Lost in Translation

I am actually a little disappointed to be posting this with the title “Lost in Translation” when I realize that “A Foreign Language” would have actually fit it perfectly. But alas, that was the name of my last post and of course hindsight is 20/20.

Oh well. Anyways.

I believe I mentioned at the start of the year that I rented a violin in December and was playing around with that and having a lot of fun with it. Well, it actually worked out that a barn friend of mine had a violin from when she was learning as a kid and she generously gifted it to me, which was pretty amazing. It’s a gorgeous instrument and I am very much in love, and after fixing up the strings and buying a new bow (and learning just how painstakingly difficult it is to apply a new brick of rosin to a brand new bow–it took me two days), it really feels like my own.

Actually learning how to play it though?

That’s been an interesting adventure.

I mean, I’ve learned how to make it sound like something resembling music and not a horrible hybrid between nails-on-chalkboard and dying-animal-sound, which is good, and I’ve learned to play a couple short and simple songs that actually sound like the songs they’re supposed to be, which is great, but wow what an instrument.

What an instrument, truly.

It’s quite interesting, because music is something I’ve always loved from a listening standpoint, but is something I never really felt a part of from a creating standpoint. I mean, I did take a mandatory music class in eighth grade so I did have some exposure to music, but learning three notes on the flute in order to play Hot Cross Buns doesn’t exactly equate to understanding and grasping music. And seeing as how I got a B in that class, I clearly wasn’t any kind of musical prodigy.

So jumping into the violin (which is on its own a much more difficult instrument to learn than most) without any real prior musical ability or knowledge has been a little bit disorienting. I mean, I couldn’t read a lick of sheet music a month or so ago, so trying to figure out how the little sticks and circles on the page are supposed to transform into sounds feels like trying to understand ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Lots of confused faces and question marks, let me tell you.

And what the heck is with this whole “an A note could either be an open A or the fourth finger on the D string or the third finger on the E string or the first finger on the G string” nonsense? Why couldn’t we come up with different letters for each? I am so confused????

But I’m slowly piecing it together and am actually making music. Which is. Wow. It’s really wow.

I mean, I’ve sort of got Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:

Which are two songs that would really only entertain infants (and even then they would want me to be a lot better at violin first) but hey. It’s certainly a start.

And, and! I’ve also got a classical song by Beethoven in my musical repertoire. Yeah that’s right, I learned how to play a snippet of Ode to Joy. I actually only learned it yesterday, so I have a clip from then and a clip from now, which already shows a little bit of improvement (such as actually being able to remember the tune of Ode to Joy).

Warning: this song sounds a little torturous. Sorry not sorry.

Personally, I think it sounds a little more impressive than Twinkle Twinkle. I actually was a little surprised that Ode to Joy was in my learning level. I mean, I guess I never realized it was actually fairly simple in practice? And I guess when you think of Beethoven you don’t really think “beginner”. So it’s kind of cool to me to see that making music isn’t quite as astoundingly, impossibly difficult as I previously thought.

Although, that being said, I’m not finding every song quite so easy to get a grasp on. The song that is my kryptonite? Jingle Bells. Yes. Jingle Bells. I attempted it four times in the following clip and boy oh boy was that fun.

Yeeeah. Not very impressive.

I think perhaps the most fascinating part of this whole experience thus far though has been actually learning the music. I mean, I still don’t really know sheet music, but I learned how to do Auld Lang Syne using tabs and that’s actually a song I’ve memorized. And it’s really interesting to me, because to some degree I’ve got the finger positions numerically memorized (0 3 3 3 1 0 3 0…) but when it comes down to really playing it, I’ve actually got it memorized more by sound than anything else. I know the tune of the song, I know whether the next note will be higher or lower, I’ve learned the finger position associated with the different notes, and so playing Auld Lang Syne feels a little bit like speaking a fluent sentence in a foreign language.

Learning music feels like learning a language.

Because with this song in particular, I no longer have to sit there and think “okay what’s the note that comes next?”, my brain just knows it, and knows how to make it. I’ve got it memorized to the point where it feels intuitive and natural and it’s such an incredible feeling. This is why I wanted to learn an instrument–I wanted the feeling of music being an extension of myself and I wanted to feel the sound pour from my hands the same way the words pour from my mind.

