Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Do all writers lose their minds?  Surely not, but if such a high number of the famous ones go mad, I’m guessing that an even higher percentage of the lesser known writers tinker in madness.

Way before I even dreamed of writing professionally I had a certain fascination with the lunacy of the world’s great writers.  Talents like Petronius, Pound, Hemingway, and Nietzsche, who, for valid reasons or not, descended into madness, shortening their lives and their portfolios, forever robbing the world of what might have been.

Woolf.  Mayakofsky, Pavese.  Berryman.

It’s no secret that writers are susceptible to severe depression.  There are even surveys and studies that say so –

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/dec/13/writers-depression-top-10-risk

http://www.elizabethmoon.com/writing-depression.html

Hans Christian Andersen. Truman Capote. Charles Dickens. Henry James.

Does one need to be depressed to be a writer, or does writing merely lead one into depression?

Celan.  Sexton.  Plath.  Brautigan.

In the publishing world of today, writer’s often find themselves spending more time in selling themselves to the public than they do in producing written material.  Blogging, queries, synopses, bios, blogging, queries, synopses, bios. Rejection, rejection, rejection.  All of this leads to more self-evaluation than is necessary for most people.  It is easy to see how one’s self-image gets tanked through the 21st century publishing process.

This leads me to believe that the problem writers face with depression may be greater than ever before.  Writers of past centuries were not nearly as exposed to criticism and rejection as the writers of today.

Gray.  Wallace.  Thompson.  Kane.

It is important to keep your perspective as a writer.  It is important to keep your perspective as a human being.  You are just one tiny element in a grandiose world of mortal objects.  We want to feel important, yet what we do is really not all that important, except to those that are closest to us while we’re here.

Sometimes, for perspective, I like to stop what I’m doing and spend a moment with one of my pets.

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Ashes, the EMS Cat, at age one.

Ashes doesn’t care if I get published.  She doesn’t care what I say as long as I’m not yelling at her.  She just wants me to feed her and stroke her fur once in a while… and she wants to be able to crap in a clean box of litter, too.

Sigh.

I’m still sane, at least for the moment.

Stay sane, writers.

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Today I’m grateful for reaching 1000 followers on WordPress, an experience that I find delightful and humbling. Thank you to each and every one of you for becoming a part of my writing life.

Peace and love to you and yours!

The Unexpected Side-Effect of Creating My Blog

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I just read a post about Naomi and Logan battling for the Goblet at the Genesis Fencing Club.  That’s so damn ridiculous.  I don’t know anything about fencing.  I hadn’t planned on a fencing education.

I have as much time for reading about fencing as I have for bronchitis.

I’ve been at this blogging thing for two weeks or so now.  I didn’t get into this willingly.  Long story made short:  I did it because the publishing industry tells me I have to do it.  Am I really writing about this again?  I’m still trying to polish my manuscript and then begin my second novel.  With my job(s), my family, my hobbies, my whatever, I don’t have time for a blog.  Besides, who’ll read it?  What will I write about?  You get it.

Alright, I’ll write occasionally on this “WordPress” thing.

Woah, there’s a lot of people writing on this “WordPress” thing.  I don’t have time to read what anyone else is writing.  Too bad for all of them.

Hey look, some guy wrote a poem about aluminum siding.  Hang on, I’m gonna get me a cold pop.

An hour later, I’ve read posts about Joe Buck, Mount Rushmore, CSS guidelines, and Dungeons and Dragons.

I haven’t played Dungeons and Dragons in 27 years.

I get lost in topics like icebergs, iceberg lettuce, heat waves, and riding waves.  I’m fascinated by someone’s passion for table tennis and someone else’s lack of passion for passion.  I blushed at an excerpt from an erotic novel.

I read about “MAN STUFF,” like monster trucks and football.  I read about “WOMAN STUFF,” like doilies, and Longaberger Baskets.

I’ve been misty and angry about lost loves, cancer, rejection, betrayal, rape, and attempted murder.  I’ve been amazed by the resilience of people who have survived the most dreadful events possible and yet can still see the good in God, the world, and their fellow-man.

I’ve read posts about diapers and menstrual cycles, my brain absorbing each one like a….

Sweet Brown!  Did I really almost make that joke?

