It’ll Never Work

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so time for the ISWG!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

It’s fun! Join here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

July 7 question – What would make you quit writing?

The only thing that could make me quit writing is if someone came up with a version of Extreme Meditation.* Extreme Meditation would give me the ability to make my brain quit thinking things like “Hey that would be a great name for a character,” or “Sure, you’re irritated now, but won’t this make a great story?”

But really, even if someone did come up with Extreme Meditating, I’d be much more likely to use it to make my brain leave me alone about things other than writing. No more obsessing about whether I bought the wrong house or if I talked too much in that one meeting. There are a lot of things to quit thinking about. Writing/being a writer would be way down on that list.

Peace and love!

*Philosophical question- is Extreme Meditation a paradox?  I’m pretty sure it is. (Do you see what I’m dealing with here? While I’m writing, my brain is already thinking of other things to write about. Even meditating to the extreme probably can’t fix that.** I’m doomed to be a writer forever.***)

**Especially if I make ‘comma’ my mantra. “Commmmmaaaaa.”

***I don’t have a problem with this.

Leave a comment with your completely unhelpful mantra!

Lori

Scheduling “space” from your writing project

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group:

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Check it out here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

June 2 question – For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

I don’t think I’ve made conscious, consistent choices with this. Usually by the time something is “finished” (I am using that term loosely) I’m so over it that I don’t bother going back to it for months, if ever. That is probably because I rarely have a strict timeline in mind. Mainly I just want to get what is in my head on paper (Ok, screen, but I still think of writing as “getting it on paper”. Who doesn’t love paper?) and then get on with the next thing. Or just go back to slacking. Whichever.

This downtime will be something to keep in mind now that I’m trying to write with more specific goals. I’ll have to build some “lock it in the cabinet and don’t look at it” time into my writing schedule. I guess the length of the piece is probably a factor? Also how long I’ve been working on it? Seems like a day or two break wouldn’t be long enough for a novel, but it would probably be sufficient for a blog post.

I look forward to reading how other people plan this.

PS- I can’t help picturing going back for the rewrite and having to explain to the work in progress, “WE WERE ON A BREAK!”

***

Secretary of Bizarre Cosmic Injuries

I finally have something in common with a President of the United States. No, I have not mastered bodysurfing or started wearing stovepipe hats. Like Joe Biden, I have broken my foot while playing with a dog. (Note: it is NEVER the dog’s fault when this happens. I am confident Joe agrees with me on this.)

I was thrilled to have this in common with the next President, so I texted my kids about it.

Me: JOE BIDEN BROKE HIS FOOT PLAYING WITH HIS DOG

Me: #notjustme

Daughter: I bet he didn’t do it twice *three laughing emojis*

Yes, as my daughter loves to point out, I have two dog related broken foot incidents. Not exactly fun, but I think I can use the experiences to help the Biden administration.

The first one was when my kids were young. I had just put a frozen pizza in the oven. I never preheat for frozen pizza—I just put it in and start the oven. As the oven warmed up, I smelled oven cleaner and realized I must have missed some when cleaning the oven earlier that day. The smell didn’t seem like it would enhance the pizza flavor, (also-would the fumes somehow get in the pizza and poison us?) so I pulled the pizza out and turned off the oven. I wiped the oven out a few more times to be sure to get all the cleaner, then turned it back on, put the pizza in, and restarted the timer.

There were no oven cleaner fumes the second time, but we did smell burned pizza. I had forgotten that the pizza would be thawing while I wiped out the oven, and I hadn’t shortened the cooking time accordingly. Smoke, burnt cheese, black crust, etc.

  The kids were starting to wonder if they’d ever get dinner. To keep them occupied while the second pizza was cooking, we played tag. I chased them to the back of house and tagged them, then turned around and ran to front of house while they chased me. The dog was on both teams, running back and forth with us. On one pass when the kids were “it”, I ran into the dog and fell. Have you ever had the kind of break where it seemed like you heard it from the inside? It was like that. From the pain and the sound, I was pretty sure it was broken. I wanted to yell, but I tried to be as calm as possible so the kids wouldn’t freak out. (The dog was uninjured. Yay!)

