I Promise to Write Every Day

A writer tries to take a picture of the writing space.
A writer tries to take a picture of the writing space.

There is an article traveling through the Facebook writing pages about an author that wrote a book, quit the day job to write a second, then panicked when it didn’t happen.  She went back to  working day jobs, still unable to write, because…lots of reasons.  Why?  Because working two jobs sucks!

Writing–whether it is full-time or just during your lunch break– is a job.  A hard job, that you can’t leave behind when you go home for the day.  It’s in your head, ticking away, plotting, noticing characteristics of the people around you, keeping track of stories, watching TV with you, and playing with your dreams.  You can ignore it, stop writing for “reasons”, but it’s still there.  You can try to switch to another hobby.  (Good luck with that.)

Or you persevere.  You edit, revise, edit, submit, revise, submit, etc…  At some point you get accepted, or push that publish button yourself.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are done.  That’s not the way an artist’s brain works.  We’ve all seen the warnings; the wise advice from prolific writers.  Don’t ignore the danger signs, like the author from that article did.

This is why you try to write every day, people!  Finished that manuscript?  Find another project the very next day.  Write anything.  Don’t lose that momentum.  Find the next thing you are excited to write.  Even if you type random words for days, even if everything is a steaming pile, keep going.  Carve time out of each day that you can.  Revise as much as you need, just don’t forget to play with fresh thoughts.  New thoughts.  Exciting thoughts. Scary thoughts.

Family crises?  Journal it.  Short of ideas?  Find daily prompts.  Sick of novel length?  Try flash fiction.  Can’t stick with it?  Try a writer’s group that will poke you.  Blog.  Tweet. Engage in pointless Facebook commentary.  Jot limericks on napkins.

Do I write every day?  No.  I suck at it.  I’ve fallen between projects, so I know exactly how hard it is to get up and get going again.  You have to forgive yourself, and push yourself harder.  Eventually the mind starts working again.  A couple of years back I did write every day, for a year and a half, so I know what it is like, and it was good.  Damn good.  I want it back.  I crave it.  Food, drink, air, & words.

Place your hand on whatever book you respect and say it with me.  “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

Wait.  Wrong promise.  Let’s try that again.

“I promise to find a way to write every day.”

Find.  Write.  Every.  Day.

Do it for you.  You deserve it.

Triggers and Knee-jerk Reactions

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Have you ever caught yourself ranting about a topic that you didn’t think you felt strongly about?  I have.  (Not about last week’s post; I’ve been stewing in that topic for a while. Don’t silence the writers!)

Did you stop yourself mid-rant, or blunder ahead, full of piss and vinegar?  Did you observe yourself?  Take notes, mentally or physically?  Observe others and their reactions?  Did it spark story ideas?  (I am SO putting this jerk in my next book!)

Since this blog is mostly about my painful and exhilarating journey through writing and self-publishing, I’m assuming most of you are writers of some type.  It’s fairly common for writers to observe the world around them.  Some of us even use ourselves as guinea pigs, just for the chance to observe life from the inside.  I’m not sure if that’s a sane choice, but writers are not known for their sanity.  Our working conditions make us the mad hatters of the modern world.

A lot of people use food to self soothe after a trauma. (Show me on the taco where your feelings were hurt.)  Some people use mind altering substances, both the legal and illegal types.  (I don’t have a joke for that; the results are too depressing.)  People also use therapy, in the form of a friend’s shoulder or even a professional shoulder.  (Would ‘Professional Shoulder’ look good on a business card?)

Writers use those techniques, too, but I find the most soothing thing is to write about trauma.  We go where the discomfort is and prod it, because that’s where the best stories hide.  Written inside out and upside down, taken apart, put back together, then stuffed into a ill fitting costume.  Then I let it go.  Frankenstein’s monster lurches down to the village, once again, making everyone uncomfortable.  (He sits at your table, even when there are plenty of empty tables in the coffeehouse. Or something.)

I believe that is a writer’s job, to help us see other points of view.  Entertain us, yes!  But also teach us something about the world.  Something we haven’t considered before.  Open our minds. Give us something to believe in, or show us something we feverently hope will never come to pass. Story telling shouldn’t be safe. Help us find our boundaries, our line in the sand.  True north on our moral compass.  Help us to find a place to stand firm, where we can say, “No. You move.”  (Can you guess my favorite superhero?)

