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

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Privilege of Daily Writing (And the Ableism of Prescribing It) Part 1

The most common problem among beginning writers is actually not stilted or purple prose, it's not lack of vocabulary or grammatical knowledge, it's not that they haven't found their voice and borrow from their favorite Victorian authors even if they're writing gritty cyberpunk technoerotica, and it certainly isn't that they need to do nothing more than "a polish" on that vampire magic school love triangle manuscript they wrote in high school.

It's that they're too good to take advice.

It's breathtaking, really, how many would-be writers are special snowflakes to whom the basic advice given over and over and over (by virtually everyone they want to write like) simply doesn't apply. Not in this case. Not to them.

And I want you to understand, when I say "them," I mean us. That was me thinking that a hundred pages of high school jokes was going to get a big six (it was six back then) deal if someone would just fix my spelling errors. That was me thinking that I was never going to have to cut a whole scene out or remove a character. That was me thinking that other writers might have to put in five or ten years of rejection, but I had the shit wired. Even as recently as a few years ago, I was wondering why my second drafts weren't being received with more enthusiasm.

The world of writing (and really many arts) is filled with such unique flakes of snow and folks who know better. Tell them they are going to need to write three to seven drafts if they want to be published, and they're sure they can do it in one and some proofreading because they thought a lot about their story before writing it down. Tell them they're going to have to kill their darlings, and they know that in this case they've got a winner from beginning to end with not one superfluous character or scene. Tell them to use simple words and they will give you ten reasons they need "blandishment" instead of "flattery." Tell them to cut 10% and they will cling to every word like they've written Ulysses.

And tell them to write every day, and they will find a hundred reasons they don't want to and fifty excuses for why they can't. Most of these excuses are spectacularly transparent prioritization failures.

If said writers were calmly clacking away for their own artistic fulfillment, happy simply in the joy of the writing they so vociferous love, if they never wanted to be famous or paid or even perhaps even read except possibly by a handful of family and friends, this would be no issue. Imagine them blissed out as they do that thing for which they express their florid undying devotion. A tear rolls down their face. "I just love writing so much...." they say.

Millions of artists are unknown, uncelebrated, and uncompensated. They paint, compose, play instruments, sing in the shower, dance in their living rooms, carve wood into faces, fold paper into cranes, decorate wreaths, take pottery classes, snap pictures, doodle, and even write in ways that fulfill them but aren't intended to be consumed by a wider audience. Even those who display or perform their art often do so for their communities or their loved ones. They act season after season in theaters where the ticket price might go towards the strike party. They sing for town concerts for little more glory than the mayor being honestly impressed. They write fiction online for forums where their best days are a couple of e-mails telling them their words are really appreciated.

But for some reason, many many, many writers–millions upon millions of writers–also sit around and wonder how to "make it." They may not know what "it" is but the fact that they are making anything less than "it" is unfulfilling to them. They ask Neil Gaiman how they can make it. They corner Stephen King at signings and ask how he blew life into his burgeoning career. They deluge Danielle Steele with impassioned pleas for how they too can emulate her success.  They even write in to third fourth rate bloggers who they have found are paying half their bills through writing these days and try to find out what the secret is. Because they want to discover something–anything–other than hard, consistent work that might be the secret to being a writer.

Over and over and over and over again these writers are asked these questions (I make less than half my income from writing and have made non-trivial money from writing for less than two years, and yet I have probably been asked this question no less than fifty times.)

These folks want the career trajectories, the accolades, the readers, the money, maybe even the fame, and yet somehow they are desperate that it come from some secret trick of "talent" or inspiration that goes beyond hard and consistent work. And yet as layers of writers are peeled away, taking away the casual writers, the dilettantes, those who've published a single book, those who make a pittance or have a few hundred readers.... As you peel away trust fund babies and folks with rich spouses who get to be "working writers" because they don't need to have a day job, and the obscure names you've never heard of from the corners of Amazon....  As you solicit the advice of only the most successful, the most published, the most read, and the most admired, their advice on process (if not craft) becomes more and more homogenous and predictable: read incessantly, write constantly.

And the reason I'm telling you all this, is because I want you to understand the context in which most advice from writers gets solicited and the context in which it gets delivered.

Because there IS another kind of context. It's rare (though not that rare), but it exists. And it is important that one context's sort of preemptive answers put out as advice to the teeming millions are not miscommunicated into the other context's "answer field."  Once in a while someone says they can't write every day and it isn't about their raiding guild or their after-dinner drinks or their inability to skip their beauty sleep to get up a half an hour early. Once in a while they say "No, I actually can't write every day."

And they all mean it.

And that is when it's very important to make sure we're not meeting concerns with platitudes.

On to Part 2...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Day Off

In accordance with the Unilateral Multinational Blog Accords of Aught Five, this blogger will be taking a day off to go into cake comas and try to find groupie threesomes.

Just kidding, I'll be writing. But not until after my nap.

Don't stop writing (I won't--just not here today.) I'll see you tomorrow, and dribble some good posts into this weekend.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Best Modern Science Fiction (Reminder to Vote)

What is the best modern science fiction book or series?   

This poll is CLOSE!

Please don't forget to vote in our current final round for best modern science fiction. This poll will be up a few days into October while we collect write in nominations for whatever our October poll will be, but it won't last long, so take this opportunity to decide which book or series is the best modern science fiction.

The poll itself is on the left side, at the bottom of the side menus.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

When I Put Out the Call

Sometimes I almost hesitate to mention that Writing About Writing is always looking for guest bloggers to chime in with their thoughts–both one shots for our once-a-week guest post or in a more regular way like Claire, Amy, and Bethany.

My response rate to these posts is actually quite good. Twenty or thirty e-mails will pour into my inbox over the next day or three.

But then I start to read them.

About half of them are strangely non-English. I don't have any problem with folks struggling with English (they are who I teach when I'm teaching). But for a blog written in English to an English-reading audience, "I am liking to be as guest blogs for WAW" doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

Then there are the auto-replies. "Hello. I found your most recent blog post to be incredibly educational. (Oh really? The one about how I wouldn't be writing a post today because I'm experiencing explosive incontinence and don't want to leave my apartment? That one?) I thought your last point could use some more detail. (You need to know more about what cleansers work really well on wall stains huh?) I have a proposal for a blog. Please contact me immediately."

There are clear scams: "I would like to blog about how to make 1500+/wk by doing online surveys.

