Wednesday, July 25, 2018

See You in August!

I have such a hard time being productive in late July that I decided to just go with it and take the last week of the month off. I will see you again in August and wish you all health and happiness until then!


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ditching the Hitchhiker

See the source imageGreetings from my writer's virtual road trip! I'm pleased to report that I reached my first stop, which was to complete the first draft of a speculative fiction manuscript I've had knocking about in my head for a very long time. I'm a slow and not very prolific writer, so managing to accumulate nearly 80,000 words of what my critique group has promised me is not total garbage feels like a big deal. So I spent a day or two congratulating myself.

Then the hitchhiker showed up. It played out something like this:
(twenty-something female wearing white t-shirt and jean cutoffs slides into passenger seat)
Hitchhiker: Hey, you mind if I ride along?
Me: (by nature, almost pathologically polite) Sure, if you want to. There's room.
HH: Where are we going?
Me: I'm figuring that out. I just finished the first draft of a manuscript--
HH: Cool! Tell me about it.
Me: (suddenly self-conscious) Uh, it's a sequel to a novel I wrote a while back. It takes place in a near-future Earth setting, after fires...burned...a bunch of stuff. (shuts mouth before rambling nonsensically about aliens and/or unicorns, neither of which appear in said manuscript)
HH: (brushes neon-pink bangs out of eyes) Okaaay... So, is the first book published?
Me: No.
HH: (raises pierced eyebrow) You spent months of your life writing a sequel to a book that's not even published yet?
Me: (dabs sweat from upper lip) I guess so.
HH: Why?
Me: I wanted to see if I could do the story justice.
HH: (takes a long drink of her Mountain Dew Big Gulp) So, writing is a hobby for you?
Me: Not exactly. I mean, I'd like for it to be more than that. But it's a tough business. And a lot of us who write fiction accept that we don't it for the money.
HH: Pffft. Tell that to Stephen King.
Me: (forces a smile) He's kind of a special case.
HH: And JK Rowling. And James Patterson. And Jodi--
Me: I get it. And I do have a published novel. I'm just not very good at selling books.
HH: You have a kid in college, right? And another one soon to be?
Me: (not at all surprised that she somehow knows this) Yes.
HH: Don't you think it's time to give up this writing thing and get a real job?
Me: Maybe. (bumps head on steering wheel while trying to curl up in fetal position)

This is the mental space I've been in for a week or so. Fun stuff, right? The good news is, now that I'm older and hopefully wiser, it's slightly easier for me to shrug off the negativity and see the situation with a less critical eye. Gaining perspective is helpful, too. Have you ever looked out the rear window during a road trip--after a long, gradual incline, for example--and been amazed at how far you've come without even realizing it?

Image result for straight road
Even with perspective, I haven't been able to completely ditch the hitchhiker. But now at least she's taking a nap in the back seat, giving me some peace and quiet for figuring out my route ahead.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Declaring Independence

(Today's post appears in the book Write Away, A Year of Musings and Motivations for Writers, which I co-authored with Kerrie Flanagan.)

Happy Independence Day, everyone. Though July 4th marks the celebration of an American holiday, independence, as we’ve seen in such dramatic examples this year, is an idea that has no geographic or political boundaries. Independence inspires revolution and builds nations, but it works on a smaller scale, too. Fledglings seek independence from the nest. Kids seek independence from their parents. Cats seek independence from everyone.

In the spirit of the day, let’s all take a moment to declare independence from something that’s holding us back in our writing lives. Perhaps you belong to a critique group which doesn’t meet your needs, but you’re reluctant to call it quits because they’re such nice people—and the snacks are delicious. Or maybe you need to put a little distance between yourself and social media. It’s fun, and it can be useful, but it can also be a huge distraction. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m willing to bet that whatever your long-lost friend from third grade is doing these days, it’s not as important as your work-in-progress.

Today, I’m declaring independence from the word ‘never.’ I have nothing against the word itself—it’s a fine word that can have great dramatic effect. One of my favorite examples comes from the movie Batman Begins. The stately Wayne Manor, besieged by a gang of vigilantes, is burning. Bruce Wayne is trapped. After loyal butler Alfred (whose last name, by the way, is Pennyworth) dodges flaming debris to help rescue his billionaire boss, Bruce asks, “You still haven’t given up on me?”And Alfred replies, “Never.” Because Alfred is played by Michael Caine, it sounds like “Nev-ah.” Which makes it even better.

But many writers use ‘never’ in self-defeating ways. We say we’ll never finish our novels, never get published, never make any money, never get our big break. Used thusly, ‘never’ becomes a heavy anchor around the neck, and who has the desire or strength to carry that around all day? So I’m going to try and use ‘never’ only in contexts that I’m certain are true (e.g. I’ll never be 5’7” tall) or affirming (e.g. never give up). Take notice, all you negative nevers. I’m kicking you to the curb.

As for my old nemesis, chocolate, well, that truly is a case of never say never.

From what will you declare your independence today?