Progress is Progress (a Music + Writing Post)

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It’s all too easy to get discouraged and down on ourselves when it doesn’t seem like we’re progressing: in writing, music, and life in general. In whatever we do, no matter how old or experienced we are, there are days–or even weeks or months–in which we feel like we’re getting nowhere, despite our hard work.

I started taking voice lessons last summer, in June or July, and since then I have learned so many new things. But just a few weeks ago, I felt awful. I didn’t want to practice or sing or do anything with to my voice at all. It felt like I hadn’t progressed at all. We’d been working for weeks and weeks trying to get some vibrato to come into my voice, and it wasn’t coming. I felt like I was trying my best and getting nowhere.

When I went to my voice lesson that next Monday, my voice teacher told me that my mom had talked to her and told her a little bit how I was feeling. For a little bit, I felt a bit betrayed that my mom would tell her something like that, but now, I’m really glad about what she did.

My voice teacher asked what was wrong, and, amidst a lot of tears, I told her how I’d been feeling.

“[Lana], every one of my students comes to me and tells me that they don’t feel like they’re progressing. Especially the students like you, who have been in choirs for years and years, feel like they should be better already, even if they’ve only been with me for a few months. Let me tell you that your voice is amazing and you have come so far.”

She then took out my notebook and listed three columns: what I’d been good at before I started learning with her, what I’d improved on since then, and then what I still needed to work on to improve my voice.

And she was right: I had come far. There was so much that I’d learned and improved on. Of course, there was still more to do, but seeing how far I’d come helped me realize that I had progressed, and that I would continue to progress in the future (and I have).

It’s the same with writing and everything in life. There are days when you stare at the screen and don’t know what to write next. There are days when scenes don’t work and your writing is horrible and, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to figure out that tricky character’s voice. There are even days when you think you’re not cut out to be a writer at all.

But that’s when you’ve got to realize that progress is progress, and you’ve made it. It’s good to realize how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned, how amazing your voice is. When I think of how much I’ve learned since I started writing…the results are tremendous. About characters and plots and realism…

But, after you’ve realized how far you’ve come, you have to create that third column. It’s no good to realize the progress you’ve made if you don’t do anything about it. Once you find out what you’ve done, you have to decide what you’re going to do–and try to do it. Keep practicing, a little at a time, a tiny fraction every day. And you will progress, but you may not notice unless you take the time to look back on it.

It takes time, but you will progress. You have progressed, and however far you still have to go, that’s amazing.

Finding Happiness in a Jealous World

There is so much talent in this world. So much that, at times, it’s really hard not to feel bad about ourselves or jealous of others. There’s so much comparison in the world, and we want to be the best. Or, sometimes, it’s not even that. Sometimes we just want to be as good as someone else, and we’re not.

As a writer, it’s hard not to be jealous of others; just think of the millions of books that have been published. Apparently, the statistic (from a quick search on Google) is that a million books are published in a year in the U.S. That’s strong competition. The questions start to creep in: will I ever publish a book? Will someone ever read my writing and love it? Everyone is telling me that I’m a young writer, that I won’t be published for years, and sometimes it is so hard to keep the dedication.

In some ways, it’s even harder to not be jealous of the people close to us. Even writers that I’m close to, that I love and are amazing and I should wish all the best for them, I sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy when they seem to be progressing so much farther or so much faster than I am.

The world is so full of competition and self-pity. We see someone who has practiced art for years paint something and say to ourselves, “I wish I was that talented,” and when someone asks us to draw something, we say, “I can’t.”

Tell me, what has happened when you have told a girl she was pretty? 90% of the time the reaction is “What? No, I’m not. What are you talking about?” I can’t tell whether it’s because they really are confused by the compliment, or if they want the compliment to continue; they want reassurance that they really are beautiful.

You are.

You are beautiful. You are talented. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, especially if it’s yourself.

But maybe the reason the world is like this is because we made it this way. In our jealousy, in our pity, we’ve become self-centered. When others have accomplishments, because of our lack of them, we have no joy in them. In fact, sometimes we even wish that others would not have done such a wonderful thing so that we wouldn’t feel so bad.

That’s not how it’s supposed to be. Just think of how wonderful this would be: whenever someone had a good day, you had a good day, too. Whenever someone accomplished something, you shared in their joy. Whenever you saw someone making a difference, you were happy that the world was a better, brighter place, and you were encouraged, not discouraged. As one of my teachers put it, “Life would be a party all the time.”

