Smile Pretty! And Don’t Wear Elastic

Wednesday was picture day at work.

It’s part of a marketing campaign. We’re getting our pictures on the website (among other things). I spent a bunch of time Wednesday morning trying look decent. Fussing with the hair, changing shirts a bunch of times and so on. I finally told myself I was over thinking it. It’s just a picture for a job I don’t care about, because really, I’m a writer. No one will ever see it. And, what do I care?

They take the picture and now I want to redo it. I hate the shirt, my hair looks silly, I look crazy. Blah, blah, blah. It’s not a vanity thing. I just don’t want to look stupid. I know this isn’t my true calling and in 10 years I’m not going to worry about it, but this is going on the Internet, after all. I’d like to forever be remembered as, “not dorky looking.” Or something like that.

But why am I so darn worried about this picture? Because it’s on the Internet and the Internet is forever. That’s part of it. But, the more I thought about it, the more I worried. I started realizing, it isn’t just about the picture.

I took this job because I needed money. The freelance/writing thing isn’t enough to to pay the bills, something I mentioned in the interview. And, my thought at the time was, it’s flexible, so that should make this writing thing easier. I can’t work more than 24 hours a week, I don’t have to work every day, I can, in some respects, do whatever I want. I have a set schedule, but I set it. So, I know exactly when I have time to write and when I don’t. I went into this with the attitude of, it’s just a job to help pay the bills. I’m not taking it seriously. Ever.

But.

I hear people talking about things at work and I get upset. Genuinely upset. Oh, they hired someone else and that person is already learning something new? Why not me? How come I’m not picked? Why did this person get this thing and I didn’t? At times, I find myself upset, jealous, even, of stuff going on. Concerned.

Which is stupid because everyone there is fabulous, and there are no egos there. No one’s angling for the corner office. Mostly because there isn’t one. But, you know what I mean. I should not give a shit about any of it and yet, I do. Because I like the job. I love it! It’s all kinds of greatness. Flexible, fun, doesn’t require a lot of brain power (leaving my mind ready to create), they pay on time. But, I wanted – needed – to look good. Not just for me but for the company. I want them to look good. As good as possible. I want this venture to work out.

Uh-oh.

Now, I’m comfortable. Now, I’m happy. Invested, even (not with money, though). Now, I want to stay and do what I can do to help this company succeed. In part because it’s a start-up and who knows? Maybe it will go public and we’ll all get rich. But I also want it to succeed because I want it to succeed. Because I care. Because I’m comfortable.

There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable. For example, I think elastic waist bands are a fabulous invention. Everyone should have those in their pants. And warm, snuggly blankets are awesome. But being comfortable at work. That’s a different thing. Especially when I took the job with the “it’s just a job because really, I’m a writer” attitude. It’s no longer just a job. It’s a thing. Not a career. But I could wake up one day and find it’s turned into one.

So, what to do? Ditch the elastic waist band for a suit? Metaphorically, of course. I hate suits. And jobs that require suits. Nope. That’s not the answer. There are a lot of really good things about this job that make writing work. Perhaps it’s time to accept it’s OK to like the day job and to be comfortable in it. To wrap myself up in it and enjoy the sense of comfort and security. For now.

Tuning Out

I’ve been trying to write this post for about an hour, but I keep getting distracted. I had a whole other topic in mind for today but I’ve forgotten what it is. I’m sure I’ve got it filed away in my brain somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it. Knowing me, I probably wrote it down somewhere, but I can’t find my notebook. I think it’s in my car, but I can’t find the motivation to get up and get it so I can see what I was thinking about the topic for today. I think it was about writing. I’m not sure. I don’t remember.

See, I did something stupid. Actually, I’m still doing it. Right now as I type this. I’m allowing myself to be distracted. I say “allowing” because I could stop it. I could close all the active tabs on the computer, make the Internet go away, tune Pandora to something less fun, close Twitter. But, I can’t.

Mostly, I’m fascinated by Twitter right now. Either I’ve never stayed logged in for this long or today just happens to be a very active tweeting kind of day. Every time I look, there’s new tweets. I go to refill my coffee cup, 2 more tweets. I open them, find an interesting link, click it, read the article, finish and, 3 more tweets. I look at them real quick, get up to pee, come back six tweets. Open those and… You get the idea.

