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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

December Stats

In a few hours I'm heading out of town.  I will have my Kindle, three or four paperbacks, my MacAir, my iPad and iPod, and power cords to charge everything.  Hopefully I survive the two and a half days.

What will I do on day two?
(Not pictured: iPod touch taking the shot.)
But, as I'll be out of town on the thirty-first, I'll do the December stats and wrap up, plus a few things to expect from January and "Season Two."

Well, December was an amazing month.  Writing About Writing is really starting to stretch its legs.  We'll certainly break 17,000 Pageviews (probably before I'm done writing this article).  [Edit to add--Just broke 17,000!]  However, we're not likely to get to 18,000 with me going out of town to a place with no internet.  Much of W.A.W.'s traffic is still coming from self-promotion.  If I'm not out there putting stuff on FB, LJ, G+, and Stumbleupon, my hits take a pretty sharp dive.  (That's why I'm always telling people that sharing one or two of their favorite articles far and wide is almost as useful as any small donation.)

By comparison, November was just over 12,000, and I thought that was pretty damned amazing.  However, the VERY interesting thing (to me) is the way the graph looks.  If you take out that spike in August where 20 Things to Sabotage Yourself made a minor blip on Stumbleupon and caused some fluke numbers, you can see since June a pretty steady line of respectable growth.  Obviously we can't keep growing at the same rate forever, but there is obviously reason to keep optimistic about the future of W.A.W.  I know ultimately the numbers are small, and it hasn't escaped me that I just got a $100 check for everything I've done since February.  That's about 8 cents an hour for the work I've been doing, so there are literally sweat shops in Vietnam I could work at and get a 150% raise.

I still don't know what exactly is going to become of W.A.W.  Job?  Career?  Sideline gig?  Or enjoyable hobby?  Will W.A.W. ever do well enough without me aggressively self-promoting that I will be able to back off a little and focus on my fiction?  Will it do well enough that when I do shift to fiction, I'll be able to offer it here at non-retail prices (or even free)?  Or will financial realities force me to pursue more traditional publication routes or even ~GASP~ a "real job"?  I have my dreams and ambitions of course, but I can't control the mercurial capriciousness of internet audiences.  I can only control how much work I do, and how much "faking it until I'm making it" I'm willing to do--especially if I hit some sort of glass ceiling.

Everything's up in the air, but growth like I've seen these past few months is surely the sort of encouraging bellwethers to keep trying.  Of course I could look at it as making $135 in 10 months and get depressed.  Or I could notice that I made 475% growth in the last quarter.

And that's pretty encouraging.

See you all on January 2nd.  And thanks for reading!

[Edit to add: Then again, I might break 18,000 (or come very close).  In the last couple of hours this has happened:

I guess people are very interested in the screen shots of the check from Google and such.

And that brings the December total up to 17, 351.   Now....even though getting 325 hits, two days in a row, on days where I don't post an article or do any self promotion would be...unusual, it is not outside the realm of possibility.  So technically I might come home to find that I'd crested 18,000.  Maybe. ]

Money $tuff

So, I actually got paid.  This is everything I've made since the blog started in February.

Here is my check from Google, or at least the part that is important to this entry.

And here is a screenshot of my PayPal total from "Tip Jar" donations (which I will now empty into my checking account).

The total is $135.58.

And by the rules of my financial pledge, that means I get to spend about $65 dollars on hookers and blow.  So that's like....thirty seconds of a hooker and half a line of blow.  I think.  I've never really done either.  I'm new at this life of fabulous wealth and opulence.

$13.50 goes to the blog.  Since $13.50 won't buy much of anything in the way of blogish improvements, this will go into a piggy bank for now.  (Actual piggy bank to be acquired soon for maximum shits and giggles.)  This money, when it accumulates sufficiently, will go towards improvements in the blog itself.  (Design help with the layout.  Possibly a copy editor for some major articles if I ever make a sustained income.  A copy editor in general if I really make enough.  I may try to move to Wordpress far out into the future if things go well.)  It might be cool to have some drop down menus and awesome HTML up in this shit and not just whatever I can jury rig by banging a couple of coconuts together.  But I promise, I won't just blow it on a movie....even if I try to call it "for the blog" by doing a review of the movie.  It will go toward actual improvements.

That's also $13.50 to Share Literacy--the local children's literacy charity that I picked.  Here is a screenshot of my receipt from them.

The 30% remaining goes into the bank to cover taxes when they come since I don't have an employer deducting for me.

I want to thank everyone who turned off their ad-block for Writing About Writing (especially those who may have then seen an ad for something that interested them) and those who donated money to The Tip Jar.  I will continue to make this blog's finances as transparent as I am able and uphold my financial pledge to reinvest 10% and give 10% to a children's literacy charity in my community.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Much (and/or Many) Thanks to 2012's Donors

Though there are still a few days left in 2012, Writing About Writing is soon to completely shut down until January 2nd.  Even I am going to take a few days completely off, and not just low key.  Unsupportive Girlfriend has insisted at knife-point (well technically a butcher knife, but you get the idea) that I am to join her in one of Southern California's legendary "No Wifi" zones for Mexican food and nephew doting.  I will be turning off the lights and leaving the building tomorrow afternoon and I won't be back until Wednesday.  I have a couple of things set to auto-post, but they are almost things I'd rather be seen by as few people as possible.  Evil Chris is down in the basement somewhere, of course, but I can't imagine he'd have any reason to poke his head up.  He seems to only like hacking the signal when he can interrupt my posts--especially every time I try to do my promised write up of Fahrenheit 451.

However, I do want to thank my patrons for 2012.  These are people who donated to Writing About Writing through the Tip Jar.  It's a modest list this year, but each and every one of them is greatly appreciated and all of them made me feel like John Fucking Grisham for a day or two.  Thank you all!

I will use only first names to protect everyone's privacy.  However, if you WANT to be acknowledged fully (or wish to be completely anonymous), just send me an e-mail through the same address the paypal donation came through, and I will redact or amend as requested.  (Yes, Janus, even if you want your middle name to be "hung like an ox".)

Hunky Dory Peeps (No donation, but took the time to send me some kind words of encouragement--which is always appreciated.)


Keen Peeps  (Up to $5 Donation)


Swell Peeps ($6-$10 Donation)


Cool Peeps ($11-$15 Donation)


Thank you all so much!  The future of Writing About Writing is uncertain.  Will it become something I can do for a living and give even more time and effort?  Will it be a viable side job? Or will it need to be relegated to a hobby while I find a "real job"?  Each of you has given me the hope to keep trying even though the ads are still only bringing in a few cents a day.  Thank you all so much!!!!

(And I'm still in town for the next 24 hours or so.  Plenty of time to add a couple more names to the list...)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Mailbox--Quickies

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer them each Thursday as long as I have enough to do.  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.]  

Just a couple of quickies today, in keeping with the low key week.

Matt Writes:

How come everything is in "The Best of The Mailbox" right now?  It can't all be the best.  That's not what best means.

My reply:

I can tell I'm going to have to get up pretty early in the morning to get one over on you, Matt.

I'm usually getting enough mail to do a Mailbox every week.  I've only skipped one week in the last couple of months, I think, because I didn't have enough mail to answer.  At fifty-two weeks a year, it wouldn't take long before the list ran several screens down the page and was utterly unweildy.  We all loved Strong Bad e-mail until it took fifteen minutes to scroll down to Trogdor.  So at some point soon, I will probably reach the magic number and start funneling the less popular weeks' Mailboxes into the basement part of The Reliquary (where I can list them without so much formatting formality).  Then people can dig through every old question if they want, but the more popular ones will be easier to access.

