Tag Archives: work

Live vs. Private

When it comes to writing, I know two versions. Writing with an audience while the words flow, live, in the moment, and private, when I do it on my own and go over the lines and dialogue carefully, constructing it to as near perfection as I can.

I’ve been musing over it idly for the past week or so, the differences between the two and how they feel. Some stories are just better when they’re live, when someone sees their development and how they change and taper and what you create on the fly, and you can see their feedback as you feed them written word. They are the stories of the moment. They have a lasting power as being right there.

Other stories, however, are best told, written in private and edited and preened and gone over a dozen times. They’re better when you can hold the full copy in an e-mail or a few pages in a journal somewhere. They read better as a cohesive piece, all at once.

Both have their merits. I like to write at Friend a lot because it helps me shape something while I’m thinking about, and also because I enjoy watching how he reacts. He also has an input, throwing ideas at me while I go. Sometimes it’s just because I’m too impatient to write it all in one piece, and I write faster when it’s at him instead of a full piece for him.

Usually, he’s my only audience. But that’s when private pieces come more in handy, if there’s more than just him that wants to see the piece or that I need to show it to. The traditional, cohesive piece in one place is easy, and reliable to find. It also lets me go back and scrap it if I decide it isn’t what I want.

I’ve had pieces I’ve worked on for days and ended up throwing in my scrap heap because re-reading it showed it just wasn’t working. I could try and try but there was no making it happen.

Then again, I’ve had live pieces I’ve started and had to stop early because it wasn’t coming out right, too. But jumping in on the moment and running with what you have spontaneously, improv-style, free-style, helps develop swiftness, I think. When you put yourself in a spot where you have to come up with something immediately, you get creative.

I don’t think I really prefer one or the other, though maybe there’s a bias toward Live, but they both have their ups and downs. It all depends on mood. But however the mood strikes, let it take you wherever it wants next time.

– The Novice Wordsmith

Stubbornness vs. Rightness

In the past couple of months, I’ve been working a full time job at a very busy veterinary hospital. And when I say hospital, I mean it: it’s 24 hours, there’s urgent care staff on ’round the clock, they have an operating room, they book several surgeries a day ranging from simple (spay, neuter) to complex (mass removals, etc), and they have as many as 20 doctors employed.

It had been a job I wanted for years, literally. When I was unemployed, I applied twice, interviewed twice, and was rejected twice. I loved the idea of being up front and helping people, and being able to reach out and be part of the help they were seeking for their pet.

The problem was, despite the fact that they were so intensely, crushingly busy, and I never reacted well to that, I still took it up eagerly. It was a very quick process that left my head spinning, and my first day there was disastrous, but I was determined to stick with it. And so the second day was better, and the third, and I kept learning and getting better at what I was doing until I was turned loose as an independent part of the system.

And it got worse from there.

It is really hard for me to admit that I am absolutely bad at being under pressure in a constant cycle. I can do it when it happens every so often, I’ve found ways to handle it before, but when it springs up unexpectedly and often, it gets to me. It’s hard to handle, and I make more mistakes because I’m just trying to get through things.

I was not going to let that get in the way. I felt like it was just circumstance, and I’d get better. Even though I would come home, feeling the lack of communication with certain close friends and the huge cut in free time I had, considering moving on to a different job, I stuck it through.

Shit, I even pined for the old job I had some days, but I figured I would be fine. No big deal. It was just me having a bad day.

And then I lost the job.

On top of feeling depressed about the outcome, I felt relieved. I kept finding reasons to be okay with it. I mean, I was still flabbergasted at how out of the blue it was, the final day of my probationary period, and I was getting axed because they could do that still, but part of me was glad for it.

And it came to me yesterday, that the job really wasn’t for me. I came home from the interview (which was a simple observation for two hours) feeling the emotional drain and knowing it might be a bit much for me. The first day was nightmarish. I had been considering not saying yes to it in the beginning, but I went with it anyway because it was an opportunity, it was what I wanted.

But you have to realize that sometimes, what you think you want isn’t always going to be what fits you.

I wanted to write this to impart this wisdom on everyone, as it applies to writing and challenging yourself to genres you aren’t used to or characters you don’t do so well with, or really anything, whether it’s someone else’s suggestion for you and your wish to see it out, or your own thinking that you should be able to do something.

It is 100% okay to not be cut out for something, no matter what it is. 

Just that the hard part is convincing yourself of that, if you’re as stubborn as I am.

If something becomes too much, or it isn’t enough, or it’s just overwhelming, you reserve the right to tell it no and move on to something that feels better. Do not worry.

This pertains as much to NaNo as possible, too, considering you may be trying something new out. If it doesn’t work, find something else and jump on. Shift gears. Get comfy somehow else. You’re allowed to. It’s all part of the learning process, isn’t it?

-The Novice Wordsmith

Storytellers Anonymous

On my desktop at work, I have a picture that has been there for the past year. This is what it is:

I think you should be able to enlarge it if you like, if you open in a new tab.