I’ve been adding people to my Facebook page–writers mostly–and not often those I agree with. At this point in an election year, I would normally be nose down in books, avoiding commercials and social media like it’s… well, anything related to politics and socializing.  Instead, I’m sponging it up, spongingly spongelike, yellow and absorbent, bits of the scrubby pad wearing off, and starting to smell a bit.  It’s been educational.  In some posts the tiniest disagreement on syntax can start a flame war, accruing hundreds of hateful comments, while the actual topic gets ignored.  Other posts are a think-tank, with ideas and disagreements being examined rationally and with great thought. Most posts–of course–fall somewhere in between.

Is there a point to this blog?  Perhaps it’s just a continuation of last week’s rant.  Perhaps I’m filling the space, avoiding that future post about helpful grammar books. Perhaps I should take a chance and post one of those uncomfortable Franken-fiction stories.  I’m not sure.  I think I’m just squeezing out a bit of the excess moisture.

Happy writing, and don’t be silenced!

The Writer’s Road: Potholes and Roadblocks

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Despite not blogging for two months, I am still here.  I’m struggling with several things, in writing and in life, the most prominent of which is imposter syndrome.  Funny thing is…

(Ok, not funny. Sad and depressing, maybe.)

…IS that knowing WHAT you are struggling with is not the same as being able to overcome it.  This is not the first time I’ve been tempted to give up on writing, nor is it likely to be the last.  For now, I am firm in resolution to be a writer. Publishing is optional. Social media presence is optional. Good reviews and sales are optional. Writing is not optional.  Writing is not optional. Writing is not optional.

(Ok, now those words have lost all meaning.  <sigh>)

I have many reasons to give up and so does everyone else who is trying to get published.  I’m not an idiot.  My chances of writerly fame are miniscule.  It is no surprise that the post that stopped me dead in my tracks is the one about grammar.  I keep telling myself that I’m writing a helpful blog series for new writers like me. I’m just pointing out some books that helped me, and that I am not setting myself up as any kind of authority.  That thought is not quite sinking in.  You will know when it has, because you will see the grammar post.  I WILL continue that helpful series.

(Cue writer montage. Furious scribbling, frantic re-reading of source material, and then frenzied keyboarding fueled by coffee and uplifting power-cord heavy song of your liking. “Eye of the Tiger” or “I Will Survive” will suffice.)

For now, I will try to write creatively every day, continue to edit, learn about publishing, screw around on Facebook, try to figure out Twitter and the other platforms, blog about other things, and enjoy the lovely people I have connected with. Some of them are writers, and some are people who have retained some level of sanity.  I’m greatly enjoying both types.

(Hmmm.  Should I block the weird political ranting person, or use them in my next story?  I better observe them some more…)

I am on a road with pot holes and roadblocks, but they will not stop me. I will move forward, dodge left and right, move fast and slow, but always forward.  I hope you will, too.

(Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge. Right?  Who knew the five D’s of Dodgeball would be so helpful.)

If you need encouragement, please, drop me a line. Helping others always keeps me moving, too.

You Can Have The “Suprise Kiss” When You Pry It From My Cold, Dead Lips

I am very glad there are so many helpful articles about avoiding sexism and racism in our writing, but why do so many of them make my blood boil?

These articles are a mix of sensible thoughts, badly chosen examples, condescending attitude, and weirdly unhelpful tips for improving your work.  I’ve decided to no longer post those types of articles on Facebook or Twitter, even for the lively debates.  The most recent of these, an article about the harmful effects of sexist tropes applied to male characters, left me with a bad taste and these helpful impressions:

  1. We can only write about well-balanced characters.  No Fatally Flawed People!
  2. All characters must have a wholesome and fulfilling home life, with perfect parents.
  3. Everyone must be a winner, and nobody can be unattractive AND a bad person.
  4. No seducing anybody, male or female, ever.  No changing your mind.
  5. Don’t match negative qualities with stereotypes, or… something…  What?

I get it, writers are trying to help other writers.  I’m trying to pass along helpful tips, too.  But the sheer audacity to feel you can write down a set of rules to control what can or cannot be written about stuns and infuriates me. I will use anything and everything I need to tell the story.  If I get it wrong and readers don’t like it, fine.  I will dig my hole with my own damn shovel, not a borrowed one.

It is the suggestions about sexual assault and rape that really ball up my fists.  There are some very uncomfortable truths about these topics.  Yes, male rape exists.  No, you shouldn’t include rape in the story to make a character more interesting.  Seduction exists.  Changing your mind isn’t rape.  Men and women have the right to change their mind about a situation.  Someone can go from dislike or nervous trepidation to accepting sexual advances without losing consent, and can also reverse that decision.  Consent isn’t a fixed point.

