This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Survival Tactics for NaBloPoMo from Writers in the Movies

         Once again we are joined by Nicole of The Madlab Post.   On her last visit she offered a creative look at comment styles based on characters from the Harry Potter stories.  Today Nicole provides some tips on finding inspiration for blog posts (or anything else for that matter) from movies about writing.

Survival Tactics for NaBloPoMo from Writers in the Movies

        It seems that everyone around the globe was getting their NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo or some version of them, on this month and I was no exception. I joined NaBloPoMo and was doing well blogging everyday until I missed one day 2 weeks ago. I abandoned it after that because I figured that there was no point in daily blogging in November since I already made that hiccup.

         It felt like a failure, especially since I planned to write posts in advance and schedule them to publish but didn’t follow through on those plans. However, I did manage to complete NaBloPoMo in July and recently noticed that by using writers on film as inspiration for creating blog posts, anyone can finish a NaNo-undertaking in November or any other month. Coming up with post ideas was not my problem nor the reason I missed a day. I just forgot to blog, but these NaBloPoMo survival tactics from writers in the movies can help you whether you’re planning posts in advance or writing them off the cuff.

The Sean Connery Way: Play off of Another Blogger’s Post

         In “Finding Forrester,” Jamal rewrote William’s earlier work and used it for a writting contest at his school. Find other blogs that bring credibility to or extend the topics that you are writing about on your blog and rather than rewriting their post, use it to build upon the same topic. This can help you connect with other NaBloPoMo participants and share each others reader base. You can achieve this by constructing blog posts that play off of something already written out in the blogosphere. By doing so, I do not mean for you to choose a counterargument or opposite viewpoint such as writing “The Benefits of Buying Organic” as a response to, or based on another blogger’s post that is about “The Disadvantages of Organic Fruits and Vegetables.”

         Playing off of a post on another blog also does not refer to putting a spin on it such as writing about how the new and used book war is good for competition between small businesses, after another blogger wrote a post that discusses the rate at which new book sales are declining compared to the same time last year.....although you CAN do all of these things as well if it will help you survive the struggles of writer’s block and lack of motivation that surfaces during NaBloPoMo. The “Finding Forrester” way that I am referring to is to just merely post a short excerpt of something written by another blogger as a way to prove a point that you are trying to make about a particular subject or as a way to help your readers further understand what you are trying to tell them. An example of this would be if I were to write a blog post about the difficulties of deciding whether to commit suicide or not, by listing the challenges facing why to do it and why to avoid that route.

         In the latter section, I could write about the things that life has to offer and not only reference one of my favorite quotes by Madonna where she talks about people being responsible for what happens in their lives, but I could also use this opportunity to play off of the recent Tossing It Out post titled “What Are You Doing for Christmas?” where Lee says “ Life is waiting for you to savor it before you have to leave this world. There has been good and good things are still to come. Much of that good is for you to find or create. Be thankful not just at Thanksgiving, but every day of your life.” That section of his post brings some validity to what I’m already trying to say, especially since the entire post will make you not want to kill yourself or at the very least, it will make you pause and reevaluate some things.

The Johnny Depp Way: Channel Your Inner Stalker

        In “Secret Window,” Mort and Shooter dangerously tango through dealings with psychosis, plagiarism and justice, all in the pursuit of the perfect ending to a story. There are several ways to use this movie to help you write posts during NaBloPoMo but I’ll only touch on a few here. First, you can sorta plagiarise yourself by rewriting old posts that you either no longer enjoy reading and want to improve or posts that you have had a change of heart on. An example of this would be my dislike for the rapper Nicki Minaj’s music when she became popular over the last two years or so. Therefore, if I were to write a review of her album upon it’s release, my blog post probably would’ve said that her voice is so annoying and the lyrics are so dumb that she makes me want to go on a hip-hop fast for as long as she is on the scene. Today, I actually like some of her much so that I bought her album, which is something that I didn’t think I would ever do. Using the “Secret Window” approach, I could rewrite my review and add more favorable responses to this girl’s music.

