Monday, January 24, 2011

Slaying the green-eyed monster

You will hear it time and time again: jealousy among writers is bad; being jealous of other writers only proves that you are really insecure; being jealous of other writers' successes only wastes your energy. Those things are probably all true. But that doesn't mean I haven't spent the last several months boiling in a Hot Writing Jealousy Stew. When you're inside that stew, everyone you know seems to be succeeding while you spin your wheels in this business.

The thing about jealousy--or at least my jealousy--is that it's not actually jealousy.

I know, it didn't make sense to me, either. But wait, I'll explain. When my friends had great stuff happen, did I resent those happy moments and want to take them away from my wonderful pals? No. When my fellow ToC-mates got great reviews and my stories languished unmentioned, did I want to tear apart the reviewers and make fun of my fellow book-mates? No.

No, what I said was: Why don't you write anything good enough to get a glowing review? Why didn't you write anything good enough to get in Year's Best Fantasy? Why didn't you get into Anthology X? Are you falling down on the job? Aren't you working hard enough? You stupid loser! Get to work! I hate you!

I hate you. Whoah. Is that really something you should tell yourself every day?

Not that I realized I was saying it. But when I sat around feeling glum that I had no agent when my friends were hanging out with industry hot shots, or gloomy because I didn't meet X standard, I was actually telling myself all kinds of awful stuff. Jealousy was a symptom of some greater dissatisfaction with my life. Once I realized that, then I could do something about it.

You see, what I want most in this world is to write. And in my head, my day job & ordinary reality hold me back from writing. Every time I have a writing achievement, I feel more like a "real writer." The more achievements, the more I feel like I'm growing up and taking up my role as a full-time writer.

Here's the earth-shaking revelation: I spend more time writing than I do cleaning, taking care of my family or going to work. Combined. And that's not because I am winning things or publishing things or getting amazing reviews. But because I love writing and I've re-arranged my life to do it.

If somebody spends 40+ hours a week working as an accountant, wouldn't you call her a real accountant?

So why aren't I are real writer?

If my life dream is to be a writer, then congratulations! I've succeeded! I'm a writer and then some! I'm making overtime at this business.

And as much as I don't want to hear it, maybe what I'm unhappy about is that the rest of my life is calling to me, reminding me to live a little. Maybe knock off a day a week to catch up with reality. Even Stephen King takes the day off now and then.

I guess what I've learned about jealousy is that it's not a waste of time and energy. It's not a feeling your body has stirred up to sabotage your creativity. It's a message from within you. If you don't listen to it, you'll regret it. But once you let it speak its piece, it will leave you alone.

Which is a pretty good thing. Because if there's a second thing I've learned about the green-eyed monster, it's that I look pretty creepy with green eyes.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mea culpa!

I learned something important today, people: that if you're going to shop for 40th birthday presents for the man you love, you will need chocolate.

Okay, I know, I'm supposed to be dieting (you know, to keep fitting into that vintage wedding dress* I bought that just barely fits), but JEEBUS! Do you know how hard it is to find an affordable zip-front hoodie that doesn't have stupid graphics all over it? Do you know how much board games cost? I had start shopping for airline tickets to WFC as a kind of shopping therapy. Seriously, you can fly to San Diego and back for the same price as most board games. --Only a little hyperbole here.--

Anyway, I know I shouldn't have eaten the chocolate. And I'll probably regret it. Maybe I'll get up early tomorrow morning and go for a run.

Oh. Hey, I think I just sprained something laughing so hard. I don't get up early on Saturdays. I crack myself up. Which burns calories. WIN!

*Dress for a wedding, not "wedding dress." Remember, this wedding is a nylon- and high heel-free zone. It's no place for white lacy floofy shit!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Guaranteed Results Writing Advice You've Been Waiting For

I have seen a lot of rock-solid short story writing advice the last few days. Christie Yant blogged about what she's learned in a year reading and editing stories at Lightspeed. Mercedes Yardley posted about what she's learned reading slush at Shock Totem. I even attempted a post a week or so ago. But these tidbits of information aren't going to win you the instant success you're looking for. Neither of these ladies is laying it out straight.

Well, it's time for some straight dope. No lying. No cutting corners. This is what it takes to succeed writing short fiction in the spec fic genre marketplace. Follow the steps, and you'll be delivering your Hugo acceptance in no time.

