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Friday, January 31, 2020

Inner Critics and Other Voices [Part 3 of 3]


We're jumping right in here from Part 2, or you can go all the way back to Part 1

Some techniques for dealing with nasty little voices.


Visualization-

One of my favorite writers has a very involved visualization technique that involves imagining each of these voices as tiny mice. Then, one by one, they put those voices into glass jars, visualizing the mice under the jars trying to get out, but now silenced.

I could never make mice and jars work. What works for me is picturing some sparkly vampire, who I really don't like, saying these things. (Let's call this one "Robert" for no particular reason.) I picture Robert talking shit about how I am not good enough and how I'll never be a real writer. Suddenly, my naysaying voices are practically motivational. "Fuck you, Robert. I'm goddamned, AWESOME! And you were the one who thought you were terribly clever for sticking your head in a toilet to fix your hair."

Uh....or...um...maybe that's too specific. Whatever works for you.

I also sometimes picture a work scenario when it comes to my inner editor or certain other voices. "Oh, I'm sorry. You're totally early for your shift. We're still putting together the first draft. We're going to need you when we are doing revision. Six hours at least. Come back then." Then I imagine the editor happily going to go catch a movie and grab some lunch.

One of my particular tricks (got this one from a first season episode of Red Dwarf) is to actually imagine Overconfident and Self-Effacing as two actual characters. So whenever I'm feeling a little too "I am the best writer ever!" or "I suck and everything I write sucks!", I just imagine the precise voice is actually in the room with me. And then I call the other one in to have a little chat.


Logistics-

The voices can be big and overwhelming and kind of take out your Jenga tower of belief in yourself like a Muay Thai kick to the lowest level. Sometimes the voices are all broad brushstrokes and no specifics. It can be useful to confront such a broad and overarching voice with logistics.

"Exactly what is the problem? Go ahead, big doomy doom-song voice. I give you permission to tell me all about it. Be very specific. Don't just tell me no one is going to love it. Get right down into the reasons. Character development? Purple prose? Too much discussion of defecation making it the wrong sort of "gritty"? Chapter four?  It's chapter four, isn't it? What is it? Let's work on this together?"

You may find that your voice has something worth saying, or that when you ask it for specifics, it becomes more of a five centimeter fear demon repeating one "scary" phrase over and over again with nothing new to add, and no specifics to bring up.


"Listen, I'm not going to let you talk to you like that."
The Friend Trick-

The friend trick is a tried and true favorite when your voices are just fucking mean. Instead of seeing ourselves as Shit By The Foot Roll-Ups who NEED to be reminded that a sentence isn't perfect or that we're not the next Toni Morrison, and responding to our inner voices with slumped shoulders and despondent resignation, what if we gave ourselves the same basic respect we would demand from any of our loved ones? We tend to be our own worst critics and our own harshest task masters, but we also ALLOW these voices to talk to us that way. How long would you put up with that shit from someone if they were talking to a friend instead of you? Or if you had some constructive criticism for a friend, would you ever in a million years deliver it in the way that you let your inner voices talk to you?

Think about would you would tell your friend? How you would treat them. What kindness about their writing would you give your friend that you're not giving yourself. If your friend were dealing with internal critics, maybe you'd be far more kind and encouraging to them. Perhaps you'd tell them they better shut their fuckpickle word holes with that negative claptrap and admit that they are thirty-one flavors of awesome? If you felt they DID have some salient criticism, you'd probably say something like, "Well, that might be true, but you're getting better and you're really good at the other parts." It's very unlikely you would look deadass into the eyes of a friend and say, "Yep, it's all true. Quit now."

("Hey, if you've got something to say, say it, but no one treats my friend this way.")

Why not give yourself at LEAST as much kindness as you would a friend?


Agreement! And nuance ("Yes and..." instead of "No but...")-

Go ahead and agree with your little voice. ("You're right. This is a terrible chapter." "This may actually be the single worst first sentence I've ever written in my entire writing career including first grade.") But then add the nuance of what that means or where you might go from there. ("I will be taking an extra good look at this during revision." "I may cut all this out, but I really want to just get the first draft down.") Or that you agree, but you have to sit here and work for two hours no matter what. ("You might be right, but I'm stuck here for two hours.")

By basically opening a dialogue with your little voice that says "You're absolutely right and here is what I'm going to do about that problem," suddenly your little voice has nothing more to say. ("That sentence sucks!" "Yeah, I know. I'll come back and fix it."  "Oh....well...um....okay then...I guess.  Carry on.")

Even if it thinks you're no good at X skill, you can just agree that you need more skill training and/or practice in X.

That little voice isn't all knowing. It's just you dressed up as an asshole. It's just standing right on top of your anxiety and screaming it at the top of its little inner voicey lungs and poking a pointed stick in your self-confidence. By talking to it, you can find a lot of nuance that it may have a point and you will be particularly careful about that.


Counterpoints/Hyper-accuracy-

Have you tried arguing with that voice?

Not like getting mad or saying "Shut up," or shit like "I am TOO a writer! I am! I am! I am!" I mean like straight up disputing what it's trying to sell you like you might if it were some shitty mediocre white guy mansplaining to you why the writing industry is harder than you can imagine and you probably can't make it even with a lot of hard work (despite being a computer engineer that hasn't written fiction since a writing assignment for high school English). I mean giving this voice what for!

("Listen, asshole, would anyone who sucked at writing have won the Slater Ultimate Mystery Writing Award three years running? I don't think so. I think maybe you're just a little stormcloud that's full of shit and just trying to damage my calm.")

Basically try yelling back. See what happens. It won't always work, but like a bully, your internal critic sort of counts on you to run in fear, cower, fall to pieces, give up and go home, and never really stand up to it.

What would happen if you did?


Trickery-

Turns out some versions of those internal critics and mean voices aren't.....well....super clever. They are aspects of you, of course, but also they're kind of like one-trick ponies manifesting a single facet of your anxiety, yelling the same thing over and over again. They don't have a lot of ability to adapt to trickery.

You might get a lot of mileage out of just kind of TREATING them like a screaming two-year-old who is demanding something unreasonable. ("Okay, let's talk about this after I finish this chapter." [But then don't.]) ("Well, Mommy needs to get this part done, so why don't we put this on the list of things to do for next week, okay?" [Haha. Like you're going to remember this conversation next week.]) ("If you are still feeling this way at the end of my session, we can talk.")

Having trouble getting started because that voice won't let you just WRITE the first sentence/paragraph/chapter? Start on the SECOND one. It's okay. You were probably going to edit most of it anyway.

You can also use some wicked reverse psychology on it. A lot of writers think they suck...until someone says they suck. Then they get a little bit defensive. And this trick can sometimes work on one's self.

Admit to not even knowing how to write a sentence. ("Yep. I am far worse than the other writers who can write sentences." Watch as that voice does a sudden reversal, "Wait. No. You can totally write sentences! I just meant that.....now SEE HERE!"

If your voice is nitpicking, you can just agree that you should give up writing forever* and go learn to play canasta. Sudden reversal! "Hang on there, buddy. Let's not be HASTY!"

(*This one might backfire if your voice is saying you should give up writing forever. You most likely want to try it if your voice won't shut the FUCK UP about the little problems. Learn to read the room.)


Ego separation-

This is a pretty "harsh" take on you and your little voices, so you might want to skip this one if you need a more compassionate and loving approach to dealing with self-doubt, but for some, a more taskmaster/drill sergeant approach might be effective. Some days you need to be cherished and loved just the way you are, and some days you need someone with a boot that has been outfitted with a tapered butt plug, so that it is specially designed to fit up your ass.

And here's the thing: the only reason you have that mean little voice talking shit to you when you sit down to the page is because you have an ego. Egos don't want to get hurt. Egos want everyone to love you. Egos want to be further along in the progression of your learning curve than you are. Egos have an idea in their head of how effortless it should be.  Egos don't want you to have to face that you have some hard work ahead. Egos would rather you give up and not try than fail and have to face that you're not the best at something.

