In Which I Discuss Package Tracking Numbers

Living as I do in a small town, I do a lot of shopping online. I love that shit. No crowds, no lines, and they bring it right to your door. Sometimes they even gift wrap it for you.

But there’s one tiny little problem with online shopping: the tracking numbers.

To illustrate my point, and because I’ve used up all my good words slogging through the middle of my novel draft, I drew these in between hitting refresh on the courier’s website.

Getting packages in the mail before tracking numbers:

Even that fucking box is happy.

Even that fucking box is happy.

And getting packages in the mail after tracking numbers:

Tip: hitting 'refresh' every eleven seconds is not as helpful as you might think.

Tip: hitting ‘refresh’ every eleven seconds is not as helpful as you might think.

Note that it takes the same amount of time either way.  The package arrives at your house no fucking faster. But I can’t shake the feeling that, if I keep checking, I’ll make that damn box move out of the sorting room. As if there’s a little sensor on it that goes off when someone checks on it for the seven thousandth time and the people who work there go, “Well, shit, we’d better get this one on the truck right away because there’s an impatient asshole out looking for it.” More likely, if there were such sensors, those would be the packages destined to be dropped, shaken, deliberately sat on, and then lost, because you are an impatient asshole. And nobody likes that guy. Nobody.

Still can’t stop clicking it, though. If you need me, I’ll be over here, tracking the package after every sentence that I write.

Monday Challenge: Distractions

Bullshit Ahead warning in style of warning roa...

This sign should have been on my week. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Hello, Monday. Been a while. About a week, I think.

I know what you’re doing here, with your distractions and your bullshit. You’re no better than that asshole Friday. Between the two of you, it’s amazing I get any work done at all.

What’s that? Only a week, you say? Bullshit. Fucking bullshit. I haven’t seen your ass ‘round here for longer than that. Last week, when you should have been here, with your distractions and your asshattery, I was busy, thank you so very much. I went for a run, and wrote, and posted a blog, and then went to my firearms course.

Oh, you were here anyway? Guess I didn’t notice you. Which was great. Because, honestly, today you just won’t leave me alone.

Asshole.

I am not having the best day over here. Monday is being a right pain in the arse, and I don’t know how to make it stop. As soon as this goes live, I’m going to try scotch. That works, right?

Anyway, my kitten-like ability to be distracted by shiny things aside, this is still Monday, which means it’s challenge time. I’m going to attempt to turn this day around by writing about my distractions. I have some kind of reverse psychology theory going that, if I pay more attention to them, they’ll go away.

So why don’t you try the same? There’s something that’s keeping you from writing today. Holidays, work shit, family crises, hell, just the internet. Write about that, in all its glorious distraction-y goodness. Give it its due.

 

And maybe then it will fuck the fuck off.

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The Necessity of Kicking Your Ass

 

English: Engineer work boot

This will be planted firmly up your ass. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Got some….ah….interesting e-mails after Wednesday’s post. Mostly positive, but it’s not the nature of humanity to focus on the positive, is it? Though in this case, I will at least say that the negative was more entertaining.

There were some complaints about my method of motivating people.* One person thought that Wednesday’s post was particularly harsh and unpleasant. The word ‘mean’ was used. So I’ll take a moment now to explain why I do things this way.

Is it because I am an unpleasant person? No. Well, sometimes. Depends on the day.

Is it because I enjoy yelling at people? I actually don’t. It gives me a headache. I am not R. Lee Ermey’s character from Full Metal Jacket.

Is it because of some deep-seated childhood problem, as one person was kind enough to offer?** No, my parents are wonderful people. They should not be blamed for me.

It is because, if I don’t, who will?

The world is full of well-meaning advice—and people—that will hold your hand, tell you not to cry, encourage you to shun the difficult things. And then there are the doubters, the nay-sayers, the whiners, the I-could-do-that-if-I-really-wanted-to-ers, the general time wasting vampires of existence. They are fucking everywhere.

This blog is not the place for that shit. No, I encourage you to gut out the difficult things. Grind it out, get through it. Cry if you have to, because there’s no shame in it. But then pick yourself up and move on. And while you’re at it, write down exactly how you felt while you were crying, because that’s the kind of research that’s hard to do.

I will kick your ass every time you come here. Because the excuses are so easy to reach for, whereas motivation often requires a hunt. So I make the motivation that much easier to find.

And by kicking your ass, I’m kicking my own. It’s a hell of a lot harder to take a day and watch an entire season of Adventure Time instead of writing when I just put up a piece about not giving up.

