Anti-Writing Excuses That Shouldn’t Work for Me (But Do)

A few days ago, I bookmarked a link I found on Twitter (I forget who was responsible for it, but I’m really grateful) and completely forgot to click it again until today.  The link leads you to this Terrible Minds list of lies writers tell themselves.

Needless to say, I’m currently reeling with guilt from the contents of that list.  A lot of the stuff written there were excuses I used to let myself off the hook from writing something for myself (either on this blog or in that short story I’m supposed to be writing).  For example:

“I Don’t Have Time!”

Yep.  That’s one of my favorites, because it’s so easy to believe.  Between my job and the stuff I need to do at home, how am I supposed to squeeze this writing thing in?

Well…the answer is apparently “You HAVE to make time to write things for yourself.”  It’s a simple answer, but one that I’m not entirely comfortable with just yet.

“It’s Okay That I Didn’t Write Today, I’ll Do It Tomorrow!”

This is related to that first thing.  If I thought I didn’t have time to work on something for that day, I often try to tell myself that I’ll have enough time tomorrow.

And it usually ends very, very badly for me.

“Oh Noes, Writer’s Block Again!”

Yyyeeeaaaah, I’m pretty sure I’ve done this ON THIS BLOG.  (I think I’ve begun a number of posts with something to the effect of “I don’t know what to write today”).

Note to self:  you do know what to write, because you have a DAMNED NOTEBOOK FULL OF POST IDEAS.  Granted, not all of them are good ideas, but they can at least be tweaked.

“This Draft Needs to be Perfect!”

Because really, how embarrassing will it be for SOMEONE ELSE to read this thing?  There are so many things wrong with what I’ve just written here that I might as well throw it all away and cry in a shadowy little corner where no one has to see me and pity my pathetic writing skills.

While I generally don’t have this problem with the stuff I write for work (because the instructions and expectations are so clear!), this happens again and again whenever I try to write something for myself.  Yeah, I know.  It doesn’t look like it, does it?  But here’s a little secret:  I schedule these posts; I write some days and write nada in others in favor of writer‘s angst.  Seriously, I agonize over them for hours, and tinker until WordPress says “ENOUGH” and posts them automatically.

“I Suck Moist Open Ass”

This is the crux of my problem.  I’m sure a lot of other writers out there have the same opinion of themselves no matter how good they happen to be.  I just happen to think I suck more than any one of them, no matter how irrational that thought is.  This is why I put off writing and throw away about 90% of my drafts.  This is why I didn’t seriously write for myself at all for years.  This is why I was willing to give at the first sign of criticism from anyone, no matter how well-meaning.

This is why, despite my supposed credentials (as my sister would occasionally enumerate them), I’m so damned afraid.

The thing is, all these excuses really aren’t healthy if I really want to make something out of the stories and poems and songs in my head.  I can’t let fear get the better of me when it comes to this kind of thing.  Besides, if a lobsterman who couldn’t read a word until he’s in his 90’s can become an author, then all my arguments against writing anything TODAY (on the blog or otherwise) are pretty much invalid.

With that in mind, I’m putting this right here:

A Man Prancing In Front of a Bear
Yeah, this will TOTALLY help me write.

What about you guys?  Do you have excuses for NOT writing?

Judging Books by Their Covers

I admit it.  I’m a book cover snob.  I never really thought about it until just now, when someone on Twitter posted this Pinterest page displaying a bunch of book covers.  I liked some of them, true.  But for the most part, I found a lot of the covers to be way too busy for me.

Maybe they’re too pulp?  I don’t mind actual pulp fiction, but I really find most pulp fiction covers grating.

UK cover of The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
Come to think of it, I initially got hooked on Julia Quinn because of the UK covers of her Bridgerton series (though I love her writing too).

Rocked by this (kind of) sudden realization, I despaired at the possibility of being a “shallow” book consumer.  Has my reading life been a lie all along?

(Yes, I know that’s a tad melodramatic.  But I have a point, I promise).

That’s why I started to look for people who legitimize judging books by their covers.  Hey, a girl needs to validate her unconscious habits!  So what did I find?

  1. Judging a Book by Its Cover (A Blog) – Apparently, there’s an actual blog out there that does book reviews based on nothing but the cover.  It’s freaking brilliant. BRILLIANT, I tell you!
  2. Judging a Book by Its Cover (An Article/Post) – This fairly old post on GeekDad recognizes the effect of having the right kind of cover to attract the right kind of reader.  In other words, the cover is meant to market the book (so you better get it right).  So really, covers are important.
  3. The Caustic Cover Critic – Let me just say that this guy just has some of the best reflections on book covers, especially with regards to the actual contents of the book, the book titles, and the overall appeal (or lack thereof) to him as a consumer.  I recommend this particular post:  Odd Titles, Dull Covers.

Having been validated, I moved on to contemplating my own book cover preferences:

  • Largely minimalist
  • Effective balance of image and text
  • The text must NEVER take up the entire cover (unless they’re business or self-help books)
  • The image must NEVER look like it’s just tacked on
  • Basically if the cover looks like it was made by someone who clearly didn’t know how to at least use PhotoShop effectively, I will pretend that book doesn’t exist.

