Quote of the Week

July 2nd was the halfway point of the year, so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on where we are with our goals.

I have set goals for myself the last few years because somehow, one time, the whole year had passed and I hadn’t read a single book or watched more than half a dozen films. Who knows what that meant for my writing…

What happened that year?!

When I came to that realization, I started to create a list of goals I wanted to accomplish each year. Call them goals or resolutions or even part of your “to do list”, but without some sort of structure, a clear path to follow, it’s easy to allow them to just remain an idea, a figment, a wish.

Goals do not have to be secured at the beginning of the year, we can create a new one anytime. We don’t have to wait for November to power through a writing challenge. Every day is a chance to start. Each day is an opportunity to get a little bit closer to where we want to be.

So whatever goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year, check in on your progress. What adjustments need to be made? If you want to create a new goal for yourself and/or your work, do it. Make a step-by-step list of how you can and will accomplish this task. What do you need to do? Who can help you? What is a realistic time frame? Are there tools that would better help you if you had them available? Set a deadline for yourself, or find an external one, like a contest entry that will keep you on track. What steps will bring you closer to achieving your dream?

Write it all down. Make it visual. Sometimes seeing a large goal is overwhelming because there is a vagueness in how you might get from A to Z, but when it’s broken down into more manageable steps, the objective doesn’t seem so unattainable. Also, small steps toward the larger goal can help maintain your positivity and momentum as you see yourself checking off those tasks.

I am in no way always successful, but I’ve come to the conclusion that by at least acknowledging the things I’d like to accomplish, it gives me something to strive towards, even if I sometimes fail.

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors, and if you ever need a cheerleader for a bit of encouragement, you know where to find me. 😉

Rambling Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service

Warning: Not an overly complex plot to spoil but there will be some spoilers.

I haven’t done a film review in a while, and I was so…confused by the overwhelming response to Kiki’s Delivery Service, a 1989 animated film from Studio Ghibli, that I was compelled to write about it.

Maybe some of it has to do with age. As an adult versus being a preteen, which is when this film should be watched, it spoke to me differently. My introduction to the work of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki was Howl’s Moving Castle, a dark and strange film but intriguing and beautifully drawn.  The studio has a glowing reputation, so much so a theme park dedicated to their films is planned for 2022, and after Howl’s I wanted to watch more.  With the disappearance of video rental brick and mortars, finding these imports via streaming services was difficult until HBO Max finally brought them stateside.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is the story of 13 year old Kiki, who according to tradition, must spend a year away from home to train to become a witch.  With her friend-cat, Jiji, Kiki finds herself in a seaside town reminiscent of various European towns set in the 1950s.  Kiki’s story is a coming of age tale, the desire for independence and social acceptance while learning to embrace what makes you special.  While all of this is well and good, the glaring problems overshadowed the simple plot, and I couldn’t get over them the entire movie. 

The film is based on a novel, so maybe some of the issues I have with the story are better explained in the book but this is a film review, so we’ll work with said material.

Kiki is preparing for her yearlong study abroad when the film opens.  Her mother remarks that she hasn’t had time to train her and her father asks her to write to them, if she can. This led me to believe that wherever Kiki was going, she would most likely be busy and ill prepared.  What we learn is that there is no real preparation for Kiki’s training.  There is no guardian awaiting her arrival, no school to attend, not even a mentor or senior witch waiting to teach her their knowledge or skills. She doesn’t have a place to stay lined up, nor even an inkling of an idea as to where she’s going.  She is just sent out into the world under the guise that she will teach herself what she needs to know wherever she ends up.

What?! 

Her only witch talent is flying, and initially she isn’t even very good at that. The only other indication of any special ability is that she can communicate with her cat.

Fate clearly plays a part in her journey as it allows her to find herself in a nice place with kind people who look after her, but I couldn’t get over the fact that her parents sent her away without knowing if she would be okay, for a year, with a sandwich, a bit of pocket money, and the promise that she would write when she could. This was problem number one for me.

Problem number two – how do you train to become a witch without someone to advise you?  How do you discover your talents or abilities without someone challenging you to explore what you’re capable of? She has no teacher, not even a book to use as a reference, and apparently her mother ignored the lessons she was supposed to impart, but sure, go out into the world and be a witch.

Problem number three – she isn’t given any challenges where she might learn another ability, or at least attempt to discover some hidden talent, she just flies on a broom, which is fine, but given the premise of the film, she should be learning more. I understand that this is probably a metaphor for finding your place in the world, just as you are, but I just think that with a character defined as a witch, she should have been more inclined to magic.

She creates her “delivery service”, a business delivering goods around town using her flying in order to survive in this new place. She meets new people who challenge her and introduce her to new things, and as she comes of age, struggling to maintain her confidence and her desire to fit in, which are universal themes, she stumbles and has to ask herself a question that often plagues us – are we good enough?

While I appreciated the themes, I think they could have been executed differently. As a writer, I often wonder how a story could have better approached a topic because it’s a world I want to be a part of. I could not get past the problems which I found to be irresponsible, bordering on dangerous. At one point, Kiki hitchhikes with a woman who lives alone in the woods. What sort of message is that?

