April’s Over Already?

GnnnnnnnnfhshdkjlGGGGHhgbh.

Huff. It’s been a while.

Quite a few Wednesdays and Sundays have passed since my last post, as well as the 15th of April, which should have been a LotSF update, but uh yeah. Whoops.

I’m actually not terribly upset with myself, because it’s not like I didn’t try. I have my LotSF post fully outlined, as well as the first few paragraphs written out, but wow I haven’t been able to focus lately. I sat down several times to try to write something and just really struggled to put words together. Even now I’m really fighting to get my thoughts in order.

It happens. Sometimes focus is not a cooperative thing. I did genuinely try, so I can give myself brownie points for that, and it just didn’t work out. Stressing myself about it is not worth it.

So until I get back on track, I’m probably going to ease back on my goals. Give myself some time to brainstorm and get the momentum going again. It’s all good.

The weather’s slowly been getting nicer here as spring makes its noncommittal return, so a few days ago I took a detour while walking home from the library and went for a walk through the small patch of woods near my house (the one that started LotSF, actually). There wasn’t too much green out yet, but there was a whole lot of moss that really stood out in the sunlight. I’m not sure if I’ve ever expressed my deep adoration of moss before (nature’s perfect carpet) but I love it so much.

It’s so nice to be back outside, especially in a place that feels so welcoming and familiar. It’s funny because as I’m walking through the trees it’s so easy to imagine myself as the Alex in my story, surrounded by so much life and magic that I just can’t see. I can imagine sprites and bearskins and lily-slips and the whole lot. I can see all those little details that fascinated me the first time and inspired me to look deeper, to imagine more.

And there’s that reminiscent feeling of spring arriving, driving out the winter blahs, announcing newness and fresh beginnings and the excitement of bigger and better things to come.

The way things have been going–with the lack of focus, the inability to blog, feeling out of touch with what used to inspire me–that’s the winter. That’s what made LotSF Alex deaf and blind. But with time and patience and determination, spring will bring everything back where it belongs.

This is why we write these stories. To remind us of the truths of the world.

I hope you are all well. Talk soon.

-Alex

 

Advertisements

LotSF: Chasing Fear

PREVIOUS CHAPTER

I tripped on a root, exhaustedly catching myself against a tree trunk and standing weak-kneed for a moment to try to catch my breath. I was becoming progressively clumsier as I went on, less and less steady on my feet, less and less able to keep myself going every time I tripped. My whole body felt like a throbbing bruise. Every muscle wanted me to lie down on the forest floor and give up.

And this felt so terribly hopeless.

Why was I out here, wandering the forest alone and injured?

How could I ever find my horse in hundreds of acres of trees, when I didn’t even really know if she was alive?

But I had nothing else. Nothing to lose. Nothing to do but keep moving, keep walking, keep trying to fix the mess I’d made. So I pushed myself away from the tree and focussed on putting one foot in front of the other.

Almost an hour after I’d started walking, as the sun sank lower and lower towards the horizon, I noticed them. Bearskins. Creeping silently between the trees on either side of me, easily keeping pace. Their hungry, greedy eyes were fixed on me, glowing yellow and amber in the dying light, and my hand reflexively dropped to my hip. My sword wasn’t there. I was weaponless, surrounded on every side by dozens of monsters that could easily tear me apart.

But they weren’t attacking. They kept me surrounded, they kept their eyes trained on me, but not a single one of them stepped towards me. If I stopped walking, they paced restlessly, antsy and jumpy and skittish. They were afraid of me. Afraid of my ugly, flaming magic, most likely. It made me feel astoundingly powerful, knowing they wouldn’t dare touch me, but being this close to something so brutally dangerous raised the hairs on my arms and neck. It was so incredibly eerie.

The sun sank lower, burning the sky red and gold, and still I hadn’t even come close to finding Faith. I was tiring myself out, disorienting myself in this massive forest, and keeping myself company with a pack of bearskins–company that made my stomach twist into all sorts of horrible knots. This didn’t feel like progress. It felt like it was making things worse and I was growing desperate.

But over the next little ridge, I found a river.

