The Life Inspired Plot

I got home from work today to a message from the dentist. They needed to change the appointment because the doctor who was going to do the “hygiene work” – someone I thought was a hygienist but I guess not? – had to go out of town for a family emergency.

That’s fine. I get it. Shit happens in life. Here’s what I don’t get. The appointment isn’t for two weeks. And while I appreciate the advance notice (it’s better than no notice), I’m kind of confused how someone can know about or schedule a family emergency for two weeks from now.

I suppose it’s possible that the receptionist misspoke and didn’t mean “family emergency” but something else family oriented that is kind of like an emergency (major surgery) that can be scheduled in advance. But, the concept of a family emergency scheduled two weeks out got me thinking that it could make for an interesting story.

Something along the lines of, the Main Character knows his dad is going to have a heart attack, stroke, something along those lines, so he rebooks the family vacation to accommodate that. Hilarity, or calamity, perhaps, ensues as he tries to last minute change everything he meticulously planned down to the minute for eighteen months.

Or, Main Character gets notice that her daughter is going to have a life changing car accident that lands said daughter in a wheelchair. So Main Character Mom starts getting estimates in advance from contractors on how to remodel house to accommodate all the medical equipment. Chaos is inevitable as the remodeling doesn’t go as planned.

This is the kind of thing I’d like to write. Speculative fiction (though what fiction isn’t speculative) with a time-travel/sci-fi bent. Not really in my wheel house right now. But, maybe one day. In the mean time, I’d love to read something like this. Feel free to lift the idea. I’ll probably never use it.

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Where’s the Sunshine

Just as I suspected they would, they told me not to come in to work today. More time to work on the WIP. Yippee.

Oh, sorry. The sarcasm didn’t come across there. One of the many aspects of writing I have trouble with. Sarcasm, humor, plotting. You know. The normal stuff.

I’m whining, I know. It’s hard to be peppy and upbeat with this Chicago weather. It’s the end of June and in the low 60’s. It’s cold. And I’m not one of those to complain when it’s hot. Though I’m not a fan of humidity. But this climate change thing is real, I don’t care what anyone else says.

I’m a firm believer that caffeine and sunshine can fix anything. I have plenty of caffeine. I’m lacking in sunshine. That would help a lot.

Then there’s things like Amazon taking over the world. If you haven’t read the article yet, I’d highly recommend taking a look here. The article sums it up better than I can, but it comes down to Amazon taking more of everything and squeezing the publishers, who in turn will squeeze the writers, because, they aren’t going to do it to the readers so writers get screwed.

It makes me wonder if pursuing a traditional deal is worth it or if I should just go the indie route. Of course, that would mean dealing directly with Amazon (I think) and I’m not sure what to do about that. Of course, the traditional route means the same thing, so either way…

What a depressing post. I’m going in search of a sunlamp, and some sugar. That might help, too.

What is it Worth?

Happy Hump Day!

I haven’t said something that silly since about 7th grade. Not gonna lie, though. It makes me laugh. A tiny, tiny bit.

Given it’s Wednesday, it’s my regularly scheduled day off work. It might be an unscheduled day tomorrow, too. But, let’s focus on today. I made a list of stuff to accomplish today. It included things like “laundry,” and “return crap to Target.” Normal stuff. It included a few outside the ordinary things like “finish thank you notes,” and “buy socks.” Nowhere on the list did it say “work on WIP.”

It struck me this morning when I was reviewing that I hadn’t put that on the list. Did that mean I wasn’t planning on working on it? Did it mean I would only work on it if I finished everything else on the list like a reward? Did it mean I intend to work on it and don’t need to write it down because, of course, I will?

The mind works in mysterious ways. Also, I doubt I’ll ever know. Or care.

Yesterday I was discussing Twitter making me dizzy. Since it’s day time and my mind is a little clearer, I flipped through my feed again. It didn’t make me as dizzy as yesterday. Though it was still quite cluttered.

What struck me, though, was how many people were discussing their newly published works, whether that was through a traditional publisher or independently. Lots and lots and lots and lots of books. I’ll probably read a few when I get a chance. Hard to pass up a 99 cent book these days (even though I’m hating Amazon right now).

