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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?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Diary of a Sick Writer

Yes, writers get sick.

Even the ones who jump up and down on your dining room furniture and scream like a howler monkey that the secret to "success" (should that, for you, mean anything other than enjoying writing for its own sake when the spirit moves you) is to write daily.

And sometimes we have to "call in." In some respect or another.

I'm on the mend but definitely still recovering. This morning I woke up feeling just so much fucking better. However, I was quickly reminded that I still had some convalescing to do.

Me: I'm SO MUCH BETTER. I'm going to go live! I feel life in my veins. The possibilities are endless. Energy courses through me. The merging is complete! The world is my oyster. I might even go out tonight. THE HIIIIIILLLLS ARE ALLLLLIVE WITH THE SOUND OF-

*falls asleep for 3 1/2 hours despite getting 12 hours last night*

Me: Maybe I'll just write a little filler post and stay up past nine instead.

One of the most frequent questions I get these days is some variation of "How can I do what you have done?" How can I get paid. How can I get these readership numbers.  How can I afford brand name peanut butter as a working writer? It's not like I'm secretive about it. (This entire blog serves as a real-time of my entire writing career arc.) However, I think a lot of them are hoping I'm going to drop some kind of secret or trick.

There isn't one.

The only "secret" is to have a very unhealthy life/work balance. The only "secret" is that writing is something I can't wait to do and I try to do every day.

So as a quickie today while I'm mostly still bed-resting, let me make sure that people know that I'm really QUITE serious about writing every day for the starting writer who wants to "make it." I don't say this to judge anyone for the "realness" of their writerhood or to insist that there's no other way to cross the finish line of Really Real Writer™ (though it ranks). I don't say it so that those of you who don't or can't write daily are racked with guilt.

I say it more more because of those questions about success that I get so often, and because I so often see folks treat artists as a group that works infrequently and only when inspiration hits rather than often harder than most clock punchers.

I knew I wasn't going to be able to write a blog these last couple of days. I had a headache from coughing and I was sleeping 16 hours. Even your average "fluffy" blog takes me a couple of hours and the longer ones take five to eight–some of the really involved ones take 20 hours or maybe more.

I couldn't blog, but I didn't stop writing. I plucked at a longer gun control post that will probably be going up in the next couple of weeks. I wrote a little fiction. I noodled on something for next week. I never got out of bed, but I propped myself up on a pillow and clacked away between naps and headaches. I made excuses that I wasn't that sick and slipped a little writing in where I could.

The last time I wasn't able to write at all, I was running a 102 fever and couldn't keep down water.

When I say write every day, I don't always mean the twelve hour marathons. I don't always mean dedicated hours on the work in progress. Sometimes the best you can do is fifteen minutes propped up on a pillow before the next wave of sinus pressure headache hits.

I'm not going to tell anyone that the way to make it as a writer is being willing to write until and unless one is brain-meltingly sick, but I do think there's a link between between making the time to write and struggling to do it every day (or almost every day–even just a little) and this wild, out-there concept of "making it."

I think that it's very conspicuous and revealing that in a wide sampling of folks who have made it to where so many express their florid desire to be, the consistent theme is artists who make excuses to DO their art rather than those who make their excuses not to.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Best Modern Fantasy by a Woman or Gender Variant Person of Color (Last call for nominations and seconds)

What is the best modern fantasy written by a woman or gender variant person of color? 

I am excited to run polls that don't just celebrate the same 20-30 white guys over and over, but I really need your help to see those polls succeed.

We totally need more nominations!

Be sure and drop the comment ON THE ORIGINAL POST or it will get lost in the crossfire. That's also where you'll find the rules if you're confused about anything. There was a time when I could really go round and gather up all the breadcrumb nominations from all the various social media and posts, but things are way too busy now.

Seconds are also needed. (And thirds. And fourths.) I won't be doing endless quarterfinal and elimination rounds. I will find a number somewhere between 8 and 22 of the most "seconded" titles. And there will either be two quick semifinal rounds or just the final round. I know that three and beyond aren't actually "seconds" but do yo

So drop a nomination or two and second everything you want to see on the poll.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Writer is Sick (Maybe? Probably. Yes.)

My body is having a gleeful time playing my favorite game: Genuinely Go-Back-to-Bed Sick? or Just a Little Sick and Blah?

Are those sniffles a mild cold or the sign of something serious? Did I suddenly need a nap because I didn't get enough rest this weekend or because I'm fighting something? That was the fifth sneeze in an hour? Am I ACHY achy or just a little sore. Do I feel warm to you?

I'm surrounded by sick people right now (seriously, it's like everybody I live with and everyone I work my side gigs with) and every sniff and sneeze I'm sure I'm about to be laid out with the plague that they've gotten.

It's not that I can't struggle through a few symptoms. Actually, I'm pretty good at it. 

A little too good.

If you remember the end of 2016, I struggled through a little sinus infection and ended up with bronchitis and an advice nurse ordering me to bed if I didn't want to end up with walking pneumonia. And this last summer I was sleepwalking due to exhaustion and apparently sleep-watched Iron Fist and shit posted on FB all day, so that's a weird thing to wake up to TWO days later. Anyway, the point is, my problem isn't working through "just the sniffles." It's actually taking it easy when I need some rest.