Judging from the size and speed of the river (plus a pretty desperately hopeful bias), I decided it was safe to assume this was the same river the gypsy camp was built alongside. That meant that if I followed it in the right direction, I would find the gypsies and possibly even Faith. Except that I couldn’t figure out which direction would take me to the camp. I knew vaguely the direction we’d ridden to fight the bearskins, but had that been up- or downriver? I couldn’t remember enough to give myself a clear answer. I couldn’t even use the position of the sun–I’d never thought to pay attention to its location when we marched out.

I was lost. Completely and utterly lost, with a 50/50 chance of becoming found.

I could walk forever, trying to find the camp, and as injured and fatigued as I was… what if I didn’t make it? What if the gypsies weren’t even there? What if the bearskins finally realized I was too weak to hurt them and attacked me?

Feeling helpless and powerless and so horribly lost, I waded into the cold water. I walked past my thighs, up to my hips, water flowing under my dusty, ashy armour, before falling to my knees and letting the river rush over my shoulders and chest. My blood mingled with the water where it flowed past my damaged shoulder and I wished it would wash the rest of me away, carrying me along the river’s course, dumping my ashes into the lake where they would settle to the bottom.

I felt the water drag at my body, urging me to join it, to give up my pointless quest, to just admit that I’d failed and run away from all my problems. Its weight was so tempting, so soothing, and I wanted to follow wherever it might take me.

This was so, so hopeless.

But it was my fault.

did this to Nolan. did this to Faith. did this to myself.

So was going to fix it, damn it.

I felt it again, the little stirring anger in my chest, that ugly black hole where my magic used to be. It burned like a coal within my ribs, urging me up onto my feet, pushing me out of the river. I was angry. At myself, at the bearskins, at the woman who’d kidnapped Nolan, and that anger drove me on, drove me up, drove me onto the riverbank. I staggered, lungs heaving, feeling an electric energy build inside me that I could neither stop nor control, and I felt heat brush against the insides of my palms. I looked down at my hands, remembered the flames.

Small, lazy yellow tongues of fire dripped down my fingers.

The bearskins stirred anxiously in the shadows of the trees. I turned towards them, raised my hands. They pressed back, away, clamouring over one another to try to escape me. They were terrified of the magic.

The anger kicked up in my chest. I wanted to summon massive torrents of flame, I wanted to hurl them at the beasts and punish them for what they’d done to me. But I bit back, reined in the fury, held white-knuckled onto the fire in my hands. I would not let this anger overcome me. I would not let it consume me.

Because while the bearskins were doing everything they could to escape me, they weren’t fleeing randomly into the forest. They were gathering at a specific point, some of them darting off into the darkness but all of them following the same path. I walked towards them and they funnelled along that path, never straying, never breaking away.

There was something there. Something they felt they could run to. Something that made them feel safe.

Maybe it was the woman who’d stolen Nolan. Maybe it was something else.

But it was better than wandering alone in the dark.

The anger, the determination, lifted me above the pain and fatigue.

Fire clutched tightly in my hands, I took off after the fleeing bearskins at a run.

***

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I did it. I actually wrote a LotSF chapter.

It’s horribly late (it’s currently 1:23am, whoops) but it’s done. It’s here. I did it!

It feels good. It feels really good. I am proud of myself. And I am so much happier with the way this chapter went than the way it was going before.

Again again, thank you everyone for being patient and all of that, I hope this was worth the wait.

For those who are possibly new to the whole thing, welcome welcome. I hope you enjoy.

And I hope everyone is having a good weekend thus far. I will see you all sometime tomorrow (or later today, since it’s already Sunday) for my regular posting schedule.

Good night!

-Alex

 

 

Some Preparatory Words

Here we are, March 31st (shhh, please just pretend), the day before I finally begin to update LotSF again.

Or so you thought! Haha, April Fools’! I’ve actually given up on the story and am throwing it in the garbage. Goodbye. Adios. Rest in pieces! *jazz hands and glitter*

Okay, no, obviously I’ve not given up on the story, but with the amount of effort it’s taken to figure out what to do with it, I kind of do want to take this big old mess and toss it in the trash. Siiigh.

You’ll notice it’s a really weird day for me to be posting (Friday vs. Wednesday), and that’s because I wanted to say a few things before the next chapter of the story goes live tomorrow. First off, if for some reason you’re new to Language of the Small Folk, here is a great place to start (the links to the story are all on that page). Second, I’ve decided to make some changes to the story that I honestly didn’t think I was going to make.

