Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Story Told to Me by My Son

Today, before dinner, my son told me he wanted to tell me a story. And this is what he said:

Once upon a time, there was a great big, scary monster. A young boy and his cat fought him. Now, the cat bit and scratched at the monster, but that only made it bleed. So the boy pulled out his sword and sliced it five times in the chest and stomach. And that killed it.

But then, bunches more monsters showed up! So, the boy ordered more warriors and cats, and they all fought the monsters together. The cats bit and scratched, helping the warriors kill the monsters, until eventually there were no more monsters.

But then, the daddy monster showed up. It was huge! All the warriors and cats attacked, and they had to slice and stab it twenty times before they killed the daddy monster.

And that was when the last monster showed up. It was the biggest monster of all. Bigger than you, bigger than me, even bigger than mommy! Now, the boy and the warriors could have stayed and fought it, but instead they screamed in fear and ran away.

They ran all the way through the gate of the castle, and turned on its waterproof force field. There were two force fields, one inside and one outside. The biggest monster made it through the outside force field, but couldn’t make it past the inner force field. It got stuck. And that was when they filled the space between the two force fields with water. And crocodiles! The crocodiles began biting and eating the biggest monster, and the water scratched at it like the cats did.

500 years later, the water and the crocodiles finally killed the monster!

The end

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Writing and Exercising

So, recently, I have been on task with my writing. I've written every single day during these past ten days, and for nine of them, met that writing goal. It’s a great feeling. And it led me to a question:

This feels great, why am I not doing this every day?

I realized that this is the same question I ask right after exercising. And it occurred to me that the two are remarkable similar. Which means that the answer to the question is the same for both. And here it is.

It’s hard and it’s not fun doing it.

Yes, that’s right, fellow writers; I’m saying that writing is not fun. And I stand by that, it’s not.

Let’s stick with the exercise for a moment. Exercise is hard. It requires a lot of movement, first off. Let’s all be honest. Given the choice of running around the block in sweat pants or sitting on the couch watching Doctor Who in sweat pants, which would you choose? I know what my choice is. Running is hard. Especially for me, as I am not in good shape. And it’s not fun while doing it. I run out of breath, I sweat up a storm. The same goes for when I work out in the gym on the weight machines. My muscles hurt. My face get’s red, and I grunt and moan as I try to breath during the workout.

In fact, exercising is so much not fun that I bring along my phone to play audio books while I work out, just to have a little entertainment value. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it at all. Probably.

But, when I’m done exercising, I feel great. I’m awake, my blood is pumping, and I’m filled with endorphins. Sure, I may be a little sore, but it’s a good feeling. It means my muscles are growing. It means I have a goal to reach, for that day when this same workout will not leave me sore.

The same is true for writing. Given the choice of sitting at my computer and banging out words on a blank document, or sitting on the couch watching Doctor Who, again, I know what I’d rather choose.

And like exercise, writing is not fun. It’s a lot of hard work. Picking the right words, putting them in the right order, following an outline, or just winging it. There’s a lot of moments of frustration during the actual process of writing, at least for me. I write a sentence and then look at it and thing “man, that sucks. It took me ten minutes to write down those seven words, and they suck.” And they do. And sometimes, I fix them, and sometimes I move on, because it took me twenty minutes to get those seven sucky words down, and it’s just the best I can do.

I grunt and moan and sweat my way through each word, each sentence, each paragraph, each scene. But when it’s done, when I’ve hit my word count goal for the day, I feel great. I’ve accomplished something, and even though parts of it suck, most of it is pretty good. I’m flush with endorphins. And just like exercise, sometimes, I’m sore. Not physically, maybe, but my brain hurt from stretching it to find a proper resolution to that scene, or how to get myself out of that corner I wrote myself into. And just like exercising, I know that my goal is to write until I don’t feel that soreness anymore.

And in both cases, I wonder “why don’t I do this every day? I feel great!”

That’s because at that moment, I forget how hard it was to start. To even just get dressed in my sweat pants, or sit my ass down in front of my keyboard.

Writing is hard work, and not a lot of fun. But in the end, it is so, so worth it. Because in the end, I feel better than I did when I started.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Impostor Syndrome

Lately, I have been experiencing Impostor Syndrome. Not in the traditional sense, in that I’m afraid that people will read my stuff and go “man, he’s no real writer.”

More like, I’ve been questioning my ability. Am I really any good? Is this something that I should be pursuing?

It’s hard. I sit down to write, and just can’t get my self to write more than a few hundred words before the doubts start to crowd in. First, it’s those words I just wrote. They’re utter crap. They are, in fact, such total shit that there is just no way I can even edit them into something that’s just bad, never mind into something someone else will want to read. And if those words are horrible, than the rest of the book I’ve just spent time on getting to 56,000 words on has to be the worst piece of tripe ever written. Ever. Because I’m that bad.

It takes a very special kind of ego-manic to think that your own work is the absolute worst example of work ever, in the whole history of mankind.

Thankfully, I have some support. First, there’s my wonderful wife, who loves to hear about the stories I’m writing, even if the genre isn’t always something she’s interested. In the case of this particular book I’m writing right now, Mythic America, she’s excited to read it, and so encourages me to just finish the damn thing.

Then, I have my friends on Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook. The other writers out there who’ve been through this, who know where I’m coming from, who can tell me that if I just push on, it’ll get better.

And then I discovered today something else that helps.

My stories are really, really good.

I discovered this by re-reading a few. See, here’s the thing. There’s this saying “fake it ‘till you make it.” So, I was reminded of that when I mentioned to someone that I was feeling like a writing fraud. So, I kept on writing, no matter how much of a struggle it got, or how much I thought what I was writing was shit.

Then, the other day, my wife sent me the link to sign up for Clarion writer’s workshop. So, I said I would fill it out, even though I’m convinced that I’m nowhere near good enough to even get accepted.

Part of the requirements is that I find two stories to submit. So, I’m going back through some of my shorts to find the best two to send in.

I’m reading a couple, some I can’t even remember writing, and I find myself thinking, “Man, this is really good.”

Over and over again. Yes, some of those stories sucked, but there was a surprising number of them that were good.

Stories that I wrote. That I thought were good.

It’s important.

And it’s freeing. It helps to remind me that I’m not a fraud. I really am a good writer. One that’s good enough to get into Clarion. And so now I’m filling out this application for myself, because, damnit, I AM good enough for this workshop. I AM good enough to be published.

I am a damn good writer.

And I’m not going to let anyone, not even myself, tell me otherwise.