Today I received a phone call from an old chum who was seeking a bit of writing advice. To me, giving advice seems a bit too pretentious, though I mention the things I've learned from time to time. There's nothing more discouraging than finding out a writer you look up to is discouraging, and this really applies to a prominent figure in any aspiration. Some people are too negative. Some people are know-it-alls.
So if there is one piece of advice I believe in whole-heartedly, it's be yourself.
If you're thinking that's a cliche message, you're already on the wrong path.
1. Meeting people is key to success in the publishing game.
You can't force this. When I went to the Midwest Writers Conference (#mww12), I saw a lot of writers jumping to the point. Lucky for me, I interned for Kelsey Timmerman and ended up making a lifelong friend (or acquaintance with hook-ups, though I don't see it that way) and weaseled my way into the conference as an intern.
What I learned was to be natural. Hang out. Talk. Whatever. We're all human beings, and that's what we look for first in people, despite any prior motives. Someone who is "real" is much more appealing than someone trying to pitch an idea. You never know when these opportunities will arise, but you know your goals, and more importantly, you know who you are - So work with it! If you end up at the same restaurant, grab a drink and make conversation. If they're interested in what you do after that, they'll find a way of getting it out of you.
Warning: Be aware they may ask you to "pitch" your idea, though you think you're lost in conversation. I made this mistake when chatting with Dana Kaye. Be on your toes!
2. Don't try to fit in.
Being the awkward kid rarely works, but don't blend in. Of course, you don't want to be too far off in your own little world. Are you the kind of person who knows these tidbits about things, as though you're waiting for your turn on Jeopardy!? Then do that. It's you, and there's nothing you can design that will ever be as authentic.
I receive criticism from others all the time for writing horror. Look, I love horror. I love to write horror stories. I know horror. So I go with it. And guess what, other people might be looking for that.
3. You are Your Audience.
It's important to see your idea in a realistic perspective, but at the same time, think about what lead you to liking whatever it is you like. If you're writing a certain way just because it sells, most people will see through your façade . For instance, I love horror. I write horror. There are other people just like m, and they might be the audience you've been searching for all along.
People who don't like horror, will only mock horror. Your audience (if you're a horror writer in this instance) are those who love horror. See how it works?
Be organic. Who you are as a person might be your very best selling point.
Links You Might Enjoy:
There are countless misconceptions about the writer, such as
But no stereotype is more promient than the depressed, starving, and struggling artist.
There's a notion of writers being these lonely - and often frail - individuals who hunkers over a keyboard, while bumming money from family and friends for the sake of the occasional warm dinner. Granted, many new writers find there isn't much money to be had.
Twenty-odd years ago, it was possible to live off of writing. We all the know the names of authors who made it big with their books and held onto a publisher like many people do with a steady career. Unlike these career holders, however, writers don't often switch ambitions, which may the very reason writing is so daunting. There's a point when you know you're committed to the craft forever.
And as for making it big, in this age of informational clusters, almost everyone considers themselves a writer, and for that very reason, breaking into the industry is equally, if not even more so, difficult.
What's different now, is your entrance to the professional writing world does not guarantee longevity. One book doesn't mean two, and so on. Is it any coincidence there are so many authors betting their chips on a series or one high concept? Probably not. It's fluff the bank or spend even more endless nights at the desk with a blank page and a bowl of ramen.
But does all the aforementioned mean the writer is suffering? Like any other life-long goal, it's frustrating, it's tiring, and it takes every last bit of energy you have.
For a writer, days can be longer or shorter (and just because you write doesn't mean you'll be read; there's much "business" to be attended to), you're already at home, and sometimes you can't sleep until that big idea is down on paper. And then there are revisions.
Again, are writers suffering?
Hate online translators? You'll hate this one more.
An article in The Guardian recently claimed Google will expand it's translation operations to new heights: translating poetry.
When I first heard about this, I had to find out more. So I Googled it.
I came across this Guardian article, and man was I relieved.
At first, I thought Google was going to figure out the meaning of every poem. (Wouldn't that be something?)
Luckily enough, all Google is trying to do is translate poetry from one language to another, which proposes a yin-yang of poetic hopes and woes.
Admittedly, I don't write much poetry because I'm terrible at it. Most novelists think poets are lazy writers, but trust me, that's not always the case. The write things that sound interesting, yet I can never seem to figure them out. I guess that might be the point, and what I loved most about my poetry workshops were the arguments. Some discussions tended to ignite within a matter of seconds. Who knows the meaning besides the poet, anyway?
But I digress.
In another battle for the title of Super Editor, major Internet players are fighting to translate everything.