        Secondly, you can write blog posts in the voice of either several other people OR several different parts of yourself. This might be an interesting way to continue through the days of NaBloPoMo because it forces you to write things that you may have normally avoided otherwise and it also forces you to write in ways or in tones that could surprise your readers and go against the grain of your everyday blogging activities. An example of this would be to get angry and write a rant on Monday about whatever makes you mad...but do not write it as yourself. Write it in the tone of the angriest or meanest person that you know OR write it in your own tone, as if you were speaking to someone whom you would love to tell off, if given the opportunity.

       No one rings the bell? That is ok too. I’m sure there is a celebrity that just gets on your last nerve, so use that as a starting point. Let’s use, say, Kim Kardashian as an example since many people love her and many people don’t. If you were placed in a room with Ms. Kardashian and given 5 minutes to tell her off, what would you say? Ok, now write that in your next blog post! Actually, let’s back up for a minute. If you are angry with some aspect of corporate greed, gun control, animal poaching, healthcare reform or whatever gets your pots boiling, take these matters and write a blog post that reads in the tone of a letter to Kim Kardashian, as if she were that corporate executive stealing millions from workers, or that rifle toting person or that criminal poaching decorative elephant parts for get the point.

           Are you usually angry anyway on your blog? Fine. Write a post about the same matters, in the nicest tone that you can. Or, write about something that makes you happy, in the tone of Carol Brady from “The Brady Bunch,” rather than writing about things that make you angry. Whatever you do, be somebody else or another version of yourself for a day. It’s like trying on another personality for size, just like you try on a pair of new shoes or clothes. Doing so may help you learn more about yourself, offer insight to what does and does not matter, and most will help you survive NaBloPoMo!

      Which survival tactics from “Finding Forrester” or “Secret Window” are YOU likely to use for your daily blogging activities?    How did YOU survive NaBloPoMo, NaNoWriMo, or any other writing equivalent?    If YOU missed a day or two, what caused this hiccup and how did you respond to it?

         Thank you Nicole for another great guest post.  Be sure to visit Nicole at her blog Madlab Post and tell her hello.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Who Would You Like To Write Like?

WritingImage via Wikipedia

         By now many of you have run a writing sample through the website I Write Like.   My first sample that I put through of my writing was declared to be like the writing of Chuck Palahniuk.  I was impressed even though at the time I had no idea who he was and had to look him up.  The next sample I ran through said that I write like Dan Brown.   Cool!  Looked like I had the potential of writing a best selling novel.

          Then I started experimenting.  I put in a passage from Huckleberry Finn.  The writing program quickly spat out Mark Twain.  Too easy I thought, so I submitted a passage from a modern translation of the Book of Jonah out of the Bible.  The response was Daniel Defoe.  Hmmm--Well there is some similarity between the stories of Robinson Crusoe and Jonah--kind of, in a way.

           Curious, I tried a passage from the Book of Ezekiel.   The comparison was to Kurt Vonnegut.  Now, I suppose some of Vonnegut's fans think of him as a writing god, but this comparison was going a bit far.  Since I was on a roll I tried one more, this time another sample from the Bible came back as sounding like Anne Rice.  Okay, that did it.  The program was not always accurate.
             The I Write Like program was developed by Russian software developer Dmitry Chestnykh.  He fed about 50 famous writers into a data base and created a program that would analyze writing and compare the sample to one of those writers.  It's a fun little diversion that is more like a technological parlor trick than any reliable system of writing analysis.  Cool?  Yes.  Reliable?  It has its limits.   A lot of us seem to write like the same writers according to this website.

             Personally, I would like to have an amazingly distinctive style that is readily identifiable as me.  But I know I don't.  I have a voice, but it is a casual modern voice that is not unlike a lot of writers that I read.  That's okay with me because I prefer to write in the style that I enjoy reading.  