I noticed as I was rereading the story (yes, I reread things I wrote FOUR YEARS ago, oh the pain) that after the second chapter of Winter, there is a huge change in tone. It’s like, we go from the struggle of not giving up in Getting Up, and then in Guidance suddenly I’m writing about this random forest lady who gives me a gift of warm light and huh? Then the next two chapters are just… off. They’re very off. I think maybe it was the result of me not writing as consistently as I did in the beginning of this project but wow it’s really hard to read.

It’s just not right. Which is also maybe why I had such a hard time continuing the story. It somehow meandered off into some weird part of the forest that it was never really supposed to go.

I hummed and hawed about it, because the point of this story was to just go where it took me, and it was important that each chapter just be allowed to exist as an intuitive expression of my heart and soul and blah blah, so it felt… wrong, in a way, to consider going back and changing those last three chapters. But I really don’t like them. I hate them. And they make this awful, awkward lull in the story that would be really disconcerting to anyone reading the story for the first time.

So I have indeed decided that I am going to remove the 3rd, 4th, and 5th chapters of Winter from the LotSF timeline.

The chapters will stay up on the blog in their original format, and I’ve changed it on the About LotSF page so that it’s clear they’re not a part of the story anymore, but for the intent and purpose of the story you can pretend they don’t exist. Erase them from your memory, banish them from the realm, forbid them from ever stepping foot in this place again. Or y’know. Something less dramatic.

Because of this, I am picking up immediately where I left off in the second chapter of Winter, Getting Up, and will hopefully be able to better match the tone and content that suits the story. I feel that this “fresh start” will allow me to write the story better and bring me closer to the ending I’ve imagined.

As always, thank you guys for being patient with me as I go about mucking the story up and changing my mind every time I turn around. It’s a bit chaotic but that’s what makes it more fun, right?

Lastly, as we gear up for the release of the next chapter, here is a lovely little summary of the story thus far, in case you understandably don’t want to read through a story that’s four whole years old (just think of the sacrifice I made for you).


After winter leaves her deaf and blind to the Small Folk, Alex is determined to find the root of the problem so she can get her magic back. With Nolan’s help, she sets off to meet the gypsy tribe, intending to help them with a simple emergency and potentially trigger her lost magic.

The feathered Small Folk are wounded and desperate; the threat plaguing them is worse than it first seemed. A pack of bearskins are on the hunt–vicious, violent creatures that feed off of fear and emotional distress. Simultaneously confronted with the devastating discovery that the barrier blocking her magic is psychological, Alex is not prepared for the battle ahead of her.

The gypsies fight as bravely as they can but the odds are not in their favour. The gypsies begin to fade, Nolan’s life is put in danger by a bearskin unlike the others, and Alex’s anger surges as the battle gets out of her control. Finally, in a burst of flame and fury, the blackness crowding her heart flares and leaves her cold, injured, and alone. The bearskins have been beaten back, but Nolan is nowhere to be found.

Stumbling through the forest, Alex is now left to figure out on her own how she can save her best friend and find Faith in the bearskin-infested woods…


Again, if you would like to read the first part of the story, the PDF is here, or all chapters are here.

That’s all for now. I will see everyone tomorrow for the oh-so-(probably not)-anticipated release of the next chapter.

All the best.

-Alex

A Foreign Language

There is one thing that is more neglected than my poor blog, and that of course is Language of the Small Folk.

I remember exactly where I left off. I remember it so well because I probably tried finishing that chapter a dozen times without success.

I had been writing every LotSF post on the spot, usually the same day it was published. It worked pretty well for me; I’d get into the heat of the moment, really feel the emotion of the particular chapter, and just let the story take me wherever it flowed. But for that last chapter I was working on, it really didn’t work.

I think I may have perhaps written myself into a corner.

Oops.

I mean, I know where I planned to go with it, I know how I wanted it to lead into the rest of the story, so it’s not like I couldn’t work with it. I just… lost a bit of the passion, I think, when I started into that scene, and it made it really hard to write it.

So what on earth am I going to do.