1. Locate the nearest crossroads. From my house, I'd probably pick the on-ramp just west of the Ross Island Bridge, where Highway 26 touches I5 southbound. Another good alternative might be the intersection of Powell Boulevard (Highway 26) and 82nd Ave, since that street is also Highway 213.

2. Locate a living chicken. That's easy. My neighbor has three and they're usually eating birdseed underneath my birdfeeder.

3. Bring chicken to crossroads. This is tricky, since I don't have a pet carrier, and all animals need to be crated to ride the bus. But no serious problem--I'll just borrow one from my sister.

4. Wait until midnight. Luckily, Carl's Jr here on the corner is open until pretty late. I can probably keep myself awake drinking Mt Dew and eating french fries. The chicken would probably appreciate the fries a lot, too.

5. Call upon the powers of darkness. There are plenty to choose from. Satan's always a good choice, as Beezelbub is really into flies, which have those dirty little feet, and the Elder Gods are just really slimy. But if you're willing to put some research into it, I'm sure you can find the right evil demon or underworld-dwelling god to fit your own needs.

6. Light a candle. Or better yet, a bonfire. Evil gods like fire. So do good ones. Pyromania goes hand in hand with omnipotence, I think. It explains why so many men enjoy barbequeing.

7. Sacrifice your chicken and surrender your soul in return for literary success. Ahh, crap. I'm a vegetarian! I can't kill a chicken! Take my soul, please--I don't need it. Wait! Elder Gods! I didn't mean what I said about the slime. Come back!

Come baaaaack!

Damn it. Well, it looks like I'm going to miss out on next year's Hugo ceremony. On the plus side, though, my neighbor still likes me, and I'm totally wound up on caffeine.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Funny animals

Every now and again, you just have to talk about funny animals. Like this guy. I was looking through old pictures--okay, I was looking for cute family photos for a slideshow to have on at the wedding, I admit it!--and I found Chubbles here.

I don't know if you can see it in this picture, but this ground squirrel had rolls on his rolls. He was easily twice as large as the next biggest ground squirrel, and his double chin wobbled when he walked. He had bat-wings made of pudge. Of all the squirrels at this park, he was the one aggressively tasting garbage around the parking lot. He tested a cigarette butt, but deemed it unedible. He came right up to me and begged for food.

I know shouldn't have fed him, but I could resist. When I gave him a piece of rice cake, he zipped off and gave it to the attractive lady squirrel hiding in the grass.

Yep. Damn cute.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The first step

Today I typed the first scene of my next book. (Novel #5 if you're counting.) The five minutes before I actually started typing were brutal. A thousand million doubts leaped into my mind: you don't have enough pre-writing done; you haven't done enough character-building; this isn't the right story; this setting is too dark for the market; why don't you keep doing research on that other project you want to start, that wonderful adult, gothic, tree-licious project that will be so much more fun to write/potentially be critically acclaimed/make a better movie/have a cooler title/ impress more people.

I almost succumbed to the desires to eat a big chunk of chocolate or wash dishes, but I pushed them away. Okay, I didn't actually push away those desires. I actually bellowed "By the power of Orbit gum, I can do this!" and then typed "Chapter One."

Aren't you glad you're not my neighbor? Mine are pretty certain I'm insane.

But 3 sticks of gum later, I have 900 new words about a kid I think I'm going to love and a planet I'm already glad I don't live on. There are still a few doubts malingering around in the back of my brain, but at this moment, I don't feel like I need to listen to them. They'll probably wait at least another 6,000 words before attacking again, at which point in time I will probably need to invest in my favorite flavor of gum: Mint Mojito. It's the little bribes that really get you through these things.

I do feel like today is an auspicious day to start writing this particular book. Today is J.R.R Tolkien's birthday, and I love his books--not for the writing, which can be awkward, but for their amazing sense of place. Tolkien was a master worldbuilder, a creator of place and peoples with a depth like no other. And this book that I'm starting came not from a situational idea or a character, as most of my other projects have begun, but from the thought of a world. I fell in love with a shot in a movie and I wanted to create a world around it.

Little by little, the place evolved. I struggled to make the place make sense and I struggled to figure out what kind of people would (or even could!) live in this cruel environment. I can't say that my main character came easily. I was struggling with her even last week. But a few nights ago, I was in the bath, and a scene played out in my mind. And I knew I had her. The one and only girl who could power this story.

This morning all I had to do was push aside my self and my world and put that girl on paper. And by the power of Orbit gum, I have begun!

Are you getting ready for any new challenges this year? Maybe this will turbo-charge you the way it charged me: