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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Best Classic Fantasy (More nominations and seconds needed)

What is the best fantasy book (or series) written before 1975?  

Lewis? Beagle? White? We need more books for our next poll, and I'm not going to let this one drag out for months, so if you have a favorite classic book or series, the time is now to pop over to the original page (very important), read the rules (including the new rules), and drop your nomination.

I'll be putting this poll together next week.

Remember, go to the original page or it won't count. Not a comment here. Not a comment on the Facebook post. Not Tumblr. HERE.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Folks Worth Checking Out

My own writing:  

NOT Writing About Writing- Another blog I write on the regular. Thoughts too long for my Facebook navel gazing and not not write-y enough for here.

Grounded Parents (Retired)- I no longer write for this blog, but there are several articles there from when I did.

Special Mention:

Jay Henge Publishing- (and Twitter) A small-time publisher/editor who just wants to do their tiny part in getting eyes on talented writers and maybe can't pay all that much (but at least a little), and does her best to maintain high quality so that that foot-in-the-door-previously-published-in-blah-anthology tag is actually beneficial. [Also the one place I have something "traditionally" published.]

Giant If- A great webcomic that I'm proud to be a patron of.

Bango Films / The Grey Area- Two horror film projects by Comika Hartford (Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/comika)

KarinWertheim.com- SF/Bay Area massage therapy

Art Pages:

Laurel Grey Artistry When the time comes, they're going to do the cover art on my book!

The Art of Karen Luk

Fractalierre Fractal artistry

Holly Nelson Artist Page- intricate, richly coloured painting

loosetooth.com- reclaim drawing as your best thinking tool

Podcasts:

Pop Culture Confessions Podcast- A podcast about movies that everybody was supposed to have seen by now. (And I'm actually a guest in one of the episodes!  Misery)
9 to Thrive- A podcast and blog about work, community, and creativity

Other Blogs:

Fen Druadìn's Blog- In Which I Say All The Things I Used To Be Afraid To Say
The Internet Meme Demolition Derby- Where Metaphor and Simile collide headlong for our amusement (by Lou Doench)
Heinous Dealings- A blog about all things SJW by an ex-Muslim who majored in philosophy (by Heina Dadabhoy)
James Fell- Everything from fitness to social justice to motivation to rants about dark chocolate and why MLMs suck and how Costco is a hellscape.

Etsy/Society6 Stores:

Theartfulscientist- Awesome queer insect art that has to be seen to be believed
Sea Gift Jewelry- Sea glass jewelry from the California coast
JoHonsburger

Editing Services:

Good Catch Writing Services

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Updated Posts

Just a quick update for the folks who follow WAW through email updates or Feedly or something. This won't go up on social media, but it is the two posts that I updated through the week. You folks in particular wouldn't have gotten an email for these since I edited old posts instead of writing new ones.

Follow Us - A list of how to follow Writing About Writing

Update Schedule - What days you can expect updates (and what kind of updates you can expect)

Friday, April 19, 2019

9 Writerly Things No One is Going to Give You (But We All Need) [Part 2]

Return to Part 1

A Detailed Roadmap 

I'm afraid no one's going to be able to tell you exactly what to do. No matter how much you want them to. And they're not just being dillholes.

They can't.

Even if they wanted to, they couldn't.

Not their personal blueprint, their personal style, their personal process, their personal circumstances, nor even personal magic is going to work for anyone but them. It won't work for you. It would like trying to order the same thing someone else does at a restaurant all the time––eventually you're hungrier than they are (or less hungry), they love cilantro but it tastes like soap to you, you don't really want something swimming in gravy, you're allergic to what they order two servings of... 

Okay...you get the idea. That metaphor is probably working too hard.

You might be able to extrapolate some useful information ("Based on careful study, I have begun to suspect that a key ingredient for a successful writing career is....actually writing! Further research needed." **Do that in a Patrick Stewart voice for maximum effect**), but you won't be able to get the same results in the exactly the same way, and you may not even want to. By the time you reach the first milestone, the entire landscape will have changed. The way they got where they're going can inform your journey, but it can't determine it.

Of course, nowhere is this incompatibility more apparent than in the advice that writers who established their careers 15-25 years ago are giving modern upstarts. While an ambitious starting writer can submit short stories to every venue until they have a cover letter impressive enough to snag an agent who will take a chance on their novel, and push inexorably toward a book deal, that is actually a far less likely path to book deal these days, to say nothing of the path to publication readers, fans, and enough income to be a working writer. Today, one can establish a six-figure career without ever encountering a gatekeeper. Frankly, these days, only discussing traditional publishing is very narrow, limited, and borderline shitty advice.

