Lovely Reflection - amethystia

The Entire Ocean

I don't know everything about my universe.

Writers talk about being plotters (who plan every detail before writing) or pantsers (who start writing "by the seat of their pants"). Obviously there is middle ground between the two extremes. I used to be adamant that I was a plotter because I have to really know my story before beginning writing (or risk quickly burning out) and I don't change a story much once I've started writing. But then I read plotter posts about three act structures and Save the Cat, and I realized my creative process doesn't work like that, either.

I make very few decisions when it comes to The Timeline. It's almost as if I learn about the universe slowly through each little burst of inspiration and each lightning strike epiphany. And the only choices I make are about how to tell the stories that are given to me, whether by my subconscious or a connection to the unknown. Or maybe some combination.

Part of my writing and storytelling is very personal to me, especially (of course) with the Magic Inc. series. My experiences shape that series. Almost every detail is based on my own history or a little imagining I had in childhood. My writing has also grown with me. With my experiences as an adult. With the things I've learned from other creatives and the stories I love now. But I feel like my stories are told to me, by this natural flow of... something. Writing is sacred to me. It comes from something greater than just me, but also from me. An ocean in a drop.

And it's true, as I stated in the beginning, I don't know everything about my universe. But I know A LOT. The details have been filling up my head heavily since 2007. But 2003, if you count Dreaming in Shadow. Or 1998, if you count the former secret world of Magic Inc. and my crossover Harry Potter fanfiction. In some ways, I feel like I've been building this world and my storytelling since I was born. Maybe even as I dreamed of life before I was born. If you believe in that kind of thing. (I do.)

So, I claim my own history and my own unique, imperfect way of storytelling. But the rest of it? I don't really know. And I'm kind of okay with not knowing. I have an entire ocean to explore.
Valerie/Morgan (Hug) - fireflys_locket

June 2021 Favorites

It's been a busy month, so let's get right to to the favorites!

Neopets: I've been on Neopets since 2000. Played it heavily for 10 years, and have since gotten re-obsessed with it in short phases. The site is undergoing major changes with the rise of mobile gaming and the death of flash. In some ways, this is a bad time to be getting re-obsessed with Neopets. (I can't tell you how many times the unconverted pages have crashed my computer in the last month.) But the heart wants what it wants? When it wants? The good news is the site is getting better to use on mobile. Even the old pages work better on my phone than my computer, and the converted pages work great on both. The games... well, they need some help. But the site, itself, is really trying to have a resurgence. I don't know if that will happen, but I know I want to be active when/if it does.

Pokémon Go: I've been playing Go since around when it came out. It was my first Pokémon game. (I know.) And I mostly played it by myself. In my house. Which, admittedly, wasn't always ideal. But since quarantine, the team has implemented some features that make the game easier to play from the comfort of your home. To the delight of this extreme introvert. Also, it turns out my uncle is really good at the game. So, he's been helping me out!

In Your Eyes: My cousin recommended this movie to me, and it was right up my alley! A bit of fantasy, a romance, and most importantly, deep conversations. Basic premise... two people realize they've been psychically connected since they were children and start speaking to each other from afar. Just what I needed to start feeling inspired again!

The Sims 4: I finally started playing The Sims 4! It took some tweaking to run nicely on my computer without absolutely destroying the graphics output, but now I'm really enjoying it. I doubt I'll ever stop playing Sims 2, but it's been fun watching my self sim and muse soulmate falling in love again, and getting the chance to play (and be friends with) Bella Goth! Follow my simming adventures here!

Music Favs: Higher Than You (Heavy English), No Saviors (CLAVVS), Around U (MUNA), Graves (Echoes), Get Out (Bantug), At Now (Anna Nalick), and The American Mall soundtrack.
Mystic Firefly

May 2021 Favorites

Another month ends, and I'm a year older. Birthdays always make me sad, if not on the very edge of my sanity. The passing of time has really been hitting me the last few months, with several anniversaries and other reminders. And the publishing of a book that really encapsulates a painful part of my past. But there have been good aspects to all this nostalgia. And new and old favorites to celebrate.

