H ordes of children
A ll excited
L icorice ready
L anterns lighted
O ne night only
W arlocks creeping
E vil waking
E vil sleeping
N ine-letter words make acrostic poems difficult
Monthly Archives: October 2011
H ordes of children
I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t need a guide. I already hate myself.” But look. If you’re going to get serious about being a writer (or any kind of artist), this amateur stuff isn’t going to cut it anymore. You can’t just haphazardly criticize yourself and hope for the worst. Happiness will find a way to creep in, and who ever heard of a happy artist?
If you want to achieve truly professional-grade self-loathing, you’re going to need a plan. Luckily, I’m here to help. I’ve identified seven key actions you can take right now to dramatically and permanently decrease your self-esteem.
1. Blame yourself for failures, but give yourself no credit for successes. No, it’s not rational, but you’ve got to learn to give up on rationality. Why, just imagine if you congratulated yourself for the days you do write as much as you berated yourself for the days you don’t. Think how much precious self-hatred would seep away! I tell you, it’s a total non-starter.
2. Attribute all failures to internal, not external, causes. A rational person realizes that many of the bad things that happen to them are not their own fault. Say you’re late to work because of road construction. Normally you’d blame the construction, right? Learn to twist that around. Blame yourself for not having left earlier. It’s important to do this consistently. Again, letting go of rational thought is key.
3. Confuse self-improvement with self-destruction. Of course, rational people do criticize themselves for failures. The voice of your conscience is supposed to push you to better yourself. That’s healthy. But this voice of improvement can actually be an ally in your struggle to bring yourself down. With practice, you can actually attribute all your poisonous, pointless internal nagging to your own conscience, which simultaneously lends credibility to the nagging and makes the real conscience less credible. It sounds tricky, but it’s easier than you think. Give it a try!
4. Dislike yourself more than others dislike you. Suppose you inadvertently say something hurtful, and someone gets offended. You apologize, life moves on. That person will probably forget all about it in five minutes. Can you imagine if you forgave yourself that quickly? It’s crucial to be your own worst enemy, because frequently, other people just don’t have the time or resources to hate you the way you deserve.
5. Worry, don’t think. You’ve probably noticed a theme so far: thinking is bad. The more you honestly and rationally evaluate your life, the less genuine self-destruction is possible. But it’s tough to give up thinking cold turkey; we’re just too used to it. Instead, substitute worrying for thinking. It uses mental energy and it feels sort of like real critical evaluation, so with luck, your brain won’t know the difference. But you can be sure you’ll feel the effects.
6. If you must think, think in terms of absolutes. Let’s say two or three people criticize you today. If you leave it at that – “two or three people criticized me” – it’s not very menacing. Turn it into something more potent: “Everyone hates me.” Exaggerate both the scope and the degree of the problem. Be careful, though, not to turn this the other way. Imagine if you started to think, “Everyone likes me.” Disaster! Remember, thinking isn’t so bad, as long as it’s not rational thinking.
7. Don’t get enough sleep. It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, nothing undermines rational thought like a lack of sleep. By the way, this one’s probably the easiest rule of all. Follow #5 diligently, and #7 will happen on its own!
Of course, you weren’t born yesterday. You probably knew about some of these techniques already, and maybe you’ve even discovered some extra tricks of your own. Share your expertise! How do you drown the voice of confidence in your own daily life?
Telepathy is a pretty sweet deal, right? You reach out your hand, or maybe just stare at somebody, and suddenly you know what they’re thinking. The mere fact that it happens in every sci fi and fantasy story, ever, is proof that we all secretly wish we had that kind of power.
It may have occurred to you that reading is sort of a poor man’s telepathy. After all, you are – in a sense – reading someone else’s thoughts, right?
I’m here to tell you the opposite. Reading isn’t a poor man’s telepathy. Telepathy is a poor man’s reading. Suck it, Betazoids.
Six Reasons Reading is Better than Telepathy
6. Unlimited range. Not only do you not have to be in the same room as your target, you can even be on the other side of the planet. Those, my friend, are some powerful neurons.
5. You get more than one try. Telepaths are always saying things like “I tried to see what she was thinking there, but I couldn’t quite make it out.” If that happens in a book, you just read the paragraph again.
4. Works on dead people. Normally, to read the mind of a dead person, you have to get into all sorts of necromancy and unholy chants, and next thing you know, some phantom from the demon realm has slapped you with a hex and your apartment smells like formaldehyde. Books, on the other hand, are so kickass that the person whose thoughts you’re reading can die while you’re reading them and you won’t even notice.