One way to deal with the voice that says you're not good enough is to recognize that it's coming from a place of ego. (Only an ego would have a sense of where you OUGHT to be.) We all selfishly want to be better than we are, never be criticized, and never be seen as anything but a total genius, but without working for it.


Ignore it-

This is subtly different than the "Pretending not to hear it" that you've been doing. Imagine it more like you're the really shitty customer service in a Rom-Com...played by Beth Grant. ("Oh okay, thank you SO much for your feedback. I'll be sure and bounce that right along to top men. TOP MEN.") Or the woman who totally pretends she's listening to a dude mansplain that privilege doesn't really exist over the phone. ("Uh huh. Uh huh. Yep. You're absolutely right. Can you repeat that? No, I was listening, I just didn't quite grasp it. Maybe you can simplify it a bit?  Uh huh. Oh yes. Yep." *meanwhile solving a crossword puzzle or balancing the budget of a billion dollar non-profit on Excel* "Oh yeah...you're so right.")

It's not just burying your head under a pillow. This kind of ignoring is more like art. Smile and nod at your voice like it's your heteronormative aunt you can't stand giving you dating advice.

Then do your thing anyway.


Self-Compassion-

Your little voices are you. Some of them go pretty far down your personal rabbit holes, but they're still you. Have you had lunch? Did you get enough sleep? Are you taking it easy once in a while? What would it feel like to meet those pernicious little fuckweasel voices by holding space and pouring overwhelming (self) kindness upon them?

Give yourself a fighting chance.....by being incredibly gentle with yourself. Not about whether you SHOULD be writing or not, but about how it's going. Every writer you have ever read sucked until they didn't.


Utter distraction-

Your little voices are immediate and urgent manifestations of some kind of emotion (usually anxiety or self-doubt of some kind). If you simply interrupt that thought flow, you may be able to "short-circuit" the emotion that it's riding.

Try doing some difficult division problems* every single time your voice reaches the point where it's distracting. When you can't hear it any more, get back to work.

*Or recite poetry you've memorized. Whatever....

Therapy/Medication/Professional Interventions-

As I mentioned above, there are issues with intrusive thoughts and "internal critics" that go past the scope and ability of one creative trying to coach another though pedestrian self-doubt. If you are finding that your voices wish you harm, go on even when you're not doing trying to write, or doubt your entire existence has value (and not just your ability to write), you might be dealing with authentic intrusive thoughts. (Like clinical, I mean. Not that your other thoughts aren't authentic.) And while some of these techniques might be the same ones you use, you should probably do so under the guidance of a mental health care professional who can help you figure out what's working, what's not, and if your brain might not be making the right chemicals which will mean you need the store-bought kind (WHICH IS FINE).

This list is by no means exhaustive. Particularly I find wide variations on a theme. But it has many of the main approaches. Think of this list as more like the basics. Not all wrenches are an adjustable crescent wrench, so you may need a bit of a personal touch. And if you'll let me not so much MIX my metaphors as whip them into a smoothie, don't be afraid to combine two or more techniques and season to taste.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Just One of Those Things (Day Off)

Folks, I apologize, but I'm going to need to take today off from blogging. Hopefully it's just the one day––it depends on how quickly I heal. (Although there's something already written for tomorrow that just needs to be formatted and tidied up, so the blog will be back up and running even if I'm not.) I'll catch up with my update schedule on the weekend.

One of the more ridiculous things about being a writer (at least one who uses a keyboard) is how the tiniest of cuts in just the right place can bring the whole operation to a halt. On the pad of my right middle finger is a cut that is maybe....MAYBE three millimeters long and was so shallow that it only let loose a single drop of blood. But it's RIGHT in that perfect place where my finger comes down onto the keys. So I can type only if I'm slow, methodical, and exceedingly gentle. The longer I type, the more it hurts.

I've still got writing I can do. Longhand might be the "Out of missiles––switching to guns" of writing, but it'll get the job done. I have multiple things I could be taking notes on for the coming weeks. A few blog things that require more formatting and mouse work than typing. And of course I can type a little before it starts to get annoying, so I'm probably going to be working piecemeal all day. But I won't be able to put up an official blog post.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Eight Years Old!

Writing About Writing is eight years old!!

This is why we've been rushing to get all the admin posts updated for the new year. Now we can hit year nine at a clip.

Technically the birthday is tomorrow, but we've got an article planned, and I usually forget and celebrate late, so this year we're going to blow out the candles a day early.

Blog is feeling down despite the cake. Facebook throttling in fall of 2018 meant that there wasn't a single goal we hit*. We're still struggling to reach an income that doesn't require a side gig to make ends meet. And all the fun bellwethers to obsess over like page views and Facebook page likes have slowed down to growth at only a glacial rate.

*We technically hit about half of the self-contained goals, like number of posts written, but Blog wants big and flashy.

Blog will cheer up when Big Time is on its tenth or so loop, and will start saying things like "This will be the year we'll pay for medical insurance and taxes without side gigs!" or "This will be the year we hit a million followers." I will try to tell them that slow progress, baby steps, and measured expectations are probably more wise, but blog will be flying on ambition and cake.

Here's to more shoehorned listicles, mailbox replies, and maybe even a craft essay or three thrown in for good measure. Hopefully this year with a lot less cancer, death, and loss, and maybe even some kind of good news on the romance front. (That's for me, not blog. Although if you know a blog that wants to do the occasional play date....)

Blog: "What would you say if I told you this is the year we're going to average 40,000 page views EVERY month."

Me: "I'd say you haven't paid any attention to analytics in the last year and––"

Blog: "NEVERMIND YOUR NAYSAYER BULLSHIT!! Get to work writing the good stuff. We're on our way. We're making it."

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Patron Muses (2020 and Endless Gratitude)


There are a few supporters of Writing About Writing who have supported us in ways that are hard to fully express. They act not only as patrons of the arts (well, at least THIS artist) but as my muse as well.

This sobriquet is not hyperbole. There are days I want to take off, give up, go do anything but apply ass to chair and write, and I think of them. I think of their unswerving support that has made it possible to keep doing what I do, and I can try to sing their praises, but it will never quite be enough. When my going gets tough, it's them I think of as I'm pulling myself out of the mud and standing up to keep going.

The most common way folks have become patron/muses is through a sizable ongoing donation through Patreon. While I love and deeply value the foundation of folks giving a dollar or five a month, it is a small handful of folks who have opened up opportunities to quit day jobs, then second jobs, then side gigs all to keep writing more and more. A few patron/muses have come forward with huge one-time donations that have made my mouth go dry. However, financial support is not the only thing the patron muses have contributed. Some have showed up to social events with their entire family dressed in Writing About Writing t-shirts, some help my posts proliferate despite the ever tightening Facebook algorithm, by engaging with almost every post in the most algorithmically beneficial way, and at least, in one case, hundreds and even thousands of hours of uncompensated time helping me be a better writer than I am with editing.

Right now there are 15 patron muses (but always room for one more). Julia, Margaret, John
, Pol
, D, Ginger, Kelly
, Alisha, Hélène, Anna, TM Caldwell, S, Alex, another––more different––Alex, and two Anonymouses.

I can't say enough good things. Without these folks, I'd be lost. Thank you so much.

Monday, January 27, 2020

"The 'Writing About Writing' Guy"

Having been introduced more times than I'd care to admit as "The Writing About Writing guy," I vacillate between being thrilled that my work precedes me and mortified that no one knows who I am. 

I'm Chris Brecheen. This is my blog.

While I no longer feel quite the same need to justify my presence in the blogging world as I did when I first started or to defend what business I have telling other people how to write, occasionally someone still whips out the ol' "Why should I listen to you?" Usually they don't realize I'm a working writer, and on at least one occasion they insisted that if I really wanted to write, I should check out Chris Brecheen's blog.

