When I Was a Kid I Believed…

Kids are wonderfully imaginative, intelligent, creative little creatures who have a tendency to amaze you at every twist and turn. They also, on occasion, can be dumb as stumps. Kids will often go from doing something quite smart and skillful, to doing or saying something that can only elicit a shake of the head and a, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

And I’m not picking on my daughter this time. This one is all on me.

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Behold the face of childish ignorance.

When I was a kid I believed that…

…if I held my legs together as tight as I could for long enough, the need to go pee would magically go away.

…if I peeled too much skin (I had a creepy obsession with peeling sunburnt skin, or the edges of cuts and scraps), I would dig right through to the bone.

…the lyrics to “I Saw Her Standing There” were actually “I’d never dance with a number“. Lord knows what I thought that was supposed to mean.

…if you ever took your wedding ring off for any reason, it meant that you were no longer married.

…when people told me how much I looked like my father they were being horribly mean because they were saying that I looked like a man.

…if you threw away any perishable gift (like flowers) you were ungrateful and unappreciative. I had slight hoarder tendencies as a kid…and as an adult.

…tattoos were applied by dipping a needle (like a sewing needle) in ink and pricking the skin one dot of color at a time.

…you couldn’t think of a relative as being attractive because it was creepy and wrong.

…there was absolutely nothing wrong at all with eating Mr Noodles for lunch every single day.

…if you filled the tub past the overflow all the extra water poured down into the bathroom wall.

…fish in any form other than rectangular breaded sticks was absolutely disgusting.

…spaghetti, ravioli, macaroni, and rigatoni was all amazing, but lasagna was gross.

…my house was haunted by the ghosts of previous owners, despite the fact that the only other owners the house had ever had were very much alive.

…my next-door neighbors were the “Smileys” (their last name was Smalley).

…there were ancient secret compartments and tunnels hidden in my house (which was less than three decades old, by the way).

…becoming whatever you wanted to be when you grew up was as simple as deciding what you wanted to be and being it.

What about you? What crazy, silly, and downright foolish things did you believe when you were a kid?

From Crazy Clever to Sorrowful Sobbing in One Short Step

Kids are funny little creatures because of the way their minds work. They’re constantly learning, absorbing information, and figuring out the process of cause and effect, and they can use all this knowledge they’re perpetually gaining to be extraordinarily clever. Yet at the same time they can be easily confused, scared of the unknown, and tricked by illusion, which can make them seem ridiculously, humorously foolish.

And sometimes those two extremes can come together to make priceless, memorable moments.

My daughter has learned how to take a "selfie" with my iPhone...and does so wearing a bike helmet. See what I'm getting at?
My daughter has learned how to take a “selfie” with my iPhone…I’m not sure what category of cleverness/insanity this falls into, so you be the judge. šŸ˜›

A few nights ago my daughter was being a little bit of trouble at bedtime. She went to bed fine enough, snuggling her stuffed Rainbow Dash toy, but about a half an hour later I heard banging on her door. She had decided that she wanted her four Sesame Street plushies instead of Rainbow Dash, and she needed me to tuck her back in properly. I obliged, and returned to what I was doing, only to hear banging on her door again about twenty minutes later. She had decided that instead of all four Sesame Street plushies she just wanted her Abby Caddaby, and again, she wanted me to tuck her back in properly. This time I obliged, but I also warned her very sternly, “I don’t want to hear any more banging on that door tonight”. I asked her if she understood and she said yes. I asked her if she promised not to bang on the door anymore and she said yes. She gave me a kiss and said good night and I went on my way.

The key words in this part of the story are “don’t want to hear any more banging on that door”.

Another twenty or so minutes later my husband asked me if I heard the little Missy yelling. I listened, and sure enough I heard her calling my name. By the time I got up to her room she’d called it a further ten or fifteen times. When I opened the door she was standing there, grinning at me, decidedly not banging on the door. I’d been outwitted by a toddler.

I couldn’t be mad, because come on…that’s pretty clever. So I took her to the bathroom (which is what she’d wanted, so I guess it’s good that she decided to be clever) and returned her to her room, where she decided that she no longer wanted Abby; she wanted her miniature Big Bird and Grover toys. I tucked her all in and went back on my way. I wasn’t downstairs for five minutes when hubby and I heard her cry out again, except this time she wasn’t just calling for mommy; it sounded like she was sobbing. I went sprinting up the stairs and found her sitting up in her bed, positively bawling her eyes out. For a moment I thought that perhaps she hadn’t done all of her business in the bathroom and was crying because she’d had an accident, but when I asked her what was wrong she just started sobbing, “Grover! Grover!” A moment later I realized that her little Grover had somehow gotten tangled up in the blankets and she thought she’d lost him. I “rescued” the poor thing and got her all snuggled in again, taking care not to get the blankets too close to Grover this time.