I was lying there trying to look like everything was fine when the pizza timer went off again.

“Don’t burn this one too, Mommy” said my daughter, looking down at me.

Sighing at the lack of sympathy, I got up and hobbled to the stove. I cut the pizza into bite size pieces, then sent the kids to their kiddie table with their plates.

By then the foot hurt too much to even limp on it, so I hopped to the couch. I called my mom, then sat there waiting for help to arrive. A few minutes later the kids came to the living room. Clearly their “read the room” skills had not developed yet, because they asked for more pizza.

“I’m sorry. You’ll have to wait for Granny to get here. I can’t get off the couch right now because I hurt my foot.”

“Granny! Yay!” they replied, clearly not the least bit concerned about me.

(This proved to be a trend with my kids. Years later, I fell off the monkey bars. Did they worry? Not at all. My daughter continued swinging across, stopping only to hang over me and ask, “Are you dead down there, Mom?”)

My husband got home soon after and took me to the emergency room. I then got to tell the front desk person, the admitting nurse, the x-ray tech, the doctor, and what seemed like 14 other hospital employees that I had tripped over a dog. Super fun.

I had to wear a walking boot and use crutches for about six weeks. Telling the “tripped over a dog” story for six weeks turned out to be even less fun than telling my mom that I had gotten hurt while running in the house. About three days in I started wishing that I had gone with hang gliding or something cool like that.

Moral of the story:  Cleaning ovens is for suckers. If at all possible, wait until you are moving out of state to clean your oven. Then you will not be the next person to turn it on.

It was twenty years, five houses, and four dogs later the next time I broke my foot, but when I fell, I acted as if I had done it the week before.

“I @&#%ing did it again” I yelled from the living room floor. (Since I no longer had young children, I felt that I was justified in being as dramatic as I wanted to be.)

My daughter ran in and immediately wanted to take me to the emergency room (Compassion! Finally!) but I resisted. After about an hour of pretending to be fine while my foot swelled and turned purple, I finally agreed to let her take me. (The dogs were uninjured. Yay!)

There were no rooms available in the ER so I was assigned to “Hall Four”—literally a bed in the hall, with a large number four painted on the wall behind the bed. By then my foot was so big and so purple that every ER employee who went by stopped to gawk and say something along the lines of, “Whoa! Dude! What’d you do?”  So many people came by that after a while I started to suspect that someone had sent an IM saying “Go check out that foot in Hall Four. Dang!”

Walking boot technology had improved a bit over the years, but my attitude about them had not. I was irrationally crabby about the whole thing. A few days later when I went back to work, I was not in the mood to tell even more people that I had tripped over a dog. Even if most of the people at work had not heard the previous story, I was not doing that again.

So I started telling people it was a meteor strike. Genius idea, right? Who’s going to question a meteor strike? Some people laughed; some people gave me a blank stare. That’s pretty much how my days go anyway, so it worked out well.

Moral of the story:  Blame any embarrassing injuries on a meteor strike. No one believes you, but it doesn’t matter because they don’t mind laughing with you. It makes the situation just a little less aggravating.

Five years later, I still maintain that the second one was a meteor strike. “Prove me wrong” is my attitude about it. And that attitude is exactly what I will use to help President Biden:

Me: JOE BIDEN BROKE HIS FOOT PLAYING WITH HIS DOG

Me: #notjustme

Daughter: I bet he didn’t do it twice *three laughing emojis*

Me: Meteor.strike. Get it right

Me: Hey! There WAS a fireball meteor seen on the East Coast a few weeks ago. Clearly Joe is a victim of a meteor strike as well! No dogs involved at all!

Son: That is hilarious. You should be his cabinet member of “bizarre cosmic injuries”

We laughed at the time, but later I realized that it is another genius idea.

