Just Keep Spinning

There’s a spider that’s moved on to my house. I say “on to” my house because he’s outside. I don’t actually know if it’s a he, but I nicknamed him Pete (as I do with all the spiders I find in my house – I don’t know why) so it’s a he.

He’s living just outside my door on my porch and has chosen the sidelight to build his web. I’m not particularly creeped out by spiders, bugs or other creepy crawlies, but I’m not one for having them so close to me. Especially to my face. But, there’s a nice piece of glass separating the two of us, so we manage to make it work.

It’s been a few weeks since Pete’s moved in and I’ve become utterly fascinated by him. He’s nocturnal, so during the day he hides out just above his web in the framing of the door. He bunches up into a ball and, I don’t know… Sleeps? Hangs out?

Then at night, this happens:

My new friend Pete.

My new friend Pete.

As you can see, he comes down from above and hangs out in the middle of the web. Classic spider stuff. And, yes, he is as big as he looks. I haven’t measured him, but he’s bigger than the spiders I’m used to seeing.

I’m not going to lie, If I saw Pete in the house, I’d be a little freaked out.

After the first week, I noticed one morning that the beautiful web he spun (hard to see it in this picture), was destroyed. Most of the inner circles were gone and the bottom was almost non-existent.

I was sad, but it happens. Circle of life. I figured he was done and moving on.

Except the next morning I came downstairs and noticed that the web was back. Good for Pete, I thought. Another meal will be served.

A few days later, I noticed the web was destroyed again. And, I was sad again.

But, this time, as I was heading upstairs for bed, I saw the most amazing thing. I saw Pete spinning the web!

I’d post the video, but it’s not that great. Pete would walk around the spokes of the web, the webbing trailing from behind him, and at each spoke he’d take a leg and guide the webbing onto the spoke, making it stick in place, walk to the next spoke and repeat, creating the web.

I was utterly mesmerized. At first I wasn’t sure I was sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. I couldn’t really see the web as he spun it. It almost looked like he was walking on air. It wasn’t until I looked back at his work that I actually saw what was being created. He would lay the web and move on to the next part, but I couldn’t see what he just spun. The webbing is mostly transparent at first. It wasn’t until Pete was maybe three parts over that the web started to become more opaque and thus, more visible. And each time around the web added a layer and eventually, Pete had a complete web.

He didn’t stop, he didn’t look back, he trusted his process. He just kept spinning.

Watching him do this has inspired me to adopt him as my spirit animal, and I could use one right now. I know a spider don’t seem like a likely choice for spirit animal, but it’s hard not to want to be like Pete. He moved in and set-up shop like it was no big deal. When the web was destroyed, he went back, fixed it and moved on with his life. When the web was destroyed again, he fixed it again. And even though it maybe wasn’t immediately clear or obvious to me what he was doing, it was to him. When I watched long enough, things came into focus for me, too. They became real to me, just like they are to Pete. And Pete keeps spinning.

There’s a lot going on right now. Not just for me, but for everyone. Even for people I don’t know, haven’t yet met or may never meet. And I’ll probably never know what they’re up against, and they may never know what I’m up against. And that’s OK. But, I’d suggest if you’re feeling lost, out of focus, disconnected or just plain blah, find a Pete and watch him spin his web. Because we all need to keep spinning our web, and eventually, whatever it is will come into focus for all of us.

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The End and The Beginning

This has truly been the summer of endings. The job finally, finally, finally, ended. In some respects it was a long, slow lingering thing. We knew it was coming, we just weren’t sure when. And when it was finally done, it was done. I’m sad. It was such a great job. But, that’s life, and it was a job. There will be others.

Unlike the other major ending from this summer. Death. Of a person. In the family. And, much like the job it was a long slow lingering thing. And when it was finally done, it was done. Death is final like that. And, much like the job, I’m sad. Of, course, it wasn’t “just a person.” Their won’t be “other people.”

Dying was easy. Getting the final arrangements done wasn’t. This was the first time I was on the planning side of things. Even with premade and prepaid arrangements, it was a bit messy. Not horribly so. Not oh my God I’m so writing about this messy. But disorderly.

Then, the actual funeral. Geeze. I had no idea the eulogy was the time for airing dirty laundry. Your’s or someone else’s. And that wasn’t the first time I had experienced it! I know people are sometimes grief stricken and aren’t thinking clearly but, yikes. (That could make a good book. All the eulogys in the world that have gone awry.)

white rose

When all was said and done and I finally got a chance to sit down, I got to thinking. When I write, I need to know the ending so I know how to start and how to get there. While I can’t exactly do that in life, what with its unpredictability and all, I can at least try to plan the end so there’s no laundry and no messy. Just something neat and tidy that sort of resembles a happy ending.

First, no long lingering anything for me. I just die. The end.

I will write my own obituary. Which makes sense because I’m a writer. I don’t want one of those standard, boring ones. In it, I will talk about what a great time I had while I was here.

