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Writing a Novel: When Starting Is the Hardest Part

writing, novel, author, NaNoWriMo

This month, I’ve decided to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, or Camp National Novel Writing Month. If you remember back in November last year, I wrote about regular NaNoWriMo and the joy that fall brings to writers. Summer can do the same. During the months of April and July, a different NaNoWriMo takes place. Instead of writing 50,000 words in a month, you can choose to write as many words, pages, or how long you write. It’s a fun, intense, and exciting time because you set the limits and get rewarded for completing them. What more could a writer want?

Well, a good way to start the story would be nice. For this Camp NaNoWriMo, I decided to restart a sci-fi novel I had started way back when I was 14. Needless to say, it needed a restart. So I sit down July 1st and start writing. I’ve got the prologue down flat and am just about to start the first chapter when…. I stall. How do I start a novel when I know I need to get from point A to point C, but have no idea where point A is and where point B needs to be?

This is can be the real struggle for any story writer, even  those who have been writing for years. Writer’s block is never something to pass off as something only new writers deal with. The only thing difference in writer’s block between a new writer and a veteran is that a veteran has some techniques for dealing with writer’s block that the new writer doesn’t. That’s it. So how do you push past it?

Well, to be honest, you push past it. You throw something unexpected in, continue down the path you’ve started and see where the story’s taking you, or stop writing that scene and start working on another. As I said, everyone deals with writer’s block differently. But you still have to push through it. Otherwise, you’re stuck for good with no way out. But how do you push through when you have no idea how to continue? Lots of people have different tricks, but they don’t work for everyone. The best way to break through writer’s block is understanding how you write and how you get ideas.

For me, I go back and forth between pushing through by just writing or through throwing something new into the scene. Sometimes the pushing through works on its own, but sometimes the story needs a little something. A new character, a plot twist, or even something tragic can take the story in a new turn to get it where it needs to go. What about you? Have you figured out your writer’s block breakthroughs? Or are you still looking for new ways to break it? Let me know in the comments, and stay tuned on social media this August for an update on the blog!

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Top 6 Video Games for Writers

Top video games for writers from worldbuilding to character creation.

Yes, you read the title correctly. Not many people connect writing with video games unless they’re thinking of distractions. However, as someone who both loves writing stories and someone who loves video games, I’ve found some games can help one extremely important part of writing: Worldbuilding. So figure I’d cover my top video games for writers to help with worldbuilding from character creation to literally building the world.

Plus with the upcoming Steam summer sale, you guys can also get copies for cheaper than usual. For those of you who don’t know, Steam is an online game superstore, where you can find all sorts of games for your Windows PC or your Mac. It’s my top place to search for games to play. Now, let’s get to my top 6 video games for writers.

(None of this content is sponsored, even for the Steam sale. All opinions are my own.)

6 – The Sims

One of the most well known games out there is The Sims. It’s got everything you’d want to live out a virtual reality: a customizable character and control over where they go, get a job, who they date; all kinds of neighbors; and even the ability to build homes, parks, and recreational buildings. Basically, it’s a one stop shop for literally building a character in the modern world. It’s basic at best when it comes to character traits, but it’s a good starting point. Add family building, learning skills, and the job, and you’ve got a surprisingly balanced character.

5 – Civilization series

While not among the most popular games, turn-based games like the Civilization games give you a good chance to build, well, civilizations. Again, it’s basic at best, but it allows you to plot out your reign of the ultimate empire. If you’re working on a world with a ruling empire, or have a character who is working towards that goal, you can learn different techniques to use in your story. Did they use superior war tactics? Trickery? It’s your choice. Just watch out for Gandhi.

4 – Fallen Enchantress

Want a situation like in the Civilization games, but with an added element of fantasy? Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes combines turn-based empire games with a little added magic and fantasy creatures. Other games also exist, but I prefer Fallen Enchantress for the range of characters, the range of magic, and the range of how many ways you can win in a given game. Play as the bad guy conquering everything in their path or as the good guy just trying to keep the peace. Either way, it’s a great option for fantasy worldbuilding.

3 – Terraria

Now for some literal worldbuilding games. Terraria is a side-scrolling, mining game. Think like a 2D Minecraft with no creative mode. You go questing, mine for materials, kill zombies and slimes, and defeat bosses. While there isn’t an alternate universe, there are plenty of places to explore, from underground temples to battling huge monsters. You can also shape the land through digging on the surface, build homes for you and the NPC shopkeepers, and more! Definitely one of my favorite over all games.