There’s no real reason for this. Let’s face it, most of the tweets aren’t particularly earth shattering. Some have links to interesting writery things. Those are OK. Sometimes things are funny and I laugh. But, truly, most of the tweets are time wasters. Sure, you could say that the writer related ones are work related, what with me being a part-time writer and all. But, it’s not like most of the tweets are going to advance my career. It would be cool if they could, though. And, of course, there’s all the links to the quizzes and all the other click bait I fall for.

It took me about 10 minutes longer than it should have to type that last paragraph because of all the incoming tweets. Seriously! What is wrong with me? Don’t answer that. Because, I’ll answer it myself.

I’m having a case of doubt. Ever have that? Sure, we all have. And, this isn’t my first case of doubt. I don’t know what number it is, but I know it’s not the first, or the last.

My latest WIP is actually my third attempt (or maybe 4th?) at a novel. Non fiction I can do. Essays I can do. Ghost writing I can do. Rambling blog posts are clearly not a problem. Novels, though… Ack. I have a good idea, but it’s vague and as I develop it becomes a little less vague, but not clear enough to coalesce into anything resembling a novel. It’s not just the telling not showing thing, I can’t quite figure out how to end it. Or the direction it should take to the foggy ending. It’s like a road trip that starts off really well but then the GPS goes out and you don’t have cell service and you kind of go, well, OK, whatever, lets keep going and see what happens and you drive and drive and drive and eventually drive off into nowhere and run out of gas. The end.

Not a very good road trip. Though possibly how a good story starts.

So, I’m allowing myself to be distracted today by the tweeting (7 sitting there right now. I’m sure I’ll check in a second) to avoid the fact that I am, once again, stuck. It’s difficult to be stuck, because I don’t know how to get unstuck. I have a great idea, but that’s about it. No where to go with it. I’ve tried a few times, but run out of gas.

What’s funny (to me) about this whole thing is that for as many times as this has happened to me, I keep coming back. Trying again. Starting over with another foggy idea. Or beating the old one because I’m not totally convinced it’s dead. Yet. I hope that’s the definition of grit. Persistence. So that when the day comes that I have done it and I have finished it and it’s published I can say I didn’t give up. I kept trying until I succeeded because I believed.

But right now there are 4 new tweets to waste time with. Believing can wait until later.

 

 

Tuning In

I really need to delete the TV Guide app from my iPad. That thing sucks me in every time I look at it. Well, almost. Even with 140+ channels, some days there is just absolutely nothing to watch. Other days, there are way too many things to watch and I start with one and the next thing I know I’ve lost hours and hours to TV land.

Thank goodness I don’t have the DVR option enabled. I’d become the couch.

I was planning on writing Sunday night but I was tired (love those allergies and the Benadryl I take to combat it. My brain is constantly fried these days) and thought, “Well, I’ll just glance at what’s on TV tonight…”

Uh-huh.

One of the things that sucks me in most is classic movies. Turner Classic Movies is one of my favorite channels. I’m a sucker for that stuff. And Sunday night they were running the 1968 release of Planet of the Apes. The best movie out of all of them, in my opinion.

I’d be a liar if I told you I was always a fan. While I love sci-fi and speculative stuff, those monkeys scared the crap out of me as a kid. I did not like that make-up. As an adult, it’s a different story. I can appreciate the nuances and the technical skill it took to create those characters visually. No CGI. Just make-up, prosthetics and a lot of technique. But man, that was the stuff of many a bad dream in my youth.

I know I’ve seen the movie before. Mostly because I know how it ends (spoiler alert: it’s awesome!), and I’ve seen the “Get your paws off me” scene. And I remember the bits in between those two scenes and some of what comes before the paws scene. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the beginning. Yet, I know I’ve seen the movie. So, I decided to watch instead of write. Because I had a foggy brain and really wanted to see the beginning which I couldn’t remember.

The first hour was a complete mystery to me. It was kind of cool, in a sense. I was seeing it for the first time. And it’s good stuff. On the other hand, if I’m so sure I’ve seen it before, why didn’t the beginning stick with me?