Now you have self-publishing (that is not just vanity press), print on demand, e-pub, apps, a billion online venues, blogs, and ways to monetize it all from Patreon to Kickstarter to Kindle Unlimited. Social media works for name proliferation, but do you use one (if so, which one?) or do you use all of them a little? (Because if you try to use all of them a lot, you're just going to end up being a full-time social media manager who barely has a minute to actually write.) Where is your audience and how are you going to find them? And what will you do when the social medium you like turns out to be morally reprehensible?

Even with fewer dramatic differences than traditional vs. non-traditional publishing, no one else can tell you exactly what to do to "make it." (For example, I'm not going anywhere near traditional publishing for ideological reasons, and I'll probably avoid Kindle and Amazon if I can.) The industry is changing faster than the between-the-walls dimension in House of Leaves. The path I took five years ago is already far less effective, and you wouldn't get the same traction out of it today. The market niche I accurately predicted six years ago has closed up (though there is a new one that still exists). Facebook has throttled their content so I'm not sure I'd have almost a million followers even after five years if I started today. ALL social media is experiencing huge tectonic upheavals because of its role in electioneering, hate speech, and trying to comply with FOSTA-SESTA laws. Eight hundred million people left Tumblr when they banned certain hashtags related to sexuality and porn. All the kids today think Facebook is a fossil. But Instagram is not a great place to build an audience unless you're already famous or ready to put in a bazillion hours building your "brand." And if you do go traditional, how do you separate your writing time from your submission time? How many venues do you shop something before you dramatically revise it? What is your ratio of "safe" to "stretch" submissions? Do you try to shop a novel without a portfolio (it can be done but it is much, much harder)? Do you work for years so that you get a great agent or just enough that someone new to the business knows you're serious and will take a chance on you?

It would be so great if someone could just tell us exactly what to do next. Exactly how to make the magic alchemy of success transmute effort into fans and dollar signs (or whatever it is we're after). But no one can. And no one is holding out on you if they don't. The best thing we can do is point towards the horizon and say, "Read a lot. Write a lot. Don't stop. Beware the groove."

Concentration/Focus

Okay, knowledge drop: for some of us this isn't entirely accurate. There are some nice medical doctors who can give us little pills that help with the ability to concentrate/focus, so sort of some people can kind of give this to us after a fashion, so let me make that caveat through a bullhorn before we go any further.

Me, I got addicted to my pills and started sleepwalking and taking more pills IN MY SLEEP, and they made me want to masturbate all day and it all got a little weird, and so these days I have to rely on caffeine, vigorous walks, and visualization exercises, and some....uh...

You know, maybe I'm veering a little off course.

Narrator's voice: "Though told twice, he did not stay on target."

And yet, with or without pills, one of the greatest struggles a writer goes through is applying their ass liberally to the chair of their choosing*, and getting the fucking work done. Although, a determined writer might be able to write a novel, longer work, or have a successful writing career fifteen minutes or thirty minutes at a time over the course of who knows how long, most people who hit those bellwethers have a breathtakingly similar experience to report: they concentrated on their writing for hours. Multiple hours. Often (usually) LOTS of multiple hours in a row.

(*Metaphor chair could be a standy up desk. I just got one of those. It's AAAAAAAWWWWWWSOOOOOME!)

No one can hand you a can of concentration that you can chug. No one can bust out a package of focus for you to slather yourself in. You need it badly, but the only way you're going to get it is the discipline of sitting down time after time (preferably day after day) and turning a little bit of time into a little more and a little more and a little more. It will eventually become rote, then habit, then feel strange to miss, but nothing outside you can make you love writing enough to blow past all those voices that are going to try to talk you out of it.

Enough Real Talk

It's way too easy to find someone who will take an industrial-sized leaf blower, fill it with unicorn farts, and blow rainbows straight up your ass so that you become distended and rainbows come pouring out all of your mucus membranes. "If you can believe it, the universe will listen to you!" "The only thing between you and success is focusing the actualization of your imagination." "By synergistically manifesting your quantum desires, you will ebb the perturbations of the ether to obey your focalized imaginifications."

On the other hand it's just as easy to find people who apparently think they're from the distant future where we've lost the robot war, are enslaved and being milked as batteries but without the cool simulated sex party, and the only thing to do is take your dreams, jam them into an industrial mixer vat, and turn it up to fifty because there is no point in even trying. "You can't make it as a writer ever." "No matter what you do, you will fail because it's too hard." "Give up now while you can still spend your youth in gothic spandex and get laid without spending six weeks trying to coordinate your schedules."