2 – City Skylines

Want to create a setting, and not worry about the characters for now? City Skylines lets you literally build a modern city from the ground up! It’s similar to Sims City, with more features and control over the environment. If you’re working on a modern fiction piece in an urban setting, City Skylines will let you build that city from the ground up! You can also simulate disasters if you’re incorporating those in your story.

1 – Minecraft

It’s very hard to live in the modern world and not played or at the very least heard of Minecraft. The crafting ability, mining features, and monsters have made Minecraft staple of gaming around the world. And it’s also fantastic for literal worldbuilding. There almost isn’t a limit to what you can create from basic villages to homes to castles to cities. It’s also one of my favorite video games to play, and I definitely recommend it.

And those are my top 6 video game for writers. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other games out there to choose from. In fact, almost any story-driven game can also be used as a writing tool, looking at where character development fell flat, where the setting shines bright, and all sorts of other story specific details.

Video games are often tossed aside as learning material because they’re virtual, new, and to some controversial. As a casual gamer myself, I’ve seen firsthand how a game can jump start creativity. So as a gamer and a writer, I say we shouldn’t discredit the potential games have to fuel creativity and the writing process.

What about you? Are you a fellow gamer-writer, and if so what are your video games for writers picks? Or do you think games shouldn’t influence writers? Let me know in the comments, and until next time!

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7 Things to do on a Rainy Day

My favorite things to do on a rainy day.
When it comes to rainy days or any days with down time, it often feels like there really isn’t much to do. No work, no school, so what’s a girl to do? Here are my top tips for things to do on a rainy day. Keep in mind, I’m an introvert, so my things to do on a rainy day might be different than yours.

1 – Read a new book or continue/finish an old one

So many people buy books every year that they never read or own books that they never finished. So break the stereotype and crack open a new book or get started on finishing an old one!

2 – Start a new project

Whether it’s a new craft, a new product for your business, a new story idea you want to write, or any new project, now’s the time to start it! Get your materials and get your creative juices flowing!

3 – Discover a new band/listen to some old music

We all have that one band we’ve been meaning to listen to, or maybe an old favorite that we haven’t heard in a while. Take some time and find their music on YouTube or Spotify. You may discover or rediscover your new inspiration music.

4 – Clean a room 

While it’s not the most exciting thing, it can feel extremely good to clean a room you haven’t touched in a while. Even if it’s doing a quick dusting or window washing, cleaning can make you feel super productive and it’s a good opportunity to get up and move around.

5 – Organize/Reorganize a room or desk space

Along similar lines as cleaning, organizing or reorganizing a room or desk space can help make you feel productive. It can also give you a change of scenery and maybe spark some creativity, too!

6 – Clean out the closet

Let’s face it. We all have clothes in our closets we never or hardly ever wear. A rainy day is perfect for taking a peek at your clothing collection and seeing what can be given to charity, what can stay, and what needs to recycled or thrown away.

7 – Relax!

A rainy day is a day without anything important to do… so kick back and relax! Maybe you just came off a super busy week at work, or have just had a rough week in general. Either way, you deserve some time to yourself. Whether it’s a book as stated above, binge watching a new TV series, watching a favorite movie, or even taking a nice, soothing nap. Take the day and re-energize so you can face the next busy week.
Whatever you decide to do on the next rainy day, just know there’s no wrong way to spend it. It’s your day, so do with it as you want. There are plenty of things to do that aren’t listed here, and I’d love to hear what your favorite things to do on a rainy day are. Let me know in the comments, and until next time!
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Thoughts on Graduation and Post-Grad Life

Reflections on graduation, what comes next, and the journey that lies ahead.

It’s weird to think that just last month I finished up my college career. It’s been a wild four years, and I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve made awesome friends, gone on adventures, found love, lost that love, learned skills to get me through the next chapter of my life, and a lot of fun along the way. Yet, with graduation comes a moment of bittersweetness. I can’t see my friends as often as I used to. I can no longer go on as many adventures, though hopefully that will change. And I’ve entered the even more wild world of adulthood and the job search every graduate faces.

