moved two states away from everything I’d ever known to complete uncertainty.  We didn’t know anyone in this new state except relatives, half of whom moved away soon after we arrived.  I didn’t have any real friends for the first two years of living in this new state.  It was one of the darkest times of my life, and I barely made it out with all my sanity.

Too often, the struggles we go through are downplayed by others.  “Someone, somewhere, has it worse,” they tell us.  “You should be grateful you’re not them.”

As if pain and suffering is a contest.

But just because someone is going through something worse doesn’t negate the fact that you’re going through a hard time, too.  Like Cherry Valence tells Ponyboy in The Outsiders, “Things are rough all over.”

I believe that everyone should be able to have a way out of their individual struggles.  It doesn’t have to make sense for anyone else.  It could be theatre, painting, stamp-collecting – anything that gets their mind off of what they’re going through.

For me, that way out was reading.  Those years after my family moved were the most solitary times I’ve ever experienced, but they were also some of the most full, because I got to know so many fictional people.  I found a renewed love for reading, and even started writing again because of it.  My own relatives called me a bookworm and said I spent too much time with my nose stuck in a book, but I didn’t care.

Reading was my escape, just like it is for so many other people, and that’s something that should be encouraged.

{PS: I wrote this a few weeks ago and just remembered to post it.  My life is crazy hectic right now, hence the lack of posts, but I’ll try to come back soon with stuff worth reading!  Thanks for always reading my posts – it means a lot to me.  Until I’m back, you can follow my craziness on Instagram, Facebook, and sometimes Twitter.)

minirant: there’s nothing wrong with being “basic.”

Starbucks.

Ugg boots and infinity scarves.

Taylor Swift.

Even separately, these things may remind you of something – the Stereotypical White Girl, or a “Basic” girl.

If you love any of these things, you’re instantly labelled this.  To escape these labels, you claim that you don’t like them, and stay as far away from them as you can.

You claim that you’re “not like other girls,” shoving other girls down in order to make yourself more unique.

But just like it’s wrong to build your throne out of all the girls you’ve claimed you’re better than, it’s also wrong to call people “basic.”

It’s okay to like Taylor Swift (especially her new single, which is fire).  It’s okay to like typical fall outfits (because fall is the bomb diggity and heck yes you look amazing in those boots and scarves).  It’s okay to like Starbucks (because Salted Caramel Mocha Frappucinos are God’s gift to mankind).

Since when was it wrong to like things that are specifically marketed to us girls?

The same can be said for guys.  If guys like video games, they’re instantly labeled “gamers.”  If they like Marvel or DC or are really good at robotics, they’re instantly labeled “nerds.”

I think our society makes such a big deal out of being unique that it’s seen as wrong to like stereotypical things.

Everyone tries so hard to be different that they don’t realize that they’re all acting exactly like everyone else.

This is why it’s so hard for us to admit that we like these things.

But the truth is… it’s okay.

It’s okay to like both Taylor Swift and Twenty One Pilots and Jon Bellion.

It’s okay to like both Starbucks and boba tea and that obscure Japanese drink you saw in an anime.

Our uniqueness is already evident, and expresses itself in both the “basic” things we love and the more obscure things we love.

No two people are alike, and to lump people together based on a single likeness is wrong, plain and simple.

This has been A Rant™.

coffee session: on expectations.

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(for le blog aesthetic / not mine)

You know the drill.  Grab a cup of coffee, listen to some music, and let’s have a chat.  (My side of the conversation is below; feel free to share yours in the comments!)

*sips coffee*

Ohhhh, expectations.  Don’t you just love them?

It’s one thing to have expectations and standards for yourself… and another completely different thing to realize that others have expectations for you.  It doesn’t matter if they’re lower or even equal to yours – it’s still ridiculously daunting.

Because of Recent Events (which, for the time being, will be referred to as simply that), I’ve been feeling especially aware of these things.  We want to do the best we can, and holding ourselves to that – daily – is, more often than not, intimidating.

If anyone else read Do Hard Things religiously in their teens, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  We want to be more than mediocre.  We want to do things with our lives – which often unintentionally translates to “big” things.  (I once read an essay somebody wrote about this, and it’s definitely worth reading if you made the same assumption.) (Don’t feel bad if you did because I did, too, and sometimes doing hard things is working through the daily grind of school or work or unemployment {*waves*} with a cheerful, optimistic spirit.)

*sips coffee*  (Today I have some weird “roasted southern pecan” coffee my dad bought and it’s… interesting.)

