“I Suck!” and Other Naggy Negatives

Wow, what a busy last couple of weeks!

First a trip to Colorado for my brother-in-law’s memorial and interment at Ft. Logan National Cemetery in Denver. This might have been a quick trip back to see the old home town, except for one thing: a tornado hit Dallas last Tuesday which caused my plane to circle for what seemed like hours (turns out it had been) until we were forced to land in Austin, thankfully before we ran out jet fuel. There we parked on the tarmac for an hour – along with a dozen other diverted planes – before it was determined that we were going nowhere fast. After the deplaning of thousands of zombie travelers, the trip to a local Holiday Inn (loved that hour and a half of rest), and many phone calls to American Airlines, I surmised that I would not be flying out of Austin any time soon. In fact, not until SATURDAY of last week, meaning I would miss the services and get into Colorado Springs with just enough time to return to Detroit.

Thirteen hours and an immensely sore butt later, and after renting a car and driving through the panhandle of Texas (one big-ass state, to be sure), I arrived at my final destination only 24 hours late. Unfortunately, my bags were still in transit.

I have learned three things on this trip: 1. West Texas is beautiful – even with the preponderance of armadillo road kill, which is why I’m writing it into my next tome, 2. it’s good to be nice and keep your cool, and 3. I can finish reading a book and a half in six hours on a plane.

Usually, my trips out of town are a gold mine for writing, but this time, I could only jot down a few things in my trusty (manually operated) notebook. After the Trip from Hell, the final service at Ft. Logan (which I made by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, and with my own clothes that arrived in CoS at 6 a.m.), and my sister’s sadness, I found I couldn’t write anything.

It’s not that I had a lack of information or inspiration. I was just plain B-E-A-T. I couldn’t even answer email. So I took a day to trim the bonsai tree located at my mother’s grave, which after 18 years of my neglect had morphed into the juniper who ate a headstone. It was relaxing to sit in the sun, listen to the traffic on I-25, to snip and trim, and now the Thing looks more like a bonsai.

But back to “I SUCK!” I found myself kicking and yelling (at myself) for my total lack of motivation. Yes, I have stories in my head yearning to be set free. Yes, I have something I’m shopping around and more than a few things I’m working on which languish in various states of disrepair. But to actually unpack my laptop and start moving in the right direction? I couldn’t. I was too exhausted/frustrated/sad.

But wait! There’s more! After the last email rejection letter (yesterday),

 

Although I thought your partial was well-written, it didn’t ring as perfectly right for our list as I’d hoped and for the moment we need fiction that sounds exactly right for us in order to be able to sell it as well as we all would like.

I was ready to throw in the the towel and hang out my “I SUCK” shingle. Life is hard enough without having rejection pummel your inbox every couple of weeks. I mean really…what am I doing? Wasting my time? Do you know how many talented writers there are out there? I am but a teeny-tiny wannabe with big honking flaws. I started late in life (for everything, job, marriage, kids, hobbies, you name it). When Real Writers talk about story arcs and character development, I rush to Barnes and Noble to find a reference book that can explain the concept, and even then I’m lost.

Well, after my pity party (yes, I know it was a pity party), I emailed (hurriedly) Mr. Ed for help. (He did. What a stellar guy!) This morning I read this, and began to feel better.

I even wrote over 500 words on my West Texas character.

I even finished this blog post!

The thing about “sucking” is that such a negative frame of mind lasts only a moment with most positive people, and I like to think of myself as being more positive than negative. This temporary self-doubt goes for people other than writers. I can remember my son thinking the same thing about himself, and he’s a very talented pianist. And while it would be ultra-fabuloso to be picked up by an agent, and maybe even have my work published (using the pulp material of your local forest), it’s more important to write because you have a passion to put your words together to make a story, and to make the story intriguing enough to read.

Perhaps I should seek to be read, not to be published.

At any case, I am back on the bus, and the wheels are going ’round and ’round.

🙂

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Woo Hoo! Word from the Editor!

This is actually old news, since I received my edited manuscript in an email last weekend. However, I haven’t had a moment of free time to look over what my editors have suggested. TODAY is the day.