Isn’t that what we want life to be like? We want to be happy. But we mistakenly believe that this will come by others praising us for what we do, or from being better than other people.

Happiness doesn’t come from the outside in. It comes from the inside out. Only you have the power to decide whether you are happy or not. When people used to tell me that, I didn’t understand what they meant when I was so sad. But I think I understand now.

It means that when someone accomplishes something, you choose whether to be happy or jealous. It means that when someone is better than you, you choose whether to use them as a model or to covet their position. It means that when someone gives you constructive criticism, you choose whether to honestly receive it or to push it away because you don’t want to change.

It’s hard. I will freely admit that, that right now, in the short-term, making that decision to put others in front of yourself is hard. But happiness is worth it, and it becomes easier every time you make that decision.

I challenge you: make the choice. Say “thank you” when someone compliments you, and pay it forward by complimenting others. Share in the joy of other people’s accomplishments. Smile at people. Serve others. Work hard. You will be happy, and you will find your worth.

There is a quote by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a leader in my church, that I think describes this perfectly. “We become more substantive as we serve others. Indeed, it’s easier to find ourselves because there’s so much more of us to find.”

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

Note: This post is rather long and very rambly. Enjoy at your leisure (and at your own risk).

I recently (as in a few minutes ago) realized that today is New Year’s Eve Eve. For some reason, I thought it was farther away, but here it is, almost 2016. Since I’ll probably be spending tomorrow writing this short story thing (see here), as well as the usual New Year’s Eve traditions, I decided I’d write my end of the year post today. In which, I shall be writing about some of my accomplishments from this past year, as well as my goals and resolutions for next year (most of them being centered around writing).

Goodbye, 2015.

This has been a good year for me, and I’m sad to see it go. There were some sad spots and some stressed spots, but overall, looking back on it, it’s been a good year. I feel like I’ve come leaps and bounds in my writing since January, despite that the year felt so short. So, some of my accomplishments.

1. The 365K challenge. I accepted this challenge in late 2014, and it was to write 1,000 words every day for a whole year, thus resulting in 365,000 words. I didn’t write that much, but ultimately, taking this challenge changed my writing drastically.

Though I started NaNoWriMo and writing novels in 2013, I didn’t really do much in between NaNo sessions. I would write in April, July, and November, sparing a little bit of time in the middle to work on my novels, but never writing much more outside of those three months.

365K changed that. I started writing nearly every day, if not daily. It became a habit. It became part of who I was.

Now that I look back on it, remembering that there was once a day when writing didn’t mean so much to me is like trying to remember a strange dream, I’ve changed so much since then. It’s not just a hobby anymore, it’s now ingrained into my life. I don’t know if I could ever go back to the way I was before.

Though I won’t be doing 365K in 2016, due to that I should (hopefully) be doing some revising instead of writing, I’m so glad that I decided to do it this year. In total, I wrote 336,587 words, and in the end was only 28,413 words behind. I’m proud of myself for that.

2. NaNoWriMo. I love NaNoWriMo (a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month, if you haven’t heard of it). It was what first truly showed me my love of writing. I’ve been writing since as long as I can remember, but NaNoWriMo was what really got me started. So, of course, I’ve continued doing it.

In April, I participated in the first Camp NaNo of this year. I wrote 130 more words than my goal of 40,000 in a fantasy novel I tentatively titled The Blade, though I just call it my Riven novel, since the MC was a girl named Riven. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s in the works.

In July, I participated in the second Camp NaNo of this year. I finally came to my senses and realized I had way too many unfinished novels that needed attending to, so I started a project called A Thousand a Day, coinciding with the 365K challenge. I had a goal of 31,000 (a thousand a day), and had a total of 32,323 by the end of the month. I don’t know if it really helped all that much, but it helped some, at least.

In November, I wrote in the official NaNoWriMo and the YWP NaNoWriMo, writing an urban fantasy that was called Behind the Closet Door but shouldn’t be called that now, as that name doesn’t fit. However, I do still call it BCD when I refer to it. I wrote 53,016 words in it (or 53,017, depending on which site you look on), but haven’t touched it since.

Overall, NaNo was kind of crazy and I don’t know that my writing was even that good during it, but I love doing it anyway. It encourages me to write more, try harder, and also gives a sense of community that you don’t get when writing on your own. Besides, all rough drafts are bad, so who cares, anyway?

