Self-Ageism (stop it)

One of the hardest parts about growing up is coping with the number of years you’ve been alive. Ha! Okay, that sounds off, so let me explain better…

Take two: The most difficult part about growing older is dealing with and accepting the number limit we have (subconsciously of course) put on our lives. It’s the old, “By the time I’m 35 I’ll have 4 kids, a house in Hawaii, and have a billion dollars in the bank,” road block.

We set it firmly, then we watch the number approach and pass us. Then we pull out the jar of nutella and have a pity party. Because life may be a lot of things, mostly a hot mess, but it’s never predictable.

Best laid plans and all that… Let’s take me for example:

  • I’ve plotted out book I’ve never finished.
  • Written books I’ve never plotted.
  • Written full books and never edited them.
  • Edited books that should have been set on fire.
  • Written stupid things to agents in desperate moments.
  • Cried in my cereal whilst grasping my flash drive, begging it to explain why it’s contents is never ever ‘good enough’.
  • I’ve had my tarot cards read to show me exactly HOW I’d finally obtain the title of ‘author’ I so desperately want.
  • I’ve joined writing groups
  • I’ve quite writing groups
  • Made writing friend
  • Taken writing classes
  • Danced in the shadows of a solar eclipse while chanting, “Book Gods!! Hear my pleas!!”
  • Thrown handfuls of salt on my WIPs at dawn to keep all my characters on their path.
  • Left silver coins in the moonlight to collect the lunar wisdom before clutching them tights as I wrote a new scene
  • Used the same coin to do laundry, because clean socks are nice when you’re writing.
  • And I’ve even made up a list filled with utter lies about the extent I’m willing to go, in order to entice the books gods into finally giving me that “hells yes” response to a query letter–all before [insert age here,] and you know what?

My birthday still came an went. Know what else? I’M STILL HERE!

So, it’s easier to say, “Age is just a number” than it is to feel the damn sentence is true. But guess what? AGE IS JUST A NUMBER. Want to know what age you should stop trying at? Well I can’t tell you because I have no idea how old you’ll be when you die.

If you find something that makes your heart soar when you do it (for me writing, and well, eating) and you give it up because you’re [insert age here] years old…

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Yeah. The Power Rangers are flummoxed by this response. Don’t flummox the Power Ranges. They have enough on their plate.

And better yet… GO WRITE SOMETHINGS.

 

Lists: Books to love

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And so it begins, the life I sat dreaming about for months and months on end – it is here, before me. Yes, that life I pondered on, drooled over, half cried, half begged for has arrived and now it’s time to take a hold of it. So, I thought I would start with a list! A list of books. There has been a challenge going around Facebook, “10 Books that have stayed with you.” What a better place to start than the books that have influenced me and molded me – propelling me forward – into this world of writing. I decided to do 15, because 10 isn’t enough – to be honest 15 isn’t either. I read a lot of books and many have influenced me one way or the other. But here is my list of 15 books that have “stayed” with me over the years.

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1. The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton
I love how Hinton portrays the separation of class. I feel it was ground breaking in the 60s and is still relatable today.

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2. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
I love Ender. It’s a great character living in an interesting world. This book made me want to write sci-fi.

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3. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
This is the book that hooked me on sci-fi! It’s so much fun and Adams is hilarious. 42!

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4. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
In my early 20s I read this and Wuthering Heights. Loved Jane Eyre. Her strength and honesty make her one of my favorite characters. (I still don’t get why people like Wuthering Heights.)

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5. Ham in Rye – Charles Bukowski
Bukowski is a fan favorite all around. I’ve read most of his works, from poetry to short stories to novels – but Ham on Rye is my absolute favorite. The gradual growth of Hank is heart breaking.

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6. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
This book – mother of all things holy – the nightmares I had. Perfectly captures how volatile humans are.

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7. The Glass Castle – Jeanette Wallis
I could gush about this book for days. Beautifully written story about family, love, loss, and dealing with it all.

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8. Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
Most amazing anti-war book of all time.

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9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
Written in omniscient 3rd, a point of view people rarely use these days, as the fly on a wall you watch the family grow. I randomly have scenes pop into my head on any given day.

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10. Sandman – Neil Gaiman
The reason I started reading comics.

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11. I am Legend – Richard Matheson
Incredible and interesting horror.

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12. Princess Bride – William Goldman
Just as funny, if not funnier, than the movie.

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13. And if I Perish… – Evenlyn M.Monahan & Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee
It’s about WWII nurses. Follows American nurses from the states through all major WWII battles.

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14. Fat Kid Rules the World – K.L. Going
The movie adaptation of this book should be set on fire. This book is genius. Music, drugs, poverty, age appropriate awkwardness, true friends, and family.

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15. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Can’t describe it. Friendship, love, and life.