I would be great at this job. If there is ever a dog related incident, I am confident that I will be able to find a meteor shower/eclipse/sunspots/Death Star malfunction/whatever to explain it away. It will exonerate the dog as well as shield the President from having to tell an ER physician that it happened again. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, if I am injured (dog related or otherwise) while Secretary I will not use a space related instance to explain it. I will sacrifice my dignity for my country and for dogs everywhere, and just say that I fell off the monkey bars.

Believable. Unprovable. Win/win.

Since most of the major cabinet positions have been filled now, it is a perfect time for President Biden to think about this.

I can start immediately, Mr. President. Just let me know!

A Pleasant Surprise for my writing

It’s time for IWSG!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!


Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.

This month’s question is about reader reactions — have any responses been unexpected or surprising?

I haven’t put much of my writing out in the world yet. Response to my blog has been positive, but being an insecure writer, I naturally attribute that to my blog being read (mostly) by people that love me. My family and friends wouldn’t criticize my writing in public — right?

Occasionally the number of views is higher than I expect. Originally I expected about four views, so it doesn’t exactly require a viral response to beat the expectations, but it is still a pleasant surprise every time.

I was shocked the first time there was a view from another country. Naturally, the insecure part of my brain immediately reminded me that proxy servers are a thing. It simultaneously reminded me that I’m hardly important enough that someone would have to hide that they’re reading my blog. Insecurity wise, those thoughts balanced each other out and became the general “Hey, people I don’t know are reading my blog! Who saw that coming?”

I use all that information in feeble attempts to psyche myself up: “Even people that love me wouldn’t read something they hate”, and “They can’t all be hackers”. Surprisingly, those miniature pep talks do motivate me to write more often.

The feedback from the IWSG has been great for my morale as well — other writers reading my work! I never expected that! Many thanks to all of them.

If anyone is interested in joining in ISWG, you can find the information here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up

Check it out and get your motivation on!

First Drafts Are the Worst

This month’s ISWG prompt is:   Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

You can check out the blog hop (and join!) here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

As I mentioned in my last blog, my main work in progress is an epistolary novel. That is about as “out there” as I am going these days. Not common, but not innovative.

I could be considered somewhat extreme in that I am currently engaged in an endurance writing event:  Most Years Writing the Same Book. I started it when my kids were toddlers. So long ago that The Clapper hadn’t even been invented yet. My kids are now in their twenties. They can ask their cell phones to turn on the lights for them (and send me motivational gifs), but I still haven’t finished writing the book. Twenty-five years and counting — extreme writing games here I come!

In college, the main extreme event was staying up all night trying to finish an assignment on time. I didn’t usually do that for writing assignments, but one time I somehow missed that I had to turn in a rough draft for a research paper.

Up until that point in my life, I’d never really dealt in rough drafts. I usually wrote papers as a first draft/final draft combination. Even if I did turn one in as a rough draft, it was still basically finished. I’d make any minor changes the teacher suggested, remove half the commas, write it out again, and turn it back in. No real editing was involved.

So when the instructor said “Rough draft due tomorrow” I freaked out. I was supposed to have two more weeks, and now it was due the next day! I tried writing like I always had, but after the first few pages I had to face that even if I pulled an all-nighter I would not be able to create the final product in one day. I had no choice but to embrace the “rough” in rough draft. I wrote pitiful, pitiful things like “They got off of the ship.” “They walked ashore.” “Back on the ship.” “Everybody died.”

PITIFUL.

It was the most horrible thing I had ever written, much less turned in for a grade. I was mortified. But I turned it in on time, so the anxious student in me tried to be happy about it.

For the instructor’s sake, I hope that it was just a way to check that students had started the assignment. I hope no one had to actually read that first draft. In any case, I don’t remember if there were any editing suggestions. I just remember wanting to make it better.  

It was the first time that I did a real edit on my writing. And it worked! I crafted sentences that had more than three words. I double checked my commas. I have no idea what the final grade was, but since I have no traumatic memories of it I’m betting it must have been better than the “F minus-minus, who let you in this college anyway?” that the rough draft deserved.