This is good because they might actually hire some people to translate the poems, and researching foreign poems won't be a strenuous.
This is bad because the prestige of being a book/poetry translator might disintegrate. Also - Have you ever come across a bad web-translation,like, perhaps, when you cheated your way through Spanish class? Imagine what such an oops could do to the message of a poem.
Maybe I'll start writing in Simlish and see how Google handles that.
How do you feel about this?
The Benefits of Not Being Able to Focus
Here's a brain teaser:
What do Hunter S. Thompson, Tennessee Williams, Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway, and Dorothy Parker have in common?
They're all famous for being writers and drunkards.
Sure, it's an easy question. One that's more complex, however, is why do writers like to work under the influence of alcohol?
Several new studies might provide the answers.
Wired released a blog last week that reviewed how our brains operate under certain damages, while we're groggy, and when we're drunk. Tests given to subjects featured basic math, word association, analyzing, etc.
Many test-takers who suffered no brain damage, were wide-awake, and were sober faced some difficulty in the more creative endeavors. For example:
Move one line to make this equation true:
III = III + III
To cheat, go ahead an visit the hyperlink. You'll have to think out of the box to solve this one. But those with a limited ability to pay attention were able to solve the problem without headache.
Why? The study shows our imagination might be at its prime when we cannot focus, which also applies to alcohol.
At the peak of drunkenness, subjects were able to remain calm and consider all non-present and irrelevant data. If you've ever encountered a question in which there were a million possibilities, but none of them were choices A through D, then you might do well with creative problems.
Now I answer what this might have to do with writing - or rather, how to write when you're drunk.
I do not encourage people to see alcohol as an answer to all their problems in life, but I think it could help with the creative process of mapping out a story.
Let's face it, if you try to write a novel while smashed, the results may not be favorable. I'm no neuroscientist, but I would argue the conventions of writing such as structure and pacing are for the sober and awake mind. However, coming up with your story while drunk may be serendipitous.
The inability to focus allows us to think outside of the box; to consider all the options available and seemingly unavailable. Our minds can explore, and if we know the direction of a story, we might be able to construct one from the inside out a lot better.
While you're in the much recommended "planning stage" of a story, don't struggle getting started. If you have an idea of how the story will flow, grab a pint and scribble down everything that comes to mind. Perhaps even brainstorm with a drinking buddy (you know you've had some wild conversations whilst intoxicated, so why not see if they're truly interesting.) When you're sober and awake again, try to filter through your thoughts, see what sticks and still makes sense, and then construct your story.
It's been awhile since alcohol has been near my writing area, but maybe it's time. Maybe it's not. Never been much of a heavy drinker, but I sure like the works of the writers who are or have been.
Someone should read this blog (responsibly) drunk and tell me what they got from it. Til next time:
Ziggy Zaggy, Ziggy Zaggy, Oi, Oi, Oi!
In Excluded, Mandel Marrel operates under two versions of fear stimuli, both rational and irrational.
First off, horror stories would be insignificant if they couldn't make us cringe, and they work based on the fear of death. In some cases, one fear stimulus derives from an environmental threat to a person's life. If they encounter a situation in which they might end up dying, there are certain rational reactions to the situation. In other words, our instincts might lead us to survival.
In the beginning of Excluded, Marrel makes a choice which ends up saving his life. This is his rational fear of death, but after he enters the infamous Douglas Residence, his paranoia takes over.
The second fear of death is irrational. This stimulus causes someone to act instinctively to a situation which is unlikely to result in death. Therefore, any action taken during this form of psychological terror ultimately puts the fearful and others at risk. For example, someone holding a gun while they are afraid but not at risk, might end up shooting an innocent bystander without justification.
The metamorphosis seen in Marrel through the novel nearly follows a true psychological response to both types of fear, although that was never the intention. A constant threat of death pushes Marrel to the brink of sanity, and soon he fears the worst from safer situations. His fear is in overdrive, which only means the worst for the other five occupants of the Douglas Residence.
There is a way to control irrational fears, and that is to break them apart and realize the threat is not real. Fear is anxiety, and anxieties prevent us from making good decision and furthermore restrict our senses and instincts. Our behaviors become sloppy and dangerous to ourselves and everyone around us.
If the fearful spends too much time trying to convince themselves the fear isn't real, then their attention is taken off of the situation, which is an open door to any lingering entities of death.
As the fear anxiety strengthens, our defenses kick in. Our ego takes control, and overtime it may become impossible to distinguish between what is real and what is simply in our minds. Put an ax in the hands of someone with high fear anxiety, and you can pretty much determine what'll happen next.