More scams: "As the top financial advisor for Burkina Faso, I can write about how to make money. But first let me show you what I can do by giving me your checking account number so I can deposit 6 mil dinari...."

And still more scams: "My one step trick gets people a guaranteed big five book deal in less than six months. If you let me put up my link."

People who don't even bother to check what the blog is about "I can write about steam roofing!"

Content writers who are trying to make a buck. "Check out this last 200 word article I did for only $5.

Then there's this guy: "I know blogs, I have the best blogs. I have the best, and when you're done we're going to bring great sentences together and make great paragraphs with those words. We'll make WAW great again."

And through it all, if I'm lucky, I'll get about one person who actually seems to have read the Guest Blogging Guidelines or sticks around after I tell them that even though I'm willing to pay all my writers, the "pay" for a single non viral article here is about $2. I guess that makes it kind of a hazing process, and keeps me from having to answer a bunch of e-mails when I'm not.

So yeah, I could use some guest bloggers. Kinda.....

Monday, September 26, 2016

Novel Update Word Count- 4612 (Personal Update)

Image description: Writer typing with expression that is a little.....TOO happy.
Really Rough Draft

Raw unfettered shit- 4232
Slightly polished turd- 380  

Does that seem a little light to you? It does to me. There were several grinding lurching sessions that took literally hours before I was writing at a clip. It's been a long time since I sat down to do something so big and I had to relearn to silence the critic and remember that written is better than good when it comes to drafts. No matter how long you've been at it, that imposter syndrome is one fucking badass brain demon, and is immune to both lightning, fire, and holy spells.  Plus just starting this project involved a lot of scowling at a blank screen. The first few puffs of the old steam engine didn't even turn the wheel.

But even with the slow start, I found three things stood out.

Thing the first- I got sick. I'm actually still sick, but I try to write something unless I'm bed-ridden. But I've actually been nursing a creeping crud of Blerg for about four days now. Not only did I spend last weekend around thousands of people in our nation's capital, I also hopped on my third flight in the span of 9 days. So no doubt I was exposed to all kinds of slimy disease vectors. I'm sure some assholes out there love nothing more than smearing their rhinovirus covered fingers all over the glass case that houses The Constitution. Or maybe someone on the plane decided that other people's health was no reason not to be in a metal tube with recycled air and two hundred people for five hours. Yolo, amirite?

I was also in a vulnerable place. Remember how all that shit and stress was finally ending just last week? I also got some great news this week. And I mean some really great news. If you've been following this blog for a while you know that Sonic Gal had cancer.

Well Sonic Gal doesn't have cancer anymore. She stopped having cancer and was awesome instead.

Her natural superhero resistance to damage allowed her to take the maximum dose of radiation and at the end of it, they found her scans to be all clear.

A few years ago when I was in school, I would get sick at the end of every semester. Every. Single. One. You could have set your watch to it. I'd wrap up the last final. Make some Facebook post about being happy to have a few days off, and be sick within 24 hours. Basically stress and health do a cellblock tango in my body and after I've trashed my body on caffeine and stress for a solid month, my six remaining white blood cells start dancing around and singing "HE HAD IT COMING! HE ONLY HAD HIMSELF TO BLAME!"

So you can imagine the kind of stress relief I had feeling eight months of out-of-my-mind worry start to unspool. I know my situation with my family has experienced great upheaval (hence my move) but I gotta tell you that this was better news than, "Hey Chris I hooked up a threesome and some pharmaceutical MDMA for your birthday." By miles.

Thing the second- I'm still working a lot at my other two jobs: nanny and teacher. As you know, I didn't fund my Kickstarter to get a year "off." I did so to get a year with a lighter schedule. I wasn't able to get one of my nights off from teaching because I found out too late that my Kickstarter funded–we have to commit to our next semester schedule really early, and I couldn't find anyone who wanted to take either night. I'm currently working between the two jobs about 15 hours a week more than I intended to–a non trivial bite out of the time left.

Even though I will almost never say no to more time with The Contrarian (cause he's HELLA cute), next Spring I will be able to drop to one night a week (and maybe teach no classes if they'll let me hold my spot and seniority when I return the following Fall). Whatever pace I start to average for the next two and a half months, it's going to go up.

I'll have to keep my eye on it. It'll be important to schedule writing time in an evening and not just flop over if I've spent six hours nannying or something. However, in the end, the simple fact is that I'm not wasting that time, I'm working. Working means money.  So the worst case scenario is that the book release might get postponed, but it won't be a situation where I've blown through the Kickstarter and have nothing to show for it. I'll just be behind where I want to be.

Now, I don't really want to start talking about getting behind eleven months out, but as I navigate 30-35 hour weeks across two jobs, it occurs to me that those 10-15 hours over what I'd planned might have a thing or two to do with why the word count is flagging a little. So if that is where my productivity bleeds to, I'll work hard to catch up as soon as fall classes are over, and make sure that The Hall of Rectitude isn't contracting out my nanny services for any "fluff" time.

Thing the third- You want to find a "lesson" in today's post? Here it is: You have to be willing to itemize your time expenditures, log them (like you would a food journal or a cigarette journal if you were starting a diet or trying to quit smoking) and see if they match up with your priorities in life. You're going to surprise yourself with what you say is important and what you actually spend most of your time doing.

How many writers who express florid love for writing play video games 40+ hours a week and claim they've no time to write? How many people who are frustrated that writing isn't their day job are actually sitting down to write less than 5-10 hours a week. How many writers with a sincere sense that they would like to write more and an internal narrative that they "don't really watch TV" are binge watching Jessica Jones and Stranger Things for hours longer than they actually spend writing.

Well...I'm one of them. I may get my axe to the grindstone more than some writers, but my priorities and my actual time spent don't match.

Around Thursday I realized I wasn't making the progress I wanted and I started to watch my time and where it was going and came to one overwhelming, inescapable conclusion:

I am absolutely HEMORRHAGING time on Facebook. 

Yep. It's true. It's not just an "hour or so." (Or "An hour or two" when I'm feeling properly introspective.) It's three, four, sometimes five hours a day trading comments on friends' walls or crafting pithy quips. This one is hard to I use FB for promoting my writing, so I can't just "take a month off," deactivate my account, and learn what it means to live again or some inspirational bullshit that ignores how actually real online friends can be. I will have to monitor closely and limit my time spent going down the hole. I know for sure my patrons didn't back my Kickstarter for a year of extra pithy quips.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Best Modern Sci-Fi Book or Series (Final Round)

What is the best modern science fiction book or series?  