I occasionally used the “write utter crap and then fix it” process on other things, but I pretty much forgot about it once I was no longer writing college papers. Oh sure, there are versions of “write, then edit” everywhere. Even now there’s a sign on my desk that says “First drafts don’t have to be perfect-they just have to be written.” But somehow I never seemed to relate it to my writing process. I didn’t believe that terrible first drafts were a real thing that writers dealt with. I had somehow (read: purposely) forgotten the research paper memory.

I’ve relearned that lesson though. And in honor of The Worst First Draft of All Time, I am changing the sign on my desk to “Everyone died.” That should help keep me on track. I might end up having to retire from the writing endurance games, but I bet my kids will be able to come up with some great gifs as consolation prizes.

There’s more than one way to write a book

This is my first post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. You can check it out (and join!) here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html.

I’ve been checking out the IWSG blogs for a while, but have never felt confident enough to sign up. But this month’s prompt is about reading preferences and writing, and guess what? I have reading preferences and I like to write. I might be able to do this!

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I have always loved reading mysteries. Encyclopedia Brown was fun. I read my Trixie Belden books so much I wore out the covers. But as much as I enjoyed them, neither of those affected me the way Agatha Christie books did. Once I discovered her my whole worldview changed. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have a house in the English countryside. I’d have friends that entered the house through the windows just like the characters in Ms. Christie’s books did. I didn’t realize that when Ms. Christie said someone came in at the window, she was actually referring to patio doors. I really thought the characters climbed up into the windows, and I could not wait to have friends like that. We’d have weekend parties and only use doors when we were dressed for our formal dinners every night.

I didn’t imagine solving murders though. No one ever died when I imagined my country house. No one even sprained an ankle exiting via the window. Sometimes I thought there might be some amnesia type mystery, but never a murder.

I eventually quit thinking that people climbed in windows, but I never did get inspired to write a murder mystery. I get a vicarious thrill when I see how an author handled a clue – “Ooooh, it must have felt good when you put that subtle mayonnaise reference back in chapter three. Excellent.”- but I have no idea how to go about doing that myself.

I am currently working on an epistolary novel, so these days the closest my brain would get to a murder mystery would be along the lines of, “Dear Maude. The vicar was shot. There is a person here investigating it.” I could probably keep up the suspense for three pages if I threw in a description of the ha-ha. (I’m still dreaming about that house in the countryside). The big reveal would probably be, “So it turned out the gardener killed the vicar because of the tea set. Oh right. Just realized I forgot to tell you that the vicar had a tea set that belonged to the Romanovs. Sorry about that. Anyway, they arrested the gardener. Please give the puppy a kiss for me. Love, Victoria.” Not Hercule Poirot-esque at all.

That’s not to say that my reading hasn’t influenced my writing. “Up the Down Staircase” by Bel Kaufman was the first epistolary(ish) book I ever read. It was the first time I noticed “how” a book was written. I remember thinking, “An entire book in letters/memos/etc? Is that even allowed?”

It also seemed like it must have been fun to write. I know now that might not have been entirely the case. Writing is not always fun. But the idea that writing could be fun was an exciting idea I had not considered up to that point. That one fun book in an unusual format captured my imagination in a way that all those murder mysteries had not.

Hang on-a fun book in whatever format I want? Sounds great. I will definitely finish writing that soon.

~

I’m always interested in an epistolary book, so If you have any recommendations please let me know. Murder mystery recommendations are also always welcome.

Bingo!

Just for fun, here are the results from this week’s Kick Ass Bingo card:

I got bingo! Yay for me! I kick ass!

Since the week is not technically over I could theoretically get a few more squares, so I left those blank. You never know when one of my dogs will do something totally crazy and/or adorable. And if someone starts a conversation about Doctor Who, I could get the TV quote square and the time travel square at the same time!