It takes a lot of work to write a book. This I know. But, it also seems, it takes even more work to get your book noticed. You’d think this would be made easier with the invention of this Internet thing, but it seems to me (and I’m no marketing/PR guru so what do I know?) it’s that much harder to be heard and noticed. Now, I’m not wondering so much what does it take to get noticed, but I’m wondering if it’s all worth it.

I mean, in some respects, it will always be worth it because I’ll never stop writing. I can’t. I don’t know how. But, it’s not paying the bills right now (which is fine. That’s what the day job is for), and I can’t do it for free forever. So, I’m wondering if I will ever call it quits and say it’s not worth it. It’s harder and harder to get noticed these days and I can think of plenty of indie writers who were turned down by the big publishers, only to find success (however that is defined) self-publishing, but that looks like a bunch of work, too, and by my very nature, I tend toward lazy.

Like this rambling blog post. What a great way to procrastinate not just the list, but the WIP. At least I’m writing.

Fumbling Through

Twitter makes me dizzy.

I followed a few more people yesterday and my God! Do they post. Some of them, about once a minute. I’m not kidding. Every. Single. Minute. The whole thing has started to remind me of Craigslist. Like when you’re selling something and you have to repost it every hour or so, so your item doesn’t get pushed to the bottom. At least Craigslist has a system to stop you from doing that. Sort of, anyway. Not on Twitter. All though, to give the writer folks I started following credit, they do mix it up quite a bit.

It makes me wonder what the whole point of self-promotion is. I mean, I get the “point”: to promote me, my work, blah, blah, blah. What I don’t get is how to figure out what the best strategy is when you aren’t famous yet. When you aren’t even known. When you’re just another voice in the crowd. I’ll say this much, I’m not sure retweeting every single thing you see and posting about how awesome your new book is every two seconds is the way to go. Of course, if I had a book out right now, I’d be pretty excited, too and probably want to tweet a lot as well.

I’ve been reading up on it. Using hashtags to get noticed, proper etiquette (there’s such a thing), how to retweet properly, when to retweet, so on and so forth. It’s pretty straight forward and yet, utterly damn confusing. Such is the nature of the Internet and these newfangled communication channels.

And, as far as I can tell, it hasn’t pulled any traffic toward this utterly anonymous blog. Of course there are people who would say blogging is dead. They might be right, but I’ve always considered myself sort of a “long form” writer. I don’t really see limiting myself to just 140 characters, as fun of a challenge as it has been. It’s the same reason I don’t really do short stories. I have too much to say. Also, I find them to be very challenging. So much to say with so little space. They always feel unfinished to me. That may have something to do more so with my skills as a writer (or lack thereof) than anything else.

But, Twitter is the place to be, so I hear. So, I guess I’ll be sticking around for awhile. Until the next big thing.

Suffering for My Art

Never in my life can I recall being so grateful for it being Monday and having a job to go to. And it had nothing to do with having a job to pay the bills, per se. I was far more happy to just have some place to be where I didn’t have to think, worry, ruminate, stew…

It was a long weekend. It shouldn’t have been, but it was.

That got me thinking about the nature of art (writing, in this case) and the idea that one must suffer for his or her art. I recall hearing that along the way somewhere.

I’m pretty sure most people, most artists, have called bullshit on this one. I’d like to think that none of us think we must suffer for our art. We may choose to suffer, but that’s different. I choose to write right now and it’s (somewhat? mostly?) a choice that I don’t get paid. It’s the nature of the beast. When I freelance I charge a reasonable rate, but that doesn’t always mean I get it, or that it works out real well hourly, but I know that’s a risk going in to the job. I choose to take that risk. You could make the same argument about choosing to work low wage jobs or part-time in order to have time to write.; or, about choosing to not have a family or kids; or about backpacking through Europe (or wherever is the cool spot these days) on a shoestring budget, forgoing a “grown-up” job to get material to write about. Etcetera, etcetera.

Then, of course, there’s the suffering you don’t choose. Crappy family members (though one might say it’s a choice to stick with them), bad friends, shitty jobs, shittier health (and by extension, shitty health insurance or access to shitty health care providers), poor economic circumstances beyond your control (like being born into poverty), and things like that. If it’s something you can draw on and turn into a positive (like a fabulous story), great, but I would hope that no one is trying to rationalize a shitty turn of events as something that “has” to happen in order to make you a better artist. I’d hope that none of those shitty things happen to you.

Because I don’t think you “have” to suffer to be a great artist. I think it happens, and we all go through crap, but it isn’t necessary to write amazing stories or paint beautiful pictures.