I really need to remember to get screenshots if that happens again.

But perhaps a FEW accolades won't go amiss. Just so you don't think I showed up last week, dropped into the world on a whirlwind of rainbow sprinkles, started writing for a living, and BAM, was paying the bills later the next day.  I've been writing for thirty-five years. My average writing "day" has gone up from perhaps twenty minutes as a kid, to an hour as a hobbyist, to between three and five hours as an aspiring [working] writer, to around eight to ten hours, these days, as a working writer. So I’ve logged in my “ten thousand hours” writing, and at this point I’ve clocked in a second ten thousand just to be on the safe side. I think I'm working on about my fourth or fifth set, honestly. That doesn't mean I'm perfect. I’m not above error. My first drafts are shitty. I use myriad as a noun. I will use the wrong your if I'm not paying attention. Occasionally I write a Facebook post and half my friends find some eldritch multi-clause sentence I tried to write as confusing as all hell.

And apparently, I'm a big fan of writing sentences where I leave out.

Still....it’s pretty safe to assume I know what I’m doing when I start stringing words together.

I have a degree in Creative Writing. (Technically that's English with emphasis in CW, so I did my share of literary analysis.) I graduated Summa Cum Laude from SFSU in Spring 2012. Though it's  their MFA program well regarded, I sat in many of the same classes, came to all the same panels, and a lot of my friends were graduate students who wished that they could be in the more structured undergrad workshops.

I know some people take Creative Writing for an easy degree, but I looked for the professors who demanded excellence and had a reputation for eating undergrads. When I found them, I took everything they taught. I didn’t get a 3.94 because I was coasting. I also didn’t eke out my degree as fast as possible and then wave good-bye with a hearty "Smell ya later." In fact, I was 21 creative writing units over what I needed to graduate and my dean was basically shooing me out the door with narrowed eyes since I was on a Pell Grant. ("Sure, Detective Fiction can fill in for your Poetry or Drama requirement. Go fucking graduate already!") The point is, I was there to learn, and learn I did.

Plus, I actually got the “Ethan Frome damage” joke from Grosse Point Blanke.

Really.
This is like UBERwhite fiction.
It's the Wonder Bread of fiction.

I’ve been a managing editor of a literary magazine. It wasn't the happiest time of my life, I had the director bait and switch me to cover a position I didn't want with the promise of something she NEVER intended to consider me for, and I'm pretty sure my EIC was actively trying to make me cry, but I learned a lot, especially about the business of publishing.

I've also taught ESL and Developmental English for years (and only recently gave it up when writing started paying the bills). It might seem like that wouldn't overlap much with writing, but being worried sick about grammar is SUCH a powerful force in the lives of would-be writers. So many unpublished writers think of grammar as their white whale when really it's just something they mostly already know, and will get better at with practice and not some class or book.

I actually am published. Technically. It’s not anything you could pick up at a Barnes and Noble, and most of it (that isn’t blogging) happened before the ubiquity of having an e-version of nearly everything, but it’s out there. It exists in a few different dark and hidden corners. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the Rubicon of almighty “publication” can be technically passed with a whimper in a way that feels like it doesn’t “count.”

This will be my eighth year blogging. I make money. It covers the bills, though I need a side gig to keep and maintain a car. I've tried to break down the mystique, but a lot of people still don't want to hear that they need to work hard every day for several years.

When I was ten and in fourth grade, we got a writing prompt that was a paragraph start to a story. It was up to us to end it. I wrote twenty-one pages. It was the best feeling I’d ever had. I knew then what I wanted to do with my life. That day, I decided that I wanted to be a writer.

And I never looked back. I've been writing ever since.

Badly.

So very, very badly.

I "wrote books" between the ages of nine and twelve, but they were usually about twenty pages long, and often bore a striking resemblance to the last movie I'd seen that I really enjoyed.

I tried to be Stephen King when I was 12, writing stories of self-willed big rigs chasing little kids all over pastoral New England towns only to viscerally describe them being run over with as much Kingian attention to the crunching sound and color of brains as my limited skills could muster. It was crap of course, but if you've met the average Creative Writing program student at SFSU, you would know that it is actually probably a really good thing I worked my "I'm going to be the next Stephen King" phase out of my system before I hit a college-level "Short Story" workshop.

I started writing works of 100+ pages in seventh grade. These were not, by any stretch of the imagination, good stories, but looking back on them, I'm actually a little impressed at how well I had picked up on narrative arcs. I finished my first real manuscript in eighth grade. It was a little 120-page high-fantasy "novel" with a bunch of characters, based (with painful obviousness), on my friends.

In high school, my friends started wanting to read my writing. I was pestered over whether or not I had written any more. My work was passed around and giggled at. By my junior year, I hit another bellwether: a 100-page TYPED manuscript. A friend of mine read the chapters serial-style as I was writing it, but when I was done he asked for the whole thing so he could read it...again. "I want to make sure I didn’t miss anything," he said.

I wouldn't know it for years, but that feeling was better than sex.

Despite a number of signs that I could be a pretty good writer when I worked at it (like winning the UCLA Comm board awards against a bunch of junior and senior UC journalism students.....without actually having gone to UCLA....or at that point, even college yet), I still bought into too many cultural myths of how to find happiness. I took the (bad) advice that writing wouldn’t pay the bills and struggled through one unhappy “fallback, safety-net” job after another. I married for all the wrong reasons (and divorced some years later for at least a couple of the right ones).

I played the game by society’s happiness playbook, and it made me miserable.

So in my thirties, I burned that playbook. I let the Joneses pull WAY out ahead and dedicated myself to the things that bring me a whole frikton more meaning in life than big screen TVs and slick-ass cars. I change diapers and write whenever I can.

Now I'm writing the writing advice!


So I may not know every last detail of the publishing industry or where you should personally go with your Gothichopepunk Vampire Love Triangle story, and I certainly don't seem to be able to write the OKCupid profile that brings all the milkshakes to the yard, but here's what I do know:

I know how to be an unsuccessful writer.

I know how to not make it.

I know how to write day after day and not make a damned dime. Or to make a pittance.

I know how to keep going for nearly thirty years, and never even consider throwing in the towel.

I know how to write because not writing feels wrong, and that the parts of writing that are cathartic and meaningful and wonderful come in the act of writing itself, not in the acquisition of an agent or the painful negotiation of a book deal.

I know how to be artistic and creative for its own sake and to never let the world tell me that I “need” a white picket fence and a sensible car even as the sweet siren song insists upon it over and over again.

I know how to set up my life to feed my art addiction, without dejection over the unfulfilled fantasies of writing the Great American Novel and fat royalty checks and travelling the talk show circuit.

I know what it means to write when there is no incentive to do so except the sheer love of transforming twenty-six letters and fourteen pieces of punctuation into meaning.

I know how to crawl slowly from making no money to paying the bills with writing. I know how frustrating and breathtaking that can feel.

I’m going to keep right on writing. I'm going to do it with forty thousand followers or four or four million and with ten page views or ten zillion. I'll do it if I make no money or enough to quit all my side gigs and be a sustaining member of NPR. I can do MORE of it with your help, but I'll never stop.

So come along if you want. Join us. The one thing I can say is that it's never been boring.


Even more about me

The Buy-Me-Lunch Answer About My Gender
The Buy-Me-Lunch Answer About My Sexuality

Friday, January 24, 2020

Ikea Furniture Assembly, Writing, and You

"I should just go become a bestselling author,
then hire someone to do this."
Image description: A guy looking confused and
holding a hammer and instructions in front of
a couple of boards. A thought bubble has
a question mark in it.
Like college kids and divorced men, I headed to Ikea after I wound up on my own. We’d grabbed the occasional thing there when I still lived with my family, but when I suddenly needed shelves and drawers and desks and bedside tables (and could no longer stomach looking at those configurable wire-mesh-space-saver things from Costco that I’d thought were so dang nifty in my early twenties), but definitely couldn’t go buy a Baxter bedroom set or anything with hand-carved English oak, Ikea was the next step up.