The ones with “FAIL” are either the ones that I was unable to avoid, or the ones that I know that I will not accomplish by tonight:

  • Turns out you don’t need a hotkey for an em dash (figuring that out got me the “research anything” square! Yay!) so I won’t be creating one.
  • Write 3000 words is not going to happen even if I include this blog post.
  • Chips for dinner–Note to those worried about my nutrition: the meals were rice, beans, and cheese, but with tortilla chips as the eating utensils–sort of like nachos. I did not have bags of potato chips for dinner (this week).
  • No clod incidents–I failed this one very early in the week when I cut my finger while trying to clean a hand saw. Bummer. But considering all the potential clod incidents—cutting myself with the chainsaw, falling off of the ladder, getting knocked out by a tree branch—a cut from a hand saw is practically a victory for me. Bingo-wise the day was a victory. I didn’t overreact to the injury—just bandaged it up and kept going—and I remembered to put the ladder away. That’s two squares! Woot!

Since I have kicked ass this week, I am now going to reward myself with a movie marathon. No guilt. I deserve it! I hope all of you are also rewarding yourselves accordingly. Feel free to share details in the comments.

Peace and love(and ass-kicking!),

Lori

It’s All About Us

Almost as soon as I posted that “space time continuum” would be on your Lori bingo card (see: “But Is It Really Cool?” blog post), I started thinking about a bingo themed blog post. What else would be on a Lori bingo card? Would other people have a different idea of what should be on it?

I sent family and friends a text asking “what are words/events/things that you associate with me? Just the first things that come to your mind.”

***Note:  Thanks to everyone who replied. I appreciate it!*** 

My original plan was to use the answers to make two bingo cards—one with my entries and one with theirs. Discuss how we see ourselves vs how others see us, etc.

I couldn’t make it work. Because I had not told anyone it was for bingo, many of the replies were not “bingo friendly.” For example,

  • Introspective – How can someone tell if I’m being introspective or just trying to remember the capital of Latvia? (I’m still studying for Jeopardy).
  •  Liquid lasagna -Yes, I once used so much sauce in a lasagna that it came out like tomato noodle soup. I had to serve it in bowls. It’s one of those things people never (let you) forget. Even so, it wouldn’t be good for a bingo square because it will probably never happen again.
  • Intelligent/smart (thanks again, everyone!) – Ok, I’m smart, but is it observable? Maybe, if we’re watching Jeopardy together and I remember that Riga is the capital of Latvia. Otherwise, you’re much more likely to see me lock the gate, close the garage, and only then realize that the ladder is still in the backyard. People rarely ask about random capital cities, but I did the ladder thing just last week.
  • Over-reactive – This is an outrageous lie. Clearly someone is trying to sabotage bingo so no one wins.

Due to the lack of bingo friendly responses I didn’t have enough information to fill out two bingo cards–not even if I relented and included over-reactive. So I set the idea aside for a while, hoping that something would occur to me.

Months later (procrastination should have been on my list) I still had nothing, but I wasn’t ready to give up altogether. People had taken the time to answer my question–it would be rude to not at least try to do something with their answers. Not to mention that by this point those people were probably thinking I’d only been fishing for compliments. I dragged out the lists and tried again.

The two card option was still not going to work, so I thought maybe I could tweak the lists to come up with one card. That sort of worked. I did come up with a card, but it didn’t seem like it would be particularly interesting to anyone. It was barely interesting to me. The only way it might be fun is if A–people followed me around all day, and B– it was turned into a drinking game. “She sneezed! Bingo! You have to do a shot!” 

Yeah, not so much. 

I finally gave up. Nobody would get anything particularly useful out of it, and honestly, it was just too dull. Pointless and dull is a pretty good description of 2020, but who needs more of that? Instead, most of us would probably like some encouragement and fun. So I came up with something else: “Kick Ass Bingo.”

It’s a did it/avoided it/overcame it list crossed with a bingo card. Instead of just checking items off of a list, we mark a square for every item we accomplish.

