Stop Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

There’s an old saying of ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’. Today, it’s waiting for the other shoe to kick us in the ass or come flying straight at our faces. That’s life today and that’s why so many of us have trouble doing things we want to, or worse, feeling like abject failures if all we did was spend our days putting out fires and dodging those damn shoes coming at us from both the front and behind us. I mean, I know damn well shit happens on a daily basis but it still sucks, it’s still depressing as shit, and yes, I still get pissed off over it.

And for me, for some dumb-ass bullshit reason, I used to think I just had to be a human blob and wait for those shoes to come at me. That I think is the problem many of us may have: we think we just have to wait for those shoes to come at us and that if we try to do something else someone asshole will come along and tell us to sit down and shut the fuck up and take our punishments.

There is an age-old question of why bad things happen to good people and the answers are for the most part, bullshit. I understand about being in the wrong place at the wrong time but I have begun to realize that a lot of shit happens because people in positions of power and influence shouldn’t be there in the first place. That a lot of things in this world are just not done well and that the people who should give a shit and make the necessary changes to make lives easier, either honestly don’t know how to do that, or are true sadists and don’t give a shit and just think the rest of the world needs to suck it up and eat shit until we all die.

In almost twenty-years in call-center Hell, I saw a ton of policies and procedures that were inefficient at best and at worst, were deliberately designed to be hard on people. Automation was supposed to help us but in reality, it wasn’t capable of more than any super-basic function. But worst of all were the people in charge of things. At best, they were just clueless and honestly didn’t know what they were doing and at worst, were more concerned with covering their own asses and more than willing to run people over in the process.

For example, on 9/11 I was working in my first call-center job when callers started telling us what was happening. And what did my manager do? Call a freaking meeting to go over some stupid bullshit and say planes flying into buildings and shit wasn’t a big deal. I wish I had stood up told her off and walked off that job but I was too much of a fucking dumb-ass back then to do that. I thought my job was more important than anything else. So trust me, when that place went under I didn’t mourn, and when I got fired from there I survived.

I think at times there is a concerted effort made to get people not to give a damn about what really matters in this world. My father used to say not to sweat the small stuff because it was all small stuff. I would say instead that it’s okay to sweat out the big shit in life but not the little minute bullshit of being afraid to lose your job every five damn minutes or just for saying something intelligent that someone else can’t handle.

I will freely admit here I hate having to work around some stupid inefficient bullshit in order to do what I need to do. I hate having to deal with one hand not knowing what the other is doing. And what really pisses me off  is there are assholes in this world who expect me to shut up and wait while they fuck around and be useless.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so damn mean and cynical about people right now but it’s the assholes that do ruin shit. And yes, I know they’re in the minority but boy can they fuck things up. We have to stop deferring to authority figures who are inefficient assholes now and work our asses off to get them out of positions of power. And we have to stop letting ourselves think that we just have to sit and take shit because that’s how things work.

So to anyone reading this right now: if you feel like you just have to sit and wait for the next shoe to come at you, don’t. Do what you want to do while waiting on some asshole to shit or get off the pot as my father used to day. Or keep doing what you need to do and once that asshole gets off the pot then take your sweet time in attending to them. Most of all, if someone mouths off at you for doing this, walk away because telling them to ‘fuck off’ won’t stop them for being assholes.

In the end, I’m really trying to take my own advice here. If I’ve got a problem that’s a snarly mess I sit around and let my mind run around in circles thinking I have to be ready to jump whenever someone decides to get back to me. But instead, I’m going to vent here and hope that other people will be able to vent off my words. Then I’m going to take some deep breaths and get my racing heart and brain under control.

To this world and the assholes in it: keep your damn shoes on and quit throwing them at people. Because as of now, I’m catching these damn shoes and throwing them back where they came from.

Writing Through Indoctrinated Fear

When I first joined my local romance-writers group in 1996, one thing I heard almost from the beginning was not to talk publicly about politics or any other ‘controversial’ (the quotation marks are mine) issues. The well-intentioned reasoning I was given was if you did then readers would turn on you and never buy your books, and in turn publishers wouldn’t publish your books and you would never have a writing career. I see that for what it is now: wrong as fucking hell.

One, no writer will reach, please, or satisfy every single reader on the planet. That’s called reality and there’s nothing wrong with accepting that. But living in fear of readers who won’t get into your work is bullshit and a huge waste of time.