Since I’ve been blogging more, I’ve been enjoying the rigors of a schedule to give me a deadline and keep me motivated. I’ve been considering doing the same thing with LotSF–perhaps I will be more reliable and more motivated if I actually have set dates in which each chapter is due.

My idea is to post two chapters a month: one on the 1st, one on the 15th. If those days fall on a Wednesday or Sunday (a regular posting day), I’ll publish the regular post either on the day before or the day after, to keep things a little more spread out.

I mean, once upon a time I would post at least one LotSF post a week (and for a while it was every other day, believe it or not), so this leaves a lot more wiggle room than there used to be. But I think every 2 weeks isn’t so bad, and it will give me plenty of time to work on chapters in between deadlines.

I plan to resume the story with the new posting schedule starting on April 1st (April Fools’, I know, sorry). So hopefully that gives you guys plenty of time to reacquaint with the story and gives me time to get everything ready.

Now of course, I have a feeling it’s been so long since the last update that most of the people who were reading it don’t remember so well what happened last. My own memory is pretty foggy, and I’m the one who wrote the darn thing. So when I do post the next chapter up on April 1st, I’ll be sure to include a brief summary of the story so far, just to get everyone up to speed (and remind myself where exactly I was going with this).

But in the meantime, for those of you who might be new, or maybe just want to read the chapters again (which would be insanely flattering), I’ve compiled the whole first part of the story (named Spring) into a PDF that you can read or download here. Plus, the links for all the chapters for both parts (Spring and Winter) can be found on the main About page for LotSF here.

Thank you for your patience and huge thanks to those who have read every chapter. It means the world to me that you guys enjoy the things I put so much passion into (even if that passion seems to come in fits and bursts).

All the best.

-Alex

The Good, the Bad, and the Doubtful

Oh, crippling doubt.

A very familiar presence.

I’m pretty sure that the very second you begin to even faintly consider yourself anything of a writer (or any type of creator, really), you automatically sign yourself up for daily/weekly/monthly deliveries of doubt. Doubt that you’re any good, doubt that your work is inspiring or meaningful, doubt that you’re doing the best you possibly can. That little voice at the back of the head nags you, telling you it’s pretentious or passionless or clumsy or juvenile. And from what I’ve gathered, doubt isn’t really the sort of thing that goes away, even after years and years and years spent creating.

And doubt is exactly the thing that came creeping up on me not long after I’d published my last blog post, Infinite Imaginings.

I doubted that it was inspired enough, I doubted that it was written as well as it could have been–I doubted that I did justice to the message I was trying to convey. I felt like maybe I could have been more creative and imaginative, creating deeper, more unique stories for the things I talked about. I felt like maybe if I’d spent more time and really pushed the message, really polished it up, I would have made something so much better.

Of course, there’s the catch: it would have taken more time.

As you’ve possibly noticed, I’ve been trying very hard to blog on a more reliable schedule. I’m aiming to get a post up every Wednesday and Sunday, which means that I’ve been keeping myself busy writing blog posts and juggling this with some of the other projects I’ve been working on. Right now, I don’t have a queue–I’m writing most of these posts the day before they’re due, allowing me to do a quick edit on the posting day and to add any last touches I might think of. I also don’t really have a backlog of ideas–again, these ideas are being thought up one or two days before I’m actually posting them.

It’s not as tight a schedule as when I used to blog every other day (how the heck did I manage that?!), but it’s still a lot tighter of a schedule than, say, posting once every three months. I have to keep coming up with ideas, I have to keep writing them, and I have to keep moving on to the next one just as soon as I’m done.

That means that there’s not too much room for doubt.

I would love to sit down and spend a week or two working on a blog post, carefully crafting it into the best possible content I can produce, and I hope that if I come up with an idea that really inspires me, I will, but if I did that for all my posts, I wouldn’t be able to keep up this schedule. And of course there’s always the risk that if I let the doubt get to me, if I let myself believe it’s not good enough, I need to do better, I might just end up never posting it at all. I might never think it’s good enough to share and then what’s the point of writing it at all?

It’s a really tricky balance, I think, trying to push for the best you can achieve while also allowing yourself to just create.

You really have to be okay with making mistakes, or with producing things that aren’t the best.