I mean don’t get me wrong, you can hear plenty of mistakes when I’m playing it (I am so impatient and you can totally tell, ahaha), but it just feels so amazing to play and agh I love it.

I have a hell of a long way to go with violin before it’s quite what I hope for it to be, but I’m just so grateful that I get the chance right now to start to integrate something so amazing and meaningful into my life. The fact that I’m learning this new language, that I’m finding a new way to express myself, a new extension of my soul? It’s inspiring and powerful and breathtaking and I love it.

Y’know. When I’m not struggling with Christmas songs.

-Alex

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A Fish that Doesn’t Swim

I’m certain that this will come as a shock to you, so it might be best if you read this sitting down.

Several people in my life have told me that I am, in fact, too hard on myself.

I know, I know, why would they say such a thing? That’s not like me at all!

Except that I know it is, and even though I know it’s true, it still doesn’t seem to help.

Well, that’s not entirely truthful. I’ve definitely learned how to tone it down recently. I no longer feel the need to call myself a lazy loser if my only accomplishment for the day is reading thirty pages of a book, or threaten myself with visions of future doom and destitution if I don’t manage to write anything creative by the end of the day. Life is stressful and difficult and tiring as it is without adding on all this internal pressure to do more, do better, be better.

I know I’m not alone in this idea of being too hard on myself, and I’ve seen it in some of my friends too. These impossibly high standards, this very strict definition of success, this merciless idea of what is “acceptable”. It’s an understandable trap, the desire to do more, because it comes from all the best intentions. We believe we can do amazing things, we want to do amazing things, and we want to constantly push ourselves to do the best we possibly can and always strive to improve.

It’s great to want to improve and make or do something you’re proud of.

There is, of course, a point where it goes too far, as is the case with most things.

Because when you start pushing yourself for more and better and greater, you sometimes forget that you’ve actually achieved quite a lot.

And when you start basing your worth as a creator or a person on how “well” you think you’re doing or how much content you’re producing?

That’s a dangerous game.

One big thing I’ve experienced while being depressed is that it is absolutely impossible to live up to any of my high standards while simultaneously fighting through a mental illness. In fact, it’s impossible to even be able to do what I was doing before, which I used to think was “barely adequate”.

No focus, no energy, no motivation. It makes those already sky-high standards feel truly exorbitant.

So as somebody who is often too hard on myself, not being able to accomplish very much is beyond frustrating. It started to eat into my sense of worth, my sense of value. If I’m not producing 2000 words in a day, what kind of writer does that make me? If I’m not writing stories to share, then what am I doing with my time besides wasting it?

It was really easy to fall into this trap of “wasted time”, as if every minute of the day had to be spent doing something “meaningful”.

It’s probably pretty obvious that beating up on yourself like that isn’t a good way to feel better when you’re depressed.

So. Slowly (and painfully), I had to learn to not be hard on myself. Which felt a little bit like telling a fish not to swim, or a dog not to wag its tail when it’s happy. I had to let go of this idea of “wasted time”, I had to let go of this idea of my value being in how many words or stories I was writing, I had to let go of this idea that it’s not okay for me to spend my time reading books and watching YouTube videos and eating snacks in bed.

Because it is okay to do those things. Of course it is.

There is no right or wrong way to spend your time, as long as it’s something you feel is good for you.

Just because you’re not producing or accomplishing something does not at all decrease your worth as a person.

Not gonna lie, for a long time it felt like if I stopped pushing myself, if I told myself it was okay to spend my evening lying in bed listening to music instead of writing, then I would never do the work that makes me feel happy and meaningful and I would never feel better. But making myself feel guilty for not being able to do very much work wasn’t making me feel good at all.

It does feel better, to just accept your limitations. To be gentle with yourself. To admit that broken bones can only heal if you give them lots of rest.

I know that the world favours the capable, that it praises those who can do big, remarkable things, and it feels lonely and disappointing to not be one of the achievers. But it doesn’t stop you from being beautiful or wonderful or incredible or important.

You can be sprawled out on the couch for hours watching Netflix and still have a gorgeous head full of astounding hopes and dreams and beliefs.

You can be wrapped up in a blanket in a dark room and still have a breathtaking heart that is brave and loving and kind.

You can spend your time doing nothing but breathing and still have a laugh that makes the earth shiver and a smile that makes the sun soar and a body made of atoms that started their lives in the hearts of stars.