Two, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution hasn’t been repealed yet, you know the one about Freedom of Speech. And yes, this does govern speech you don’t agree with or like. It means everyone has a right to speak, bitch, complain, or even talk out of their asshole if they want to.

Three, this indoctrination into not speaking out against issues like racism, sexism, rising fascism, etc. is not helping the cause of freedom. Silence on these issues aids the oppressors. In the romance-writing world, it kept racism and homophobia in the romance-writing community from being exposed and dealt with for far too many years. It created an incredibly hostile environment against authors of color and LGBTQ authors. Because of that, racism and homophobia are deeply-entrenched not only in the romance-writing community, but in our society as a whole. Silence is a form of fear-mongering and the good-intentioned way it’s presented is that if you stay silent then you won’t be hurt.

Like I’ve said before, I’ve been silent and that didn’t prevent me from being hurt in any way, shape, or form. What it did prevent me from doing was putting up a shield against thoughtless bullshit and casual cruelty, and it prevented me from keeping people from sinking their razor-sharp talons into my heart and soul.

I’m going to say this right here and now: if more people had spoken out over the last twenty-plus years against institutionalized racism and other shit like that, maybe most of the shit that’s happened since 2016 wouldn’t have happened. Maybe reforms and changes would have begun two decades ago and we’d be seeing some results now. Maybe we would respond so much better to crises like pandemics. And maybe so many people wouldn’t have died.

Yes, I know that sounds brutal. And I know some readers here might be thinking how do writers, especially silly little romance-novelists play into this?

Well, us writers, and yes, us silly little romance-novelists have audiences. And yes, we may have pissed off some of those readers if we had spoken out sooner against all the awful shit in this world but it would have been better if it happened back then and not now when we’re not even on the road to making any real changes. We are living not just through a shit-show, but in a dumpster fire. The problem is, the stuff we’re burning in the dumpster isn’t what should be burning. The contents of this dumpster we live in are fear, hatred, deflection, and gaslighting. This is what should have been written about two decades ago when I and many others were told to stay silent.

My fears of being exiled for speaking out are rapidly dying now for I know I’ve been an exile all my life. I’ve never fit in completely anywhere and I don’t know if I ever will find a place where I would fit in. But I’m okay with that. I’ve made it this far and as I write this I hear a thought in my head: you’re so much stronger than you have ever realized and don’t ever forget that.

Strength comes from facing fears and seeing they weren’t the fifty-foot fire-breathing dragons, or the huge smothering blankets of good-intentions you thought they were. In reality, they were nothing but smoke and mirrors. The smoke can be blown away and the mirror can be smashed to pieces.

Writing through this is hard and I’m not going to sugar-coat that in any way. But it’s worth it to me because the truth will set you free. Strength can come from a racing heartbeat and tightened lungs, from shaking jangly nerves, and from unshed tears. I know even as I keep writing in order not to lose my shit that solutions will come to me. They always have no matter how down I get.

 I once saw this saying and I still love it now as I’m learning to live it:

Feel the fear and write anyway.

Reclaiming Happiness for Healing

When the movie ‘Flashdance’ came out in 1983, I along with millions of young girls wanted to be a dancer and have it all. We all had the soundtrack album, the leg warmers, and the ripped sweatshirt. In 1983, I was nine years old and definitely not dancer-material, or physically coordinated at all. And in that year, that was painfully driven home every single day in P.E. (physical education) class when we did our exercises to the song ‘Flashdance (What a Feeling)’ by Irene Cara. By the end of that year of P.E. hell, I learned how to hate that song and for close to thirty-five years, I couldn’t listen to it without those awful memories of being picked last for any team, laughed at when I fell on my ass, and glared at daily by the P.E. teachers I had.

But in 2018, I reclaimed my love for that song.

It started on a Uber ride one morning when I was in very heavy traffic and unable to take my hands off the steering wheel to change the radio station. So I had to listen to the song, and when I did as a forty-four year-old woman, I heard these lines:

All alone I have cried

Silent tears full of pride

In a world made of steel

Made of stone

(Lyrics by Irene Cara and Keith Forsey, Music by Giorgio Mororder)

When I heard those lyrics, I shocked and amazed that I had forgotten them. Then I got back to my place and put the song on my phone and put my headphones on to listen to it again while I made breakfast. But when I heard those lines again, I bawled my brains out over a plate of breakfast tacos. Luckily no one was around to see that and my pets kept their distance from me.