Dan Writes: 

I am barely making ends meet, but I really like your blog.  I wish I could donate, but money is super tight right now with Christmas and stuff.  Is there anything else I can do?

First of all, thank you.  Sometimes I go an awful long time between people getting anything but nasty anonymous emails about Writing About Writing, so it's nice to hear the good stuff once in a while.  Also, I hope you get through the holidays unscathed.  My holiday shopping used to be more than mitigated by rich grandparents writing me checks, but since they passed, I've always watched the coming of the holidays with a sort of financial dread.

You can absolutely help without paying a penny.   Right now, W.A.W. is still very much a start up blog.  On a really, really, REALLY good day, I'll make a little over a thousand page views.  (But really it's more like 500-600 right now.)  So, even at my extremely-rare, very best day, I am STILL only at about 30% of the level of traffic that I would need to make even a very modest income.  Anything you can do to help me get traffic would be tremendously helpful.  Even if you only get me a couple dozen views, that is a substantial percentage growth.  Sharing articles you like on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, really helps.  It REALLY helps.  Someone put one of my Skyrim article on Reddit, and it got 200 hits in a few hours.  At the time, that nearly doubled my usual daily hits.  Stumbleupon is particularly awesome because it pairs up pages with people interested in the topics, so only people looking for pages about "writing" will see my articles.

Beyond that any kind of "Like" "+1" or such will help.  A stumbleupon "Like" can generate 15 hits instantly and have a "cascade effect" if any of those people also like it.  That was how my #1 article got over 3,000 views in two days.   Further, any positive feedback like "Thumb up" "+1" or "Like" helps improve my ranking in Google searches which is very important since I don't try to seed keywords to "trick" SEO.  Because of Google +1's, my Prometheus review is on the first page of a Google search for "poorly written movies" and it gets a couple hits a day just from that.  I couldn't have done it without people clicking those approval flags.

Danielle asks:

When do you do your writing?  When you wake up or at night?

My response:

I do my best writing of different kinds at both those times.  I have practiced enough with the floating half hour of writing that I can just about sit down and write fluidly no matter what time it is.  But we all have our own rhythms and processes that work best for us.  I find that in the morning when I first wake up, I am most creative.  This is the time for first drafts and ideas.  As the day goes on, my raw creativity tends to fade a little.  In the evening, I often do revisions or work on things where I've got the idea going but I just need to sit and actually do the work of writing.  I have, of course, revised in the mornings and written creative drafts at night, but I get the best results from working with my natural proclivities.  I also find that I'm usually highly creative after a really good nap, so I'm quite sure it has something to do with neurotransmitters and sleep.  I often wake up from a nap and jot down ideas for twenty minutes.

Tim asks:

Are you ever going to finish the Glossary?  Also, will you post more fiction?

My rationalization:

Yep.  Certain things like the glossary (also product reviews, elements of style, and the writing process articles) are a high priority now that my dribble of page views is turning into a trickle.  When my friends and SFSU co-classmates were the majority of my traffic, I did a lot to entertain them and many of them wouldn't find those sorts of articles very informative.  But now that I'm getting more and more traffic from further and further away, it's important that W.A.W. try to be informative as well as fun.   You can expect to see a lot of articles focusing on that in the new year.

As for fiction, I definitely want to post more of it but I've never been great with short stories, so I have a few that I can clean up to post (and I mean to in the coming months) and every once in a while inspiration hits me to do something shorter.  I've got a couple of ideas bouncing around that I need to sit down and write. The real answer sort of depends on where this blog goes and how well it does.  It's taking up a HUGE amount of my creative and logistical energy right now and the question of whether it can survive on autopilot is a huge one.  Right now, it can't.  I'm doing 95% of my own promotion, so if I don't post content daily (or if I set it to auto-post through Blogger), my traffic plummets.  When my "steady stream" is a little bigger, I plan to shift more of my focus back to fiction.

It also really depends on if I can make a living with just the blog.  If I can, I may offer some of my novel length work through free PDF's or posted here in chapters or something.  If the blog doesn't quite pay the bills, I may offer them through ebooks or on-demand publishing for as low a price as I conceivably can.  If the blog never makes more than a few cents a day then I'm probably going to drop down to much less frequent posts and pursue a more traditional route with trying to find a market for my fiction.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Low Key

Don't worry that's "low key" not Loki the god of mischief (who is, ironically, a bit high strung).  Tom Hiddleston hasn't returned any of my calls to do a guest spot here on Writing About Writing. 

Technically, the Writing About Writing staff is on vacation.  After losing a colleague and then stopping an inter-dimensional invasion of genocidal cephalopods, I figured they could use a couple of days to watch Die Hard (the best Christmas movie EVAH).  I'm a big ol' softie like that.  They'll be joining me on January 2nd to officially kick off our second season.  

In the meantime I'll still be puttering around, trying to catch up on old tagging before we really get into it again, setting up a couple of new segments, thanking those who have donated, answering some short questions for The Mailbox tomorrow, cleaning up The Reliquary, and getting the Greatest Hits fixed up for the new year.  I may even try to sneak in one of my more experimental fiction pieces from my college days (while no one is looking).  I'm taking it easy, don't worry.  It's more Christmas candy and Netflix than actual work, but there are a few things to take care of.

So if you're on an RSS or e-mail feed or subscribed through Google you might notice a high noise to signal ratio this next week as I futz with everything.  We'll be back to regularly scheduled articles and shenanigans on January 2nd.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays!

From all of us here at Writing About Writing to all of you...


See what I did there?  Cause my name's Chris.  And the antlers...

Never mind.  Have a great day!!!

-Chris Brecheen, the cast, the crew, and all the guest bloggers (except Guy Goodman St.White who is a Scrooge McGrinchy curmudgeon)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hypocritical Heartwarming (Season One Finale)

A picture of a random van in no way related to this story that is
not in any way about copyrighted characters.
Neat paint job, though.
Previously, on Writing About Writing...

And now the conclusion.

I will tell you a story.

It is the story of the end.  Not the end of all things or anything melodramatic.  Just the end of one war--a war most humans never even knew the Earth had fought.  The Human/Octorian war.

It's not even Octorian end, which happened a week prior with the surrender to Writing About Writing, the issuance of a quarantine over Earth, and restitutions for the war, but rather it is the story of the final end on the Earth side with the rogue general Gilgish and his unsanctioned continuance of hostilities.

He entered our world one last time, killing Lt. Lambaste as he came through the rift.  He attempted to commandeer the Pretentitron to clone himself infinitely and marshal an army with the will to continue his genocide, but in her dying moments, Lt. Lambaste thwarted his plan, leaving him alone and outcast in our world.  So Gilgish took the SciGuy hostage and demanded that I face him alone and unarmed or he would kill and kill again.  Well....maybe not me.

And so, I left my office, and went to meet destiny--even though I'd been warned that this Destiny chick wasn't as nice in person and could be sort of an ass to people who marched to meet her.

Leela Bruce looked up from her desk in her office as I walked by.   "You can't be serious!  He'll kill you."  She sprang up, tearing out of her office to match pace with me.

"This has to end," I said.

"Let me deal with him," she said.

"I would Leela," I said.  "You've single handedly killed them before in hand to hand combat.  No one doubts your skill.  But he has a hostage."

"I think I can hit a pressure point that will make him let go of The SciGuy before he can strangle him."

"Up on bipedal cephalopod anatomy, are you?" I asked.

Leela sighed.  "Well, you can't just waltz in there and get yourself killed.  Do you really think that'll save the SciGuy?  Do you really think he'll stop with just you?"

