Quieting the Beat

Just a bit of housekeeping before I get started today.

Dear Spammers:

If you want to try to sneak through my spam filters by hiring people to actually write comments instead of using automated ones, fine. More power to you. However, I’d highly recommend you advise them not to write negative things about the blog. While I always welcome critiques of my work, being negative just for the sake of being negative with an obviously spammy identity will not get you moderated on to the blog comments.

Thank you for your cooperation and supporting my blog. Keep trying!

Hugs and Kisses,

Me.

Phew. I feel so much better.

I have a raging headache today. It’s better now (thank you, Starbucks), but I find it makes it harder for me to write. My brain gets foggy and while I enjoy a good bass beat, I’m not particularly a fan when it’s in my head. It reminds me of college after a Saturday night. Yet, somehow I managed to get up and study. Mostly. My grades wouldn’t necessarily reflect that, but I did graduate.

Given the MC of the WIP is a borderline alcoholic (that’s a thing, right?), with a sour temperament (I know that’s a thing.) you’d think this would be super helpful. No stretching myself to imagine (or remember) what the morning after a bender feels like, no digging deep for metaphors and descriptions. Just sit down and describe me in the present.

Probably not happening.

There’s been a bunch of quotes floating around on the web lately (probably not lately, I just seem to be finding them lately) about writing. They’re all about sitting in the chair and writing, not waiting for the muse, do it every day, set a goal, and so on. These are lovely platitudes. They are realistic and make sense (and come from successful folks who know what they’re talking about).

But none of these platitudes mention what happens when you put your butt in the chair and nothing happens. Absolutely nothing comes. I don’t know why it doesn’t come and it doesn’t really matter. But you can’t find the words. Maybe you get something going, maybe you’re able to put words on the page, but every single one of them suck. They do nothing to advance your story line, enhance your plot or improve your character. They are, literally, words on a page.

Then you get frustrated and stop, or feel like your wasting your time. Or worse, you go away from those words, come back later and realize how utterly crappy they are. Then you feel like you wasted all that time and effort. And for what? To pitch it all out. Or is that just me?

No one talks about that as much. Everyone has experienced this to some extent. But it’s always chalked up to an “Oh, well,” kind of moment. A learning experience. But I hate going in the wrong direction. If that’s the direction, I’d rather not go, I guess.

I don’t mind rewriting (well, I do, but that’s different here), and I don’t mind going in a new direction, away from my outline if it fits, but I don’t want to waste my time on nothing. Just putting words on a page doesn’t seem to help. Putting the right words on the page. That’s what I’d like to do every single time.

Maybe not today though. All I can muster is thump, thump, thump. Hopefully, I can do something with that.

 

Feedback and Feelings

I wasn’t supposed to work today. I had taken the day off for various and assorted reasons. But, earlier this week I learned I didn’t need to take the day off. I could go in, work a few hours, earn some money. I’m at Starbucks right now getting ready to work on the WIP. If that’s not the life of a writer, I don’t know what is.

And it’s probably a good thing I have today to write. Yesterday I had the chance to write (Wednesday and all) and I tried but what a mess. I think I was tired. I was trying to critique someone’s opening and just could not get the second half of my thought together. Probably because it was a criticism. Not a big one, but one I felt the author should know about. Yet no matter what I did, I couldn’t form the right sentences to make it a positive criticism. I felt like I was being, well, mean.

I’ll admit, I was pretty tired yesterday which made the task that much harder, but I really dislike having to criticize. I know it’s important, we all need feedback for growth, wether we are a writer or a horse jockey. We can all always improve. Something, somewhere. Sure, there are times when “good enough” will do and nothing has to be perfect, but feedback is an important thing.

When I was a boss (something I never want to do again!) I used to have to “coach” people all the time. Awful. For many reasons, not the least of which was how do you tell someone “Hey, you’re fucking this up,” nicely? I never did master that art. Because, truly, it’s an art.