Our final round is live!   

Note: I'm feeling a bit under the weather today, so this will be the only post. I think it's just the release of all the stress–I used to get sick after finals every semester in college.

We have a very long final poll this time because in each of the semifinal rounds there were some ties right at the cut off point. So in total, thirteen names have been pulled from the twenty-two semifinalists composed of reader nominations. That means everyone will get SIX (6) votes.

Please remember that there is no way to "rank" your votes. So every choice beyond your first will "dilute" the remaining votes a little. I know there are some amazing books and series on this poll, and it's going to be a tough choice, but the fewer choices you make, the stronger the votes will be.

This poll will only run a couple of weeks, so don't delay. In August I will start collecting nominations for our August poll while this one is still wrapping up, but this one won't run much after the first week in September.

The poll itself is on the lower left of the side menus–just below the "About the Author."

Since I can't really stop shenanigans, I welcome all the shenanigans. The main one is of course that Polldaddy tracks your IP for a week so you could vote from multiple computers or vote again after a week, but people have also enlisted friends, family, and even author forums or Facebook communities to join in the fun.

Vote early. Vote often.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Best Modern Sci Fi (Results Semifinal 2)

Results in text form below.

Just a quick "brunch" post this morning to announce the results of our second semifinal round for Best Modern Science fiction book or series. (I'm hoping to get a mailbox up later today, but it might be next week before our current Update Schedule comes completely online.)

Well, our poll will be a little bigger (again) since the Atwood/Leckie tie was never resolved. I was sorry to see several of the titles that won't be going on fare so poorly, but honestly I don't think there were a lot of bad choices on this poll.

The final round will go up tomorrow!

Ready Player One - Cline 25 16.89% 16.89%
Honor Harrington Series - Webber 21 14.19% 14.19%
Snow Crash - Stephenson 20 13.51% 13.51%
Old Man's War - Scalzi 13 8.78% 8.78%
The MaddAddam Trilogy -Atwood 12 8.11% 8.11%
Ancillary Series - Leckie 12 8.11% 8.11%
Use Of Weapons - Banks 11 7.43% 7.43%
Consider Phlebas - Banks 10 6.76% 6.76%
This Alien Shore -Friedman 10 6.76% 6.76%
Never Let Me Go- Ishiguro 9 6.08% 6.08%
Commonwealth Saga -Hamilton 5 3.38% 3.38%

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Best Modern Science Fiction (Vote Reminder)

What is the best modern science fiction book or series?   

Things are pretty tight and currently also pretty close right around the cut off point for the final round.

Just a super quickie to remind you not to forget to vote on our semifinal for best modern science fiction. Results will be posted for "brunch" TOMORROW (and the final poll will go up for "brunch" on Friday), so this is your last chance to decide which title will go on to the final round.

If you want to know the details of this poll, the original post is here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Writing About Writing's New Update Schedule

Writing About Writing will post something every weekday. We will also try to put something up most weekends and occasionally a second post on weekdays.

However, Writing About Writing also consists chiefly of one guy with lots of fake people running around behind his eyeballs (he takes care of a 2 1/2 year old, teaches two nights a week, is writing a novel, and sometimes even does really wacky shit like try to go on a date or something). and will periodically fail–perhaps even spectacularly– at this goal.

Sometimes the post in question might be little more a few inspirational quotes or a great Youtube video about writing, or just a picture of me screaming from the stress. I will even attempt to schedule a little something during vacations. It's not that I think my regular readers are twisted into coils of stress and hydrochloric acid, waiting for any possible update. It's just that in the world of blogging, content is king.

I can't promise that nothing will ever go wrong, what with all the intergalactic invasions and evil mystery hackers and such that W.A.W. fields in a typical week.

I also invoke the Anything Can Happen™ real world excuse. I have moved out from the family I stayed with, but a lot of the situations are still in progress. 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.

There is a monthly schedule I follow where I try to rotate in and out through the various running segments here on Writing About Writing. Even in a given month, you aren't likely to see something from each category, but it keeps me from doing fifteen listicles in a row and not writing a prompt for months on. I was going to post that schedule here but it'll be better to keep it in my head since I tend to go off schedule about ten seconds before the ink even dries on writing it.

Though we are ramping back up to the full fury of this schedule over the next couple of weeks, this is what you can expect once we get going.

Mon- Novel word count progress report and personal update.

Tues- Our guest posts will be moving to Tuesday!  We have a small handful of regular guest bloggers (who unfortunately have their own life circumstances), but are always on the lookout for one shot guest bloggers or a new regular. Let me know if you'd like to join their ranks! If we have no guest post lined up, we'll still post a little something, but it'll definitely be filler-ish.

Wed- I have to teach on Wednesday night, and often have a tag in prior to leaving. If I do a podcast for the week, it'll go up on Wednesday, but they actually take more time than just the final recorded take (almost as much as a post of the same length after prep and rehearsal are accounted for), and they won't go up every week. Wednesday is also when a lot of polls, plot posts, and such go up.

Thurs- Mailbox!

Fri- A major article will go up each Friday.

Brunch posts- I can't promise brunch posts these days–not even one or two a week. However, if the planets align and I happen to get a surplus of writing time, you may see a day here and there where more than one post goes up. Poll turn arounds in a single day, plot arc posts, "quickies," and various other things (which in the past would have gone up on the weekend) will sometimes show up in addition to a "main post."

Of course if you really want to hedge your bets for a good run of articles in a given week, a groupie threesome the weekend before will almost certainly motivate me to write for hours on end, and inspire a week of exceptional productivity.


Fair enough. Catch as catch can then.

If there's been a run of extra toddler wrangling shifts or my weekend involved the words,"I'll just play this Fallout game for an hour or two...." the week might involve shorter articles or jazz fingers.

Articles? How about these amazing

Saturdays: I write several other blogs and even try to do some shorter fiction. Since Writing About Writing will always be the place to find all my published work, each Saturday, I will put anything I publish other places, continue my menu tour, or revise old articles.

Sundays: We're going to keep taking Sundays off while we're writing a novel. It's been a long run of daily content–usually with more tears than smiles–but I would rather knock it out of the park once a week, have weekends (not really) off to focus on my work in progress and give you all the best of me on a working schedule. Weekend numbers are depressing (especially on Sunday) so I'm not really going to waste a good article tossing it up when no one is going to look at it.

