13 Treasures I Found When I Procrastinated Cleaned My Desk Instead Of Writing

1. A Thousand Notebooks. I have a dedicated drawer just for blank notebooks, where I assume they spend all night fucking because there’s no way I bought this many.

2. Mysterious Notes. “P needs to kill the G.N.” “What if [scribble] was a cat-[scribble]?” “More blood.” And a long list of names, most of which are crossed out. I can only assume this is proof that I’m a mind-controlled government assassin.

3. This Thing.

12 Ladies

Uh….

 

4. Four Pairs of Old Glasses. And two pairs of new ones. And that lens that popped out of my old prescription sunglasses. Not found: the sunglasses themselves. Can only assume they’ve become more pens.

5. A Flash Drive Labelled ‘The Tesseract’. This is either the emergency OS reload key I made back when my laptop betrayed me, or Marvel’s going to send a cease-and-desist to my desk drawer.

6. The Last Easter Egg. From 2015. I hope. It tasted like pencil shavings.Thank You For The Coffee

7. $75 in Movie Theatre Gift Cards. Score!

8. 7 Knives. Including four throwing knives, but not including box cutters.

9. These Fucking Pencils.Fucking Pencils

10. Legions of Pens. I never bought these. No one would buy these. Why are they here? Why are you here, pointy interlopers?

11. Two Rupees. Like from India, not Legend of Zelda.

12. PONY ARMY.

Pony Army

You came into the wrong NEIGHbourhood, motherfucker.

13. The Original Outline For the Current Novel. HAHAHAHAHAHA no.

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The Definitive Ranking Of Places To Write

I’ve either seen this at church or airbrushed on the side of a van.

Desk:  This is your writing sanctuary. It’s got everything set up just the way you like it, with the pencil holder and the computer and the caged marmoset that you can unleash to get you coffee. This is your place.

Pro: It’s your territory. Try not to urinate on anything, though.

Con: Unless you are vastly different from me, any flat surface in your house is quickly colonized by half-read books, drawings of rockets, robot statues, and Cats of Unusual Size. You can either clean or attempt to write on top of this mess, neither of which is great for focus.

Rating: 7/10 because of cat hair in my coffee.

Bed: It’s comfy. It’s cozy. It’s got pillows that you can make into a fort. And thanks to Wi-Fi, you don’t even have to get up to do your research. And by research, I mean watch Netflix.

Pro: Coziness, especially with the upcoming cold dark sarcastic months.

Con: Falling asleep without backing up and realizing that you accidentally deleted everything when you rolled over on the laptop.

Rating: 5/10 because the cats followed me and are sitting on the laptop.

Coffee Shop: It smells like boiled adrenal glands and, these days, Pumpkin Spice Badger Nads. If you can score that corner table and get the friendly barista who periodically checks in to make sure you’re still alive, the buzz of a good coffee shop can get the juices flowing.

Pro: Never far from a supply of caffeine.

Con: Presence of others makes casual porn viewing unwise.

Rating: 6/10 because I actually like Pumpkin Spice Badger Nads.

Work: Whether you’ve got your own office or you’re part of a cube farm, if you have some free time and  access to a computer, you can peck out a chapter here and there. Just make sure to have a cover window available for when someone comes in without knocking.

Pro: You’re already getting paid, so you’re ahead of 98% of writers.

Con: Constant checking for your boss can lead to neck strain and severe paranoia, which 98% of writers already have.

Rating: 3/10 because Doing Personal Things On Company Time Is Wrong. Or something.

Church: Nothing like the haze of incense* to free your mind. If the Latin chanting doesn’t lull you into a coma until it’s time for the free wine, it is possible to hide a notebook in your hymn book and write.

Pro: Lots of weird stories being told to give you inspiration, especially if you write fantasy or horror. Burning hedges that talk! Walking dead guys! Some kind of seven-headed child-eating dragon that destroys the stars!

Con: Risk of eternal damnation.

Rating: 5/10 because no one gives better stink-eye than old church ladies.

Space: Picture yourself floating free above the earth, the panorama of the stars your backdrop. The chains of gravity no longer tether your body to the earth, and the chains of normalcy no longer tether your mind. You can write anything.

Or check Twitter and YouTube. Whatever.

Pro: Chances of being disturbed by your spouse, kids, friends, family, nosy neighbour, or dog are slim.

Con: Chances of survival without a spaceship or space station of some kind are also slim. Also: alien parasites.

