Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Posts tagged “reading

Talk Amongst Yourselves

You know you’ve reached a weird point when you start Search Engining blog topics. I mean, what do I write about?

Part of my problem is overload. I’m writing four sketches a week, 10 jokes a week, two blog posts a week for work (why is that always easier?), and developing a sitcom pilot while keeping one eye open for work in the entertainment industry.nog

So, I guess I’ll update you on random things and you can talk amongst yourselves.

  • Love, love, love Los Angeles. Go…Theater Nerds? (I’m not sure what team I’m supposed to cheer for here.)
  • Still working two and a half jobs from home. Garbage disposal broke. Plumber came over to replace it. I awkwardly hovered over him and tried to talk about TV shows.
  • I flirted with him a bit, but he turned me down. It’s cool. Those inter-office romances never work anyway.
  • I’ve started referring to all my neighbors by their Native American names. Works On Car. Lets Dog Poop. Flirts With Kate. Has Loud Sex.
  • Egg nog is a meal in and of itself.
  • My Second City classes were lovely. They cost a lot of money. Those two things probably aren’t related, but whatever.
  • I haven’t finished reading a book in two months.
  • I’m reading Pride & Prejudice and I love it. Which makes me a stereotypical girl, but I’m dealing with that in my own way.
  • I lost a friend and made two.
  • I’ve been earning Adulthood badges like gangbusters.

Well, what have you been up to? I think you don’t realize how busy you are until you look at the date and think, “Hm. I should have my Christmas shopping done by now.”

Happy Hanukkah everybody!


Warning: I am not an expert

I titled this post so you would understand that this is opinion and what works for me. If, one day, I get published, then maybe I’ll retroactively change the title. Until then, if you’re looking for expert advice, I be not the one to which you should turn.

I mean, Gawd, look at that sentence. What does it even mean?

But, dear Internet user, perhaps writer, perhaps good friend of mine or family member, I want you to take this to heart with the force of my sincerity behind it.

Please be very careful about whose advice you are taking, especially when it comes to writing. Chuck Wendig posted on his blog, “The Internet is 55% porn and 45% writers.

The thing is: Not all of these writers are experts. You don’t need to listen to what they have to say. Even Chuck Wendig is full of shit sometimes. Only sometimes. He’s a good one to look at (plus, he has published books!).

I’m not often one to admit this, but writing is hard. There is no easy advice out there to help you write a book. There’s even less to help you get published. There isn’t a rule book, there isn’t a yellow brick road. The best you can hope for is reading about something that works for someone else and finding out that system works for you.

Here’s what works for me:

1) Write more better.

I got this one from A. Lee Martinez. It means write more and you will eventually get better. Or, writing more will eventually lead to better writing. I don’t know, but it means something.

There is a time to put aside a project that isn’t working and start something new. Don’t write one book and bank on that as the one that leads you to fame and fortune. Write more better.

2) Don’t expect fame and fortune.

Do you know how many authors are on the midlist? Do you even know what the midlist is? If you are a bestseller, congratulations! Honestly, good work! But, there are plenty of people who are published and still can’t quit their day job.

Be aware that your little book might not change the world. It might not get you published. It might not even get you an agent. But, if you follow the advice in point #1, maybe, eventually, you will land on something that resonates with enough people to get you published, agented, or off the midlist.

3) Finish it

You can’t keep it up forever. Slap an ending on that sucker, give it a round of revisions, and see where that leaves you. In the mean time, start thinking about something new.

4) Read

You can always improve. Read good books, read bad books, read magazines, read YA, read Stephen King. Read something and see if you like that style. Read something that you hate, but make sure you identify why you hate it. Keep looking for improvements.

5) Find critiques

Your head is an echo chamber. Sometimes, the voices of doubt, confidence, paranoia, suspicion, and anxiety bounce around so much, you lose objectivity. Give it to outside eyes.

I went to a public group that involved reading your piece out loud. There are plenty of ways to do this. Someone you trust to tell you the truth, another writer, anything. You need someone to look at your work to answer at least one question:

“Is it a book?”

So, yeah. I guess writing is hard for the simple fact that it’s not easy. You have to work at it. You have to want to improve. You have to do the thing that works for you and, if it doesn’t work, try something else. There aren’t rules, so much as guidelines.

