“That would be so much more fun to work on…”

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post.

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.

You can join here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

October 6 question – In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

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I don’t have a lot to say on that subject, so I’m going to write about tangent projects and haiku.

While working on another project, I had an idea for a silly haiku book. You know how it is—your work in progress has hit a point where you are just unimpressed, and then some tangent projects start poking your brain. “Hey! This chapter is going nowhere. How about you write a book of haiku? It’ll be great!” My brain convinced me it would be fun, so I set aside my novel (again) and worked on the haiku book.

I did rein myself in after a few days and got back to the novel. (What a mature writer moment. Who saw that coming?) The haiku book idea is filed away for future use. I don’t foresee there being a big market for it, so it’s just going to be a “look at this fun thing I did” project.

I read once that the goal of haiku is to illustrate a particular moment, preferably something in nature. I came across that bit of information about 30 years after being taught the 5-7-5 format, so my brain has never been hard wired to that “moment in nature” philosophy. (Haiku philosophy! So cool!) My haiku tend to be on the less “artistic” side, but I don’t let that get in the way of haiku fun.

Though I love the challenge of finding those perfect 17 syllables, I read recently that the 5-7-5 format isn’t as important as capturing the essence of the moment/idea, so you can be flexible with structure as well as content. Poetry is subjective, ideas evolve, etc. so you do you in your haiku.

(Note: I was proofreading this and realized that last bit in the previous sentence has seven syllables. My haiku senses are tingling! I will probably have a new haiku to post tomorrow.)

I wrote the haiku below years ago after spending two days making up haiku for just about everything that was happening. I think it started as a friendly haiku challenge and then I could not stop. I don’t remember the exact details, but I seem to remember someone saying, “Are you going to do this forever?”

Help! I’m trapped in a

Haiku factory and I

Can’t find the exit!

It’s one of my favorites. Very meta.

Anyone else get distracted by tangent projects?  Any other haiku lovers?

The Philosophy of Success

This post is for the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story.

You can check out more details here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up

September 1 question – How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

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Ooooh- being invited to philosophize about word meanings! The universe is shining on me today!

Success is all about the mindset, right?

When I was about twelve, inspired by an author interview, I found the place in the library stacks where my future book would be shelved. For ages, that was my view of writing success—a book in the school library. I had no plan, but I didn’t worry about it. It didn’t even occur to me that I might need a plan. My book being on a library shelf was just a thing that was going to happen. Success, baby!

I’m not sure when that version of success faded, (though now that I am reminded of it, it would be pretty cool to have a book in a library) but these days success is as simple as being able to write a few hundred words a day, or even coming up with a perfect synonym. Woohoo!

It would be nice to say that this modest version of success is due to my new, zen-like outlook on life, but I doubt that’s the case. Though I am measurably more chill lately, I suspect the new definition of success is more due to lowering my expectations. What can I say? Life pressures wore me down.

It’s not a really a problem, though. Recognizing the day-to-day successes keeps me from getting so discouraged that I give up writing altogether. I could recycle the library book version of success as a long-term goal, but it might make more sense to just shoot to finish that first draft. (This should be a no-brainer, but my sixth-grade brain is in control right now. Don’t judge.) I’ll have to think about it. In the meantime, I’m going to celebrate the opportunity to be philosophical about definitions. I’m feeling like a winner already!

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.