Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

Fiction and Creating a Better World January 13, 2013

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 9:37 PM

A few days ago, I ran into this comic. It’s kind of upsetting (particularly if you own cats) but I really liked it. What I found most interesting was a line near the end:

“I paint portraits of fiction, sometimes to cope, sometimes to escape, and sometimes just because it makes me happier to constantly think of a bunch of crazy made-up shit. But, sometimes fiction is not necessary. Sometimes real life has happy endings too.”

Throughout the comic, whenever something bad happens, the narrator imagines a whimsical, preferable alternative. As he says many times over: “This is not what happened, but it is how I like to remember it.”

I think a lot of people start writing to run from something. It might not even be something bad. I know that when I was younger and bored, I’d make up a story. Lots of people do. I was simply one of the ones that took a step further and wrote it down.

Fiction allows us to live in a world of our own creation, one where we make the rules. (Although sometimes I resent being constrained by the very rules I set up. C’est la vie.) It gives us the illusion of control, and sometimes it makes life a little easier to bear. When times get rough, we  can escape into a world where we call the shots – even if it can be frustrating for its own reasons.

Now writing isn’t always somewhere to hide. It can also just be a fun world to play around in, a break from mundane reality, a place where we can do whatever we feel like. That’s what’s so great about it, and why I keep coming back – no matter how many times I lie on my floor and scream “I hate this” in despair.

Writing makes us all powerful (or close enough). In a world that is so often beyond our control, it’s nice to get a little power back.


Wasting Time January 9, 2013

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 1:19 PM

(Yikes, I missed the weekend again. This is what happens when you go on break. You lose track of time.)

Today I’d like to talk about time. Specifically, wasting it. We’ve all been told we’re wasting our time – maybe while watching a favorite tv program, browsing the internet, or simply enjoying doing nothing. Why aren’t we working on homework or overtime or schedules for our next busy, busy day?

I’m here to tell you that when you’re doing those things, you’re not wasting time. Slaving away at jobs you don’t like, sleeping through classes you don’t  need, talking to people you don’t care about – that’s a waste. We waste enough time with our daily inescapable duties. Alleged time wasters are what we do for fun.

Some people say life is short. Others point out – reasonably enough – that it’s the longest thing we do. Either way, it will end. What would you rather do with the time you have? In the end, what will you remember?

Lurking internet forums or trying valiantly to understand Doctor Who isn’t on par with writing a novel or composing a symphony, I’m aware. However, indulging can lead to inspiration – or even just entertainment. That’s allowed!

So don’t let other people – or your conscience – guilt trip you for having fun. Enjoy the things you enjoy. Just make sure you get life’s necessities done too.


December 29 and I’m Still Here December 29, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 2:21 PM

Humans have a certain preoccupation with destruction. We turn out films like 2012 and Armageddon. We write book after book about post apocalyptic landscapes. Even kid shows like Adventure Time have an end of the world flavor. And, of course, every few years some crackpot predicts the apocalypse. I’ve lived through more end times than Buffy the vampire slayer. If they’d all happened, I’d be the toughest girl around.

The interesting thing is that some people seem to look forward to the apocalypse. Dystopias are the new hot literary craze. There are television ‘reality’ shows about doomsday preppers. And amid the sarcastic Facebook and tumblr posts about 2012, I got the feeling that people were rooting for something to happen. Winter break can be pretty boring, after all.

So what leads to a fascination with the end times, particularly among young adults? I have a feeling it’s because our future doesn’t look too rosy, Armageddon or no. The job market is terrible. Our economy, questionable. The planet is ravaged by war and environmental disaster. Is this really a future we want to inherit? Maybe we’d rather go out with a bang. An identifiable catastrophe – be it an Armageddon style meteor, a zombie apocalypse, a tsunami, etc – would give us something to blame. It would give us a way out of acknowledging the mess we’ve created. Instead, we’re going to have to face that the world – while not optimal – is going to stick around. It’s our job to patch it up.

You’ve almost made it to the new year. We’ve survived Y2K, the Rapture, 2012, and probably several other ends of days no one bothered to inform us about. For better or for worse, we made it to 2013.

Let’s make this year worth living.


Tragedy and the Question of Timing December 17, 2012

Filed under: In the News — katblogger @ 4:23 PM
Tags: , ,

We all know what happened last Friday, so I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say that it hit me – as it hit most people – very hard. I have grown up in a world where tragedies like this have become increasingly common. I do not plan on having children, but I would like the children of my friends and younger family members to grow up in a better world than this. To do so, we need a change.

I posted an admittedly vague and angry call for change on my Facebook page and was almost immediately chastised for my temerity. Political posturing – if that was what my desire for a safer world was – has no place after a tragedy. I was placing a soapbox upon the bodies of the dead, and that was beyond wrong – it was sickening. I should go sit in a corner and think about what I had done.

If a plague leveled a city, we would immediately search for a cure. If a plane crashed killing everyone on board, we would try to figure out what went wrong and fix it. It is only with incidents involving guns – or so it seems to me – that we are told it’s too soon to talk about gun control. But you know what? It’s not.

It is far, far too late.

Whenever people I know call for gun control, people jump to the conclusion that we want to take all guns away. Proponents of regulations are told that ‘only criminals will have guns’ and ‘we have rights’ and ‘it’s people, not the guns’.

We are not taking your toys away.

Although I would love to live in a nation where guns did not exist, I understand that is an impossible dream. However, there is no need – NONE – for civilians to get their hands on assault rifles, guns that shoot rounds faster than I can blink, or bullets that tear their victims apart. That is not self-defense. The only thing those are for is mass slaughter.