            If I were asked, "Who would you like to write like?", then I would probably mention someone like Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, or even Stephen King.   They all have writing qualities that I find admirable.   But also they are all different.   Maybe a bit of each combined into a mishmash of me might be nice.

           Who would you like to write like?   Have you submitted any of your writing samples to I Write Like?  What did that program say about you?

           I think you will enjoy the Tossing It Out guest spot on Wednesday when Nicole from The Madlab Post makes a return visit with a blogging inspiration comparison to writers in the movies.  How about I tease you with "Johnny Depp" for starters?  Be sure to stop in this Wednesday to find out more.
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Friday, November 25, 2011

What Are You Doing for Christmas?

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...Image via Wikipedia

           Even though the signs of Christmas seem to start showing up earlier each year, the traditional downhill sled ride to the holiday starts the day after Thanksgiving.  Still, Black Friday no longer is only the Friday after Turkey Day.  Several "Black Fridays" have popped up with internet sales and special sales in stores trying to salvage low sales figures of the previous year.  What's the point anyway?

           It wouldn't be a bad thing if we all kept up the spirit of Christmas throughout the year and the economy might experience a year long boom if everyone spent money like they do at the holidays.  Well, it might be a boom until the reality set in that credit has limits and money for most of us is limited.

           In theory Christmas is more than spending lots of money and giving and receiving gifts.  The spirit of the season should be something inside of us and a generous outpouring of love and kindness for our families and others.   Charities count on that generosity in the month of December and many businesses would be in big trouble if not for the flow of festive money spending during that time.

           These days it's not the best of times for many of us, but it's not the worst of times either--at least not yet.  Most of us are still getting by fairly decently.  We've got a place to live, clothes to keep us warm, food to eat, and so many other luxuries that we take for granted.  If you're reading this blog that's evidence that you're not totally lacking and living in squalor.

           So what are you doing for Christmas this year?  Will you be enjoying family time as I hope will be the case with me and my wife?  We miss our kids and grandkids.   Hopefully we'll be able to share some good times with them.  Some of you may be volunteering your time for worthy causes while others may be hard at work in jobs that become busier during this time.  Or maybe you'll be at home just getting by or just getting some rest.

           Whatever the choice you make in what you do for the holidays, remember your blessings and share blessings with others.  We have much for which to be thankful, even when we think we don't.  There is always something in our lives that is good and beautiful.  It's up to you to make it so, whether it be the way you contribute to positive change around you or making a positive within yourself.

             There have been good things in your life.  Look around you if you don't think so.  See the sky, the flowers, the trees.   Hear the songs of the birds and the laughter of children at play.  Life is waiting for you to savor it before you have to leave this world.  There has been good and good things are still to come.  Much of that good is for you to find or create.  Be thankful not just at Thanksgiving, but every day of your life.

           What are you most thankful for this year?   What do you hope you can say you are most thankful for this time next year?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chronicle Books Give-Away

        My thanks to Kelly at Book Dirt for calling my attention to the Chronicle Books Give-Away.  The prize is $500 worth of books for the winner and one of the commenters on the winner's blog post will also receive those same books--how cool is that?  

        Not only will those prizes be awarded, but the winner will also be able to pick a favorite charity that will be able to pick out its own $500 worth of books.  Do I have your attention yet?  Maybe I should be keeping this a secret so there will be less entries and my odds will increase, but I guess I love my readers too much not to let you in on this great contest.

        For my charity I'm going to choose the same one as Kelly did--Prospect Elementary School in Blount County, Tennessee--since I don't know of any other particular place and it's in my home town, I'll support that small library as well.

Here are my book choices:


Writings on Graphic Design, Music, Art, and Culture 
Princeton Architectural Press
By Kenneth FitzGerald    ($24.95)

This sounds like writing about a topic that interests me.