That’s not to say there isn’t anything to be excited about. Recently, I started looking at jobs near the city, so I can be closer to some of my fellow alums. I have a set goal in mind for the next few months in terms of moving. And once I’m on my own, I can start planning adventures again. The future is wide open and full of possibilities if I’m willing to step out and take them. And that’s going to be the hardest part. I was never the go-getter type in high school or college. But now I get the chance to be one. And I intend to start living the life of one.

There will be some changes now that I’ve graduated. My content won’t focus as much on college topics, though I do intend to give some tips as the school year begins and around graduation time. Instead, I want to take a bit of a new direction. Graduation allowed me to not worry about schoolwork anymore, and I was able to think about my focus and where I want to take it. So, I want to start adding new topics to my blog as I move forward.

The first I’ve already started, which is geek culture. I’m a huge geek, not quite a nerd, and I love all things to do with fandoms and the communities that build around them. It’s incredible how people from all walks of life can sit down in one room, watch a movie or TV show, and gush about it for hours afterwards without one fight breaking out. It’s amazing, and so unique to fandom communities. I want to further explore this category and share my own fandoms with you guys.

The second is writing, which I’ve also covered before. I love writing fiction, and it’s my dream to become a published author, and even teach writing at a university. I won’t be posting stories per say. However, I do want to cover some writing tips for storytelling and even how storytelling has helped me with blogging, too! I’m also looking to start a Patreon for my stories, so I might post a few of those here as well! We’ll have to see how that all works out of course. But I’m really excited to tell you guys about writing stories and what goes into that.

The last thing I want to add is fashion. I know, it’s cliche, but hear me out. This isn’t regular fashion. One of my little known passions (and the reason my closet hasn’t had a makeover in years) is ethical fashion. Ethical fashion is a movement designed to produce sustainable and environmentally friendly clothing and decor without the use of mass production or slave labor. From thrift shopping to only buying particular brands, I want to cover how to shop ethically on a budget. It’s a really important humanitarian and environmental movement that puts the power in the consumer’s hands, not the business’s. And I want to show you guys how you can make this part of your routine.

Graduation is something everyone goes through at some point. It marks a change, an achievement. And for me, graduation means more than just an achievement. It marks the beginning. The beginning of a journey. And I hope you join me as I start off this new journey into adulthood. It’s not going to be easy. But that’s okay. Life isn’t meant to be easy. But it is full of adventure, and I look forward to seeing where this one will take me next.

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The Joy of Fandom

The Joy of Fandom: Pop culture, community, and cosplay. Photo credit: JFP Photography.

A few weekends ago I was able to do something incredible: I took three days to go dress up as fictional characters and have fun with other people doing the same thing. If I were to show you pictures from the event, you may have one of three reactions. Shocked and weirded out by the strange costumes and colors, curious but also kind of put off by the concept, and so excited to tell me about the conventions you’ve gone to and plan to go to. Welcome to the world of fandom: the community aspect of pop culture from around the world.

Some people are legitimately shocked and somewhat scared by the fact that others and myself enjoy dressing up like this. They see it as immature, irrational, or just plain weird. Why would you want to dress up as a fictional character? Someone who has no direct impact on the world. Most of these people usually aren’t among the fandom crowd. They see sensibility in reality and everyday life, which there’s nothing wrong with doing that. However, I’d like to address this viewpoint. Yes, it can seem strange and like we’re trapped in our own little reality. But the truth is, that isn’t what’s going on. Instead, I’d like to show the other side of cosplay and conventions.

Yes, dressing up as fictional characters seems like a weird way to spend a weekend. Yet thousands participate in each fandom convention each year. That amounts to millions of people, not just in the U.S. but also around the world. So obviously, dressing up as fictional characters for a weekend isn’t unpopular. In fact, in the five years I’ve been going to the convention in Pittsburgh, attendance has jumped from a little over 5,000 to almost 9,000. And if that’s the jump for a smaller convention, then others have jumped just as much or more. It’s gotten more popular for comic cons, especially with the recent superhero movies and the revival of Star Wars. And with this popularity comes more publicity and more people dressing up as fictional characters for a weekend.

