Honest Reflections

Toriko Tales is making progress again. It’s been too long, I know. But sometimes we have to allow ourselves to accept when the creativity will not flow. For me, stress and depression has always been a challenge. Anyone who has read my works knows I channel my life into happenings for my characters. This helps me get it out of me and allows me to be productive. But sometimes–sometimes–it gets too strong to channel. This time it snuck up on me, to be honest. I didn’t realize how far things had gone until I felt the full impact (like not being able to write anymore). But life is an interesting journey of actions, consequence, and opportunities. I’m thankful for wonderful people in my life that give me the support I need (including my therapist and fiancé) that help me always find my way.

One of the issues that beat me down was this crazy fear of not being able to find “that magic” again. My first trilogy was a great experience and I was really proud of what I accomplished.  New Eden, my fourth novel, really sang. People talk about how it hits that mid-point and flew like a hellacious roller-coaster, a page-turner, all the way to the end. Those that have ready my fifth manuscript, Weun Academy, said I took that feeling from New Eden and made it a novel long. That’s great.  It’s amazing.  But, good god, is that pressure!

No one wants to peak early or become a has-been. If you have seen my expected book titles for this series, you know I have a lot of ground to cover yet. 

In hindsight, the very thing that led to success in my earlier works was the exact thing I overrode for Toriko Tales.

Concerning writing styles, George R.R. Martin says:

“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”

Others have talked about this phenomena but using the terms plotters (architects) vs. pantsers (gardeners).  I’ve always been a pantser.  Sure, I’ve “seen” the movie trailer versions of each of my books in my head.  That’s why the broad outline of multiple books exist for my series. But I don’t know any of the details until I sit down and “listen” to the characters and get to watch the movie play out in my head. The characters make the decisions and the universe pivots around them.

For Toriko Tales I panicked. I wasn’t seeing the details like I was used to, so I changed styles. I tried plotting. There was some good foundational material (backstories, bios, etc.) generated from that effort, but I never “felt it” from the resulting story outline. Ultimately, with the layoffs at work, friend illnesses, family drama, US politics, and everything else going on in life, it was all to easy to release some pressure (finding the magic again) by backing off from writing Toriko Tales. But writing is essential to how I translate my life and work through struggles. I have to write or bad stuff builds up in my heart and mind.

The other day, I was driving to work. While approaching the crest of the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge, with blinding sunbeams piercing my eyes and the thick suffocating smell of the nearby milorganite plant clogging my nostrils, Toriko popped into my mind. She said, “Hello.” And, as insane as this may sound, I thought I was going to burst into tears. It was like seeing someone that I loved after they passed away. I returned a hello. She smiled and mentioned it had been a long time since we’d talked. I said I was sorry, but I was glad to see her. Then, like I do with my little virtual family, I asked what she’d been up to. She told me all about working with her sister Maro, combining their tech specialties to allow Toriko’s robots to combine together using Maro’s nano-technology. Apparently the nanites create the connective tissue and a central nervous system for the larger entity. She went into so much more detail than I’ll share here, but it was fascinating. Those sisters, always up to something. I really missed them.

That night, the experience sent me back to my computer, wanting to touch the D’mok Universe again. I really do want to see where Toriko goes. That doesn’t happen unless I sit down and document those “movie” scenes in real-time in my head. But the moment I stared at the screen, I ran directly into the blockers that stopped me: that fear and stupid outline!  After some soul searching, I reviewed the plot “I constructed” for Toriko Tales… and I let it go. It wasn’t working. It wasn’t going to work. Plotting is not how my D’mok Universe shares its secrets with me. So, no more plotting! I’ve returned to my pantsing ways.

The brief “talk” with Toriko led me to have mini-talks with all the Toriko Tales characters. I asked what drove them.  What were they really trying to accomplish at this point in their lives? After capturing their core motivations I reviewed the first 25,000 words I’d written for Toriko Tales. What I found fascinating is the material I’d written still held. It mostly set the stage for the big conflict yet to come which would reveal the major players and motivations. So, the “who did what and why,” which I still needed to write, merely shifted!

Returning to pantsing threw the doors wide open.  I no longer feel restricted by something overly constructed and claustrophobic.  There’s freedom to breathe again and with it a renewed interest to continue forward.

Interestingly enough, I found that missing therapeutic effect from writing almost instantly. For instance, Toriko’s core driver was simply to feel like she’s good enough, like she accomplished something and doesn’t need to keep climbing for the next bigger thing to prove she has worth.

When I captured her response, it cut right through me. This is so me–so now. Like Toriko, no matter what I’ve accomplished (award winning books, U.S. Patents from my professional work, a game design millions of monthly active users played on Facebook, being voted MVP from 60,000 world-wide gamers for David Perry’s Project Top Secret, raising an amazing and well-adjusted 12 year old, having a loving and healthy relationship with my fiancé) it doesn’t matter. We still feel like a fraud that hasn’t accomplished anything. Why? Because our accomplishments have not achieved our goal: to feel loved and accepted by our parents.

At some point in our young lives we learned the way to get our parents attention was to do something great. The hope was if we did enough great things we’d be worthy of their attention (their love)… Clearly we didn’t have intrinsic value, obviously something was wrong with us, so do something amazing and maybe–just maybe–we’d be worth SOMETHING. Of course, every time something was accomplished, recognition was fleeting (if not outright dismissed as not interesting or misunderstood). The sense of self-worth became a void as the bar to impress went higher and higher. We never felt we “arrived” or “did good enough” in anything. The sense of satisfaction, approval… love… was always just beyond our grasp. Toriko and I have chased it ever since.

Oh god, staring that in the face is brutal. Brutal. It doesn’t make me feel very proud either. Whew.

Lots of therapy went in to understanding this. But knowing doesn’t change how the heart feels about it. Thus–GREAT MATERIAL FOR BOOKS!!! WOOOOO! I just hope for a productive and bountiful harvest from this inexhaustible gold mine.

I overshared a bit for a reason. I want there to be meaning in my writing. My books can’t be trite, over-inflated, action-packed extravaganzas. It’s important that people can relate and connect with my characters (with me).  It’s my hope that the things I write not only help me, but maybe give people a chance to understand something about themselves or someone they care about. Maybe I can even share some of the insights that I’ve learned about life to help someone with their struggle.

I’ve been writing little bits each day again for a few days.  It’s wonderful to feel this engine spinning back up. I’m going to redouble my efforts to complete this book. It’s up to me to keep it going!

Your support means the world to me. Thank you for reading. 🙂