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The Insecure Writer’s Support Group – 09/03/14

  • Posted on September 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

IWSG badgeI only recently found out about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, so forgive this post being a few minutes late.  Basically, from what I can understand of the website, it’s a group meant to bolster and support those going into writing as a career, by helping them see that others have similar insecurities, and by talking them through them.

To be completely honest, I have more insecurities than triumphs, right now, and that’s not something to shake a stick at. I’ve triumphed a lot in my life, to get where I am now, and so when I say the insecurities way me down, I mean it, truthfully.

The thing about it is, however, that you can’t let that sort of thing hold you back. Several of my fears are completely valid. Being the type of person I am, I compartmentalize, and then end up completely disorganized through out the entire process, which just leads to chaos. So, in an effort to help you through some of the things that I’m suffering through, I’m going to organize a little.

Worry one: I’m not going to make it. 

My mother is an author. My best friend is an author. My Mentor is an author. All of these people, I hold dear. But each in their own way, they struggle beyond what is possible for me to feel comfortable with. My mother has one book published, and is working on her second, and honestly, I’d give anything to be nothing like her. That’s a whole seperate story. My best friend has written five books, and none of them are published because he is waiting for one specific publishing house to recognise his works. And my mentor, possibly the most successful of all of us, has two books published, and still is not earning enough to support himself yet.

None of these are my idea of ‘making it’. Of Succeeding. My idea of succeeding is the type of fandom and fame that people like Neil Gaiman, Andrew Hussie, and J.K. Rowling have. And my fear is that I will never reach that level of success.

But that’s wrong. To worry about that so early in the game. The only way I will ever make it, is if I put my all into it now, if I give everything I have to succeeding. I can’t allow this worry to cripple me, the way I’ve allowed worries like this to do so in the past. I have done so much in my short life, and this will not be something that I don’t cross off my bucket list. So please, don’t let the high pole of your own idea of ‘making it’ hold you down.

Worry number two: The things I’m writing will perpetuate horrible things.

If there is one thing I want more than to be the next J.K., it’s to make sure that my writing MEANS something. That it gives someone who didn’t have representation before, that representation. That it allows people to feel more comfortable being themselves.

So I worry and fuss and drive myself nuts over my books and blogposts and writing, to make sure that they don’t hurt those I’m trying to help. It’s a lot harder than one might think to avoid internalised misogyny, or misandry. To fight off homophobia that I didn’t realise slipped into the way I write. To tear away anything that might make someone feel worse about themselves than they already do. And I’m scared that I might never be able to do what needs to be done to make the world a better place.

To combat this worry, I’m trying to learn as much about the world as possible, so that I might end up helping, instead of hurting. I’m attempting to make sure that nothing is left out. That I leave no stone unturned. Honestly, there are some who would tell me not to worry about this, but it seems to me that not enough people worry. So I try my hardest.

Worry number three: I’m afraid I’ll decide this is a waste of time someday, and quit.

I have picked up a habit over my years on earth, and it’s a bad one. I start something, put a lot of work into it. Hard, fun work, that leaves me breathless and wanting more. And then suddenly, as if nothing ever happened, I just… can’t do it anymore. I can’t pick up the pen. I can’t make myself write that next reply. I can’t tell myself that I need to continue it.

Knitting, Final Fantasy Eight, Gardening, Drawing, Painting, Manga-writing, BDSM, Domme-ing, Relationships, and numerous, numerous story ideas. All thrown to the wind, on a whim. I have come to accept that I am a fickle creature. And what worries me, is that after all this effort I’ve put into working so hard on this, I’ll just… give up.

I don’t know how to combat this worry. I don’t know how to get rid of it, or change it, or make it work for me. The best I can do, the best anyone can do, is take it one day at a time, and try their hardest. That’s why I write as many blogposts as I can, that’s why I read so many blogs on my Feedly. That’s why I twitter more now than I ever have before. That’s why I search for blogs and talk to other writers, and try desperately to tie what I’m doing here into my other areas of interest.

Worry number four: I’m worried that this will take over my life, and kill my other dreams.