So, come on. Holster up your battle ovaries, put on your stomping boots, check your gut, and let’s go. It might not always be an easy trip, but we’ll get there.

 

And I won’t hold your hand, but I will show you how to give the doubters the middle finger.

*And apparently some of you don’t believe that I can smell lies. I can. They smell like those piles of rotting debris you find near the ocean: one whiff and you just know there’s something fishy in there.

**Thanks for that, by the way. Offering unsolicited psychiatric advice to strangers on the internet totally makes you seem like a well-adjusted human being.

 

The Silence of The Keys

Keep Going

Good advice. (Photo credit: rightee)

Now that NaNoWriMo has ground to a halt—congratulations to those who finished, better luck next year to those who didn’t, and how about that local sports team to those who gave the whole damn thing a miss—keyboards everywhere are going still. Pens remain capped. Cliffhanger scenes continue to hang and villains go unpunished.

That’s because, all across the country and the continent and the globe, people have stopped writing.

This is the sad truth of NaNo, even for ‘winners’. A lot of people hit that 50,000 word mark and call it a day. Or a month, or whatever. Whether or not the story is finished. And that’s fine if all you wanted to do was hit the space bar 50,000 times. Hell, build up your finger strength and you could probably knock that out in a day.*

“Oh, but I’ll come back to it,” you say. “Maybe after the holidays. Or next year. Or in the spring.” And you think that when you come back, you’ll be able to fix the huge mess that this story is before continuing on to the end. You know. When you get around to it. But you’ll totally finish it. You swear.

I can smell the lies on you.

Half a story is no damn use to anyone. It’s like starting to cook a meal, getting all the ingredients together, getting some of them in the pot, and then turning off the stove and walking away. “Oh, I started a meal once. But, you know, stuff happened and I never finished it. But I’ll go back to it one day, I swear.”

You will not. Because, much like the aborted attempt at cooking, by the time you get around to lifting the lid, the story will have decayed. You’ll be lucky if there aren’t rats in there big enough to eat your face. You’ll take one look at that mess and give up. Again. Because you’ve lost the desire. It’s not as important any more.

Finish what you start. If it’s a mess, let it be a mess until it’s done. Then you can fix it, or look upon it as a learning experience, or do what you will.

But if your story is not yet finished, then neither are you.

*After saying this, I had to do a little experiment to see if it was true. Assume four keystrokes per second (my average) times 60 seconds. 240 strikes per minute. 50,000 divided by 240 is 208.3332 minutes. Divided by 60 minutes is 3.47222 hours. See? Easy.

Service Interruption

*Electronic tone* We’re sorry. The brain you have dialed cannot be reached. It may be out of the service area, or it may be afflicted with the mother of all goddamned migraines, in which case it is eight seconds from melting entirely. Please try your connection again later. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of the author as Iron Man:

I am unimpressed by your placeholder, Non-Iron Man Me.

Sorry about this. Regular posting resumes on Friday.

Why I Would Write Amazing Children’s Books

Grumpy Bear in the Nelvana episode "Home ...

“You know what, Timmy? Fuck those guys.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Note: we found ourselves at my parent’s place during our week long road trip. While The Husband took a shower, I found some books from when I was a kid on a shelf. And then proceeded to read.)

Me: (As he enters) This is bullshit.

Snowman: Showering?

Me: No. This book. (Shows him a Care Bears book from the 80’s.) This sends a horrible message to kids.

Snowman: Which I’m sure you’re going to tell me all about.

Me: This kid’s being picked on by bullies, and the Care Bears basically tell him it’s his own fault. “You’ll never make any friends with that look on your face.” And then, “Anyone would be your friend if you just cared enough.”

Snowman: All right, that’s a little weird.

Me: Damn right it is. Someone makes fun of you and then physically assaults you for being nerdy and liking science? Clearly, you’re not caring enough about them. Assholes.

Snowman: Do you have some unresolved Care Bear issues you’re not telling me about?

Me: And never mind that the kid is smart enough to fix a villain’s Freeze Ray, he—

Snowman: Fix what?

Me: A Freeze Ray. For freezing kids. (Turns book to show him.) See?

Snowman: Why?

Me: No idea. Maybe Bad Guy wanted a kid-igloo. Or some hilariously shaped curling rocks. Anyway, the kid’s smart, smarter than Bad Guy. But once the Care Bears unfreeze everyone, the kid gives up science and goes to play baseball with the same asshole who was abusing him earlier. Sounds like anti-intellectualism to me.