Adulting doesn’t help with this.  You start out so excited and ready to conquer the world, and then Real Life hits and you’re left staggering under the pressure.  (This isn’t personally relatable at all.  *nervous laughter*)

So how do we avoid getting daunted by the expectations and standards?  What do we do when they feel too high?

In all honesty… I don’t know.  I’m still working through this myself.

I don’t like disappointing people.  I really don’t.  And all it takes is someone dropping a responsibility or opportunity on me for my confidence to crumble like a poorly-made gluten-free cookie.  (Seriously, if anyone has any gluten-free cookie recipes they can share… please.  I’m dying over here.)

The only answer I’ve come up with is to just… do your best.  (And let God do the rest.)

And that sounds stupidly cliché and I’m insanely sorry, but it’s all I have right now.

So… turning this conversation over to you guys… what have you found to be the best answer to this?  What do you do when you feel like you’ve been given too much and struggle with holding to everyone’s expectations of you?

confession: i don’t like my novel’s protagonist.

Disclaimer: This will be ranty and disjointed.  I can never think clearly when I’m editing.  Plus I’ve had too much coffee this morning.  (Disclaimer #2: A little clickbait never hurt anyone. *wink*)

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oh look it’s me

So I was editing my novel a few minutes ago (me??? editing??? what is this?!), and I realized that… I don’t really like my main character???

Now, granted, I’ve known that for a while, but it just now hit me.

Beta readers of this book (The Art of Letting Go, which you can learn about here because it’s been so long that I posted about it that my readers probably forgotten about it) understand this, because they know her.  (And, hey, if you’ve read it and you feel this way, let me know in the comments!)

But, just in case you don’t, here’s the gist: Daniella James is a very complicated young woman, made even more so by the fact that (spoiler) her boyfriend dies.  Killed right in front of her.  She’s already got Mommy & Daddy Issues, and those are complicated by the loss of her future and only security (which she’d wrapped up in her boyfriend).

Start out with an anxiety-ridden, pessimistic teenage girl, multiply it by a million, add a dash of cynicism, and you’ve got Danni.

I knew from the get-go that Danni would be different from my previous protag, Nikki, but I didn’t know how different.  Now, four drafts later, she’s basically Nikki’s polar opposite.  She’s rash and negative and cusses and doesn’t really believe in any kind of higher power and doesn’t think about the consequences of her actions and I honestly don’t know if we’d be friends in real life.

(Obviously she changes by the end into a more likable person, but for a good chunk of the book – the first third at least – she’s not the greatest person in the world.)

This got me thinking… why write characters that you, at best, disagree with?  Or even, at the very worst, don’t like?

The short answer is character change.

Good books thrive on conflict.  Boring books have no conflict.  Who wants to read about a static character?  Um, not me.

So if a book has to start out with a faulty character so that they’ll change for the better because of the circumstances they have to go through, bring me that character.

I’m fascinated with faulty characters.  Give me the bad boys and let me cheer for them as they’re put through trials that break their hardened shell and reveal the softer young man inside.  (I’m specifically thinking about Bender from The Breakfast Club or Jughead Jones from Riverdale.)

The other day, I watched a made-for-TV drama based on the life of Michael Glatze, a gay activist who slowly lets go of his gay identity after becoming a Christian, eventually renouncing it, taking on the identity of a heterosexual man, marrying a woman, and becoming a Christian pastor.  It. was. fascinating.  Although I thought the movie was poorly made (it tried too hard to be artistic and some of the actors couldn’t do their jobs very well because of the stilted script) and although I disagreed with some of it (both with some of the things the homosexual characters and even some of the heterosexual, Christian characters said), I’m still thinking about it.  It challenged me.  (Here’s the trailer.  Bear in mind that this movie is TV-MA for language and some sexual scenes, and I still don’t know how the director wanted to portray Michael, but you can do some Googling and read exactly what he’s said on the subject.)

All this to say, what are your thoughts on unreliable or unlikable protagonists?  Have you encountered any of these lately in movies or books?  Did they change or were they more likable by the end?  What changed?  Let’s talk!

currently.