I mean, obviously in 20 years I’ll have a different writing style and maybe it will be “better” than the one I have now. Obviously in 20 years I’ll have learned some things and will have more insight and experience to offer. Obviously in 20 years I will be more capable of many things than I am at this very moment. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write and create things now, even knowing that it won’t be the best I’ll ever achieve.

Because sure, if I look back at all the things I’ve written on Valourbörn, I can find lots of examples of posts I’m admittedly a little embarrassed about. Ideas that weren’t as meaningful as I thought, concepts that I wasn’t very passionate about, messages that just came across clumsy and shallow and not at all what I wanted to be. That tends to happen, when you create things–you make a lot of bad content, you make a lot of mistakes and misjudgements.

But I can also think of lots of posts that I am still really proud of.

Posts that ended up being more inspiring than I first thought, posts that were very significant and personal and honest, posts that made people laugh and smile and feel things. I’ve made plenty of “bad” posts that in hindsight I would have scrapped, but I’ve also made so many posts that remind me why I started blogging in the first place.

I mean, one of the first ones I think of it The Shadow’s Heart, which is a post I wrote on a whim that received a lot more love than I expected. There was the one about not eating dog poo that I thought was pretty fun, and the whole caramel pears debacle that everybody else thought was fun. There’s the story of The Christmas Slug that my mother brings up every year, and The Warrior Within, which holds a special place in my heart. And then, of course, there is the Epic Saga of the  Quest for the Styrofoam Balls. All of these posts make me smile when I recall the passion and energy and heart that went into them.

But the only reason I even have those good posts is because I wasn’t afraid to write the bad ones.

I wasn’t afraid to follow an idea, to take inspiration as it came, and write as honestly and freely as I could.

I wasn’t afraid to tell doubt to shut up for a minute and let me work.

It’s kind of another reason too why I won’t let myself delete any of the old blog posts I’ve written that I’m not fond of anymore. If I let myself delete them, if I deem them “not good enough”, then I’ll be less confident about letting myself make those mistakes. I’ll be thinking “Is this a post I’m going to delete in a few months?” and it will make things worse.

(Plus, it’s always nice to have contrast–it makes my good posts look that much better next to the mediocre ones.)

So sure, maybe I still think that perhaps my last post could have been a little bit better, but at least it’s out there. At least it’s been written, at least it’s been shared. And I mean if you think about it, the only reason I’m writing this post is because I wrote the last one. So it’s provided me with inspiration and more content to produce.

And of course, as is often the case, it applies to more than just blogging or writing or creating.

To do anything good, you can’t be held back by doubt.

You gotta just go for it.

-Alex

POTS and Plots

A friend pointed out to me recently that it’s been quite a while since I last mentioned anything about POTS (y’know, that huge novel I was in the process of editing…), which is a fair observation, because I really haven’t said much about POTS lately. Nor have I really been working on it either…

Sigh. I mean, on the bright side, I have been working a little bit on other stories, mostly short stories or short series, so it’s not like I’ve not been writing anything. I just haven’t been writing the one thing I should be writing.

Ohhhh POTS. What am I to do with you?

I think last time I talked about it I’d just “finished” the third draft, or something like that? I can’t even remember anymore. But I realized when I finished that draft and considered moving on to the next one that I was feeling really discouraged by the whole thing.

It feels like, with that draft, I didn’t do very much to improve the story. It feels like, if anything, I might have strayed farther from what I want it to be.

Which is unbelievably frustrating, but not very surprising, given my track record.

I mean, when I first started editing POTS, I had no clue what I was doing. I naively thought that I would be able to just edit as I went through–that most of my problems, I suppose, would just be scenes that needed tweaking or holes that needed a little bit of filling. But that very quickly proved to be mind-numbingly asinine, because trying to fix the beginning of the novel without addressing the issues at the end of the novel really really reaaaaaally does not work.

But I still didn’t really know how to do that, how to rework the entire plot and keep the big picture in mind while also going scene-by-scene to put things in order. So I just kinda winged it as I went along, hoping I was getting closer to the story I wanted while also kind of realizing I was not doing that.

