Friday, September 30, 2011

FOUR-LETTER WORDS: What are you packin'?

Relax, Nancy...no one's throwing F-bombs your way.

This post is dedicated to the four-letter words every writer should include in their handy WRITER'S SURVIVAL PACK on a daily basis. Let's take a look at what's inside:

HOPE: Hope tops the list because without it, we'd have nothing.

SUCK: If your manuscript doesn't suck at least once every ten days--you're doing something wrong. Everybody has doubts about their writing. If you can't admit it--you will be taken to the barn and stomped to death by cloven hooves. It's been documented. It will happen.

LOVE: Write because you love to write. Not because you want to sell a book.

FART: When did farting become a bad thing? If you don't let loose every now and then, the stifled gas will clog up your internal blood flow thereby causing a depletion of oxygen to the brain. Without that, your brain hamster cannot run and your writing will suffer. It's basic science, folks. Acknowledge it and move on. (And if they're particularly bad, like you ate 2 cups of broccoli the night before--run after you distribute or quickly apply scented lotion to your hands to mask the odor.)

HATE: Hate is a strong word kids, but it's essential to your survival. If you don't hate other writer's who sign a bigger contract than you, agents who don't respond to your query, or co-workers who think your story is "cute", than you're a liar and will also be taken out to the barn. Just be honest and hate...it's okay, we still love you.

FEAR: You bet you're packing this! This is a scary business, bro! It's okay to be fearful, just don't let it stop you from living your dream.

DAMN: Sometimes it just feels good to say it. Take this sentence for example, "Damn, that is some good writing." See...it just works. Don't ignore the damn.

BEER: Beer, or other alcoholic beverages, should be embraced by all writers. It makes the most boring scene funny, the most annoying characters likeable, and you ten pounds thinner. How can you lose? I recommend stocking up on this bad boy. You never know when it might come in handy.

PRAY: You cannot do this alone. Prayer is a powerful tool, my friends. Don't leave home without it!

DUMB: Some people are just dumb. This has nothing to do with your survival as a writer. It's just important to mention.

WAIT: Ah...to wait. Getting a book published is like rush hour at Disneyland. Yes, we know you want to get on Space Mountain like...yesterday, but you have to wait just like everybody else. The truth is, most of us have to wait. A LOT. Those stories you read, about authors who got picked up on their first query, went to auction after 3 days, and got a seven-figure deal with additional movie rights...yeah, those people might not have had to wait, but they're the ones the rest of us hate...it all works out in the end.

This my list of essential four-letter words. What are you packin'?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

GIVE ME YOUR BEST CAPTION...

Okay, okay, (Rookie raises hands in defense) I know this is a bit of a cop out, but I'm tired and oh so busy trudging away on my WIP that this is the best I can do. Give me your best catch phrase, sentence, or short story for the photo below. All who participate will receive a special gift from yours truly.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

GUILT: It's a verdict, not a feeling.

I'd like to introduce you to my dog, Cooper. Sadly, my handsome yellow boy died suddenly on Halloween 2009 forever taking a piece of my heart with him.

While there are many things I miss about Coop on a daily basis: The way his eyebrows shifted when he listened to me talk to him. How silky his ears felt beneath my fingers. His eternal hopefulness that one day I'd actually give him a scrap from the table *sigh*, there is one thing I definitely do not miss...the suffocating guilt he freely handed-out while sitting at my side and staring at me until I played ball with him. (He could go for hours folks. It was torturous.)

Aside from the handsome guy above the only other person on the planet whose guilt distribution has any affect on me is my husband. (His guilt trips are slightly different than that of the dog's and reserved for an entirely different kind of post. *wink*)

OH WAIT!

I nearly forgot. There actually is one more person who can make me crumble at the knees with unrelenting guilt. She's blue-eyed, types 90 wpm and has hair the size of a small village. Her name is Bethany and she is a gold medal winner at self-inflicted guilt.

Until I got serious about my writing, I had no idea how hard I was on myself. The expectations I hold myself accountable to are not only unattainable, but completely ridiculous considering my life. (Full-time job, 2 kids, husband...you know the drill). I can go from having a great, 1,000 word writing day to feeling like a useless turd on the doorstep in the matter minutes. All because I let my own guilt trip me up.

I know I'm not alone in this self-defeating behavior. It seems most of my writerly friends share in this neurotic behavior. (Aren't we the lucky ones?!) But I did receive some advice a few years ago that I've been trying hard to incorporate into my life in hopes to ease the guilt.

Here it is: (Put on your waders--we're about to get deep).

After the birth of my first daughter, I went through a period of some very low-lows. It wasn't exactly postpartum depression, but what a therapist diagnosed as postpartum anxiety. Like a lot of creatives, I'm a control freak--having my world turned on it's head by this 8lb. person who did little more than cry, poop and literally suck the life out of me, definitely did not fall into my list of familiar and scheduled activities. (Fear not! The child in question is now nearly nine and I no longer want to run away from her (most of the time)) When I learned I was pregnant with baby girl #2, I quickly sought guidance from a therapist so I would understand how to deal with the feelings that still frightened me when I thought about bringing another new person into my world.

Therapy taught me that not only am I a control freak, but I'm also an emotional responder. (duh) Rather than deal with things rationally...I blow them out of proportion. I know...shocking! But, and here's where it gets interesting and back to the point, the best thing I learned was that there are really only 4 true feelings when it comes to our emotions. They are:

SAD
MAD
GLAD
AFRAID

Lorie, my therapist, suggested that anytime I start having feelings of guilt, which was my biggie, that I stop and break it down to an actual feeling. Because guilt wasn't a feeling. It was a verdict.

Here's what I mean:

I'm a horrible mother = GUILT

The Breakdown:

I am afraid that I'm going to do this wrong.
I am mad because my life has changed in ways I never expected.
I am sad because I don't feel like the same person anymore. I miss her.

This little formula was a lifesaver. I didn't suffer any of the same symptoms with #2 as I did with #1. AND, the best part, I've been able to translate this little process over to my writing life. For example:

I didn't write all weekend = GUILT
The Breakdown:

I am mad that I had to go to Costco to buy husband Cliff bars instead of spending an hour writing.

I am afraid that if I don't commit every free moment to writing God won't think I'm serious about it and I will never "make it."

I am sad that I know my friends made time to write this weekend and I didn't.

You can break it down for days--and believe me, I have. But the bottom line is--GUILT IS NOT A FEELING. It's a culmination of other feelings that you just haven't stripped down to the roots yet. Most of my guilt actually comes from fear. I'm not sure that's a good thing, but at least I've diagnosed the source.

Perhaps my therapist was a bit more "enlightened" than some folks (I'm pretty sure she went to Berkeley) but, either way, this little tool has helped me a lot. Maybe it can help you, too.