We may still post occasionally on a Sunday. It is a good time to drop articles that are not chic, sexy, or topical, but which might have a good "slow burn" factor on Google, fiction, or just things that I don't have space for in a given week.

MORE?? If you like what I do, stuff a few dollars into that "tip jar" at the top left. I have bills to pay like any other starving artist, and I'm working three day jobs to make ends meet. I would love to do less of that and write more. I've already cut my hours as donations have stacked up. I'll do it again, but I am over forty and have had a "real job" for exactly two years of my life, so I can't afford to be as Bohemian-carefree as my twenties about saving up for retirement or health care.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Novel Update 1–Word Count: 0

Image description: Writer getting started.
*cracks knuckles*

Well then....let's write a novel, shall we?

I made it.

Seriously, I actually made it.

For months I've been looking across the hellscape off my life and schedule toward this time–this time way off in the distance–when I would really have time to dig into writing like Scrooge McDuck swan diving into his money. Even though I still write during my slumps, for literally years now, I've been looking ahead to this time when things were actually going to clear up and I would have time to write. Real time to really write, in hours long chunks of fevered creativity instead of stolen hours dug out from deep, hidden crevasses or plucked with meek apologies from needful fingers. But every time I felt like I was actually getting close to a schedule that actually facilitated writing, something (like a baby or a health crisis or a pair of back to back moves during a relationship upheaval) popped up like the monster in the last ten fifteen minutes of an eighties horror flick and the time to write behaved distressingly like the dolly zoom hallway in Poltergeist.

Come back here writing time!
Image description: Hallway seeming to get longer from Poltergeist 1982
But I finally made it. I actually, really, truly, finally made it.

This is the page turn. Right now. Literally today. September 19th, 2016 marks the new chapter of my life. Baring some unforeseeable horror that somehow extends some of this shit, I will look back on everything before today as the three-year-long slump and talk about that as my "Meh period." And everything after it as "That year I worked like Neve Campbell and Antonio Banderas in the late nineties.....combined."

Yes, my readers, now it's time for you to see the "serious shit" that I've been promising, swearing, and threatening for months (and even years) now.

Let's fucking do this thing!
GIF description: Back to the future clip of car time traveling. Back to the Future 1985

Tomorrow I'm going to put out a new schedule for Writing About Writing. One that isn't "I'll get whatever shit up that I have time to write when I have time to write it, OKAY???" The new schedule will include a dedicated weekly day for the Mailbox again, weekend posts, occasional brunch posts, writing for other blogs, at least two "meaty" articles a week.

And of course the no-big-deal job of writing a book.

Totally not panicking.
Gif description: Beeker Muppet....panicking.

On that note, every Monday for the next year will be a word count tracker and meta-novel experience in addition to my return to Monday personal updates. Monday is a long work day for me at both of my part time jobs (nanny and teaching), so a blog post that's a little easier to splurt out will be in order.

This will serve two functions:

Number one, it will keep a measure of transparency. To myself of course, but also to folks who generously contributed to the Kickstarter. A year might seem like a long time, but for a project as involved as "Write a book" (from draft, through draft 2, through revision, through more revision, through alpha reading, through editing, through beta reading, through more editing, through final editing, through galley proofing, through publishing) it is actually going to be a pretty slammin' pace. The normal timeline for a book is between two and five years for a first time author who really sits down with some grim determination and has no research to do, and turning around in 12 months from draft to publication is a pace even an established working writer would be proud of. Posting word counts (and revision word counts) will keep me on my toes and all-too-aware of my charge to everyone who pitched in so that I could work only part time for a year.

The more writing is seen as a job that you just DO, the easier it is to slog through the parts that aren't unicorn farts and pixie spew–which, ironically, gets you back to those magically delicious parts all the faster. And I intend to be accountable.

If I get behind, you'll know the reason why (and it won't be because I was checking Facebook). So none of you will have to dramatically arm yourselves as you say "...or I'll know the reason why!" Folks paid to give me a year to work, and if I get hung up in the publication process or there is something that goes over like a depleted uranium balloon with the alpha readers and sends me back to the drawing board, it'll be clear and obvious what happened, and never that I just wasn't working.

Number two
, it will continue the ongoing mission of W.A.W. to not only be advice about writing, but also a real-time, meta blog showing you all the time, energy, and ceaseless dedication it takes to chase the ever elusive "be a writer." For those who think writing a book is a November's work, or even an easy year's work, you will soon see how difficult it can be and how many hours of long, hard WORK go into such an endeavor.

Note: I don't really have zero words written. I'm actually on page 37 or so, but today is the first day of dedicated pacing.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Listicles about Writing (Menu Tour)

You know you love lists. Why fight it? Why not just find some good ones about writing?  

Soon there will be a new name to add to the great Listers of our culture. Ima will join their ranks.

I will not only redeem myself for the egregious error they made on my birth certificate when they misspelled Ira, but I will continue the illustrious Lister tradition.

The Holy Trinity of Writing Advice-The Only List You REALLY Need
The 17 Rules of Writing
Five Things You Can Do to Be a Better Writer Almost Overnight
Four Things Every Writer Should Know About Grammar
Five Things You Might Not Think Would Make You A Better Writer (But Totally Will)
8 Things Prometheus Can Teach You About How Not to Write
Seven Sign That "Good" Advice Actually Sucks
20 Ways to Sabotage Yourself As a Writer
6 Easy Ways to Ninja More Pageviews
15 Terrifying Things That Will Make You A Better Writer

Thursday, September 15, 2016

On a Slow Week (Personal Update/Mailbox)

I'm pretty sure this is the exact moment I realized that the
flatulence was not a thrice off event, but was going to be a thing.
Image description:Writer on a plane,
between two people, looking uncomfortable.
Currently I'm on a plane. I'm sitting between two people, both asleep, and near someone who is either having unconscionable gastrointestinal issues or cares nothing for the etiquette of farting prodigiously into a closed air system. I'm trying to pull myself inward to occupy as little space as possible as I write this on my laptop. It's seven in the morning, and I had to be out the door by 4:50 after five hours of sleep. I am hurtling east in a metal tube with nothing but peanuts to sustain me. In a chair that is literally designed to be so uncomfortable that people will pay to upgrade it.

And I'm writing.

Not making excuses about how I need to be in the mood or I can't write well if I'm not in a good space. Writing.

This year I've been at my lowest productivity since I started Really For Real™ Writing. Fluff posts. Missed days. Weekends off. Sometimes I don't even get you all some cute excuse involving velociraptors with lasers. Some days I look up and think "No way. Not today. I just can't! Fuck!"