{note: this is an update post on my ridiculously crazy life. all of my creative energy seems to be spent on polishing my novel and, well, you’ll see. i’ll be back with thought-out posts soon, i promise.}

reading: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I’m like a third of the way through it, but still feeling “meh” about it because no one told me that it doesn’t have the characters from Illuminae in it. So I’m slightly irritated. Next on the list are Ready Player One, This Savage Song, and Wonder. Oh, and I’m also reading Before You Meet Prince Charming. *sigh* If you follow me on Goodreads, you already know my thoughts on it, but, to sum up, I’m pretty “meh” about this, too. The ideas in this book are so close to truth (and some of them are), but then they’re taken to the extreme. (For instance, did you know that “watching TV is like dating the world”? I quoted that verbatim – you can find it in the book yourself if you don’t believe me.) So yeah. My thoughts on that book will probably take at least one post, so look forward to that at some point when I’m done slogging my way through this book.

watching: Band of Brothers. Oh. My. Gosh. So amazing. It’s now one of my favorite war movies (or mini-series, I guess). I was so emotional on July 4th this year because my siblings and I watched that, and then Hacksaw Ridge, the week before. Talk about feels. I’m also watching a few of Chris Evans’s lesser-known movies, and they’re great! My sibs & I also watched Robin Hood: Men In Tights for the first time the other night (the first in our Mel Brooks marathon), and I loved it! Speaking of marathons, I’m also on a John Hughes kick as well. The Breakfast Club is one of my favorite movies now, and I can’t wait to watch the rest of his films. I watched Sixteen Candles the other night and marveled at the fact that the director of Spider-Man: Homecoming (another EXCELLENT film, btw; definitely a favorite as well) wanted to give Homecoming a Hughes feel, so the cast had a marathon one day. The result is pretty obvious!

listening: Anything by AJR (esp “Weak” & “Come Hang Out”) and Jon Bellion (esp “Maybe IDK” & “Human”). I’m obsessed with both. I’ve also been on an Idina Menzel kick lately because I saw her in concert on Saturday night and I’m still not over it. She’s amazing, y’all. Towards the end, she sang the beginning of “For Good” without a mic or accompaniment, and it was flawless. Literal queen. If/Then is a current go-to soundtrack if I need something fun to listen to (provided I skip some feelsy songs that make me cry).

writing: The Art of Letting Go, obvs. I’m still working through my beta-readers’ critiques, and it’s actually been going VERY well. The fourth draft (post-critiques) is better than anything I ever thought I could write, and that’s 100% due to my amazing readers who have given me feedback and helped me shape it into something amazing. Someone even went so far as to give me nine pages full of questions to answer, and that’s making the most impact. (You know who you are and I love you.) Also, recent events have gotten me PUMPT for my next novel (Pinterest board to be revealed soon *cue fanfare music*), so I’m pretty psyched about that.

celebrating: OH and I got my first rejection letter the other day, so that was actually pretty great. I got myself some ice cream after I got the email (which was so sweet, btw!). I was a little disappointed, sure, but I was more excited than anything else. After all, an actual agent read the first ten pages of my novel, and if that’s not cool, I don’t know what is. (Well, having someone actually ask for the whole thing would be pretty cool, too, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.)

working: I’ve had some pretty extensive time off my nannying job this month, so I filled it first with going to my grandparents’ house for a week with my cousins (we had a Clue night where we dressed as the characters as we played the game, and it was a highlight of my life). I also did a temp job as a saleswoman that I absolutely fell. in. love. with (and may or may not have applied for a full-time position because I loved it so much), so that was pretty cool. The pay ain’t too shabby, either. Plus, that incredibly adult feeling of being a productive member of society and having a purpose and something worthy to fill the day with was pretty great, too.

acting: Oh and I’m in a play. That’s been the biggest thing that’s happened lately and it’s honestly filling my life with so much joy. It’s a kids play at a local theatre, and one of my best friends is in it, so I went about a month ago to listen to her read and ended up being given a part after someone dropped out. Long story short, tech week starts tonight and we open on Friday. After wanting to be in a play for literally ten years, it’s so amazing to finally have it happen, even if it’s a play for kids. (Which is even better because experience is experience!) I’m bonding with all of these amazing people and it’s been so much fun. I’m already dreading closing night! (My life has revolved around theatre lately and I don’t hate it. Saturday, I went to rehearsal, then came home, took a nap, and then went to see Idina. Then, Sunday, I hung out with friends who were in town before seeing my brother steal the show as the Tin Man in a local production of The Wizard of Oz before bringing another friend home to work on makeup for our show! Like I said, theatre life isn’t too bad.)

So, yeah. All of my creative juices seem to be taken up by this novel and this play. I swear I’ll be back soon with posts more worthy of your time (and less self-focused, GOSH, but I wanted to tell you guys all of these things that didn’t warrant entire posts), but for right now, I’ve gotta go back to writing before leaving for rehearsal early to find some glittery eyeliner and snake tattoos!