But to suggest that no one should ever write about sexual situations that aren’t 100% consensual to all parties is ridiculous and unrealistic.  Yes, consent and rape are controversial subjects, but to silence writers and other storytellers is sweeping the subject under the rug.  As a writer and a survivor of rape, I Will Not Be Silenced! I will use the emotions, unflinchingly, to tell a story.  You live through it, or you die inside.  You can get professional or spiritual help, but it is the internal self that makes that decision.  Being told I can’t write about all of my experiences, whether in fiction or blogging, is my trigger.

Heart pounding, muscles tensed, skin tingling as my senses expand.  Weight shifting to my toes, ready to fight or take flight.  Hands clenched next to a keyboard as I read a damn article.  On a computer.  In my home.  That is what a f**king trigger is like.  It’s a visceral reaction I found–oddly enough–reading words meant to silence me, not words in some novel (with or without a trigger warning).

Trigger warnings are a nice idea, but unrealistic.  You can’t bubble wrap the world.  You learn to survive, just like with any other type of abuse.  You learn to cope.  To thrive.  In my case, to write.

I guess it’s not too surprising that my plots tend towards Romance (and because I don’t look away from the relationship once it ends up in a bedroom, shifts over to Erotica).  The edges of consent and seduction fascinate me.  The negotiation of ego verses vulnerability, and who you choose, and why.  Who pulls at you, opening your soul, giving you a safe place to simply exist?  Who becomes your bedrock, a stable place to stand and face the world?

Do I think surprise kisses are bad?  NO!  Look, if you misread a situation and go all “50 Shades” in an elevator, you deserve the sexual assault charges.  Attraction doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  Consent can be implied through action and reaction.  We are past the formal courtship rituals of bygone eras, and you don’t have to ask for permission and have a clearly stated “Yes” for every level of contact.  Body language exists, learn it.

All first contact, like a touch on the hand, is a risk.  Both the chance for outright rejection, and the chance for pushing a line too far because you misread the situation.  If no one ever took that risk, there will be a lot less love, happiness, and children in the world.  You might as well supply your genetic sample to a computer and let it make the next generation in sterile laboratories.  Personally, I don’t want to live in a world without good surprise kisses, even at the risk of bad surprise kisses.

Life isn’t sanitized for your protection.  Live, laugh, and get messy.  I hope you receive at least one steamy, decadent, toe-curling surprise kiss in your lifetime.  It is well worth the risks.

Too Many Books!

Is there such a thing?  YES!

I LOVE all my new writer friends, I really do, but y’all are going to kill me.

I have a massive ‘to read’ book list.  I used to keep it in my head, but I had to put it into a physical list when it started to hurt.  Popular books that everybody talks about.  Classics that should be read by everybody, but especially writers.  Books that I know just enough about to be sure it will change the way I think after I read it, let alone how I write.  “How to” grammar and writing style books that I haven’t gotten to.  (I just discovered Bukowski has one…  !!!)  New books get traditionally published to my favorite genres constantly, and e-books exploded in the last five years.

Since I started writing, walking into the big box-type of book store often causes my eyes to water.  It’s NOT allergies!  SO many books!  TOO many books!  I NEED to read them all, but I have stories to tell, too. How can I ever be found in this monstrous pile of books?

(On a personal note, early notes from my first-round of beta readers are promising. It may not be a huge pile of crap after all.  One of my readers, who has been in a bit of a writer’s block, had to stop… to go write something that has been jangling around in her head.  I gloated when she told me, maybe even snickered.  I don’t mind the delay.  My book affected her.  YES!)

Then I started hanging out on-line with other writers.  Y’all have books I want to read.  Sometimes, LOTS of books.  Then you tell me about more books that you love, and your enthusiasm makes me want to love them, too.  I understand how reviews are the life blood for independent and small press writers.  I want to help.  I can’t seem to pass up the $.99 book deal, and have a few (a lot) squirreled away.  I could happily sit around and read all these wonderful books, books, and more books.

Wait.  Wasn’t I writing something?