Survival CitySurvival City

Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America
By Tom Vanderbilt  ($25.00)
This is the era during which I grew up.  It scared me and fascinated me.  I love this kind of stuff.



History in a Bottle
By Barnaby Conrad III  ($22.95)

After seeing the Jack the Ripper movie From Hell, I became curious about this substance.  Now to learn more.

Ghostly Ruins

Ghostly Ruins

America's Forgotten Architecture 
Princeton Architectural Press
By Harry Skrdla  ($29.95)
Ruins are so cool.   I love looking at them.  Sitting home at looking at the photos in a book would be the next best thing to being there (at least until they come up with the DVD documentary version--now that would be cool.)

I Was Here

I Was Here

A Travel Journal for the Curious Minded
By Kate Pocrass   ($16.95)

This might me fun to play with in my future travel adventures.

Ready, Set, Novel!

Ready, Set, Novel!

A Workbook, Plan and Plot Your Upcoming Masterpiece
By Chris Baty, Lindsey Grant, and Tavia Stewart-Streit of National Novel Writing Month ($16.95)

Another thing to add to my collection of writer's resource material.

Grady McFerrin Photo AlbumGrady McFerrin Photo Album    $18.95

I've got a bunch of loose photos that should be put in an album.

The Autobiography Box

The Autobiography Box

A Step-by-Step Kit for Examining the Life Worth Living
By Brian Bouldrey  ($19.95)

Something that might go hand in hand with my new Wrote By Rote blog.

Cartes Postales

Cartes Postales

small edition  ($18.95)

I've got an old post card collection.  Maybe I can take some of them out of the shoe box they are in now and put them in an album.



Designing with User-Generated Content
By Helen Armstrong and Zvezdana Stojmirovic, foreword by Ellen Lupton ($24.95)

Maybe I can learn something from this and if not I'll pass it over to my daughter who might be able to use it.

Visual Merchandising 2nd edition

Visual Merchandising 2nd edition

By Tony Morgan ($40.00)

This topic interests me for various reasons.  It's another book that perhaps I can learn from.

Cut & PasteCut & Paste

21st-Century Collage
By Richard Brereton with Caroline Roberts  ($29.95)

This one might be helpful to create experimental stuff for the blogs.  If not my daughter might be able to use it as a resource material in her work as a collage artist.

Visual Complexity

Visual Complexity

Mapping Patterns of Information 
Princeton Architectural Press
By Manuel Lima  ($50.00)
Patterns...I'm interested and curious.  Let me see how this book can expand my mind.

Geometry of Design, Second Edition, Revised and Updated

Geometry of Design, Second Edition, Revised and Updated

Studies in Proportion and Composition
By Kimberly Elam  ($24.95)

You might get the impression that I've got some artistic bent after some of the books I've picked.  It's just a topic that's been on my mind of late.  This book's description sounds intriguing.

Graphic Design Thinking

Graphic Design Thinking

Beyond Brainstorming
By Ellen Lupton, editor    ($24.95)
This could have greater application than just visual arts.  I'm willing to check it out.

Art Work

Seeing Inside the Creative Process
By Ivan Vartanian  ($24.95)

The description says this book covers all types of creative processes.  I want to be a creative person.

The Toaster Project

The Toaster Project

Or A Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch
By Thomas Thwaites ($19.95)

This sounds like something I'd think of but would be too dumb to actually do.  Here I can read about someone else doing it.


Over 50 flaps plus seek-and-find!
By Roxie Munro  ($15.95)

There's gotta be a juggler in this somewhere and I like the circus anyway.  This might be fun to share with my grandkids.

Moleskine® Address Book Pocket Moleskine® Address Book Pocket


The address book I have now is about 35 years old, falling apart, and filled with defunct information.  I need a new one.

Starry Crown Eco-JournalStarry Crown Eco-Journal

By Grady McFerrin  ($10.95)

This looks nice and if I don't use it I can give it as a gift.