I’m glad I bawled my brains out over those lyrics because after that, I began listening to the song and not thinking about being bullied and teased as a little girl. I began thinking of myself as a woman who had survived all that shit and was on the road to becoming the person I have always wanted to be. And that person is one who can smile and sing along (quite badly, I will admit) to this song and yes, even move around to it. It was like I was telling myself it was okay to cry those tears in silence alone in a shitty world because if you listen to the rest of the song, you’ll understand why this is so liberating.

For many years, I glossed over a lot of those memories of my childhood and adolescence, unwilling and unable to talk about the shittier aspects of it. But because I had stayed silent about those shit-times, I had buried the good times, too. Because despite being bullied and hated as a young child, I had an imagination and through that imagination I had hope. Hope that I could live in a world where maybe I wouldn’t sing and dance, but where I would find my dreams and make them happen. I’m working towards that now and realizing I’m so much stronger than the lies all the shit-bag assholes of this world ever told me.

And being stronger than you think is also a message of the movie ‘Flashdance’ as Alex (played by the awesome Jennifer Beales) learns in the movie, too. That year in that P.E. class took that away from me, too but I’ve gotten that message back. So I want to say here to anyone reading this: you can reclaim the good and learn how to put the bad away in boxes and store them. You’ll never forget those bad memories but when you box them up, you take away their power and you remove their sharp talons from your heart and soul.

I recently found the word for this reclaiming process: healing. Healing is when you find joy and happiness that you’d lost, or had taken from you. Healing is when you find the good behind the bad. Healing is taking a deep breath, wiping away your tears, then smiling and singing along with the old songs that made you want to dance.

I don’t think I can stress the importance of healing now. For me, when this word came to my mind it was like a punch to my stomach. It knocked the wind out of me and pissed me off like pain does. But know this: healing is not rebellious and radical. And if someone sees healing as rebellious and radical, they can take that and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. We all have wounds we need to heal from. It’s not an easy process but one that’s well worth it.

Healing is what gives me the ability to write now and bring three very important projects together. It’s slow-going at times but that’s alright. The shit-heads of this world are wanting to burn it down and not nuke us like they wanted to back in the 80’s so there’s time to write.

Most of all, there is time to heal.

Define Yourself

The day before yesterday, news came that the actor Chadwick Boseman had died at the age of forty-three after a four-year battle with colon cancer. No one other than his family knew of his cancer diagnosis and in the last four years of his life, he made eight films, including the highest-grossing superhero film, ‘Black Panther’. Knowing he was battling cancer while making movies makes me think of him as a real-life superhero, and not just because of his strength and determination to perform so well, but not to let his illness define him. Because if he had gone public with his diagnosis, he probably wouldn’t have worked at all.

Now of course there are idiots in this world who are saying he should have been able to work and be public with his illness. We don’t live in a perfect world where people with illnesses are allowed to live a life while battling their illness. We have a seriously-misguided and totally fucked-up idea that someone who is ill is supposed to be defined by that and devote all their attention to it. This is why people keep their illnesses quiet and continue to live until the end. Chadwick Boseman was one of these people, and there have been others – David Bowie and Raul Julia are two people who come to mind as both worked through their illnesses until they passed away.

Twenty-plus years ago I was with my mother throughout her seven-year battle with cancer. I saw the horror of the surgeries, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, and it was why I tried to not let her live by that alone. One time I was outside on the back patio with her as she fussed with her plants and she asked me why I was outside with her instead of off doing something on my own. I in turn asked her, “Do I have to tell you why I’m out here with you?” She said no and we went back to our conversation and her plants. There was no need to for me to say I was spending time with her because I knew I wouldn’t have the time I wanted to with her, but also I wanted to treat her as she was, not defined by her damned illness.

This morning I’m thinking of how it feels to be defined by one thing when each and every one of us is so much more. I feel like we’re put into a box and told to stay there and that if we leave that box we’re either too fragile to be outside or that we’re breaking some rule that’s not a law.

To that I say: fuck that shit.

If you define people in this world by one thing and try to box them up, I don’t give a flying-fuck how good your intentions are. Take those good intentions and go to Hell and get roasted by Satan for an eternity.