I have realized through a few NaNoWriMos that I tend to have the brain of a pantser (making up the story by the seat of my pants) but I write a much better story if I approach it like a planner. When I’m actually writing the story, I tend to just get into a flow and go with whatever’s coming to mind, which often results in me writing myself into a wall or writing in scenes that are terrible and completely sidetrack the plot (straight off the road and right into the ditch, woo). Things that seem like a great idea while I’m writing them out are often not as good of an idea when I’m reading them back later. If I plan the story before I start writing though, I tend to have much less of this sidetracking and come out with a much more reasonable story.

So clearly that’s the best thing for me to do, to look at the story as a whole and plan out what I need it to be, what needs to happen, and what I need to change. But it’s been terribly difficult for me to do that, and I’m trying to figure out what exactly is going wrong.

I mean, I know roughly what’s going to happen. Bad thing happens > protagonist is taken to other world > joins group of weary adventurers > travels point A to point B to point C > gets in a fight at point 1 and point 2 and point 3 > reaches the final destination > last big battle of the novel. It’s quite simple, really, like most adventuring stories are, and that of course isn’t the problem. It’s all the Whys and Hows that are the problem.

Why does she get sent to the other world? Why does the bad guy want to do bad things? Why do they need to go to their destination? How is the bad guy going to achieve his evil goals? How is everyone going to get from point A to point C? How is the final battle going to play out?

Why is the protagonist here? How is she going to react to all of this?

And it’s the technical parts where I’m really struggling. I can’t make my plot work, I can’t even figure out what I want my plot to be, and it pretty much feels like a big old soggy mess that I can’t for the life of me sift through.

Sooooo naturally, I’ve been avoiding it.

Which isn’t a permanent solution, I know, but it’s been admittedly nice to write short stories that aren’t as confusing and technical.

But of course, POTS is still my baby, and recently I’ve really missed writing it, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach it, to actually make it into the story I believe it can be.

And honestly? I’ve been allowing myself to question everything.

I mean everything.

If you think about it, I’ve been working on POTS for about 6 years now. Some of those years took place in high school, some of them took place in university–arguably a very big transitioning point in one’s life. And if you look back to the very original version of POTS, it’s actually a story I wrote when I was in seventh grade, which was about 8 years ago. Clearly, the story has followed me through some pretty big milestones in my life.

It’s only natural, therefore, that my writing style and ability would have changed in the time since POTS was first created. My ability to write, my ability to craft stories and develop meaningful characters, is a hell of a lot better now than it was back then. And who I am as a person, the things I think are important and the things I’ve learned about the world? Astoundingly different from when I started.

On one hand, it’s really cool to look at this story and see elements of my younger vision mixed with elements of my more mature insight. It’s like a scrapbook showcasing my development as both person and writer, and I think it’s what makes POTS such a special story to me.

On the other hand, it’s pretty clear that the story I wrote 6 years ago isn’t quite going to match up with the story I want to write now. I can see now where I’ve made mistakes, where I’ve lacked depth, where I’ve fallen short of the full potential in a scene or character. I can see now where things can be improved, and I can see new ways of bringing life and spirit to the story.

Which is actually quite possibly where I’m tripping myself up.

I’m trying to weave these two very distinct stories together, the young one and the more mature one, and I’m finding that the original plot that I had just doesn’t really work with my current goals. The message I wanted to convey with the story when I first started writing it was much simpler than the one I want to convey now, and I really can’t convey it well if I’m trying to use the same plot I started out with.

Basically: the reason I’m struggling to figure out the plot is because it’s just not working anymore.

I mean, I don’t think I have to throw the whole thing away, but I think I really need to take it in a new direction. And I think the best way to approach the story is to start from the ground up.

Which is what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been re-establishing my characters (who are they, what do they want), re-designing my world (what’s the current state of affairs, what’s the biggest challenge), and I’ve been re-working my plot (what kind of story do I want to tell, what’s going to happen to get my message across).

It feels nice, in a way, to be able to look at everything again, to give myself this metaphorical Play Dough that I have the freedom to shape into whatever I’d like. What if this character wanted something different? What if the bad guy actually did this instead? What if the protagonist made this decision here and changed the outcome?

It’s made it easier for me to work on POTS because I don’t have all this pressure to make it better, to make things work. I can just play around with things, scrap things or add them in, and I don’t have to worry if it’s an improvement of what came before it–all that matters is that I’m creating something that feels true, that feels important, and feels reflective of what I wanted when I first started writing this story 6 years ago.

