As I sit down here to write this, I'm realizing I'm performing another type of procrastination. I'm not doing what I should be doing, but instead taking on something else to occupy my time. Instead of focusing on my task, I do everything and anything possible to avoid my task. This, in a sense, is what I call hyperactive procrastination. This may just sound like your regular ole procrastination, basically avoiding or delaying a task, or if you get into psychological jargon it's really a self-control issue without the forethought of repercussions. And what I'm talking about is just that, but it's a bit more...well, hyper.
Right now, I should be sending out query letters to attempt to publish a novel. For those not in the writing industry, they're letters sent to gain representation in hopes to get published; in a sense, you sell your novel and yourself to agents. I'm not going to lie, my procrastination is out of control. I have three novels that have been completed, revised, and at least edited once. I have researched a list of thirty agents that are accepting submissions for each book's genre. I have crafted these query letters. All that is left is to personalize the letter for each agent by doing a little more research and emailing it. Yet, it has not been done. It is safe to say I had most of this completed over a year ago for the first novel.
Instead of doing what I should, I wrote two more. Not only that, I also continued the storyline of one into a second book of the series, then a third. In fact, when this blog is completed, I probably will attempt to finish the last couple chapters of book 3--without ever attempting to sell the first one. The writing comes easily and I love to write. At times I have to write or my imagination plagues me and I can't sleep. So whenever I can--even if I shouldn't--I write.
This oxymoron makes sense if you think about it. Now, how does one attempt to correct it? I wish I knew because I might have rounds of query letters out by now if I could avoid my hyperactive procrastination.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Monday, June 20, 2016
The word "normal" is used to describe people on a daily basis or the fact they lack the attributes to the definition. Anyone who is not society's definition of normal is considered weird, awkward, uncanny, and so on. Yet, this begs the question of what actually is normal since it is such a subjective term?
The word is defined by merriam-webster.com as "usual or ordinary, not strange" and "mentally and physically healthy." The latter definition makes sense, but in comparison to the first, this leaves a lot of gray areas, especially in comparison to human behavior. Basically, we are only handed the antonyms of normal, what it is not, not actually what it is. Human behavior varies so far that someone's behavior may seem normal to some but eccentric to others. People of sound mind and body have been called abnormal before. This whole normal aspect affected me as a child, so much so worrying about being normal took part in shaping me into who I am today. No matter how much we fight it, society's judgement affects our everyday decisions and who we are. For me, I was shorter than everyone else, smart, had glasses, then braces, and these all led to bullying. This is not an anti-bullying plug in, just a fact. I also was a very picky eater, hyperactive, and refused to talk much to others until I was about eight (after that, you'd hardly hear me silent).
Children lack tact. They say whatever they feel or think not worrying about how it could be taken because they do not understand the world judges us based on the things we say. It is annoying, yet refreshing to hear children talk. One of the first occurrences as a child that might negatively affect someone is the first time someone points out an "oddity" in his/her behavior. Children are put down for not being or doing something normal.
One of the first things I remember was being picked on for my physical appearance. I averaged negative 2% on the growth charts. Although nothing was wrong with me, others had to point out how I was shorter than everyone else (and some imaginary growth chart children), some observations simply done dryly as kids will do but most were scathing and cruel. I let it shape me and stayed in a quiet, shy, anxious bubble for years.
Out of many of my quirks, the other that stuck out was my daydreaming, storytelling brain. I made up stories, sometimes aloud but mostly in my notebooks and had to hide this eccentricity because no one else did it. I was weird and different, so I hid them. I saved writing for bedtime and stashed them in my nightstand as if writing were a sin. This was the beginning of trying to be normal, trying not to get picked on because my stature already made me a target and that couldn't change. So I hid my smarts, my creativity, my actual personality not to be popular but to save myself from sticking out and being a target. It was an unconscious defensive tactic.
Slowly I came out of my shell. I talked more to more people. There were other kids who were less "normal" than me that proved a larger target. In middle school tracking courses started and there were a lot of smart kids all around me, people with likeminded interests and personalities. I even had friends who liked to write as well and even more friends in high school who read my stories with the addictive enthusiasm one gives soap operas.