We all have our good and bad days, some more than others. But that’s called life and we don’t have to be all or one way all the damn time. I don’t have to define myself as one thing, or to act a certain way all the time. And most of all, I’m allowed to fuck up, slip up, and even crack up once in a while. This feeling that you have to be one thing all the damn time is fucking hell, and totally fucking wrong. Yet this is what drives people into silence, and trust me, keeping shit to yourself isn’t easy. Because when you do, you take a lot of shit from people who are either just thoughtless assholes or casually cruel. Yet in order not to capsize your boat and go under, you stay silent and take their shit.

Most people don’t want to talk about the hard shit in life such as mortality and realizing to the core of your soul that your time on Earth is limited. You have to deal with huge waves of regret and guilt, most of which are total bullshit.

Chadwick Boseman knew he was on borrowed time, and he also knew the huge risks he was taking in working like he did because his illness could have taken a sudden turn for the worse. Yet he made the most of the time he was given, shared his gifts with the world, and will be remembered for those performances and for the life he led. He didn’t let one thing define him, and he sure as hell didn’t let anyone put him in a box. He shined, and always will even as he is with the Ancestors now.

Don’t define yourself by one thing, and don’t let anyone put you in a box and keep you there. Stay silent if you choose to, but know this: we are all so much stronger than some motherfucking assholes may say. Don’t listen to anyone who says you are weak and fragile, and don’t let that define you.

Don’t let anyone define your or your life. Live your life to the fullest no matter how much time you have on this Earth. Be strong.

#WakandaForever

Writing Through Grief

Many years ago, before my mother died, I heard I was too comfortable talking about death.

I wasn’t comfortable at all. I just learned to talk about it because I knew it was going to happen. There was no comfort in talking about it or what would have to be done when it came. In fact, the first time my mother and father sat down with me to talk about their deaths and what would need to be done… I got up and walked out of the room. They never held that against me but for many years, I felt enormous shame and guilt that I had done that. I was maybe twenty-one or twenty-two years old (I’m a bit hazy on the exact time frame), just a scared kid really and they knew that. But I knew I was being asked to put my fears aside and prepare for what was coming and I had to learn how to control my emotions and focus on the tasks at hand.

But there was no comfort in that and hearing that hurt me deeply. I tried to write it off as thoughtless bullshit or casual cruelty. But there is no justification for either one. Whether you’re thrust into the grieving process by sudden death or slowly pulled into it by a long, slow march to death, there is never any comfort in death. Yes, death takes away suffering from the person who died, but it leaves those behind with pain that only eases over time.

In the coming weeks and months, I will be writing about my grief. In October of this year it will be eighteen years since my mother died, and it’s been nine years since my father died. Both died after long and protracted illnesses I was there for every step of the way. Yet I was not given the opportunity to talk about my feelings while they were alive as I felt like people couldn’t handle what I was going through, or didn’t want to deal with me and my feelings. So I boxed those feelings up and put them away. Over the last couple of years, I opened those boxes and went through everything I put into them.

Writing about my grief is my grief-into-purpose moment. So many of us are grieving right now: for our loved ones who’ve gone before us, for those we’re watching on that final journey, for those we know who share our pain, and for a world that is changing, and for the fear and violence in our world now.

I have heard accusations in the past that I was trying to be a martyr for talking about my feelings, or that I was being a martyr for not talking about them at all. It was like if I tried to say something, I was only doing it for martyrdom. But if I said nothing I was also doing that for martyrdom.

I have never, ever, been comfortable with attention on myself. I experienced a lot of humiliation and pain whenever I did seek attention when I was young, so much so that I tried to run and hide and only step onto a stage in my imagination. Again, maybe it was just thoughtless bullshit and casual cruelty but there is no justification for either one. I want to say this to anyone who thinks a quiet person breaks their silence for attention or worse, some sort of martyrdom: no, that’s not what’s it about at all.

I think it’s good to see and hear people talking about grief and loss. It’s good to see it move past funerals and graveside services. It’s good that people are saying I understand your pain because I have felt pain, too. And most of all, I’m glad there is a man who is inspiring people to work for a better world by saying we have to turn grief into purpose (Joe Biden, 2020).

Cruelty to me is an absence of emotion, and not acceptable in any way, shape, or form. I will not absolve it, and my way of forgiveness for it is to describe it like this: forgiveness is when I remove razor-sharp talons from my heart and soul, wash the blood off, clean and stitch my wound close, then put a bandage over it. In time, I will learn to let go of the pain, and to know that I don’t have to let myself be hurt like that again.