I’m sure there are more elements that affect my book cover pickiness, but those are the major ones.

But what about you guys?  Do you judge books by their covers?  What do you like or don’t like to see?

EDIT:  Speaking of book covers, one of my favorite authors Susan Elizabeth Phillips is asking for people to vote for the cover of her next novel.  If you like her work too, please vote. 🙂

The Horror of Reading My Pathetic Attempts at Literature

Lemme tell you a (clearly not-so-well-kept) secret:  I’m considering getting back into writing more literary fare.  That is to say, I’m thinking of getting back into writing fiction.  Or poetry.  Or whatever it is I thought I was writing when I was about 18.

Okay, technically most of that was fanfiction.  But I stand by my assertion that some of them can be considered high literature.

*cough* Anyway, as I was saying:  I’m thinking of getting back into writing more creative stuff.  It’s not that my job as a web copywriter doesn’t allow me to be creative; it’s just that I feel that none of the creativity I’ve been using has ever been truly mine.  Thus, this sudden return to a hobby that I’m really not sure I can accommodate given all the stuff I’ve already put on my plate.

That is why, to start things off, I read some of my on-and-off attempts at writing my own stories for the last five years.  Needless to say…

Palm to my face, I try to block out my own horrible writing.
I would have killed myself at the horror, but I realized the cats need money for their fancy food.

I wish I were kidding, but I think all my attempts at writing fiction are stilted and uncomfortable (like two drunken virgins with a copy of the Kama Sutra).  My poetry is slightly better, but I’m so straightforward and get too wrapped up in the sound of the words to ever be truly called a poet (according to that one poetry forum I visit).  I’d share them with you right now, but I don’t want to inflict the horror of my work on you.

Clearly, I needed to do something.

So I got back on WordPress

I admit that what I’m writing on this blog isn’t even vaguely novel-ish, and I hardly even talk about poetry (except for that one Maya Angelou post – god, I took myself way too seriously back then, didn’t I?).  But at least I’m making a conscious effort to write something that has very little to do with my day job.  It’s also given me the chance to look around and find some interesting stuff that might be helpful to me.

For example:

  1. I recently ran across a writing challenge that the blogger MechanisticMoth set for himself (among my favorite items so far are “Zodiac Sign” and “My Pets“).  I think simple challenges like this can help me get my creative juices flowing.  Right now, I’m only putting most of my responses to this challenge in a tiny notepad I carry around with me.  But if anyone else is doing a writing challenge on their blogs, I’d like to see them.
  2. I found this interesting blog post about plotting fiction stories.  Given how disorganized I tend to be when trying to write stories, I’m really excited about this.  The blog itself is new, and I don’t know when it’s gonna be updated.

I also started looking for resources that can help me with my writing

I started browsing sites for (free) writing tips that might be able to help me get started on novel writing (I’ve decided that poetry as a whole can be way too scary for someone who’s just starting out again).  I already have a decent idea for a novel (or so my sister says); all I need is some guidance for constructing a plot.

So far, I have found:

  1. Jim Butcher’s LiveJournal.  So far, it looks like he has some of the most useful essays on the essential components of a genre novel I have ever seen before.  It also doesn’t hurt that he’s the author of The Dresden Files, which I am more than a little bit in love with at the moment.  For the last few days, I’ve been making notes for my novel using his tips.  So far, it has been painless.  I’m sure that’ll change as soon as I actually start writing this thing.
  2. An ebook copy of Linda Lavid’s On Creative Writing.  I’ve been reading it on-and-off, and I’m starting to realize that it can be helpful to my writing too, though I suspect that this is better for stories that don’t fall under the usual “popular” genres.  I could be wrong.  Nevertheless, I want to try this out too.

Now for the big questions:

Would anyone out there like to read my new, potentially horrible, attempts at Literature?  Because if there are people out there who want to risk their sanity, I’m perfectly willing to post some of the stuff I produce.  Probably in another blog I’m thinking of setting up.  I also want to know, do you know any other free resource I can use for my writing attempts?

Seriously, guys.  I wanna know if the horror of my work deserves to be out here.

On Unexpectedly Inspiring a WordPress Post

Okay, I just have to post this because it blew my mind.  Yesterday, I was looking through WordPress posts about reading, the love of reading and the like.  I ran across this post about reading and re-reading by a lovely girl named Katie, which not only piqued my interest (because she had such good questions!) but also led me to ask a question of my own:  does what we love to read say something about us?

Which inspired Katie to write another interesting post, this time wondering if the personalities of people she knows are reflected in their reading material and making a connection between this and stereotyping.

Let me just say that while I’m flattered by this brief stint as a muse, I’m more fascinated by this writer.  I think she has the makings of an author, thinking as deeply as she does.

Needless to say, I’m now following her.  And if anyone out there is reading this, I encourage you to do the same.  Seriously, check out Katie vs. Keyboard.