The Death of Words

As I write this, I can’t help but think of “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

I’ve spent some time researching how to create a better blog. While I’d much rather spend time on crafting the best novel I can, I know it’s important to keep the blog up. Not just keep the blog up but to write interesting things, attract followers, and so on and so on. I’m confident that everyone that blogs knows that attracting new followers is a big thing. While I can write, marketing and selling has never really been my thing.

So, I’ve turned to the experts. By that, I mean, the Internet. Seems like the right place to go in this case.

I’ve never been an early adapter. I like taking risk (like jumping out of airplanes) but new technologies, not so much. Let’s just say when I was a kid, my dad bought the family a Betamax, convinced it was the perfect purchase. If you don’t know what that last phrase means, you should Google it for fun. I come to this blogging thing a bit late. In large part because I really don’t have anything interesting to say and also because when I ghost blogged, I learned how easy it can be to lose control of original content. And how hard it can be to get it back.

Late to the party, the experts have shown me that blogging is kind of over. Not dead, per se. Just passe. It’s all about You Tube stars (vloggers and people doing crazy stuff). Please. I can barely summon the courage to do this blog. I’m supposed to put my face to it?

Other advice has consisted of including gifs – or at the very least, pictures – within the text to break-up the monotonous chore of reading. No one wants to see too much text without pretty pictures apparently. Not to be obnoxious, but I can’t think of the last novel I read that included pictures, even YA novels. There’s also the ever popular listicle (a completely interesting word on so many levels). I have no problems with the list format as a method of writing and disseminating information. I worry, though, that it doesn’t improve my writing.

What really worries me is that the shift to these styles of communication and media (since vlogging isn’t exactly writing) is that it isn’t helping us as readers. I’ve gotten used to Twitter shorthand and now accept the fact that questionable spelling and grammar are necessary, required even, because of the 140 character limit. But when I’m getting advice like “stick a picture in there so your readers don’t have to read so much,” I get concerned that as a society, we’re failing ourselves.

Pictures on a cooking blog or a DIY blog make sense. If you’re giving me instructions on how to re-roof my house by myself, a couple of diagrams and pictures, even gifs, might prove useful. Of course, if you’re able to explain it clearly and I get it and can then do it without pictures, you’re an awesome writer. However, I feel that no one is that awesome, so again, pictures seem necessary.

But on a blog that’s sort of about writing? Or, let’s be real here, nothing in particular? I kind of feel like that says that I, the writer, doesn’t trust you, the reader, to fill it in. That I don’t think you can figure out what I’m trying to describe. Doesn’t that mean I’m not such a great writer? Shouldn’t I be able to create that image for you in your mind’s eye? Or worse, does it mean that I think that you, the reader, lack the critical reading skills to figure out what I’m saying so I just say, “Fuck it. I’ll throw a picture in here, just in case you don’t have that ability”?

What does this say about the experts that advise me to do this? Yes, I know, I went to the Internet for advice, so I kind of get what I deserve. And, also, I do know there is the giraffe picture on this blog. But it’s one picture. At the end of a post. And it’s a great picture of a giraffe.

I worry this means that we, as a collective group, are watching the death of the written word as a form of communication. Not just in terms of sharing stories, but in terms of sharing ideas, information, and even history. I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but what about when you don’t have a camera handy. A rarity these days, for sure, but it can and does happen. And then what? What happens when we lose the ability to describe something without a snazzy gif? How will that change things? How will that change how we communicate in any form?

 

It’s Hard to Be a Grown-Up

Long absence, I know. But that’s because I’m a grown-up and have “responsibilities” and such. Things I don’t want to do but have to. Some of them are legally required of me, some of them I just have to do because I’m a grown-up. But, man, it is tough sometimes.

(I know, I know, a lot of what I’m about to say falls into the category of “first world problems” but, due to lack of anything else, that’s what today’s post is all about.)

Like this blog post. I’m sitting here basically not doing it (even though I am) because there are other things I don’t want to do. Like mend a pillow case and paint some shelves. Easy things that will probably take all of about two seconds to do.

Then, there are the harder things, like waiting back on 2 email responses that I really don’t want to deal with. I mean, they are things that need to be dealt with and that’s part of being a grown-up. But I just don’t want to. I realize that if no one else does it, it won’t get done and then I will suffer the consequences, hence my taking the lead on it, but… Yuck. I really hate dealing with stupid stuff. Actually, that’s not true. Sometimes I just hate dealing with stuff. But, that’s part of being a grown-up.