Snowman: I think you’re reading too much into this.

Me: Am I? Well, how about this: the supposed moral of the story is, “Don’t seek revenge”.

Snowman: Well, that is a decent point.

Me: Yeah, but shouldn’t the more practical message be, “Don’t follow strange men who’ve confessed to hating all children home”? I mean, him wanting you to help build a weapon of mass destruction is really the best case scenario in that situation.

Snowman: …Okay, I’m with you there.

Me: You know how this story should have gone? “Little Timmy was being picked on by bullies. But he didn’t need to seek revenge because he knew that their own inner misery and emotional emptiness would create an unhappy, meaningless shell of  life for them.”

Snowman: As far as I remember, kids aren’t big on long term consequences.

Me: Okay, then how about this: “Little Timmy was being picked on. But one day when the bully tried to trip him, the bully’s leg rotted and fell off. Because that’s what happens to jerks.

Snowman: You should write kid’s books.

Me: Maybe I will.

Born A Ramblin’ Man: Working Through Interruptions

Take me to your leader!

Robot armies can be useful scheduling tools. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is an undeniable truth of life: keeping a schedule is like herding cats. Technically possible, but never easy. Writing schedules are great in the beginning, when you’re deep in the trenches of Getting Shit Done, but the honeymoon phase never lasts. Sooner or later, a disruption* comes along, and you’re off the rails, usually right in the middle of whatever you were doing. If you’re lucky, you get back on track when the disruption has passed. If you’re not, then you might be sidelined for months, or never finish that project at all.

So, you can hide in a bunker in a futile attempt to avoid distractions, or you can work with it. With a little work and a lot of stubbornness, you can keep it on track, or at least never get too far off. Here’s a few options for the constantly interrupted:

1. Plan ahead. If you know your best mate is coming in for the weekend and you’re going to be tits deep in a bottle of red for most of that time, do the writing before. You might have to finagle things a little, jiggle some schedule-y bits around, but it’s usually workable. Break it up over the week before, and you can get it done. Case in point: I’m on a five-day trip right now. I wrote this on Tuesday and set it up on the WordPress site to automatically post when I wanted it to. That’s right: THIS WAS POSTED BY ROBOTS. Try not to let that bother you too much. Or by the fact that I now have robots at my beck and call.

2. Work on the road. Or on the beach. Or the wedding reception. Or the doctor’s office. Whatever your particular distraction, there a very few places these days where one cannot get writing done. Take your laptop if you’ve got one; try writing on your smart phone if you don’t; and if neither is available, try the hotel computer or that of a friend.
Hell, if you’re not obsessively posting your brain squeezings to the internet**, then you don’t even need a computer. Take a notebook and a pen and write like your grandfather did: on a beach in the Dominican while shirtless waiters bring drinks.*** Just don’t tip with poems.

3. Let it go. Sometimes life truly fucking gets in the way, and you miss a day or a week or a month. Illness, work insanity, sudden deportation for illegally importing iguanas in your pants…interruptions happen. If there is genuinely**** nothing you can do about it, then let it go. For now. And that’s the condition here: for now. Make a plan about when you’ll get back, and then make sure you do get back. After a month or two away, or even longer, getting back in that saddle will hurt, but if you know that going in, you’re much less likely to wuss out and back off. Let the writing callouses fade from your finger tips? Earn ‘em back, one word at a time.

So, when you’re packing for that trip or doctor’s appointment, leave the excuses at home. You’ll travel lighter.

*In the case of cats, often a piece of string. In the case of people, often other people. Though the string can also be fun.
**Unlike some people I could mention.
***If your grandfather really did this, then he’s awesome.
****This is the key word here, folks. Be honest about if you can’t do it, or if you just won’t. You know when you’re lying. So will I. And, of the two of us, I’d say I’m scarier.

The Right Way*

Pile of old books.

Somewhere in this most ancient tome, you will discover the secret of writing perfect dialogue and…nah, I’m just fucking with you. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know what I like to do when I’m in a large bookstore? Go into the writing resources section and look at all the books that claim to be the one and only right way to write.** Because there’s a lot. It’s almost like there’s no vetting procedure.

Not going to lie, I’ve read a few. Or more than a few. Because every time I turn around it seems like there’s another one. They’re like Tribbles that way, except at least Tribble are cute.