One thing I realized in high school was that there is no such thing as normal and I embraced my weirdness with confidence and without self-consciousness. I realized we are all unique and that makes us interestingly human. Normal is only the second definition answering to our sanity, not lacking personality "defects." This should be the end of the story, but it's not.
When I became a parent, the situation wasn't normal. Pregnancy complications and a premature child made my son stick out as abnormal. From the way he was growing to his behavior--more than a few people felt it necessary to point out the fact he's not this elusive and subjective "normal." This created anxious bouts several times and is still going on four years later. As a mother I was struggling with this ridiculous term "normal." I tried comparing him to milestone and growth charts, listened to well meaning but unqualified people who tried to give advice and their opinions on what was "wrong" with him; I did tons of research from scholarly articles and child development books to the oh-so-dependable internet Doctor-God. None of this helped my anxiety, of course, and the school system proved worse. They slapped the "not normal" sticker right on him and wanted me to get him labeled officially with some recognized "defect" or as science deems a disorder or disability--all before entering the school system. Grasping for some grounding in this sea of normalcy for my child has been more heartbreaking than my own struggles or since they mirror my own it brings them all hauntingly back.
I realized when I compared my past with my present, they were similar. If they are similar, I must place the same mindset that saved me onto my son. I must embrace the weirdness that is him. So I started to and what I noticed was weird is cute and in comparison to his friends--no offense my parent-friends--those kids aren't normal either. In fact, every kid I meet under the age of ten--since they aren't worried about conformity yet--are weird in some way. Whether it is at a playground, a party, or in a store, kids do weird things, things adults do not see as normal.
I might need to slap a ridiculous label on my child for him to go to school, but it will only be a tiny part of his weirdness. And that weirdness is awesome. It is who he is and will be, just like all of our weirdness makes us who we are. Our own idiosyncratic quirks make us fun, make us interesting, make us human. Throughout my life, I've learned one of the most important life lessons: you've got to embrace the weirdness.
Monday, March 7, 2016
Macmillan publishing powerhouse has started Swoon Reads (https://www.swoonreads.com/) and it seems to be a win-win situation. Readers and writers simply create a free account. Readers have access to hundreds of Young Adult (YA) romance novels of all sub-genres free of charge (which can be catered to his/her tastes). As for authors, they upload their unpublished novel and readers read, comment, and rate it. Within six months, the editors of Macmillian will view it, and you can guess the rest--the better the ratings, the more likely they will notice and consider publishing it. The masses are given the power to influence publishing companies to market what they want to read. Ingenuous! Macmillian does publish many from this line, so there is a chance an author can "make it" this way. It sounded interesting, so I signed up.
For authors, there is a catch of course, but one they freely post so you understand their process. When an author submits a novel, it is on lockdown legally for six months while it is being considered. You cannot send it anywhere else. If you aren't eager to get published right away or incessantly tried and could not get a book published, this may be the way to go. The other criticism I have is the reader pool. They all just want to please the authors and tell them how wonderful the book is instead of giving constructive criticism. This could be very frustrating for someone who has tried to get published and has failed as in he/she still isn't getting the feedback needed to become successful. When I gave didactic, constructive, and very detailed criticism, I was thanked for giving real feedback and even asked more questions for additional help by one author. These are serious people who want to do what it takes to get published. Swoon Reads does try to get readers to give constructive feedback like I did with very leading questions, but people tend to overlook them and give very little useful feedback. I think if the website had one of their editors set the stage with a great and detailed example, the authors might get what they need from their readers.
Overall, this is an interesting platform for publication, one I'm not ready to delve into until I see its success rate, but one that definitely weeds out those who can write from those that only have good ideas. You never know though, Swoon Reads could be the forrunner that will save self-publishing's reputation as well as being successful for publishing powerhouses and conglomerates.