Which got me thinking about writing and story telling in general. A really good story should stay with you from the beginning to end, shouldn’t it? While I couldn’t tell you exactly how the Harry Potter story opens, I can tell you the beginning. It’s about this kid who lives under the stairs at his Aunt and Uncle’s and they hate him and (again, spoiler alert), turns out he’s a wizard (among other things going on with this kid). See? I didn’t look that up at all (and the Internet’s right here) and I remember it. So, why the heck can’t I remember the beginning of Planet of the Apes.

I think the obvious answer is: I hadn’t really seen the whole thing beginning to end. Because it’s such a great movie and such a great story that I should have remembered it. Right? Good stories stick.

But, from a writer’s perspective, it was even better that I couldn’t remember (or hadn’t seen) the beginning. Given I knew the ending, it was fun to watch the beginning knowing what awaited in the last few frames. I could see the subtle clues (and the not so subtle ones) that were sprinkled in the dialogue. Here and there these little tidbits were dropped that kinda sorta let the viewer know what was going to happen. Not exactly, of course, but enough that if you were paying close attention, you wouldn’t be quite so shocked at the end. Impressed, but not shocked.

Ah. Good story telling at it’s best. A twist ending that you mostly saw coming because the writer let you in on the secret without giving it away. How I wish I possessed that ability without having to try so hard at it. But, those are the breaks I guess. Rod Serling I am not.

And, if you weren’t paying attention, the ending is still pretty cool. It’s a twist, but it totally fits. In so many ways. Also the mark of good story telling, I think. A twist ending that makes you say, “I did not see that coming,” but you don’t feel cheated or tricked. The Sixth Sense is an excellent example of this. A twist ending that makes you go “What?” in the first breath then “Oh, cool!” in the second. It’s the twists where you go “What?” in the first breath then “No way,” in the second but not in a good way, that make you think of bad story telling.

And with no way to end this post, twisting or otherwise, I’m off to critique and work on my Friday Phrases tweets for Friday.

The End (an absolutely classic ending)

 

Powering Through

I am utterly sleep deprived after this weekend and it’s making it hard to get anything done.

The weekend started with a huge storm. I was just about done with work when the power went out. I waited until it seemed like the storm was letting up enough to travel, then figured I’d take my chances with everyone else. I turn left out of the parking lot to find tree branches on cars and a flooded street. Turned around, and made it home the other way. Thankfully, we weren’t hit quite as hard at home. Plenty of power and no flooding.

The weekend ended with a split lip and the garage smelling like skunk. Don’t ask. But feel free to use it as a writing prompt.

As a result of the long weekend, I’m barely functioning. I’m sure that’s due in part to it being Monday and really, who likes Monday? And, it might have something to do with the fact that I took a bike ride this morning because the weather was perfect for it and after I refueled with two cups of coffee and an apple cider doughnut. Yep. That might have something to do with it.

So, in summary, I have no one to blame but myself for the Monday blues.

That’s OK. I’m excited about something I discovered on Twitter called Friday Phrases. Click through to check it out if you’re looking for a new way to exercise your writing muscles. I thought it would be really difficult at first but once I got going, it was a lot of fun and really got the creative side of me going. I’m going to try again this week, probably using whatever the optional theme is. That’s a good starting off point for me. And from there, who knows?

I found it to be a great way to think through things without having to try too hard. Not that it’s easy. It’s just that doing this doesn’t require as much plotting, planning, thinking and back story as, say, a full length novel. It’s also something I can whip out with paper and pen real quick when inspired, unlike the WIP. I don’t have to know the character(s) in depth and as completely as I do for the WIP (which I discovered over the weekend is one of my problems) or really know their motivations, or really anything. I mean, with only 140 characters there isn’t much room to wonder about their childhoods and how that affected their future choices.

And with that, it’s time for lunch. I’ll switch to water, I promise. And eat a healthy lunch with protein and veggies. No carbs. That should help.

Happy Monday and happy blogging!

What’s the Hurry?

And now for something a little different. A small rant I need to get off my chest.

Psst. You. Yeah, you. The one tailgating me and getting mad that I won’t speed up.

Slow down.

Seriously. Slow. Down.

Let me tell you why.

I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but school is back in session. Really. Around here, it’s been that way for a few weeks. Here’s how I know. I’m going to share this information with you so you don’t keep making the same mistake day after day after day for the next nine months. All those kids on the sidewalks. See them? Yeah. Put the phone down for a second (since it’s illegal for you to hold that up to your face while you’re driving) and look on the side of the road. All those kids. The ones with the backpacks? See them? They’re walking to that building over there that says “Elementary School.” That’s my first big clue. The second? The signs on the side of the road that say “Entering School Zone.”

