A Need for Nonsense

When I was quite young, still in the elementary school years, I used to write like mad. I had notebooks and notebooks full of stories and I was rarely ever without pen and paper. But as I grew and other things began to be important to me, my writing dwindled down to nothing. By the time I hit high school I was barely even writing at all.

Then my best friend and I began a strange collaboration. It started because of a particular English teacher who I loathed. My best friend and I used to jokingly plot crazy ways to be rid of this particular teacher (it’s not as creepy as it sounds, I swear, and besides, she deserved it), and somehow or other it became a super-short little story. I honestly can’t remember which one of us wrote the first chapter, but I remember that it was only about a page long, featured ridiculously overblown explosions, and ended with my boyfriend and I being pursued by the police. It was an incredibly goofy, over-the-top little piece of flash fiction that would have made little to no sense when taken out of context, but it started something.

You see, at the time that this strange little story first came to light, my friend and I shared a keyboarding class. For you youngsters, that was a classroom full of typewriters – not computers, mind you, but honest-to-goodness typewriters – where a teacher would run us through exercises to learn how to type properly (you know, with your fingers on the right keys and without looking at your hands). Since my friend and I were already rather good at typing, we would often finish our assigned tasks quickly, and thus we took to spending the remainder of our classes adding to our little story. She would type up a page-long “chapter”, and then I would type one. Back and forth, back and forth.

The thing is, there was absolutely nothing sensible about this story we were collaborating on. The cast quickly ballooned to include my best friend and her beau, two other friends and a boy one of them had a crush on, and a random goofy guy from my best friend’s science class (who, funny story, wound up becoming my husband). This motley crew of eight went on lunatic adventures to stay ahead of the police, and that adventure got more and more bewildering as it went on. Among some of the more outlandish plot points were an armada of flying enemy pizza-minis who were destroyed by being sprayed with donair sauce, alien cows who could disguise themselves to look like humans, and the use of such devices as a SRMLD (Stark Raving Mad Lunatic Detector. Since one of the first pages of the story involved one of the characters accidentally blowing up the planet, we called it “The Day the Earth Blew Up”, and filled the thing with so many terrible in-jokes that reading it now makes me twitch a little.

A snapshot of one page of the original copy. At the time this seemed like the height of humorous dialogue.
A snapshot of one page of the original copy. At the time this seemed like the height of humorous dialogue.

And here’s the point of this little trip down memory lane…Our story was utterly foolish. It had numerous spelling and grammatical errors. It had no discernible plot, and certainly no semblance of act structure. It was complete and utter nonsense that would mean absolutely zip to anyone other than myself and my friend. It was nothing that could ever be shared with the world in any way. And it was fun. It was ridiculously fun and it started me writing again.

There’s a moral here, and that moral is that writing doesn’t always have to have a purpose. It doesn’t have to mean anything. It doesn’t have to be publishable, or even readable. You can have goals and deadlines and lots of writerly responsibilities, but you can have fun too. You can write silly, meaningless nonsense every now and then. You can write whatever foolishness pops into your head just because it’s in there and you’d like to get it out. I think that’s something that a lot of writers forget. They focus all of their time and energy into writing words that can be sold, or used for marketing or promotional purposes, and they forget why they got into writing in the first place.

Writing can absolutely be your career, but it is also something that writers do because we enjoy it, because we love it, and it’s important to remember that. After all, we all know what “all work and no play” did to a famous fictional writer.

In the Summer of (a Writer’s) Life

I’ve been talking a lot lately about Kristen Lamb‘s Rise of the Machines. And I’m not likely to stop anytime soon because every time I get a minute to read a bit more I end up finding something I want to talk about. It’s just that good. 😀

Today I read a short chapter that invites us to establish which type of writer we are…Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter. Spring writers are the young ones with tons of time, almost no responsibilities, but not a lot of experience. Fall writers are older so they have lots of experience, and they have few responsibilities because their bills are probably paid off and their children are probably grown up. Winter writers are of advanced age, meaning they don’t have a lot of time left to make their writing dreams come true, but the time they do have can be 100% devoted to writing, and they have tons of experience.

I fall firmly into the category of Summer writer. In fact, I fall so firmly in this category that I found myself nodding enthusiastically as I was reading Kristen’s description. Summer writers are still fairly young, but they’re old enough to have gained a bit of worldly experience. At first it seems like an ideal time to be writing, but there are other problems. The biggest problem facing Summer writers is that they are in the most responsibility-laden era of their lives. Summer writers have day-jobs, children, mortgages, car payments, student loan payments, chores and errands that need doing. Summer writers can’t always find time to write because they have to dedicate many of their waking hours dealing with day-to-day career and family issues. Summer writers may be fatigued because they’re run off their asses by household requirements and children keeping them up at all hours of the night.

Summer writers, to put it succinctly, are bogged down with copious amounts of stress. They’re young, and they have experience, but they have no time.