And, I’m not even sure when this grown-up thing happened. I kind of woke up one day and said “How did this happen?” I don’t remember a ceremony marking the occasion. Or getting an official written offer that I accepted. It just kind of happened. Sure, there are some aspects of being a grown-up that are awesome. Like right now, it’s 10 AM and I’m still in my pajamas with no plans to leave them anytime soon and in a few minutes I’ll probably have a mid-morning power boosting snack of coffee and donuts. And, since I don’t work the day job today, I can go outside and play in this beautiful weather (probably the last one for the year).

Play. Like a kid. Only it will be grown-up play which is more like exercise, really. Like riding the bike and cleaning up the yard, checking on the fall/winter crops (OK, last surviving crop) in the garden. Adjusting the Halloween decorations. Which really isn’t play. It’s the grown-up version of play.

And then, oh, yeah, gotta work on the WIP, too. Trying to create a compelling character is rather hard work. I had hoped it would be an easy, natural process. Nope. I’m excellent at creating flat, boring, cardboard characters though. So, there’s that.

OK, enough whining. Off to work and all those other grown-up things I have to do.

I Like Pop, I Like Rock…

I like pop music.

There. I said it.

Don’t judge me. Or do judge me. If I was worried about judgement, I wouldn’t be blogging.

It’s called pop music for a reason. Because it’s popular. Now, I realize that calling it “popular” opens me up to a lot of criticism. Labeling it “popular” isn’t fair because who decides what popular is? And why is it popular? And how come it all seems to sound the same? And most of the artists seem to look/act/think a certain way? I know all this. But, allow me to continue without getting drawn into a debate about what defines popular. Because that’s not what this is about.

I realize there are many who will judge me, deride me even about this choice. Because, really, listening to a certain type of music is a choice. Pop isn’t the only thing I listen, too. I listen to alternative, and classical, and rap and pretty much whatever. If it’s a good song, I’ll listen. And possibly like it. Much like a good book, I’ll read whatever genre as long as I like it.

However, I can’t help but notice that Pandora seems to put a lot of pop in rotation for me. Taylor Swift seems to be a favorite these days. And I’m OK with that. It’s fun music. Sure, songs about break-ups aren’t exactly uplifting happy songs. But the ones with the revenge themes can be. Even the heart break songs can have a snappy beat that I can dance to. And dance I do. Unless I’m at work because I think that’s pushing the “I’m enjoying this” boundary a bit.

I feel like I should explain why I like pop music. It’s not because I want to defend the genre. It’s because it serves a purpose.

It’s fun, it’s silly, it helps me forget

Helps me forget?

Yup. It helps me forget about all the awful in the world. In case you weren’t aware, there’s this Ebola thing happening. (Side note, the conspiracy theorist in me says this is the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, but I might be wrong, so don’t quote me on it.) There’s the ever widening income gap that makes me worry about the future. I could go on and on about the spiraling costs of healthcare, or the issues in the Middle East (pick one these days) or the upcoming midterm election or what the Supreme Court is or is not ruling on. But, I won’t. Instead, I blast the radio (or streaming music) and forget about this world.

Because when the music is on and I’m focused on writing, I’m living in a world I create. One where everything works out (mostly. I’m not all sunshine and roses but you’ve got to have some happy in there) and the bad guys get taken down. Even if the lines of right and wrong are blurry and don’t exactly make sense, the good guys, the one’s you are rooting for, win. Whatever winning is.

That doesn’t happen in the real world. Good guys loose. A lot. Evil wins. A lot. And evil doesn’t always look like a zombie. Often it looks like a guy in a suit. Or girl in a suit. I don’t discriminate.

Hence my desire to read and write thrillers and sci-fi and speculative stuff. To create a world where the little guy wins (even if he has to bend the rules a bit). Since we don’t win very often in this one, it’s nice to have that kind of alternative reality to escape to. It can be a lot better than this one. And I sometimes help create that listening to fun, silly, escapist music.

So, judge me if you will, but I’ll keep on reading and writing the “fun stuff, listening to the pop stuff and shaking it off. Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

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!