Monday, January 25, 2016
The Power of Word Choices
As a professor of English, I know firsthand the power of words in the English language, and what can happen when we make the wrong choice. At times it can be quite comical, and others just sad (don’t get me started!). However, there are times where multiple words could work in a sentence grammatically speaking but can differ vastly in meaning. These meanings can impact people in ways we never consciously think about.
For example, someone warned me against the dangers of collaborative novel writing the other day; however, the thing that stuck with me in that moment we spoke was not the subject content but the word choices made. He said, “Do me a favor, when you become a published writer…” A simple partial statement, but one word in the exchange is loaded. He selected “when,” not “if.” The phrase I hear from people most often (and sometimes use myself) is “If you get published…” There’s nothing wrong with that grammatically; in fact, it is showing a possibility, a chance I could become published. But he said, “when.” That word choice holds so much more power. It asserts that it is not only a possibility but a definitive one that it is going to happen one day in the future. It is a word that evokes faith in another human being, an assertion that the speaker is 100% behind you supporting you.
That night I wrote fifteen pages and sent a completed manuscript out to one of my test group readers. This one word gave me drive, renewed my faith in myself, and got me motivated to make it happen. I’m sure the person who said it had no idea that one word would make such an impact on someone. I’m sure he didn’t think about it before he spoke, but that is the best part of it. He unconsciously did so because his faith in my writing, a faith I lose in myself time to time.
This use of one word, and the idea that one word can make a world of difference is so significant in an industry, or any one for that matter, that has such subjectivity and criticism. People are mentally beaten down daily by strangers, friends, family, and their worst critic—themselves. There needs to be times we pick them up when they are down or make their day better by simply doing something like choosing a word with a positive connotation. It is such a simple thing to do that costs us nothing.
Honestly, we all should take more care in selecting the words we say instead of speaking before we have really thought them through. Speaking for us is not as carefully crafted as writing. If we took the upmost care with our verbal transactions as we do with our crafted, revised, and edited written ones, I think a lot of things would change for the better. We could make people’s lives better. We can change someone’s life by simply saying “when.”
What is a word choice that has affected you? please comment!
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
So much has gone on in my life over the last three months, mostly stressful, but I decided to start blogging again after a hiatus. This is a more personal one and cathartic in nature. Recently, I decided to finally sit down and write a review about a child care facility I enrolled my son in. Only when I went online to do so, I had to cut it down. Here is the gritty original that I think highlights the problem some parents face when your child isn't "normal," yet there's nothing really wrong with him. Yep, he's hyper and weird like his mom.
"A Step Ahead: more like one behind"
"A Step Ahead: more like one behind"
They completely ruined the first school experience for the child and parents. In short, if your kid follows rules, listens intently, is a child care veteran, or is a perfect angel, then this probably is a fantastic school. If your kid is high energy, has never been in child care, wants to be where the toys are, or is immature, STAY AWAY!
These are pros and cons in comparison to four other preschools I toured:
- Pros—academic focus, clean facility, mature kids
- Cons (for us at least)—no bathroom in classroom, a fully potty trained 3 year-old means no assistance at all and expected to go down to hallway bathroom, no teacher aide or floater to assist teachers (director steps in when needed, but didn’t sound happy about it in our situation), separate cafeteria, use Styrofoam, combine classes for eating and napping, uneven gender ratio (3-4 year olds at least—all girls, 1 boy), child got what looked like flea bites on his ankles the two days he went (we have no pets, hasn’t happened since), rigid routines without flexibility or backup plans for noncompliant children, high expectations for age group, and unprofessional with “problem” children.