Now, I understand this is an animated tale, and fantasy at that, but the audience for which it is intended is impressionable. I may be overly sensitive. While I didn’t hashtag the MeToo movement, I do have a number of my own stories, and sending a child out into the world without any protections, under some misguided pretenses, is just not a story I can get on board with.

Well, that’s a whole lot of ramble and I didn’t even get to a couple of the things I had initially planned on.

Have you watched Kiki’s Delivery Service? How old were you when you watched it? Do you think that makes a difference? Share your thoughts.

Writing Tip Tuesday #2

I write sci-fi and fantasy. I remember hearing people say that there wasn’t any “truth” to be found in such genres. This always confused me, and I presumed it was said by people who didn’t enjoy those types of stories. They are among my favorites which is why, after some time, I embraced it.

When I was younger and first starting out, I was drawn to historical romance because in an effort to get me back into reading, my mother introduced me to the genre. Somewhere between middle school and junior high, the forced reading assignments had turned me off. So at fourteen, fifteen years old, I’m reading these sweeping, epic romances and falling in love with these fictional men, to whom no real man could ever compare, and I thought, “That’s what I want to write.”

Ridiculous, I know.

My circle consisted of high school boys and they were no inspiration.

And back then, I didn’t discover any hidden “truths” in such stories, and so it became this sort of elusive idea. What books consisted of it? How would I know when I found it? Until I wrote my own story, and then, not until years later, was I able to see that my tale of a woman kidnapped by pirates was really an allegory of my secret hope – that one day, my “real” father would come rescue me.

It’s easy to glorify the idea of someone you don’t know.

I never finished the story. Sometimes I think it would be fun to revisit it now that my writing has changed. And that’s because as we continue to evolve and experience new things, experiment with our creativity, that we discover our voice, our truth.

I don’t know who said this quote that I have above my desk, but it changed a lot for me when I first discovered it.

Fantasy insists that the writer address the cultural, societal, and political times in which they live.

It took some time to understand that I could incorporate all the things I loved – period pieces, romance, fantasy, sci-fi, art, music – into my writing while subtly using it as a vehicle to explore deeper meaning. I could include my concerns about the environment in a story about fairies. I could blame the state of the world on the past mistakes of the Greek gods. I could use a spy story as a way to convey worry over the machinations of men and technology.

I still wonder sometimes what the “truth” is that those people thought I wouldn’t share by writing in magical worlds. All writing is magic. We create people and places from our imagination. We share in their triumphs and their losses. We cheer them on. We love to hate them. If that isn’t some sort of truth…

So I suppose the tip I wanted to convey today is…write what you want. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s supposed to be this way or that. Writing is a freedom and you don’t have to conform to anyone’s ideas of what it should be like. Let it be a mashup. Let it be weird. Let it be whatever you want it to be. It’s your story.

Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt #130

Happy Wednesday!

Ready for this week’s challenge?

I’m still consumed by the one story I’ve been working on for a while now. About halfway done, I imagine, but I’d like to start exploring the images I’ve shared as well. Sadly, there are only so many writing hours in a day. I’ll happily live vicariously through your words in the meantime.

Happy Writing! And don’t forget to share!

Writing Tip Tuesday

I didn’t see a quote yesterday that really spoke to me but I did find this writing tip that I have had to remind myself of a time or two, so I thought I’d share it in the hopes that you would find it useful too.

I somehow had it in my head that I could write and edit simultaneously. It was a terrible habit I had formed and took quite a bit of effort to break. I still catch myself doing it from time to time and have to remember that those two sides of my brain need their own time in order to be most effective.

A lot of professional writers say the same thing about getting the first draft written quickly. In that draft you are telling yourself the story so you need to write it out while it’s fresh. If you stop to edit, you’re breaking up your momentum. When I came to this realization and finally just wrote, I created a full length feature script in two weeks. Was it good? Eh, it wasn’t my best work but the essence of the story was there because I didn’t stop to fix things along the way. And as they say, all writing is rewriting.

I think I was also using this technique as a way to procrastinate. We make a lot of excuses for why things are the way they are, and fear is a big one. If I was constantly working on a script and yet not finishing it, it wasn’t going to go out into the world and disappoint. Oh the way our minds work.

So, if you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, I hope this tip helps you in your own process.

Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt #129

So, it’s not Wednesday. The day got away from me. But we can enjoy a writing prompt any ol’ day of the week, right?

I was quite drawn to the shape of the arch, her silhouette against a dismal background…I knew immediately it was going to be this week’s inspiration.

Feeling creative? Come write with me!

Quote Monday

As creatives, we give ourselves a hard time. Whether it’s in regards to our craft, our feelings of self worth, our motivations, or life in general, it takes a lot to maintain any sense of balance and feeling of positivity. Many of you may recall my idea last year to schedule my days so that life stuff didn’t interfere with writing stuff…yeah.

I had willingly quit a job, just months before the pandemic, and writing felt like a guilty pleasure. And that old adage really started to wear on me as time drew on – a real writer writes every day. I couldn’t. For months I was a dry well. All these writers kept posting things like, “We’ve been given all this extra time.” Blech. People were being productive, and it was making me feel even worse. There were more pressing matters to attend to, there was stress and worry, and my writing wasn’t paying the bills so…after suffering in that dry spell for far too long, I chose to try something new. I created a schedule.