Grief is not a razor-sharp talon in my flesh. It’s a shock to the heart, a body-blow that knocks the wind out of you. But you can recover from that, stand up straight, and breathe through the pain. And you learn to breathe again by feeling your emotions, and putting them into words. You don’t really breathe, or live in silence. Grief does not need to be silent, not in your mind, your heart, or your soul. Words and memories will always be there, even if you box them up and put them away.

When you’re ready, you’ll open those boxes and go through everything. And you’ll find the words for your feelings. And you’ll have a shield against cruelty, against those who would harm you for speaking your truth, and your feelings. I choose to write about my grief, and to break my silence over it.

Writing For Therapy, Knowledge, and Healing

Four years ago, I set out to use writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. This is what I call writing as therapy because I was working through mental and emotional shit to gain knowledge. I thought therapy and knowledge would be enough until this thought came into my mind: I need to heal.

Following that thought was this one:

Since when did the thought of healing become a radical and rebellious idea?

Right after I typed that out yesterday, I got up and stalked around my room with a serious urge to rant and rage. Why? Because healing meant I would be letting myself feel happy and letting go of pain and misery once and for all. That’s a radical and rebellious idea for me because all my life I have felt like I had no right to be happy, and especially no right to express my feelings of happiness.

Writing on the non-fiction triumvirate as I call it now is not easy at times. But I do gain satisfaction with myself for my writing even though it’s a lot of hard work. And that satisfaction does make me feel happy. It’s not shout-in-the-streets joy but a deep-seated feeling of happiness from doing what I want to do. Yet why does writing the word ‘happy’ itself and thinking about feeling it hurt so much?

The answer to that last question is a long and complicated story with a lot of chapters. But now that I know the end of that story, I can write it. Because to heal is to let go of what’s hurt you and held you back. My fear behind this is that someone won’t like that I’m moving on, feeling the way I do, and most of all, expressing those feelings. My first instinct used to be to retreat, and my newer instinct is to rant and rage on the page here. Now I know I don’t have to retreat, or rant and rage. I just need to write, to heal, and be happy.

But yesterday I also wrote this: I’m not responsible for someone else’s feelings, especially if I’m not doing anything wrong. I will tell myself this now: just because someone has come at me in the past with either raging bullshit or passive-aggressive good-intentions doesn’t mean I have to take that shit any more. Or be scared that I can’t deal with it.

Healing is telling myself I can do something, and that I’m a lot stronger than I have ever realized before in my life. And that writing, Uber driving, sleeping, watching stuff on my laptop, listening to music, or maybe someday having some sort of social life is not out of the realm of possibility for me. That old fears are not my present anymore. I know I can work through the times where I want to rant and rage, or run and hide. Working through those rant-and-rage or run-and-hide moments is what led to this piece now, which I am forever grateful for.

Four years ago, I had no idea what my journey would lead to. But then no one else would have known either. I’m glad I have reached the point I’m at now where I can begin to embrace healing. Healing is not a radical and rebellious idea to me now. It’s not just a need, but something I want to do.

I know we live in some seriously fucked-up times right now. But I also know this: the future isn’t written. We write it in the present. As a writer myself, I write it every time I sit down and put words onto a page. That’s a hard realization because looking at a blank slate and thinking what could go wrong is scary as hell. And it’s not easy to think of what can go right either because of the unknown. Hope to me is accepting that things can work out not just by thinking about it, but by doing something about it.

My ‘doing something about it’ is writing. And publishing here to start with.

And most of all, I want every reader here to know the most important thing I’ve learned over the last four years:

You have every right to your thoughts and feelings no matter what they are, good, bad, ugly, or anything in between. And you have every right to deal with them in whatever way you choose to.

And in my case, that includes writing about them.

I Am the Fire, the Fury, and The Cool of the Ocean

A few days ago I began working on a short piece I titled ‘Why I Write’. But I couldn’t get it to come together and instead, it opened up a box inside my mind I thought I had gone through but needed to go through again. I had a nice ranting piece ready to go but luckily I held it back then deleted it entirely. Why? I have no need to rant and rave and say ‘fuck off’. And I have quit worrying about someone not liking what I write and trying to make it all about them or some other passive-aggressive bullshit.

So instead, I want to talk about what a simple writing piece has led to. It led to a title change and an overhaul of a project that really needed it.