When fear takes over, we can either become sensitized to it, which is an increased response, or we can become habituated, which is a decreased response. Habituation takes place during nightmares and while watching horror movies. It would take something drastic to turn a nightmare into a night terror or make a horror movie frightening in a unique way.
In the Douglas Residence, there is not change for habituation, which puts Marrel in a permanent state of paranoia. Just as he reaches the limits of his fears, things become worse, and his limits are broken. And so on.
For Marrel, the choice is either remain overshadowed by fear, or immerse himself in it until he is the catalyst of fear itself.
Check out Excluded this Spring/Summer to see how Marrel handles the two types of fear.
Last summer when I visited New York City, I discovered something that steered me through the darkest of psychological storms ever since.
When you're a mid-west punk amongst other mid-west punks, you recognize a general way of thinking: go to school, maybe go to more school, get a job, and be happy with all that. But what happens when you're a punk with a different line of thinking? What happens when you don't want to sag your head and hold your dreams just as low? What if you're not in the mood to obey?
You might end up singled out. You might hear the snickers from across the room. And all this might bring you down, especially if you're of the artistic persuasion.
With these things in mind, I wandered around the vast streets of New York City, looking for whatever it was I might have been looking for, and I think I found it.
There were thousands of people pursuing writing, painting, filming, etc. There was a such a variety of dreams, so to speak, who didn't believe they need to belong to the hive simply because they were a bee.
And all this inspired me.
It's a big world out there, so when you face reject and succumb to hate and doubt, remember you're only in one place. They say the sky's the limit, but that's untrue. The universe, or at least our understanding of it, is always expanding - just like our choices in life.
Like anything else, the sky is hard to reach, so distant and daunting. But once you reach the sky, there's the atmosphere to break and an enormous universe to explore. Instead of keeping your head in the clouds, keep it with the stars and interstellar dust. Keep in wandering further and further, and make sure it's out of reach for anyone to grab and bring down. There are no barriers, and this is what I learned in New York.
This one couldn't wait for Tuesday, and I'll keep it short and sweet so you can get back to game day.
To qualify as a Game Day Jerk, here's whatcha gotta do:
3. Act as belligent as possible and as early as possible.
Oh yes, for whatever reason we Americans believe it's socially acceptable to get plastered every big game, every year. Which is okay; I like any excuse to party as much as the next guy.
But how about we wait until it's actually game day? Too many people pre-game days before the coin toss, which means they haven't committed themselves to all of their duties prior to the big game party. For instance, you'll need snacks, drinks, etc., but how can you buy them if you're too drunk to drive to the grocer?
Sounds like a common sense, but for many, a little alcohol ain't gonna stop nothin'.
These jerks find themselves stumbling through the aisles, screaming at customers and workers, and ultimately making many regret the Super Bowl even exists.
Oops, did I use a trademarked name in my blog? Oh no I did- ent. More on that in point 2.
And of course, drunken fans have a very extensive vocabulary:
2. Overzealous Corporate Sponsors:
These guys are big fans of the Super Bowl (oops) for only one reason: $
Now this isn't a valid reason to hate big corporations, although their morals, values, and ethics tend to be reason enough. It's because you can't even use the word SUPER BOWL without Pepsi or Budweiser getting pissed off.
How annoying are those "game day", "super game", and "super day" adds? It's just two words.
And along with these two types of Game Day Jerks are those who take football a little too seriously.
1. Stupid Super Fans
Today at the grocer, a small girl and her family entered the parking lot holding a Patriots balloon in Indiana, which is a no-no (Does anyone like Boston besides Bostonians?)
And one of our category 3 jerks snatched the balloon and stomped it down.
Why? Because he's a Giants fan.Don't get me wrong, I've got money on them too.
But why is he a Giants fan? Because in Indiana people like family. And "Manning" is all anyone needs to hear.
Now I know I'm a little pretentious in these blogs, especially with the family bit, but why the hell would you pop a little girl's balloon? These a special circle in hell for these types of jerks. And they cost $3.99 - $5.99 (I wonder if Mylar's a corporate sponsor of the game).
Here's what I suggest:
3. Be responsible with your drinking.
It's a big game. It's fun. We get it. Just be cool.
2. No corporation should stop people from saying "Super Bowl." Sure, if you're not a sponsor, you shouldn't use it as a promotional technique, but don't get pissed off at the common-folk. We're not making any money by spitting out those two words.
1. Light yourself on fire if you EVER, EVER pop a little girl's balloon, toy, etc., all because it boasts a team you don't support. I have no sympathy for such idiots.
That's it for now. Enjoy this video and the big game - You know, the SUPER BOWL!
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.