"Leela," I said, pausing my walk to turn and look at her, "if you really want to help, go find the A-Team.  Get them armed with the Octorian plasma rifles, and make sure they're in that room."

"The A Team?  You mean AN a team?  Those guys are pathetic.  They suck.  I don't even think they're worthy of being an A team.  They're like a D minus team.  And that's in one of those special schools where everyone gets a trophy for attendance.  They can't hit anything, Chris.  I saw them open with automatic assault rifles on a guy ten feet away and they only managed to hit the ground in front of his feet."

"There's one thing they can hit," I said.  "We all have to play to our strengths."

"Okay," she said.  "But this is like next level stupid, Chris.  This is like above-your-paygrade stupid.  This is like even-the-short-bus-kids-think-you're-stupid stupid.  This is--"

"I got it," I said.  "Just hurry.  I'll try to walk slow to give you some time."

"I'm here, Gilgish," I said.  "Put down the SciGuy.  I'm the one you want."

I could hear staff and guest bloggers filtering in behind me, but Gilgish's eyes never left mine.  Four of his arms held The SciGuy in a vice grip, giving him just enough air to survive.  Four others brandished the huge Octorian plasma rifles, each cradled in two of his tentacles.

"Come here," Gilgish said.  "A plasma burn on your temporal lobe is too good for you."

I had to try and stall.  I needed our A-team in place.

"You know, you screwed up the Christmas thing," I said.  "I'm the wrong Chris.  Actually it's not even a 'Chris'.  No one thinks I'm the savior of mankind.  Most people don't even donate to my PayPal."

"SILENCE!"  I have no interest in the witty banter portion of your execution.  You are the most pretentious artist in the world."

"Have you heard of Justin Ber--"

"I said SILENCE!!!  Come here, and I will drop the SciGuy, that I might pick you up instead and squeeze the life out of you.  Up close.  Personal.  Intimate."

"Are you having feelings we should talk about?" I asked.

The response to this was a gurgling from the SciGuy as Gilgish effortlessly closed off his wind pipe.

"Okay!  Okay!"  I said.  "I'm coming.  Just...let him breathe."

The SciGuy quieted and I saw his chest lifting and falling.  I took a few steps toward Gilgish.

"First," Gilgish said,  "tell Leela Bruce to take ten steps back," Gilgish said.  "I've seen Hero.  I wouldn't want anyone interrupting our fun."

Leela was here!  I hoped she'd found our A-team.  I looked back and gave her a look that I hope was of the "Did you find them?" variety.  Her lips were pressed so tightly together, they looked white, but she nodded and edged back.  Was she nodding to stepping back or to having found the mercenary A team?

Oh well.  Too late to find out.

"Good," Gilgish said.  "Now come here."

I took a few steps, but before I was all the way to Gilgish, I heard a commotion behind me.

"I'm here Gilgish," I heard him say behind me.  "Put down the SciGuy.  I'm the one you want."

Damn it!  This had to be the one time that little goody two-shoes prig was actually watching a guest blogger's segment.  Of all the dumb luck bullshit that could have happened right this second.

"What is this?  There are two of you?  What kind of bullshit is THIS!!  I demand an explanation."

Think fast.  I thought.  Come on.  Try to use this.

"Dude," I said to Gilgish.  "Seriously?  You came here to steal a big machine that makes clones.  Figure it out."

In as much as it is possible for a bipedal cephalopod to look like it was trying to cover up looking embarrassed, Gilgish did.  Good.  I needed him off balance if what I was planning was going to work.

"Anyway, that asshole fucktard back there is my clone," I said.

"He's the clone,"  Chris said.  "I'm the real Chris."

"Poor bastard doesn't even know it," I said.  Then sidelong to Gilgish "He's kind of stupid, really."

"Silence!" Gilgish said.  "I will kill you both.  You!  Clone.  Or original.  Whatever.  Approach with this one.  And don't think I haven't noticed your mercenary friends behind you with Octorian weapons.  I've seen the intel files on them.  My only real danger from them is that if I get too close to the big, black guy, he might throw me over a camera.  But I can make this entire room into a bloodbath long before they can hit me.  So no sudden moves."

"Actually, Gilshmicky--" I said.


"Yeah, whatever," I said.  "Actually, I was hoping to bargain for my clone's life with a really cool piece of technology we invented.  See....I hate him so bad, but I kind of can't abide anyone picking on him but me--and killing him is sort of right out."

"He's the clone!" Chris said.

"Shaddup!" Gilgish and I said in unison.

I reached into my pocket.

"I said NO WEAPONS!"  Gilgish screamed, pointing both rifles towards my head and tightening his grip on The SciGuy.

"This is not a weapon," I said, gingerly taking the device from my pocket.  "Look, I'm pointing it away from you so that you can see what it does.  It's called an surreptitious portal revealing optical enhancement device.  SPROED for short.  It can reveal any hidden door...anywhere."

I pointed the Sproed around the room and showed Gilgish how it worked.  There weren't really any hidden doors in this room though, so it mostly just looked like a weak flashlight shining across the surfaces of the walls and the various staff members.

Gilgish sneered.  "This is the most pointless thing I have ever seen.  Why would I trade the life, even of your clone, for such a useless bit of technology."

"Well, wait, OctoNoob," I said.  "I haven't shown you everything.  I had it tricked out with a leather holster....and a reverse switch."

Gilgish thought about that for a second.  "So...it makes walls look like doors even when they're not?"

"You must be very good at killing things," I said.  "On Earth, many of our generals are actually really smart.  I'm sorry.  I just assumed."

"Wait...what?" Gilgish said.  "Are you insulting me?"

I shook my head.  "Not at all.  Actually instead of revealing doors, it hides them."

Gilgish looked interested.  "So it makes doors look like walls?"

"Not just doors, Doc Oc.  Anything.  And not just walls either.  It makes them blend into the background."

I waved it around the room.  "See, this bad boy in reverse makes doors look like they're just part of the wall behind them."  Everywhere the SPROED's light touched, the doors appeared to simply vanish and become part of the walls

"Fascinating,"  Gilgish said.  "There may be some application for this technology."  Then he paused and regained his murderous focus.  "But not enough to spare your clone's life!"

"Slow down there, my eight armed wonder.  It gets better...." I said.

Gilgish's eyes narrowed.  "Go on...."

"It doesn't just work on doors.  See, I can make ANYTHING look like the wall behind it."  I pointed it at Leela.  "See, it looks like Leela just disappears.  She looks like she's just part of the wall behind her.  Amazing huh?"

"Get it off of her!"  Gilgish said.  "Don't point it at any of your people.  I want to be able to see them."

I moved it back around.  "Sure thing, Gilly.  I'm not sure, but I bet it would even work on Octorians.  Let's see..."

I flashed the Sproed at Gilgish, careful to angle it so I hit him and not The SciGuy, and suddenly he looked like the wall behind him.

"NOW!!!" I shouted.

In a cacophony of crackling and electric hums, plasma blasts filled the air with green streaks of energy and the smell of ozone.  "A-N   A   T-E-A-M" appeared on the wall where Gilgish stood--spelled out in plasma bolts.  I turned the Spored off, and revealed Gilgish riddled with holes across his torso spelling out "An A Team".  He gave one squeak before dropping The SciGuy and falling to the ground in a splash of goopy cephalopod blood.

It was over.  In the long moment before the cheering started, I heard The SciGuy start to gasp and cough.

"I love it when a plan comes together," I said.