DIYDesign It Yourself

DIYDesign It Yourself

A Design Brief 
Princeton Architectural Press
By Ellen Lupton  ($24.95)

I'm thinking a lot about design lately--in case that point didn't come across in some of the above picks.

That's my line up and I think they sound pretty good.
Grand Total $499.10   Close enough for me.  Chronicle can keep the change.

If you want to play along then follow the link below:

       Do you see anything here that you especially like?   Have you read or seen any of these?    Let me know if you add your own blog entry to the list so I can come and leave a comment.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Can You Ever Own Too Many Books?

Some BooksImage by Ben Oh via Flickr

           Last Monday's post stimulated some interesting discussion about whether or not most of our writing is done in vain.   The over all consensus is that it is not so long as we enjoy what we are doing and if others derive some kind of benefit or entertainment value from what we write.   I want to write and so I do.

          Today I ask can we ever own too many books.   At what point do we have too many books?

          My wife probably is thinking that I am approaching hoarder mentality, especially where books are involved.  I haven't counted what I have in my house, but I would estimate within the view from my office desk I can see about 300 books.  Then I have several in the closet that I can't see.  In other rooms of the house there are at least another two or three hundred scattered about.  Add to that another few hundred that belong to my wife (she shouldn't be pointing at finger at me!).   And did I mention the I don't know how many hundred that are out in our garage on shelves or packed in boxes?   I even still have books from my younger days at my mother's house.

          Let's face it--I probably have more books than I will ever read in my remaining lifetime at the rate I'm reading now.   And I seem to keep acquiring more to add to the collection.

           Over the years I've amassed many of them through book club memberships, purchased several for school classes, bought them during sales like the Borders clearances, and had them given to me.  I rarely get rid of any of them because I like having a library in my home.

          Even the ones I have read I would probably not want to get rid of since I tend to forget what I read and think that I may one day read them again.   That might not be possible since I've got so many left to read for the first time.

           Maybe I have too many books.   That could probably also go for CDs, DVDs, and other recorded media.   I look around the house and see all the stuff and realize maybe we have too much of all of it.  Where does it end?

            Recently when I helped my sister move from Phoenix back to Tennessee, we loaded a rental truck with a great many things she would need in her new home and a lot of personal possessions that she wanted to keep.  The rest of what she owned she left behind to be sold by an auction company.  As I looked around the house before we left I was amazed at the sheer quantity of material goods that she and her late husband had acquired over the previous decade and a half.   Most of us own so much that is just there but rarely used for anything functional and often not even noticed that it is there.

           That is my book collection--untouched for the most part, but are there any books I would immediately want to give up?  I guess I would have to think on that for a while and it might prove to be a difficult decision.  Maybe when they start stacking up, threatening to fall over and crush me, then maybe I'm starting to own too many books.  Perhaps I need to slow down and start reading instead of accumulating.

          Do you own too many books?   What should be the point at which you stop accumulating books?   When do you decide to get rid of books?   How do you get rid of them?

          If you'd like to add more books to your collection be sure to see my post coming up on Wednesday November 23rd where I'll be talking about the big Chronicle Books Give-Away.   Oh boy!  More books.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

A Roswell Mystery

International UFO Museum and Research Center, ...Image via Wikipedia
Roswell UFO Museem

        Sometimes I think about that night.  I don't know why it comes to me now and then.  Perhaps it has something to do with thinking about God watching over me or maybe because it had something to do with my destination of Roswell, New Mexico.

         Yes, that Roswell of UFO notoriety.  The place that has been featured in documentaries, science fiction movies, and even a popular television show.   If you aren't familiar with Roswell, the town gained fame from a supposed UFO crash in 1947 after which supposed alien bodies were recovered.  It's one of those things that conspiracy theorists and UFO buffs love to study and debate.