It isn’t just young people who attend conventions either. People young and old, men and women, from all walks of life participate in cosplay each year, sometimes going to multiple conventions a year. And yes, most of them happen to be young adults, but a good many of them are also between 30-50 years old. That’s what makes cosplay, and fandoms, so fascinating. No matter where they’re from, what they believe, or how old they are, everyone manages to get along and laugh and have fun. It’s something unique to the fandom community that makes it special. Not many other communities outside of the fandom community can say that they bring people together like that.

And that’s the beautiful thing. Fandom is such a unique phenomena, spanning so many different sub-communities and so many people. Most sub-communities appreciate each other despite age or class or gender. It’s the essence of what can possibly be called a true community. Yes, there can be fighting between and even within sub-communities. But no community is perfect either. And I think that’s what makes fandom so special. It’s a tight-knit community spanning countries, ages, genders, and worldviews. Sure we fight, but there still isn’t anything that can truly make the worldwide fandom community fall apart. And I think that’s the real joy of fandom.

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Why Relaxing Is So Important

When you're swamped with work, relaxing is one of the most important things to do to stay sane

When you’re in college or out on your own in the real world, you can get really busy really fast. Work piles up, friends want to hang out, deadlines get closer, and your sanity slowly fades away with every passing week. Busyness is a necessary evil for us to learn and grow as individuals, especially as young adults. But it isn’t good to become obsessed with being busy. Relaxing is essential to keeping those last strings of sanity from disappearing. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to find time to relax. But it is important to find time after the busyness calms down.

A few weeks ago was one such occasion for me. I spent the entirety of the weekend before writing a paper 5-7 page due Tuesday, editing another paper due Monday, all while studying for an exam in a class I’m not enjoying all that much. Most nights I was getting to bed as late as 2 am and waking up between 7:30 and 8 am. And on the Friday that week, I also had another 8 page paper I had half-written, and another exam late in the day. So suffice to say that whole week was full of nothing but pain and sleep deprivation. And I’ve only just recently recovered.

It didn’t help that the deadlines snuck up on me, but not making the time to relax and plan was my biggest problem. Instead of splitting up the tasks into smaller chunks, I rushed into all of the tasks, trying to pace myself through each one. In the end I managed to get everything done on time, but at the cost of my well being. Taking some time to organize and setting aside time for relaxing would have been better. But I didn’t do that. So my relaxing time came after everything was over. It did make it easier to relax afterward, but it did cost me a bit of my sanity.

Next time, I’ll be splitting up the tasks and making time to relax. For now, I’ll go through the rest of the school year, and make sure I’m aware of what’s due when. It’s a good habit to build up, especially for after graduation. Out in the real world, there aren’t always chances to relax before the next big project is due. So developing good work habits in college is important for good work habits after college. At the end of the day, though, there’s nothing wrong with taking a little break and watching a video, playing a quick game, or even reading a chapter or two in a book. Until next time, and make sure to take a break every once in a while.

(This weekend, I will be at a convention for Japanese pop culture in Pittsburgh. If you guys want to see updates, check out my Instagram and Twitter feeds for pictures, videos, and news from the convention. I’ll have a vlog for you guys by Wednesday, and a post about it next week. Have a good weekend!)

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Health Tips for College Students by College Students (and Grads)

Health tips for college students by college students and grads

Two weeks ago, I asked you guys what your tips were for staying healthy in college. Between the homework, classes, and the stress, self-care can be hard. However, millions of students have managed the struggle, and have been managing it for years. So, I decided to ask you guys what your health tips for college students were. Here are the results.

When it came to responses, a few people mentioned fitness and eating well.

“I think staying active is key. Go to a gym, go running, do something to keep yourself moving.” @Ianator647 via Twitter

“Oh I miss college… I was so busy that I forgot to eat and actually lost weight instead of gaining it like the stereotypes. However I definitely did not eat healthy, so I’d definitely encourage you to try to eat healthy meals and regularly.” @nics.niche via Instagram

But the biggest responses all had to do with sleeping and relaxing.

“Do not neglect sleep.” @dulcegabmedina via Instagram

“I make sure to get my 8 hours every night!!” @mydriftingdesk via Instagram

“Take time to relax” @fatoubbalde via Instagram

“I just graduated, and looking back the healthiest thing I did was sleep well and and for 8 hours minimum. When I worked with students I always said that all-nighters are not worth it or necessary, so my biggest thing was sleep.” Michelle A. via “Healthy College Living: How Do You Do It?” comments

The best advice came from Epicfield in the comments on “Healthy College Living: How Do You Do It?”