The last one warrants an explanation. My son was premature, so has a social lag, is hyperactive, is an only child, and had never been in child care before. They were forewarned about him three times where I even wondered if they could handle him, was reassured “we’ve never had a problem,” and I found out why the hard way. If they treat any challenging child, the way they did ours, then they dismiss him/her. Only instead of simply taking the high road and admitting they could not handle him, they told me he “may be autistic and needed screening,” and after I assured them he had been screened, “there’s definitely something going on there.” That was the first day, a week later after being treated for an ear infection (probably the reason for his antisocial behavior), he returned. They dismissed him halfway in the day for being “out of control,” where I had to scramble around to find someone to pick him up and arrange for child care the remainder of the week. This time, they told us “he is mentally disabled and needs to be tested through the school system” and he needed “go to a special needs school” or “needs one-on-one care.” I cannot tell you how much this broke my heart, blew up my anxiety level, and saddened my son. They single-handedly ruined our first school experience; I can’t even look at the pictures that I took that first day without feeling bad. The one below was chosen because it was the only one that wasn't blurry from his excitement.
|Looking for the school bus (although I was driving him)|
The problem I have is they are not qualified or certified to diagnose children and after he was tested and did not fit on the ASD scale, the director said she could give us the 8-week period the doctor said it would take to adjust, but dismissed him without giving him a chance. I waited to write this review until we were sure it was them and not our child. After numerous doctor visits and evaluations and tests: social lag, ADHD candidate (but he doesn’t “check all the boxes” as the doctor phrased it—only impulsiveness and hyperactivity).
In his new school, it took him about 4 days to adjust but he is thriving and the specialist is happy with his social improvement. He is on par or excelled in all developmental categories with only a lag in social. This school has more outside play time and they allow him fidget toys in circle time, and they recognized right away that even when he’s playing, he’s listening.
I could just say this was a bad fit because that happens a lot, but when I tell other parents about my experience they are floored and appalled by the director’s audacity to say such things. Most people, including myself, have never heard of children being dismissed so quickly and without any aggressive or hurtful behavior (they freely admitted he wasn’t hurting anyone). She most likely thought she was doing the right thing, but I’m not sure how you can tell anything about a child in such a short time span or have the confidence to try to overrule a doctor’s and a specialist’s opinion.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Parents of an only child constantly get flack for not wanting or not being able to have more children. When someone talks to a new parent, the first question is when more offspring are coming like having an only child is a grievous sin. There seems to be a double standard—fecund is fabulous, barren is bad. What no one thinks about, however, is why or how the decision of one came to be and how someone feels when you ask him or her about it. Here are things you should never say to a parent of one.
- “When’s his little sister or brother coming?” Yeah, this phrasing is never a good idea because it sounds like you’re accusing a woman with a baby weight belly of being pregnant. After some awkward fumbling and setting right what is actually intended, the mother must now explain there are no more babies coming, ever. That response is usually never enough for nosey strangers who won’t let it go, which brings us to number two.
- “Why not?” When a parent of one tries to respond with the “one and done” joke, she probably is just trying to avoid a longwinded discussion or a subject that may be sensitive. When you press with a “why not?” you’re forcing the question further. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t like to share personal information about my body to others. Basically, there may be a real reason why they are only having one child. Some kids may be adopted and it may not be affordable to adopt another. Some parents had complications that almost killed them or may have striped a woman of her baby making ability. Some women may have had grueling attempts at battling infertility and finally were successful. The point is, you could be rehashing past turmoil for someone. For some, pregnancy and birth is not always a beautiful experience. Forcing someone to explain themselves is tantamount to asking someone about their nose job—offensive and really none of their business.
- “Wasn’t it worth it?” Um, of course. You’ll never hear parents say they wish they hadn’t had a child; however, they may contemplate whether they would’ve done it if they knew exactly what would happen walking into it. Most would say they’d do it again in a heartbeat and good for them. Some parents of only children though hesitate, perhaps cringe, or change the subject. Sometimes childbirth is not all bells and whistles with a Hollywood ending where you hold your naked squawking baby against your chest, the planets align, and the universe is one again. Sometimes you have horrific complications that strip birth of its beauty, where the risk factor goes up into possibly fatalities, with lingering health issues for both parties. For some, we are told that this more likely will happen again than not. If that doesn’t want you to seal up the baby factory forever, then you are made of stronger stuff. Childbirth, despite modern science, is still a dangerous gamble. Some people choose not to have more, not to selfishly save their own lives but to spare others the pain they went through when you and the baby were held in limbo. I look at my family of three and feel the need to be there and alive for them weighs much more heavily than making us a four.