        The town now capitalizes on the famous event with a museum dedicated to UFOs and alien life, an annual festival, and lots of souvenirs to cater to the many tourists who come there each year.   It's all interesting to me, but not of extreme consequence.  I used to go there every year on business and if not for that I may have never bothered to go there despite the fact that I had relatives living there.  And they were human relatives and not aliens, but that's another story.

         Anyway, this particular night took place in 1985 I think it was.  The show I was working with at the time had finished a gig in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  After tearing down and loading the truck we were going to make a night jump to Roswell, where our next performance would be.

       We pulled away from the venue where our performance had been at about 10 PM.  My wife, three year old daughter, and I were in our van.  Driving separately from us was the show truck and another van with four other performers.  As we were often wont to do when we had a night drive like this we stopped at a McDonald's for some food to go.  By the time we had done this, crossed the span of the city, and reached the outskirts of Santa Fe it was about 10:30.  We still had a couple hundred miles to go.  I was guessing we would arrive at the motel I had reserved in Roswell at about 1:30 AM.

       At night New Mexico is a very dark place.  Our route did not involve interstates.  We would be traveling U.S. highway 285 all the way to Roswell.   Rolling down that highway in the night with the stereo cranked up I felt detached from the world.  There were few cars on the highway and only a few towns that we passed through.  Surrounded by blackness it seemed like the van was in space except for the highway beneath our tires humming with a lulling dullness.

        We stopped at the small town of Vaughn to gas up and get some snacks.   It felt like a dream in which we were moving fast in a slow motion world.  Ethereal neon lights seemed surreal after emerging from the darkness of the empty highway landscape.  It reminded me of some outpost in space where intergalactic travelers stopped to restock their starships.

         Soon we were on the road again, later and darker than it had been before, as though in a place of ancient and sacred silence disturbed by our music, the steady engine song, and the tire rubber on the asphalt.  I strained to see something beyond my headlights but an ebon vacuum surrounded me.  My daughter was sleeping in the back seat and my silent wife slept as well.

         I longed for sleep, anxious to get to the cool sheets of a strange room, another home for a day.

         Then, a strange thing hit me as we passed into the Roswell city limits, the town asleep for the most part except for the dream drivers like me.  I had this peculiar realization that I remembered virtually nothing of the journey between Vaughn and my now arrived at destination.  Had I been so lost in the music, darkness, and driving that the drive had all slipped past me in a blur that did not recognize the concept of time.  The time had elapsed far too quickly.

          In the motel office as I was registering, a glance at the clock on the wall confirmed my fearful suspicion.  It was only 12:45.  We had made excellent time--too good of time.   According to my calculations we had averaged over 95 miles per hour.   A gush of icy blood coursed through my veins briefly and I felt afraid.

          Could this be true?   As I parked the van and unloaded our suitcases into the room, I marveled at the calculations.  Prior to stopping at Vaughn I was sure that we had never gone faster than 75 miles per hour.  We had lingered at the gas station a bit and had to slow down for the few towns we had passed through.  That would have meant that the last unremembered ninety miles or so were made at an average of more than a hundred miles per hour.

           I tried not to think about it because it made me feel uneasy.  To have had my family in a vehicle going that fast and not being able to remember the trip was beyond irresponsible--it was plain crazy.

           The other two show vehicles arrived at the motel about 45 minutes after I had gotten situated in our room.  I gave them their room keys and retired to an edgy sleep that sped through dark highways of my dreamworld.

          Oh dreamers of the highway, I wish you safe travels night or day.  Most will survive, but some will not. I have been fortunate in my many miles and years of traveling.  I believe that I have been blessed with divine protection in my travels throughout my life.  I thank God for that.

          Some say a UFO crashed near Roswell in 1947.   I'm relieved that a red and silver Chevrolet Sport Van didn't crash on a dark night in 1985.

           Have you ever arrived at a destination only to realize that you did not remember the journey to get there?   Have you ever fallen asleep while driving?  Have you been to Roswell, New Mexico?