“I’m currently not in college, but I know what helped me when I was in school was to remember that sleep was important. DON’T PROCRASTINATE. I was Queen Procrastinator but then I realized that my health was going downhill … I started working ahead and got on track rather than waiting until last second.

I work full time now and I make sure I get 8 hours of sleep every night (or try to). I know when your schedule is in consistent, it can be really difficult, but TRY to be consistent. Going to bed and getting up at the same time can be super helpful!”

And there you have the top health tips for college students by college students (and grads). If you’d like to see the responses, they can be located here, here, and here. A big thank you to everyone who responded and participated! You guys were super helpful getting this list together! And if you want to see more “masterposts” like these, let me know in the comments! Until next time, readers, and stay healthy!

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5 Beauty Tips for College Gals

fashion, beauty, blog, college, blogging

If you guys follow me on Instagram, you know most of the pictures I post are of me in makeup. Makeup and beauty are things I want to get better at, but it’s hard to when you’re in college. Even drugstore makeup products can be expensive, and buying a whole set of makeup can cost almost $90 if you’re doing it all at once. Adding skin care and other beauty products can rack of the price even more. So how does a girl in college or on a budget look good and take care of her skin?

While I don’t know all the tips and tricks, I’ve picked up a few things here and there from practice and watching beauty vloggers on YouTube. So here are my top five beauty tips for college girls or young women on a budget. Keep in mind that these tips aren’t solid as everyone’s skin is different, so these tips might not work for everyone.

1: You don’t need to use foundation

As a part of my daily makeup routine, I rarely ever use foundation. Partially because my skin is pretty clear and even toned, so I don’t need an extra product to achieve that. So if you feel like your skin is clear and even toned, you can just skip that step. Instead, you could try getting a tinted primer or BB cream instead to combine both primer and foundation steps. (Granted I don’t use primer or BB cream at all, so sometimes you can even skip that step if you want.)

2: Regular Dove soap is a good makeup remover

You don’t need a super fancy makeup remover and skin hydration lotion to still look and feel good. Dove bar soap is a good substitute for that and does a good job at removing makeup, even eye makeup. You will have to be careful about getting soap in your eye, so I would recommend checking out some makeup wipes for around your eyes.

3: Expired doesn’t always mean unusable

This one depends on what type of product. I’ve been using what are probably “expired” products for a while, and thankfully I haven’t had any problems. Again, that probably has to do with the fact that most of the makeup products I use are powdered makeup and not creams or things that can dry out. That being said, my mascara is guaranteed over three years old and surprisingly still holding strong. So check out how long different types of makeup last as compared to other types before you buy. This way you know you’ve made a good investment in the product you’re buying.

4: Powdered makeup is less likely to make you break out

We’ve all had those moments when we go to sleep after a long day and forget to take our makeup off. You wake up, realize what happened, and try not to panic about the effects of the overnight incident on your skin. You can avoid those kinds of panics by using powdered makeup over liquid. Powdered makeup is less likely to clog your pores because it’s loose and doesn’t completely cover your skin. It also comes off more easily, so keep that in mind when considering whether to use primer. If you have a little more money leftover from your paycheck or gift money, you can try mineral makeup, which is known to be better for most skin types. It is more expensive than drugstore makeup, and can be pretty pricey compared to brands like Urban Decay as well. So again, keep that in mind.

5: Drugstore makeup isn’t that bad

If you need a quick fix, or have just run out of your favorite blush, mascara, or eyeliner, drugstore makeup isn’t a bad option. Some brands use all natural ingredients in their products, and others have a strong reputation among most drugstore brands. My favorite picks for most of my options are Maybelline and then L’oreal for lipstick. I’m still looking for some better options in terms of ingredients, but I know that these brands haven’t been harsh on my skin. So if you’re looking to find a quick fix or replace a former beloved product, consider trying a few drugstore brands to find one that fits what you’re looking for.

And those were my top beauty tips for college girls or young women on a budget. Again, this most definitely not all the tips one could ever find, but these are the ones I’ve found most helpful for myself. They may not work for everyone, but I hope I was able to help a few young women out. Let me know if there are any other tips you’d like to see about beauty, food, fashion, or health for ladies on a budget. Until next time, readers!