Blue Spring Ride: Lately, romance/friendship anime and manga has been dominating my attention. In this anime, two middle school friends (Futaba and Kou), who used to be in *mutual pining* love, meet again after Kou moved away for a few years. He comes back as a cold and aloof person, compared to the sweet and sensitive boy he used to be, now keeping his distance from emotions and other people. And Futaba isn't sure she likes this new Kou. But as much as he doesn't want to get close to anyone, he can't help getting involved in Futaba's life again. Of course, as seems to be the case for so many non-fantasy anime, there is way more story to be found in the manga. So, I will definitely be picking that up! (Watch on CrunchyRoll.)

The Fosters: When I first saw ads for The Fosters when it originally began airing, I was immediately struck by how similar it seemed to a story I was developing at the time. Once it made its way to Netflix, I watched the first couple of seaons and fell head over heels for the Brandon and Callie relationship. What can I say? Angsty forbidden love is my thing. But The Fosters is about more than just that. It's about found families and the bond of love being stronger than blood. And in spite of the drama factor, revisiting it has been a nice escape from stress most of the time. I love these characters, and I plan to finish the whole series this time around. (Watch on Hulu/Prime Video.)

Music Favs: Don't You (Taylor's Version) & the rest of Fearless (Taylor's Version) (Taylor Swift), Slow Dive (CLAVVS), Flux (Ellie Goulding), Sink In (Amy Shark), Holy Water (Now, Now), Fire (Sara Bareilles), Easy to Love (Abi Ocia), Sorry (Meg Myers), Without Me (Halsey), Forgotten Love (AURORA).
Rinoa Sky - whispyr

Birthdays and Introverted Natures

Birthdays are rough for me. I always find myself drowning in sad memories and obsessing over the painful and lonely future I worry is ahead. It hurts to have never really felt in alignment with my actual age. For so long, feeling much older, and now, feeling so far behind. Then there is the pressure of being in the spotlight. The stress of a family party that's usually more about what everyone else wants than what I want.

I think I coped fairly well with it this time. But it's left me exhausted and wondering what I would really want my birthday to be like. I got a taste of it by playing Sims and relaxing on my actual birthday and having the party on Saturday instead. And it was nice seeing people now that we're mostly all vaccinated and my personal stress about being around people has gone back to, well, the normal amount. 😅

I have a lot of summer company coming up, which is both exciting and stressful. And I'm trying to remind myself that this year was supposed to be about releasing myself from pressure. I don't have to be writing or editing or posting all of the time to prove my worth. It's okay to just breathe. Especially between periods of socializing. Because my introverted nature needs peaceful alone time like water.
Pretty Hachi - girlgamer

On Creative Self-Doubt, Fun, and Freedom of Art

Self-doubt is my default state. My brain was forever changed from absorbing and believing the words of my peers. I've been away from them for sixteen years, but they live on inside me. And often those words are triggered by things I read. Hateful posts. Extreme criticism. Ugly fighting. Shaming. It flips a switch in my brain. My chest tightens, and I can't breathe. I start to hate myself again.

Even now that I've dedicated myself to my own path and discovered how good it can feel, I'm constantly anxious about doing it "wrong". Making the "wrong" choices, focusing on the "wrong" things. And "falling behind". Even more than I already have. Because anxiety has stolen so much time from me already.

The people who've criticized us in the past, both those who loved and disliked us, and the people and communities we surround ourselves with now, plant the seeds of self-doubt in us. But we water them. We're often the ones holding ourselves to impossible standards. And not honoring our own path and how far we've come. I took my new books to the local store last week. Afterwards, instead of feeling proud of being an author of two books, I started to panic about what was next. The pressure of writing another book filled me with dread, when what I want to feel is appreciative of having written two books and excited for the freedom and possibilities ahead.