It feels an awful lot like creative freedom, and I’m loving it.

I’m hoping that this story that’s grown up with me over the years will blossom into something beautiful.

And heck, I’m hoping I’ll do the same.

-Alex

Your Story 2017

20161202_140229

In 2014, I started a collaborative project called YOUR STORY. It’s exactly what it sounds like–it’s your stories, straight from your own hearts. It reflects the belief that life is truly the greatest adventure, and we are all the heroes of our own lives. Everyone has strength and courage and hope. I want to hear those stories. I want to celebrate that strength. I want you to see just how remarkable you are.

This is your opportunity to share your story, to put it somewhere where it will be recognized for its worth and importance. Everyone has different experiences, everyone has different struggles, but it takes courage to live, to endure difficult times, to pursue happiness.

This is your story. This is your strength.

The Story:

  • You can tell your story however you think is best (fiction or memoir are both accepted)
  • You can use any style (e.g. humorous vs. heartfelt, essay vs. poetry)
  • Wordcount is flexible (the longest story was 3000 words, the shortest was 150)
  • Keep the language rated PG, please and thank you

The Rights:

  • 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 Process:

  • I’m accepting submissions from now till March 1st
  • You can submit your story by emailing me at valourborn@gmail.com
    • it can be an attachment or pasted in the email itself
  • You can have it published anonymously or under your preferred name
    • you can also give me links to your blog/social media to include with the post
  • Please include links/files for any videos and pictures you want to include
  • You will have a chance to approve the post before it goes live
  • I’ll also send you a link in an email telling you when it’s posted

There’s no theme for this story. Any experience of strength or weakness, courage or fear, happiness or despair are welcome. It’s up to you what you’d like to share, it’s up to you which moments are important, and there’s really no right or wrong topic for your story. I’m not looking for a polished masterpiece, I just want you to share something honest and meaningful.

I do ask that you keep the subject matter more or less PG, just because of the nature of my blog. If you have any concerns, feel free to send me an email and we can talk about it. I want you to be able to share your story in the best way possible.

If you’d like some inspiration, I’d encourage you to read the previous story entries. Or if you’d like to try writing to a specific theme, I’d challenge you to write about hope. This past year has been difficult for lots of people, but the darkest times are when hope is most important. Let your story be a beacon cutting through the darkness.

I hope that I can share lots of stories in the next couple months and celebrate the incredible strength and spirit of ordinary heroes. Whether you consider yourself remarkable or not, your life is truly an adventure worth sharing.

You are all wonderful. Never forget it.

-Alex

TRIALS: Keeper of the Coins

your story banner

[ABOUT YOUR STORY 2015]

It’s been a while, but I’m back to posting Your Story entries again, starting with this one from Olivia Berrier over at Often Clueless, Always Shoeless. This is her take on the battle with depression and what it feels like to go through it.

Enjoy.

***

Keeper of the Coins

 I’ve spent a fair bit of time battling the depression monster.

It’s not an uncommon thing, but the very nature of it feels so isolating. Among all of the physical and emotional aches that come with depression, for me the worst one is the inability to communicate exactly how it feels.

I’ve tried. I’ve spent many hours with extremely patient friends throwing out metaphor after metaphor, as if I might somehow be cured if I could only find the right words.

I can’t say that writing about my depression cured me, but it definitely helped. I also don’t think that I ever found those perfect words, but I did find some words, and I’d like to share them.

I’d never say ‘this is what depression is,’ but this is what depression (or a small part of it) is to me. If this passage speaks to your particular struggle as well, then I hope having a metaphor will be armor for you like it was for me.

If this isn’t what your monster looks like, then I hope someday you’ll try to find some words of your own. Even if they aren’t perfect. An indirect light is infinitely brighter than total darkness.

 

My metaphor for the unpredictable daily fatigue of depression:

 

Every day she began with an energy allowance. The tiny silk purse was returned to her every morning, some days with few coins and some days with even fewer. But never more than that, and never as much as she wished she had to get through the day.

At first, she was guarded and sparing with her coins, trying to ration them out so she might not be completely broke by the day’s end. She only succeeded in this goal once or twice, and after that she decided it wasn’t worth the effort because the extra coin was never added to the next day’s purse. It was just lost forever, unspent.