And let me tell you, my experience with Ikea furniture was almost always exactly the same. I would open the box, look at the collection of a few little screws and a few long ones, some slats of wood of various sizes, and an instruction manual of some 87 steps and I would immediately become overwhelmed. How in the motherforking shirtballs was this ever going to become a bookshelf/chest of drawers.

I would sit there, completely overwhelmed, questioning my life choices. It was too much––entirely too much to try to turn these slats and this-time-I’m-sure-they-messed-up-and-didn’t-give-us-enough number of screws into a functioning piece of furniture.

And I would let myself feel that overwhelmed feeling for a minute.



But only for a minute.

Then I would stop flipping through the impossible-looking steps in the mid-seventies or low-eighties, and stop looking from the raw materials to the picture of the finished product, take a deep breath (and maybe a small leap of faith), and I would open up to the first page. Just that first piece of wood, that first screw, and a little tiny allen wrench they included. And I would tell myself I wasn’t building a desk or a set of cubbyhole bookshelves. I was just doing that ONE STEP. And then the next step. And then the next one. And not only did I manage to build a functioning piece of furniture, but at some point in the process (usually well before the mid-seventies) I could SEE how it was all going to come together.


I think we tend to get Ikea-finished-product overwhelmed when we think about our writing as a finished product and look at what we’ve got to work with. How are we possibly going to take our middling ability and this half-baked idea, and turn it into something that another human being neither related to us, our good friend, nor who wants to sleep with us would take time out of their day to read (to say NOTHING of spend money on if that’s the goal). 



There’s so much to do. So much writing. So much revision. So much editing. So much figuring out the middle part. So much rewriting. So much finding beta readers (who don’t suck). So many steps. So much to learn about the publishing industry. Query letters. Finding agents. Shopping publishers. OMFG it’s too much!

It can be overwhelming.

The trick is to only let it be for a minute.

Then you take a deep breath (and maybe a small leap of faith), and take the first step. Don’t worry about writing a great novel (yet). Just write one good sentence. 


No. 



Wait.



Don’t even worry about THAT. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


Just write one sentence (regardless of quality).

Then do the next one. Then you have a paragraph. Then another. Then you have a page. Then a chapter. Eventually you’re done with your draft. Now you have something to revise and all the questions about HOW you revise become much easier to see and understand. Now go back and make those sentences GOOD. It doesn’t look don’t look quite so incomprehensible now. (“How could I possibly cut out an entire chapter” becomes “Oh…this chapter really isn’t doing much. If I moved this one part over here….”) So you revise. Now you have a good draft. Do another draft and make it even better. Now you can see exactly WHY the number of drafts you write depends on the quality of writing you’re going for, and why even though you make fewer and fewer changes, sometimes the difference in a single word choice makes a difference between “adequately conveyed the idea” and “POP!” Then you take the next step (the various steps of editing/peer review). Then you have a draft and you can craft a query letter. Then you go find which agents specialize in what you’re writing and are taking on new clients.



Not all at once. Not all tomorrow. One step at a time.

Starting with the first step: write a sentence. When you’re done with that, you can worry about the next step.

When you’re on step one, step 33 looks impossibly far. It looks unfathomably complicated. You may look at it and not have one damned clue how the fuck these six screws and five slats are supposed to turn into THAT. When you’re on step 32, step 33 probably looks a lot like step ONE did. Just one more “next step.”

And even if it doesn’t––even if you’re looking at step 33 and trying to figure out what in the name of Apollo’s right testicle part of the drawers you could possibly be building––you’re in the right place and time to have the best chance to figure it out with some time and attention. (Back at step one, you would have had almost no chance.) You now have the context you need to glance ahead a couple of steps and see what's coming. (Or if you really want to stretch this metaphor, give a call to customer assistance.) And even it feels like you’re spinning your wheels and you're confused as all fuck, no one can take the first 31 steps away from you. And you can always just go right on doing one more step until it makes more sense.

I think “Becoming A Bestselling Author” or even “Write, revise, and sell a novel” would probably feel like an overwhelming task to ANYONE sitting down to their first blank page. But writing a sentence is not that hard.

Then one more.



I think this is part of the reason working writers get asked so often how to find a publisher or an agent or how to write a query letter. It’s someone looking at a mid-seventies step and thinking, “How the fuck would this even work?” The truth is, by the time you get to that point, you’ll be mostly ready.

If you have your manuscript finished, fully revised and edited, writing a query letter (even if you skip the Writing About Writing primer and do your own research) will only take you a couple of hours to learn how to do, and maybe a day or two to write until you’re happy with it.  Once you’ve written a query letter, it’ll only take you a few hours of research to figure out how to query an agent and which ones are accepting new clients. (Even in the pre-Internet days, this only involved a trip to the bookstore to pick up a copy of The Writer’s Market. Now it’s even easier.) Folks get fixated on those later steps because it just seems unfathomable for the same reason when you’re looking at a bag of metal shafts and plastic wheels that you don’t know how you’re going to end up getting “soft-shut” drawers on the rollers. By the time you have mounted the runners and the wheels, that step will seem manageable. As will agents and query letters and all the stuff that seems overwhelming now.


There may be a few times you need to check the instruction manual to find out what the next couple of steps are going to be, but that’s okay. And just as you don’t randomly buy just ANYTHING from Ikea and start building it, it will REALLY help you to have a careful and exact sense of what you want to accomplish.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but if you decide that part of the process is unimportant, your finished product is likely to reflect that. I mean you wouldn't want drawers that aren't on runners, would you?

When it all feels overwhelming, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that last step always looks impossible and the 78th step never makes any fucking sense. For now though, you don’t have to worry about either of those. Just figure out what the ONE next step is.

It’s good advice for writing.



And life.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions


[This post is an exact replica of the FAQ tab that I cut and pasted to be today's article. It perfectly combines the fact that Thursdays are the day I answer questions people send in with the fact that I have to update all these posts for 2020. I've removed a couple of questions that people have stopped asking me. (Having an editor means I don't get cranky missives about my spelling and grammar two or three times a week.)

You'll notice two of the questions are not yet links. The "official FAQ answer pages" still need to be written, and I am working post haste on them. I would guess you'll see at least one, if not both this weekend. However, you'll see that each has a link to the Mailbox post where I've answered it before. Likely the official FAQ answer will have about 90% overlap. ]


Frequently Asked Questions  



Q- Question: Do You Really Have to Write Every Day to Be A Writer?

Q- Did [X-event] really happen to you?

Q-Why do you/How can you hate NaNoWriMo?


Q-Why won't you answer my question for the Mailbox?

Q- Will you do freelance writing/editing for me?


Q-How can I get your kind of numbers on MY blog?

Q-Is talent important to a writer?

Q-How do you ACTUALLY start writing? LINK

Q-I want to write a book and not be told that I needed to have been writing every day for the last ten years. Is there advice that ISN'T "Write every day."  LINK

Q- How can I support Writing About Writing and it's struggling, yet devilishly cute and cuddly author? If I add up all the time spent being marvelously entertained, all the laughter, all the tears, and all the inspiration–as well as having my life and understanding of writing enriched–it would be longer than a directors cut of the Lord of The Rings trilogy....which I paid $39.99 for (even during a sale) at Costco.  How can I give back for all this joy?

Q-Will you post more of your fiction?

Also check out our F.A.Q. specifically for Facebook questions like "Will I promote YOUR work on FB?" "Will I read your story (sent to me through FB)?" or "Can I follow you on social media?" or "Why am I always so political?"


