Four ways to cure a book hangover

 

For all you book lovers, I’m sure it’s a familiar sensation: when you turn the last page, close the book, remember that there is a world beyond the cramped and uncomfortable circle of your reading space, and then instantly wish to forget that one and return to the one in your book instead. The Book Hangover.

I have suffered from many Book Hangovers of varying severity in my life. Unlike real hangovers, which make me want to curl up and forget how to move, Book Hangovers fill me with an unsettling, restless energy. They make me want to Do Something, capital D capital S, but they often neglect to supply me with exactly what I’m meant to do. They leave that bit for me to discover on my own, which is why frustration is another common symptom.

My current Book Hangover comes courtesy of the Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson. (This has been a warning. And also a recommendation. Go read them. Now.)

I’ve tried a few treatments for the Book Hangover:

  1. Read the next book in the series, if available. 
    Okay, this is the most obvious medicine. If you’re a responsible reader, you’ll have that book queued up and ready to go. (Also, if you’re taking my advice re: Shades of London, this is particularly important with Books 2 and 3. DO NOT READ SEPARATELY. Trust me on this.) However, these things aren’t always within our control. See my Shades of London example above – no Book 4 available yet. (Alas.)
  2. Read a new book.
    A less elegant but admittedly effective solution. Warning: side effects include a Book Hangover spiral that gradually increases in intensity and desperation until you have read ALL THE BOOKS and they start to blend together in your memories like a fever dream. Or is that just me?
  3. Join a fandom.
    Ooh, my child. My sweet summer child. Your situation is grave indeed if it has brought you to this. Before you walk down this road, just know you can never look back. Not at all. Not even once. If you try to turn your face to the land of the living, your soul will be left behind forever in the spirit world of the fandom.

Yep, I’m already several leagues down the Soulless Road due to my frequent partaking of #3, but that’s for a different post. My main purpose today is to discuss the possibility of a fourth option, one which I’ve only just discovered:

4. Fuel your creativity.
Remember that restless, frustrating feeling I mentioned above? Well, I’ve lately discovered another word for that, which is inspiration. Whatever you just read got under your skin so much that it stretched you out a bit, re-molded you, settled you back into your normal spaces with a little bit of difference. The key to re-orienting yourself is to find that difference and figure out why it matters to much to you. Can’t stop thinking about that one scene where the characters are facing down a wall of fog-monsters in The Shadow Cabinet? Yeah, me neither. I’ll probably see it in my dreams tonight. That’s because it’s so gorgeously unsettling, both creepy and real, in a way that my own battle sequences and fictional monsters could only hope to be. Keep thinking about it. Decode what makes it so good. Apply those qualities to your own work. Repeat.

This isn’t just a lesson for writers. Every bit of entertainment that lingers with us can be the fuel for some other aspect of our lives, whether it’s art, music, dancing, crafting, knitting, baking, or socializing.

Yes, that’s right, I said socializing. Socializing is this new thing I’m trying out. It means two or more people talk or do things together in the same place at the same time. It’s pretty all right sometimes. It gets even better when you can talk about the book that gave you a hangover, or the show that you can’t stop thinking about, or the movie that made you question who you are. Once you get going, it’s hard to stop, and then more and more people are reading things or watching things and wanting to talk about them with you. It’s great.

I highly recommend it.

But first, I have to dash back to the Spirit Realm. The fandoms are calling. Shades of London fans – where my shippers at?

 

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The writing process through the eyes of a child

My writing journey began when I was a young girl – maybe eleven or twelve years old. I was deep in the thrall of Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, and Lloyd Alexander, my head full of my own take on those wonderful stories. My relationship with writing started when I asked, “What if?”

What if Harry Potter had been Harriet Potter? What if *I* attended Hogwarts? What if I lived on Prince Edward Island at the turn of the century? What if I lived in a kingdom like Prydain, surrounded by magic and cauldrons and prophetical pigs?

Now, I’m not saying the stories that came out of those questions were any good, but it sure was fun to try answering them. And more questions came up in their place, questions like “What would life be like for this character instead of me?” and “What if I were to invent my own kingdom? What would it be like?” Before long I was filling notebooks with my pretend kingdom’s name, geography, history, and culture. I was drawing characters (very badly) and naming them things like Spellsong and Chrysanthea.

While my drawing ability has remained much the same (i.e. horrible), I like to think my stories have improved since then, asking more complex questions and peopling their worlds with more complicated, interesting characters (sorry, Spellsong). Over time, though, it has also been harder to keep hold of the thrill I felt when planning a story as a kid.

Back then, it was all pure, unbridled joy and excitement at asking myself, “What if?” Now, after that first initial flash of inspiration, I find myself asking other “what if” questions instead: What if this story has already been written before, and written better? What if I can’t do justice to the idea in my head? What if these characters, this plot, this setting is boring, familiar, overdone?

What if I fail?

Not only do these questions make it extremely difficult to get words on the page, they tend to make those words stilted and horrible. They are a self-fulfilling prophecy, these doubts. So this year, I’m making a concerted effort to silence those questions, starting before the writing even begins.

Time to borrow back the excitement of planning a story from twelve-year-old me.

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Fabulous February

Dear old world,

Well, here we are in February! It’s hard to believe that 2016 is already over one month old. This is about the time that New Year’s resolutions get abandoned or put on hold for another year. Ironically, mine are just getting started.

I’ve made a few writing goals for myself in 2016:

  1. To write over 100,000 words total this year.
  2. To submit at least one story for publication.
  3. To update my blog at least once a week.

Yes, you read correctly. I’d like to go from posting every 6-7 months to updating every 6-7 days. This should be fun… 😀

What are your 2016 writing goals?

To make up for lost time (since, after all, it’s already February 7th), I’ll be making a few writing-focused posts this week, starting with: Gardener or Architect? Planner or Pants-er? What is your pre-writing ritual? Tune in over the next couple of days and find out!