I'll spare you the rest.  The congratulations.  The strange detente with Chris where he grudgingly promised not to keep pumping nerve gas down into the basement to try and kill me.  The handshakes.  Leela even did the proud Sansei nod from Kill Bill which was weird because she didn't have a Fu Manchu mustache.  It was a brief moment of joy, anyway, since we soon remembered the price that Lt. Cynthia Lambaste had paid to keep the Earth from crawling with genocidal cephalopods bent on the destruction of everything pretentious.

There are other stories.  Stories of funerals and eulogies and loss.  The visit by the Men In Black and the fact that Chris's personal assistant is still an Octorian named Cedric and how awkward that can be when the health inspector comes to the W.A.W. compound.  But I'll let other people tell those stories.  This story is finished.   Because this was the story of how the Human/Octorian war ended.  And how thanks to Chris Brecheen--or at least me, his evil clone--and the efforts of everyone here at Writing About Writing, pretentious people everywhere don't have to worry about being hunted down by enraged cephalopods.

You're welcome.

And now, you can see what THE A team (instead of just AN A-Team) looks like.  

From all the cast and crew and staff and guest bloggers here at Writing About Writing, thanks for joining us for the first season.  Seasons Greetings, and may your various important days be wonderful.  We'll see you in a couple of days to put the final touches on Season 1, and see you back here in January for Writing About Writing Season 2: The Wrath of pLink.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Previously on Writing About Writing (Season 1 Recap)

~soft but deep, Giles-like voice~:  Previously on Writing About Writing.

Chris: Let's show our readers the future of writing!


Chris: What the hell am I looking at?

Research and Development Scientist: Tomorrow's post...today.

Chris: I haven't even written it yet.

R&D Scientist: Exactly.  You told us to show you the future of writing.  We did it.  We DID it!!!

Chris: What have you done?  Dear god, man, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??


R&D Scientist: Some of our experiments in the time space continuum have delved pretty deep into phase reality.  What you might call parallel dimensions.

Chris: And we still haven't hit triple digits on pageviews?  That's disappointing.

R&D Scientist: Chris....something is out there.  Something has heard us.  Writing About Writing has made first contact.

Chris: Five thousand years of human culture and the first thing they're going to see is my blog?  This will end badly.


Glick: I am emperor Glick of the Octorian empire.  The Octorians have received your transmissions of this Writing About Writing and have deemed you too pretentious to live.  Your race will be exterminated in fire and your cries to the heavens for mercy will be ignored.  Have a nice day.

Chris: Genocidal bipedal cephalopods that want to expunge life from the entire planet because they read my blog.  Okay now I can confirm that there is a feeling worse than a post only getting ten hits.


Lady Felicity St. John Smythe: Oh my god!  Tell your father not to start the car!  TELL HIM NOW!!!


~car explodes~


Random Control Room Dude: Incoming fighters.  Activate the defense screen!


Intense Young Man: It doesn't matter how far you run or how well you hide.  They will root out pretentious prats and terminate them.  It's what they do.  IT'S ALL THEY DO!!!


Strangely Androgynous Elf:  My name is pLink.  And I am on a quest to save my girlfriend from Dannongorf.  I can help you if you'll give me that molecular sword.

Chris: How can you help?

pLink: I am really really good at killing eight legged things by the thousands.  Really good.  Where I'm from they pop up out of the ground and fly straight at your head with their little beak glistening with venomous saliva.  But I still kill them.  And I will kill yours too for the sake of Earth. I will go to their world and slaughter them in droves.

Chris: It's dangerous to go alone.  Take this.  ~hands pLink the sword~


Leela Bruce: You want my badge number?  Here!  Here's my fucking badge number.  ~does a spinning kick~


~Scene of pLink in a massive battle against dozens of Octorians~


Man in Black: Sir, I believe we're dealing with a level two invasion.

Other man in Black: Entry point?

1st MIB: It's a blog, sir.  Not even a third rate blog.  We had to invent a new "forth rate" category to describe it.  It's called Writing About Writing.

2nd MIB:  Initiate protocol four containment.  Prepare to nuke the site from orbit.  It's the only way to be sure.


MIB: Are you Chris Brecheen?  We'd like a word.


Cedric:  Come with me if you want to live.

Chris: The agents....

Cedric: They're dead.  Take my tentacle if you don't want to join them.


Cedric: Where would you be without me, human.

Chris: Back home.


Chris: Why are you helping me?

Cedric: Because my world has gone mad with its own sense of high art.

Chris: But you can never go home.

Cedric: I know...


Chris: Give me your hand!  Tentacle.  Thing.   Whatever....

Cedric: Save yourself human.  Tell your people what you've seen here.

Chris: Not without you.

Cedric: There's no time!

Chris: Not. Without. You.


Chris: Pay's not great, but the job will be easy.  Answer phones.  Light filing.  Maybe a memo.  But I do most of the writing...so.  With eight arms you should be pretty great at it.

Cedric: It will do.  I have one other request.

Chris: Yes?

Cedric: May I call you...friend.


Severe hottie in a lab coat: In all my years of research, I've never seen a virus reproduce this quickly!


Chris: This situation is worse than we can imagine.  We need help.


Chris: What the hell is this?  I wanted the A-team.

Hanny Smith: We're an A-team.  Like in the traditional sense of being very good.

Chris: What are you talking about.  You can't hit anything, no matter how hard you try.

H. Smith: We can spell out "A Team" in bullets on that wall over there.

Chris: Yeah, but that's all you can do.  You can't hit people or targets or anything but a wall!


Cedric: They have a limited number of soldiers who can handle the physiological stress of entering your time continuum.  They will stop at nothing to get The Pretentitron so that they can create endless soldiers to invade Earth.  Nothing.

Chris: Then let's give it to them.


Octorian soldier: We got the Pretentitron General.  Hell, they practically gave it to us.  Why is it beeping?

~nuclear explosion~


Ima Lister: Everyone I've told about that file is dead.


pLink: There are too many of them.  We can't possibly win this.  Not without hundreds of me.  Possibly thousands.

The SciGuy: You know....that could actually be arranged.


Chris: pLink, I want you in charge of our research and development while your clone army invades the Octorian dimension.  You know what we're up against.  You know how to kill these things.


R&D Scientist: This is crazy, pLink!  You've got us working on some optical enhancement beam that will reveal when walls are actually hidden doors.

pLink: Chris want me to fight them my way?  Well, this is my way!  Where I come from there are more hidden doors than you can possibly imagine.  In walls.  In tombstones.  In trees.  Under bushes.  Behind rocks.  They're everywhere.  And there's always good shit inside them!  Sometimes there are fairy fountains that can totally heal me and magical gumdrops and arrows for my bow and shit.  The ability to differentiate doors from walls or bushes or whatever would the single greatest factor in this entire war.


Guy Goodman St.White: What do you mean cut the blue wire.  They're all blue wires.


Chris: You cloned ME?  There's an evil ME running around?

SciGuy: We did it to annoy you.

Chris: Mission well and truly fucking accomplished.  How evil is it?

SciGuy: Is evil really a thing?  I mean what is evil anyway but the relativistic rejection of a culture's arbitrary norms.

Chris:  How....evil?

SciGuy: It actually likes NaNoWriMo.  A lot.

Chris: ~shudders~  Dear.....GOD!


Evil Chris: Not only do I approve of the work pLink has you doing, but I want you to install this optical door revealer with um....a reversal switch.  ~snicker~  Yeah you heard me.  A reversal switch!


R&D Scientist: Yeah, so not only did your evil clone make us waste our time making that stupid hidden door revealer with reverse switch, but then he went and stole it.  He's got it down there in his underground lair--using it to hide doorways and shit.