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Business Crap

Business Crap

All posts on this blog are copyrighted. If you would like to use any of my material, please quote a paragraph or two and link back to the URL, or contact me if you want to use a more extensive quote or cross post something (I'll probably say yes if it's not a new post). I consider any more than this a breach of copyright law.  

Pay the Writer- Do you want to get some money to the writer? My income is entirely donation based.

Disclaimery Stuff-  Am I using an image that belongs to you?  Did you find a grammar mistake?  Do you hate my computer-illiterate layout and formatting errors?

Update Schedule- How often can you expect an update? What gets posted on which days? Why was there no Wednesday post and just Chris doing Jazz fingers?

Comment Policy- Please check ahead of time what the policy is on comments--both why I may simply delete them and why I may put feature them in a future article. And why mean abusive comments get mocked more than mean signed ones.

Mission Statement- Why is Writing About Writing even here?  What am I hoping to accomplish. And why am I so generous about giving all this free advice?

Financial Pledge- Why don't I post my financial numbers each month anymore? Am I giving money to charity? How much? Which charity?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Internal Critics and Other Voices [Part 2 of 3]

Return to PART ONE

Part 2


Here are some of those voices and what they sound like.

1- Lack of Faith in the Process (Sounds like "Gotta get this right." "This isn't good." "Start over....again." "You made a mistake....why don't you just forget it." "Gotta make this perfect or why bother?" "This isn't as good as you thought. Abort! Abort!")


Listen.

I can't stress this enough.

More writers are blocked (voices or not) because of this ONE thing than for ALL. OTHER. REASONS. COMBINED.

The thing that sets apart professional writers (and those who have "made it,” for whatever value of "made it" you might want to use) from those who who dream of being writers but have trouble getting past chapter two or spend days worth of writing sessions starting in bitter agonizing frustration at a blank page (or screen) is a FUNDAMENTAL DISTRUST IN THE PROCESS OF WRITING.

Let me say that again. It is a fundamental distrust in the PROCESS of writing.

They want to write. They may even like it. But when someone tells them the messy slog involved in a book going from an idea to some stranger's shelf, they don't want to do THAT. They don't want to write (almost) every day. They don't want to read prolifically. They don't want to believe that their first book will probably suck and should be shelved, at least for a while, while they get to work on book two. They don't want to do multiple drafts. They don't want to have to make big changes. They don't want to kill their darlings.

The most common mistake I see among writers who are frustrated by where their writing career is (or isn't) isn't an unknown comma rule or a prose problem or even a lack of a killer FB page audience.

It's that they believe they will be the exception to the most BASIC of advice in writerdom.

When I (and basically every other working writer in the world) tell you that your novel will probably have to be rewritten from scratch at least once and have four other major revisions that may include huge changes like cutting out whole sections or removing a character, what is your reaction? If you're a veteran writer, you probably nodded sagely and said, "Yep. Art is messy. Very rare to nail anything on the first draft." Or did you think, "Not *MY* novel! I've really thought hard about it"? When I tell you that you probably need to write for about ten years before you are at the level of publishable work, what is your reaction? Does that sound about right? Or are you trying to buck that conventional wisdom because your book is going to be really, really good?

This "mode" of thinking comes out when one sits down at the page and expects perfection. If a writer is not trusting the process of a zillion drafts and big changes, they'll often be frozen in front of a blank page. 

Because it has to be perfect the first time. 

When they are really, truly, in-their-guts confident that they're going to rewrite everything and put it through multiple drafts and this might not even be the first chapter of the final edit, not so much hangs on getting it right the first time.

If you have to get it right on the first shot, of COURSE you're going to sit there and fret about it.

These voices can't be turned off or out-thought, necessarily, because they require a person to truly believe something that they probably don't TRULY believe. (A lot of people will intellectually accept that five drafts is a good start but that they're going to be the exception.) However they are very easy to "trick." ("Well, let's just start on the second paragraph and see how it goes.")


2a- Lack of Confidence (Sounds like "You're not a good writer." "This will never be published." "This is crap." "You don't have the chops to write this." "This is too big.")

Writers tend to have two modes.

"I am the best thing to happen to the written word since Shakespeare!"

And....

"I do not know how to write and my every word choice is a travesty."

As bad as it is when someone's second voice is running the table most of the time, trust a veteran of this industry when I tell you that in many ways, it can be a lot worse when it's the first voice. ("I'm going to self publish my Nano book since those philistines over at HaperCollins wouldn't know genius if it bit them in the ass. Any chance I can use your place for my release party tomorrow night?") But that's once you have to deal with someone who thinks their shit doesn't stink. When you're sitting there in front of the keyboard, hoping to get a page or two punched out on your work in progress, a dollop of overconfidence would be quite nice.

Why can't writers (and artists….and shit, really everyone) just cultivate a middle-of-the-road voice that has a reasonable amount of confidence but also acknowledges the need to improve?

I don't know, but if you come up with a pill, you'll be rich by this time tomorrow. TO-MOR-ROW. (So don’t forget who inspired you, and toss a coin to your blogger.) In the meantime, we have to settle on recognizing that either of those voices operating too long in a vacuum needs the other to keep perspective.

When you are dealing with the voices that find you inadequate and incompetent, it can help to remember that they are just part of the creative process. (And in some cases, perhaps to a lesser degree, part of almost every process.) Everyone deals with them. If your reaction is less like "Oh my god, this is a totally valid internal critic that is absolutely bringing up the truth that I  had not considered before––that I actually have zero skill!" and more like, "Oh it’s…you.  Not now, okay?” then you may be better able to handle it.


2b- Lack of Confidence in Current Ability (Sounds like "You're not a good writer yet." "This will isn't ready to be published." "This is still crap." "You haven't developed the chops to write this." "This is too big to finish.")

So this is a little like the one above, but those voices are saying something juuuuuuust a little bit more specific. They're saying that you're not ready. They are not saying that you'll never make it. They are not saying that this is always going to be crap.

They're saying you can't do it YET. They aren't necessarily saying that you will always suck, but only that you do right now.

See, that's totally better, right? *flips table*

I wish I couldn't tell you this story, but I will. So don't even attempt to contain your tears. I know way too many people convinced that their manuscript was marketable who bypassed gatekeepers and went the self-publishing market without getting enough editing and beta reading. They were then "Published Authors™" and they felt really good.....for about two weeks. And then, slowly, inexorably, like Obi Wan realizing that was not a moon, they realized that no one was going to buy their book beyond their family and some close friends and that a few hundred dollars was pretty much where they capped out for all that effort. Most of them gave up on writing. A couple went and did the same thing again with another book. I only know one writer who I can say learned their lesson and edited the shit out of their next book.

This voice can get tricky because your brain is usually a troll that lives under a bridge and hates goats. But every once in a while, it's your pal trying to tell you the shit that you really don't want to hear........but still hates goats. A really careful ability to objectively evaluate your own work (or some compassionate, but totally non-bullshit, friends you trust) will help to keep yourself from falling into some traps that are really painful and really demoralizing.

Of course, as if life weren't already fucking complicated enough, it is ENTIRELY possible to get caught in the "I'm not ready yet" loop. That's where you are constantly doubting your own skill forever and never think a work is ready to be submitted without one more revision. I had a professor who was forever retooling that one novel of theirs the entire time I was at SFSU (four years). It was always almost ready.

On the other hand....ARE you ready?  Is this little voice holding you back or giving you good advice?

The great thing about this particular little voice is that it is absolutely possible to A) find out if it's right or not and B), if it is, agree with it and move on. See, most people hear they're not ready and then they just quit the field. "Oh well. Voice said I'm not ready. Guess I'll keep practicing for another two years." But you can run that work past an editor or some beta readers and get their opinion. Maybe you're doing better than you think you are. We are usually our own worst critics.

However, let's ask ourselves what if it's right?

Stop for a minute and think about what if that voice is absolutely right. Absolutely.