Rating: 9/10 because it’s fucking space.

*Virtually all my church experience has been Catholic, with its arcane rules and incense and chanting. Feel free to substitute the religious affiliation of your choice and adjust accordingly.

Sweat and Ink: Finding Your Passion In The Armpit Of Summer

Sun: IMMA BE HERE FOREVER.

This is it: the dog days of summer. If you’re anywhere near me, you know that it’s been hotter than the devil’s jockstrap and twice as sweaty.*

What’s the first thing to go in this weather? No, not your clothes. If you’re like me, you’ve been working in a bikini top and daisy dukes since the last week of June, anyway.

The first thing to go is enthusiasm. The muggier it gets, the harder it becomes to give the contents of a roach-infested Hyundai’s ashtray about whatever the hell your characters are doing. Or about anything other than the nearest source of air conditioning, but let’s focus on the writing.

This related to this post on writing in the summer, but if that’s Summer Writer 101, consider this Summer Writer 201. You’ve shown up to write, but your brain is too hot to get it done. To get through the oncoming stickiness with your word/scene/note count intact, we need to dredge your passion for the project out of whatever damp hole it crawled in to die. Here it is: Finding Your Passion, Hot Weather Edition!

1) Change your venue. To an igloo. You might think this is too silly to work, but that’s just the sweat talking. Moving from your stifling living room, where the Crotch-Scorching Firebrick** slow-roasts your junk, to a cooler location can give you the mental energy to write. Your local library might have air conditioning. Or there’s coffee shops. Or malls. Find somewhere to cool down your brain. And your junk.

2 a) Write the good part. There’s probably a part of your story that you’ve been looking forward to writing every since you conceived the idea. Now is the time to write it. Because, god damn it, if you can’t get excited about that right now, it might be time to hang up the pens.

2 b) Read the good part. Maybe you’ve already written the good part. I have. I couldn’t wait. So now is a really good time to go find that part and read it. Remember why you couldn’t wait.

3) Make some inspiration. No, not meth. You don’t want to cook in this weather.

Go make a playlist of music that sounds like your characters, or your settings. Find or make some art: maps, character sketches, artefacts. Put it somewhere you can look at it. Feel the inspiration.

Then make meth.

4) Spread the love. Enlist another person in your project. Find a second reader and send them pages or chapters as they’re finished. They might just get excited, which will make you more excited. And then you can get together and fan-person it up.

5) Strip down. Not like that. Put your shorts back on, slick.

Strip your story down to the most exciting idea. What makes your imagination’s loins quiver with the thought of writing it? What are you trying to say? What does it all mean? Remembering why you got into this might help you get out of it with your sanity intact.

Anyone else? How do you stay motivated to stick with projects when you’re sticking to the chair?

*By Canadian standards, obviously. Those of you from places like Florida and India, keep your weather far south of me and get back to turning into walking sweat glands.

**Also known as your laptop

 

The 7 Faces of Doubt, Or How To Never Get Anything Done, Ever

 

That bat-faced little shit in the bottom right, he’s the Distraction Of The Internet.

Doubt is the worst of all demons. You can keep those weird ones with the goat faces that haunted Sunday School when I was but a wee impressionable young thing.* Doubt is the worst because 1) it’s insidious and 2) most of the time, you’re the one producing it. I’ve never met a creative person who wasn’t, at some moments, a festering boil of doubt. You’re being your own demon, which I imagine is a big savings for Hell. Teach people to condemn themselves, save demon-power. Of course, it’s non-unionized work, but you can’t have everything.

But doubt it a tricky bastard. It doesn’t always look the same, and sometimes it brings friends. Sometimes it takes the form of something so different that it could be mistaken for something sensible. But it’s a lie, and you need to be able to see through it.

So, to help you with your daily projects, writing and otherwise, here is my spotter’s guide to doubt:**

1. Procrastination: If you never get around to it, it doesn’t count as ‘failing’, right?

2. Research: I just need to know how yaks were essential in to the culture and economy of the mountain people of Outer Mongolia***, and then I can start.

3. Tiredness: Oh, I was totally going to get to that today, but I didn’t sleep too well last night because I had that dream about the robot otters again. And, you know, there’s not enough coffee, and I could really use a cookie, and *indeterminate waffling noises*. Tomorrow. Tomorrow’s fine.