Evil Chris's Voice: ~singing~ I'm here...the Phantom of the Blog Post!


Random Ninja: The entire Hamazuki clan has been commissioned by NaNo fans to destroy you, Chris Brecheen, for your words of caution to young writers.  An army of ninjas will be arriving at Writing About Writing shortly.

Chris: Dude ALL I said was that trying to write that much for only one month a year can be detrimental--

Ninja: Your words mean nothing.  Nothing of even slight negativity may ever be uttered of The Great NaNo.  Get your affairs in order, Mr. Brecheen.  You die tonight.


Octorian general: Fellow Octorians....  They sent us a thermonuclear weapon disguised as a cloning machine.  Well...I mean we stole it.  But they tricked us!  Then they invaded us with thousands of clones of some elven guy...or girl...I'm not really sure about that one.  I think they're guys.  Anyway...forget that.  The point is....today we strike BACK!!!!   Scourge pretentious from the world and give pretentiousness no quarter!  Raaaaaaaa-


Leela Bruce: Anyway, once I got the NaNo ninjas talking to the anti-pretentious Octorians, they pretty much killed each other.  A lot.

Michael Dukakis:  What a mess.  I best get cleaning.  At least I'll be able to get some O.T. tonight.


Chris: It doesn't really matter that those A-Team guys are now carrying Octorian plasma weaponry.  They still can't hit anything to save their lives.....unless they're spelling out their name on a wall.  It doesn't matter what tech level they're holding if they can't hit anything.  We can't count on another miracle wave of pissed off ninjas.  The next invasion they send will be our last.


Emperor Glick:  In our zeal to destroy what we saw as patently offensive amounts of pretentiousness in Writing About Writing, we underestimated your martial prowess.  We, the Octorian empire, surrender.  Watch out for General Gilgish though.  He's having a hell of a time letting go.  He's gone rogue.  He's determined to expunge humanity.  He's sort of a dick.


Lt. Lambaste: I'm dying.  But at least I got to be held by you...just...once.  I should have told you.  I.... I love you!

The SciGuy: I know.

~passionate kiss~ 


General Gilgish:  ~picks up The SciGuy and starts choking him~ If I can't have this world in flames, I will have it's most pretentious!  Bring me the writer!  Bring me Chris Brecheen!

And now....the conclusion....

For no particular reason: random *enhanced* cliffhanger Star Trek clip from YouTube.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Lt. Lambaste and the SciGuy vs. WTF???

Lt. Lambaste: Good afternoon.  I'm Lt. Lambaste!

SciGuy: And I'm the SciGuy!  And we're....


LL: That's right folks.  Killing clones is mean, unproductive, probably legally murder...ish, and it hurts their feelings!

SG: Clones are people too!  Weird people who live in the catacombs beneath the basement of Writing About Writing, but people nonetheless!

LL: Also we just don't do stuff like that anymore.....because it's wrong.

SG: So we've put on our festive Santa hats--as you can see--to bring you a kinder, gentler use of the uber-cannon to hunt down pretentious stuff.  And today...we're going to dismantle the Pretentitron.  And I'm not at all upset about seeing my life's work destroyed!  Not even a little.  It's not like I spent thirty years on it only to see it become the primary weapon in an inter-dimensional war or--

LL: And can I just stop you there, SciGuy, and wish everyone a happy Not Dying and Screaming in the Mayan apocalypse day?  Isn't it awesome to not be appocolipsified?  Thanks Dr. Who!

SG: Absolutely, Lieutenant, if anything, this is a day of rebirth--it's the winter solstance.  Sunreturn.  Saturnalia for which Saturn--or Greek Kronia--is named. What a great day to have to find a new career!

LL: Wow, that's really interesting SciGuy.  Isn't it great not killing clones.  Isn't that just great...like we rehearsed...in rehearsal....where we said it was great.

SG: Shut UP.  I was just thinking the same thing!  And....wait...getting some strange readings here.

LL: Strange readings?  I'll say!  This isn't anything like the holiday cheer and puppies reading we rehearsed.  You're totally off fucking script, you stupid civvie...

SG: No El Tee, like some actually strange readings.  I think a rift might be opening.   I think The Octorians are coming through.

LL: The Octorians?  They surrendered, you silly goose.  Well all except that rogue general guy--  ooomph.

SG: Cynthia!  Oh my GOD!!!

LL: Damn....that's gonna scar.

SG:  Oh god.  Oh god.  You...can't live without that bit or that bit.  And I'm not even sure what this is.  We gotta get you into the Pretentitron and clone you.  You're not going to live.

LL: Will a clone be me though--even with my memories?  Will my consciousness be unaltered?  My quantum state thingie...

Octorian:  Ahem....

SG: I don't know.  All I know is I can't live without you Cynthia.

LL: Damn Sci, are you in love with me?

SG: No...it's just a really tough job market.

Octorian: AHEM!!!!

LL: I really wish I could have gone out protecting something, you know?  This feels like a stupid death.  Like Tasha Yar stupid.

SG: No death will ever be that stupid, Cynthia.  I swear it.  EVER!!!  Besides....this isn't even Walsh or Shepherd Book stupid.  This is like a Cpl. Hicks death.  Not remotely Tasha Yar stupid.

LL: If I find out you made a holographic self-eulogy...so help me.....

Octorian: AH-HEM!!!

SG: WHAT???  Seriously, you can't just DO your terrible plan?  You have to have me be an audience for some speech and talk about it first or something?

Octorian: Um.....well...yes.  So pay attention human worm!  I am War General Gilgish of the Octorian Legions.

SG: Why do you sound like an effete Brit?

General Gilgish: Romans always do--even Romans in space or Roman-esque governments.  Now be silent!  My world may not harbor the will to do what is needed to remove the scourge of Earth's pretentiousness from the universe and the blight that is Chris Brecheen and this god awful blog, but I have no such compunctions.  I shall clone myself interminably, as you did pLink, and spread across your world like an extremely virulent virus.

SG: Like a....plague maybe?

GG: I do not use cliches!  I am not pretentious.  I seek to eliminate pretentious from the world!  Now...tell me how to use this device.  This pretentitron.

SG: You are a cliche.

GG: Human, believe me that I can prolong your death for weeks--possibly months if you eat sufficient amounts of fiber.  Now help me!

SG: Let's see...help you commit genocide of my entire race by showing you how to use the machine of Earth's undoing or tell you to use your own cephlopodic tentacles to fuck yourself hentai anime style.  Tough choice!

GG: Oh human.  Oh dear, sweet human... You have made a grievous error this day.

LL: Hey, SciGuy....what do you think will happen if I shoot the uber canon here at the Pretentitron?

SG: Cynthia, no!  That's your only hope for survival!

LL: Yeah, but this guy is a really big asshole.  Like goatse big.

GG: Wait!  Wait, Lieutenant Lambaste.  Let us discuss this....as soldiers. Think this through...even with an army of clones, I can't possibly destroy all humanity.  I don't have the weaponry and I can't infiltrate your govenments seeing as I'm a giant cephalopod.   I'll have to pick and choose my battles.  I'll have to eliminate only the most pretentious.

LL: I'm starting to see a tunnel and a light.  Can you switch to the Cliffs Notes version?

GG: Isn't that what you want too?  Isn't that what the Pretentiron and killing pretentious clones is all about?  Aren't we on the same basic mission.  Don't we want the same thing?

LL: No.  We're not on the same mission.  I was killing clones so the originals would live.  So the originals would learn a lesson.

GG: (Breaking melodramatic character) Okay, actually that's fair point.  I always wondered why the hell that was.  Insight?