What are you going to do to get better? How would you deal with the information that you are indisputably not YET a good writer.

If you answered anything but "KEEP GOING!" that is the wrong answer. So the way to handle this little voice, whether it's lying or telling the truth, is to go right on writing. I mean....... maaaaaaaaaybe you have to decide that your cyberpunk vampire love triangle that you first wrote in high school isn't going to be picked up by Simon and Shuster no matter how many times you revise the beginning, but it's not like even that manuscript (and you as a writer) won't be better if you spend some time getting some feedback and going back to rewrite it one more time.


3- Fear about Reception. (Sounds like "No one will like this." "They will laugh at you." "You're not as good as Soandso Author." "This will never sell.")

Fear of rejection can look like an endless comparison game to where you think you should be or where other writers are. You will never be as good as as you want to be so why bother? You will never be as good as they are, so why bother? Your thing will never be as good as it needs to be. Unlike not being up to the task YET, in this situation you will never be. No matter what you do or how much time you put in or how much effort. You will never be good enough to be liked.

Fundamentally, this isn't an internal critic grounded in your actual ability. (If you listen carefully, your actual ability is irrelevant.) It is more about how your work will be received––who will love it (and you) or possibly who won't.

Thus, one of the things that can be useful is to carefully examine what you want to happen and why you think it won't.

Do you want everyone to love you? (That's never going to happen.) Do you want your critical reception to be gushing adoration? (I would try to manage your expectations.) Do you never want to be shown a link by one of your friends (“Hey, did you know about this?") that goes to a review so scathing that you have to take a day off and eat an entire chocolate orange while crying? (I…um….well, that EXACT thing probably won't happen to you, but it's unlikely you'll avoid every similar situation.)  How much of your ego is invested in what other people think about you?

Are you comparing all the good and glowing reviews of Soandso Author to your own bad ones? (They get bad reviews too, you know?)

One of the worst things you can do is to try to put your work out into the world before first having it reviewed by peers and beta-read because you don't like hearing bad things. These are like the "toughen you up" experiences. (Or the "lowest difficulty setting" versions of bad reviews.) They give you practice in what it's going to feel like when reality intrudes on your pleasant fantasy of cheering crowds. You're not going to be able to avoid bad reviews and negative feedback.

But more to the point, if you're trying to work your way around anyone saying anything negative to or about you...ever, why are you doing that? It's fine not to be a fan of hyperbolic shit gibbons trashing you or people sliding into your inbox acting like the worst humanity has to offer, but if one of those voices is our ego wanting NEVER be criticized, it's important to our ability as writers to ignore it.


4- Imposter Syndrome (Sounds like: "You are fooling yourself that you can do this." "People are going to realize that you can't write." "This is never going to fool anyone with any actual skill.”)

Even the writers who HAVE made it tend to think that they have somehow managed to "trick" everyone, and that any second now, someone is going to tap them on the shoulder and say, "Okay, that was fun, but it's time to pack it in and go home."

Success of any degree or proof of competence will not quiet this voice––the people with whom you have success just get added into those with whom the feelings of who has been "tricked." ("Clearly I've fooled the entire world and even a few literary critics!") In fact, if anything, the more successes come, the worse the imposter syndrome can be. Further (as if that irony weren't enough), it is those with almost no ability and success who are often far FAR more confident.

Imposter syndrome is on the "impossible" side of "Difficult" to get rid of permanently, but hope is not lost. About half the time, it responds very well to reverse psychology. (“Yeah, you're right. Most undergrads know more about this than you do." "Now wait just a second, I didn't say THAT....") In that way it can kind of be set to the side in a sort of "No one picks on my little brother but ME" moment. The other half of the time, it can really be helpful to acknowledge what your imposter syndrome is saying but also point out that it shouldn't stop you from trying. ("It's true that I have more to learn about writing, but I have been studying it for twenty years, and have a paid blog ABOUT writing, so I can probably finish this article.")


5- The Editor (Sounds like "That sentence needs to be reworked right now." "Is it subjunctive or not?" “Does a comma go here? Better stop writing and check." "How are you ever going to make it with grammar like this?"


The Editor is very similar to lack of faith in the process, but instead of trying to get you to throw in the towel completely because it's just not perfect, it just wants you to spend hours MAKING it perfect before you can move on. The Editor forgets that you are probably going to change the content anyway. The Editor forgets that there is an entire part of the process in which it will be the principal voice you will listen to. The editor is showing up out of order.

The editor is a fucking time-wasting a-hole.

Somewhat analogous to a writer cleaning their desk, then whole room, and even entire apartment before they write or a child who asks for six last drinks, a snack, ONE more story, you to check the closet for monsters, and to be tucked in again after each drink, the Editor is in a last desperate bid to buy time and run out the clock so there's none left for writing.

The Editor is acting like a little kid, and funnily enough it responds well to being treated like one as well. A firm voice to the Editor that NOW IS NOT THE TIME can often work. Or trickery works particularly well. ("Just let me finish this one paragraph, and then I'll come back and look up that esoteric comma rule.")


6- Constant Intrusive Thoughts Chronic Anxiety. (Sounds like: "You are worthless." "You'll never be good at anything." "Why bother trying at all?" "You are not worthy.” [Note that these go beyond just you as a writer or your work.])

Real talk?

For some people, these voices aren't just there when they sit down to be creative, and they're also not just talking mad smack about the work and doing that quirky artist thing that all artists must artfully art their way through like winged fairies flitting between leaves in a sylvan glade.

And folks, that's above my paygrade. Some of the shit in this post MIGHT help with those kinds of voices, but you may need to talk to a professional therapist if you are having intrusive thoughts all the time or they are focused on your entire worth as a person. We all deal with these thoughts from time to time, or an unbidden image or something deeply unpleasant, but if it's disrupting your life beyond the page or REALLY rattling you, or if they lead to powerful anxiety while they’re happening, or depression (that you could have had such thoughts) afterwards, you may be dealing with something bigger than what a plucky blog post can talk you through. You may have a chemical imbalance in your brain, and need to take some medication to help you out (if you can’t make your own chemicals, store-bought are fine!). Or you may need to find some cognitive behavioral therapy to help you break the pattern. And while you may still do something like "sit and listen" to your thoughts, it might be important to do so under the supervision of someone trained to handle the big stuff if and when it comes up.


Of course there are lots more than six melodies these voices can sing, and even these have lots of harmonizing and variations on a theme, so it's up to you to listen close and decide what techniques might work the best.


NEXT UP: TECHNIQUES

[We will conclude this post next Friday, but Early Access Patrons will get the final part today.]

Monday, January 20, 2020

Update Schedule 2020


[Given the lower traffic on bank holidays, I decided to update another one of our end of year/beginning of year administration posts. It might not be exciting to most, but a few of you might like to see what "under the hood" looks like for a working writer.]

While most of you just click the link I put on social media when you see that something I have written interests you, there actually IS an update schedule here, and in 2020 it's going to have some pretty significant changes.  

Writing About Writing consists chiefly of one guy who takes care of a 5-year-old and a toddler, is writing a novel, posts on another blog (and only then when his thoughts are a bit too prolific for his Facebook wall), and sometimes even does really wacky shit like play D&D or even try to get laid.

Outrageous right?

He is also a working writer though, so he better stop making a bunch of excuses and make with the clackity clack.  This is the schedule we will generally make an effort to keep. I say "make an effort" but I have to be honest about two things. #1- I have written posts from my bed with 102° fever and from coffee shops out of state and while on vacation, so it is very likely that no matter what happens, you will get about the same number of posts week after week.  #2 I am absolutely balls at keeping on top of WHAT gets updated on WHICH days, and I am likely to mix things up if I SNEEZE too hard.

Thanks to my patrons, I have been able to quit part time teaching, pet sitting*, and cut back on the amount of nannying I do as a side gig to focus more and more on writing. If you would like to help us write more and better updates, even a dollar a month helps me budget.