Pen caps and [soy] ice cream sandwiches…

 

Chart 'o Writing stuff

 

…or even better, “The nearly uninteresting life of an aspiring author.” But let’s be honest – that title is a bit to contemptuous even for my liking.

So, you’re an aspiring writer. You woke up one morning (or afternoon, or evening – I won’t presume to know your sleeping schedule or lack there of) and you decided you want to write. No! You decided you want to be an author! Ah, yes! The glory of the written word. The world will now know every secretly hidden gem you have held so closely to your chest it burns a light so bright it can be seen for miles and miles.

You sit down at your computer (because while paper is fun, typewriters are antiquated – lets face it – the world is digital) and you pour out your soul. There are laughs!!! There are tears… There are epic moments!…!…!

You type the words “The End” and nod proudly at the blinking cursor (as you compulsively save the manuscript 100x) – you, my friend, are D-O-N-E! Boom!

 

BRING ON THE LITERARY AGENTS!

BRING ON THE 3 BOOK DEAL PUBLISHING CONTRACTS!!

AND BRING ON THE SWEET MOVIE FRANCHISE DEAL!!!

(Everyone wants a movie deal these days. It’s insane. I mean, if you want a movie deal so badly why not just write a movie script? Just an observation…)

But alas, that is not the truth of the writers journey. It is a myth brought on by a combo of believing everything you see in movies and just plain lies. So I would like to give you a list of truths. And why do I want to give you this list? To be honest I don’t want you to quit.

I’ve been writing for eons. In the past year alone I’ve written two books and I am currently working on a new one.

Are these books published? No.

Do I have an agent? Not yet.

Will I self-publish? Probably not.

Will I keep writing? Yes.

YOUR TRUTHS ABOUT WRITING:

  1. If by this point you haven’t heard the Stephen King writing quote on how to become a better writer, here it is: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” I know, he has several other quotes – people LOVE the kill all your darlings one – but this  is my personal favorite. Writing is hard work. There is no book out there that just popped out of someone’s brain polished and ready to be published. (If you don’t believe me pick up the On the Road: Original Scroll and prepare yourself for utter boredom.) 
  2. Your “1st” Draft. This is one of those things that boggles my mind. It is called a “1st” draft – the title alone would imply there are more than one of them. As stated above – writing is hard work. Can you do it? Yes. Will you? That’s up to you. Go, hide, write your first draft. Look at it like the bones of a skeleton and when you go back add all the meaty parts that make it a body. Don’t be afraid of this. DON’T assume someone else out there will do it for you. It’s your book. It’s your job. YOURS and yours alone.
  3. Thomas Edison said “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” So it writing.
  4. That Literary Agent you love and want to rep you – well they may or they may not – but you’ll never know unless you send off your query letter. So SEND OFF YOUR QUERY LETTER! Do it! Right now. Stop with the excuses.
  5. There will always be something else. There will always be your day job. You will always be tired. Your children will take up your time. Your friends will be in the way. You will need to wash your laundry (Please wash your laundry. And guys, wash the sheets.) THERE IS NO GOOD TIME TO START WRITINGS. I will say it again: THERE IS NO GOOD TIME TO START WRITING! So you may as well start right now.
  6. People keep telling you to write what you know – which is fine. I mean, for me that means I will write stories about being a yoga teacher stay at home mom who is vegan. NEW YORK TIME BEST SELLERS LIST, I’M COMING FOR YA! (not). Back to #1 – read and write about things that inspire you. You love The Game of Thrones and want to write the next epic fantasy novel! Go read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Why? Because the characters are amazing and you can use what you learn there it give a different perspective in your warring world. Want to be the next YA Fiction God/ess? Read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Hienlein – because his use of dialect is a game changer. Expand your horizons and don’t be afraid to thing about thing you may not know. We live in the information age. Google it. Look up someone who has the info you want and email them, give them a call, ask questions. If you’re a woman and want to know how a man would react to a certain situation – ask them. Ask questions. Watch documentaries. Get the hell outside your comfort zone.
  7. Okay – so you already know all of that stuff, now what. The biggest thing about being an aspiring writer is not giving up on yourself. Yes, you’re going to receive rejection letters. Some will be the fun, “It’s not you, it’s me” break up style letters that leave you feeling empty and raw. This is where the ice cream sandwiches come into play. Don’t give up, but take a second to treat yourself and tell yourself it’s okay, because let’s face it. You’ve tired and that’s a lot more than some have done.
  8. This is my final one – pen caps. On this journey you will meet an assortment of people. You’ll meet the ones who tell you to keep going and you’ll meet the ones that tell you to quit. Take the pen cap and shove it up their nose (metaphorically of course). Believe in yourself. Be open to criticism, use it to make yourself a better writer. We all have hang-ups. ALL OF US.

Writing is hard, but it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid of hard work, and don’t try to cut corners. But most of all, don’t give up on yourself. If you want to write and become an author – the only thing standing between you and that goal is yourself. Get out of your own way and go write.