LL: Because you fucking intergalactic, tentacle-faced, genocidificating, Harold Bloomish, goatse raging-elitist SNOB, a good artist is just a pretentious prat.... (~throws the uber cannon's safety~) ....who didn't fucking quit.




LL: BOOOOYAAAAAAH, motherfucker!!!

SG: Oh holy fucking BALLS, Cynthia.  Why, in the name of ZUES'S BUTTHOLE didn't you just shoot HIM????

LL: Moving target.  Couldn't....take...the.........chance.  Aaaarrrrrgggh-

SG: Yeah....  that's true.  The clones kept getting away if you didn't catch them off guard.  Damn, Cynthia, you just totally upgraded to, like, T-800 death or maybe even Spock.  That was fucking....um.....rest in peace Lieutenant.  Rest in peace.

GG: You!  Science nerd!  You will fix the cloning machine!

SG: The hell I will.  You just killed my boss. So I'm a touch on the "fuck you" side even without the genocide thing.  And yeah, I may have had a few fantasies about whether her undies were also camouflage, not that I'd admit it to her.

LL: I knew it!  Aaarrrrggggh-

SG:  You are so far off my Christmas list right now.

GG: Wait... what?   WHAT DID YOU SAY???  Christmas?  What is this Christmas?

SG: It's a holiday.  And by the way, you've ruined mine.  Go tentacle rape yourself please.

GG: He has a list?  He has a HOLIDAY????

SG: Well...yeah.  I mean...most people think of him as the savior of all mankind.  I don't...I'm a scientist, but--


SG: Oh wait, no.  It's not actually that Chris--

GG: You're right little science man with your enlarged, bulbous brain.  You cannot fix this machine fast enough for it to matter.  Your world's defenses are en route even as I speak. I cannot win this battle against all of pretentiousness though Earth crawls with its corruptive filth.  I will destroy this world's most pretentious artist and have the death I have been living for!

SG: You're....hurting me.

GG: (looking at the camera) Do you see this people of Earth?

SG: We only have like five hundred veiwers, man...~choke~   Seriously that's not even like one city on Earth...and.... ~choke~

GG: I will kill this scientist and his brain, and I will keep killing innocents until you bring me your champion of the pretentious.  Bring me this...."savior of all mankind."  I will see this pretentious blog destroyed, and it's creator dead. AT. MY. FEET!  Bring me the head writer!  BRING ME CHRIS BRECHEEN!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Mailbox- You're a Mean One....Mr. Chris

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer them each Thursday as long as I have enough to do.  (If not, I'll stockpile questions until I do, and do something else in the interim Thursdays.)  Until/unless I have more questions than I can handle, I'll answer anything that has anything to do with writing.  And don't forget that I'm a hell of a lot nicer if you don't write me snippy anonymous letters, just so you know.]  

Anonymous Writes:

Bro, how can you be such a hypocrite?  In everyother [sic] article you have some stupid advice about giving up materialism or some shit, but I've seen you talk about your new computer and you have ads all over your page, and your [sic] always talking about "how to help" by giving donations and shit, and im [sic] pretty sure you have an ipad.  How is that avoiding materialism, bro?  

My reply:

I'm going to tell you a story....bro.  There was this Sufi--that's like a Muslim mystic--who travelled to another Sufi's house to ask the second to journey with him.  He notices the second Sufi lives in this HUGE, decadent house with all kinds of lavish luxury.  Well the first Sufi is feeling a little nervous, like maybe this guy isn't a good ascetic and won't make for a suitable traveling companion.  He seems too attached to the world.  Considering that all the first Sufi has to his name is the clothes on his back and a begging bowl--as it should be for a proper ascetic.  However, the second Sufi agrees to travel with the first readily enough, so the first thinks maybe there is hope after all, and so they set out together.

After an hour or so, the first Sufi realizes he left his begging bowl back at the second Sufi's house.  He needs it to be able to beg for food from the people every day so he tells the second Sufi he left his bowl back at the mansion, and could they go back to get it?  The second Sufi becomes irritated: "I left my decadent mansion behind to travel with you.  You can't even leave your stupid bowl?  You're not a suitable travelling companion!  You're too attached to the world"  And he stalks off.

Or, as Tyler Durden said much more succinctly in Fight Club: "The things you own, end up owning you."

Best if watched 3-4 times annually for maximum perspective.
You probably don't get this, but since we're bros, I'll explain it.  Materialism isn't about how much you have.  It's about how attached you are to it.  The more shit you feel like you need, the harder it's going to be to dedicate a meaningful chunk of your life to writing (or art) or anything BUT work.  If you believe you need stuff, you will be fettered to jobs that pay lots of money and you will probably never be sated.  There's a reason we have in our culture people making $250,000 dollars who are in danger of having their taxes raised four percent and are very genuinely and honestly making a case for why they are barely getting by.  I don't think these people are all particularly greedy or lying.  I think they really do honestly believe that they're scraping by. I'm not going to go all privilege denying dude and say that poverty is a choice, but living paycheck to paycheck once you're starting to clear a certain income does involve lifestyle choices.  If you are constantly moving into the best apartment your salary can afford and driving the best car you can afford and going out as often as your means permit, you will forever feel that you are on the edge of a precipice and a single paycheck from disaster and that there's no possible way you could make decisions to give yourself more time to write.  I'm not going to say that those choices are wrong--some are as non-controversial as getting kids into better schooling--but they are choices.  And one of the reasons being a working artist is so hard in our culture is because everything in our society screams at us to live just at the edge of our means (beyond even).

The number of artists who make enough money to support themselves solely on their art is minuscule.  Perhaps a hundredth of a percent of self-identified artists have no day job, side job, freelance job, or something they do to make sure the heat stays on and they don't starve. The number of artists who get to that point without an intermediary period of struggle is so close to zero that it is not really worth mentioning.  This "struggle" may happen when it is financially easy--like people who marry rich or kids who are allowed to stay with their parents rent-free for a few years past graduation.  But almost no artist ever really springs upon the scene without thousands of hours of hard work first.  The rest of us make choices about how much we work and how much we give to our art and we adjust the "air/fuel mixture" based on our priorities.  It surely helps make a more-toward-art choice easier if the bills in question are as modest as we can possibly make them.

I can't tell you how much is "materialistic" in some absolute number--some people living in San Francisco genuinely feel impoverished on six figure salaries, and some people below the poverty line feel like Midas.  It's not my place to judge either of them as right or wrong.  Personally, I cleared about $7000 last year (legally), so on paper, I make absurdly little income.  But my situation involves househusbanding for a wonderful family and only working for a paycheck to get some spending cash. That leaves me time to write, and that's a choice I've made. No kids. No house. No car. No "my own place."I wear Costco sneakers ($20) until they wear through. If I buy something over a hundred bucks, it usually involves weeks of consideration. (The laptop to which you accusingly refer was purchased only after a month of contemplation and comparison shopping and was also essentially my graduation gift from my mom.) I don't know that everyone cares about their art enough to live that way, but the willingness sure does help when making the decisions to pursue the art.

I also get a lot of electronic gifts from my family. I'm not rich, but they are, so often there are pretty splendid gifts.

Look a lot of people have to work as much as they work, and no one gets to wag their fingers at them and tell them to just cut out ten hours a week to write or they're a materialist or some privilege denying shit like that. The point I sometimes make is that a material life can become a never sated maw. Everywhere you go, you see artists living in impoverished and weird circumstances in order to support their art that rank and file folks would probably wouldn't find agreeable to their social standing. Most people pushing forty want different things to show for it than a twenty hour work week so they can write.