I will also write my own eulogy. There will be no dirty laundry. Or clean laundry. Or any laundry. Mostly, I will talk about my own awesomeness and why you were lucky to have known me. Also, it will be the only thing said. No clergy, no anyone waxing nostalgic about me. Not only to avoid the laundry, but because I don’t want anyone to have to experience losing it in front of a room full of people because it’s contagious and then everyone loses it. And I don’t want anyone losing it while you are discussing my awesomeness.

After said celebration of all things me (notice, I did not say “funeral” or “burial” or any thing like that), there will be an after party. Not a Shiva or a wake or a memorial. An after party. Jello shots and champagne will be served. And, I will pay for all of it in advance. Because it’s my after party, which is why you are having jello shots. And why should you have to pay for it?

Super fancy shots. And I like that the container is edible.

Super fancy shots. And I like that the container is edible.

Hopefully, said after party will take place on the beach, but it’s not mandatory. A bar is fine, too. Whatever. I’m just thinking the beach is best because I’m going to be cremated and turned into fireworks. Because nothing says “celebration” better than fireworks.

That's me!

That’s me!

Lastly, when all is said and done and I’ve been gone for a while, random people from my past will start receiving random items in the mail. A comb, ballet shoes. Something totally odd and random with a note: I’m dead. You know what to do. Of course, they won’t. Why? No reason. It just sounds funny.

And, with that, I close the books on Summer 2015. I won’t exactly miss you, but I thank you. For helping inspire me to look as far forward as possible and for giving me new beginnings.

Also, I am looking for a job. Thoughts to follow. But, in the meantime, if you know of any job that is flexible and involves me sitting on the beach drinking margaritas, please keep me in mind. It can also involve drinking daiquiris poolside. I’m not picky.

What if I Really do Suck?

I’m switching it up a bit today and writing first, everything else. Except the laundry. That can never wait and it’s easy to do while writing unlike, say, a shower.

My first writing exercise was a review of my recent dentist visit (the one with the scheduled in advance “family emergency”).

This sounds a bit lame, but I actually liked it. Thinking of it as an exercise. It’s hard to give negative feedback in a positive way. To turn the feedback into a learning opportunity or whatever. So, this was a good chance for me to practice. As a writer, (and a reader) it’s important to be able to give and receive this sort of thing. It was nice to have a chance to practice. Also, I was able to do it anonymously, so that helps. I can hide behind the Internet in case the feedback was too harsh.

Which is kind of a funny thing to say. Shouldn’t I be willing to stand by my review? To sign my name proudly to it and to say, Yup, this is what I think? Especially since I was trying to be nice about it (mostly. I’ll admit to one or two snarky parts, but they were well earned on their part. Most stuff I can let slide, but every now and then…).

So, why do you care that I reviewed a dentist today?

It got me thinking about reviews in general and how people process them. I started reading a book that was widely praised and positively reviewed in a bunch of publications. Cool. I’ll read almost anything that gets decent reviews. I started it. I lost interest. I kept trying to get through it. Not so much because I cared about the character (I don’t) or I wanted to see how it ended (doesn’t matter) but because the writing is quiet good. It’s the literary writing that might be described as “beautiful prose with wonderful turns of phrase.” Or something equally flowery.

But I don’t really care for the book, the characters, the plot (which isn’t exactly a plot, per se. More like a series of vignettes about this character which also don’t have much of a plot), none of it. There’s no tension, no action, no nothing. I’m not saying all stories need to have guns and cars and murders and whatever, but there’s no tension in this story. Nothing interesting or scary or curious happens. It’s just the character, living her life, and here’s what happens. Happy reading!

Blech.

OK, fine, whatever, it’s not for me. But, then I got curious. Who else doesn’t like this book? Is it just me? Am I a philistine? An uncultured clod? (Both of these things are entirely possible.) So, I looked up reviews for these books on Amazon and Goodreads.

Discarding the reviews that were clearly biased (like the one star review on Amazon that tore apart the author’s character and personality and said nothing about the actual book), there were a fair amount of negative reviews. Both sites gave this highly recommended by professional reviewers, well blurbed book an average of 3 stars. Which is fine and nothing to sneeze at, but… Still…

Ignoring the fact that it sort of proves the point that just because a book is published by a well-respected big 5 (that’s what we’re down to now, right? Five?) publisher, doesn’t necessarily mean anything these days. A traditionally published book could be just as awesome or as sucky as a self-published indie book. I think that’s been the case for a while now.

I more wonder about the author. Here’s this book that she probably slaved away at for at least a year, if not more. And she achieved the dream! (My dream, at least.) An agent, a traditional publishing contract, probably a promotional budget (I hope), and validation! Someone else, probably a bunch of someone else’s, think your writing is worthy of print. And those blurbs that talk about how great your writing is and how great the book is. How amazing! It all reinforces the fact that you have arrived! You are not just a writer, but an author of books!

I’m not going to lie. I live this fantasy often.