Without exaggeration or hyperbole, this has been the worst year of my life. (There is a non-zero chance that the coming year might involve The Salmon Mousse and be even worse, but let's not talk about that.) A loved one with cancer and then supporting them through chemo, a relationship separation, a major lifestyle downgrade and move. All to the background hum of a two-year-old living up to his Contrarian moniker. ("Do you want to go to the library?" "NO!" Do you want to go to Disneyland?" "NO!" "Do you want to go to Toddlertopia?" "NO!" [I'm in big trouble the day he pauses and says..."yes."]) My productivity has been in the toilet, and even though I'm gearing up for the most ambitious project of my life and a period of epic output starting Monday, it's going to be 96 hours of catch-as-catch-can (yet again) before I can begin.

However, though I claim no extraordinary output among writers, and am probably actually on the low side of average, I would like to unpack this a bit. Most people haven't noticed or haven't mentioned my productivity, and in fact stick to asking me how to "make it" as a writer themselves. For the most part I am only desperately hard on myself and my TV-evangelist-levels of hypocrisy exist cheifly in my own mind. Still, this blog continues its mission to be a real-time example of how to achieve some measure of success with writing. The Nelson schadenfreude "HaHa!"ers and the sincere writers and my dear, sweet Patreons deserve no less.

Writers can't always write as much as they want, and sometimes they don't always want to write as much as they know they should. There isn't always time when life gets turned up to eleven and decides to start making sure you know who's whose butt monkey. And even when there is time, it's hard to sit and make a hilarious as fuck listicle when you just got told you needed to move out.

But let's take a quick inventory of a "bad time" down at the Brecheen writing mill.
  • I write every single day. For at least an hour. It might be a stream of consciousness journal if I don't have the bandwidth for drafting and revising a blog post, and on some really tough days it might be an e-mail and a couple of Facebook posts, but some kind of writing happens daily.
  • I read for at least two or three hours a day. Again it might be a lot of articles and blogs I find through social media if my blocked time or mental fortitude isn't up for digging into a novel, but it is still a minimum.
  • I get a blog post of some kind up every weekday. Even if it's just fluff. In excess of 7-10 pages a week of material.
  • I write about a page a day on my current work in progress (right now that's the book that I kickstarted).
  • I am usually drafting or revising some form of short fiction, even if that work is glacial when I'm overwhelmed.
  • I write at least one "crunchy" article a week. And if I'm not currently in crisis, it's usually two.
  • Though I may bottom out at an hour of writing, my daily average is more like three.
  • I have written on buses, planes, trains, on the floor of a room with no bed, in hospitals, restaurants, and in a stairwell while waiting for an appointment. I have written during spare moments of as little as 10 minutes while I waited for a bathroom to be free. I have written longhand when my computer battery died.
That's me being unproductive. That's me in the worst slump of my life. I don't say this to brag and certainly not to do the Bruce Lee coup-de-grâce kidney twist on anyone who dares impugn me for asking, but as a yardstick for folks who are wondering what a paid-but-still-mostly-day-jobbed writer puts out when their life is doing its very best trashcan fire impersonation. 

And when I talk to other professional writers (or as-of-yet-unpublished-but-hardcore-about-their-craft writers) about their dry spells, I often find pretty much the same thing. "Slow" output for them is one to three pages a day (or about a thousand pages a year aggregate) instead of more like 5-10. They may have a hard time focusing on a major project, but they still poke at it–and work on side projects or keep up with a journal or something. They keep their craft from getting dull. Or when they lose the time, they'd like to be writing because of some life-shattering crisis, they still carve out just as much as they possibly can and spackle in the empty spots if they have to.

So keep perspective in mind when you see writers going into a slump. Their "slumps" often look like some other people's crunch times.

Now....I'm off to D.C., and in literally four days I'll be upshifting to a writing schedule that more closely mirrors working writers, and going full throttle on writing a novel over the next year, but as I transition out of this long twilight period of my writing life, remember that part of the reason people are saying "But Chris, how do you pay half your bills with writing?" or "But Chris, how are you ready by over a thousand readers a day?" is entirely because even through this epic-level life fuckery, I have never stopped writing....a lot. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Reminder: today's post will be tomorrow. Tomorrow's post should have been a guest post but we don't have one this week. And this shell game of posting should stop next week when the obligatory good-son trip is over, all moves made, and I'm back in front of my computer for good.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Don't Forget To Vote (Semifinal 2)

Image description: Cover of the book Snow Crash
A figure in front of a cyber landscape holding a sword.
What is the best modern science fiction book or series?  

Hopefully, in addition to Ima Lister's completely unexpected out-of-the-park hit (which went up late in the day, so you should check it out if you haven't) we get something juicy up for you on a flight from one coast to the other of the United States (a flight from Oakland to Washington D.C. which is long enough to justify paying for internet) where I am going to visit my mom, long estranged this last year while I dealt with the health of loved ones. However the rest of this week may have a bit of jazz hands since in addition to the obligatory good son visit, I am dealing with the absolute last bits of Move 2.0 (my king sized mattress and the last of unpacking) and packing for said trip. There's also no guest post lined up for Thursday as life has hit all my guest bloggers with the life stick as enthusiastically as it has hit me.

Point being....

Please don't forget to vote in our current semifinal round for best modern science fiction. This poll will be up until early next week, but then we have to get on with the final round that will last out September.

Everyone will get five votes (5). The top five names will go on to the final round. Before you simply vote for your favorite four, consider that, as there is no ranking of those four votes; each vote beyond one dilutes the power of your choices a little more. So if you have a genuine favorite–or pair of favorites–it's better to use as few votes as possible.

The poll itself is on the left side, at the bottom of the side menus.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Six Ways to Not Actually Write


Ima Lister here. Today I have a list for everyone who wants to be a writer but doesn't actually want to write. And I'm pretty sure that's going to be a very useful list in this community!

By now you’ve started to suspect the truth: writing is work, and dreaming about just being a writer is a whole lot easier. Maybe you’re running out of things to do that aren’t writing. Perhaps you’ve even found yourself sitting in front of your computer and starting to think of sentences.
I'm here to help!

What is the point of dreaming of groupie threesomes, fame, and untold wealth if it’s just going to come with a 60-hour-a-week price tag and years of struggling in obscurity–if you ever make it at all? What is the point of imagining success if you actually have to risk failure to get there?