- "Your kid will be spoiled.” Spoiling a child has no relation to how many children are in the family. We’ve all seen families with one, two, three or more kids that are absolute spoiled rotten, where the parents meekly say “no” to deaf ears and the little spawns wreak havoc on all around them doing as they please, their demands being met at every turn, parents giving into every whim. We’ve also seen children who act like angels sitting quietly in their chairs listening to their parents, showing manners, empathy, and kindness to others. A healthy child’s behavior has direct correlation to the parents and parenting, not how many children the parents can produce. The only way to respond to this logical fallacy is with, “spoiled by love and attention, maybe.” That usually ends the conversation on a light note because you’re not disagreeing with them blatantly, but simultaneously saying you’re not going to buy your child the world just because there’s only one.
- "You’ll regret it.” These people think they have a crystal ball. They look into your future and see you as being unfulfilled because they can’t imagine life without the rest of their brood. But how can one regret what they don’t know? Parents of an only child will never know what we are missing, so in a sense, why would we regret it? What you could say to these people is, “I’ll get a fur baby.”
- “What if something happens to him?” Um, there’s no proper response to this one that would be polite. The days of an heir and a spare are gone. To ask this a person forces you to momentarily imagine life without your child, which is the most horrific idea you could ever contemplate. Someone actually asked me this and after my stunned expression wore of I sassily replied, “Oh, so if one of yours died, you’d be fine, because you have three, huh?” That will end the conversation quickly, but tread lightly because this person probably won’t ever talk to you again. Anyone who has lost a child would understand how ridiculous this question is. Love is not divisible among children and parents all know this.
- “He’ll be lonely.” This one is hard to tackle but honestly, having a second child just so the first has a playmate has more flawed logic than worrying about loneliness. There are play dates, classes, sports, and other extracurricular activities, and daycare/school. Thinking back into your own childhood, not all fond memories come from siblings, but also good books, loving parents, friends, sport competitions, classmates, pets, etc. There are so many things to do that I doubt any child HAS to feel lonely without a sibling.
- “You’re being selfish.” Yes, yes we are. If filling the overpopulated country with children is a selfless goal, then the “one and done” club is selfish. But we may have our reasons. Some of us want a successful career, to enjoy hobbies, to one day to travel the world. Some of us just want a moment to breathe now and then, a night out with the spouse without being so tired that we fall asleep before midnight. Some of us want to live within our means and the more children we would have, the less likely that would become.
Monday, June 29, 2015
1. Writer's Block
The dreadful writer's block creeps upon even the best and most creative writers at some point in their careers. The blank screen just seems intimidating, the words feel forced like scraping paste out of your brain, or there's an obstacle that is even worse--lack of time. There are so many ways to overcome this and many blogs that discuss it. You need to do what works best for you, since everyone is different. Besides a lack of time to write, I've overcome every instance of writer's block easily. What I do is simply keep writing, something else of course. Be it a blog entry like this, a new short story or new premise to a novel, I write no matter how bad it is. I actually am always "working" on about 5-8 pieces. When I'm stumped somewhere, I move onto a different one. Rarely do I get through looking at all the projects and still am unable to write. Every blue moon when that occurs, I go into my own slush pile, comb through the ideas, snippets, and drivel I've written years ago (I've kept manuscripts written in high school). If there's nothing there that inspires me to write I read a book. It takes me out of my own plot for a couple days, and then I get back to work. Another great tip I've seen out there is to change your medium by handwriting if you're used to typing, or record your voice telling the story. I also bounce my ideas off friends and let them contribute. More than none the ideas don't end up in my draft but their ideas spark some of my own.