But. But. But. And I hate saying this. It’s great that there’s all that validation, but what about the comments? I know they say, never read the comments. No good can come from it. But, what about all those Amazon and Goodreads people? Don’t their opinions count for anything? Aren’t they just as important and affirming and validating? Doesn’t the fact that they think you aren’t that great count for anything? Because, I mean, it wasn’t just one or two people. It was enough people that it brought your rating to 3 stars. Which is just average.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d probably take a 3 star rating, because at least I’d be getting rated. Which would mean my book is out there. Being read. By other people. Not just my mother. And that would be spectacular.

But, the reviews for this book… Much of what was written was exactly what I was thinking. Writing is good it’s just the story is blah. I suppose you could make the argument, it was her story to tell and she told it as she wanted to. Also, she doesn’t work for me, so what I think doesn’t matter. All though, it kind of does since I won’t buy another of her books, so, where does that leave her? What is she thinking? Is she ignoring the nay sayers? Changing her writing style? Crying?

And how would I handle something like that? After all that slaving and pouring my heart out on the page, and tearing my hair out and whatever else I do to motivate myself, how would I feel if it turns out my writing is only average? I mean, it probably is, but it’s one thing for me to say it. It’s another thing for everyone else to say it.

So, today, I throw this question out there. How do you (or would you) handle negative reviews of your writing? I mean, the nice ones, not the “You totally suck,” non-specific reviews. It could be Amazon or a professional reviewer or someone who’s opinion you trust/respect (but not your Mom’s). Do you ignore them? Say the reviewer doesn’t know what they’re talking about? Internalize it? Take it to heart and adjust your writing accordingly? Drink heavily?

Crazy but Worth It

I finished Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King a few minutes ago.

It’s not my intent to review the book except I will say it was an excellent read. (Of course, it was. It was written by Stephen freaking King.) Had three twists in there, two of which I saw coming but felt they went along naturally with the story line. The first twist I did not see coming. I should have as there were enough clues along the way, but I missed it and the twist was excellent. Not at all disappointing or obvious or contrived. Just well done. Because it’s Stephen King.

Which really is the crux of this. I like to write. I like to think I’m pretty good at it. I’ve been told I’m pretty good at it (and not by my mother or best friend, but total strangers!). But, I’ll never be as good as the likes of Stephen King. Or any one of a number of other current day authors. Or classic authors. Like Mark Twain.

That’s OK. I mean, we can’t all be awesome and number one (all though, to see the state of little league and kid’s soccer these days, you think we could be. That we should be), and I accept the fact that I’ll probably never reach that level of awesomeness as a writer.

But I wonder if I’ll ever be remotely that good. I mean, good enough to get an agent and a publishing contract. Or sell a bazillion self-published copies on Amazon or whatever. Success is how you define it (and I have no definition for my writing quite yet) and I think that definition for writers is rapidly changing in this digital age, but I sometimes think I’m waisting my time.

I’m sure we all do. Not just writers, but everyone that pursues a creative art. Painting, drawing, video game design. Are we good enough? Will our work every find a fan base? Will we have enough “success”? These thoughts haunt us on many an insomniac induced evening.

Yet, here I am, plugging away at it. I guess that means I’m crazy.

No, I think it means I just really want it. Enough to keep trying anonymously and unpaid and in the wee hours in the bathroom if that what it takes.

Scratch that. It is crazy. And totally worth it.

A Writer’s Mind

Sometimes, I Google stalk people. I should probably be ashamed to admit that out loud, but, come on. We all do it sometimes. Right? A way to blow off work, pass the time, satisfy some curiosity, morbid or otherwise. It’s to find out the information about all the people we aren’t Facebook connected with (and don’t want to be) without anyone knowing about it.

In any event, I was doing it today and an image came up that was slightly bordering on porn. It wasn’t gross or anything, just very… revealing is the word I want. Which got me to think about another person I’ve been Google stalking from time to time. I can’t quite seem to find her, but, every time I Google a certain variation of her name, the Porn Star with the Same Name comes up first.

No over the line images, though. Thankfully. (Side note, if you ever mistype the web address for Google, you’re in for a shock. I won’t post it here, but I was at work when it happened and COULD NOT get it off the screen. I had to hit the power button to make it go away.)

I’m pretty sure the Porn Star with the Same Name isn’t her. The pictures don’t look remotely the same. Sure, there’s that whole possibility of plastic surgery thing, but that would have to be a hell of a lot of work to make her look that different.

So, I’m wondering if the Person I’m Google Stalking knows about the Porn Star with the Same Name? And, if she does, what does she think? And, does it work the other way? Does the Porn Star with the Same Name know about the Person I’m Google Stalking. Not that I’m Google stalking her, obviously, but that she exists? That would make a great plot twist, though. The Porn Star knows that I’m Google stalking the Old Friend, but Old Friend doesn’t know. Hmm.

Yup. This is how a writer’s mind works. We start one place and end up someplace related, but weird and twisted and, frankly, kind of messed up. But those messed up, meandering thoughts can lead to some pretty great stories. It’s what we do. Take our crazy, weird, twisted thoughts and make them entertaining.