4. The ‘Muse’: I just don’t feel it. You don’t expect me to work when she’s not here, do you? Art cannot be rushed!****

5. Distraction. OH MY GOD I LOVE TWITTER SO FUCKING MUCH.

6. Perfection: I can’t start until I have the perfect opening line. And I can’t move on until I’m sure that everything is in place. It has to be perfect, or there’s no point. It’s not like there’s a thing called ‘editing’.

7. Timing: Ehn, it’s not really a good time now. I haven’t had enough Yak Butter tea*****, and it looks like it’s going to rain. Besides, I only start things on the first day of the month, and this month that was a Sunday, and I don’t work on Sundays. Maybe next time things will line up right. Today….mmm, doesn’t look good. Sorry.

So, what form is your doubt taking today?
*Honestly, I’m surprised more Catholics don’t write horror. The shit they tell you in Mass is fucking terrifying.
**At the moment, I’m dealing mainly with #3 and #7, with a side order of Holy Crap Am I Busy.
***…I actually wrote ‘yak’, realized I was just going on old movies to assume they were in Tibet and the like, and had to take a ninety second research break. IRONY FOR THE WIN.
****Fuck yeah it can. In the words of Henry Miller, “Even when you can’t create, you can work”. It’s not all fairy dust and magic wands; sometimes you need a sledgehammer.
*****Now I’m stuck on yaks. Though using the reference twice means the research is less a waste of time, right?

Monday Challenge: This Goes On Your Permanent Record

“Have you found the words yet, Microscope Girl?” “Not yet, Hanging Over My Shoulder People. Will you back the fuck off?”

In a bit of shameless thievery, I’m taking today’s challenge directly from the pages of Terrible Minds, Chuck Wendig’s blog. If you’re not reading it, you really should. There’s a lot of solid advice in there, between the swearing.
Last week, he posted the Penmonkey Evaluation, a series of questions writers can answer to get a feel for where they are and maybe where they’re going. I’ve answered below as well as in the comments on the original post. After you’ve done your own evaluation, post it in the comments here/on the original. And read through the comment stream on the original. It’s always interesting to see where other people are in this business.
So, Monday Challenge: Go here (or check the questions below) and answer the quiz. Be honest; there’s no benefit to lying.

Penmonkey Evaluation:

a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?*

Breaking your heart. Making you feel for those characters and the godawful situations they get themselves in.

b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

Conflict resolutions. I can get people into bad situations, but getting them out? Ehhhhh.

c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

Finished four novels. One was a learning project which will never see the light of day; two have been edited and are being submitted; the last is currently being rewritten from the ground up.
Short stories? I dunno, maybe a dozen. All have been submitted, five sold.

d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

“[S]topping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.**” -Stephen King

e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

Most of the advice I’ve been given hasn’t been overtly bad, just not for me. The only two that really stick out as bad bad are less advice and more opinion: 1) “You must write in complete silence” from some article I read a million years ago. I love music and can’t imagine writing without it. It gets me through the aforementioned hard parts. And 2) “You should try writing something serious” from someone who didn’t approve of my love for genre fiction. I think my response was to laugh, but it was a long time ago and I can’t be sure. Again in the words of King, when it comes to memory we all stack the deck.

f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

Be brave. The world is full of shit that will stop you: naysayers, doubters, your own fear and apathy.  It’s up to you to put on your stomping boots, dig in your heels, and fight back.
Oh, and write. Don’t forget to do that part.

*Man, it was hard to do this one without feeling like an arrogant douchecanoe.
**Though I usually do my shovelling from a standing position on account on my giant drafting table/standing desk.

6 Things All Writers Should Start, Plus A Journey Song

Either stabbing practice, or a giant pencil sharpener. (Photo credit: wikipedia)

1. Start being weird. I know a lot of you have already gotten a head start on this one, but for those of you who are still hesitant to dip your toes into the waters of weird, allow me to give you a friendly shove into the deep end.
For starters, read the bit from Wednesday about stopping the fucking timidity. Apply that to yourself.
I once got my ass stuck in a tire swing and had to be rescued by the fire department. I trip while traversing the perfectly flat floors of the local mall, as well as malls abroad. I am not cool. And I am happy to not be cool, because cool by its very nature means giving a crap about the opinions of strangers who, apparently, exist solely to judge your social appearances.
Fuck those guys, real or imaginary. Be weird. Be different. Be you. And maybe then you’ll start to figure out what you want to write.