Some activities cost more than others, and—as is always the way—the more expensive ones were the things she wanted most to do. Yes, she could exercise today, but only if she spent her entire purse on that one activity, and spend the rest of the day on the streets moaning and crying and waiting for the blessed daybreak when she would receive another allowance. And was it really worth it?

But at times, the alternative hardly seemed better. She could spread her coins out, choosing only low-cost activities so that she could buy enough to fill her day. She stayed off the dismal streets, but in the end that was her only accomplishment. The enjoyment from the cheaper activities was tepid, at best. And while tepidity was better than the cold, she longed for true, honest heat that only came from fulfilling usages of her time.

She tried using her money to make more, as biblical parables suggested would be prudent, but all of her investments failed her dismally. She would look at the empty purse at the end of the day, and lament that she had nothing to show for it, not even tepid memories of lackluster activities.

As she received her ration from the hooded, shadowy figure, she asked him what she might do to be worthy of a more substantial allowance. She asked in earnest, but the keeper of coins was either deaf, mute, or completely uninterested. He gave no reply, not even to her binary question of whether it was even possible to earn more coins.

Approaching the problem differently, she started keeping detailed notes on how much she received each day, and what activities she had done the day before. This act of recording cost her coins and gave her no happiness in return, but this was one investment that she felt sure would pay off in time.

One day, her purse was larger than usual, and she eagerly looked back through the book to see what her purchases on the previous day had been.

It had been an expensive item: talking on the phone with a friend. Ultimately, she had run out of coins early that day to balance the larger purchase of the morning, but maybe the coin keeper had liked that? Maybe it was waiting to see that she would spend her money on worthy activities, and when she did she would be rewarded.

Without hesitation, she spent her entire large allowance on the most expensive purchases she could think of; things she hadn’t dared to attempt even on her best days, but it would be worth it. For the rest of the day, as she shivered on the streets with an empty purse, she reminded herself that it would be even fuller tomorrow than it was today. Curling up on the frozen sidewalk, she let that thought be her blanket as she drifted off to sleep.

Then morning came, and she stood in line to offer her purse again, proud and shaky from yesterday’s activities. She held her hand out with a smile, ready to receive the weighty purse back, but when the keeper of coins dropped it into her hand, it was horrifyingly light. Peering inside, she saw the smallest ration she had ever been given. Even with the blandest of activities, she would still be spending half the day or more in the elements.

“I don’t understand,” she said, looking at the faceless hood. “You rewarded me last time. Why would you punish me now for doing the same thing?”

The keeper stood there, unmoving, calmly waiting for the next dawn when he would fulfill his duty yet again.

“Just tell me what I have to do!” she cried at him, tears stinging her eyes. “Tell me how I can earn more coins and I’ll do it. I’ll do anything! Just tell me!”

But he only held out one skeletal hand, palm open, beckoning with his fingers. She was crying. Crying came with a price, and it was an expensive activity. With ice in her stomach, she opened the purse and took out almost all of the coins and handed them over, and then she shuffled off to find one more tepid activity before she would be banished back into the cold.

-Olivia

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

IMG_2331

[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

September Struggles

Three more days of work guys. Three more days and then I’ll be free.

But wow. It’s September 2nd. I’m going to cheat and pretend it’s still the 1st because I haven’t gone to bed yet (not my fault I’m on night shift) so that I can say that there is officially one month left to submit stories for the Your Story project.

I know, I’ve been such crap at advertising and I think I emailed like… two people? I’ve been a-slackin’. But Your Story is happening this September. No matter what, it’s happening. I’ve already gotten some entries and would love some more. Flood me with stories! Give me more stories than I can beat back with a stick! Tell your friends! Your spouse! That random dude at the bus stop!

I’m also pre-emptively working on Villain Awareness Month stuff, so that should hopefully be good. I kind of want to do something in December but we shall see. It’s always something of a busy time of year.

Anyways. This post was really just me feeling bad that I haven’t said anything about Your Story. But it’s happening. I wanna read and share your stories. You have till the end of September. Guidelines are here. Tell everyone you know (pretty please?). Yes. Good.

Blegh. Can’t wait till I’m in a better schedule. Three more days. I can do it.

Take care :)

-Alex