I want to open a Manga Cafe. The first Manga Cafe in Colorado. I want to have children. I want to travel the world. I want to be financially stable and own my own home. All of these things… None of them are mutually exclusive. But I’m afraid that all the work, all the effort, all the energy I have to put into this whole author-business, will take away from the energy I’ll have for these other dreams.

How can I run a cafe, a business, when I have to spend so much time writing, just to be a mediocre author? What will my children think when I have to tell them I can’t take them to the park because Mommy has to write? Travelling the world costs money, and since it looks like I’m going to be an indie-author, I can’t afford that kind of expense. My money, my life, my energy has to go towards my career as an author.

This is a simple fix, though. This is all just a matter of perspective. If I can wire my writing into the rest of my life, as well, then maybe, just maybe, I can have it all. Why not write while travelling? It’ll make my books more realistic! My cafe can give rise to whole new book ideas, as well as a place to sell my books, and others! My children will see me working hard towards my dreams, and gain a work ethic themselves. I can do it. I can do this, and I WILL make my dreams come true!

Worry number five: I’m worried that I’ll succeed. 

Now, bear with me here, because I know one of my worries up there was that I WOULDN’T make it. But, making it, succeeding in becoming the type of author I want to be… Well, that’s just as terrifying. The kind of fanbases that J.K. and Hussie and Gaiman have are amazing, but also, dangerous. People have Andrew Hussies’ BABY pictures online. I would have no privacy. Not only that, but these people would be hanging on my every word. I would be responsible for a part of their world view. That’s a horrid responsibility.

And there would be my close friends. What of my best friend, who is still waiting for that publisher to call him back? The jealousy there might ruin our friendship. I would rather die than lose him as a friend. And what of my mother? I love her, but what if she thinks this is some kind of contest? We barely have a tenuous relationship as it is. I’d rather not turn into Rose Lalonde, thank you.

The only balm I can soothe this worry with is that I won’t let success change me. Not really. I will still be friends with those I love. I will still be me. And I know I’ve never intentionally hurt a person. And I’ve never withheld an apology when I knew it was really needed. So I can only hope that responsibility will sit with me easily.

Does anyone else have these worries? How do you soothe yours? Please tell me, because I’d love to hear.

A Review of ‘Eat That Frog!’ by Brian Tracy

  • Posted on August 21, 2014 at 12:29 pm

In Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog!, you are given a set of rules/suggestions to follow to increase productivity and reduce procrastination. I read this book, cover to cover, hoping for some guru secrets. Unfortunately, it was a little underwhelming. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, as I enjoy most self-help books. However, I felt a lot of what he was talking about was common sense. Plus, he really pushed that frog-eating thing a little too hard in my opinion.

Here are the suggestions/rules that really stuck with me:

3) Apply the 80/20 rule to everything. – This means 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results. So always concentrate your efforts on the 20% of activities that will yield good things.

This particular rule was news to me before this book. I had never thought of this as fact. I had always just assumed that putting in one hundred percent meant that the universe HAD to match you. But he’s correct. When I set three appointments at work for a special event, only one showed. And he didn’t even buy anything! So, focusing on that 20% tends to be a good idea.

This works in writing as well. Focus on finishing the 20% that helps you succeed later on. Outline, research, get involved, and that will help produce 80% of your writing for you! One article I read mentioned that when you have the energy to get things done, do the hard things, so that the easy things can be done when you are down.

8) The Law of Three. – Identify the three things you do in your work that account for 90 percent of your contribution and focus on getting them done before anything else. You will then have more time for your family and personal life. 

This goes along with the rule above. Identifying the three key things you do that make your work more profitable, more easily done, and more plentiful, then allows you to finish that 20% we were talking about earlier. My three things for writing are: Research, Outline, and Revise. These are the three things I do that contribute to finishing and polishing my manuscripts. At work, they are: Sell, Get Repairs, and Invite to Events.

13) Identify your key constraints. – Determine the bottle necks or choke points, internal or external, that set the speed at which you acheive your most important goals, and focus on alleviating them.

I learned a hard lesson last night at work. I work in a jewelry store, and I’d just sold a $3400 ring, to a couple who had walked in just to look. I thought I had worked very hard, and I was very proud of myself. I even split the sale with a coworker, so that she might benefit from it too, since it had been a slow night and she hadn’t had any sales that month.