My idea of how my week should look went something like this:

  • Monday – clean
  • Tuesdays – write
  • Wednesdays – Etsy shop
  • Thursdays – write
  • Fridays – explore other enjoyments: piano, sew, bake, etc.
  • Saturdays – write
  • Sunday – blog

As a gamer, having a list detailing my daily goals seemed like a good idea, in theory but in practice, I was trying to schedule my brain into thinking about writing only 3 days a week. I was expecting the muse to show up on this strange itinerary I had created and thought I would make great strides in progress?! It’s one thing to show up everyday even when you’re not inspired, it’s another to think you’re going to create magic/gold/award winning work on a limited timeline.

Also, I had been, and still am, in rewrite mode on all my scripts, so I had forgotten that not all days are actual, physical writing days. When you start a new project there are those imagining days, research days, character creation days, plotting days, naming things days, so when I saw this quote I found myself dumbstruck. How could I have forgotten something so simple?

Remembering this would have helped me to not be so hard on myself during that time in the desert, and that’s why I decided to share this tip today, for those of you who have found themselves similarly marooned. If you’re reading anything, if you’re taking personality quizzes as your characters, if you’re coming up with story lines, snippets of dialogue, and what-if scenarios, it’s all writing. Not every day requires words on paper (or screen).

Sometimes we need to explore other options to discover what works for us, and my schedule idea was an attempt at that. It didn’t work because I was expecting too much from a structure that was not ideal for creativity…and it compounded my negative feelings when I was already weighed down. Side note, it wasn’t like I wasn’t thinking about my writing every day, it’s not something I can ever escape, but I felt guilty when I was writing and when I wasn’t. What a vicious cycle we’re a part of.

Remember that this path we have chosen is already a difficult one, so be kind to yourselves. Try to be creative in some capacity everyday, but give yourself a break if you aren’t. Don’t feel guilty if you watch a movie, take a walk, skim Pinterest, or just stare out the window because you never know when inspiration will strike.

Happy Writing!

Quote Monday

I have been struggling to reconcile having a mundane job that offers me the freedom to write or finding a new job that challenges me and potentially leaves me little time to chase my dream.

Either choice is exhausting nonetheless.

The monotony of my current job leaves me tired out of sheer boredom but it’s a job I don’t have to think about when I leave and it offers me a lot of time to think on my stories while I’m there. Actually, most of the time I just sing to myself because my trains of thought are usually interrupted a dozen times by customers asking if I work there. No, I just have OCD and need to rearrange this store’s shelves. ((face palm)) I often have time before and after work to write most days, and lately my writing has been all consuming. I make notes while on lunch. I’ve made notes on my phone at stop lights. It’s like a faucet has been turned on and left running.

Not a bad problem to have.

Obviously my concern about looking for something else is that a more “serious” job may take priority leaving me with little time or energy to focus on that which truly matters, and given this new river of inspiration, I don’t want to sacrifice one for the other.

And this is where continuing in menial work leaves me questioning my life choices. I know I’ve discussed this before – probably more than once, so apologies – the mediocrity before success. It’s hard not to want to feel fulfilled by the day job, we spend so many hours there, but if it pays the bills (hopefully) and allows us the freedom to pursue our passion, then isn’t it worth enduring? To some degree, I suppose it is.

It’s a catch-22.

The Sis keeps reminding me of the pros, and most days when I know I have time to write and do some yoga before going in, I feel like I’m already off to a good start. And that probably helps to get me through the monotony.

I truly look forward to the days when writing is the only “job” I have to worry about. ((sigh)) Can you imagine?!

If you’re in a similar position, how do reconcile this disparity? Let’s commiserate together.

Writing Prompt #127

I know I was in a darker place, mentally, recently. Apologies. I had a lot of stress, and the prompts showed it. So I’ve decided to lighten up this week.

Feel like joining in on a little writing prompt fun?

Happy Writing!

Quote of the Week

For many writers, myself included, we find, from time to time, that we may not be exactly where we hoped we’d be by a certain point in our lives. I made the discovery this morning that this winter it will be a particular number of years since I graduated from university. I had big dreams for my career as a writer, and yet here I am, all these years later, still working towards that goal.

I have family and friends who are supportive of this long held dream – I think a lot of it is surprise, at this point, that I’m still trying, so it’s no wonder that every now and again I think, “What the hell happened?”

I see these positivity messages that Vera Wang didn’t enter the fashion industry until she was 40, Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at 50, even Samuel L. Jackson was 43 when he landed his first major role in Jungle Fever as if all of this was meant to make me feel better that though I’m now closer to Julia’s age than Vera’s there’s still time.

And it’s hard not to compare to other’s who are finding success, especially when they’re younger, and yet, all of our journeys are different – their struggles, their life, their direction is not mine, not yours, and as long as our vision of the destination is clear, we’ll get there…in our own time.

So keep hacking away at that goal, little by little, because any amount of progress is progress.

Happy Writing!