Currently I am experiencing a slight reprieve, as my job out West recently finished and we’ve paid off enough debts that we don’t have to worry about money for a little while. Regardless, a lack of time is still my biggest complaint. On a daily basis, as the sun wanes in the West, I chastise myself for not writing more, and promise to do better the next day. But the next day I find a million other things to do, or the baby has a bad day, or I didn’t get any sleep that night so I’m completely knackered. And so when I do get a few moments when I could be writing, I instead find myself reading or playing video games or watching movies in bed (and trying not to drift off while doing so).

I’m not trying to give myself a pass or anything; I don’t get to just blame all my troubles on the fact that I’m at a particular period of life and I don’t get to whine that I can’t write because everything else is in the way. But I can say that there are challenges, and that I’m definitely not alone in having to deal with them.

No matter the season, all writers have struggles that they must work through, and as a Summer writer, I invite all other “Summers” to struggle with me. We have families and jobs and responsibilities, but we also have writing, and we have each other. We can do it, come hell or high water!

What season are you? What struggles do you fight with because of the time of life you happen to be in? Please share! I’d love to hear from you!

Distractions are…um…hold that thought for just one second…

This past weekend my husband and I celebrated the dual joys of our 4th wedding anniversary, and the marriage of two friends of ours. We enjoyed a beautiful ceremony in the lovely community of Cheticamp, whilst also spending time with another married couple who we hadn’t seen in a long time, and marked the whole thing off by staying at a sweet little chalet along the coast. It was all quite lovely.

Because it was our anniversary, we were inevitably asked what we got each other, and my husband got to tell our companions that he bought me a Playstation Vita.

For our wedding anniversary.

Because I asked for it.

Hey, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while and haven’t yet figured out that I’m a total and utter dork…now you know.

Hubby bought me a Wi-Fi version Vita with a 32 GB memory card, connected it to his Playstation Network account, and downloaded a bunch of free games for me (Sony, don’t ever change your Playstation Plus system…you’re definitely doing it right), plus he picked up Rayman Origins at Walmart. Since last week I’ve been glued to this little handheld joy-box. The Vita definitely has it’s flaws, as any gaming system tends to, but I’m absolutely loving it.

And that’s a bad thing.

Okay, it’s a good thing because it was a present and I wanted it, so obviously one would hope that I enjoy playing with it. But it’s a bad thing because it is a positive time vampire. This morning I got up at about 8:30 am and started playing it. Other than to put it aside long enough to get breakfast for the baby, a coffee for the hubby, and to dance with the baby when she suddenly decided I had to dance with her, I didn’t put the Vita down until 1:00 pm. I got a dozen or so Rayman trophies, and that is all I accomplished all morning.

This is the face of my procrastination.

I didn’t write, I didn’t edit. I definitely didn’t exercise. I didn’t do any laundry or dishes, and I didn’t start tidying up the guest room (which I have to do because we have two days worth of guests coming next weekend). I didn’t even really get dressed. I put on a pair of jeans long enough to run out to the car for something, but I couldn’t be bothered to throw a bra on under my shirt, and I still haven’t as I’m typing this. The baby is still wearing her pajamas. I only just took something out of the deep freeze for supper, and I haven’t established what I’m going to do with it yet. The kitty litter is full and the cats’ streaming water dish has been broken for several days. There are a ton of leftovers in the fridge that have gone bad and I haven’t thrown them out. There are about ten boxes of old baby clothes in the hallway that I’ve been meaning to go through so I can send some stuff to consignment.

But instead of dealing with any of these things that need dealing with, I played my new Playstation Vita for four and a half hours straight. And if I’m totally honest? The only reason I actually stopped playing is because I realized that battery was dying. Yes, the only thing that dragged me away from my gaming is the fact that battery scientists (that’s a thing, right?) haven’t figured out how to make mobile batteries last longer yet.

Distractions are a terrible thing when you’re in a position that requires you to be self-motivated. Currently I am not employed; I’m working on my writing, but I’m not in a position where I am getting paid or compensated in any way. That means that every morning when I get up I have to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself, “Okay. You are going to get some damn work done today!” And then I have to try to follow through with it. I have to pick my own self up, with no hope of any kind of payment of any form, and I have to force myself to sit down and write. That in and of itself wouldn’t be too bad, except for the fact that while I’m trying to force myself to write I also have to deal with a child who thinks I should wear little pink play glasses all day, and a household worth of chores and errands that never seem to slack off in any sense of the word.

Distractions are terrible and they must be eliminated. They must be stricken from the lifestyle. It is the only way. Only when distractions have been completely removed will one be able to go on with one’s day productively and efficiently.

Unfortunately, I’m way too distracted by my shiny new Vita to get on with eliminating my distractions right now, so if you don’t mind…

This is the face of my procrastination.
WHY DO YOU MOCK ME SO?!

Balance? Ha! Baby, the world is tilted!