Your worth will never be tied to how much you can do, you hear me?

You have my full and wholehearted permission to stop being hard on yourself.

I know, it’s like telling a fish not to swim. But you’ll get used to it.

Turns out, floating is kind of nice.

-Alex

Mundane; Magnificent

I’ve always gone on about how life is the greatest adventure, but sometimes it feels like life is actually just a crummy, mediocre version of a really boring, really difficult adventure.

I mean, come on. Filling out tax forms, paying bills, buying groceries, getting the flu shot–none of those things are particularly fun or exciting or daring like adventures are supposed to be. You could probably argue that you could turn those things into an adventure if you had the right mindset, but the reality remains that they’re pretty mundane things to do.

Of course though, adventures aren’t 100% danger and excitement and thrill. Adventurers still have to do things like cook food and buy supplies and pay for places to sleep and walk on a path for gods-know-how-many hours a day if they’re trying to travel somewhere. And if the adventure is set in the real world, it makes it even more likely that the adventurers will have to do some of the mundane things required to stay alive and get a good (or at least decent) sleep at night. Adventures do have their dull moments, we just tend to write those out of the story.

But really, you could argue that adventures are just mimicking real life, except that they’ve been glorified to exhibit all the fun, dangerous bits and modified to leave out most of the boring ones.

In a way, that can make it pretty difficult to relate to adventures, when we feel like our lives aren’t very similar.

Which is something I feel a lot in my own life, and in my writing too. I mean, I’d love if my life was more exciting, made of more than just work and school and sleeping and writing, and I could go travelling and exploring and learning and all the exciting things that adventurers get to do. But at the same time, in POTS (the story I am presently writing) I find I have almost the opposite problem. My protagonist (who’s from this world) is off doing all these crazy exciting things and I’m trying to find a way to keep her human, keep her relatable. After all, she’s modelled after a teenager from our world, so I want her to really feel like a teenager, and not some distant action hero. So I almost have to pay more attention to the mundane bits of the adventure, whereas in my own life I’m trying to pay more attention to the exciting ones.

It’s quite a situation.

But I think it kind of emphasizes what exactly we find appealing about adventures. We like the danger, the excitement, the exploring and exploits. But we’re looking for the relatability, the parts that let us see ourselves in those same adventures, no matter how fantastic and out of this world they might be.

And that’s why the characters are so important, you know? We need a character that has the same fears and doubts that we do, the same morals, the same view of the world. We need a character that is going to react to an extreme situation in a way that we can understand and sympathize with. When the adventurer finally becomes the hero and does something big and brave, we still need to feel like, if we were in their shoes, we could have reached the same state of courage.

So I think it’s kind of cool to put characters through mundane situations, to see how they would act and behave. It’s like… this character can take down dragons and supervillains, but could they handle taxes? Would they know how to pick a ripe avocado at the supermarket? Can they cook a fancy quiche when they’re more used to kicking butt?

Which is probably why coffee shops and dinner dates are common scenes for fanfiction. We just love seeing our heroes act human.

I’m thinking I may have lost my original point through the course of this post, but ultimately I think that adventures aren’t that different from our everyday lives. They still have mundane, human moments amidst all the chaos and thrill. They just happen to have a lot more chaos and thrill than the typical life of a layman.

And like I said, with the right mindset, you could make just about anything into an adventure.

What was the last adventure you had?

May all your adventures have a touch of humanity in their magnificence.

-Alex

Another Year Gone By

The year is almost over, can you believe it? I’m not too sure the past few months even happened. They all feel like a restless dream.

But it’s the end of 2015, finally. A lot of things happened this year, worldwide and on a more personal scale. It seems to be the case for a lot of people that 2015 was a rough year to get through. I can agree with that. There were highlights, sure, but it seems the year was more swamped in stress and struggles than anything else.

But let’s catch up with the last few months, shall we?

October

I wasn’t around all that much in October with very sporadic posts. In the end, I didn’t get done everything I wanted to. I hardly did anything, it feels like. I didn’t even do my usual costume post, but I suppose I’ll do it now. I was Midna from Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess this year, and wow was it a fun costume to make. Midna is such a lovely character and it’s pretty empowering to be the Twilight Princess for a night. I was pretty pleased with the outcome and had a fantastic Halloween.20151113_154432

November

November was, of course, time for NaNoWriMo. It was a very rough month. I made my word quota on the first day no problem, and then it all went downhill from there. I didn’t reach the word count goal for the entire rest of the month. There were so many days when I didn’t write anything at all. I ended up having 18,000 words to write on the last day. Normally, that would be eleven days of writing. Eleven days. Eleven days of writing all saved for the very last day.