So, whenever I go on break, or I walk away from the desk, or I minimize my browser and anything else I have up on the computer when someone comes by, they see this. I’m always asked a bunch of questions when they notice it: Who is that? What are they doing, where are they going? What is that, a wolf?

The questions and the awe and the “Oh that’s awesome” happened so frequently that I considered for a while about writing a story to go with it, but I hadn’t jumped on it.

It happened last night, too. Someone saw the wallpaper that hadn’t seen it before, and the same thing ensued, but this time I stopped, and I asked her about it instead.

“I imagine that she’s looking off in the distance, they’ve been traveling for a while,” she said.

I could write the story. I could come up with something vast and complex as it is beautiful, a heartfelt prose about the bond between tiger and woman. About a magical trek across whatever lands it takes them to get wherever they need to be. Or, I could let everyone else pick their own imagination about what’s going on in the picture.

What are their minds filled with when they see it? What details stick out the most? Why are the end pieces on the rug glowing, and his necklace? Is that her necklace?

Anything can be a prompt if I want it to. For me, as time goes on, the more prompts I see out in the world. But for others, those who don’t write, or those who maybe don’t have much of a creative outlet, having a picture so vivid and eye-catching can help the wheels turning for no other reason than because they’re trying to make sense of it, figure out what’s going on.

I’ve thought about changing the wallpaper a couple of times. Really, I love it; it’s colorful and inspiring and has a fantastical touch to it, but it’s been a year and change and I wouldn’t mind something different. Then I realized, unless I found something just as captivating, it wasn’t going to generate the same reaction.

And I rather like making minds turn with curiosity.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Exposure

Something happens every time I join a website or start a writing project: I start to think about getting my work out there. Sharing more often, submitting it to places, finding a way to get it out there. There’s something about seeing other people succeed in getting the interest of others, and the quality writing all around, that makes me want to do more and go farther.

Then, rejection happens, or I realize that I’m not half as popular as I thought I would be, or as others. That I’m just sort of another cogwheel in the great scheme of things that gets overlooked because my work is hardly different or groundbreaking.

It is, however, my work. My sentence structure, how I write, the language I use, the tones and the feel of everything I go through in passages, that’s mine. That is unique to every writer, it’s something you seek out in an author. To be able to so easily dive into the book and its atmosphere and the protagonist and their troubles, to be in another world, whether it’s wildly out of this galaxy, or it has few differences.

There are many ways to get your work out in the world, depending on what it is you write. Websites and anthologies seek people to write anything from erotica to horror, fan fiction, non fiction, and news.

Last year, Friend and I submitted works to Crossed Genres web magazine, that specializes in minority characters and settings as the mains in non-stereotypical fashion. Another friend had gotten into freelance journalism for a major website. I was shown a website that was a database for erotica, where someone had written a 40+ chapter story and was still going. Forums exist for the purpose of sharing your writing an collaborating with others.

There will always be a way for you to showcase your art, so to speak. The real question is if that’s something you want to do.

A common reiteration is that you can still make money off of your writing. You can make it free and accessible, or you can go through self publishing, or even finding a publisher to take you on.  Whether it’s a buck a book, that can be anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 words, or up to four dollars for a full novel, there’s a market to be taken advantage of.

Anthologies and web magazines, in my limited experience, have also paid for the work they use of yours. Crossed Genres offered six cents a word, I believe, and for any novels that they decided to take on, 6,000 for the entire thing.

Whether you’re paid for the work or not, the outcome is roughly the same: people see your talent. One is guaranteed to reach more people than the other. For free work, you can be lost in the stacks with hundreds of others. With work you’re paid for, you’re up at the front of the line.

Exposure comes in many flavors. Through the years, I have only felt like writing prose, and novels, fiction, have been harder to get recognition with than painting or drawing, because of the average attention span. If they see something they like in a glimpse, it’s easier, but making someone sit down for anything a hundred words or longer can be a task.

Which is why a thesis or grabbing statement can be so important. You’re tasked with making it as interesting as possible to hook them in and then the rest will follow.

Even something so much as this blog, which was made expressly to get my knowledge out while maybe getting some to see my talent for writing, is dependent a lot on an excerpt, typically right at the top of the post.

In the same vein, somewhat, is having a Twitter account, and getting into social media as a writer. According to a shortlived friend I had who was also an author, having a presence in social media helps your chances with publishers, because they see that you already have a bit of a following.

It can be tricky. I started this blog expecting not much, but even a small gathering of people who decide they like my stuff enough to follow me is a great accomplishment, honor, and flattery. I know I write well, but to write something that people like is a great feat, just as well. My track record for people liking my work, or what I have to say, or what I do, has been shoddy, so I usually end up expecting very little, and when trying new ways of getting it seen,  discouragement follows frequently.