It’s one of the things that holds me back from writing. Like why my name isn’t attached to this stuff. I don’t like hearing the criticism. Not because I don’t like hearing it but because it’s so hard to give it and make it not hurtful. I’ve submitted stuff plenty of times for critique and listened to what was said about my stuff. “You write like you talk” was one of my favorites. I still, to this day, have no idea what that means. If you’re going to offer critique, at least have it make sense. I’d rather that than something I’m still ruminating about years later.

“You seem emotionally detached from your character,” at least was useful. That pushed me in a different direction and I appreciated it. Of course, because I’m crazy, I started thinking she meant I was emotionally detached from everything. Maybe that is what she meant, maybe it’s not. But I wonder if there’s another way to reframe (what a coaching word!) that bit of advice to sound “nicer.” If that’s possible.

Of course, in the end it doesn’t matter. The observation was solid. So, whether she thought I was emotionally detached from life or not doesn’t matter. It ultimately helped me. And, of course, it helps to realize that I don’t think she was trying to be mean or imply anything. She was speaking from her heart. What grabbed her or what didn’t. Workshops are like that. Off the cuff and raw at times. Maybe it just takes practice.

And with that last thought, I’m off. To actually work on the WIP.

American Ninja Warrior and the Faire

I’ve been watching American Ninja Warrior. If you haven’t been watching it, you should give it a try. It’s an interesting little show. Extreme obstacle courses. It’s utterly insane what some of these obstacles are, and yet, a bunch of people always manage to get past them and hit the little buzzer signifying victory.

It’s a “clean” show as reality T.V./game show/competition type of shows go. No mudslinging, no name calling, no back stabbing, no behind the scenes plotting. All the stuff reality T.V. isn’t these days. It’s about a bunch of people who share a common interest, extreme obstacle course racing, and how they work together and support one another to achieve the goal: winning. There’s a huge sense of camaraderie. No one hopes the other competitors fall. No one tries to psych anyone else out. Sure, competitors that get knocked out due to someone else completing the course faster are disappointed, but they get over it quick and celebrate the person who won. Because they all support and believe in each other. In short, it is a community.

Which brings me back to the Renaissance Faire. It’s an entirely different thing (except for maybe the jousting) yet it’s exactly the same. It’s people dressing up pretending they lived hundreds of years ago and being in a place that supports that choice without judgement. They are just as committed as the American Ninja Warrior competitors. Instead of training hard to climb up a fourteen foot wall, they wear full length velvet dresses with sixteen layers of crinoline in sweltering heat. Commitment.

I find these two disparate things so similar. They are both community (support without judgement. Given fully and without the expectation of anything but return support without judgement) and commitment. Truly believing they are a knight and living the life in that moment or truly believing they can complete a 25 foot vertical climb using only their hands and feet. And doing so without fear because there are others surrounding them who believe the same thing.

And I am inspired by these things. These are people who found something, however outlandish we might judge them to be, and committed fully to them. Doing whatever they need to do to support that choice. If that doesn’t inspire me to get cracking on this WIP, nothing will.

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.

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.

New Opportunity

It was lovely while it lasted, really. But, it looks like the steady paycheck is gone and I’m back to picking up gigs wherever I can find them. The job lasts a few more months, but we’ve already been warned the hours will be reduced.

Too bad. It was a great job. The kind where I could fit the job around my life and not the kind where I had to fit my life around the job. That’s a very rare kind of job.

On the up side, it will give me more time to write. I was good and didn’t pick up the remote (much) yesterday and managed to untangle a bunch of things plot wise. always an exciting day. I figured out I needed to raise the stakes for my MC more. The trouble was trying to make it believable and not cliched. I think I’ve almost got it figured out. Almost.

I hope this is an opportunity to stop dreaming and start doing. I know. Trite. Also, ripping off the Shonda Rhimes speech that’s making the rounds right now, but she makes a good point. I like to say “Don’t think so much. Just do.” Which may not always be right, but is usually good advice.

With the plot almost unwound, I’m off to the ending. I need to figure out how to stop the story. Or where it ends. Or whatever it does. An absolute weak spot with me. But, with all the free time I’m about to have, I’ll have all the time I need, I hope.