And it’s not just book stores. This kind of advice is fucking legion. You’ll find it all over the internet as well. Go ahead and google ‘the best way to write a book’. Entertain yourself with the results. I just did it myself, to check and make sure I wasn’t sending you poor innocent souls traipsing through porn sites. And, man, I got pages and pages, all espousing different things.*** Outline. Don’t outline. Write slow. Write fast. Write every day. Write every other day. Write only at a full moon. Write longhand. Write on a computer. Write in this ancient language of hieroglyphs guaranteed to call the attention of the God of Unbelievable Horseshit.

You know what the right way to write is?

The way that gets it fucking done.

The right way is the way that gets your ass to sit at a desk or in front of a computer or behind a pen and write. Words. One after another. And you know what? It’ll probably change. What worked for you on one project may not work on the next. Or maybe you just want to try something new. I’m always experimenting, trying new methods to see if something sings. Always been an outliner? Nothing wrong with trying to get it done without one. Always write in the morning? Let a little darkness into your life.

I’ve got no problem with advice on writing. Hell, I dispense enough of it here. But to claim that there’s only one right way to do it is unmitigated arrogance.

*Yes, I thought about calling it “The Write Way”. And then I felt deeply, deeply ashamed.

**After that, I swing by the religion section and look at all the books promising the one and only right way to live, just for perspective. People avoid the giggling lady in the bookshop, by the way.

***And probably some porn.

You Don’t Have Writer’s Block

Writer's Block 1

This the guy you want to be? (Photo credit: OkayCityNate)

Stop saying that. You know why you don’t have it? Because it doesn’t fucking exist. You might as well say you have Chupacabra Warts. Actually, I’d rather people said that, because at least I’d get to hear the word ‘chupacabra’ more often.*

Writer’s block is a myth, perpetuated by generations of romantics and slackers. I get the draw. It’s easier to say, “I have writer’s block” than to address the actual causes of a lack of production. You can look tormented. You can put on Tragic Face™ and sigh as you stare longingly out a window.

coughcoughWANKERcough**

Sorry. Something in my throat. Let’s take a look at what might be slowing you down:

1. I don’t know what to write. Happens to the best of us. Sometimes you’re out of ideas. That’s when you hit the writer’s prompts (just Google it, you’ll find them). Or I’ll write first lines. A dozen of the fuckers. Some are crap, but occasionally I get a new story idea from them. Or, my favourite, check the submission guidelines. Anthology calls, magazine listings, journals, whatever. If there’s a deadline and the promise of cash, you’d be surprised how many ideas you come up with.

2. I don’t know what happens next in my story. Check your outline. Don’t have an outline? Ask yourself, “How can I raise the stakes?” What’s going to make your characters pull their thumbs out of their butts and act? Gunshot wound? Ominous noise in the dark? Letter from an old friend? Chupacabras at the door? Whatever. Do that. If it doesn’t work, you can always take it out later. But I’ve had great scenes come from this kind of Plot Spackle. (Good old Plot Spackle. I love that shit. I’ll do a post on this on Monday, so stay tuned.)

3. I’m waiting for my muse.  …Seriously? Go read this post, and then come back. I’ll wait.

…Done? All right. If you’re going to wait for inspiration, you’re going to have a lot of blank pages, my friend. Inspiration is great, but sooner or later you’re going to have to do without it. Those days, you just have to go out and find your muse.

4. I’m scared. Of screwing up the story. Of discovering you don’t have what it takes to write. Of being found out. In my opinion, this is the real cause of most ‘writer’s block’. Uncertainty and fear, the twin demons of a rather boring hell. Easiest way around them is to face them. Be honest with yourself about what’s holding you back. Understand that you’re scared, and that’s okay.
And then crush those bastards under your foot like a prehistoric cockroach. Feel them crunch. And wipe their splattered guts off your shoes before going back to writing. It doesn’t matter what you write at that point. It can be crap. It’s just a zero draft. Just write. Don’t let those crunchy little bastards win.

5. I don’t want to write. Then don’t. Go do something else. Surely to God your pantry needs cleaning, or your collection of stuffed goat heads needs organizing. Something. Unless you’re on a deadline, no one’s making you do this.
Or suck it up and write anyway. I often find my best work comes on days that I did not want to write. It was all in my head anyway; I just had to get it out. The only thing in my way was me.

So ask yourself: what’s in your way? And what are you going to do about it?

*If you say it a bunch of times in a row, it sounds like you’re summoning an Elder God: ChupacabrachupachabrachupacabraCHUPACABRA.

**”Wanker. Noun: one who wanks.” -Garth Ennis