Instead of celebrating with me, and acknowledging that I’d worked hard with the sale, she continued a rant she’d had earlier that day, saying that the only reason I had got the sale was because they had come in to buy. Now, this seemed really wrong to me. And I realised that her key constraint was most likely her negative attitude. Since in the last three days I have forced myself to repeatedly tell myself that I can make that sale, I have had three $1500+ days in a row. Clearly, my positive reinforcement of my own mental state has had some effect! This is only made clearer by the fact that before my reaffirmation, I had NO large sales, and in fact, had bombed a big event.

This rule resonates with me because, honestly, I think if she read this book, she might begin to understand how her negative attitude almost brought me down. So yes, despite it’s mediocre common sense, I do reccoment Eat That Frog! if only because, sometimes Common Sense is just what the doctor ordered.

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part One

  • Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Welcome to a new series of articles centered around breaking down, and understanding Nemesis, a Miss Marple Mystery, by Agatha Christie. If you’re curious, and wish to follow along, you can purchase the book here! (or make use of your public library, of course! <3) We’ll be breaking down several things, focusing on the Tension, the Characterization, and the Plot Threads, while searching out this mysterious Agatha Christie Code that I’ve heard so much about!

Nemesis is a story in the middle of the Miss Marple Mysteries, a series about an old woman, Miss Jane Marple, who happens to solve mysteries in between gardening, knitting, and enjoying her golden years. At twenty two chapters, we’re going to be breaking down each chapter and looking over it. At the end, I’ll give a final post about what I’ve learned from the intrepid Miss Agatha.

In the afternoons it was custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.

The cover for the copy I am reading. Clicking will take you to Miss Christie’s Wikipage.

This is the first line of the novel. Odd choice, honestly, but it works, because it shows off a certain oddness about Miss Marple in the first place. Then, odder still, Miss Marple goes off on a tangent about how often her paper is late because the boy delivering it is either late, or has handed off his route for a little while, or has been sacked.

Strangely enough, this drew me in immediately, if only because I really felt like I was listening to the mental ramblings of an old lady. But another part of it shows just how very AWARE Miss Marple is about EVERYTHING. She knows more than just ‘oh the paper’s late, I can’t read it with early morning tea.’ She knows WHY her paper is late, which is something few people even bother paying attention to.

The pacing so far is unbearably slow. I haven’t figured out anything other than what this old woman is doing with her afternoon. Which appears to be reading a newspaper she’s nicknamed “The Daily All-Sorts”. Then, we are treated to another rant, this time about being unable to find anything in the Times. This rant seems devoted to her lamenting how things have changed from when she was young.

A wonderful way to show us her age, and also an intriguingly clear indication that perhaps the so-called Agatha Christie Code is correct. She seems very intent on describing Miss Marple’s thought process in larger-than-life detail.  Here, we find out another odd detail about Miss Marple.

“It’s sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths!” – Miss Marple

Miss Marple discovers the Internet

She seems to be looking to see if anyone she knows has died, or perhaps given birth, or gotten married. An odd passtime, but when one has all the time on her hands that Miss Marple seems to, I can see why it would become interesting. Everything about Miss Marple at this point seems to be just this side of odd for an old woman. Miss Christie is leaving us hints as to just how odd Old Miss Marple is underneath. This is wonderful examples of characterization. But still, nothing has happened yet.

Finally, Miss Marple comes across a name that stirs some familiarity. Jason Rafiel, listed in the obituaries. She can’t seem to remember who it is, but she has no doubt it will come to her. In fact, we are treated to a long process of her figuring it out. She begins by looking out the window, lamenting that the doctors refuse to allow her to garden. Another hobby we find she enjoyed that now she is restricted. Poor Miss Marple, her old age is catching up to her. Turning away from the window, she picks up her knitting, which appears to be a pink jacket, just missing the sleeves.

Now pink wool, this triggers something of her memory. As we can see:

Pink wool. Now wait a minute, where did that fit in? Yes- yes- it fitted in with the name she’d just read in the paper. Pink wool. A blue sea. A Carribean sea. A sandy beach. Sunshine. Herself knitting and- why of course, Mr. Rafiel. That trip she had made to the caribbean. The Island of St. Honore. A treat from her nephew Raymond. And she remembered Joan, her niece-in-law, Raymond’s wife, saying: “Don’t get mixed up in any more murders, Aunt Jane. It isn’t good for you.”