I’m not trying to wax poetic about how art can spring from beauty. Of course it can. Art can spring from anything. Whatever inspires you: love, hate, beauty, suffering. Whatever works.

But choosing to suffer? No thanks. I did a bunch of that this weekend. Some by choice, some not by choice. It was an interesting mix once I got to thinking about it. That sometimes we make choices that seem OK, that seem rational and logical, that seem “right” at the time. But, then, later, because of a series of these choices, we find ourselves ass backwards from where we thought we’d be and now, we’re suffering. And it isn’t any fun. And while it might make for some great material, I don’t know that I want to relieve it on the page. That’s what a journal is for. And therapy.

Which got me thinking even further about how the suffering we didn’t choose (or couldn’t chose or was forced upon us because that happens too), can influence us to make the choices we think make sense but end up leading us to more suffering. It’s a long fall down the rabbit hole if we aren’t careful.

My head hurts just thinking about it. In a good way though. All this thinking about suffering is kind of inspiring me. Ironic. I know.

I’m So Old School

I am freezing my butt of right now waiting for my car. In another second I will either have to drink the crappy (but free!) coffee or flip up the hood on my hoodie and look stupid. Maybe both. I don’t care. I’m freezing.

As I’m waiting, I’ve procrastinated working on the WIP as much as I can. I’ve checked Facebook and Twitter and my email. I read some articles and researched a few things and dealt with some other “pressing issues.” All that’s left is the WIP. And I can’t use the “my devices ran out of juice” excuse because A) I’m sitting next to a power outlet and have my chargers with me. Also, they have a free charging station here! And B) I do all of my plotting on paper.

I suppose that kind of dates me. The fact that I still do some of this stuff with paper and pen. Not the actual writing, that I type. But the plotting is still old school. I find I can’t outline on a blank screen or with a keyboard or whatever. Pen to paper. With music in the background. It sort of reminds me of college. This next part will absolutely date me. I went back in the time before iPad’s and laptops and all that nifty stuff. It was taking notes with a pen. If you went to class, that is.

And I still have to do it that way. Plotting and planning in a notebook with a pen. And, since I’m on the subject, so is editing. I have to print the thing out and get out my red pen and make notes and cross stuff out. Very old school. My brain doesn’t work otherwise. For the editing part, I really wish I could. I hate waisting all those trees. Because, of course, it’s not like I can’t do one draft. That would be cool, but, very unrealistic. So every time I have to edit, many, many trees die in my service.

I plant trees whenever I can to make up for it.

Old school or not, my hands are freezing. I think I’ll step outside for a few minutes to try and warm up before I get to it. That or brave the coffee.

Timing is Everything

Looks like my job is back on. I don’t know all the details, but it seems as though we won’t be going out of business any time soon. You think I’d be more excited than I am. A steady paycheck is always a good thing. But, I had kind of gotten into the mind set that I’d have the whole summer free to work on this WIP. Now… Not so much.

Which isn’t a bad thing, per se. I had all last summer to work on a different WIP and I did, it just didn’t work out. It has now sort of morphed into this WIP. Similar concepts and so forth.

I am, however, finding it hard to find the time to write. Or, more appropriately, making the time to work on it. I’m not actually writing it. Just plotting and planning. The second to hardest part.

Beyond the lack of creative ideas (like figuring out the next plot point), I don’t seem to have the energy. I’m not a morning person. That’s more about attitude than anything else. I have in the past gotten up in the morning to write but I don’t think I’m at my creative best then. And at the end of the day, I’m too exhausted. I wonder how people do it. Work day jobs and write on the side. I’ve only ever worked a day job or written. Sometimes I’m lucky and the writing is the job. But never both.

Ah, well, if it’s important enough, I won’t just find the time. I’ll make it.

Square Peg in a Round Hole

See! Told you I wouldn’t post Friday. Never got to it, even if there technically was time. Too tired. And it was going to be a long weekend. I had to save myself.

Which sort of inspired today’s post. It’s hard to be an introvert in an extroverted world. (I’m also naturally shy, something I’ve worked on. But it’s tough being both. It’s also another post for another day.)

I don’t think people truly understand what it’s like to be an introvert. Sure, there’s lots of books on the topic these days. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain springs to mind. And I like to think that we introverts are seizing the day and trying to get people to understand what it’s like to be us.