It is ALSO easy to find a whole fucking epic metric shitton of people who are willing to "SELL" the one thing that is "clearly" holding you back. Novel formatting software? A grammar check? An ergonomic keyboard? A yoga ball for a chair? Baby I gots what you need.

Slightly harder to find is real talk. The talk that threads that needle. The talk that acknowledges a tough industry with a LOT of submissions and a crowd twenty deep outside every door who think writing is their ticket to fame and fortune. The talk that says you can probably have a modest career.....if that's even what you really want, but you're probably going to have to give up some things to get there. The real talk that tells you that some people pursue art casually or as a dedicated hobbyist or never pay a bill from their wordsmithing or make side-gig money, but never quit their day jobs. Real talk that tells you that for 99.9% of writers, it takes years of practice and probably double-digit years of reading voraciously to be a writer. But also that it's not impossible if you're willing to work hard.

Most people have an agenda. They want to get you to buy something. They want you to give up like they did. Or they just want you to keep coming back because they make you feel so inspired by talking about your dreams and never getting around to mentioning the work.

But whether it's a blog about writing, some good advice, or an editor that knows how to cleave that middle ground, finding the real, down-to-earth talk is something writers can't get enough of.

Motivation

No one is going to make you want to sit down and do the work. You can get your ass temporarily ridden by external motivation if you are in a writing program and your grade depends on writing. You might get a little hit from the William-Wallace-Braveheart-speech caliber inspiration posts (especially around NaNo). Maybe your mentor or a mom who never thought you were good enough can say "You got this, kid" in a tearful scene where they finally stick something you've written on the refrigerator and it's totally not weird even though you're now in your forties.

But ultimately, all that will fade. No one can actually give you sustained motivation. You have to find that for yourself. In the nooks and crannies. In the success of others. In the faces of the children. In the sighs of lovers in some wild group sex. In untempered rage that you still have some motherfuckers to prove wrong. In the voice of that professor who told you maybe to find a more attainable dream.

Or maybe that's just me. In any case, you have to find your motivation to sit down day after day after day and keep putting in the work. In rage, and hope, and habit, and sheer force of will. No one can find it for you.

Nerve

BOLD OF YOU TO ASSUME ANYONE WANTED TO READ YOUR SHIT! (But assume you must!)

You have to have some nerve. You do. And no one can give that to you.

I mean, if you want to write for yourself alone in journals that Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman will try to piece together after your seven sins killing spree, then maybe you don't need any nerve, but if you want it out there, read by people, an audience, maybe a fan or two...or possibly a little niche, then yeah, you need nerve. You need just the tiniest bit of gritty, non-supported, ever-so-slightly arrogant faith in yourself.

All writers suffer from imposter syndrome. The ones that don't are almost always dreadful writers and often not-such-awesome people either. The rest of us have bad days and less-bad days. But at the end of those days (at whatever relative level of badness they involved), we proceed as if we have something worth saying. We continue as if somewhere out there someone wants to read our shit. No one can give this to you. No one will ever tell you for the gagillionth time that they want to read your work and then you're "over it." No one will ever take away the feeling that you are a pretentious fuck for presuming you have anything to say and assuage the need for some courage.

And even though you're absolutely wrong (pretty much always at least one someone DOES want to read you)....putting oneself out there takes nerve. No one's going to give it to you, but you need it just the same.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Spring 2019 Update Schedule

As of October 2018, Writing About Writing has undergone a major restructuring and now updates four times a week––usually on every weekday but Tuesday. 

Writing About Writing consists chiefly of one guy with lots of fake people running around behind his eyeballs (he also takes care of a 5-year-old, a newborn, pet-sits throughout the SF Bay Area, is writing a novel and a few other bits of fiction, and sometimes even does really wacky shit like try to get laid or play D&D or something), but this is the schedule we will generally make an effort to keep.

Friday

Fridays, for the most part, will be The Big Post™ of the week. If you're here for the hard-hitting writing advice (with the occasional examination of how language and narrative play into broader social issues), Friday is the day to tune in.

Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesdays and Thursdays will be our smaller posts: calls to vote or make a nomination in whatever poll is going on, the best of the prior month, quickies, fortune cookie wisdom. Things I like to call "jazz hands."

Monday

Harder to qualify than simply "big" or "jazz hands," Mondays are probably between Wednesdays and Fridays in their content and girth. They will be personal updates, smaller mailboxes, prompts, guest blogs, etc.

I'm afraid on Tuesdays I have to spend 10 hours watching a baby. The baby sleeps a lot right now and I can probably squeeze SOME work in there, but there's just no way to make commitments.

