Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Breaking Radio Silence

Let's see. In the last two weeks, I started teaching three night classes in addition to my full-time job, agreed to take point on a sci/fi anthology, went to St. Louis on a mini-vacation with the husband, injured my ankle on what was supposed to be a 19 mile run (I was a good girl and quit at six), received a broken trophy in the mail, and got a pink tutu (thanks, Aunt Linda!). Highs, lows, and so much in between I can barely breathe.

Studies show a moderate amount of stress is actually can improve job performance. Adrenaline pushes you to work faster and more efficiently. However, cross that line of too much stress and you run the risk of hurting not only your mental and physical health, but your reputation as well! If you take on so much that you can't give 100% to each job, you've said yes to too much.

That's your #1 weakness, Cannon: being able to do so many different things and wanting to keep everyone happy. Well, sorry, old woman, but you're not getting any younger. You can do a lot, but when you start missing appointments and showing up late because you've booked yourself back-to-back with too many meetings, it's time for an intervention. So your blog persona has decided to publicly out you. Quit making promises you can't keep. Quit taking on new projects without finishing the old ones. You're better than this. You need to MAKE time for the important things in your life like your husband and your family. When was the last time you had fun with a group of friends? Yeah, I know. You have to tough it out through the next few months of craziness because you signed your life away on those teaching contracts. You have to keep the promises you've made as best you can. But next semester, girlie girl, if you don't start saying, "no," I'm really gonna get raw in this here public forum and ain't nobody gonna not stop and waggle their finger at you for being thickheaded for a second go-round.

(Don't you hate it when your characters out of control? Yikes! So, I guess the takeaway is balance, Daniel-San, and don't anger the inner warrior. They get snippy on lack of sleep.)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

With a Little Help from my Friends

I ran 16 miles today. These shoes. That watch. Witnesses, testaments, proof. Plus my body is a little tired and I'm going to be ravenous all day. Comes with the territory of running 3+ hours and burning over 2,000 calories before 9:00 a.m.

Don't get me wrong. This is not a blog to brag about my running prowess. I nearly didn't make it. Truth be told, I wouldn't have done it, would have quit and called my husband to pick me up a few miles in if it hadn't been for a little help from my friends.

You see, running long for me is tough for a number of reasons, a lot of them physical, some of them mental. (Yes, yes. I AM mental for running that long. Haha. As if I haven't heard that before.) My patellas don't track straight so I have to tape up my knees when I run hills or run over 7 miles. As a woman, I have hip issues that contribute to my knee issues, which lead to a whole host of aches and pains, tight muscles and ligaments. I'm tall and not a super-skinny person, either. Pushing around my weight is easier than it used to be since losing a bunch of fat and training 3-4 days a week, but it still ain't no walk in the park. And since I've only been running 2 1/2 years, I'm still a baby in the sport. My mental prowess is still developing and I'm still learning the difference between "need to quit" pain and "being a pansy" pain.

So what do I do? I go to our local Facebook page and recruit my own personal posse of runners who run at my speed (or a little faster to push myself) who help keep me going. The same people may not be running with me the whole time, but by running in several loops, I can run with different sets of people and get my entire run in while they get whatever milage they want, too. Everyone wins.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything!

If you want to publish, you really should write quality work. That means critique groups and/or editing services. Either way, you have to make working friendships with these people to trust them enough to 1) let them read your work and 2) believe they are trying to help you rather than insult your parantage and current lifestyle choices. Building a network of beta readers, critiquing friends, editing pals, whatever you want to call them, is key, I believe, in helping writers make it through the "long runs" of editing works into their best shape.

Second, if you want to market your published, quality work, you need to create a network of friends who will not only read your work but share your work with others. These fans aren't necessarily the people you'll share your deep-dark secrets with, but you do have to mingle, socialize, and get to know hundreds, perhaps thousands of people to create a network of supporters to make any money at all in the publishing field. Competition is fierce in every genre. What's the difference between your book and mine? If you know me, have shook my hand, and have made a connection with me, you're more likely to buy and read my book.

The last four or five miles of today's run, my body was done. Finished. Caput. It's a fueling issue I'll have to address on future long runs since I'm in training for a marathon. So what did I have left? My mind and my friends. My mind knew I could finish the distance because I had done it before. My friends knew I could finish because they believed in me. You really need both in the writing business to succeed.

I can't tell you how to develop a positive attitude except to keep pounding those keys and keep submitting work. Practice. Practice. Practice. We're going to write a lot of bad stuff before we write any good stuff. That's just reality. Once I realized that, I didn't feel so bad about my bad stuff.

But friends...although I always advocate being honestly who you are, you also have to treat others the way you would want to be treated. I've found balancing those two ideas has worked for me. Except with some people who just aren't happy with anything. Let them be unhappy. They're not worth your energy or mine. They probably don't buy good books anyway.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Naked Baby Pictures... A Writer's Worst Nightmare

My parents are having a yard sale. This is a big deal. Everyone in the family is required to come over in the weeks prior to the event to go through the boxes, bags, stacks, and piles to either claim what use to be theirs, or take anything else they want. Mom wants it gone as soon as possible. What's left gets priced at bargain-basement prices, some even as high as a quarter.

I was going through one of my boxes (high school certificates, senior class trip pictures of D.C., old dishes) when I found something that made me giggle and blush at the same time: one of my first short stories. It had been printed on that accordion paper with the holes in the side you can rip off. The print: pixelated dot-matrix. WOW! I thought all of them had been lost when the 5 1/4" drive died. (Yes, I am that old.)

Then I read the first line and burst out laughing. Oh. Oh my. Oh HOW AWFUL! I mean, this wasn't just bad;

it was teenage angst, idealistic, full-of-myself, HORRIFIC. In a terribly funny way. At least to me now. I knew nothing yet I was preaching to the world that I had the solution to the world's ills. BWAHAHA! Innocent, blind little baby.

So I found my writer's "naked baby pictures" and I remember now what I looked like back then. Will I ever let someone else read them? Maybe my very close friends. Maybe. But my point is, it's good to see where's you've come from and how much you've grown.

As for the poetry I found? That's going directly into the firebin. No one's going to be blinded by that waste of pen and ink. I'll leave poetry to real poets. :-)