But at the time of this writing, I make about five cents a day....Bro. If that makes me a hypocrite, then I guess I'll have to learn to cope.

Anonymous Writes:

You and a lot of other online bloggers are kind of mean about people who want to be authors but don't write as much as you dane [sic] to be mandetory [sic].  If I wanted writing to be an unpleasant job I wouldn't do it for fun.  Your [sic] stupid and mean for saying it an there stupid to [sic].

My reply:

If you're getting what you want out of art, more power to you (always). That's really the only rule.  Not every joy will remain a joy if done as a job, and not every enjoyable pastime needs to be thought of as a fledgling career or an eventual path to fame and fortune.  We do some things in our lives (many things.....perhaps even most things) simply because they bring us joy and pleasure.  We play games, watch movies, read books and enjoy social time without any thought of turning them into careers. Writing and art needn't ever go beyond this point.

But if we want to take our idea all the way to a finished project, if we want to share our work with anything but reluctant friends and family, if we want to be appreciated for it beyond those people in our social circles who want to sleep with us, and definitely if we have ambitions of making money or certainly of making writing into a career, then we have to do what anyone making a hobby into a career would have to do--whether that hobby was skydiving, sewing, dancing, cooking, or even writing.  We have to get really, really good at it and we have to do it a lot, in order to produce enough to sell.  Both of those things take a commitment of time and energy beyond the euphoria stage.

No one cares that you're going to write a book some day.
No really.  I promise.
People confuse "mean" for honest when it comes to the dedication a career in arts will demand from the artist.  Longer days and fewer days off than any clock-puncher is the most common feedback from any authors (or artists) with a name you might recognize.  If it's mean to deflate the casual fantasies of people idly diddling their sweet dreams of insta-bestseller first novels by pointing out what it actually takes to make a career in fiction, then I suppose I am, but I think it's crueler to let people imagine that they're going to get something like a full-fledged career as an author without somehow doing a day of unpleasant work.  "You're mean!" (or "your mean" in your case, Anon) is most often the cry of those who resent not being enabled in their fantasies.

You'll find such "mean" people in any activity, and you'll also find other people offering up nothing but excuses. People at the gym dream of a line of admirers who want to lick their junk, don't come often enough or work hard enough to really see results, but think their trainers are mean and unreasonable when they suggest a more frequent, lengthy, or rigorous workout.   People in sales dream of commissions huge enough to retire on, but think their bosses are mean and unreasonable when they insist on suggestive sales techniques.  People want to retire in style early enough to travel, but think it's mean and unreasonable when their accountants tell them they simply are not saving enough their income and they really need to cut another 10% off their budget.  This penchant for excuses and the "meanness" of those who point out the reality is almost as common as human ambition.

If you want art to be your livelihood, and not just a delightful hobby, it's going to take on job-like qualities.  You know....like, as if it were a JOB.  Even the best job has crummy days and parts you don't like and days you'd rather stay in bed but you go anyway.  And even if you end most Friday nights with a smile and sometimes cry to the sky "I love my fucking job!" you don't simply stop going during the sucky parts because that would sully your joy.

Honestly, you should probably write MORE than me if you're really, truly serious.  (I'm not even kidding--I'm kind of a lightweight.)

Also....not to put too fine a point on it, Anon, but statistically speaking, if you'd picked your homonyms through pure random fucking chance, you would have had fewer mistakes in this e-mail, so maybe suggesting that you need to be writing more is more helpful than you realize.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The War Ends

To Writing About Writing and the People of Earth:

It is with a heavy heart and crushed sense of righteousness that I must now sue for an armistice and eventual cessation of hostilities.  Though it is my people's way to dimensionally invade words we find that are corrupted with the pretentious, and Chris was the worst we had ever seen, we didn't think through how incensed we were and our lack of preparation cost us.  I do not say this simply to give us time to prepare, of course.  Both myself and the inner circle have deemed your world far too costly to invade.

Between the thermonuclear device you tricked us into bringing back to our main dimensional soldiery training facility, and the army of pLink clones that invaded and spread across the world with their fantastic aptitude at killing us, and the army of ninjas literally waiting for us when we finally did manage to mount a counter-offensive, we simply do not have the resources, political will, or population to maintain a sustained struggle, and certainly not to survive a war of attrition.

We offer you this compromise: if you will stop doing experiments that permeate the space time fabric and broadcasting your pretentious crap to our world, we will make restitutions in the full amount of the research and development you, did on space/time, which as I understand it is sixteen trillion, four hundred and eighty billion, three hundred and fifty million times the annual budget of Writing About Writing...give or take a couple billion.  My understanding is that you only went so over budget in the first place due to a carelessly used cliche and the grotesque misunderstanding by your R&D's head scientist.  Now you can funnel all your efforts into pLink's optic enhancement beam projectors, which reveal hidden doors that look like walls.  (Or whatever else you want to develop.)  We will place a quarantine beacon on your world as a warning for all time, and my race will, simply put, never bother you again.

In a word, we surrender.

-Emperor Glick.
-Endorsed by the Octorian High Council

P.S. I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention that there's a general named Gilgish who can't let go of the war, still thinks you're too pretentious to live, has gone rogue, and is probably going to come and try to kill you all.  Sorry about that.  Kthxbai.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Writer's Attitude: A Dozen Adjustments Toward Success

A dozen things a writer should start believing to improve their chances of success.  

There is definitely a point of limited returns on the power of positive thinking but the power that attitude can play, especially in a career (or serious pursuit of writing) where you are almost always both your own worst enemy and your own best ally. Though it would unfair to suggest that attitude adjustments would matter one flip in the absence of hard work or many many hours of practice or that you could just positive attitude your way into a book deal with your December 1st NaNo manuscript, it is also true that a positive attitude will help with everything from your daily efforts to handling gatekeepers.

Panacea? No. But foolish to ignore.

Yes, success involves luck. It involves privilege. It may even involve genes and aptitudes and shit like that.

But here's the thing: all that crap is out of your control. You can't control how tall you are or how rich your family is or how many people want to sleep with you and will give you opportunities to curry favor.

Many of us can control our attitudes though (it would be ableist of me to say all can). And here are some things to remember:

1- If I can read this (online), I am probably in a group of some of the most empowered human beings of all time.  Social mobility may be increasingly a myth in our modern society, and far, FAR more mythical than our charming fairy tale about the meritocracy ever tried to convince us, but we have a lot of things better than our ancestors. There is no caste system. You will not do what your father did for a living. You are not a slave or a serf. You do not have to be a housewife if you are a woman. You do not have to be a provider if you are a man. Further, you have a computer that is connected to more information than your parents could have fathomed. You absorb more information in a day than a peasant in feudal Europe did in a lifetime. You can Google a major portion of the sum of all human knowledge and that amount is growing every day.  You can communicate with one of eight hundred million people with a few hours of effort, and solicit the opinions of people from a wide variety of folks about practically anything. You have rights that were unheard of four centuries ago and liberties that we haven't even dreamed of for most of the time we've been human beings.

You don't even have to use the Readers Guide to Periodic Literature.

It is also true that there is unequal power in our society. And certain groups push others to the margins. I can't underscore that reality enough. But these things are also in contexts.

2- Only I--and no one else--get to define my success.  A piggy back off of what success looks like to you.  Empower yourself.  You don't need others' approval.

3- My intentions can help shape my reality.  I have to be careful here because I really, really hate the idea that motivational speakers are always spouting that anything you dream can come true. I don't care how focused you are, you can't do a backflip 60 feet into the air from a standing position and land balanced only on your tongue. And privilege is a very real thing that makes life just a whole lot easier for some folks than others. But consider the difference between a writer who has an idea in their head that they would love to turn into a published novel "some day," and someone determined to "win" NaNoWriMo. One has no focus because their intention is vague. The other sits down and writes 1667 words every day because they know exactly what they want to accomplish. This really applies to anything.