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Healthy College Living: How Do You Do It?

healthy, blog, college, health

One of the biggest struggles in college isn’t the load of homework or making new friends. It’s adjusting to living on your own, especially taking care of yourself. Suddenly, you’re responsible for laundry, food, and making sure you take medicine when you’re sick. It can be tough, especially when you’re used to someone else reminding you when to do things. And college is not an easy place to stay healthy. Between the number of students and the difficulty of keeping a campus of well over 2,000 students clean, illnesses have a high chance of spreading quickly.

Just about every year, several students get the flu or some illness at my school, so staying healthy is super important. This year, the flu (also called plague), a bacterial infection, and a cold have run through the student body, and so far I’ve come out not too terribly. I don’t have the best track record when it comes to staying healthy. My freshman year I ended up getting multiple colds that were extremely annoying. Sophomore year I continued to get colds. Junior year I came down with pneumonia during the fall, which really dragged me down. Thankfully, the second semester was a lot less crazy, and I only got a couple colds. So far, senior year has passed by pretty quietly. The worst I’ve gotten so far are two nasty colds and an injured foot. Not too shabby, considering how many students get sick at my school a semester.

On top of avoiding all the illnesses, staying fit is also important. This is something I’ve struggled with quite a bit. Staying active when you have to walk everywhere is easy. But after you’re done walking to classes, you’re tempted to stop. Combine bad food options (both in the cafeteria and with fast food) with lack of exercise, and things go downhill pretty quickly. So with all the craziness happening between sickness and exercise, how does one stay healthy? Or at least keep from getting sick too often?

Usually, I try to get plenty of sleep, eat veggies and fruits and proteins when I can, and try to be mobile. Whenever I’m prescribed medicine, I make sure to take everything I’ve been prescribed (especially when it comes to antibiotics). But I know I could always do better. So how do you guys stay healthy in college? Regular exercise, sleep, the right diet, or is there something else you’ve found that helps? Share your tips in the comments, and I’ll compile the top answers into a master post in three weeks. Until next time, readers, and I look forward to reading your answers!

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Finding the Motivation: Writing in College

blog, writing, college,

(It’s a little ironic that this is a post about writing motivation, and it’s late because I have little motivation to write anymore. Welp.)

As anyone who’s done personal writing during college can tell you, it ain’t easy. There’s homework that need attending to, a body that needs cared for, and sleep to be had. And that’s just the beginning stuff. Then there’s papers, projects, presentations, and other random homework that pops up out of nowhere. Between all those assignments and the need to take care of yourself, writing non-school-related things can be hard. Add the dreaded writer’s block, and boy does it get messy. So what’s a girl, or guy, to do about it? How do you stay motivated to write when school builds up?

There’s no set way to get back into writing, since motivation varies between person. For me personally, reading through old stories sometimes sparks my interest and desire to write. Sometimes, the sheer anticipation of an event like NaNoWriMo helps a lot, too. In general, I try to peak my interest back on what I’ve been writing. When it comes to new stories, it can be a little more tricky.

If I don’t have a set idea, writing a new story can be kind of a pain. I always try to flesh out the main characters, the general plot, and the setting before I start writing. So far, that technique has worked pretty well, but sometimes I can’t even get those things to cooperate with me. Instead, I’m left with a blank Word document, trying to beat the characters I very lovingly crafted onto the page without so much as a peep from them. It’s annoying to say the least.

Sometimes, just the characters show up. Sometimes, I can only get the setting right. And sometimes the plot starts out okay and two pages later, I have no idea what I’m doing and how I’m getting to the next step. Even nonfiction can be a pain, when the scenario I wanted to write about suddenly stops being a source of inspiration and starts being a source of bland sentences piling up on a page. Motivation definitely doesn’t come as easily as it used to, and it hasn’t gotten easier. I also don’t have a lot of time to write personally, between the reading and papers. I’m hoping that after I finish this last semester, I’ll have more time to sit down and write more often, but we’ll see what happens.

So what about you? How do you stay motivated to write despite life’s craziness, especially if you’re still in school? Are there specific triggers you try to get the creative juices flowing? Or do you set time aside to write everyday? Let me know down in the comments, and until next time!