My Shifting Mindset on Writing

I’m pretty well aware that my explicitly personal posts throughout the history of the Scratchpad have been largely negative. Not exactly stuff I’d expect anyone else to read unless they were enjoying me work through things. I suppose it’s not the best idea to throw your personal issues front and center under your long-suffering pseudonym, but I did it anyway, I don’t regret a thing (they’ve always been rather helpful to me), and they’re staying up.

This time, however, I wanted to ramble a bit about something more positive in my world lately. It involves my writing, specifically my story stuff. I’ve been writing a lot lately, even if not all of it’s made its way online yet, and I’ve noticed the way I look at my work and improvement starting to shift–very much for the better. Since the Scratchpad’s always been something of a brain dump, I figure it’s worth a post, even if I’m the only one who gets any use out of it. But hey, if you struggle too, read along.

It’s funny to think someone as wordy as I am would have any insecurity about writing, and for most of my work, I really don’t. I used to lean so hard on the technical writing (like VDU and Tesserae) and album reviews because I’ve just never had an issue with them. They’ve always come quickly and easily to me, I guess because they’re more like a set of gears than a painting. It’s about something tangible, and either it’s right or wrong or it’s an opinion piece where I’m communicating a viewpoint. Even in the rare cases where people balked at something I wrote or I was unhappy with it, I’ve never taken it to heart. Discarding them and reworking them was a piece by piece thing, not a Cammy thing.

Stories, meanwhile, have been a major issue for me over the past few years, and until recently, I’ve never quite been able to quantify why. Stories of mine that even other people liked just never sounded particularly great to me (and in a lot of cases, downright embarrassing). I was doing alright with it up until about this time last year, when I made the pretty fatal error of condensing a half a year’s worth of work (“Colton’s Adventure”) into three months, then doing more stories that I didn’t really care about, and then giving up altogether. I’ve been out of commission as a result until a few months ago, and really until recently.

In that time, I had something of an epiphany about my work: I’ve felt too rigid and limited with what I do and how I do it. I’ve been examining my process, how and where I write, the way I structure a story, and just feeling like nothing ever quite comes out how I want it to. It’s all really subtle things, but they add up.

I’ll give you a great example: starting off. In the past, I’ve encouraged people to write stories with an absolute banger of a first sentence. This is a common thing in storytelling, and it makes sense. It gives the reader a question to ponder as you bury them a little deeper in in the hopes they read until the end of the story. Problem being, I’m rigidly adhering to one way of writing this sentence, and I can’t comfortably start a story until I have a good one. Thus, I wasn’t even trying at all.

Or another one: drafts. You know I’ve just never written drafts up to this point? Until very recently, I never did written sketches, I never experimented much outside the context of sitting down with a rigid story idea in my head and writing that story idea. I was so nervous about my limited skills that I never bothered to build on anything, just go from something “worth reading” to the next thing “worth reading” in perpetuity, stunting my growth in the process.

And really, that’s what I’m getting at: insecurity. The reason you haven’t seen much more Pennyverse from me is because I was just never particularly comfortable with my ability to write pretty much anyone other than Seb, who’s basically me anyway. Seb is instinctual: I understand him, how he talks, what he’d think. Colton is less so, and I could never quite figure out why until I got to thinking about it.

I think I know the answer now: I just never came up with anything fun for him. A lot of my ideas for Seb stories hinge on him being a lot less adult than he thinks he is. He’s a well-rounded character, able to show a variety of emotions and play a variety of roles (even if it’s mostly in my head right now). Colton has no such imaginative hook, and thus, I can’t write him as spiritedly or freely. Riley kinda does, but I never felt like I was in the right position to introduce him without having Colton figured out first. Same with Madeleine. Same with Giulio, who’s reliant on Riley.

So instead, I’d always return to Seb, both for my safe ideas and my more fun ones. Right now, there’s talks of a Pennyverse Halloween story from me revolving around him. I had another one planned last year that I was just not in the mood for, and feeling obligated, I instead cranked out two smaller pieces that I just hated and still do. I had no spirit to do much of anything other than the very safe things involving Seb. I was too rigid, too uncomfortable to try anything else, and like I was back when the nerves first started five years ago, I’ve just been avoiding it.

Likely tomorrow, I’ll be diving headfirst back into it. I’ve been thinking of more fun, imaginative hooks for Colton for use in his stories, something I can use to give his narrative voice a bit more of an aim. Beyond him, I’m really just eager to start branching out and experiment. The aforementioned Halloween 2020 story is probably gonna be a bit closer to police transcripts than an actual story, and the Pinede stuff can potentially be anything from reference books and in-game essays to poetry and plays even. I don’t wanna limit myself here. I wanna get better at first-person narration and subtract myself a bit more from who I’m writing as. I want to get looser and more flexible with my work.

I want to have fun again.

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