4- People are facilitators, not obstacles.  Not everyone is going to be helpful to you, so be careful. Some people will sabotage you consciously or unconsciously just because you're doing what they didn't have the courage to.  But for the most part we see people as competitors and road blocks when we should see them as allies.  (I gladly write a review for an artist friend's book because when the physical version of the book comes out, it will involve a link on Huffington post back to that favorable review.  I get traffic.  He gets a good review.  Everyone wins.)  If you see the opportunity to network, you should.  Find good people; collaborate with them.  Give them what you do best and let them give you what they do best in return.  Almost no one is capable of doing great things alone--even if we had time to wear all the hats, our skill sets mean we're probably not as good at some as we are at others.

One caveat: this is a symbiosis.  People aren't there to be used.  Give back.  Parasites have a hard time once they're recognized for what they are, and the writers who populate the world around you are probably more observant than most.  Don't use people.  They'll know.

5- Even as a writer, I am not isolated.  Writing might feel isolated when you're clacking away at book six of your Dragonspleen Saga, but once you need a reading group to give you feedback and especially once you get into the business end, you will not be alone by any means--even if you desperately want to be. One of the biggest problems I see is people who expect everyone to be interested in their art when they make and take no interest in others'.  Everything is interconnected.  Form bonds and hold them tight. Work with people.  Pimp your friend's shit--especially before you ask them to pimp yours.  Read friends' fiction (even if they never even thank you). Who knows when you'll make friends with the next Random House editor whose opinion will tip a book into the "Let's give them a chance!" pile. Circle of life shit, you know. Be one with the universe. All that crap.

6- How can I benefit from this?  At some point, something is going to suck.  And not in the good way.  Something won't go your way.  Some shit will hit some fan somewhere.  How will you respond?  Will you find a way to turn the situation to your advantage or at least learn a valuable lesson (which is trite, I know, but....it became a cliche for a reason).  Or will you just complain ad naseum about how unfair life can be and on how X situation prevented you from doing Y.  We all hate the asshole who responds to someone getting laid off with that "This is an opportunity in disguise crap."  Oh yes we do!  We want to find that person and punch them in their pancreas.  You don't have to be chipper when things go wrong.  You just have to look for a way to turn it around.  Look for a way to make every shitty thing that happens into a benefit and you will find a few.  Because the sad fact is that here's what happens if you don't look for a way to make the best out of a bad situation:

(See what I did there?)

7- Hard work and tenacity may not merit out, but nothing else ever will.  Believe it because it's true.  We live in a world of instant gratification and shortcuts so this is really hard to be patient enough to have faith in grandpa's tired old wisdom, but it's true. Yeah, you might have to face the music that your door-to-door pickled hotdog van idea isn't taking off like you thought it would, but with most art, and certainly writing, you have to give it an ungodly amount of work before you start to see even a sliver of success. Just don't forget that it is work. Sitting around and dreaming for 15 years isn't really tenacity. (Trust, ol' Chris on this one.) Hard work may never get you there (so love it for its own sake) but you're not getting anywhere without it.

8- When I am ready, the master will appear.  The student/master adage is not one about surreptitious masters hiding out in the shadows and waiting for the day some wunderkind student almost perfectly performs the Vendrizi maneuver and becomes worthy. It is about the fact that masters are everywhere, at all times, always, and once someone has the frickin humility to admit that they have something to learn, the "student" will begin to see masters everywhere. Many teachers will tell you that they learn more from their students than they did in college. Once you stop being too good to learn from everything and anything around you, the world will rise to that opportunity and teach you things that you can't even imagine you don't know.

9- I embrace failure because it rocks.  If you fail at something, take the lesson, look for new opportunities it may have provided and move on. If it was something huge, take a night to nurse a scotch, pout, and THEN do all that other stuff. Your life will be defined not by your successes, but by how you handled your failures.  Failure is the single greatest crucible for progress in all of humanity. Learn to cherish it.

10- I won't take it personally.  You're in for some pretty epic rejection if you're serious about being a writer. You're going to get some scathing criticism. You're going to get enough form letters to wallpaper a room. And don't think going the e-pub/self-pub/blogging way is going to get you out of that either. You should see the anonymous letters I get in an average week. I have one here suggesting that I eat powdered glass. Honestly what the actual fuck??? Just don't read it if it's that bad. Jesus! You just have to remember that as much of your soul as you're pouring into that writing, the rejection is about the writing, not you. And the criticism is about the writing (or about the circumstances of the other person) and not about you.

11- I want to be refined and improved.  Hate to bring some buzzkill juice to this  positivepants party, but you're not perfect. And even though most people sort of intellectually grasp that. ("Yeah yeah, I'm not perfect. Of course I'm not.") Most people sort of kind of think they are about as good as they can reasonably be expected to get. Fuggedaboutit! Seek opportunities to be better. Both in your craft and as a person. You can always get better. Always. Shakespeare was not that good at plotting or pacing. He had room to improve. You surely do too.

12- Don't be too quick to close the doors.  You don't have to forgive your abusers or work with people who take blatant advantage of you, but the publishing industry is a kind of incestuous little clique. Even in non-traditional publishing, a reputation can matter. Nothing will knock your risk vs. reward out of balance quite like having to go way upriver to cross because you burnt the local bridge. Allot your grudges sparingly.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Writing Prompt--What Does Success Look Like To You?

Today I give you a prompt that is a little less craft focused and a little more focused on the meta level of writing and your writing career.

Stop for a moment and think about yourself as a successful writer.  Not as a wildly successful writer (doing your Leno interview and trying to decide where to buy the summer home) but rather in terms of what you would consider "success" at all or "success" as a writer.

Achieving success is almost impossible without defining it (as I have written about in an article about Zig Ziglar and success) earlier today.  So in order to help you achieve success, sometimes the first step is carefully spelling out for yourself what it actually is.  Success can be many different things from a single publication to a published novel to a career that nets 50k a year.  It really depends on you because no one else can tell you what success means for you.  Just having a definition--just knowing what the target is you want to hit--can help you get there.  And articulating all those nebulous dreams into something concrete can both focus and motivate you.  (And you may even be surprised at how reasonable achieving a reasonable goal can seem.)

While this may seem facile at first, actually give it a shot.  Many people who think it's stupidly easy at first realize that it becomes really hard when they actually start to put it into words.  Nebulous "success" is really not a goal we can ever achieve and so we will always struggle against our insatiable hunger.

Write at least one full page identifying what "success" looks like to you.  Be as concrete as possible.  Use specific numbers and concrete terms as often as you can.  (For example, don't just say "pay the bills" but describe whether that means a seedy apartment or a condominium in The Heights.  Consider more aspects than just your writing life.  What does home life or family success look like.  (This can help you figure out where to strike the balance between writing and balance in other parts of your life.)  The more specific you can be, the more informative this exercise can become.  Be thorough.  When you're done check to make sure all your goals are specific and reasonable and think of a way you can measure each of them.  ("Critically acclaimed" might be hard to define.  "One favorable review in The New York Times" would be much more specific.)  Lastly, consider how long you think is reasonable to achieve these goals.  Six months might be way too ambitious.  Ten years might be way too long.  Try to find a good middle ground.

Don't forget that this is just a prompt.  So be honest with yourself (getting silly with pipe dreams won't really help) but also...don't forget to have fun.