*I still have a couple of close, super-easy clients, so you might see me post about this stuff, but I don't run all over the Bay Area anymore.

Friday

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

Tuesday

I'm going to try to get something up on Tuesdays a little between "fluffy puffy" and The Big Post™

Wednesday

We need (at least) one dedicated day a week to kind of take care of what I call "jazz hands," although it might be better described as "admin-ish stuff." It's not necessarily Total Fluff, but it usually isn't a new article. We are constantly running some kind of "Best Book" poll and the calls to nominate or vote go here. The review of the best posts we did in the month prior. Often we have some kind of announcement or meta news. You might also see a single entry for the long-forgotten character lists or an update to one of the menus (along the top of the page).

Thursday

Mailbox! Now that the chaos of the last few months is shrinking in the rearview, I'm going to give our most popular type of article the weekly post it deserves. Usually it's only one question, but sometimes I can tie a few shorter ones together with a theme. If you'd like a question answered, write us at chris.brecheen@gmail.com

Monday (Schrodinger's Post)

Monday is going to be Schrodinger's Post for now.

I'm not saying yes. But I'm not saying no either.

I have a new schedule, and I probably could do five posts a week. But it's probably best if I let Treebeard say "Let's not be hasty...." to me a few times before I commit.
  • Once a month I cannibalize a day of blogging to write my Patrons a newsletter. 
  • I am OFTEN in need of a second "jazz hands" day in a given week just because we tend to go through so many reminders and announcements.
  • I absolutely need to spend a day or two every month just doing admin stuff for Writing About Writing (like catching up on emails, cleaning up menus, and the like) or it gets SO far behind, SO quickly. 
  • Also, I have a couple of other projects that require my time and attention including this little novel I'm only three years late in writing.
So before I dive into a blog posting schedule that has me singing "Livin' on the EDGE*!" I'm going to just say that Mondays exist in an ambiguous quantum state.

(*And honestly, I'll tell you, I'm just going to end up singing "Livin' in the Fridge" by Weird Al and no one wants that.)


The Four-Post Committment

Some weeks aren't going to go down like clockwork and they might be front or back loaded with side gigs or other commitments. My writing career is also starting to open up occasional opportunities of interest like conventionsspeaking engagements, interviews, or podcasts. I'm trying to be better about the (literally) health-shattering 80+ hour weeks I was working. That's a needle to thread when you are your own boss and you know that people will lower your income if they aren't getting enough of the content they want. So in the cases of major schedule upheaval, I will try really hard to get four posts up. They might just be posted off schedule––landing on a Saturday or Sunday, for example, but barring illness, injury, or fabulously unforeseen circumstances (usually involving toddlers and five-year olds working their chaos engines in tandem) I will try hard to at least hit four.

Priority to Fiction (The Monthly Increase)

The hardest thing I've tried doing as a blogger is keeping my fiction at a high level of priority. It's SO easy to just write a blog, call that my writing, and call it a day. And that's what I'm getting paid for, so it's even easier.

But...as much as I've surprised even myself by discovering how much I fucking love blogging, I do want to write fiction too. And that needle is going to be one I work hard to thread. While I am getting traction out of writing an hour or so of fiction first (so that then I still have to do the blogging in order to do "a day's work"), there may still be times where the needs of fiction completely take priority over blogging.

I'm firmly in the "Write Every Day" camp. But how much I write, what I write, and what takes over the inside of my brain like a rabid weasel demanding to get out, sometimes can still be a creative ebb and flow of being at my Muse's whim.

I'm also going to try something new and interesting. Each month I'm going to take an ADDITIONAL day off to sequester myself and work on my book (as well as possibly other fiction). I'm calling the time on the train January. In February, I will take two days off completely from blogging. In March it will be THREE days. In April, four. Etc....

(Hopefully I'll have something to show for it by the time Patrons might be complaining that I'm not updating enough, but I hope that the transparency and gradualness help in that regard.)

Facebook Writing and Social Justice Bard

Most of my major writing ends up on this blog (or at the very least, you can find the links to it by looking around on this blog), but some of my more throw away thoughts don't. If you particularly enjoyed our Social Justice Bard posts, don't worry. I do as much yelling at clouds as I ever have.

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

I also have another blog called NOT Writing About Writing that I update usually once a week or more (although not on any kind of regular schedule) where I put shorter media reviews, personal updates, and political thoughts that don't really tie into writing but that also aren't really short enough for Facebook.

Everything I ever write for any medium (and reruns of my best stuff) gets cross posted to that Public Facebook Page, so join me there if you want to see everything I write.


More posts?

There MIGHT occasionally be a fifth or even sixth post in a week. Usually this will happen when I need to cover some ground on "blog business." (Like when I revise an old article so much that it deserves a fresh post, update a menu, write a new answer for our F.A.Q. or otherwise do something that needs to get done, but doesn't fit into our usual posting schedule. In this case, you might see an extra post pop up from time to time on the weekend or two in one day. Fiction will also usually go up independent of our regular schedule. Actually fiction usually goes up in the deep of night when no one is watching and I wash my hands twice afterwards.

Reminders:
  • I still nanny for a five-year-old and a soon-to-toddle toddler––sometimes at the same time. Plus my host body occasionally succumbs to your Earth illnesses, so those four posts might not always happen like clockwork or may involve going off the rails of my usual updates. Until my Patreon pays all the bills, my reality is that I sometimes have to prioritize paid gigs.
  • If I meet an empathic metamorph who says "I am for you Chris Brecheen," it's going to be a couple of weeks before you hear from me.
  • This flexible update schedule should also cut down on the thing where I'm apologizing to absolutely fucking nobody that it's Thursday and I've yet to put so much as a taco video up. I know that some people are annoyed by how often I apologize, and the rest don't really care. But this also settles my own inner overachiever. As long as I get in all the entries that week, my readers (who have literally never said anything in six years about my update schedule) and myself can give me a break.
  • I invoke the Anything Can Happen™ real world excuse. I usually have a couple of "emergency blogs" tucked away, but I chew through them pretty quickly when the fit hits the shan. Health complications might crop up suddenly and have me needing to do a sudden unexpected several-hour shift or even an overnight...or maybe even more. Trust me, I'm going to feel ten times worse about missing a post than all of my readers combined. 



Also......folks, if you like what I do, support your "local" artist. (In this case we mean more independant, amateur, and two bit than literally down the street.) Stuff a few dollars into that "tip jar" at the top left, or even better yet sign up to be a monthly patron through Patreon and get in on the back channel discussions about posting schedules, big changes, and upcoming projects. I have bills to pay like any other starving artist, and though my schedule is a lot better than three years ago, I'm still working two side gigs to make ends meet. Even a dollar a month (just $12 a year) will go a long way.

Note: Hi there Mr. Elephant. I guess we should address you.

So....yeah. I ABSOLUTELY KNOW that there are a pretty loud contingent of "Who? Fucking? Cares??!" from the other side of the internet, and I'll give you all nod if this isn't your cup of tea. It's cool. You do you. Posts such as this one are my least popular kinds of posts. I'm pretty sure I could film me trying to use toenail clippers to deal with my ingrown toenail and get more hits. 

However, I'm not going to stop posting them. One of our mission statements is to keep "The Process" transparent and give you updates in real time as WE learn them, so there will always be an occasional post about the meta. I want people to understand that writers struggle with their own productivity, schedules, and discipline. I want them to see that someone who is making a paycheck doesn't have all the answers. I want them to see how their work life balance matters and how easy it is to fall into working TOO much. I want them to see that a successful blog doesn't require nine updates a week (and, in fact, that's too much). And I want them to see how artists are constantly struggling to fiddle with the knobs and get it just right because they are at once human and also never satisfied but also so dang human with their need to eat and have shelter. They don't just eat rainbows and shit brilliant prose. Even if a follower or fan never uses this as a formula for their own success, let it be a comfort realizing how flawed and human working writers can be.