You sure as hell bet I made it.

I almost died, but I made it.

nano win 2015

(It says I wrote 21k words on the last day but 3k of those were from after midnight the day before)

I will admit, I did cheat a little bit. I changed my timezone on the website so that it gave me four extra hours to write. From the minute I woke up until 4am, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Pounding out two, three, four thousand words between classes. Writing through meals. Writing more than a thousand words per every half hour. It was very very close. The last several thousand words were probably more gibberish than anything (I didn’t even have time to correct typos…) but gods above, I wrote 18,000 words that day and I never ever want to do it ever again.

December

December was an odd month. It passed by slowly and yet all too quickly. Christmas sprang up out of nowhere. We didn’t get snow until a couple days ago (we’re in Canada, for crying out loud, what nonsense). I saw family and friends. We got a kitten at the end of November and have spent the month cuddling and wrestling with the little stinker. My sister and I got matching tattoos, which was a first for both of us. I’ve baked so many cookies and read so many books and stories and have spent so many lazy mornings in bed.

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And now we’re here. Almost in January. By the time this post goes up, I’ll be ringing in the new year with friends and 2016 will be just a few hours away.

I can’t wait.

I want to kiss 2015 goodbye. I’ll take with me the few good memories. I’ll carry forward the new friendships I’ve made. And I’ll leave behind all the rest because frankly I don’t want it. This year was far too much and not enough. It was a struggle and a war. There’s no promise that 2016 will be better, but at least we’ll all be stronger.

But as always, it’s resolution time. Last year’s resolutions:

  • Finish that book. It’s never too late.
  • Keep working on that bravery thing. It doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Find balance. In body and soul, mind and spirit.
  • Reflect more often, and be mindful of the little things.

For point number one, I was successful. Again, it was kind of by cheating. I wanted to finish the second draft this year but in a sense, I didn’t succeed. I made it to chapter 38, which was still four or five chapters from the end. But I was so frustrated with how hard I found it to rewrite every chapter that I decided to write the last few chapters as more of an outline than proper narrative. So I didn’t technically finish it, but I finished it enough for me to be satisfied and move onto draft number three. I’m also pretty convinced that a lot of writing is just learning how to cheat.

For the next two points, about bravery and balance, I’m not so sure I was successful with either of those. There was a lot of stress, a lot of inner struggle, and both peace and bravery were hard to attain. That’s all right. That’s what 2016 is for.

As for reflecting more often, I think this happened a lot this year. With the whole depression thing, it’s led to me spending hours in my journal, trying to figure things out, trying to find some hope in the madness. I’m not so sure I was mindful of the little things, but it’s another thing I can work on in years to come.

So for this year’s resolutions?

  • Work through the 3rd draft
    • Get some people to read it
  • Blog more (I’ve missed it)
  • Find balance and bravery, one step at a time
  • Build up my self-esteem
    • Start by admitting that my words and my self are important
  • Let go. Just let go. It’s the past. Let it go.

My resolutions are perhaps more detailed and extensive than previous years, but 2015 was rough and left a little more work to be done for the next year. I think these resolutions are worthy ones, and I hope to work towards them in the coming months.

Last but not least, a song to give you inspiration for the new year. This one is Battle Scars by Paradise Fears. It’s a couple years old now but I only stumbled upon it recently.

Happy New Year.

May it be a year of strength and success.

You can do this.

-Alex

Your Story 2015: The Project That Almost Didn’t Happen

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[ABOUT YOUR STORY 2015]

I doubt the title of this post is very surprising. Considering I planned to launch this project on July 11th, and it’s now September 13th, I imagine there was a lot of doubt as to whether or not this thing was really happening. Believe me, there were times when I didn’t think I was going to go through with it. I didn’t have the time or energy to do what I wanted, I was slow to advertise, I was disorganized, I wanted to give up. I nearly did. There were a couple times when I started to write out an apology post explaining why I wasn’t doing it this year.

But the same reason I wanted to give up on it was the same reason I needed it to happen.

