Categories
aggregate fiction story

Macrophages

Macrophages, by Erica Ciko Campbell, will appear in the upcoming Aggregate anthology.


Erica Ciko Campbell made her writing debut on backwater internet forums in the early 2000’s. Since then, she hasn’t been able to resist tormenting her friends and family with the occasional sci-fi horror story. Her greatest accomplishment to date is To Be Young and Whole Again, the unpublished first novel in the Tales of a Starless Aeon series. She lives with her husband Jeremy and sheltie Charlie in the wilds of upstate New York. If you’re still craving the whispers of war-torn, dead galaxies, check out her website, Written Constellations: https://writtenconstellations.com/. You can also find her on Twitter at @ECikoCampbell.


Curiosity

My grandmother always said that every planet in our galaxy was an atom, and that our entire universe was but a single cell in some megastructure we could never conceive. She theorized that the cosmic revolutions of Mars, Mercury, and even the Earth were little more than subatomic twitches inside some universe-sized leviathan. And as a worm burrows desperately into the innards of a dog, she speculated, we cling to our ignorance and the pitiful limitations of our senses.

Whenever Grandma started whispering about the monsters, my mother got very quiet and fixed her gaze upon the wall. It usually took a few moments for her to snap out of her trance, but when she did, her disquiet would boil into a sedated smile. She’d babble something about how the scariest monsters never leave the walls of the human mind, and how I shouldn’t listen to Grandma’s nonsense because she wasn’t thinking straight anymore.

But my mother’s eyes always left me wondering if she was running from some truth that I’d never know.

Categories
confidence motivation

What makes an author, anyway?

When does somebody take the leap from “non-author” into authorship? Is there some finish line to that journey, and if so, is it relatively quick like a hundred-meter sprint or is it a long arduous run similar to a marathon? Can you ever revert your author status once you have it?

And finally, are you an author?

Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

Big questions, right? Well, I have a simple answer that I believe, followed by a long road of reasoning to hopefully justify myself.

If you think you’re an author, you’re an author.

Please read on for the justification, since some days really do let me feel like an ✨author✨ while some other days have me feeling like a slug.

Categories
confidence motivation

Taking care of yourself when writing is hard on you

We writers are known for being hard on ourselves. Sure, anybody can put words on the page, but as writers, we put a larger burden on ourselves to make sure those words are as meaningful as possible. In many cases, that meaning has to be mined out slowly, over time. And sometimes, that meaning is hard to confront.

The public perception of a writer can seem glamourous. Who wouldn’t want to travel around the world to reading events and interviews? Surely the life of a writer involves meeting celebrities (while also being a celebrity), basking in attention from readers at every step?

Right?

Of course, we know the truth is less exciting.

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann

Writing is hard work. Sometimes, for those who do the work and are lucky enough to find an audience, the scenario above can come true. For the rest of us, writing is a deeply personal process full of profound highs and lows.

With all of the work, all of the toil, all of the personal sacrifice, and all of the risk of putting one’s thoughts and words into the world, it’s so, so important to remember to take care of yourself.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Prioritize self-care

Writing, as a largely solitary activity, often demands long hours by yourself. Without taking the time to check in, it’s dangerously easy to lose track of your own self-care.

The importance of physical fitness in other sedentary activities, such as chess, poker, or e-sports, is becoming obvious. In addition to the clear physical benefits, getting up and moving can help your mind by stimulating blood flow and boosting creativity by changing your environment. Your body, like your mind, is a tool that needs cultivating.

Note that this doesn’t mean you should be lifting weights five to seven times a week. Getting outside for some fresh air for a few minutes each day is a wonderful start.

And if you’d like some inspiration, here are some articles about others who have taken those initial steps and found more value than they initially expected.

Burnout is a dangerous problem for those of us who push themselves too hard from time to time. If you’re working too hard and showing signs of physical or mental exhaustion, consider taking a step back and reflecting. You might do better work after rewarding yourself with a short break. Recharge that battery and help yourself at the same time.

Be kind to yourself

Every writer is different. Your writing is important because it’s yours. We all produce at different rates, with different degrees of quality along many different measurements. If we all had the same output, the world would be a boring place.

If you find you’re feeling down, consider taking a step back and reframing your expectations to be realistic. Published books aren’t first drafts, so our first drafts won’t read like our favourite books (yet!). Full-time authors have large blocks of time available to produce words, while part-timers like many of us have to eke out minutes when we can find them (but those words that we do create couldn’t have come from anybody else!).

All we can do is our best, and thank goodness for that. The world is a better and more enriched place because you’re in it.

Don’t dull your aspirations though, if you find they’re helpful! Being realistic doesn’t mean being hard on yourself. Everybody has hard days, and it’s important to remember that we all need support sometimes. Take the time you need to be healthy.

Ask for help when needed

While writing can be an intensely personal activity, don’t forget that there are people who can act as a support network at any level you need. Whether you’d benefit from an early reader, or if you just need a friend to support you through a rough patch, don’t forget to keep your social connections close.

If you’re finding that things are still hard to deal with, don’t be afraid to seek professional treatment from health professionals. Mental or physical illness are no joke. The stigma around disclosure is starting to fade, and if you’re apprehensive, you may be comforted to know that therapy (in any number of forms) is growing more common. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you think this might be helpful. Writing might be lonely, but life doesn’t have to be. 🧡

Categories
fiction plot

Adding tension to a scene

Have you ever written a scene that you know is full of potential but is somehow lacking excitement? A scene where interesting characters are in an interesting setting, but somehow aren’t interesting enough to carry your attention forward?

Let’s face it–most events in a regular day aren’t worth writing a story about. Sure, we all have interesting conversations from time to time, and we all certainly have moments in our lives that are story-worthy. However, from your reader’s perspective, each scene in a story needs to be compelling. A scene that isn’t compelling is a reason for your reader to stop and find another story by somebody else. Ouch.

How do we make sure a scene has so much conflict and tension that your reader has no choice but to stick around and find out what happens?

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Categories
confidence motivation

Should you make writing a priority?

Photo by Vanessa Bumbeers on Unsplash

There are plenty of books, essays, posts, and general social media reflections on carving out time for writing. Fighting for a spare moment to craft some words when life has other plans. With social lives, families, careers, and even sleep, how can a writer make time to actually write?

And with that in mind, how can we actually be sure that carving out time is a worthwhile thing to do? If writing was so important in our lives, wouldn’t be have already made the time we need? (Not necessarily, as I suspect most writers with busy schedules would argue!)

In this busy world of ours, how can somebody who wants to make more time available for writing actually make writing a priority in their life?