3. Finishing novels. I’ll tell you right off the bat, I’m not good at finishing novels. I like to chase after random plot bunnies, and I’m not the kind of person who can work on one thing at a time. I always have tons of writing projects going on at the same time, and, in short, I am a procrastinator.

However, this year I managed to actually finish two of my novels. Rough drafts, of course, but they are finished, and I’m pleased with that. In the two years before, I’d finished three novels (all of them shorter than these two), so this was a good improvement.

I first finished DotW, which is short for Daughter of the Wind. (I give all of my novels nicknames, so…be warned. For something. Something evil author-y, obviously.) I started writing that novel for NaNoWriMo in 2014, and finally finished that this June. I have to say, it was really, really nice to not have that hanging over my head anymore. I may revise it at one point, but it’s a mess. It involved time travel and I also didn’t plan much for it, so it did turn out really messy, heh. But it’s finally finished, so yay!

I also finished KT, which doesn’t actually have a title, but its two MCs are named Kai and Taira, which is why it has that nickname. I started this last December, and I wrote it in between NaNos. I wanted to finish it before this November’s NaNoWriMo, and I did — I finished it on Halloween. I’m not really sure what genre it is, somewhere between sci-fi and dystopia, but I liked writing it a lot, and I do have plans for it in the future.

While I didn’t actually finish any other novels, I came a lot closer to finishing some of them, like Riven. Of course, I did start several, but I promise I fought off as many plot bunnies as I could. (I won’t pinkie promise, though…)


I don’t know how well it showed up in all of that rambling, but I did progress a lot this year. I wrote more than I did before, finished more than I did before, and my writing improved a lot. So, yes, I am very satisfied with 2015, but I am also excited for 2016.

Hello, 2016.

I have a few writing goals for this new year, and thinking of all of them makes me feel very professional, hehe. (However, it probably fills you with dread for how much longer this post will go on. Too bad. The post must go on!)

1. Zel novel. This is a plot bunny idea I had just a few weeks ago and have been trying to nurture into health. And novel-ness. It’s a retelling of Rapunzel, beginning with Rapunzel La’arenal (a.k.a. Zel) as a foreign criminal, captured and kept in Davacas’s castle tower as her cell before she is to be executed for her crimes. When she escapes, however, Crennan Torvyr (a.k.a. Cren), a Davac soldier, chases after her in order to capture and bring her back to her cell, and to her death.

Well, that’s the premise, anyway. I’ve done a little bit of planning on the plot, but mostly I’ve been working on the world building (as well as a bit of character development). I’m planning to start work on the rough draft of this novel in early January, and I’ll probably be rambling about it a lot. I’m excited to write this draft, and we’ll see how it goes.

2. Revision of KT. You know that novel I finished up this year? That weird, half sci-fi, half dystopia one? Well, I’ve decided that I’m going to revise/rewrite it this year. I’ve never actually revised one of my novels before, so this will be exciting. Despite my inexperience, I do have a few things I already know can be changed, and I really am excited to change this rough draft into a much better second draft. I’ll probably be blogging about this quite a bit when I do it too, so be ready.

3. KT 2. Which is the best nickname I’ve been able to come up for KT’s sequel. After all, it’s still about Kai and Taira, and considering neither have an actual title, I’m calling it KT 2 right now. Anyhow, I’m planning on writing the sequel to KT, if you hadn’t already figured that out from the above sentences, and I have absolutely no idea what it’s going to be about, but I’m going to write it anyway. (Okay, so I have a few ideas, but not many.)

This will actually be the first sequel I’ve written (aside from the sequel to my first novel ever, both of which were pretty horribly written), so this will be interesting. I’m glad I feel excited enough about one of my novels to actually write a sequel to them, and that gives me hope for the future of KT.

4. NaNoWriMo. I’m going to do NaNo again. Yup.

5. Finishing novels. Again, this is going to be a priority for me. I want to finish some of the novels I’ve started, like Riven and AAA and ICS. And some others, of course. There are always more novels that I can finish…


Yep, I have some plans for 2016. Hopefully I can get even more done than that, but so far, that’s what I have, and I’ll do my best to reach those goals.

I now formally welcome in 2016. *drones on in long speech, finishing in a ritual that involves good food, music, and some magical words that sound like they’re in another language which also sounds kinda like pig latin.

“Elcomeway ootay uhthay oonay earyay!”


Utway areay oaryay oonay earsyay esolutionsray anday oaryay olday earsyay achievementsay?