Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Take Criticism at Face-Value, An Opinion

My father didn't come to a reading I gave in my hometown.
Hoorah for Friends.

That's a sentence I'd never thought would show up here, let alone congeal in my own mind.

Let's break this down, for if a blog is worth a cent, it should be for breaking down uncharted territory (at least today it is; at least in the last year it has been for me; you do what you want on your own blog).

Fact one, my father and I have a good, if not arm's length relationship. Fact two, we love one another as finely as any daddy-daughter could love one another. Fact three, people around the small town where I grew up like him. He's a swell guy. Honest, hard-working, appreciates tools and old cars. Fact four, he loves me, loves my kids, generally enjoys retirement and reading. We don't talk by phone every week (mom and I do), but we call when necessary.

He has not read my book. Or, if he has, he has not spoken of it.

What do I make of all this? I've generally lumped it into a category another writer defined for me in 2009, the year I began writing my book -- the Silent Group. She said some people will know of your work, even read it or attempt to read it, and remain mum. Never speak of it, never offer an opinion, never a word of praise or acknowledgment or criticism. Which, in and of itself, is an opinion. It's the opinion, "The work is not for me."

I know the work is not for my dad, chiefly because I've written sex into the book. It's part of the novel. It's not all of the novel, but it is a large enough part of it to be disagreeable to him. I understand this.

One of the lessons I've learned as a writer, particularly in the post-publication phase, is that my work is not for everyone. I didn't set out to please the masses. I set out to please myself. This may or may not, in the eyes of commerical publishing interests, be a good plan for success. Genre fiction evolved for a reason: because it is pleasingly familiar and readers tend to gravitate to formulas. Just take a look at any new movie coming out of Hollywood. They're surprisingly similiar. Familiar. And, in many ways, stale.

I'm not saying my work is a grand slam of fresh ideas or craft. But I didn't stick to a genre romance formula. Partly because I didn't know enough, partly because once I knew, I didn't want to follow the "rules."

Now, I move on. My writing is evolving. It leans toward literary. Yawners, for some people. Pissy sales, most likely. Complicated characters, interior dialogue, and lack of action? Who in the hell reads books without an explosion, death, or bondage any more? I still don't think my father will read my new work. I've cozied up to the fact that he won't. It's okay. It's just another opinion.

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?

Blog not endorsed by smokercoupons.com
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.