I know I’ve griped and groaned about the factory job enough on this blog. It’s a nightmare that’s fortunately behind me now, and while I’m very very glad that it is… it doesn’t feel like it’s over. I’m back in school now, I’ve had a few classes, I’m getting into a better routine, I’m looking forward to autumn, my life is getting much better. But…

I still feel tired all the time. I still feel like I have no focus. I still struggle to keep up with daily life. I still cry a lot. I still have anxiety attacks. I still give up on myself easily. I still have days where I feel utterly hopeless.

I’m still depressed.

I still have depression.

Some of you reading this know a bit about the situation, though some of you may not. But yeah. Working at the factory wasn’t the reason I became depressed, but it was bad enough that it made my depression a thousand times worse than it should have been. Coupled with the anxiety that I’ve had for as long as I can remember… it’s been a bit of a battle over here, I’m sorry to say. Because even though I’m out of the factory, I’m not out of the depression mindset. It’s something I have to struggle with for a while longer, to truly overcome it. Hence why I’ve been an organizational disaster here on WordPress.

It’s not something I intend to talk that much about on my blog, not for a while anyways, but know that it is something I’m addressing and seeking help for. I want Valourbörn to be a bit of an escape for me, and while I think talking about my depression here will be good and useful at one point, I don’t know how useful it will be right now.

But one thing that I know is definitely useful right now is Your Story.

The very point of Your Story, especially the Trials aspect of it, is to inspire others with your stories of heroism and strength. To share your light with the world and give others a little bit of hope. To prove that trials can be overcome. Where I am now, I can see just how important hope and inspiration are. And I know I’m not the only one who needs it.

So Your Story is happening. I have a couple entries to put up hopefully this week, but I would love more. If you’re working on something already, thank you so much, keep on writing. If you’re on the fence, here’s your friendly little nudge to go for it. And if any of you would be so inclined to share the project on WordPress or Facebook or Twitter or go bug your friends to do it or just somehow spread the word, I would be enormously grateful. I haven’t advertised it the way I want to and I could use a bit of help.

I’m even thinking about extending the deadline to the end of the year. So tell your friends that I’m a pushover and they don’t need to feel pressured to get it done in the next two weeks.

That’s all for now. Consider this the official start of Your Story, complete with streamers and confetti and fanfare. I hope to hear from many of you soon.

Take care.

-Alex

Camp NaNo: Reaver

Hey, it’s been a while! I’m probably going to apologize for my absence every time this happens because I don’t want to be away but darn life gets in the way. So apologies. I realize my blog has been real quiet lately >:I

But it’s the 3rd of August, if you can believe it, and that means that July’s Camp NaNoWriMo is officially over!

For those who don’t know, Camp NaNoWriMo is like regular NaNoWriMo, where you try to write a novel in a month, except that Camp NaNo has no rules. You can pick your word goal and you can write whatever you please. It’s just a fun summer thing to do to get you writing words with other geeky writers around the world.

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, I attempted Camp NaNo again this year. But instead of doing short stories like I tried last April, I aimed for an actual novel this time. I’d recently gotten a story idea that I was really excited about and I figured it would be a perfect summer project. I knew it was going to be a biggie so I set my goal at 60k and thought it would be a great month.

The beginning, unfortunately, was pretty rough, but I mean, that was to be expected. After all, July 1st is Canada Day and I had plans with friends. But I thought it would only set me back a little bit, no big deal, I’d catch up in no time.

Hahaha. Haha. Ha.

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As you can see, by day 23 I was just a liiiiittle bit behind. Just a little bit. And realizing that it was going to be very hard for me to reach 60k at that point when I wasn’t even at 15k, I changed my wordcount goal to 40k. Much more manageable, yes.

But on day 26, I had 16 022 words. I had 23 978 words left to write. And only 5 days left.

There was panic, yes. There was a very strong desire to give up and throw in the towel. But during the #NaNoInspired event on July 16th, a day of fundraising and inspiration-sharing to boost wordcounts, the NaNoWriMo Twitter account actually retweeted something I had said:

“But all this community geekery is encouraging me to keep going. I’ve chosen to write this novel, so I’d better keep at it.”

So when I was thinking of giving up, I remembered how I had been retweeted. People had seen my words of determination. They’d seen my commitment to continue writing my novel. I was now accountable.