I’ve spent more time reading YOUR blogs, my fellow bloggers, than I’ve spent in working, writing, editing, eating, and driving in this past week.  Yesterday, someone accused me of “spam liking” posts.  Is that really a thing?  Spam liking?  I promise:  If I liked your post, I read your post.  I may not have understood it, but I read it.  I am guilty, however, of “following” more bloggers than I could ever legitimately follow.  Need a follower?  Just cough.  I’ll probably jump and click it.

I’ve read spectacularly worded posts about the most boring, trivial things.  I’ve read posts in need of spell-checks and major grammatical overhauls that tell the most fantastic stories.

I’ve laughed, cried, cringed, yelled, smiled, frowned, shared, screamed, and rolled my eyes because of YOUR posts.

I stopped reading books when I started reading your posts.  Last year, I read 108 books.  I was in the middle of “Intelligence,” by Susan Hasler, when WordPress kidnapped me.  I’m wondering now if I’ll ever get back to it.  Right now, I don’t give a shit.  No offense to Ms. Hasler.  I was enjoying her book.  If she’d share chapters of it in a blog I’d be sure to read them.

When I’m not reading blogs, I’m thinking of tags to enter, such as “leotards” and “Casper Weinberger,” just to see what pops up.

God, help me.  This is addictive.

Alright!  Everybody stop writing for the next four years or so.  That’ll give me time to catch up.

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As writers, we struggle every day with our image.  If we’re not writing then we’re thinking about our writing and what others are thinking about our writing, holding our breath as we click on the comments or open the email, worried that the criticism will be negative.  We exhale audibly when it isn’t… grit our teeth when it is.

Many critics, qualified or not, will always find the good.  “Keep at it,” or “You’re almost there,” or “I like your snarky sense of humor.”

Many critics, qualified or not, won’t.  “That’s interesting,” is the BEST compliment they can offer.  “That’s interesting,” is about the worst thing someone can say about your writing.

Does any of it really matter?  Who are YOU to judge my work… and who the hell am I to judge yours?  Should I worry about whether or not you like my article any more than whether or not you like my Christmas sweater?

Case in point:  When I was in grammar school, I was pretty darn close to the boys who lived across the street from me.  One is a year older than me, the other a year younger.  When I was about ten years old, they moved across town and our relationship, although still intact, diminished in frequency of visits and such.  By the end of high school, we seldom talked.

After another ten years or so had passed, I made attempts to contact those old boys.  Those attempts were ignored… and I didn’t think much about it.  Then, with the advent of social media, the means I use to connect with people I hadn’t EVER spoken to while in school, my attempts at rekindling our friendship were rejected.

What had I done to them so long ago?  What is wrong with me?  Why would they shun me so?  Maybe they didn’t like my Christmas sweater?

More years passed.

Recently, an uncle of those boys passed away.  My wife, through her employer, knows the deceased’s wife pretty well, and they had become pretty good friends over the years.  In order to support her friend, my wife and I attended the funeral.  Of course, we’d long known of the widow’s association to those former friends of mine, but my showing up at the funeral was a complete surprise to them.

The greeting I received was cold, at best.  That’s okay, I wasn’t there for them anyway.

My wife and I spent nearly an hour at the funeral, socializing with a few of the mourners, and I had a good amount of time to observe my former friends socializing with their extended family.

Now, this post is supposed to be about me.  It’s supposed to be about how I feel about myself and how others see me as a writer.  It is not intended as a passive-aggressive assault on some former friends who wouldn’t talk to me.

They’re standing off to one side, talking to each other.  They’re greeting their OWN FAMILY as they greeted me.  They’re having difficulty engaging in conversation with their own kin.

HOLY SHIT, THEY’RE SOCIAL MORONS.

See, sometimes, when you’re sure it’s about you, it isn’t about you at all.

This doesn’t mean that you should blow off criticism as the advice of an idiot.  Criticism can be the meteor that changes history.  But if the criticism isn’t of the constructive kind, then it’s best to consider the source, rather than the words.

Believe in yourself.  Have faith in YOU.  You can accomplish anything you want, regardless of what others say.

I have never owned nor worn a Christmas sweater, by the way.

INSPIRATION COMES IN MANY FORMS

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I am inspired today by the heat of the sun and water in the street, the sound of rushing fluids draining into the grated iron on the street corner.  I may have forgotten that snow is mortal.  Its death brings new life to me at this time each year.

I am inspired by the generosity of those closest to me, their words of encouragement and motivation, their smiles, their warmth, their selfless gifts of time spent, confidence, and optimism.