Do you see what she did there? Miss Agatha Christie just took us through a perfect example of how the mind ACTUALLY works! After scent, touch is the closest sense to memory, followed by sight! Now, Miss Marple didn’t just remember this up, as if it were a scene, no, it’s broken down into actual recollections, actual thoughts. Instead of a flashback, we get a disjointed connection through various memories.

And like any of us, Miss Marple doesn’t just remember everything about that trip at once. No, she has to tease it together, starting with the names. She remembered the elderly Major, whose name continued escaping her. Then she remembers the kind of man Mr. Rafiel had been. Not perfectly, as some people are want to do. She remembers him being an obstinate man, as well as strong, as well as rich. Difficult, irritable and shockingly rude, she remembers. Clearly he made an impression on Miss Marple. And, not only has she remembered Mr. Rafiel, but others too.

Mrs. Walters, a widow and Mr. Rafiel’s secretary. Mr Rafiel’s Masseur-Attendant, Arthur Jackson, who she thought was a rather doubtful character. But instead of being sure of Jackson’s name, she continues to question it. This is a very organic process of tracking down what the thoughts and memories of this time were. And clearly she is remembering the people specifically, not the events. I assume this was Miss Christie’s way of not rehashing the entire events of the previous book, but instead teasing us along into remembering it as well.

Then comes Miss Knight, who was once Miss Marple’s own companion, a young woman she’s rather happy to get rid of. But for some reason, she keeps messing up her name, thinking of her as Miss Bishop. She even quips about it:

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple again, “I always get all the names wrong. And of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop?” The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A Chess piece. A knight. A bishop.

I’ll admit, at this point, Miss Christie had me hooked as a writer, although perhaps not as a reader. Such an organic transition, and a clear definition of this character’s mind. Already I am aware that she notices things others don’t care about, and she puts together odd connections, forming them in her mind to remind herself of things. I haven’t even had to read the rest of the series, and I find myself feeling like Miss Marple is an old friend.

She gives us a rundown of how she and Mr. Rafiel had been partners, for a time, but she never gets around to explaining in what. This makes me want to track down the book previous and read it. Well played, Miss Christie. We find out that Miss Marple was quite excited about these events, and it makes us excited too. Already, we’ve found ourselves enthralled by the way Jane Marple sees the world.

Then, we get to meet Cherry, who is now Miss Marple’s Companion. It seems that Miss Marple uses Cherry as a bit of a sounding board. Also, the voices between Miss Marple and Cherry are quite different. I find myself seeing Cherry as perhaps african american, if only because of the vernacular she chooses.

“You did have it in for little Gary Hopkins I must say,” said Cherry. “When you caught him torturing his cat that day. Never knew you had it in you to go for anyone like that! Scared him stiff, you did. He’s never forgotten it.”

“I hope he hasn’t tortured anymore cats.”

“Well, he’s made sure you weren’t about if he did,” said Cherry. “In fact I’m not at all sure as there isn’t other boys as got scared. Seeing you with your wool and the pretty things you knits and all that- anyone would think you were gentle as a lamb. But there’s times I could say you’d behave like a lion if you was goaded into it.”

Also, a wonderful choice there, to show us Miss Marple’s sense of rough justice through the eyes of Cherry, her companion. At this point, I’m also hoping to see more of Cherry. Their interaction seems quite natural, that of a companion and someone of an age beyond adulthood.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the syntax of Miss Christie’s work. So far, I’m seeing quite a large number of ‘said’s, and very little added description. She was clearly a follower of the ‘no adjectives’ rule, as well as a detractor from the ‘said is dead’ forum of discussion. However, I don’t feel it takes away from her work. The dialogue itself is well written, as well as showing us little glimpses of what we need to know about Miss Marple. There isn’t a word wasted here. I can see why Agatha Christie is said to be the single best-selling author in the world.