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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Best Writing Advice Ever!: Lani Diane Rich Guest Post

         We're at the halfway point of National Novel Writing Month.  And while some of you are pecking away at your keyboards with aplomb cranking out your latest masterpiece, others may have thrown their hands up in frustration on the verge of ditching the whole process and walking away without winning.  To the latter I say don't give up yet--there is still hope.

          In this post I offer a big dose of inspiration to encourage NaNoers everywhere and any other would be book author that your work is not in vain.  You can do it.  Others have, so why not you?

          The evidence I offer you comes in the persona of one Lani Diane Rich, bestselling author of nine novels, three of those having been the fruit of her labors during NaNoWriMo.   Lani holds the distinction of being the first unpublished author to have a Nano novel become published.  Her romantic comedy novel Time Off for Good Behavior written as her 2003 NaNo entry landed her an agent and a two book contract with Warner Books.   Not too shoddy of an effort I'd say.

        In her guest spot in this edition of Tossing It Out Lani offers some advice that might help you proceed in your writing with a bit less trepidation.

 Sunflower Seeds

        There's a scene in a fifth season episode of The X-Files called "Bad Blood." It's about Mulder and Scully tracking down a vampire, and my all-time favorite X-Files for many reasons, but there's one thing that I've taken from this particular story that has helped me through the years while writing Nano.

        Sunflower seeds.

        During one scene, Mulder gets drugged by the vampire, who can't physically overpower people, so he drugs them and drinks their blood while they're out cold. As Mulder is fighting the effects of the drug, he uses his knowledge of vampires—that they're horribly OCD and can't leave a mess behind—to distract the vampire and buy time. So he throws a package of sunflower seeds, spreading them all over the floor, and the vampire stops hissing, gives Mulder an annoyed look with his green glowy eyes, and says, "Aw. What'd you do that for?"

        And then, the vampire proceeds to pick up the seeds. It's this delay that saves Mulder's life, giving Scully enough time to crash through the door and chase the vampire off.

        What does this have to do with Nano? Everything. See, you've got an internal editor inside you who nitpicks at everything. Adverb! Lazy writing! Bad dialogue! Every thirty seconds, she's bugging you about one thing or another, and making it impossible for you to connect with your story, because you have to stop and make everything perfect first. In so doing, she drains you of your energy, focus, and enthusiasm. And for what? Nothing. She wants perfection from you, right out of the gate, and the problem with that is, there's no way to make it perfect. You must draft a load of crap, and then go back and fix it. As Nora Roberts has famously stated, you can fix crap, but a blank page is never anything other than a blank page.

       So, how do you get your internal editor to shut up? You inundate her with crap. She says, "Oooh! Weak sentence structure!" and you keep going while she stares at it, dumbfounded. Sunflower seed. Then, you use an adverb in dialogue attribution, and she gasps in horror... and you leave it behind as you race forward. Sunflower seed. Eventually, she's buried under a pile of sunflower seeds, silent, and you are writing, you are drafting, you are creating.

      You win.

      And yes, sure, some of it will be bad, and some of it you will have to go back and fix or delete entirely later, but the most amazing thing is that some of it—hell, in my experience, most of it—will be good. Really good. Great stuff you never would have written if you hadn't buried that internal editor under a pile of sunflower seeds.

      So that's my advice to you: Write crap. Write it abundantly and with glee in your heart. Then go back and fix it later. And tell that internal editor she has the damn month off.

      Until you get to revision. :)

Lani Diane Rich is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of nine novels. She teaches writing classes at, and hosts the free daily writing podcast, StoryWonk Daily, with her husband, Alastair Stephens. She is currently writing magical romantic comedy for St. Martin's Press as Lucy March, and her first title, A Little Night Magic, is coming out on January 31st, 2012.

        Thank you Lani for your very creative approach to squelching our internal editors.  Now readers give us your thoughts on the topic.   Any comments or questions for Lani?