I am inspired by the hospitality and kindness of strangers.  People who have taken a moment or a minute, perhaps a quarter-hour of one day of their life, to offer comfort or wisdom, faith or criticism, or maybe a one-word vote of confidence such as, “Nice!”  It is a travesty to label such people “strangers.”

Today, I am inspired by you simply because you’re reading this.

Thank you.

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Well looky here… I’m a blogging machine.

The publishing industry says I should put my name out there via websites and blogs, so that’s what I’ve been doing.  I’ve written more over the last year and a half than I’d written in the previous twenty years.  Funny thing is:  Most of what I’m writing has nothing to do with my manuscript, my search for literary agents, or my quest to get myself and my work published.

Yeah, I know.  I KNOW.  It doesn’t matter what I’m writing.  The publishing industry says I need to put my name out there so as to have a following ahead of time.  I also need to build a nest so that I have a warm, dry place to nourish my work once I get it published.  I understand that most of my current work — this type of sidebar — is necessary to the end result.

I’d love to go back in time and read the blogs of Edgar Allen Poe and Walt Whitman… you know, the ones they were writing to build their followings and to impress their literary agents when their real work was ready.

My second novel, “Working Title,” has just 1,452 words out of a probable 55,000.  I’m neglecting it at this very moment so that I can add this current blog to my body of work to impress those that will one day shatter my dreams.

Please note:  I haven’t been rejected.  My first novel isn’t quite ready for submission.  This blog is in response to all of those future rejection letters, as well as those that I’ve had the pleasure of reading through other bloggers here on WordPress.  Those are so very joyful.

I’ve said it before.  I’m really not into attention seeking behavior.  Part of this stems from a fear of failure.  Wait, that’s not exactly true. Yes, I fear failure, but it’s more accurate to say that I fear people noticing my failures.  I don’t like people to see me at my worst.  I don’t like it when I appear flawed.  I don’t like it when people criticize my work.

Oh God.  Why the hell did I write a book?

People love to tell me that J.K. Rowling was turned down __ times.  Stephen King was rejected __ times.  Hemingway had the door slammed on him __ times.

Is this really going to make me feel better when the rejection is pouring in?

I’m supposed to show the world that I can write.  I’ve done that.  I’m supposed to show the world an occasional excerpt from those things that I want published.  I’ve done that.

What if all I’m doing is leaving a trail, like a snail, of my failures.

My followers encourage me not to give up.  If I never give up and yet never get my work published, then the only thing published shall be rejection and failure.  I’ve done so many other good, positive things with my life.  Maybe I should stick to blogging about my successes, instead.

I’ve got a beautiful wife and three lovely children.

SELLING ME!

Posted: February 6, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

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I’ve never been a good salesman.  Long ago I made a few attempts at being a salesman and I failed every time.  If someone offered me a job today as a salesman, saying, “I’ll pay you $2,000 per week PLUS commission,” I’d turn it down.  Why?  Because I’m 43, I know myself, and I know better.  I would make $4,000 in two weeks and then they’d fire me for not selling a single unit.  Dang, though!  $4,000!  That was good while it lasted.

I’m a bad salesman.

This applies to selling “me” as well.  I’ve never been comfortable promoting myself — “Hey!  Hey!  You!  Look at me!  LOOK AT MEEEE!”

Now, I’m in my fourth year as a devoted Facebook user, and I’ll admit that I promote myself plenty in that forum…  pics of me and the kids;  I was EMT of the year; been a non-smoker for four years now; look at this casserole I made.

“14 friends like your tuna casserole.”

But as my blog here tells you, I’m an aspiring author.  That means I’ve written something and nobody knows it, except those people in my friends list on Facebook.

“33 friends like your manuscript.”  Hmm… that’s good.  My book is better than my casserole.

As an aspiring author, I know much about the outside circle of the publishing business.  I say “outside” because I haven’t been invited inside yet.  All of the material I’ve read about how to get your book published contains a section or two about preparing the world for your authorship.  Is that a word?  Authorship?  If not, spell-check missed it.

When the time comes for a query letter or 50 and a three page synopsis I’m supposed to tell the world, or at least the literary agents, about my writing history.  Well, I’ve written a lot.  A LOT!  But I really can’t show you any of it because it’s not the kind of stuff for which you gain credit.  My biggest current project involves re-writing the by-laws for The Hartland Firefighters Association, of which I am President.  Wanna read my synopsis?