3. No crazy side effects. Telepaths have to deal with all sorts of crap: nightmares, screaming victims, Freudian labyrinths, the constant chatter of people’s mental voices. Not you. As a reader, your telepathy is strictly on-demand, and you’ll never have any weirdness worse than the occasional eye strain. (Okay, nightmares may be a possibility too. I’m looking at you, Mr. Lovecraft.)
2. No invasions of privacy. Let’s face it: do you really want to live in a world where people can pick up every random thought in your head? Readers can only read what you write. It’s opt-in telepathy. How cool is that? Answer: it is significantly cool.
1. Reading is a real thing that actually exists. And you are reading my thoughts right this very second. Well done, hypothetical reader. Well done indeed.
Of course, I’m still jealous of Mr. Spock for other reasons. I mean, just look at those ears. You could skewer a kabob on those things.
Have you ever wanted to be a telepath?
I recently started watching Babylon 5 again. If you’re not familiar with it, imagine a show with the trappings of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the feel of The Lord of the Rings, plus a healthy dose of world-shattering superships. It’s a pretty good time, is what I’m trying to say.
This time around, I’m watching it with my wife, who’s never seen the show before. Introducing her to Babylon 5 presents a unique challenge. You see, all the really outstanding stuff in the show comes in seasons 3 and 4. The first season (and, to a lesser extent, the second) suffers from bad acting, bad dialogue, and a general shortage of coolness. But you can’t just skip to season 3, because you’d miss out on crucial parts of the story. Sure, you could figure it out as you went, but it wouldn’t be the same. So what do you do?
My solution was to identify a few key, plot-critical episodes from the first two seasons, then watch all of 3 and 4. So far it’s working pretty well.
My point is simple. Not every brilliant piece of art is polished on the surface. As a viewer (or reader), that means sometimes you have to dig a little to find the good stuff. As a writer, you have to do the same thing in your own work. You have to notice the hidden radiance that no one else can see. Then refine it, purify it, strip away everything that obscures that light, so that finally your readers can see it too.
Do you know any books, or shows, where the brilliance is hidden a little below the surface?
There is a critical shortage of glowing green dots on my cable modem at the moment. Apparently global demand for glowing green dots is spiking massively. BuckleyCorp apologizes for the inconvenience but hopes to return to distributing its usual propaganda tomorrow.
I haven’t posted any fiction here in a while – it’s been a month and a half since the last one. That doesn’t mean I’ve been standing still, though. Last night I finished the first draft of a new story, untitled for now, in a genre I haven’t played with much before: science fiction horror.
The draft weighs in around 5,000 words, which is longer than I expected, the longest story I’ve written in quite a while. Per my new strategy, it’s a very rough, get-it-on-paper-before-you-hate-it draft, what Chuck Wendig might call a beach-storming draft. I’ve set myself a goal of finishing the revisions by Thanksgiving.
Once I finish the story, I’m going to do something else I haven’t done in a while: send it out for submission. I have submitted stories in the past (never successfully), but with all the work on the novel lately, I’ve gotten out of the habit. It’ll be good to get out there again, dodging rejection letters and hopefully getting my first prose publication credit.
Unfortunately, this plan means I can’t post the story on the blog. So it’s, like, a secret story. A ninja story. Yeah, that makes it seem more exciting, we’ll go with that.
And after Thanksgiving, it’s back to work on the novel.
Tell me, what are you working on these days? Sent anything out for submission lately?
About six months ago, you may remember, Google put up a logo that looked like this:
(That’s the static version. If you haven’t seen the animated version, take a moment to watch it now. It’s worth the ten seconds of your time.)
Personally, I think this is one of the best logos Google has ever done. So, following typical Internet logic, I clicked the pretty picture and read the Wikipedia article. The dancer’s name is Martha Graham, and after learning all about her, I promptly forgot almost everything.
One bit, however, stayed with me.
The story goes that another artist came to Ms. Graham to talk about her own worries. She “confessed that [she] had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that [she] could be.”
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.
I love this because it removes entirely the idea that you might not be good enough. She’s not saying you are good enough, she’s simply saying it doesn’t matter. That variable isn’t part of the equation. There is art inside you that exists nowhere else, and you must bring it out, and that is all.
This doesn’t mean you can be passive. You can’t wait for the Muse or your inner self to inspire you, nor can you merely dump your feelings on the page. Every art is a craft, and you are expected to forever push your skill to its limit. That’s what it means to “keep the channel open.” And of course, keeping the channel open is tremendously difficult.
But most artists – myself included – tend to make it even harder by piling worries and doubts on top of the work itself. Am I good enough? Will they like it? Will anyone remember this a year from now, or ten, or a hundred?
None of that is your job. It isn’t part of the equation.
Keep the channel open; make good art; give the world what it can’t get anywhere else.
Oh, and click on pretty pictures. That seems to help too.