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Monday, November 14, 2011

Is Most of Our Writing Done in Vain?

Cover of Voodoo Planet, by Andrew NorthImage via Wikipedia
Have you read this book?
Andrew North is actually acclaimed author Andre Norton

        Technology has made it possible to amass so much history and data and the information keeps piling up everyday. It kind of makes most of our own writing efforts seem insignificant as it melts into the accumulation that is already out there. Who will remember most of today's best sellers 200 years from now let alone some of the smaller print run books and publications. Do we mostly write in vain?

         This was the comment I left on one of Hilary Melton-Butcher's wonderfully diverse posts at Positive letters....inspirational stories.  She was discussing the topic of Project Gutenberg and the process of preserving the written word throughout history. Her post made me contemplate not just all of the writing that has been preserved for posterity throughout history, but more specifically all of the writing that has been preserved in print and in digital formats in my lifetime. 

       Hilary challenged me to write a post on the topic   And now, as many are deeply absorbed with NaNo novels and other writing endeavors including our blogs, I thought this might be a good time to address this question.  Not that I mean to bring anyone down or anything like that, but it's something that I'm sure many of us think about.  What's the point of all this writing that we do?

         Many of us work hard at the writing we produce, and often with little to show for it in the form of any remuneration.  Sure, the pats on the back and encouraging words from others are good for our egos, but those don't pay the bills.  I realize life is more than money, but most of us need the money to survive.  And the "will write for food" scenario might keep you fed, but quality of life might be lacking if meals were all you got in exchange for your words.

         Don't get me wrong.  This is not a gripe piece; it's a piece of reality as I see it.  There are a lot of writers out there producing work in many forms.  Most of them are barely noticed when you put it in the perspective of the big picture.   Most books, no matter how good they are, when compared to a book on the best seller list are not read by many.

         Even the books that make it to the best seller lists will probably fade into obscurity for the most part as the years go by.  Think of the best sellers of one hundred years.  Oh, you can't think of any?  If you look at the Publisher's Weekly list for 1910 I rather doubt you'll find anything you've read let alone heard of.  What about Mary Roberts Rinehart who had two books in the top ten that year?   Who's she?
Author Mary Roberts RinehartImage via Wikipedia
Mary Roberts Rinehart

        Let's face it.  There are a lot of books out there just like there are a lot of blogs.  I can't remember most of what I wrote a year ago let alone expecting anyone else to remember it.  If I read something it usually becomes a matter of who wrote what when?  It's like when all the ping pong balls would fall on Captain Kangaroo's head.   "Captain who?" some of the younger readers might ask.  See--that's what I'm saying.  Eventually later generations forget what came before because they have new cultural icons that resonate with them.

         So do I think our writing is mostly done in vain?   I like to write so from that standpoint my answer is no.   If someone reads something I've written and gets some enjoyment or education out of it then my answer is no.  If I make some money off of something I've written then I'd have to answer a big no. 

       I can't worry about what people will think of me one hundred years or more in the future.  It would be nice to be remembered and thought of as someone who created memorable work, but that isn't going to help me now.  In the grander scheme of things perhaps our writing is in vain.  But does it really matter?

        What do you think?  Is your writing mostly in vain?   Would you rather make a good living at what you do now and be consigned to the back pages of history?  Or would you prefer the status of struggling artist who gains fame after you are dead and gone?

         Something I failed to mention on my blog is that I have a short story that appears in the e-book anthology On the Brink...Volume 2 which was released in October by Spectacle Publishing Media Group.  The e-book is available from Smashwords or Amazon

          Be here at Tossing It Out this coming Wednesday November 16th when my special guest is Lani Diane Rich, best selling author of nine novels including three that were NaNo novels.  Lani is noted for being the first unpublished author to have a NaNo novel published as a result of her efforts in 2003.  She will be offering some words of advice to the current NaNo participants and writers in general.   Don't miss this visit.  It's a good one.


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