2. Perfectionist Tendencies
This is a hard one. Being a perfectionist is rough in writing because it never is perfect. You edit draft after draft, and revise it until the book is now rotted pulp on the bottom of floor of a paper factory. It feels that bad. Then after you get it professionally edited (huge internet debate where some claim a good writer needs no editor, but that's nonsense because no one is perfect), which I still do despite being an English professor, someone finds a missing comma and you want to throw yourself off a bridge. You simply have to learn to let go. It's tantamount to dropping your kid off at school for the first time. You've prepped him, prepared him, but you won't be there to ensure he is perfectly behaved or does well. You have to--in the words of Frozen's Elsa--"Let it go." I had someone criticize my blog because I had a few typos (I posted and then proofread when able to back then), and this person said, "It's not worth doing unless you can do it perfectly." I lived that way for a long time, which is why I never had a blog, never tried to get published, and never let anyone read my book. I would never get anywhere in life if I only acted upon things that would be perfect. I don't think anyone would because no one is perfect, especially in a subjective business such as writing where style and content are almost as equally valued as perfect grammar.
3. Bad Criticism or Reviews
The subjectivity of the industry leads to this one. Recently on Facebook I saw a link writers were up in arms about. An author verbally attacked a reader for giving a bad review. It was your average bad review, not even scathing, just the reader admitted that she did not like the novel and it was falsely described as similar to other novels in the genre. The man went insane on her as far as accusing her to stealing the food out of his mouth and ruining his career. All my writer friends could not believe the audacity of the author. Yes, we all take bad reviews and negative criticism badly. It's like someone criticizes your child as a failure because you've put so much sweat, tears, and energy into creating the novel. However, you must learn to handle it and turn it to constructive criticism. After I initially get over the negative feedback, like swallowing cough syrup, it fades. Then I go back and read it and see what I can glean out of it to improve myself or my writing. I really hate still when someone is not constructive--"I hated it. I don't now why, but I just did"--does not help anyone. Every review I leave, whether good or bad, I spell out what I thought could use improvement and what I thought worked well. There's no real advice on how to get over this hurdle but just know they happen and you should never verbally challenge them unless the reader is absolutely wrong. I saw this once where a reader proclaimed historical inaccuracies and the author sent the reader a very nice response with a link to educate the reader that in fact the author had it right. This peaceful exchange made the reader add another star to the review. Authors and readers are all people, so treat them that way. Even though they can't see each other's face, cyberbullying is ridiculous and childish.
4. Test Groups
This one is the largest challenge for me. It is always a good idea to have about ten readers to read your book and give it feedback if you've never been published. I have seen this advice on many publishers and agents websites, one even wanting a list and their written feedback. This is problematic. If the book does not yet have a copyright you want to give it to people you trust. I know a man who had his poetry stolen, put into a contest where the woman won, and had to sue and prove his copyright to get the prize, money, and the magazine even paid and interviewed him about the incident and how it is a problem today to post writing on the internet. Fearing this kind of situation, you give it to friends and family. However, these people will rarely give you negative feedback; in fact, I'm learning that although they are very interested in helping you by reading your story, they actually don't do it. They either don't make the time, or worse, they can't get into it or dislike it but don't have the heart to tell you. I sent my novel to ten people to read. Two read it and it's been six months. One was a glowing review, one had some constructive criticism but read the roughest draft I had. I am still trying to figure this one out.
5. Time Constraints
Whether it is a deadline, a full time job, childrearing, or a full social calendar, writers lack time to actually write. This is the largest problem I have and there's little advice out there about what to do except to make time. And I do. Some days it's twenty minutes of sketching out a plot or writing out an exposition scene that establishes a character; I do something--every single day. At times it is only jotting down what my daydreaming yielded on the way home from work or writing a scene in my head before bed, mentally saving it for later. No matter what, I find the time. Even right now my three year old son is looking over my shoulder telling which letters I'm pressing. To be a writer, you have to write, and ignore distractions, so you truly must make time. Sometimes my notes, plot outlines, character sketches, and random scenes don't get used until summer, where I don't work much. Then I have plenty of time to hang out with my child and to write.
No matter what, writers have obstacles. It s a hard, subjective business, that takes a lot of effort and work. Not everyone can do it. But there are ways to make things easier if it is simply letting go of notions of perfection or making the time to hone your craft. These all can be overcome with some conditioning and by making small changes in life.