Short of that, I don’t know how else to get it across to you that we’re driving in a school zone. And that you need to slow down. Way down.

I get that it’s a pain in the ass to drive through this school zone. Because it’s not really one school zone. It’s two school zones sort of squished together. Three if you count the high school, but that’s not marked as a school zone. It’s confusing and the speed limits change every 30 feet. It’s 35 MPH until the first zone, then 20 MPH then back up to 35 then back down again. And the high school isn’t a school zone but they have crosswalks in odd places and it’s not well marked. Plus, let’s face it, the street we’re driving on is kind of big and kind of major and it’s screaming for at least a 40 MPH limit. Maybe even 45. It’s wide, there’s nothing there – except those darn schools – and you’re in a hurry.

I don’t know why you’re in a hurry. And, truthfully, I don’t care. Because that’s not really the problem here. That speed limit sign applies to you, just like it applies to me. That’s why I only go 20 MPH when we’re in that zone.

See, I’m not in a hurry when I’m in those school zones. Even on the days that I am, I’m not. Know why? I don’t want to get a ticket. Because if I did get pulled over, I would be late and pissed off and I don’t like having those kinds of days. Especially when it’s avoidable. If you want to get a ticket, be my guest. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you. The cops love hanging out on that street. Love. It. There’s a couple of great places for them to hide so you can’t see them until it’s too late and they nail you.

When you’re driving up my tail pipe (I take my foot off the accelerator when you do that.), get mad because you can’t intimidate me into going your speed, give me a dirty look as you pass me, then blast through the school zone, I’m just guessing here, you think the rules don’t apply to you. Or you’re late. Or whatever. Doesn’t matter.

Getting a ticket, well, that’s your choice. But, when you’re speeding through a school zone faster than the speed of light while yapping and/or texting on your phone, weaving around all us slow pokes, you’re not just making a choice for you. You’re making a choice for the rest of us. One that you may not be able to undo. In my car, I have air bags and crumple zones and whole bunch of other shit to keep me safe. If something goes wrong, I stand a chance. Plus, I’m driving defensively, keeping an eye on you and avoiding you. But, a kid on the street? No air bags, no crumple zones. No nothing. Just a backpack, which I’m guessing doesn’t function quite like my airbags do.

Listen, I know a whole bunch of other people are doing it, too. But, like Mom said, if they jumped off a bridge, would you? She also said, two wrongs don’t make a right, so, by my calculations, your two wrongs of speeding through the school zone like a maniac and using your phone while doing it don’t add up to right.

So, for the rest of the year, could you maybe, just maybe, slow down? Plan ahead and leave earlier for where ever you need to go so when you do slow down, you aren’t late? Or, take a different route? I’m sure there’s more than one way to get to where you’re going. At the very least, stop tailgating me. It’s not going to get me to drive any faster.

Thanks. I totally appreciate it. And so does everyone else.

It Came From the Comments Section!

If that’s not the title of a horror movie, I don’t know what is!

Two minor items before I get started on what happened after the public flogging, er, critique of my opening.

First, for the moth of August, I ended with over 1300 spam comments blocked from the blog. Thank you, again, Word Press. I shutter to thing about the amount of moderating/deleting/screaming I would have done if it weren’t for that.

Second, I was going to post about the critique yesterday, but I got sucked into the Saved by the Bell movie. Don’t judge me. Sadly, I was horribly disappointed. It was rather boring and tame. I didn’t really learn anything about what went on behind the scenes, nothing salacious or even remotely interesting was revealed. Yet, I’m not at all sorry I watched. Really. Please, don’t judge me.

So. The Critique.

To set it up, you sent in your first 150 words and the critters (as I affectionately call them), had to try and guess your genre. The top ten entries with the most correct critter guesses move on to the next round. The idea was to see how well you built up your world right from the start.

At the end of the critique period, I decided I will now write in the “I don’t know” genre.

I’m OK with it. It’s a necessary part of being a writer. And, it was very eye-opening. While I’d argue that trying to get a genre type (or world) established in less tan 150 words is kind of difficult, it might even be unnecessary. A reader who picks up the book probably already knows the genre or world based on the title or the cover or both. Or maybe they got an idea based on the flab copy. However, there were a fair number of entries that did establish a genre in less than 150 words. Very clear, very concise, very obvious. And very well written.