If you try to take a shortcut, you might be disappointed with where the path leads.

Good luck. Be aware. Be careful. I care about you and want you to succeed.


A word and a promise

I am so, so, so busy. The move is 4 days away? No, that’s wrong. 5? I don’t know. My brain is fritzing and I need a few more boxes.

I promise a full post in the near future.

Until then, read a book and tell me all about it in the comments section.


The Babbling Paradigm

Recently, at a book signing, an author told at story about meeting Sue Grafton.

This author was at a major publishing event, one of those ALA’s or RT’s or RWA conferences where authors at different stages of their careers hobnob with the other members of their profession.

You all know who Sue Grafton is, right? The Alphabet Mysteries? A is for Alibi? Chances are you’ve seen these wildly popular mysteries around. She’s a very popular author.

While Jane Author was hanging out, someone said to her, “Don’t look now, but Sue Grafton is standing right behind you.”

Like all self-respecting human beings would do in that situation, Jane whipped around and yelled, “SUE!” For the next few minutes, during which she was shaking Sue Grafton’s hand, Jane blabbed her way through the encounter and didn’t actually remember what was said.

Which brings me to my point:

Who, if you had the chance to meet them, would you absolutely flip your shit over?

During lunch (with the author), she laughed about her Sue Grafton encounter and admitted that she would do it again. I answered, “We all have someone we would so that to. It’s just finding that person.”

I think this is an interesting question. Everyone has someone they would become a babbling idiot over. In the recent Nerdist podcast, host Chris Hardwick admits that he got a little flustered when talking to Tina Fey. If Tina Fey made time in her schedule to hang out with me for an hour and a half, I might lose it a little bit myself.

We’ve all seen that moment when the little girl meets the Disney princess at Disney World. Her eyes light up, she gasps, she runs across the park paying no heed to what’s going on around her. She wants to tell her everything. She babbles.

We never really grow out of that phase.

I have my stock answers: Robert Downey, Jr. and J.J. Abrams, but I don’t know if that’s particularly true. I suppose I would actually have to meet them in order to know whether or not that’s true.

You’re Iron Man. I-you-you’re Iron Man.

When does the mere idea of a meeting person become life-changing?

At the same event, a girl hung back and waited a little, quiet and unassuming. She stood in line, got her books signed, and walked around the store until the rest of the crowd cleared out a bit and the authors were left alone, signing stock and making plans for later.

When the time was right, she walked up to one of the authors and asked, “Are you ____?”

Author: “Yes.”

Girl: “Did you write _____?”

Author: “Yes, I did.”

Girl: “It’s one of my favorite books! I read it, like, a year ago and I want to read it again every time I finish another book!” She became a babbling idiot.

What does it take to be the person on the other side? How do we accept that praise? It’s not just admiration, it’s adoration. It’s breathtaking to behold. As a storyteller, I can only pray that I can reach someone on that level. You can write it off, play it down in front of your peers, ignore it in front of your friends, but that has to be an amazing moment.

You changed someone.

And, in the end, that’s all we can ever hope for.


Defending The Hunger Games

Just because we like something does not mean that we shouldn’t be critical of it. In general, I like the United States Government. I reap the benefits of centralized government. This does not mean I should just sit back and let them do what they want because I generally agree. I need to remain critical of how the country is managed.

As far as The Hunger Games is concerned, it isn’t the most perfect book ever written. The sequel and third books are on my list, but I’m not rushing off anywhere to obtain a copy. The over-hyped movie has made me frustrated with social media, as it fills both my Facebook and Twitter feeds with such gems as “OMG!! NEW HUNGER GAMES TRAILER!!1!1!!!” over and over. Stop telling me it’s the next Harry Potter. Stop telling me it’s the next Twilight.

Isn’t there anything else going on? Can we talk about something else? Oh, God, now they mentioned Rick Santorum…

Surprisingly, that’s not what this post is about.

At work this weekend, I was sitting in the break room with two coworkers, let’s call them Jo and Abner. Abner asks if he should read The Hunger Games. Poor Abner. He has been swept away by the hype and believes he is missing out on some big secret that everyone else is in on. There is a chunk of cultural literacy missing from his brain. Additionally, Abner suffers from YAphobia (a form of genre-phobia) that means he won’t even open the cover of a book that is considered “Young Adult”. Abner isn’t alone. A great many people won’t venture out of their preferred genres.