You might already be on to me, but we’ve come to the reason for this blog.  I’ve created this site because the publishing world tells me that “selling myself” is necessary if I am to get my manuscript published.  So here I am.  Look at me!  Please, look at me.

My site has been functional for less than 48 hours, but already I am noticing that there are stark differences between the types of interactions on WordPress and those on Facebook and Twitter.  Earlier today, I received a message from a woman who was thrilled to have received a “like” from me on one of her posts, and as a result, she read one of my posts and therefore gave me a “like,” as well.

This made my day.  Don’t try to detect any sarcasm here, because it’s non-existent.  I am being 100% serious.  1 Like = 1 made day.

There’s a video on YouTube that’s been trending of a kid who calls himself “Sir Fedora” celebrating the fact that he received his first like on one of his videos.   He, too, is sincere about the importance of the “like.”  In his words, “It’s still awesome that I know that you guys are there.”  I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.  To see the video, copy and paste:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZcDjcaSHvc

I mean, I don’t mind being candid with all of you.  Bloggers blog because they want people to read their blog, right?  Writers write to be read.  We might be writing about a topic we love in a genre we love but in the end, we’re looking for attention, aren’t we?  It would be tragic if we wrote our hearts out and there was nobody there to see the end result.

Perhaps I’m showing too much vulnerability to the blogging world here.  That’s okay.  Certainly every serious writer deals with self-esteem and self-image issues.  Personally, I can’t think of too many things that can make a person feel more bi-polar than writing a book.  Besides, I don’t think I’ve crossed any lines or anything.  It’s not like I’ve begged anyone for a “like,” or worse yet, a “follow.”  Dang — one follow has got to be worth at least five likes, don’t ya think?  Maybe I’ll consider begging after all.  Okay… okay… I already DID consider it.  I won’t beg.

(LOOK AT ME!)

Anyway, send me a friend request on Facebook, would ya?  I’ll show you my tuna casserole.

THE WRITER’S STRUGGLE 

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In my head five minutes ago:  Someone is gonna publish my manuscript.  It’s well-written.  It’s got a fantastic plot-line based on real events and real people.  It’ll be interesting to men AND women because it’s about life, loss, love, hope, war, coping, redemption, and the triumph of the human spirit.

In my head this very minute:  There’s no way in Hell anyone’s gonna publish my book.  I can’t friggin’ write.  The plot’s flat and it’s based on people nobody will care about.  It’s too violent for women and too wishy-washy for men.  It’s got quite a bit about lead mining and agriculture in a western Wisconsin town during the 19th century, for God’s sake.

This is the opening struggle for a writer that’s never before sought help in publishing.  Okay… maybe not the opening struggle.  The opener was whether or not I’d quit researching and get busy writing.  For a long time, I kept researching just because I was too frightened to put the pen to paper, so to speak.

The manuscript’s first draft is complete.  It’s in the hands of two qualified friends who, if they’re doing their job (unpaid, except for an acknowledgement and a signed copy, once published,) they’re putting a red pen to it in such a manner that will make it look like a piece of forensic evidence when I get it back.  When I gave the manuscript to them we (all three of us) agreed that two months time, or 60 days, would be sufficient for them to finish editing it.

I am ashamed of my own ignorance.

134 days have gone by now and I’m not sure if the end is in sight.  I’ve left both of them alone (except for the one time last Thanksgiving when I asked them if they required more time) because I don’t want to rush them or burden them or make either of them think that I’m ungrateful in any way for this tremendous favor they’re doing for me.  I am SO very grateful to both of them for taking on this task — a task that I can now see as one requiring a pretty big sacrifice in their daily routines.

THANK YOU, DEB and SCOTT!

In the meantime, I feel I’ve used my time wisely.  I’ve spent a great deal of time reading books on publishing, such as “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published,” by Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry.  I’ve also researched literary agents, and researched literary agents, and researched more literary agents. I’ve filled up half a notebook with agents and agencies and addresses and submission guidelines and query letter formats in the hopes that I’ve found a good group of competent people who can someday shatter my dreams.

That’s right… I said “someday.”  See, I haven’t even sent out queries yet.

Well, it’s not like I should have sent queries.  My manuscript is in need of final polishing yet.  But in addition to worrying about the manuscript’s condition, I still need to construct my query letters.  Then, I’ll need a one-paragraph synopsis… and a three to five-paragraph synopsis… and a one-page synopsis… and a three to five-page synopsis… and a coroner.

Did I mention I haven’t yet had the pleasure of a rejection letter yet?