A couple of years ago, not long after I came up with the title ‘Breaking Radio Silence’,  I came up with a piece I titled ‘My Relationship With Writing Is Complicated’. I wanted to put that piece into the ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project but as I began to work on it, I realized it wouldn’t fit in with that project because it’s focus is pretty narrow. So I spun it off on its’ own and then sort of forgot about it until yesterday.

Yesterday I retitled my writing-book project and I’m in the process of overhauling it in terms of structure and outline. But I nailed the introduction and realize I’ve got another non-fiction hybrid project in the works. I call this book a hybrid because it’s a mix of memoire and writing how-to. My other two non-fiction books (Breaking Radio Silence and Intersections) are also hybrids mixing memoire with self-help and history and commentary. I don’t think I’m the first writer to do this but I may be the first one to put a label on it.

But I will admit here, I’ve been holding back on all three projects.

Why?

Because I thought I needed more time to be ready to write and post about them. But I realize that if I wait until I’m ready, I’ll never be ready. What that means is I have to stop waiting and start doing things. And most of all, I have to stop being afraid or worried about what someone might think. So I’ve revived the title ‘My Relationship With Writing Is Complicated’ and made that the introduction to my writing book. It’s a piece two years in the making and it’s a great introduction like the new introductions I’ve written to my two other non-fiction books.

These three books are deeply personal and will be hard to read at times because I know they will be hard to write at times. But I know now that I can write them. I know I can write them because all I have to do is what I did earlier: delete the shit in my mind that tells me to be scared and run and hide rather than risk pissing someone off with my writing. As you’ll read in the introduction to my writing book, which I’ve titled, “Writing Through Fear, Imagination, and Courage”, you’ll see where that fear comes from. Having written about it over the last day or so and realizing I can finally put it back in the box where it belongs, means I can move forward and just shut the fuck up and write.

Writing is sometimes easy for me, and sometimes it’s harder than hell. It’s harder than hell when I have to burn off a lot of shit to get to what I really need to write. I don’t need to justify my words or my ability to write them. I’m not a scared twenty-something kid anymore. I’m a pissed off middle-aged woman with a sarcastic sense of humor.

I am the Fire, and the Fury, and the Cool of the Ocean.

I wrote this phrase yesterday and it’s really resonated with me since then. What it means is I have the fire and the fury of wanting to write without hesitation or fear, but the cool of the ocean not to let fire, fury, and fear overtake me.

So starting tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the new introductions then other stuff, too. I hope I don’t find any more boxes I need to unpack and sort through again but now I know I don’t have to take days to do that.

Most of all, if I’ve got something ready to go, it’s going out into the world.

So You Want to Be a Writer…

I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how or where to start.

Yes, I’ve seen and heard this said by people for many years. And for anyone who has said that, I may have some answers for you. Though I do want to say right here and now, I didn’t say that at all when I started writing thirty-six years ago. I just picked up a spiral notebook and a pencil and began to write.

How did I know to do that? Simple. I knew what I wanted to write, which back then was poetry that I could turn into song lyrics. Sadly that dream didn’t come to fruition because I couldn’t find an Elton John to my Bernie Taupin. So I moved on and decided I wanted to be novelist then later on through my high school years, a screenwriter. After high school, I kept up with the screenwriting for a couple of years then went back to novel writing. Now I’m working on my novel, three book-length non-fiction projects, short article-essay type pieces like this one, the occasional poem, YouTube video, and short stories.

So now that you have my background let’s get back to the statement that started it all:

I want to be a writer.

Why? And I’m not being mean by asking that. I can understand if you’re not quite able to articulate your answer clearly just yet but you should have some idea as to what inspired you to want to be a writer. Because if it was just a thought out a thin air that sounded good, well you’ve got some work ahead of you here if you want to make that a reality.

I wanted to be a writer because I loved to read and I love words. I also have an overactive imagination and a brain full of thoughts and feeling. I discovered writing was a great way to get all that out of my head like other writers have done since the advent of writing.

But I don’t know how, or where to start.

This is actually doable though to get good at writing will take a lot of work. Some people are naturally gifted verbal storytellers but on paper, or in a digital format like most writers use today, not so much. But in order to know where to start, you do need to know why you want to in the first place. And also, you need to figure out what you want to write. Is it stories? Poems? Essays? You don’t have to stick to one thing and yes, you can do more than one thing at a time though I strongly encourage you to finish something before moving on to the next project. Whatever you decide to write should be something you want to do because if you’re making a conscious choice to write, you’re doing it for yourself first and foremost.