I’m one of those dinosaurs who have a difficult time reading from a computer screen. My eyesight cannot stand the glowing page for more than an hour or so. I am also woefully antiquated and unable to grasp the concept of track back on Word. (Plus my version of Word is the old, old version, because the new version somehow causes my computer to hiccup.)

So I had to print out my book.

The first time I saw a printed copy of my MS was when I met with the editor in San Francisco. It’s crazy, I know, but I never print out my work. It might be a good idea to do so, especially if catastrophe strikes and my family members can’t get into my computer because they don’t know my passwords. My MS was in a very large binder. It’s only 275 pages but it looked massive. Mr. Ed. gave it to me (actually, I asked for it).

I showed it to my kids, and my daughter-in-law began to read it. She read the first chapter and the last few pages and decided she wanted to finish it, so I left the binder with her. (I really didn’t want to drag it back to Michigan anyway. I had enough stuff in my bag.)

Two-hundred and seventy eight pages of my own paper later, I dragged my edited version home for the ultimate slice and dice and clarifications and corrections. I have only scanned the edited MS (free time being a rare commodity these days) and noticed pages of unmarked passages. But then, toward the middle, some very red paragraphs. I know I’m only “aspiring” and I know I make horrible mistakes, but this was what I was looking for.

Yes, that’s right. I welcome critique.

Finally getting my MS back has put me into a better frame of mind when it comes to my writing. I had been in the doldrums and questioning my pursuits. I’d also been depressed over the end of summer and a few other things happening in my life right now, but the writing thing was really getting to me. I had been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for my edit and started work on the re-write of my first novel. Then I hit a wall with it right when I had been cruising along.

In the meantime, I gave myself writing tasks on Associated Content. These are newsy blog items, but they do pay in real cash money. (A HUGE plus.) Plus, I need the threat of impending deadline to kick my butt into gear.

Well, now I can finally work on my MS! I hope to get the preliminary edits finished this weekend. I’m on a mission, probably because there is a deadline for a writing contest of October 31 and I want to submit VIRTUALLY YOURS.

Don’t cross your fingers, just hope I keep the enthusiasm up.

🙂

Writer’s Block and My Writer’s Bloc

I have to admit this last month has been terribly unproductive. What with one kid graduating from college, another flying back into the nest for the summer, the “day” job launching full force into the busy season, and the gloriousness of springtime in the yard, it’s been tough to find a few peaceful hours to work on the book.

I’ve given myself a short-term goal, and that’s to enter the Esquire Magazine short story contest this year. As usual, I have too many words, and the first draft sounds a little girly. I need more punch and less emotion. I also need a friend to offer an ethnic take on it, since I’m writing as a black man (both things I’m not).  I can tell already the re-write’s going to be a bear.

As for the rest of it, I’ve been on a hiatus. Call it my siesta/fiesta, my vacation from my imaginary world. It could be, but I wouldn’t say that I’m suffering from writer’s block. Oh, I have plenty of ideas floating around. Too many, in fact. My brain is so full of stuff, I can barely keep it all organized.

As an example, I haven’t written a congressman an angry missive in months, and I’m plenty upset and dismayed over the world. What’s up with that? 🙂

When in doubt about your craft and writer’s block, it’s best to turn to your neighborhood writer’s B-L-O-C.

My bloc of online critics, helpers, friends and cheerleaders (with cattle prods) are my salvation. When I know I’ve been bad, a quick email or Twittery tweet and they get me going again.

If you don’t have a writer’s bloc, I suggest you begin to cultivate one. Go on any number of writing web sites and introduce yourself. Querytracker.net is a great resource. From there you can subscribe to the blogs of other would-be and established writers. Comment on their blogs, read their work. Twitter your favorite writers or your targeted publishing house to keep up with what’s current.

Most writers (and wannabes) are friendly, and they will offer constructive criticism as well as encouragement. If you’re like me and don’t belong to a tangible, in-person writing group because you don’t have time to commit or are isolated, an online writer’s bloc could be just the resource for when you have writer’s block.