The Three-Post Goal

Some weeks aren't going to go down like clockwork and they might be front- or back-loaded with side gigs or other commitments. My writing career is also starting to open up occasional opportunities of interest like conventions, speaking engagements, interviews, or podcasts. I'm trying to be better about the (literally) health-shattering 80-hour+ weeks I was working. That's a needle to thread when you are your own boss and you know your income depends on producing content people are willing to crowdfund. So in the cases of major schedule upheaval, I will try really hard to get three posts up. They might just be posted off schedule––Thur, Fri, Sat for example, but I will try hard to at least hit three.

Facebook Writing and Social Justice Bard

Most of my major writing ends up on this blog, but some of my throw-away thoughts don't. If you particularly enjoyed our Social Justice Bard posts, don't worry. I still do as much yelling at clouds as I ever have.

I invite you to follow my Public Facebook Page (you can friend it if you send me a message, but it might be better if you follow it for a while first––unfiltered me is not everyone's cup of tea).  I post somewhat more "political and partisan thoughts" there (rather than just social ISSUES) and also often post "proto-versions" of what later become full blog posts (if you're interested in seeing how those things develop). [There's also personal updates and nerdery there.]

I also have another blog called NOT Writing About Writing where I update usually once a week or more and where I put shorter media reviews, personal updates, and political thoughts that don't really tie into writing and aren't really short enough for Facebook. Also, fret not; there may be fewer SJB posts here on Writing About Writing since we'll be dealing with fewer available "posting slots" overall, but there will still be some.

Everything I ever write (and reruns of my best stuff) gets cross-posted to that Public Facebook Page, so join me there if you want to stalk me properly.

A Fifth Post?

There MIGHT occasionally be a fifth post in a week. Usually this will happen when I need to cover some ground on "blog business." (Like posting the results of a poll or getting up the prior month's "Best of" posts or something.) In this case you might see an extra post pop up from time to time on the weekend. Fiction will also usually go up independently of our regular schedule.

Reminders:

  • I still nanny for a five-year-old and a newborn––sometimes at the same time, sometimes have more pet sitting than I can handle, and my host body occasionally succumbs to your Earth illnesses, so those three posts might not always happen like clockwork or may involve going off the rails of my usual updates. Until my Patreon pays all the bills, my reality is that I sometimes have to prioritize paid gigs.
  • This flexible update schedule should also cut down on the thing where I'm apologizing to absolutely fucking nobody that it's Thursday and I've yet to put so much as a taco video up. I know that some people are annoyed by the constant deluge of "This is why there's no post today" posts and the rest don't really care. But this also settles down my own inner overachiever. As long as I get in all the entries that week, my readers (who have literally never said anything in six years about my update schedule and only ever about my constant apologizing) and myself can give me a break.
  • I invoke the Anything Can Happen™ real-world excuse. I usually have a couple of "emergency blogs" tucked away, but I chew through them pretty quickly when the fit hits the shan. Health complications might crop up suddenly and have me needing to do a sudden unexpected several-hour shift or even an overnight...or maybe even more. Trust me, I'm going to feel ten times worse about missing a post than all of my readers combined.
  • Admin Long-weekends at least once a month will still be a thing. Usually just the Monday (but occasionally the Friday if I'm really behind) will be cannibalized. I need the extra time to answer emails, clean up menus, catch up on editing, take care of Patron-only posts and such.


Also......folks, if you like what I do, stuff a few dollars into that "tip jar" at the top left, or even better yet, sign up to be a monthly patron through Patreon ,and get in on the back channel discussions about posting schedules, big changes, and upcoming projects. I have bills to pay like any other starving artist, and I'm working four side gigs to make ends meet, so even a dollar a month (just $12 a year) will go a long way towards freeing up more time for writing.

Note: There's a pretty loud contingent of "Who Cares!" from the other side of the internet, and I'll give you all a nod if this isn't your cup of tea. Meta posts such as this one are my least popular kinds of posts because other than about five people, no one but me actually pays attention to the updating schedule. However, I'm not going to stop posting them. One of our mission statements is to keep "The Process" transparent and give you updates in real time as we learn them, so there will always be an occasional post about the meta here. I want people to see that someone who is making a paycheck doesn't have all the answers. I want them to see how their work/life balance matters and how easy it is to fall into working TOO much (or not enough). I want them to see that a successful blog doesn't require nine updates a week (and, in fact, that's too much) but it does require a steady, predictable output. And I want them to see how artists are constantly struggling to fiddle with the knobs and get it just right because they are at once human and also never satisfied, but also so so dang human with their incessant need to eat and have shelter and anxieties if those things don't seem secure or stable. Even if a follower or fan never ever uses this update schedule as a formula for their own success, blog, or writing schedule, let it be a comfort realizing how flawed and human working writers can be.

I want you to see how messy and non-magical it all is.