 If this is your dilemma (and you just don't really actually like the writing itself), never fear, this list is for you!

1- Writing can wait:

Post that thing on Facebook that’ll get you into a huge political debate. Your day just got interesting! Did a new season of House of Cards just drop on Netflix? Can you say binge watch? Friends heading out for a night of debauchery that won’t truly be over until the hangover wears off….the day AFTER tomorrow? Rock rock on Cheat Commando! New video game came out? Play it till your eyes bleed. Or surely your favorite MMO has some kind of special event going on (or coming up that you need to prepare for). Really the possibilities are endless. And if you’re thinking of being a writer, you surely have the creativity to come up with even more things that aren’t writing. Zero moderation!

Punchline: most writers do some of these things. They’re an easily glamoured lot with an insatiable taste for art and entertainment. Almost all have have blown an entire day watching Daredevil or reading the current author they can’t get enough of. You can indignantly point to them and rationalize any level of procrastination–even “indefinite.” 

The only difference is eventually they put down the distractions and write (or more likely did the writing before they “earned” some relaxation time in front of their distraction), while all you have to do is just keep repeating step one over and over again, and never really get around to the writing.

Look, it’s really simple. If you make the choice to write, you’ve taken the first step. You might never be published, read, appreciated, paid, but you’ll never even have to mess around with that risk of rejection or phenomenal work if you never actually do the writing in the first place. If you just don’t ever do it, it will never get done.

So why even bother with the other steps of avoiding work when all you really have to do is never quite get around to it.

2- Never Triage Your Life

Priorities. Meh. Priorities are for REAL writers.

You can do it all. Always.

Well, you can't do it ALL, but guess what slides quite easily to the back burner? Did you guess writing? Give yourself a cookie.

Do not worry about trying to consider your time as a limited resource and your decisions about what to do to do with that time to require forethought and conscious examination of priorities.

Take that promotion even if it comes with ten more hours a week of work. Join that raiding guild. Get involved with that long distance relationship who wants to Skype every night and do no less that a weekend a month. Commit a 20-hour period (from prep through recovery) each week to live action role playing. Volunteer to teach impoverished youth. Live life with no limits. No, don’t pick any one of these things–that’s something those working writers would do, picking the most important one or two that can fit into their life with their writing time. Pick them all!

Being a dreamer means never having to say no. If you can come up with any reason that any of these things might be good, ever, then you should keep adding to your plate and be perfectly justified in getting snotty with anyone who thinks you might need to pare down your life. Keep doing this until there’s no possible room left for writing. Then you can dream indefinitely and always be too busy to do any actual work.

Who the hell says "No, I can't. I have to write"?   Writers. That's who.

3- Never Stick With Anything

Finishing a single project is a lot of work. And I don’t just mean a montage of you brewing coffee, you clacking away Bruce Almighty style, and bam it’s done. I mean, it's a LOT of work. Especially when you hit that point where you realize you have to flesh out your “golden diapers” idea and couple of sweet, epic scenes you’ve envisioned with a beginning a middle and an end, details you haven’t thought of yet, character development, and hours worth of effort (if we’re talking about a novel, and you’re pretty fucking determined, about 2000 hours).

Again there is an elegant beauty here. Writers regularly advise that it’s okay to have a few irons in the fire, and if you can conveniently skip the part where most of them are talking about having a steady writing gig (like a blog) and maybe a short and a long work in progress as well as basically ignore how often those same writers emphasize how important it is to finish things you start, you can just keep adding more “irons to the fire” and never really dealing with the fact that you start a lot of shit you are never going to finish. Pretty soon you have fifty or sixty “Chapter 1”s and haven’t actually done any work in years.

I mean even that expression is a blacksmith allusion about having one iron heating up while you pound out something else, but what blacksmith didn’t avoid a little work by adding fifteen, twenty, thirty irons to their fire so that, even according to physics, none of them could get hot enough? The blacksmiths that actually were blacksmiths, that’s who. ("What's that? The manor lord wants his broadsword before the crusade leaves tomorrow? Well as you can CLEARLY see, the irons aren't hot enough yet.")

But at least you can get in on that sweet blacksmith dreamer action where you only imagine yourself with the beefy right arm and the vengeful Spaniards banging at your door.

4- Wait for The Perfect Situation

A great writerly-sounding way to not do any work is to dress up your procrastination in little formal wear and walk it around town like it’s something other than just run-of-the-mill procrastination. It’s like having a toy poodle in a hoop skirt or a toddler wearing a tuxedo. It just never gets old!

Remember do NOT sit down whether you’re feeling it or not–you have to be in the right mood to write (even if that mood comes but once every month or two). It has to be right time of the day or the Feng shui of your whole creative flow will be disrupted more than a living room without a little waterfall in it. Tell people you can’t get started until the sewing room is converted into an office. Then you can’t get started until you get that great desk. Then you need a MacBook Pro, but as soon as you have the money for that you are going to get started. (“Excuse me while I out bid this asshole trying to snipe me for this limited-edition Avengers helicarrier.”) Then you can’t get started until you have the right music. Then you can’t get started until you have that particular four hours set aside every single day. Then you can’t get started until you’re feeling inspired, which might require seeing that movie you watched the first time you had the idea and getting a little drunk—better make a night of it. Basically this can just go on forever if you want it to. (There is a wonderful list of excuses [over here]. All you have to do is tweak them ever so slightly so that you believe them yourself.)

Writers, of course, love special desks and music and inspiration and dedicated time each day, but you’ll find them longhand gutting out a sentence on the floor of the laundry room for the ten minutes their shirts take to dry if you take all those things away. But for you, that's just unnecessary work. The more pretentious you can be about what you need before you get started, the longer you can put off any real effort.

5- Hang on to Everything

Going back to the drawing board is a lot of work. Don't ever, ever, ever, ever kill your darlings.

Whether it is a character who doesn't quite fit, a scene that's doing nothing, or just that work that you wrote back in high school that for some reason won't gel, don't give up. No matter how much it isn't working, you just keep poking at it. Remember, everything you ever write should be slated for eventual publication, and that means that you never give up on anything.

See, if you put that in a drawer for a few years (or better yet call it excellent writing practice and move on), you have to actually do some serious work of coming up with something totally new. Writing drafts is tough.

On the other hand, if you hang onto that old work, you give yourself a never ending "retooling" license. You can always be revising that one work. Going back and noodling that one scene. Combine this with not finishing anything and you can have actual WRITING SESSIONS where you don't really actually do any work!