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

97. Finding life/writing balance

I’m going to confess something here: when I first read the words “Finding life/writing balance” I nearly died from the gut-wrenching laughter/hysterical crying that occurred. I may have gone just a tiny bit insane from reading those words. It’s okay now. I had a peppermint-Kahlua-spiked coffee that my husband made me and all was well. But it was touch and go there for a moment.

In all seriousness, this is something that I’ve been struggling with for years, and to this day I haven’t figured out how to manage it. Additionally, over the past year of blogging I’ve come to follow quite a few very talented bloggers/authors and it doesn’t really seem as though they’ve figured it out either. I’ve even Tweeted with writers – published and otherwise – who seem to react to the topic with the same mad hysteria/life-crushing misery as myself. It just doesn’t seem to be a subject that many find they have been able to work their minds around It’s one of those things…like trying to get a moment’s peace with 20+ members of immediate and extended family having a shouting match in your home. Possible? Maybe. Likely? Not really.

Finding a balance between life and writing is one of those mysterious things that most people don’t believe is possible…like leprechauns. Or unicorns. You’d like to believe, you really would, but in your heart you know it’s a pipe dream.

Okay, so maybe I’m being over-dramatic. Perhaps it is possible to find a balance, but I personally don’t know anyone who has managed it.

The problem is that most writers have a heck of a lot of responsibilities aside from writing. Many writers will tell you that the only way to truly become a successful author is to suck it up, grit your teeth, and focus 100% on your writing, even if that means that you’ll be destitute for a while during the interim. And while part of me agrees with that, it’s not exactly as simple as being willing to make life hard on yourself in the short-term for the hope of long-term gain. After all, people have important responsibilities. They have families, children, mortgages, car payments, other assorted debts, and any other number of things that require them to have an income that stems from something more stable.

So immediately we have that disconnect. We have the day-job life, and the writing life. Now add in a couple of other aspects of life that many writers have to deal with… In addition to the day-job life and the writing life you might have the mommy/daddy life, the (ever elusive) social life, the household-chores-and-errands life, the “I desperately need to lose some weight before I die of a heart attack” life, and so on and so on.

Personally, the only way I’ve been able to “balance” life and writing is by sneakily combining the two. When I’m at my day job I write between tasks and during breaks. When I’m in mommy mode I’ll pluck out a blog post (sometimes a sentence at a time) whilst braiding ponies’ hair and making Leonardo beat up Michelangelo. Sometimes I’ll pluck out a few words whilst keeping an eye on supper, or I’ll save a couple of sentences on my iPhone while waiting in line at the supermarket. And since it’s pretty much impossible to write while exercising, I’ll use that time to mull over a scene in my mind, which doubles as a way to distract myself from the burning pain all throughout my body.

(I’m not going to comment on my social life. It’s silly to comment on things that don’t exist.)

And that’s my two cents on that. If any of you other writers out there ever find a better way to “balance”, I submit to you that it is your duty to share it with the writer community (in the form of a comment on this post). 🙂

Write Everyday!

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

48. Advice you wish someone had given you

Over the past couple of years I’ve been delving deeper and deeper into the social networking aspect of being a writer. I run this blog, tweet when I think of something I think is worth saying, and browse the ‘net for interesting material written by my fellow online authors. During this social journey I’ve found myself regularly stumbling across bits of advice on various aspects of writing, managing the lifestyle of a writer, getting published, and so on. Everyone out there (myself included) feels the need to impart our little pieces of wisdom, and there is one particular tidbit that I’ve seen come up on a very regular basis:

Write Everyday.

There is a saying going around, based on an idea posed by Malcolm Gladwell, that a person needs 10,000 hours of practice with something in order to become an expert. While that number may not be accurate for everyone (natural talent – or lack thereof – have to account for something as well), it’s an understandable concept. In order to become good at something you have to practice, or in other words, spend a lot of time working on it. As with anything, writing is something that takes a good deal of time and effort to become good at (and you should never stop trying to get better), and therefore you should Write Everyday.

It seems ridiculously obvious to me now, but I really wish someone would have imparted this particular piece of advice on me when I was much younger, when it first became apparent to me that I would always want to be a writer regardless of whatever else occurred in my life. If I had taken the time to Write Everyday since the third grade just imagine how much practice I would have behind me! Imagine how many words I would have put to paper, how many finished stories I might have to my name! Imagine how much more confident I might be, how much closer I may have come toward publication! And while it is never too late to change, to do what you think you should be doing, you can’t deny the fact that I would have benefited from this idea much more earlier in my life. These days I have many more responsibilities: I have a demanding work schedule, a husband and daughter who both require my time and attention, a household that needs taking care of, and a host of other daily tasks and concerns that require dealing with. These days it is much harder to Write Everyday, but if I had known to do so when I was younger I could have had years of this practice behind my belt before all these other responsibilities came to light.

In conclusion, if there are any younguns out there right now who aspire to become writers and have somehow managed to stumble across this blog, I’m giving you the advice that I never got: WRITE EVERYDAY!