As a sort of side observation, none of the adult entries (versus middle grade or young adult) made it through to the next round. In fact, most of the adult entries seemed to have “I don’t know” as a guess. I’m not sure what this means. Is it that all of the adult entries selected happened to have weaker openings? Is it that writing for an adult audience results in a different type of writing – one that is less concerned with world building in the beginning?

Interestingly, one entrant echoed my thoughts about how 150 words just isn’t enough and the title would have made it clear (or clearer) what the genre is. And, another said that the set-up was more obvious at about 500 words in. What this all means in terms of writing for a broad audience, I don’t know. Yet. But it is intriguing.

As for my entry. Well, I knew it wasn’t totally polished when I entered. The entries are selected at random so you never quite know if you’re in or you’re out until you are. So, I probably got what I deserved. Feedback that wasn’t very, um, great? That’s not right. It was great. Just not what I wanted to hear. It was totally clear in my head, just not so much on paper. Eating banana pudding while I read it helped.

It did encourage me to rewrite the opening, which I did. On paper. With a pen. Which slowed the process down for me and allowed me to really stop and think about details. Which got me thinking about character names (another critique) and streamlining things and where to add and subtract from the overall arc and a bunch of things I probably wouldn’t have considered if I hadn’t done this. So, in the end, very useful. Like I said, good can come from the comments section. You just have to be willing to find it.

And do it while eating banana pudding.

No Good Can Come From the Comments Section

That’s what everyone says? Right? The comments section is the place where the trolls and spammers hang out. Especially when the topic is controversial or polarizing. Or someone is having a bad day and wants to make trouble. That’s what the comment section is for. To make trouble. It can also be the place the spammers go when they think no one is looking.
For example. I take a slight break (as unintentional as it might have been) and come back to a hell of a spam attack. Thank you, WordPress, for keeping an eye on that and keeping it at bay. As of this morning I was up to 942 spam messages for this month. Yikes. No comments have made it through (as far as I can tell).
I knew going into this blogging business that spam attacks was going to be a concern. I’ve been a ghost blogger before, so I knew what to expect. Spammers see an opportunity to strike and they will take it. I’m not sure why they keep it up, though. How many people actually click those links these days? And, so far, no trolls. Hopefully they stay away, all though, I suppose, trolls mean your blog is successful and getting attention, right? No? Just me thinking that?
But, unlike some, I think good can come from the comments section. Like today, I’m in a critique contest. The blog can be found here.  Authoress (who runs said blog) has created an amazing community and an opportunity for people to get feedback on their work. And, don’t tell, but the occasional agent has been known to lurk there. I’ve been lucky enough to have stuff critiqued in other contests.
It’s always scary putting stuff out there. Particularly a WIP that hasn’t exactly been edited yet. (Not to fear. I proof read it before I put it up, it’s just not perfectly polished yet. I think that’s OK, according to the rules.) What I really don’t like about it is that I’ve got this perfect image in my head and I’ve taken the image, put it into words and now you’re reading the words and peering into the image in my brain. I have to do a really good job to get you to see what I see. To hear, smell, see and feel what the MC is hearing, smelling, seeing and feeling.
And I don’t always get it right. And the community lets me know that (nicely, of course.)
Yeah. It’s not pleasant but it is necessary, for two reasons. One, you’ve got to learn to put it out there, otherwise, you never will. Two, you’ve got to learn from all the comments that come in. Good one, bad ones, evil ones. How to find the positive and incorporate that into your work. How to handle the bad ones (and maybe find some good in them). Hence, good can come from the comments. You may not like what they have to say (trust me) but you can always learn something from the comments. Maybe you learn how to set things up for your world building, or how to write better dialogue. Or you can figure out why a scene isn’t working or why no one gets your MC. Or how to ignore the trolls and how to just keep going.
So, if you get a chance, hop on over to that blog today and check it out. Take the opportunity to comment and read other’s comments. Maybe some good will come from it today. And, for fun, see if you can figure out which entry is mine. I have to reveal it by the end of the commenting period so let’s see who can find it.
I apologize for the formatting of this post. I don’t know what is going on today.