How fucking awesome is that, you would-be writer, you!

6- Rough Draft? More Like Perfect Draft!

If you start thinking that getting it out onto the page is the vital first step and that you'll fix things on revision, you are going to end up just putting in a MONUMENTAL amount of work. What you need to do is get that shit perfect in one sentence. If you start respecting how messy the writing process is, it won't be long before you're working a lot more than you ever thought possible and cutting way into your dreams of Manhattan penthouses and threesomes.

(Not a lot of people know this, but Van Gogh's Starry Night was painted in one stroke. He just went SLURRRRRP! BAM!  That's what makes it amazeballs. Not some sense of effort that went into it.)

Let me explain why this is genius. Because it's so genius, it's double genius. With genius sauce.

If you're not ready to trust the process and resign yourself to all the work of revision, you will not only avoid all those messy drafts that you don't need. You will also sit paralyzed in front of the page (or computer) unable to write a single word for fear that it isn't perfect.

So not only will you not work on the mucky gluck of revision if you finish this draft, you're so worried about being perfect that you'll never get the damned draft done in the first place. Double whammy not-work. Boo yah!

Shutting the fuck up and writing is a lot of work at the end of the day, but if you give ear to every distraction, self-doubt, and frustration, you won't ever really have to. Then you can want to be a writer and dream of how your life will be so much better when you achieve writer success without having to do the "lots of fucking work" part that so many writers seem to incessantly extol. If you use this list, you even have the tools with which to be righteously indignant if someone does suggest that your formula for success is missing a little bit of elbow grease.

If you're enjoying this blog, and would like to see more articles like this one, the writer is a guy with a rent and insurance to pay who would love to spend more time writing. Please consider contributing to My Patreon. As little as $12 a year (only one single less-than-a-cup-of-coffee dollar a month) will get you in on backchannel conversations, patron-only polls, and my special ear when I ask for advice about future projects or blog changes.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Best Modern Sci-Fi Book/Series (Semifinal 2)

What is the best modern science fiction book or series?

Eleven more semifinal choices. And the second eleven choices might even be harder to pick from than the first eleven were.  

Remember you may use any criteria you wish for "best" from most fun to most compelling to best written.

This semifinal poll will be up until late next week. Then we'll run the finals to the end of September.

Everyone will get five votes (5). The top five names of each poll will go on to the final round. Before you simply vote for your favorite five, consider that, as there is no ranking of those votes; each vote beyond one dilutes the power of your choices a little more. So if you have a genuine favorite–or pair of favorites–it's better to use as few votes as possible.

The poll itself is on the left side, at the bottom of the side menus.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Best Modern Sci-Fi (Semifinal Results)

Just a quick post of the first semifinal results. Tomorrow the second semifinals will go up. Because of the three way tie for fifth place, all the three-vote results will be going on to the finals.

Results in text form below.

The Martian - Weir 25 35.21% 35.21%
The Vorkosigan Saga - Bujold 22 30.99% 30.99%
The Expanse Series - Corey 6 8.45% 8.45%
Station Eleven - Mandel 5 7.04% 7.04%
The City & the City - Miéville 3 4.23% 4.23%
Red Rising Trilogy - Brown 3 4.23% 4.23%
Red/Green/Blue Mars - Robinson 3 4.23% 4.23%
Nightdawn Trilogy - Hamilton 2 2.82% 2.82%
Otherland - Williams 1 1.41% 1.41%
Pay me, Bug! - Wright 1 1.41% 1.41%
Spots the Space Marine - Hogarth 0 0% 0%

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Three Stories From The Train

Image description: old rickety looking tracks with caption:
"Ride the train, it will be fun they said."
I love the train. I love the time to myself to read and think and write.  I would probably take trains all kinds of places around the country if I didn't have a Princess Mononoke to care for. It's a fun way to travel and if you don't mind taking a day or three to arrive, it's really quite lovely. It's taken discovering trains these past couple of years to make me realize how much of my aversion to travel has more to do with the fact that everything about flying is unpleasant.

Here are three stories from my adventures coming to Denver aboard an Amtrak train.

Story number 1:  

This one contains much conjecture. Maybe nothing happened. Maybe everything was above board. But I tend to pick up on people's body language–sometimes knowing what they're feeling before they realize it. (Unless they're hitting on ME, but the Brecheen inversion principle* is not what this post is about.)

When you eat in the dining car (which is part of the roomette price) they make you sit in groups of four. So last night I was across from a Scottish couple. I never got whether they were married, but they lived together, and had gotten to the point in cohabitation where they were using communal farm land in the city, a twenty minute drive from their house.

The guy next to me was from Los Angeles and had been doing a tour of hiking locations. Not just day hikes or anything but the real stuff with the hundred pound packs and the camping and junk. He shared a story about bringing 7000 calories a day on a hike into Mt. Shasta but only being able to stomach 1200 because appetite suppression is one of the first symptoms of altitude sickness. Of course once you're not eating enough, you can get really sick, so it was quite an adventure trying to force himself to eat enough to not lose two pounds a day.

The hiker and the woman from the Scottish couple seemed pretty into each other. I don't really mean "seemed" or "pretty," but one thing I've learned over the years of observing people closely (both with the intention of bettering my writing descriptions as well as due to the ultra-sensitive emotional empathy that comes being an abuse survivor) is that playing Sherlock Holmes/House M.D. with people's body language and telling them what they're feeling is obnoxious enough to point out even when one is right. Also it is wrong–or embarrassing enough that people deny it and get pissed off–JUST enough to be unreliable (along with a certain number of people who throw off "wrong" cues for various reason), so I try not to assume. But there were long glances turning down when one caught the other staring. She was playing with her hair. Extra laughter at his not that funny jokes. She asked him enough questions that she was either very into hiking or very into him.

I was the only one not drinking, and I excused myself after the cinnamon crust cheesecake and the three of them stayed talking. Later when I went back to get a soda, I saw they had moved to the lounge (and gotten at least one more round).

Around 3am (maybe six hours after dinner ended) we pulled into Salt Lake City, and I happened to wake up because it was the stop of a number of people around me. I knew we had a few minutes to detrain and get some fresh air (part of that is story #2) But the platform wasn't long enough to open up all the sleeper cars, I guess, and only the coach cars were actually being opened up. So I walked through the lounge on my way to the coach car and found the woman and hiker guy were still up. No sign of the third guy. They were speaking in hushed tones and leaning in to each other. That was the last I saw of them that night.

