Thursday, January 31, 2013

So You Want To Quit Writing?

Writers are an odd species.

We simultaneously loathe and love what we create. Regardless of our mastery of our craft, we know we will never achieve written perfection. Simply knowing of the existence of a more evocative line, a more graceful segue, a more compelling motivation, a stronger phrase keeps us humble. However, something about creating entire worlds from mere words feeds our creative soul, filling us with a parental pride no non-writer will ever experience.

Only delusional nitwits start writing because they expect to it to make them rich.

Oh, sure, one might harbor the secret desire to write something so amazing, so brilliant that the world beats a path to one's door, flinging fistfuls of money along the way. Love of money, however, makes a poor muse.

"Will this castle do, Mistress?" "GOOD DOG!"
A writer starts writing because he or she MUST. Any other reason ("I'm going to be rich!" "I'm going to be famous!" "I'm going to get a movie deal, and move to Hollywood, where I shall meet Matt Bomer and discover that he is secretly straight, and he shall fall desperately in love with me, and I shall live on the beach in a converted castle with an army of perfectly trained Welsh Corgi minions that do my bidding...") is destined for disappointment.

We writers tend to be a supportive bunch. I have never known a Real Writer to deliberately squash another writer's dreams. (I'm sure it happens -- being a writer doesn't make one a saint any more than having a child makes one responsible -- but I believe such aberrations are rare.) To the contrary, on numerous occasions, I have known writers to generously use their time, expertise, education, and connections to help a fellow writer on the road to publication.

Sadly, too often writers forget the flights of whimsy, inspiration, and creativity that caused them to start writing. They allow the callous remarks of non-writer naysayers (@DowagerAgent anyone?) to affect their optimism, their faith, and their productivity. They lose sight of the fact that one does not write to please the world; one writes to complete one's self.

If you want to marinate in a depressing sea, Google "Why I Quit Writing" or "Why I Stopped Writing" sometime, and follow the tendrils of misery that emanate from that Wood Between the Worlds. Just make sure you hide the razor blades and the Drambuie first. (Strangely, no one seems to notice the irony of writing about why you are no longer writing...)

Lately, I've had several conversations with talented writers who say things like:

"What if the book I've written isn't as good as I think it is?"

"What if I've used up all of my creativity and never get another good idea?"

"What if I've wasted a year and a half of my life?"

"What if it doesn't sell?"

"What if I don't really have what it takes?"

They're all allowing themselves to flirt with the idea of quitting. As if becoming a writer was a conscious, logical decision they made that they can walk away from at any time.

It's not.

Being a writer is more of a calling than a career.

If you're a writer, you know the thrill of creating characters more interesting, more rounded, and more real to you than most people you know.

If you're a writer, you know that a part of you remains behind in your story when you must leave it in order to live your "real life."

If you're a writer, you know that if one is to consider it a waste of time to write, one might as well consider it a waste of air to breathe.

Granted, you might take a break from writing for a while -- especially if you've allowed yourself to fall into the trap of equating success with financial gain or fame.

But, if you're a writer, the Muse will not stand to be ignored for long. The day will come when she will smack you upside the head with an Idea so exciting that it will cause your heart to beat more strongly as the creative juices surge through you again. And you will realize that where there is breath, there is life. Pick up your pen! Run to your keyboard! Quitting is not an option...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Parse This!

Nothing to be learned here today... No updates. No news. Nothing of any real use. Just a rant. You've been warned.

A friend of mine recently had a run-in with her bank. The establishment, due to the inexperience and / or incompetence of one of its tellers, accessed her account and drained some rather vital funds from it long before those funds were supposed to be anywhere but safe in their little vault with her name on it, earning her interest. Of course this resulted in nasty overdrawn notices and no end of headaches.

So she called and began unraveling the tangled web of credits and debits trying to figure out What Happened?! She worked her way up the ladder, speaking to first one supervisor, and then another. Finally she landed Miss Congeniality.

Miss C. informed her that perhaps she just didn't know the first thing about Finance, and maybe she should just accept the bank's all-knowing, omnipotent word for how things work.

My friend declined to follow that road. Miss C. then told her that she was being unprofessional. Which caused my friend to point out that she was the client. She was not a professional, and she had no desire to be one.

They got into a rather tangled bit of rhetoric, which resulted in the woman calling my friend's intelligence into question. Finally, after the woman had uttered yet another self-important, convoluted phrase of business-speak, my friend asked her, "Am I going to have to parse your sentences?"

To which the woman replied, "Mind your language!"


The mind reels. My friend asked her, "What word do you object to? Parse?"

We've had a field day with this. Things she could have / should have said:

No need to get parsimonious...

Blow it out your parse!

Now you're getting parsonal...

Hang on a few parsecs...

Parse this!

Honestly -- what has the world come to when we end up verbally sparring with someone who has us by the financial neck, but who doesn't have a basic grasp of the language she's using to berate us?

I'm thinking the woman just needed a good parsing. And I don't care who hears me say it.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Everything I Need to Know About How to Succeed I Learned in 6 Minutes...

...with Tom Cruise

It's true. I'll prove it.

First, watch this. It's not only freaking hilarious, but it's also one of the best examples of "How to Be a Success" I've ever seen:

Key Takeaways:

1.) Expect to win. Every time. Even when the cards don't come up in your favor, look for the winning angle.

2.) Some times you will lose. Do so with good humor and without diminishing another's victory.

3.) Stay positive and stay in the game. Even when it seems you're drowning in failure, keep your wits about you. Accept that some setbacks are worse than others.

4.) Enjoy the entire experience. Be as willing to laugh at the valleys as at the mountain tops.

5.) Win gracefully. Relish the ride. Savor the high. And do so in such a way that those who haven't won don't feel like losers.

(Granted, there are several other keys to Cruise's success hidden within this video. One of them is probably "Have an Assistant Who Ascertains that the Cards Are Ultimately Stacked in Your Favor." But that doesn't negate the merits of what I learned from watching him.)

My New Year's Wish For You:  May every setback be temporary, with no more import than a thimbleful of water thrown on the star of your dreams.