The ‘how’ part is just a lot of work. Basic writing should start with basic grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure, which hopefully you will learn in your basic education in school. You can also find lots of books, articles, and even YouTube videos on the many aspects of writing. But in addition to studying, you’ll have to write. And keep writing, and learn how to edit, revise, rewrite, and keep doing it until you find the flow as I call it. And know there will many times where your words won’t flow out of you. When that happens, you’ll have to figure out a way to work through that.

My advice is don’t write for attention, approval, fame, glory, or to get a date. Trust me, writing doesn’t work like that. Successful writers write because they want to, they believe in what they do and they’re willing to put in the work to get good at it.

Many years ago when I started writing, if I had announced with joyful abandon that I wanted to write people would have said this to me in total seriousness with absolutely no joy: “Great, kid. Now get to work.” Back in those days, if you wanted to be taken seriously you had to put in the work. You had to study, practice, and really keep at it. Today… not so much to my chagrin.

Frankly, I’ve always been puzzled by people who just think they can dash off words and expect instant gratitude and adulation. Legends in their own mind, I guess. But trust me, past a certain point, they won’t have the long and storied careers of best-selling authors. Whether or not I’ll ever hit a best-seller list remains to be seen but it won’t be because I didn’t work my tail off to try and hit it with the best work I can produce.

So you want to be a writer.

Great. Now get to work because in the end, it’s the writing itself that matters most, not the title of ‘writer’, or just wanting to be one.

Motivation Saturday – Writers Write

This two-word phrase came to me as I sat down to write a series of blog entries and got through three of them before a massive sinus attack hit me. But the phrase stayed in my mind and when that happens, I sit down and listen to it and figure out where it came from.

For the longest time, I have felt like when I sit down to write that I should be doing something else. What else should I be doing if it’s not urgent or can wait? That’s a good question and one I think involves the ever-present yet not-quite-real ‘someone’. Yes, the dreaded ‘someone’ who is so persistent in asking stupid questions like:

“Why are you writing? Shouldn’t you be doing something else?”

Now in the past I would have bent my head in shame and said, “Yes, I should be doing something else.” And then I would have found something else to do.

Now I stand tall and proud and say, “No. I am a writer and writers write.”

I know all too well there are a lot of people who call themselves writers yet don’t write, or write near as often as they should. They seem to love the idea of being a writer and being seen as a writer, but they’re not willing to put in the work. The problem with these wannabe’s as I call them is they are really good at projecting their perceived superiority over those of us who write and rewrite and edit until our brains turn to slime and slide out of our ears.

Don’t listen to these wannabe’s. You don’t have to in order to be polite and not hurt their feelings. They didn’t think twice about hurting yours by tearing you down so you don’t owe them anything in return for that. No, this is not being mean. This is about standing up for yourself and your work.

My late father once said to me: “Most people need to be told what to do and when to do it. You’re not one of them.”

You don’t have to be told what to do and when do it if that’s not the situation you’re in. Being a writer means being your own boss so be the boss you’ve always wanted to have. My inner boss would tell me right now to run with this idea and see where it goes. She’d tell me chores can wait (trust me, dust bunnies are the worst squatters around). And if you’ve eaten food, have something to drink, and you’ve been to the bathroom, you can sit down and write.

Writers write so they have words to revise because you can’t revise and edit a blank page. You can’t rewrite something if you haven’t something already. Writing, rewriting, editing, and revising are how word are polished to a shine and crafted to solid precision. But you can’t make something from nothing so you need to get the words down and if you have to, tell yourself no one is perfect. And not being perfect is more than okay. ‘Wannabe’s’ and ‘Someone’s’ will tell you in their own insidious ways that your work will never amount to anything, or that you should know better to begin with, or anything that makes them feel superior.

You don’t write for ‘wannabe’s’ or ‘someone’s’. You write for yourself first and foremost. You don’t write to anyone else’s expectations but your own. You have to take charge of your work and make it your own. Remember when it comes to your writing, you’re the boss of it. You write the words, not them. You edit and revise, not them. And since you’re a boss who does your own work, you can also do your own research and find the answers to your own questions.

Writers write.