Damn it, I thought. Well now I have to finish my novel.

Oh yes, I did it.

I wrote 24000 words in 5 days.

I don’t know how.

But I did it.

camp graph camp win

It felt so good though. I mean, after I went straight to bed and slept forever and spent some time relaxing and not churning out words–it felt really good to have the win.

Sooo enough with the numbers, here’s what the story (called Reaver) is actually about:

With civil war brewing and racial tensions running high, it never occurred to Alekess that her actions would cause any political stir. It never occurred to her that she would inspire a movement, that her name would become synonymous with hope, or that she would lose so much.

She became Reaver. She became a leader and a figurehead. A reason to fight and a reason to seek peace. And as her name was growing, becoming a blazing torch against the consuming hatred, she was struggling with herself and everything she stood for. Just as she thought she was finding herself, she realized she was losing everything she’d ever loved. She was losing herself.

Reaver is the name of a dauntless hope. But it is also the name of a terrible fear.

A fear that may yet consume her.

I don’t even know if I’m happy with that synopsis because all the times I try to explain the story to someone, I don’t know what to say. It’s one of those stories where… nothing happens. I mean, yes, stuff happens and it’s very important and it changes the world but… it’s not really anything that feels like a plot. The plot is more in the characters’ lives. And that’s a lot harder to explain in a synopsis.

Only three of the really important characters have been introduced so far, and of course they’ve decided to go against what I originally planned for them and just create their own personalities as they go along. Sigh. Oh well. Such is writing.

I’m going to have to finish the story at a later date (the 2nd draft of that dreaded manuscript I always go on about still isn’t done… *shudder*), but it was a lot of fun to write. The odd thing is, though, that there’s not really a moment in Reaver that stands out to me. Usually after writing for a month I would have some scene or another that felt important and significant.

I suppose one thing that has been important and pleasantly challenging to write is all the non-verbal communication between characters. Body language–or lack thereof–is incredibly important in this story and tells a lot about the characters and their world. And one scene that was fun to write because of this is the following:

Kneeling a few feet away from her, respectfully keeping his distance even as he tried to be close enough to reassure her, he asked, “What happened?”

She stared at him, her distress and her ebbing hostility pulsing in her eyes with a rhythm like a heartbeat. That gaze held him, communicated with him in a way that body language or words never could, and though he barely understood it, he felt it. And as he watched the distress take hold of that vibrant space, she quietly began to cry.

It’s interesting to write a scene like that, one frozen moment where they both seem to understand each other, because all their interactions up to that point have been so different. Her magic has to do with feeling the world, sensing it deeply. His magic has to do with seeing the world, understanding it logically. So them having a space where neither sight nor sense is necessary is pretty cool, as far as their development is concerned.

Anyways, I’m sure I’ve rambled on about it for long enough. Apologies, again, for the silence. There are things I want to write, just not enough time to write them. Ugh. Oh well. I shall keep trying.

What has been your best summer achievement thus far?

May you never give up.

Alex

Your Story: Trials and Free World

Hello, dear readers. As promised, I have returned with more information and guidelines about this year’s Your Story!

The below is just a run-down of what I’m looking for and how the process works. I’m sure I’ll miss something, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

The Basics:

  • You can enter a story into one or both categories, Trials or Free World
    • Trials is memoir, about your life specifically
    • Free World is fiction, a story coming from your heart
  • You can use any style (e.g. humorous vs. heartfelt, essay vs. poetry)
  • Wordcount is pretty flexible; last year’s longest was almost 3000 words, while the shortest was 150 words
  • Keep the language rated PG and we’re good to go

The Nitty-Gritty:

  • This story 100% belongs to you forever
  • My only rights are to post it on my blog, tweak some formatting, and run a spellcheck
  • You can post it anywhere you’d like without crediting me
  • You can ask me to take it down at any point in time if you change your mind

The When and How:

  • I’m accepting submissions from now till the end of September
  • The project will go live on July 11th and run till the end of September
  • You can submit your story by emailing me at valourborn@gmail.com
    • it can be an attachment or written straight in the email
  • You can have it published anonymously or under your preferred name
    • you can also give me links to your blog/social media to put with the post
  • Please include links to any videos and pictures you might want to include
    • or, if you have your own, please send me the link/file
  • I’ll contact you prior to publishing so that you can check the post over before it goes live
  • I’ll then send you a link in an email telling you when it’s posted

I think that about covers it, from what I can think of. Again, questions are welcome! And I encourage you to consider participating if there’s any story at all that you’d like to tell. I’m happy to help you out if I can–I’m not asking you to be a master writer, I’m just asking you to tell a story :)

If you’d like to share on social media, bug your friends to join, or give it a try yourself, I would be enormously grateful. I love reading your stories, I honestly do, and I’d love to be able to help share them with the world.