And so I was struck by the humorous workings of a child’s mind. In less than ten minutes she’d both completely outwitted her mother over a wording discrepancy, and totally lost her mind because her toy accidentally left her line of sight.

Aren’t kids just the funniest things sometimes?

Is it love? Definitely.

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnaginā€™s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

55. How to enjoy writing time more

I’m quite certain that this is an issue that plagues many writers, particularly those who write as their primary form of income. I can’t say that I wouldn’t face the same problem if I were in a position to live off of my writing, but at this current time finding ways to enjoy my writing time is definitely not an issue.

I hope to be published someday, but right now the reason I write is because I enjoy it. I love creating a story with nothing but a pen and paper or a blank word processor document. I love finding the perfect words, and I love writing a scene that’s so powerful I can almost feel myself experiencing it. I love to get into the heads of my characters and let the thoughts and emotions that come through pour out onto the page. I love to torture them and I love to reward them. I love reading something I wrote and being able to honestly say that it is something I would enjoy reading if I’d found it in a bookstore. The only thing I don’t love about writing is that I don’t have more time to do it.

But that doesn’t help you. I guess if I had to give some advice, it would be this: write what you enjoy. It’s not always possible, for many obvious reasons, but if you find your enjoyment of writing beginning to wane, take a break from the usual and sit down and write something that you want to write. If you’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, do it. If you’ve been secretly longing to write a cheesy romance story, do it. Let the words that have been building up inside your head pour out. No one has to read it if you don’t want them to, but I’ve found that one of the most cathartic things a writer can do is to sit down and just write the thoughts that are running through their head, no matter how silly, cheesy, foolish, or nonsensical.Ā  Letting yourself write what you want instead of what you think you should is a surefire way to enjoy writing more.

I totally forgot to title this post

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnaginā€™s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

38. How the books you read as a teenager affected you

This one is a little harder than the one about books I read as a child because, although I’ve always been a reader, I read significantly less during my teenage years (which I choose to think of as “high school age”). Let me explain why.

As a younger child and a preteen, I was fairly awkward. I was smart, a little shy, and easily embarrassed. I got along perfectly well with pretty much everyone, and I had a tight-knit group of close friends, but I was not a social child, and I don’t believe I came off as someone who wanted to be social. I was the kind of kid the other kids thought of as a nerd. I wasn’t the kind of kid that got invited to parties and events (unless it was a birthday party of the type where you invite your entire class just because), and as we got a little older I was not the kind of girl who got attention from boys. But as we moved on to the teenage years of high school, I started to blossom a little. I somehow mustered up the courage to ask the boy I liked to a school dance, and from that came my first real romantic relationship. That relationship opened up my world a lot. I became exposed to things that other kids my age already had sussed out. My boyfriend introduced me to things like sports, fishing, and non-campsite camping, and I gained a bit more of a social circle which lead to parties, hanging out, and all those things that teenagers are supposed to do even though they’re not technically supposed to (*cough*booze*cough*).

The picture I’m trying to paint here is of a nerdy girl who had suddenly realized that there was other stuff to life than being nerdy. During those years things that had always been an important part of me, like reading and writing, took a bit of a back burner to all the new and exciting stuff I was experiencing.
For that reason, it’s hard for me to talk about the books that affected me as a teenager, because I find myself thinking, “What frickin’ books did I read as a teenager?”

But I wanted to be able to write a proper response to this prompt, so I thought long and hard. And then I remembered something that happened in my second year of high school. My best friend and I were taking a Sociology course, and I was in the first seat of the first row closest to the door, right up against the wall. On that wall, right next to my head, was a photocopy that our teacher had made of a newspaper article. Obviously I can’t remember the exact details of the article, but the basic idea was a story about how a bunch of “good Christian” mothers had gotten together to protest the availability of the new Harry Potter book in public schools. They scoffed at the book and called it satanistic, claiming that the author was attempting to lead their “good Christian” children away from God and into the arms of witches and devil-worshipers.