If you have to, tell yourself this every time you can. Because if you hear this enough, you’ll start to believe it. And once you believe it, you’ll do it.

HEY, if you like this slogan-mantra-logo and would like a daily reminder of it for yourself or your fellow writers, check out my CafePress store page with a great variety of items. Click Here:  (link opens in a new page)

 

How To Write the Beginning of a Story That’s Not Boring

One of my biggest pet peeves as a writer, and as a reader, is a beginning that does absolutely nothing for me. I’ve read beginnings that have me feeling like I’m standing around waiting for something to happen instead being immersed in a story as it’s happening.

Before I go any further, I will say right here and now I don’t believe you should start off with backstory. I believe you can integrate that into your story as you go along when it’s relevant to your plot or character development. I say this because many years ago I read an interview with an editor who said if she read the first four chapters of a book and realized she could cut the first three, she wouldn’t read any further and reject the manuscript outright. Backstory and information are meant to be woven throughout a story, not dumped onto the reader as soon as they start reading.

I think the key to a great beginning is to make it intriguing to a reader. The most important thing to do at the beginning is set the scene without a ton of verbiage, then get inside your character’s head and let the reader hear their thoughts and feel their feelings.

Let’s start with an action-packed beginning. This is from a short story I wrote called ‘Two In the Woods’:

“Fall back! Fall back!”

Where to, Jim thought as he ran like hell through the woods. He remembered the day just two months before this nightmare of a fire-fight when tanks had rolled from the Russian East then the Allied West rolled theirs. And now he was right in the middle of World War Three without nukes in a cold and wet German forest.

Shots rang out through the trees and he slid down into the undergrowth. He put his back against a tree and checked his ammo clip before putting it back in his rifle. Even as the gunfire sounded like it was moving off, he decided he needed better shelter so he looked around… and found something a little more substantial.

He ran across the forest floor to a huge tree that had fallen down. The base of it looked like it would provide enough shelter to keep the rain from soaking him.

He slid back against the dirt and muck of the fallen tree-base just as a huge crack of thunder rocked the sky, and just as someone else slid into the shelter of the tree close to him.

He raised his rifle just as the other person did the same but neither fired as the wind blew hard and the rain poured down.

Here I wrote a lot of action but I was also able to get in a very brief bit about the setting and the reason behind the action at the end of the first paragraph. My goal with this beginning was to put my reader right into the scene with all the action until I was able to slow it down with the first ‘hook’ as I call it when the two soldiers face off in a very tight spot.

Now this next beginning is from a short story I wrote, “Her Sexy Chef”, which is a contemporary romance so no slam-bang action or war going on here.

Kate Turner walked along the beach and savored the warmth of the sun on her skin and the fine-grain sand beneath her feet. She loved Miami Beach despite the crowds and trendiness, and because she didn’t feel so self-conscious and invisible at the same time.

She lifted her camera to the water and focused on getting both the water and the beautiful blue sky in her pictures. Sunlight danced upon the small waves and she took a couple of photos, then her finger froze on the shutter-button as a man emerged from the water like a god of sea. He threw his head back to the sun and with both hands slicked his dark hair off his face, a move she found incredibly sexy.

She lifted her finger off the button and lowered her camera as she watched the mystery man walk out of the water. His modest black swim trunks were plastered to his lower body, and Kate felt her cheeks grow warm as she looked up from his mid-section. The dark hair on his chest and belly was wet and arrowed down… so she looked up from his six-pack abs and admired his strong shoulders and arms.

As he left the water behind completely, she shifted slightly in the sand then jumped as she felt something against the side of her foot. She looked down and saw a towel, and as she looked up he was now close enough for her to recognize him.

He was Miguel Sandoval, the man she was here to write about.

In this opening, I wanted to introduce Kate and the setting of the story in the first paragraphs then she sees Miguel for the first time without knowing who he is. So the scene here is lush, hot, and mesmerizing until we get to the end of the excerpt as she realizes who he is, and the story’s conflict of her being a writer on assignment and not on vacation.

The best mindset I can recommend for a story’s beginning is to make a reader want to know what happens next. Keep the opening moving with action and dialogue, and keep it in the character’s point of view at all times. Grab your reader’s attention and don’t let go. Because if you hold their attention, they sure won’t be bored. And a reader that is intrigued and wants to know more, they will read your stories from start to finish, and hopefully the next ones you write, too.