And if you need a little inspiration, you can always check out last year’s entries here. Go on, read them. They’re well worth it!

Take care, everyone. I hope to be hearing from you soon!

(Or you’ll be hearing from me, because I’m going to be bugging you via emails, oh yes.)

-Alex

The Warrior Within

I’m sure you’ve heard me say before how it was always my dream, even as a kid, to be a warrior. I’m sure you’ve heard me say before how that lifestyle has inspired me and guided my steps. And I’m sure you understand how pleased and proud I am to be able to confidently say that I feel like a warrior.

Given all the chaos and stress of the past three months (which has doubled in the past month alone, with this new job situation), it’s no surprise that I’m as exhausted as I am. It’s no surprise that I feel just as weary as if I’ve come out of an epic battle. It’s no surprise that I’m wound tighter than a bowstring and that it’s been so easy for me to cry lately. It’s no surprise and it’s not my fault. I’m handling it as best I can.

The fact that I’m still sane, that I’m still belting out songs in the car and dancing as I make my food, that I’m staying connected with my friends and am meeting new people, that I’m writing and gaming and dreaming–all of that is pretty incredible. I’ve had to ask for help a few times (and have been given so much support by both old friends and new acquaintances), but I’ve made it through time and time again. And even though I’m feeling the ache and discouragement of my hardships, there is a resilience within me that has kept me going. Forged into the toughest steel, it gives me strength.

It is my inner warrior.

I found this quote not that long ago and it really stuck in my head:

Do not speak badly of yourself, for the warrior that is inside you hears your words and is lessened by them. You are strong and you are brave. There is a nobility of spirit within you. Let it grow — you will do well enough. 

-David Gemmell, Quest for Lost Heroes

Because even though I’m proud of myself for coping for so long, there have been moments when the frustration and disappointment have caused me to turn on myself. Every time I cry or screw up at work, there’s a temptation to get angry with myself. There’s a temptation to be harshly critical and pick apart my mistakes. There’s a temptation to bully myself into believing that my tears make me weak and hypersensitive. And every time I feel that temptation, I feel my inner warrior losing strength.

That’s when we get into trouble. When even we don’t believe in ourselves, what hope do we have of being successful? How will we have the courage to keep fighting when we don’t deem ourselves capable enough to do so? Why would we fight to protect ourselves, to overcome our trials, if we don’t believe that we are worth fighting for?

There is a warrior within you. Your warrior may not be strong or brave or fearless, but your warrior has potential. And your warrior needs to be nurtured. Don’t let yourself believe that your mistakes make you incompetent; the lesson learned from a failure is worth twice that of a success. Don’t let yourself believe that your tears are an indication of weakness; we cry when we are in pain, and pain is not an easy thing to endure. When your inner warrior falters, believing for a moment that they are not strong enough, you are there to rally their spirits and encourage them to rise to the challenge. You are the one who’s there to support and inspire your inner warrior. You are the one who can make you believe in yourself.

Please don’t forget how important you are. Please be forgiving towards yourself. Please keep believing that you are worth fighting for.

There is a warrior within you, and should you give that warrior a reason to fight, you will be given protection for the rest of your life. While your body may be battered, your soul will be kept safe.

Be kind to yourselves <3

What encouragement would you give your inner warrior?

May the warrior within you never falter, but always find the strength to continue.

-Alex

Ringing in the New Year

Well hello there! Can you believe it’s 2015 already? This whole past year feels like some strange dream and I don’t think I’m quite prepared for it to be over.

Then of course my body decided I would get a wicked cold to kick things off, ‘cause what better way to celebrate than by drowning in mucous and tears? Haha it’s actually somewhat subsided right now… I’m drinking hot chocolate and wearing my Perry the Platypus slippers so that helps ;)

Aaaanyways since it’s a new year, and since I haven’t been around very much this past week, I wanted to take the opportunity to catch up with everyone! I still need to go and read all the posts I’ve missed, but I shall get to that when I’m a little less groggy, promise.

