Saturday, January 17, 2015

Apparently, I'm On Sabbatical

I've been feeling lately that I really should be doing something. I think it's been stressing me out, too.

I haven't done a lot of writing since my last post. Can't seem to get back into the groove yet. I was lamenting this to one of my friends yesterday and she said that I should consider myself as being on sabbatical until the 29th, when my copywriting course starts.

I like that word, sabbatical. Means I'm allowed to do whatever I want, even if that's nothing at all. Well, that's the definition the word is getting for me right now.

This conversation took place at Panera, where I should have been concentrating on writing but just couldn't do it for some reason. I'd start a new page, get only halfway down, read what I just wrote and erase it all to start over. Just could not get into it. Sometimes, when it gets like this for me, I'll pull out the old "Novels In Progress" file from my computer and read some of my past writings.

Though a few writers might deny this, every writer has a similar folder or notebook or something where they've written pieces and parts of new projects that were subsequently abandoned for one reason or another. For me, it's generally that I either lose track of where the story was going, lose interest or the story just isn't really going anywhere to begin with. These are the projects that I keep because 'someday' will come.

There's quite a bit of good writing in this folder and even I will sometimes swear at myself for abandoning what might have been a good story. Rarely does that mean I'll pick the project back up to work on. A lot of what I've written in the past revolves around Star Wars characters. Whenever I get stuck or just need to free write a plot idea, I'll use the characters from Star Wars so that I don't have to fiddle with character development. I can just write the plot and see if it's useful. A lot of times it isn't because the other elements from Star Wars tend to creep in and I just don't have it in me to try and come up with alternatives.

Still, these stories are a good read for me and I do find encouragement to battle on once I've read some of them.

I also have a folder entitled "Story Ideas".  Again, many of these involve Star Wars characters but are only a few lines and mainly written for my own entertainment. Not really something for public consumption. I also get a boost from these as many were written off the cuff and within a short burst of writing frenzy, something I apparently do quite well - except with my current project.

Um, where was I? Oh, yeah.

So, yesterday, when I tried to look at some of these abbreviated and abandoned projects on my laptop, I had forgotten that while these stories were written in Word, I do not happen to have Word on my laptop. Computers no longer come with Word as a standard program - haven't for a long time. Which means, when I pulled up some of these files, all I saw was a bunch of garbled nonsense. I guess sometimes Word documents don't translate well to Notepad or Wordpad.

That's when I decided to see if there was an ad supported Word program I could get for free. My friend has one on her netbook and since I only wanted it to read these files, I didn't think the ads would bother me. How did it work out? Let's just say that I ended up doing a system restore. Not only was the program not an ad supported free program, I ended up with a lot of other bloatware on my computer that would reinstall itself as I was trying to uninstall it. Lesson learned.

Once I got home, I started searching for a compatible program or app that would allow me to at least look at these files in a readable format. Little did I know, I already had something like that on my laptop - Google Docs. Who knew?

So now I can look at these files, read them more easily and continue to gain inspiration from them. I finally came to the conclusion that, while I'm not sure where to go next with my current project, I do have one or two things that definitely have to happen in their current setting. I'll make a list of those things and then see if that doesn't inspire some written prose or dialogue. But is that the kind of thing one does on a sabbatical?

I do feel the urge to do some free writing, though. Who knows? Might actually come up with something useful there.

One thing I have done, I downloaded a program called Grammerly on my chrome browser. It's reviewing this post as I write and telling where I'm going wrong. At this point, it's saying I have two critical errors in what I've written. Let's go see what those are, shall we?

Well, it didn't like my phrasing of 'One thing I have done' and it also didn't like its own name, Grammerly. And now I have to tell it to ignore its own name again.

For those that don't know, Grammerly is a program a writer can use to find grammatical mistakes in their writing. It really doesn't like its own name. Hilarious. Continuing on.

The free version of the program (ha, fooled you, Grammerly!) works inside the Chrome browser and will review anything written in the browser - like blog posts. It only picks up the more typical issues. It will advise on the more advanced issues, but that's a paid upgrade and right now, this poor author can't afford it. Still, that much is helpful even if a bit annoying at times.

You can also upload files into the online version of the program and it will do the same thing there. It's helpful but not really something I'll rely on. Some of my characters do not use correct grammar when they speak and this thing will drive me nuts pointing out all those errors.

I kind of did a bit of rambling there, didn't I. Well, I am on sabbatical so there.

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