It's so easy to feel good about the process when the lifeforce of creation is flowing through you, and creating is as natural as breathing. But you can't be in that part of the cycle constantly. It would be exhausting. It can feel almost unbearable to allow yourself rest, real rest without guilt or expectations. I'm constantly battling with feelings of unworthiness regarding rest, peace, and even joy. But I know, deep inside, that rest is vital to my creative process.

I've been trying to recondition myself to honor the things that make me feel good. Freedom. "Fun". (Which my serious nature had long treated as a bad word.) I want to create with freedom and joy. And I don't just mean writing. Designing the new craft room is making me want to play with art in ways I've not allowed myself since I was very young. Back when I realized I couldn't draw to save my life. But art is more than just drawing, and it doesn't have to be "good" to be valuable to our lives. We should create for the love of it. For the joy and emotional release it can bring.
Sailor Moon Smile - _moonangel_

April 2021 Favorites

I've been focusing on filling my creative well this month. Almost to the point of having too many things to talk about here. But I narrowed it down, and I'm saving some for the future.

Grishaverse: I've been hearing about this universe for years, but with the Netflix series approaching, I decided it was time to dive into the books. And I'm so glad I did. This world and magic system are fascinating. The scene in the first book where Alina finally accepts her powers was very moving for me. And I'm excited to read more!

Sailor Moon (Manga): I can't believe I haven't mentioned Sailor Moon in one of these posts, but I finally finished the manga this month. Sailor Moon was a show everyone seemed to have watched back in childhood. Except me. I found my way to anime with Saint Tail, and while I had some interest in Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura at that time, it wasn't until years later (after InuYasha & Fullmetal Alchemist, among others) that I really started watching those magical girl classics. I enjoyed Sailor Moon then, but didn't completely fall in love until the Crystal anime and the Eternal Editions of the manga. Sailor Moon is a gorgeous manga, and the story shares some parallels with my own universe, which makes me love it even more!

Say I Love You (Manga): I'm back with reading this series, and Vol. 10 was so amazing that I had to mention it again! I related to Mei so much in that volume, and I thought the advancing romance was done really well! There are still a few things I don't like about this series, but the good parts really sweep me away.

Music Favs: Maps for the Getaway (Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness), Promise (MUNA), Bullet (Ann Marr), Mind Games [Single Version] (Haevn), He Said She Said (CHVRCHES), Window (Now, Now), Shadows (Hannah Cohen), Everything Ends Up Ending (Laureline), Storm (Lovers Electric), Right Where You Left Me & Seven (Taylor Swift), Willows (Vanessa Carlton).
Hachi Bliss - fireflys_locket

Fluttering Nerves

I've been creating. Writing parts of Book Three, taking outline notes for future books, editing parts of back burner stories, even making formatting templates for myself so I (hopefully) don't have to stress as much about that stuff later.

But even in the midst of doing *exactly* what I want to be doing - creating without the use of pressure - I'm still second guessing myself. Can I really do this? Can I follow my intuition no matter what and ignore the structure and rules others preach - for the sake of feeling alive and free and creative again? I feel so nervous all of the time, like I'm doing something wrong and might get scolded.

I've never resonated much with zodiac horoscopes. They tend to paint Geminis as extroverted and energetic, which is so not me. (I relate more to Cancer!) But The Pattern app* has been surprisingly on the mark for me in most cases. They also sometimes have discussions that are thought-provoking. (This is not an ad. I promise I'm going somewhere with this.) A few days ago, someone was answering a prompt about creativity by saying they didn't feel like they were worthy to create. And I related so much!

Yes, I am a self-published author with two finished novels and (probably) more on the way, and I still constantly feel like I'm not worthy. That I don't deserve to create. Particularly in the way that fulfills me the most, ignoring writing conventions and "rules" and allowing myself to follow my inspiration. But deep down, I truly believe creativity is a birthright! You don't have to earn it. You don't need anyone's "permission". And you don't have to follow the "rules". Just follow your heart.