We’re not mean, stuck-up or snobby (all things I was called in the sixth grade. A tough time no matter what). I just couldn’t figure out how to get myself in the game, or put myself out there, or whatever you want to call it. It just didn’t make sense in my head.

Frankly, truly understanding what being introverted means took me a long time to figure out. It doesn’t mean I hate you, think I’m better than you, or am judging you. For me, it means I’m not sure what to do. Usually it’s because I’m so overwhelmed by everything else, that I can’t handle the social interaction. It makes me physically sick. When I get to that point, I need a good hour alone in a dark room. No lights, no stimuli. Just quiet. Ahh… That sounds really good about now. Like I said, long weekend and today started with a headache. Of course, spending yesterday at the track with my good friends Vodka and Lemonade probably didn’t help much.

I hate being told that there’s something off about me just because I can’t handle all the stimuli and the feelings they are supposed to invoke in me. The feeling of trying to force yourself to enjoy what’s going on because you’re “supposed to.” That’s the problem with being an introvert in an extroverted world. You’re “supposed to” enjoy being around other people. To want to be in their company and to socialize with them. If you don’t you’ll die early. So I hear. You’re “supposed to” want to have an active social life and hang out with friends and family and be engaged and blah, blah, blah.

I’m nauseous just writing about it. Time for a dark room and quiet.

 

Focus, focus, focus!

What an exhausting day. It feels like it should be Friday, but it’s not. There’s still one more day to go. It’s just that everything seemed to fall on today. It’s fine, it was just a long day.

I managed to find about 30 minutes of quiet time in the middle of all of this. Eh, actually more like “toward the end.” In any event, I wanted to work on the WIP. I figured out the ending, just not quite how to get there. I have a vague idea and wanted to flesh it out in an outline.

But I just couldn’t focus my mind. I was tired and honing in on the idea just wasn’t happening. Which I find amusing because really, in some respects, all I was doing was thinking. And I wasn’t too tired to think. I was able to think about all the next place I had to be, what I had to do when I got there, what came after that and all the other things I had to do before I could sit down and write this.

Actually, in all honesty, I still have stuff to do, I just decided to do this and get this out of the way. Interestingly, I find my mind focused as I do it. Must be the topic. Or lack thereof.

It makes me wonder if I’m thinking too much or not enough about the WIP. I know there’s the whole “write every day” mantra, but I’ve never fully believed in it. Sure, I’m writing on the blog every day, but that’s more of an exercise than anything else. And I can tell you right now, I probably won’t be doing it tomorrow (again, tons to do) and I won’t do it on weekends. Better for my sanity. Not that I won’t jot something down if inspiration strikes.

I can write every day. The blog proves that. But I don’t seem to be able to create every day. And that’s the trick. Creating and improving and rewriting. That’s the hard part. But, I will find a way. I have to if I ever want it done.

Not Ready to Quit

I went to Barnes and Noble today. It was depressing.

Not because it was Barnes and Nobel and not an indie bookstore (though, there is that), but because it was a depressing place for a wannabe to spend a Wednesday morning.

All of the employee’s looked bored out of their wits, or trying to busy themselves with “tasks” and “duties.” I feel for them. I used to work retail and there are days it blows. Nothing to do but, literally, stand around and, well, just stand. At least they have jobs, unlike me (soon to be, anyway).

The worst part was the books. I know. Books at a book store! How awful! I was surrounded by thousands of books, just waiting to be bought and read and loved. Or hated.

And that was the problem. There were so many there. How do I choose one? Sure, I can ask for a recommendation, read reviews or just test my luck, but where to start? And, these were just the physical books. It doesn’t even count the ebooks that are out there.

How does one stand out? Get their stuff before an audience? Especially these days when one is expected to have a following before you even think about signing on the dotted line with a publisher? If you go that route. It’s the same problem for self-pubs, I assume.

That wasn’t the worst of it. Heading toward the check out, I passed the bargain book display. Markdowns everywhere. All the books that just couldn’t find a home for whatever reason.

But the absolute worst? The “Former Best Seller” display. I don’t even know what to make of that. Books that used to awesome but now aren’t? Books that had their moment but now we’re over it? Leftovers?

Ack, who knows. But, being in there today almost made me want to quit. Almost. Because here I am, still writing away. I’m not quitting. Not yet.