I can't tell you what happened. But the next morning at a smoke break in Grand Junction (where I got my power cord at Doug's Depot) the Scottish couple had a Berlin Wall of body language between them.

I never saw the hiker again.

I'm me, so I thought of all sorts of stories that fit what I observed. Possessive guy has dudebro fit that "his woman" stayed out past when he thought was appropriate even though all she did was talk. A flirty night that ended with hiker guy making a pass and when she told her partner, he blamed her for it. Outright infidelity and a steamy train encounter that would be a lot less steamy and a lot more logistical nightmare if you knew how small the roomettes were. Maybe an approved non-monogamous liaison, but some line got crossed like "be back by breakfast."

I finally grew attached to the following story though it is probably the least plausible: that after a half a dozen two-girl threesomes all up and down Scotland and wherever they visited, each in which the guy promised he would be totally fine if she wanted to do one with two guys one day, she finally found a guy she was into. They tried to do all get busy but the room is pretty implausible for two, never-mind three, and so she asked him if she could just be alone with the hiker for a few minutes and then he'd get a turn, but that made things weird, and the Scottish guy called the whole thing off. She found that deeply uncool given all the threesomes they'd had with her old sorority sisters and high school friends. So at Grand Junction she was still seething.

Anyway, I hope they're all better for it. But from what I saw, that would only happen if and when they came through a tunnel of much less happy emotions.

*The Brecheen Inversion Principle posits that Chris will always be wrong about whether or not someone has even the slightest romantic interest in him, even if attempting to account for the Brecheen Inversion Principle.

Story number 2:

In which I damned near spent 24 hours wandering around Salt Lake City looking for something to do.

So they let you off the train every few stops. People who smoke use the opportunity to chain two or three cigs down as fast as possible. Sometimes it's for a few minutes, but if they're running ahead they won't leave before scheduled departure, so sometimes you get fifteen or twenty minutes. In fact, we were early enough getting into Denver that some of the folks who were going on to Chicago still got off with me got to do some shopping because they had over an hour to be back.

In Salt Lake City I was still trying to get a power cord for my phone, and I wondered if there might be a store or something inside the train station. Or maybe one of those tricked out vending machines that actually carries electronics accessories like you see in airports these days.

"How long do we have?" I asked my car's assistant.

"We pull out at three ten," he said. "With or without you."

I looked at my watch: it was only 2:05. "We got here early!" I said.

In what should have been a clue to me that I was about to fuck up royally, he looked at me like I'd gone nuts.

I took off towards the depot at a brisk clip passing the last of the Salt Lake City passengers boarding and headed away from the platform. If you've never been to Salt Lake City's Amtrak station, it is not adjacent to the platform, but is about 75 meters or so walk away and across another set of tracks. As I walked up to the door, I saw the vending machines had something more than just candy bars and sodas and I felt my heart leap.

That's when I heard the whistle and the "All Aboard," the conductor yelled.

My blood froze. WHAT? I should have had an hour left. I had to cross back in what was probably about 15 seconds. The "all aboard" is generally a formality. Everyone but that one desperate smoker grabbing that last straggling puff is on the train by the time they even say it.

So I turned. And I ran. And I waved my arms and cried out "Wait!" like a tourist with no shame.

Of course seasoned travelers have already figured out what I messed up.

Fortunately, the conductor had been keeping half an eye on me. And as I came chuffing back he gave me the "I'm waiting but totally annoyed at you" wave.

"What were you thinking?" he asked as I came up and jumped on.

"The guy said three ten." I said. "I thought I had like an hour."

The conductor shook his head, I couldn't see his eyes because he was scanning the platform for anyone more clueless than me, but I could hear him rolling his eyes. "You crossed a time zone when we left Nevada. It IS three ten."

Oh right! That thing my phone (and my watch that is usually hooked up to it) just normally take care of for me couldn't happen because my phone couldn't be charged.

So I walked back to my room through like eight train cars feeling sheepish, but glad that I didn't have to find a hotel in Salt Lake City and try to schedule a way to get myself the rest of the way to Denver.

Story Number 3:

Friday at lunch I got matched up with a whole new group of three other passengers, and they seemed less interested in letting me just read my book. One was kind of getting into one of those "only STEM degrees have merit" sort of rants. (One downside of the train is that people do not follow the conventional etiquette about what topics to avoid in mixed company.) He asked me if I had a degree.

"Yeah," I said. "English. Creative writing."

"Oh yeah," he said. "What did you do with that?"

"I'm a writer," I said, enjoying the feel of being able to answer that.

That only got me a few seconds though from the STEM-only guy. "No, I mean like what do you do for a living."

"Actually, I write," I said.

"Is it creative writing?" he asked.

"Yeah, it is," I said to him. "Look, I know what you're trying to ask me, and I do some teaching and some child care gigs, but over half my income comes from creative writing." I shrugged. "I really am a writer."

"So you like, write books?" he asked.

"Sort of," I said. "I have a blog, and it's popular enough that I was able to launch a Kickstarter to get an advance on my first book."

"What's your blog about?" he asked, and I wondered if he wasn't still trying to get me to admit that I sold out long ago and made money using my liberal arts degree to write about malamute mating patterns under geothermic stress conditions or something.

"It's about writing mostly," I said. "But I have all these weird characters and personas through which I do the actual writing. Even the main voice isn't really me, exactly. And I put up some of my fiction, and talk about the things that happen to me sometimes."

"What's it called?"

"Writing About Writing."

That's when the woman across from me got excited. "Oh my god, I've READ that! It's really funny."

"Really?" I asked.

She looked a little sheepish. "I've only read a couple of articles. Sorry! You had one about what the author meant that a fellow teacher friend shared with me, and I saw something from a few friends about you helping some woman on BART. I think there was one more I saw, but I can't remember it. I don't follow it or anything."

Needless to say my cynical debunking was truly over, and I felt like if I'd stood up right then, I would have ripped through the ceiling of the train car.

Stories are all around us all the time. All it takes is a moment to take a step out of the cynicism that people are predictable to realize that people are predictably fascinating.

If you're enjoying this blog, and would like to see more articles like this one, the writer is a guy with a rent and insurance to pay who would love to spend more time writing. Please consider contributing to My Patreon. As little as $12 a year (only one single less-than-a-cup-of-coffee dollar a month) will get you in on backchannel conversations, patron-only polls, and my special ear when I ask for advice about future projects or blog changes.