I've mentioned this before, but freedom can be scary. When you're living by your intuition and your own set of rules, doubts spring up. It can feel like butterflies, or maybe a flock of birds, are living in your chest. That fluttering activity can be exciting and terrifying at the same time.

I've been observing in myself that excitement can turn so quickly into anxiety. My brain almost reads them as the exact same thing. But that doesn't mean the excitement isn't there. That I shouldn't try to embrace it when I'm able.

*Some people think The Pattern app is listening to them through their phone, so download with caution, I guess! 😅
Kikyo Red - margyydoodle

Detours

Part of me so desperately wants to be "writing again", claiming the active identity of writer and author. Another part of me is screaming out in fear, "Please don't make me do that ever again!" My last writing journey was such a difficult one. It was like bleeding words out onto the page. And that was so fulfilling and cathartic when I could lose myself in the process. But the rest of the time my mind was relentlessly attacking me with fears. "They will hate it. They will hate you."

If that's what "writing again" is, I can't go back there. My mental health just cannot take it anymore. But maybe I don't want to think of "taking a break" and "writing again" as an on/off switch. Maybe I don't want to be "working" or "not working" as two separate states of being. Maybe I want to return to the natural ebb and flow of inspiration I had before I was an author: where everything I did was part of a summoning ritual for inspiration, but none of it was done in service of creating a "product".

I rejoiced in the flow of stories constantly coming to me, through me, and living within me. I didn't read to "harvest" inspiration or keep up with "trends". I drank from the well of stories (in many forms) because it was part of keeping myself alive. I breathed stories in like fresh air, because they were one of the only things keeping me breathing. I wrote because there was magic surging up in me, and I had to open my heart and let it out, giving stories back as a gift to the world, from my most authentic self.

I know. Maybe this sounds "crazy" to you. That it's too good to be true. Writing can't always be that good, that natural, that... easy. And no, it can't. Not entirely. There will be times of struggle. Times where you have to push a little in order to make progress. But even in those times of "pushing forward", you can still trust in your intuition to guide you along the way.

Maybe the "blocks" we face as creators are as key to the process as anything else. And we actually make it worse by resisting, by struggling against the block or trying to ignore it. By even calling it a "block", instead of a detour. Maybe sometimes obstacles are detours in the right direction.
Lovely Reflection - amethystia

I Was There

I'm in a very weird space of "in-between" right now. Not totally done with marketing for Book Two, but also already wanting to move on from it. I'm not going to put so much energy into the marketing this time. That's a conscious choice I am making for my own mental health. But I do have some more snippets to share with you once I've rested a bit.

Full Disclosure: I got my second vaccine shot last week, and it hit me hard. I was feverish and miserable for two days. And I'm still exhausted and anxious from the whole thing. But it is better than getting the virus and potentially getting a blood clot due to one of my assorted weird health issues.

I'm also still emotionally reeling from the anniversary of leaving high school. I'm continuing to dive into old memories, conversations, and papers from back then. And for the most part, it honestly makes me feel better. There's some solid proof that I was there.

I was there... I was there... I was there...

It's not just a dream. It's not just a story I told myself about another lifetime. I was part of those schools. I was a part of those people's lives, even in some tiny, forgettable way. Because sometimes, in this "life" I have now, I don't feel real. I feel like I'm fading away. Like my reality gets lost in vivid dreams and stories. I know who I am almost completely. But I'm not sure that I exist outside of myself. Or at least, how.

Do people really know who I am? Do they care? What parts of me are people picking up on? Which ones do they have no idea about? I try to be completely open and honest whenever I can. I feel like I bare my soul at any possible occasion. But there are still parts of me I'm not sure how to share, for fear of rejection or being misunderstood.

This got more depressing than I intended. But that's the thing about being vulnerable. You have to show the dark with the light. I released a book that was extremely vulnerable and hard to share with the world. And now, I'm tired.

I'm processing. I'm grieving. Remembering the past with equal parts of anguish and gratitude. I can't trade the life I was given. The pain I carried. I have to accept that. Over and over again. For the rest of my life.