I remember reading that article during a particularly boring part of our teacher’s lecture, and the first thought that popped into my mind was, well…to be honest, the first thought that popped into my mind was that these “good Christian” moms were well and truly gone in the head. But the second thought that popped into my mind was that I totally had to read these Harry Potter books. There were three or four of them published by that point, but I’d avoided them for the dual reasons of everything I mentioned above, and the fact that the looked like kiddy books. But after having read that foolish article about closed-minded moms on an embarrassing crusade, I decided that I had to read them, and did as soon as possible. To say the least, I fell in love with them, and I absolutely struggled through the next few years as I constantly waited for the next one to be released.

If one book (or series of books, I suppose) can be attributed for bringing me back into the world of reading and writing, it would definitely be the Harry Potter series. Though I never got back into reading as much as I had before until I was well into my young adult years, Harry Potter definitely set the wheels in motion, and for that it is probably the book (or books) that most affected me during my teenage years.

The Trick is to Learn From Them

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnaginā€™s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

22. List the biggest mistakes you made in your first manuscript

For the purpose of this post, I am going to use Nowhere to Hide, my zombie apocalypse novel, because it is the only (non-fan-fiction) manuscript I’ve ever finished (minus the editing part, which is happening now). So, without further ado:

– I didn’t plan anything. While I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the planning type and that I tend to prefer just writing, I suspect that having a general layout (at the very least) would have significantly decreased the length of time it took me to finish this story.

– I wrote a prologue. I personally don’t see this as a ‘mistake’, exactly, but after having a number of people on Critique Circle tell me that the prologue was pointless and detracted from the story, I guess it was maybe a mistake. :\

– I started a “shout-out” naming convention, giving my characters last names of famous horror-guru authors/directors/etc, and then promptly forgot about following through with it once I hit the fourth character.

– Looking back at certain sections of the story, I see that I rushed through things that I didn’t find as interesting, but are actually fairly important parts of the overall narrative.

– I didn’t establish character stories. I’m sure this isn’t a necessity for everyone, but if there’s one aspect of the planning process that I, personally, should be doing, it’s creating character backgrounds ahead of time. I tend to just go with the flow, and more often than not I find myself writing my main character’s feelings or actions to reflect how I think I would feel or act, but that’s not really a smart way of doing things. Not all of my characters can have my exact personal thoughts and beliefs. That’s just foolish. What I really need to start doing is establishing my character’s lives and personalitiesĀ before I presume to write about them.

I’m sure there’s more, but I don’t really have to bash myself all night long, do I? šŸ™‚

Critique Coping

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnaginā€™s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

20. How to cope with a substantial critique or edit

Reading critiques or edit suggestions must be the worst part of being a writer. I don’t care who you are, no one enjoys being told that there’s something wrong with the thing they’ve spent so much of their time and effort creating. Your initial reaction is always going to be one of defense: “This idiot doesn’t know what they’re talking about! I’m right and they’re wrong, end of discussion!” Even if you’re mature and composed enough to realize that the person giving you the critique has a very good point, part of you will still want to argue, to fight and say that there’s nothing wrong with the way you wrote it.

For myself, the way to deal with a critique is by taking a deep breath, reading it through a couple of times, and trying to see what the reader didn’t say. That is, I put a lot of effort into trying to decide whether the reader is being harsh because they really want to help, or if they’re just being intentionally cruel; whether their ideas have merit, or if they’re letting personal opinions get in the way of sense; whether they genuinely want to help you make the story better, or if they’re just shooting out some generic nonsense to mask the fact that they barely read the story.

The sad fact is that while you can’t have the knee-jerk defensive reaction to critiques, you also can’t accept them as gospel. One thing I learned while hanging out at Critique Circle is that, yes, some readers are knowledgeable people who truly want to help you make your story be the best that it can be, while other people are just going to force their opinions on you under the guise of giving you “advice”. That’s why it’s a good idea to have multiple proof-readers. For example, there is a scene near the beginning of the action in “Nowhere to Hide” in which the main character strips off her pajama top and wraps it around her fist so that she doesn’t hurt herself while breaking a window. When I posted this scene for critique, one reader told me that the whole scene was pointless and “smacked of fetish”. I was hurt and confused when I read that because I didn’t feel that way at all, and I thought the scene made a lot of sense given the situation. I was just beginning to wonder if maybe I was being a little sensitive when half a dozen other critiques came in and almost all of them mentioned how much they loved that particular scene. If I hadn’t gotten those other critiques I may have changed the scene based on one person’s opinion, which would have been foolish.

So in conclusion, take critiques seriously, but not always to heart.