Christmas

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and really just a lovely holiday season in general. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the chance to meet up with friends and family these past couple weeks, and it’s been good to see all these beautiful people again. Honestly, half of the time while I was hanging out with them (especially those I haven’t seen in several months), I was just overwhelmed by how much I love them. Especially since I also spent the month riding at the barn again (and horse-sitting, yay!) and so I not only got the chance to really ride for the first time in months, but I also truly appreciated how much of a family our barn is. It’s amazing, how much everyone cares for one another.

While I unfortunately didn’t have the pleasure of spending Christmas with you guys, I hope you know that you honest to goodness are so important to me. There is such a strong community here on WordPress and you all truly honour me with your friendship <3

As well! If you were wondering at all about The Christmas Slug story, the inspiration for it came from real life. I was the daughter who discovered a slug hanging from our tree, and it was my mom who coined the phrase “the Christmas slug”. The rest of the story is more imaginative than realistic, but I was quite enamoured with that tiny little slug :)

Writing

As you heard, I did not make my writing goal this year. I’ve barely written anything else since that post, so yeah, I’m not going to finish it this year. Ohhhh well. Honestly… I am okay with it. I’m okay with not having finished it. It’s not the first time my progress has lulled, and though I wish it hadn’t, I understand that it’s just how I write. I hammer out some progress, and then I step back and rest, and then I get back at it again. So I’m resting right now, and then when I’m healthy and fit again I’ll go back to hammering out the progress. It’ll be done soon enough.

As for the post I wrote for you, I kept the names secret by shortening to initials. My characters are not quite ready for their time to shine and besides, I mostly just use their first initials when I’m editing anyways. But that was such a nice piece for me to write, because I just got to enjoy spending time with my characters, who have become like real people to me. Envisioning them sitting across the table, imagining their little habits—it makes me smile. One day you shall meet them. Ah K and T… what dorks :P

But for those of you who have supported my writing this year, both during NaNoWriMo and during my recent project—enormous hugs and thanks to you. Seriously. I am beyond honoured and grateful that you consider my words worthwhile, and I am insanely thankful that you keep supporting me even when times are rough. You’re awesome <3

The Old Year

Ah, 2014. The first part was rough, with all my university anxiety, but the months since have been so much better. I’ve had the chance to become a forest explorer, I managed to make two new friends, and I survived (and passed) all my courses! Hooray!

Besides that, though, this year has been a time of growth and learning.  I’ve come to know myself better in the past twelve months than the past twelve years, and it’s such a settling and empowering feeling to know that I understand. I know how to take care of myself and I know how to help myself grow even more. I’ve still got lots to learn, but I’m proud of myself for coming so far.

Now, as for my resolutions for 2014, let’s see how I did, shall we?

  • Breathe. Don’t stress out. Don’t procrastinate (seriously).
  • Don’t be hard on yourself. Progress is progress, no matter how slight.
  • Keep learning to be brave. You’ve got it in you. Somewhere.
  • Finish your book. This is the year.

I actually handled the breathing/stress/procrastination one quite well. I only had two freak outs this semester, and they were just pre-test jitters so overall pretty manageable. The progress one is still a work-in-progress, although I’m much better at it than I was last year. The bravery one, also a work-in-progress. And as for finishing my book–I’m working on it. Progress is progress, no matter how slight.

I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished this year, and so I think I can peacefully bid it farewell.

The New Year

But the future is upon us! This is a whole new year, with 365 new days for progress and growth and learning. And so if I am to make new resolutions, they would be the following:

  • Finish that book. It’s never too late.
  • Keep working on that bravery thing. It doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Find balance. In body and soul, mind and spirit.
  • Reflect more often, and be mindful 0f the little things.

Again, my resolutions are broad and forgiving. They are the aspects of my life that I would like to pay some attention to, and hopefully achieve by this time next year.

And as I did once before, I shall leave you with a song for inspiration. This is I Lived by OneRepublic. It’s a song that has grown in importance for me throughout the year and will hopefully have some meaning for you too.

I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

This is your year. Go out and live. Enjoy every moment, and never lose faith. Though there may be rough patches, though you may break some bones, you will prevail. You have the power to make your life beautiful.

Happy New Year.

-Alex