(This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as you’re reading, does it really matter what? Just be aware that you are most likely missing out on fantastic storytelling.)

Instead of letting Jo, who is quite taken with The Hunger Games, take over, I decided to offer a less biased viewpoint.

Me: “Do you want to read it?” This is essential. If you don’t want to read it, then don’t. If you don’t think you’ll enjoy it, don’t read it.

Abner: “What?”

“Do you want to read The Hunger Games?”

“I guess. I mean, the preview makes it look pretty weird.”

I explain that the thing that made it enjoyable (for me) was more concept than story. A group rebelled against the government, they lost, now the government kills the rebels’ children. Wait, no, it’s actually worse than that. The government takes their children, and forces the kids to kill each other while the entire nation watches. Oh, and guess what? Whoever wins gets to eat.

Yeah, when you put it that way, it’s really cool. Does that interest you? Evil governments kidnapping children and making them kill each other on national television? Where do I sign up?

Abner decided he’d take a look at it.

As I left the break room, Jo caught up with me and said, “So, you really did like it?”

“I told you I did.”

“But, then you criticized it.”

I think this is a problem, this idea that we can’t examine things we enjoy through a critical lens without being accused of hypocrisy. Let me point out that Harry Potter was just a kid and was almost killed at least once a year at the most secure place in the wizarding world, Dobby was the Jar Jar Binks of the HP film franchise, and Hermione was clearly a Ravenclaw.

Twilight…nope. I’m not going there.

But, hey, if you have some time and need something to read, go ahead and take a look at The Hunger Games.

Also, I think the movie will be fantastic.


Resolute: We Are Strong

That’s right.

Two weeks in, I’m giving you a New Year’s Resolution Post featuring (gratuitous capitalization)!

Let’s dive right in.

  1. Start/Join a band
  2. Don’t talk about “The-Book-That-Will-Not-Be-Named” or, more commonly, “You-Know-What”.
  3. Save up $10,000 to move to LA
  4. Punch anyone who says “You’re so young!”
  5. Be more Internet social
  6. Read 100 books.

Let’s go in depth!

1.  This one seems to always make it on my list. I have two electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, and a bass guitar. This just goes to show, having the equipment does not automatically get you into the band. Bummer. Drag. Total waste. Except I still play often, much to my parents discontent. I need to up my street cred. I need to brainstorm band names with a bunch of crazies. I need to get my writer friends to make this happen.

2.  Ah, The-Book-That-Will-Not-Be-Named. Any guesses? I’ll give you a hint. It may or may not have something to do with vampires that sparkle. I know some of you are going to get offended that I have decided to remove You-Know-What from my day-to-day conversation. This tome is an emotional lightning rod. Whenever it is brought up, voices are raised, teams are chosen, everyone gets excited, and I’m left sitting there, wondering what the Hell just happened. I’ve also found that most of my Harry Potter references are dropping off, too. Am I moving on with my life? Probably not, but if you want to talk (argue) about Twilight, take it somewhere else. Life’s too short.

3. Oh, yeah. THIS one. I have three jobs now. One with a television network, one at Barnes & Noble, and now contract work writing for a social media company. I’m going to be a better blogger whether I like it or not because I’m getting PAID! The whole “moving to LA” thing is this nebulous lurking glob on the horizon.

I’m getting erased from people’s minds.

I’m freaking out a little bit.

I’m going to be a television writer.

4.  People: Stop saying “you’re so young”. This is a meaningless statement. Would you like me to say, “You’re so old?” No. The answer is no. Besides, the “you’re so young” is not complementary, because you are inferring immaturity and a lack of patience. I am not too young to pursue my dream. No one is ever too young or too old to do that.

5.  In the last year or two, I’ve tended to be more of a poster than an interactor. This changes! I will respond to people’s tweets, even if they have no idea who I am! I will put crap up on Google+, even though no one will see it! I will approach social media the way it was intended! The spirit of the conversation!

6. This is another one of those things that always makes it on the list. Last year, I read 65. To be fair, I was quite busy with a new job at the beginning of the year, as well as being disgruntled with the world in general. I didn’t finish reading a book until March. This year, I have my Goodreads goal set and they will be coming for me if I don’t make it. I’ve already knocked two down. We’ll see what happens.


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