It seems more likely, considering that, that I’ll end up like many others: only a couple thousand copies sold and then promptly dropped by the publisher.

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t try, of course. It’s always going to be worth it, but it’s easier to go in with the understanding that the road ahead will not be easy and to brace yourself for the bumps, however many or few they are.

– The Novice Wordsmith

(PS: Happy Easter for those celebrating!)

Guest Post: No Mountain is High Enough

Sometimes when Novice Wordsmith and I write, we try and beat a wordcount bar; whether it’s the 50K of NaNoWriMo or some other arbitrary number, it’s a goalpost to shoot for.

I’ve had years where I’ve done really well, pushing 100K words, and other times where I barely made it over the bar.
But like the climbers that just finished a 19-day free climb of El Capitan, the reasons for doing it are to have a direction to climb.    What we find sometimes is that a story can’t be quantified by ‘X words’ — it demands more.  A short story becomes a novella; a novel becomes a trilogy, because ones words just can’t be contained by a wordcount _limit_.
Similarly, at times the words just don’t come.   They’re lodged in our unconscious writers’ block of iced out ideas, and we just stare at the blinking cursor or blank page and nothing happens.  We start stressing because time is ticking, and our wordcount average is falling behind.
And yet we’re capable of superhuman authoring bursts of thousands of words in a single day — when the story demands it.   When the time is short.   The ‘right’ way to win NaNo is to meet or beat your daily average, since there is a defined ‘stop’ time at the end of the month, but for me, once November is over, I used to stop writing no matter where I was in the month.
Fifty thousand, sixty thousand, fifty four thousand two hundred and one — it didn’t matter.  I’d stop cold, and say, “I’m taking a break from this.”
The mountain of words was too high.
But the thing is, not everyone can reach the summit of a novel.   Sometimes the avalanche of words comes crashing down and you think your novel is a confused mess of words without resemblance to the perfect climbing path, with waypoints and scene interludes just _gone_, and you don’t know what to do next.
Other times, the way is clear, the steps to get from point A to point B are crystal clear in your head and make it onto the page — or you discover an even better route to the top of the peak — that ability to place that ‘Finished/The End’ flag there with triumph, and you can look back down at the beginning of the novel and go, ‘wow.  I wrote all that?’
But really, don’t see your novel and your writing as one mountain.   There are several large mountains in the world that people attempt to climb every day; there are also small hills, rocky outcroppings, and the tricky climbing wall of haiku or a screenplay to tackle.   Every person’s writing ascent is different, done for their own rationale and reasons (or lack thereof) and finding what challenges you to keep writing — and your wordcount climbing — is something you find within, rather than without.
Moreover, whether you’re at the top or at the bottom, you should always be looking to the horizon, to see what the next mountain in your path might be.

Dis-Armed

So probably one of the most unfortunate things just happened at work, not 30 minutes into my shift. I thought I had just simply bumped my elbow into the door handle– no big deal– except it was a big deal because my hand was numbing and there was a lot of swelling on the site.

So I get the rest of the day off, but this means /i need to not work my right arm at all (that’s the injured arm). Likely, I should be okay to work tomorrow, but I’m not sure at the moment what will happen. Bleh. May post tomorrow if the arm is better, we’ll see. In case I don’t, you know why!

For now I get to sleep and keep the arm elevated. yay. I am already itching to write things and I can’t… it is too slow working with just one hand, but i can’t do much with both or the right arm hurts and I have to stop. The doctor mentioned physical therapy as an otpion if it’s gotten too bad, but i really hope it doesn’t come to that. I’m worried it might interfere with my November, but bruising isn’t a fracture, so there’s less worry there, right?

Here’s hoping it goes all right.

-The Novice wordsmith

Morning Time, Writing Time

Instead of writing, I’m contemplating it, and instead really wanting to faceplant. After going to bed too late last night, and then tossing and turning for another half hour, I finally got to sleep, only to be woken by my dreaded alarm clock.

Part time work is not stressful or that big of a deal, but every other weekend, I work 12 hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday, as a receptionist. So, I have a lot of time to kill where I’m waiting for stuff to happen or nothing is happening and I’m left to my own devices. Such in this case, writing, working on a blog this morning, and, when I have a particular amount of inspiration and enthusiasm, getting through prompts and stories and chapters of novels.

Yesterday, that was difficult, and that alone was hard for me to swallow. Having all that open space to write is usually enough of a motivator that I get my claws into something and don’t let go until it’s all finished.

Today that’s made more difficult by the lack of sleep I got. And the headache that’s dull and pounding at the side of my head. Though, I know that I don’t need to write every day, but it’s such a habit now that every day I don’t do it, it just feels odd. It feels wrong not to be working on something… But, just as well, forcing something isn’t going to make it happen any easier, smoother, or better.

Sometimes, it’s just better to leave it, if you’re not feeling it. And instead fantasize about beds and pillows and quilts.

-The Novice Wordsmith