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

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Follow Us on Social Media (Updated for 2020)

Interested in following Writing About Writing? Or Chris Brecheen as a writer?

If you're trying to follow Writing About Writing (or if you are trying to follow ME as a writer), it might actually be confusing to navigate all the different ways I am online and what goes where.

Writing About Writing is on several social media, but each medium is updated a little bit differently. Some get every post I make, no matter how major or minor. Some media are privy to a cycle of "reruns" where, at least once a day, I cycle through the popular posts of the past so that new folks can see old posts they may have missed (and old fans can be reminded of treasured classics).

Some social media have different signal-to-noise. Some I update in other capacities. Some are fire and forget. In some, I post my writing that is not "about writing like the blog NOT Writing About WritingWhile other places I will link only this blog and the posts I write here.

  • What should you follow if you want to see everything I write? 
You want My Public Facebook Page. Follow it (or friend it if you check out the guidelines below). Though be warned that it can sometimes be like drinking from a firehose. All posts from ALL the places I write, reruns, plus navel gazing, proto-posts, Jack-Handy-caliber deep thoughts, amateur political punditry, social justice thoughts, macros, silliness, and geekery.
  • What should you follow if you basically want all the official posts I write, but not a bunch of crap about politics, video games, my day, or social justice?
You want My Twitter. Every post from every blog plus the reruns, but no other posts because I don't really use Twitter except to cross post.
  • What should you follow if you basically want the Writing About Writing blog, but nothing else. 
You want the Writing About Writing Group. 2 posts a day (usually 1 new and 1 rerun). There is one meme (but only one) that is the prior day's best from the page.
  • What should you follow if you basically want memes, puns, articles, and "you should be writing" reminders and don't really care about your writing.
Okay, that's cool. No no. It's fine. Really. While I put some aloe on this burn, you want the Writing About Writing page. Lots of memes, macros, puns, and comics and it's easy to scroll past the occasional post from my blog.
  • What should I do if I want all of these things? 
Follow the Writing About Writing PageThe Writing About Writing Group, and my Public Facebook Page. Then go to the following button on the page and set your preferences to "See First." I will warn you that you may see some repeat posts, but this if you want to miss the fewest things I post, that's the way.




The real "Join this site" button is at the
bottom of this (and every) page.
Follow Writing About Writing through Google Google's Blogger allows you to assemble a collection of blogs you follow. Most people following the blog this way have their own blog through Blogger, but it's not necessary. (You only actually need a Google account, which many people have through Gmail.)

Pros- Shows all updates (minor and major). Updates in a timely manner.

Cons- No reruns. No posts from any other venues. Blogger usually takes a few hours to get the latest post up.

It's going to burn your FEED!!!
Wait...what?
R.S.S. Feed (Feedly, Feedburner) If you have an RSS reader, you may like to simply be updated by having your RSS feed updated with the text of my latest post. If you click on the Feedburner button AT THE BOTTOM of the page, you can subscribe to Writing About Writing through a number of RSS readers including FeedDemon, Netvibes, My Yahoo, Shrook, NewsFire, RSSOwl and more.

Pros- Shows all new updates (major and minor). Updates instantly.

Cons- R.S.S. feed does not include reruns (even the really awesome ones). No posts from other venues. Many RSS readers are JUST text, so you won't see the images. Also, if you get a little behind on your feed, catching up feels Sisyphean and knowing the next update is coming feels like the sword of Damocles. (Gotta get my Greek metaphors on.)

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't punch in
the addys of all those Nigerian Princes.
Email Notification At the bottom of the page, there is an option to put your email into a text field and subscribe to W.A.W. through email notifications. Every time I post an update, you will be sent an email notification containing a link to the post. I've been told that there's even some preview text (the first 200 words or something).

Pros- Shows all new updates (minor and major). Updates right away.

Cons- No reruns. No posts from other venues. You probably already get ten billion emails a day.

Twitter
(That heading is a link) I was off Twitter for a while when they were making excuses for not banning Nazis. They seem to have pulled back from that position and are now basically as horrible as most other social media, so I opened a new account. It's JUST a tweet of our posts (and reruns). That's it.

Pros- Gets all posts (reruns, new, other blogs, everything)

Cons- Gets nothing else.


Facebook Page for Writing About Writing 
(That heading is a link)

W.A.W.'s Facebook page is its whole own thing.

In order to build an audience on Facebook, I spend a lot of time posting memes, macros, "you should be writing" reminders, inspirational messages, videos, and whatever thing about writing I find interesting and want to share.

This may seem counter intuitive, but I actually try NOT TO POST TOO MUCH FROM MY BLOG. The audience I've spent years carefully cultivating will not stick around if things get spammy. Most of the FB audience is there for the shenanigans, not the blog cross posting. FB's algorithm blacks out posts showing a post to roughly .00025% (that's 1/40th OF ONE PERCENT) in order to encourage content providers to spend money promoting themselves.
Bitter.
So very bitter.

Pros- Lots of other fun stuff going on. Most posts from other venues.

Cons- Lots of other stuff going on. FB algorithm prevents page followers from seeing every post so some W.A.W. posts will get lost. Not a good place to get all the updates if you want them. Enjoying anything on FB requires a shower with steel wool and industrial cleanser. Facebook is the antichrist.

Tumblr 
(The heading is a link)

I joined Tumblr after Facebook's latest round of content throttling. Then Tumblr started doing it too and THEN they axed LGBTQIA+ content because of overkill compliance with Fosta/Sesta and now I post maybe one thing there a day. My goal in the new year is to send the "best of" post that I put up on the GROUP on Tumblr as well.

Pros- One post a day, always a new post if that's what I have.

Cons- Tumblr really took me for a ride, and now it's hard to give a shit about them. I sometimes forget days and don't really care.

Close but........no.

Facebook's Writing About Writing Group-
(The heading is a link)

Different from the FB page, the Facebook GROUP will only have the blog posts and a single macro/meme/infographic that is kind of like "The prior day's best."

Pros- Mostly just blog cross posts. (Reruns and current.) Once-a-day "best of" macro/meme.

Cons- Nothing else.

My Public Facebook Profile
(The heading is a link) My Public FB profile is a melange of personal updates, posts about politics and social issues, geekery, things I find about non-monogamy, introversion, and pop culture. But it will also include some "behind-the-scenes" thoughts about writing, running a page, and the creative process. If you wish there were more "Social Justice Bard" posts, this is a place where you can read the proto-versions of some of them as well as the ones that never make it to the blog.

  • You might want to follow for a while and decide IF you want to send me a friend request. I'm definitely not everyone's cup of tea with the geekery and the social justice stuff. 99.9% of my posts are public, so you really wouldn't be missing anything except the ability to comment.
  • If you don't care for my (very) occasional social issues post on other social media, you will like my profile even less. I write about that stuff almost daily.
  • I can be a bit much for people. I post a lot. 
  • I have a Commenting Policy for this profile. You should read it before charging in. ESPECIALLY before charging into a contentious post. 
  • If you do want to "FRIEND" me, send me a PM with your request. (Don't worry, I check my "Message Requests" at least once a day.) That account gets around 200-500 friend requests a week. I reject most of them because I don't know if they're there to try and rent my page or just pick a fight in the comments. So send me a message along with the request.
Pros- See more of "me." Get behind the scenes updates. See "alpha" versions of posts and thoughts that never quite make it.

Cons- I post a LOT.

Instagram
(The heading is a link)

Technically this exists. Very very very occasional updates. Not really a good way to follow anything. I actually post most pictures I take or of me on my Patreon as part of the selfie tier.

Others? I would love if something could replace Facebook. Anything. Right now, though, I am fettered here. For all its throttling and trying to squeeze blood from my stones, Facebook is what has made it possible for me to be a working writer.