This article, I think, is a very good discussion on the topic. I hope that someday soon we can follow other countries and create meaningful regulations to cut down on the amount of lives lost. It is a tragedy in itself that we seem to need dead children to even hope for change, but that’s how it is.

I would really love to stop seeing shootings on the news.


Finals Approacheth December 8, 2012

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 11:09 AM
Tags: ,

The end of the semester is nigh, promising holiday food, a break from homework, and a chance to sleep in. If you’re in high school or college, though, there’s one last hurdle to jump. Finals.

Finals can be detrimental to your health in a lot of ways. Stress can do a ridiculous amount of damage to your system, and anyone facing hours of testing that can sink your grade is going to be stressed. Many people stay up late into the night studying – 0r doing anything to put off studying – and the lack of sleep compromises their immune system. Students with notebooks full of information to review aren’t likely to go outside. We don’t have time. We end up sitting or lying down all day flicking through pages, getting absolutely no exercise. On top of that, I know I tend to eat more junk food when I’m stressed. I’ll often ‘reward’ myself with unhealthy stuff after accomplishing something, but finals can engender mindless snacking. Also, at my university, most of us are now spending our extra meal points, and most of the items available aren’t very good for us either. Put all of this together, and I’m afraid we’ll all come out of final weeks as fat slobs – just in time for the holiday season.

With this in mind, try to avoid becoming an amoeba – even if you’re studying biology. It won’t give you an edge. The weather isn’t too bad in my location, but even if it’s cold, try to move around a little every day. Many universities have recreation centers, and many neighborhoods have parks or gyms. If it’s cold, bundle up well and go for a short walk. Exercise may feel like a waste of time when you’re staring down a deadline, but it can give you a much needed break and chase away that sluggish feeling.

Eating healthier food is, allegedly, better for your brain. You also won’t regret it later. Depending on your location, healthy stuff can be hard to find. If you eat at school, swing by the salad bar and pick up fruit instead of a cookie. Drink water instead of soda. Tell yourself you can indulge once tests are over, and use that as motivation. It’s a pain – trust me, I know how tempting it is – but avoiding junk food will pay off in the long term. This doesn’t mean not eating any, of course – I don’t think anyone could make it through finals week on carrot sticks – but try to tone it down.

Whether you manage to get outside and eat well or stay curled in the fetal position on your bed surrounded by chips bags, good luck. I hope you all do well on your finals and have a wonderful break.


Beyond NaNo: Using December Well December 1, 2012

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 8:09 PM
Tags: ,

December can be a rotten month. If you’re in high school or college, it means finals and papers. If you live in a continental climate, it also means cold winds, gloomy skies, and an air of complete desolation. If that’s not enough, holidays and visiting relatives provide plenty of distraction from whatever you’re actually supposed to be working on.

But try to fight this. One of the most important parts of NaNoWriMo is that it gets you writing regularly. Now that November is over, it’s very tempting to let those good habits you’ve built up slip away. Don’t let them! Over the last thirty days, you learned to cram writing into every spare minute you had. You learned to think plot, characters, and dialogue in overdrive.You learned to be a writer 24/7. You shouldn’t lose that!

Set your November novel aside. It may be worth salvaging, or it may not be. Either way, it needs time to stew. Now pick something else up. A short story idea, perhaps, or a manuscript that needs editing. Even another novel if you’re really daring. Then enlist those writing skills you’ve honed. It’s December now. You don’t have a word count or a deadline. You can go slower and write with more of an eye for quality. Or – if you enjoyed that mad rush of excitement – you could keep racking up words. Whatever you decide to do, don’t let this last month go to waste.

Keep writing.


NaNo Tips: Wrapping Up November 25, 2012

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 6:43 PM
Tags: ,

Today I verified my NaNoWriMo win and printed off the certificate, very pleased to see that it had an organic chemistry theme.


Some of you may not be this lucky. Don’t despair! There are five more days to go, and I know what it’s like to be typing down to the last few hours.

If you’re getting desperate, forget elegant plotting. Forget your outline, your dreams of perfect prose, a vision of a flawless first draft. Forget your characters if you have to. Just come up with something and write.

Sometimes all it takes is throwing in something completely crazy to jump start your imagination. Here are a few suggestions to spur you on to word count victory.

1.  A mysterious stranger arrives

It’s late in the third act of your book, but there’s a new player on the stage. He or she knows a secret one of your characters would kill to stop from being revealed. Or maybe he/she shares a messy past with your quietest, most forgettable side character. Perhaps he/she is on the run and needs help – and for some reason one of your characters agrees. Why? Or, better yet, he/she unzips their jacket to reveal a ticking device on their chest and whispers, “Help.”

Adding in another character can throw everything off kilter, but you can feed off that chaos and pull out lots of very fun – if random – words.

2. A crisis erupts

You know what can give you words? Things going wrong. Because mishaps and misadventures ensuing means a lot of people scrambling around, freaking out, and trying to make things right.

A nasty stomach bug infects everyone. A snowstorm blankets the town in two feet of ice and snow. The next day several important objects are missing, but there are no footprints to be seen. Maybe your character finds a scar they don’t remember getting on their arm, or the device on the mysterious stranger’s chest does whatever it was programmed to do.

Whatever happens, make it big, make it messy, and make it vital. It has to be fixed in a very wordy, complicated, and drawn out way.

3. A secret is revealed

Everyone has secrets. If your character doesn’t have one, give him or her one. Now. Make it horrible. Make it embarrassing. Make it something they would really hate to have revealed.

Then reveal it in a really awkward, public way.

People will get upset. They’ll scream. Cry. Fight. And you can wade through the bloodshed and rake up the delicious, delicious words.

Did I give you any ideas? I hope so. Now run along and hit 50000 words. I believe in you.