2. Start supporting each other. I don’t mean siding with people you know are an entire bag of dicks* just because they’re writers. I mean not actively tearing each other apart. Especially on the Internet. Using the relative anonymity of the online world to abuse others is cowardice, and the universe hates a coward, though not as much as I do.
Writing is not a zero sum game; someone else’s success is not had at your expense. So stop being a cock.

3. Start stabbing. Other people, I mean. Not yourself.
I practice Recreational Stabbing a couple of times a week, though at the gym they insist on calling it ‘fencing’. It serves the dual purposes of anger management and weapons skills. And it’s fun. Find your fun, whether it involves pointed objects or not.** All writers need some fun. And the weapons training doesn’t hurt.

4. Start a band. Writing is fucking lonely. But it doesn’t have to be. Find your people, your band, your superhero team with whom you can defeat evil, or at least give it a very stern talking to. They’re out there, somewhere. Some of them may be reading this blog. And, contrary to what some of the more paranoid corners of the internet would have you believe, not all other writers are out to steal your ideas. Only some of them, and those ones are easily defeated by feeding them the plot lines to Michael Bay movies.

5. Start DIY cybernetic implants. *Check notes more closely* No. Sorry. This is my to-do list. Anyone know where I can buy robot parts?

6. Don’t Stop Start Believing. Because Journey rocks.
Writing can be a long road. And the road to publishing can be even longer and more filled with potholes which are in turned filled with scorpions. So it’s easy to get discouraged. To get cynical.
But cynicism is like your mom: easy. And it doesn’t get you anywhere except to a pile of excuses filled with reasons why you can’t do shit: The industry is dead. It’s all who you know. I’m not willing to touch an agent’s Fun Zone, so of course I can’t get a contract.
Stop that. Start believing again. Not with the rosy-eyed glow of innocence, but the kind of hard-edged, diamond-tipped belief that will drive you through disappointment and failure. Believe in what you’re doing enough to get better at it, because belief does not replace hard work. But it does make the work go better.

*CoughOrsonScottCardCough.
**Though if it doesn’t, I don’t even know you anymore, man.

The Bullshit-Free Guide To Achieving Your Writing Resolutions

THEY’RE COMING.

It is a new year, and while I accept that this date has no significance beyond the social, I know that, out there, writers are busy making their new year’s resolutions.

But what to resolve? To write a novel? To publish a novel? A short story? To write every day? There are so many possible incarnations of this desire to do better that it’s hard to figure out which one you need.

Which is where I come in.

These are not resolutions; they are directions. A path you can choose. A state of mind that will help you mow down all the writing resolutions you made while blitzed on champagne and Red Bull. And you should make these words work for you not just in January, but every day, all year long.

So, get your mirror, look yourself in the bloodshot eye, and repeat after me:

1. I Will Write. No more excuses. Put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper, motherfuckers. Arrange words in an order that pleases you and hopefully some other people. Repeat.

2. I Will Finish My Shit. An unfinished project is like a hangnail on your brain. Finish it. Only then can you work on making it pretty.

3. I Will Not Give In To The Soggy Demons Of Despair. I imagine them like wads of other people’s used tissue: gross, useless, and if you touch them, you might pick up something that will take fucking months to shake off. And oddly prevalent during the darker months of the year.
Disgusting though they are, when enough of the Soggy Despair Demons get together, they can cause trouble. You don’t want them in your house. Best solution is to set them on fire with work.* Seriously, if I get taken out, it will be by the Flaming Hellbeast of Spectacular Failure, not the Soggy Formless Tissue-Things of Never Tried At All.

4. I Will Stuff The Haters In A Sack And Then Beat The Sack With A Big Spiky Stick. Metaphorically, people, metaphorically. Don’t try to pin the blame for your assault charges on me.
Common candidates for inclusion in the sack are, of course, enemies, naysayers, the people who tell you to stop wasting your time writing, and the aforementioned Soggy Despair Demons.** But while you are stuffing people into your mental Sack of Hitting, don’t forget to make room for the following: ‘friends’ who think you’re being silly, media outlets that report fiction is dead, and yourself on those bad days when you feel like giving it all up.
All of you: get in the fucking sack.***

5. I Will Fail. Repeatedly. Because failure means I’m still trying, still working, still changing.
After failing? I will try again. And, in the words of Samuel Beckett, fail better.
*They’re pretty damp, so they smoulder a bit, but with enough fiery work, you can reduce those fuckers to ash.
**Not included are people who give you genuine, helpful criticism, even if you don’t want to hear it. Toughen up, princess.
***Thank you, Dara O’Brien.