Thus, if I were a clock puncher at a regular job, I'd be calling in today, so I'm going to let my 148 bosses know that I'm out today and will probably phone it in tomorrow. I'm usually all about writing as long as my brain is not broiling in a fever, and today has been no exception, but it's more of a little of this, and a little of that and a free form kind of creative flow, and not sit-down-for-four-hours-and-write-a-post type focus.

I've got a guest post here in the hopper and everyone is going to need a proper ass kicking if our latest poll is going to be anything but lackluster.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

I Really Really Really Hate That Word! (Mailbox)

If only I could think of a word for this
really wet, damp, humid mailbox.
I hate this word!  You? 

[C.N. Some words people really, really don't like.]

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer a couple a week.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. I will...make every effort to be kind if you don't send me hate mail.]   

Rebecca asks: 

The comments for the 'saunter' post reminded me that I have a long unanswered question: We all have favorite words and phrases. These favorites, for the most part, are dynamic and change over time. But there is a word I dislike. I genuinely dislike the word 'strive'. It makes my brain itchy. If Strive were a person I'd warn my neighbors to be wary of it. I've felt this enmity for almost 20 years now. Do you have a word like this- a word you genuinely dislike and maybe will always dislike?

My reply:

[I added the link to the above question.]

You know it's going to take, like, every ounce of willpower I have not to fill this with a ridiculous number of uh....the word that is a synonym for struggle into this answer, right? But I will....erm....make every effort to do so.

Unfortunately someone out there didn't, uh, try hard to come up with any particularly latin sounding or clever portmanteau for this concept. It's just called "word aversion." (We should...hnnng...jockey to come up with a better term.) The most common one you hear these days is probably the word moist. The words panties and crevice seem to come up a lot too. I have a friend (who, if they're reading, should skip to the next paragraph) who simply can't handle the word yum or nom. It will absolutely upset them and they kind of ask everyone around them on Facebook to...uh...endeavor to leave them off of posts if they're going to use those words.

Linguists have...erm....strained to figure out why this physiological reaction happens with some people. It goes beyond people who are annoyed by the overuse of "like" or the descriptive use of decimate, literary, or miracle to describe a pedestrian childbirth. Most people confuse this with their prescriptive pet peeves and will describe something they are just really annoyed by, but it's actually closer to acute misophonia. It's an actual visceral, physiological reaction to the word itself that exists almost no matter how hard folks....labor to be okay with the word. In some cases it can make folks actually nauseated.

Most people think they've got word aversion if they're just cranky about misuse of literally, but that's really mostly them being cantankerous and irascible about prescriptive grammar.

One thing they really have to, um, bend over backwards to compensate for is the "downhill snowball" effect of people's learned distaste. For example, with so many mainstream examples of word aversion to the word moist some people dislike the word simply because they've been culturally trained to. It's the en vogue word that many shows and characters love to hate.

It's actually a pretty fascinating. The word seems intractably tethered in some minds to the concept it represents, which is where the true revulsion lies. Words that only have one letter changed, rhyme, or contain the offensive word in larger words often cause no reaction, and–this is where it gets really neat–people who study words and/or language often have no word aversions because they understand how arbitrarily words are linked with the concepts they represent. And people who are bilingual or multilingual almost NEVER have word aversions because they understand this arbitrariness at an even more fundamental level. So if you're...um...making every effort to overcome the brain itchy reaction, Rebecca, it might help to get a degree in linguistics and learn a couple of languages. That doesn't seem like an overreaction, does it?

In the meantime, I...do my utmost not to use those words around the people in question, but sometimes running a blog means that I....um....toil in vain. Personally I don't have any words that really bother me, although I am often slightly annoyed by the prissy onomatopoeia in the word "tinkle" when used to talk about peeing rather than delicate glass bumping noises. This may also have to do with an alcoholic grandmother who started to use the word excessively (almost gleefully) after her third sherry and a Stephen King short story where one of the characters also overuses the word to the main character's revulsion.

But really I just assay to remember that we all have different foibles when it comes to language. What about everyone reading? Any words you viscerally can't stand?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Day Needed

Hi all,

I need a day.

Big feels. Mostly about a country that has decided that the bodies of murdered children are just the cost of doing business. I still take my shoes off for every flight, endure seven Benghazi probes because "something something American lives," and listen to the justification of all manner of LGBTQIA+ bigotry be because "won't someone think of the children," but this is apparently just something liberals need to get over.

But also a little peep I'm very, very fond of (my favorite peep in the whole world, in fact) is going to start school this year. Today, at least, I literally can't even.

Mostly big feels bring me to the page, and turn into big posts. Today is no exception. I'm hate typing as hard as I can without the keys popping off my keyboard and flying under the desk and bed. If you know me, you know I usually take my laptop into my pillow fort and come out swinging as soon as the Ben and Jerry's is gone. Today is no exception.  And I'll want to make sure I fine tooth comb what I'm writing and dot all the i's.

So give me a day.