 

Fear of… Lists

Reasons I haven’t given my manuscript to my beta reader(s);

  1. I need to go through it one more time, to look for bad grammar that would ruin the reading experience.
  2. I have future slang I need to make sure is the correct slang for each character, and that they are using it correctly.
  3. I need to do a text-to-speech run through, for errors that would ruin the reading experience.
  4. I need to be sure I have firmly decided on the characters names.  “Final answer?”
  5. It’s trash.
  6. It’s smutty trash.
  7. It’s smutty trash that nobody should be forced to read.
  8. Especially if want to be able to look them in the eye, ever again.
  9. I need to take an axe to all the sex scenes.
  10. How many sex scenes does it have?
  11. Should I count the sex scenes?  What would be too many?
  12. How many penis jokes is too many?
  13. I need to do a major revision.
  14. I need to take a chainsaw to all the adjectives and adverbs.
  15. Did I really ‘show’, not ‘tell’?
  16. Did I give enough descriptions?
  17. Did I give too much description?
  18. I need to re-design my blog.
  19. I need to post more on Facebook and Twitter.
  20. I need to set up the Pintrest account.
  21. I still don’t have a web page, and Word Press offers to attach one to your blog.
  22. I need to write my weekly blog, and I’m searching for a topic. The manuscript can wait.
  23. I need to go lay down until my heart calms down. Or lie, or layed… lieded…something.
  24. If someone asks how it is going, say, “It’s a process, and I’m really happy with it.”
  25. Oooh, Cats in Space Quoting Scientists.  LIKE!

Sexism Reflected in the Writer’s Mirror

I read an article/blog two weeks ago about Sexism in Fantasy stories that has really bothered me. I left it pinned to the top of my Facebook feed, so I could re-read it a couple of times, while trying to figure out what was bothering me. You can read it there, or I’ll try to post a link…

http://mythcreants.com/blog/five-signs-your-story-is-sexist/?platform=hootsuite    Yes?  No?  Whatever, just go check it out on my Facebook page, I’ll sort it out later.

What bothers me is not just this individual article/blog, but the way so many people are pointing fingers at books, blaming them for perpetuating the ills of modern society.  Even the students of higher learning–the place you go to expand and challenge yourself–have started protesting the books assigned for the course by the teacher. It made them uncomfortable.

The above article/blog continued the finger pointing, and because it hit on one of my favorite genres it caught my attention.  I have read the books it was accusing of sexism, and I had opinions. Opinions somewhat similar to the blogger in some ways, but widely dissimilar in others.  If you really tried to follow this blogger’s suggestions, you would have to not include females in your story at all, for fear of making them too trope-y.  But that would be sexist, so maybe you could make all of your characters females.  But, wait, isn’t that sexist, too?

I guess I don’t like being told to play it safe.  It made me uncomfortable.

Also, allowances weren’t made for the age of some of the books, and it’s unfair to expect writers of past generations to have the same sensitivities as a modern writer.  We are going through a very painful stage of growth as a society, trying to understand the deep hooks of misogyny, and how to pull them out without doing more damage than they are causing.

I admit it, I have hot buttons, too.  (Skinny-shaming is a big one for me.)  A trip through ‘multi-media land’ makes me unhappy on a daily basis, with advertising, memes and all forms of entertainment subtly–and not so subtly–trying to maintain the status quo.  I think the point of no return-to-the-kitchen has been passed, and we must all work together to redefine ourselves as humans, not a specific gender of human.

Meanwhile, let’s explore what makes us uncomfortable.  Discomfort is where you find your internal boundaries.  What direction does your moral compass point?  Is it a fair direction, for EVERYBODY?  Do your boundaries allow humans to be free, or force them to conform to your personal view of the world?  Has a book or other story made you feel uncomfortable?  How did that make you feel about the writer?  Were you angry someone wrote such trash?

Banning books has always been a questionable behavior for me.  You are giving free publicity to something you seem to hate, somehow unaware that you’re working against your actual wants; for people to not read THAT book.

You know… THAT book.  The one with sex, or magic, or rape, or swords, or homosexuality, or dragons, or bondage, or aliens, or death, or drugs, or war, or slavery, or racism, or sexism, or classism, or icky-ism, or something-ism, or we-don’t-talk-about-that-ism.

Often, the words beginning the protest are, “I haven’t read the book, but…”  Please, stop. With those words, you have lost all credibility, and I really don’t care what your uninformed opinion is. Writing and reading are subtle arts, and reading a line or two does not convey the place of those lines IN a story.  If this concept is too advanced for you, maybe you shouldn’t be the one trying to decide what other people can read.

The writer’s mirror reflects our society.  That is its job.  To show you the past, the now, and the future.  What we were, who we are, and what we could be. Some writers show the positive side of society, some the negative, but most seem to show a mix of both. Setting, character, plot, and technique all are tools of the writer trying to tell a story.  I believe every story is telling us something important, and needs to be told.  We need to listen.  We need to be made uncomfortable.  I hope I will make my readers uncomfortable.

For now, I will polish the mirror.