Items on my “Kick Ass” card for this week:

  • Mow the lawn
  • Text a picture of the dogs
  • Do something  charitable
  • Avoid cooking fiascos – no liquid lasagna, or similar
  • Make someone laugh
  • Take the dogs for a walk
  • Sneeze – my life’s equivalent of  the FREE SPACE
  • Dance
  • Go to bed by midnight  
  • Research anything
  • Avoid overreacting at least once
  • Quote a movie/tv show/book – “Not the droids you’re looking for!”
  • Star gaze
  • Stay up late reading
  • Write 3000 words
  • Equivalent of remembering the ladder before closing the garage
  • Avoid cussing until after ? – (timing to be determined)
  • Have chips for dinner only twice
  • Cry– sad cry, laugh cry, sappy commercial cry, whatever
  • No clod incidents – “I didn’t break anything (or myself) this week!”
  • Prompt a “you’re not from around here, are you?” type comment – this usually involves my supposed accent
  • Procrastinate
  • Mention time travel or the space-time continuum
  • Create a hot key for an em dash
  • Sing at the top of my lungs

You can put some actual goals on your card if you want that motivation factor— I included a few on mine— but the main point of the card is to remind us to celebrate ourselves and the things we do.

You can yell “BINGO!” when you win, but I think it’s much more fun to yell “I KICK ASS!” while doing a victory dance. Your choice.

Once we have kicked ass (and we will!) we get to reward ourselves. Double rewards for getting two lines! After all, not everyone can do what we do.  We kick ass! We are amazing! And that is not an overreaction.     

But Is It Really Cool?

Philosophical question: Can I really be cool with my nerdiness?

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally at peace with my book-reading, word-philosophizing self. Embrace the geekiness, that’s me. But is cool really the word to use here? Cool and nerd have traditionally been opposites, so trying to be cool and nerdy at the same time could theoretically cause a paradox so big it could tear a hole in the space/time continuum.

(You saw the geeky thing above right? That was blatant foreshadowing indicating that at some point you’d be marking “space/time continuum” on your blog bingo card.)

So can you (I) be both cool and nerdy at the same time?

Of course!

The most obvious, if a bit boring, argument for it is that “cool” no longer has to mean you sit at the popular kids’ table at lunch, or even that it’s literally a bit chilly at that table. “Cool” has evolved to mean, “I am at one with the present circumstances and do not let them bother me.” So yes, in the most basic sense it is possible to be cool while the popular kids call you a nerd. It’s barely a paradox at this point.

(Note: I can’t tell you why someone would be pleased to sit with a group of people who think discussing grammar is odd. All I’m saying is that it can happen without endangering the space/time continuum.)

Literary paradoxes are fairly common. They’re used to help make a point or to capture the reader’s interest. Two often quoted lines are “I must be cruel to be kind,” by Williams Shakespeare, and “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” by Charles Dickens.

No danger there. In fact, the examples above show that literary paradoxes can actually be a bit boring. Shut up already, Hamlet, we get it — everyone must pay for this outrage. Make up your mind already, Dickens, or I’m closing this book until less confusing times.

Paradoxes can be fun though, even the ones that aren’t strictly literary. One of my favorites is the video “Hip to Be a Square” from the tv show Sesame Street. (A spoof on the Huey Lewis and the News song.) In the video a square sings that it’s ok to be a square — all shapes are “hip” in his neighborhood. That’s a great lesson even if most kids probably don’t understand the paradox in being “hip” and “square” at the same time. But what makes this video paradox perfection is that the singing square and his square friends are in a rock band! Being “square” and in a rock band simultaneously is not possible — ask anyone! The video is a paradox with paradox subtext! Genius! Look out space/time continuum!

As great as that video is, the best part about paradoxes (at least if you’re a word philosopher) is that you can make them up at anytime. “I’m on-board with being shipwrecked with Indiana Jones,”— made that one up while I was on hold with the cable company. Try it on your next road trip or while waiting for a table at a restaurant. Show them that you’re cool with your nerdiness. Best paradox wins.