When You Need A Moratorium on Learning

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I’m not sure about you, but that is a horrifying thought, especially for someone like me. I love to learn.

People who can’t answer a simple question and shrug, drive me insane. Is their curiosity gene malfunctioning? That’s really the only thing I can imagine. Who wouldn’t want to learn? Who cares if it’s a small thing like what aisle three houses beyond shampoo? It’s a good feeling when you can save a time-crunched soul ten minutes of searching by telling them that lip balm is also in aisle three.

Or maybe the learning is a little more in-depth: someone wants to know is it St. Petersburg Russia or Leningrad Russia? Well, it was originally St. Petersburg, then it was Leningrad and now it’s St. Petersburg again. Wait, I learned something else! I Googled to get dates of the name changes and low-and-behold, it was even named Petrograd at one time.

Here’s the snippet from www.encyclopedia.com : From 1712 until 1918, St. Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire. Peter I (the Great) began the construction of the city as his “Window on the West” in 1703. During the subsequent three centuries, St. Petersburg was identified with the three major forces shaping Russian history: Westernization, industrialization, and revolution. The city was renamed Petrograd in 1914, at the beginning of World War I, because it sounded less German, was then named Leningrad after the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, and again became St. Petersburg in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Confusingly, the surrounding region (oblast) is still known as Leningrad.

See, I’m a nut when it comes to learning, things like this make me giddy.

So you’re probably wondering why a learning freak like me would recommend a moratorium on learning.

I recommend putting a halt to learning when you’re using it as a crutch.

I’ll use myself as a prime example of this.

Reading and writing are my joys (outside of family and friends).  However, I didn’t attend a college for a degree in journalism, nor did I attend for an MFA. Truth be told I don’t hold a degree, although I did complete a year and a half of college with the intent of getting a degree in Business Administration.

So when the thought of writing for publication, and as a means to bring in some extra money took root in my brain stem, I did what I always do. Hit the library and stocked up on all the books I could carry on the subject. And I read and read and read.

That was when I started freelancing. I like freelancing because it opens my mind to all the hidden areas I wouldn’t normally know about. Before freelancing I knew nothing about catalog copy or blogs or web content. I’ve gotten to talk to doctors, veterinarians, nutritionists, business owners, families of extraordinary pets, and more. Freelancing is a life-long-learner’s dream job.

Then I assumed there was more I needed to know, so I signed up for some online courses in journalism and other freelancing arenas.

But I also wanted to write fiction. So of course, I went back to the library and stocked up on books and read and jumped in. Then I got stuck. So I found a few online courses and signed up for those.

Then I got back to writing. Quickly got stuck and checked out more books and then I began searching for more online courses.

Thankfully, God has a way of leading me. It may seem harsh to others, but he knows I’m kind of stubborn and blind, so he gives me hard lessons. This time our finances were stretched thinner than a pea-sized-dollop of lotion over a six-foot, eight hundred pound body. So courses were out of the question.

Not to be deterred, I began searching for free courses (there are tons out there). Yes, some of those thunderclaps on blue sky days are God smacking his forehead in exasperation with me. Sorry.

After taking signing up for an unfathomable amount of courses, I learned pretty much what I learned the first few times. For about a week I bemoaned the issues that brought about the tight finances, they were holding me back from taking courses I could learn from.

Then I realized, every time I’m working on fiction and hit a spot where I can’t identify what exactly is wrong I start searching for courses. Because obviously, the problem would be fixable if I learned what it was. And there must be a course or a book out there that would circle my problem and tell me how to fix it.

No there isn’t. And that’s when I need to step away from learning and focus on solving the problem myself.

And that’s why I recommend putting a moratorium on learning; if you’re using it to avoid a problem that only you can solve.

What’s your favorite avoidance maneuver?

 

A Writer’s Carnival of Fear

“Ladies and Gentlemen, step right up. Come in and see the whirling fears in a writer’s mind. ”

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Fun carnival, not to be mistaken for the dark one in a writer’s mind.

Writers are like most people and some are more confident than others. However, most writers I meet are a lot like me. We question, doubt, and squirm over nearly everything.

This post is for those who question so much and wonder if they are alone with their fears. I assure you, you are not.

This post is also for those who need to know there is someone more neurotic than them.  Yes, I am, and there is probably someone more so than myself (I hope).

And this post is for those who want to confirm that some writers, like myself, are nuts. Yes, but at least we make life interesting.

Without further ado, let me take you through the curtain into the dark depths of my brain (If I were Barnum and Baily I could be profit from this horror trip). Fear not, I promise to share some of my coping techniques…they may not be normal, but they work.

One of my biggest fears is when I submit anything, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, whether it’s sent via email or a submission form. The fears run the gamut from: “It’s not good enough,” to “I’m targeting the wrong market.” And of course, they encompass everything in between.

My coping technique for submitting is a pep talk before I prepare cover letters and format the piece for each different place. Once the piece is ready to go, I take a few deep breaths, stand up, push my chair out of my path, hit send, and then run like the wind away from my computer. Every time. I wish I was joking.

Another fear, is that the piece I have submitted is so horrendous, I’m going to get black-balled from the writing industry via some full front page ad on every newspaper. The whole world will know I suck.

I really don’t have a coping mechanism for this one. I just keep reminding myself that it hasn’t happened yet to anyone else, so why should it be different for me?

Then there’s the fear of rejection. And the actual rejection itself. Rejection sucks. I know it’s not personal. I know it could be a bad fit. But the fear resides.

So how do I cope with this? I have my husband to thank for this option. He reminded me, “Decca turned down The Beatles.” That is what I tell myself. Even John Lennon and Paul McCartney got the cold shoulder.

