Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The List-Led Life

My life boils down to lists.

Things I will do
Things I should do
Things I wish I did better
Things I want to do but never will

Where is happiness is this list of lists?

The challenge for me is to reframe the lists. Lists imply work must be done and it isn't. There's always something to be checked off. Or, if I reframe, a list can show progress. "Look, I crossed it off my list." Bad part is, the finished work always begets more to do.

Wiser people advise to create lists that represent accomplishable goals. Here's an example of how NOT to do this. My literary list for August includes:

Publish (insert Title 1)
Publish (insert Title 2)
Publish (insert Title 3)

Really? Publish three books in a month (new for me because I'm not an indie author, yet)? (Maybe the list should be Become An Indie Author). Problem here: The task is too large. Therefore, it becomes unattainable. Therefore, it becomes an impossible psychologoical hurdle. Therefore, it doesn't get done.

Result: I'm bad at writing lists.
Ergo: How will I make it as an indie author?

A better list might read:

Reread and edit first chapter of (insert Title 1)
Find layout designer for (insert Title 2)
Write synopsis for (insert Title 3)

My mind knows this breakdown already, the steps to be taken in order to publish Title 1, 2 and 3, but writing it down in smaller steps makes it seem more accomplishable.

Unless you are a procrastinator. Then, lists are meaningless and become detestable reminders of non-productivity. Coffee and food soil them. They end up on the far reaches of your desk. The White Board of Accountability becomes the neice's doodle easel.

Fortunately, I'm not a procrastinor. But that may be why you're here. You are ignoring your own list to be pleasantly distracted by the shining object of your electronic device and the promise of some morsel of knowledge that will make not accomplishing your list worth the wasted time.

Hope this was.

My new list:

Find the happiness.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Stay Stoned on Your Words

Does that word "stoned" date me? Now that states are flipping the switch on legalized marijuana sales, is my word choice old? I'm not a smoker, nor do I plan on becoming one if the voting public in my current state of North Carolina decides to legalize pot, but I want to use the right terminology.

Point is, writing should make you high. If you don't find a buzz in it, give it up, baby. It won't take you where you want to go. And, frankly, where you want to go is just royal-flush nirvana, 'cause nothing else about a writer's life will make you happy.

Stay put in the smoking-room desert, the one I've been personally wandering in for a few years now. Because the publishing territory on the outskirts of your royal-flush nirvana is wild and lawless. Breath deeply of that glorious smoke, those words of yours, because when the beautiful fog lifts and you're in the territory, because you've wandered so far off in your stupor, you'll develop a crazy-ass migraine called no-one-gives-a-shit-about-your-work.

It's then you'll start writing about getting stoned when you actually don't really get stoned. But you can't feed your habit enough, and that's how you'll know you're addicted and, wow, how did that happen?

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Trippy cycle. Crave your story, write, get stoned, fog clears, no one gives a shit. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I've met writers who go cold turkey, set aside the ink for years, and suddenly, one day, madly crave it, and go back. I understand, but goddamn it. They should have had the strength to stay away. They went and threw sobriety away. For what? A comic essay? A memoir? A god-forsaken novella? What a freakin' shame.

What they really should stay away from is the publishing territory. Vape to your heart's content, just don't ever come down. Stay in the stoned zone. Trust me, there's nothing in the territory you want. Nothing at all.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Writing As Its Own Inspiration

Writers write for different reasons. If you're good enough and lucky enough, you make money. The powerhouse gatekeepers in publishing will say, luck has nothing to do with success. Hard work and talent determine a writer's career. I tend to agree with them. And ignore the hell out of anything they say, including how to succeed as a writer, detriment be damned.

I'm tired of advice. Right? I hear you shaking your head. Everyone's got advice for writers. There's money to be made on giving advice to writers -- about how to write, what to write, fixes to write, salves to write, addenda addenda addenda. Maybe I'll patent The Writing Patch. Slap it on your derrière and you'll be bound for literary fame and fortune in no time. I'd make a bucketful of money. Now, not all writing advice is snake oil patches, but there are too many people giving advice, (hey, look, I'm one of them) and it all bleeds together and not in a beautiful Monet delicate-brush way.

Pack Square AshevilleI don't really count myself as one of the advice-givers. I'd count myself as a wandering seeker. My path is forged from trying out a new passion. Novel writing is a special brand of high. I'm not a stoner (although on one of my stray index cards around the house, this title hit me recently: One Nation Under Pot. Air lick it as one book to write), but creating a story is its own kind of inspiration.

Wait, you say. Advice about writing and inspiration are two different things. Yes, and no. If you're learning the craft, you still must take advice in good humor. Advice can have the tendency to induce writer's block. There's plenty of time (most likely a lifetime) for you to revise your work and improve. But if you let stinging or overwhelming or too-close-for-comfort advice keep you from writing, you'll never write enough to produce something good.

I don't have to go looking for advice. Of course, I study techniques and try them out. But the act of writing gives me all the fluffy cloud inspiration I need to blissfully (maybe just contentedly) keep going. Go to the page. Pour some words on it. Stamp your feet in the puddles. I'll meet you outside without an umbrella.