There’s a small break away from the heavy thinking to have a conversation with Miss Bartlett, a companion-gardener to one Miss Hastings. Then, her mind turns back to Mr. Rafiel, and gives us a wonderful description of their relationship. Ships that pass in the night. After that, she resolves that she will probably never think of him again. She’d look out for an obituary, out of what seems an honor for his passing, but she isn’t very hopeful about it. As a final thought, she notes that he hadn’t been anyone of major importance in any industry.

He had just all his life made enormous amounts of money…

All the money. Obsene amounts of money.

What I wouldn’t give to make enormous amounts of money. But on another note, clearly, the foreshadowing here is pretty thick. On the second read through, I found things I hadn’t noticed, such as the Mrs. Hastings reference. Already we have so many characters to follow, and Miss Marple at the center of it all. Red herrings everywhere for a mystery that hasn’t even been introduced, and I’m excited about this book that literally NOTHING HAS HAPPENED IN. All Miss Marple has done is read her newspaper, think about old memories, and talk to two women for five minutes each!

Breaking it down, just a bit, we see already how Miss Christie built up the character for us, showing through thought and action just what sort of woman Miss Marple is. We know she has just a little lion inside her, and is the kind to beat a child senseless for torturing an innocent creature. We know that she has an impeccable memory for detail, although sometimes it takes her a minute and some odd associations to get there.

This entire first chapter was spent introducing the main character. But it wasn’t wasted at all. We weren’t bored to tears by a flashback of what happened in the Caribbean. We weren’t shown her beating the boy, we weren’t even shown her doing anything other than normal things. THIS is an introduction chapter. This is the type of first chapter that will get you published.

Here’s a challenge, then. Take the first chapter of your book, or first paragraph of your short story, or any beginning at all. And have the main character do nothing, but think. Explain who this character is, show it, by their thoughts and actions. Give us a snippet of your results in the comments! And don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about the article either!

Ascended Gods – A question of morals

  • Posted on July 26, 2014 at 12:05 am

Tonight I went to see a summer hit, Lucy. To summarize, it is a movie about a woman, who, through a bad drug-ring run-in, ends up able to open up her very brain, and strive past the normal ten percent that most humans can access it. The movie is entirely about her journey from ten to one hundred percent, and what happens at the end.

Lucy Trailer

Now this is not the first story of a human pushing past humanities limits. In fact, there was another such being in media, one Dr. Manhattan. Through a freak science incident, this particular case ended up becoming almost godlike, capable of manipulating not just matter, but time and space as well.

But both of these two have something in common.

Both lose touch with their humanity, over a period of time. At one point, Dr. Manhattan, instead of exercising his gifts to save a woman, ends up allowing her to be shot. Lucy, despite her gifts, and apparent omniscience at the end of the movie, chooses to give mankind knowledge, but no guidance. Both of them, in the end, ascend beyond humanity, and choose not to interfere any further.

Why is this? What is it about these ascended gods that marks them as amoral, beyond the human concept, beyond understanding humanity, despite knowing, and having control over just about everything? Why do these so called gods choose instead to give humanity knowledge, and no true guidance? What is it about this ascension that takes them beyond any and all morals or codes that they held during humanity?

I beleive these characters are designed this way to invoke exactly that. A Godhood, an ascension. The belief that all humankind’s worries and needs are inconsequential in the larger run of things. However, I ask you, why would the belief, the realization of this, make these beings choose instead to fuck off into the deep blue mysterious beyond?

Why instead, do they not choose to stay? To attempt to guide humanity towards some kind of peace? If they have an absolute understanding of everything trivial and horrid that humanity has done, and how to correct it… Why don’t they? Are we to believe that once someone has ascended beyond all the worry, all the strife, all the day-to-day rat-races, that they would just… forget or ignore or lose interest in all of those they once cared about?

Dr. Manhattan’s transformation was quite well done, over a period of many, many years, and to be honest, I understand why he began to lose touch. He became entrenched instead on all of the mysteries the world had now unlocked for him. As he said, “I am tired of this world, these people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.”

I’m curious, dear readers, has there ever been a case of one of these ascended gods choosing instead, to guide humanity? Successfully? Please tell me in the comments about it, about what you think would happen, and about what you think humanity’s response would be.

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