There’s also a fear of acceptance. When I do get accepted, I cheer. Then I promptly, sit down and freak out. “Holy snot! Everyone is going to know I’m a fraud. There’s no way I can do this piece justice.”

The best way I cope with this is to knuckle down and do it. As much as I fear sending something that sucks, I fear missing a deadline more. I refuse to end up on an editor’s “scum” list for not producing material.

Those are the big fears. All the others are annoying, but small. There will always be a fear that the writing sucks, the editing made something worse, or the ending doesn’t tie together.

My best recommendation is to accept the fear. Don’t succomb to it. Keep the ideas flowing, keep writing, and keep pushing the fear aside. If you let fear take hold, it’s like moss covering a rock and preventing it from rolling. Worse case, fear makes the heart beat faster. That’s got to to burn a few calories, right?

What are the ways you deal with fear? What mantras or coping techniques do you use?

We All Need a Partner

Brothers, Competition, Support System. They push each other to be better.
Brothers, Competition, Support System. They push each other to be better.

I took my twin boys out driving the other day. Twin A had a really good day. Twin B had a fairly off day. As twins their dynamic is always fascinating. They compete with each other and it serves them well. They work hard to edge out each other out. However, they also have a natural support system. They know when to stop competing and start encouraging instead.

As I watched the boys do their competitive/encouragement merry-go-round it dawned on me how much we all need a partner Continue reading “We All Need a Partner”

Are You Disrespectful of Your Readers or Fellow Writers?

Do Not Enter

 

Do you really care about your readers? Do you care about the writers and/or readers who attend your conferences, workshops, and author readings? Let’s find out.

Everyone has an opinion. That’s good. Life would be miserably boring if we all thought alike. There would be no differences. It’s why politics is such a hot-bed of chaos.

Sadly, over the past twelve years, elections have become more and more volatile. Couple that hatred with the ease of spouting off on social media and everyone is lambasting everyone.

Three Ways You’re Disrespecting Your Reader: Continue reading “Are You Disrespectful of Your Readers or Fellow Writers?”

A New Library In Town: One Stop For Writers

If there’s one thing all writers agree on, it’s that writing is TOUGH. The road to publication twists and dips as we learn the craft, hone our abilities, create stories we’re passionate about, fight discouragement, educate ourselves about the industry…and then start the process all over again as we realize there’s room to improve. But you know what? If you are like me, you wouldn’t have it any other way. Continue reading “A New Library In Town: One Stop For Writers”

Job Scoop: Pizza Delivery Driver

IMage Credit: Clarita from www.morguefile.com
IMage Credit: Clarita from www.morguefile.com

This is a new segment to my blog. I hate my characters to have the same old jobs and yet, I struggle to locate new positions where their work can be either a hindrance or a necessary component to the plot. Let’s face it, if I have a character stumbling across dead bodies on a regular basis she can’t work in Accounts Receivable tucked into a corner every day, she needs to be on the move. Likewise, I can’t have a working mom busting out two minimum wage jobs a day living in a high rise in Manhattan. And she can’t keep missing work if she wants to keep a roof overhead. Can you tell that’s a pet peeve that some characters seem to live paycheck to paycheck, yet are off running all over Dodge trying to solve a mystery?

These posts will cover different job positions, misconceptions (there may be a mobile Accts. Rec. job out there, I don’t know), the most typical drama the job yields – let’s face it every novel has to have conflict, and what we all need to know the most – Where would we be most likely to find the dead body?

Today’s Job Scoop is Pizza Delivery Driver.   Continue reading “Job Scoop: Pizza Delivery Driver”

Yes, You Do Have Time

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I love encouragement. I also love the truth. Which makes it hard for me to trust a lot of the encouragement I receive because when people are supportive they tend to do little white lies or omissions. As in, “It’s okay you didn’t get to your writing, it’s hard to write with kids around.” When actually they’re thinking, weren’t you just sitting on the bleachers chatting up Queen Gossip? You could have used that twenty minutes better. The omissions sound like, “I love the characters.” When they’re thinking, Wow! This scene sucks.

Every once in a while I wish I had a leather jacket, black jeans, and kick-ass boot wearing cheerleader. Someone who will be supportive, but call out the rough stuff solely because she has faith I can fix the problem.

Today, I’ll share my internal kick-ass cheerleader with you. She doesn’t come out often. She lets me fall flat on my face and then waits for me to stand up and slap on a few Band-Aids before setting me straight, Continue reading “Yes, You Do Have Time”

Reading a Book with Similarities to One You’re Writing?

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I had an epiphany the other night. One of those light-bulb, head-smacking moments that seems so obvious, but for whatever reason I was too blind to notice before now.

I was reading a novel and noticed similarities between the book I was reading and the book I am writing. Normally, this would discourage me. I have a couple of manuscripts in various draft stages. One is still a first draft, unfinished. One is a finished first draft that needs a complete transplant of plot, characters, and setting to save it. One is an outline. I have learned many things from each one. One will never, ever, see the light of day. One I have figured out how to salvage and will go through it when I’m done with the current one. The outline, well, that’s up in the air.

With this current WIP, I’m thrilled. The finer nuances that go into weaving a coherent story are clicking into place. Small details that I was blocked to before, now make sense. 

That novel that will never, ever see the light of day? When I was working on that one I read a book that had a few similar ideas. I cringed and put myself down – I was way out of my league.

I get it now. It’s not bad to see another book with similarities to your own, it’s encouraging. I had three main concerns while writing this novel: Continue reading “Reading a Book with Similarities to One You’re Writing?”