Friday, January 22, 2010

The Contents of Your Asylum

The one fantasy common to most writers is to make enough in royalties to quit their day jobs.

Don't do that.

Part of what makes stories interesting and unique is the flavor enhancement known as CONTENT. These are the little ideas you've been carrying around in your head for decades, or years, or weeks, that you cleverly slip into a scene here and a dialogue there.

Content makes your characters more interesting--like that big hair you added to the description of an old witch--the one your old boss used to have growing off the bottom of her earlobe that curled back like a hoop earring and you always wondered why in heaven's name she could never see it in a mirror, and then wondered if she knew about it all along and was testing mankind to see who might be brave enough to tell her about it.

That's content. That's interest. That's why older writers are a little better than younger ones, because they have content. It's a secret recipe you've been working on all your life and you add it to everything you create, making it sing on the tongue.

The point here, Newanda, is that your content reservoir doesn't fill by itself. You've got to be out in the world--and I don't mean Starbuck's--to keep topping it off. No matter how wonderful your view of the backyard, or how many interesting folks you meet at church, you're going to need to siphon a little of the sea of humanity if you want to maintain the outgoing flow of interesting bits.

And what better place to siphon content and money off a strangely-furred employer than at a day job? I can't wait to quit my current employment, if only for the freedom to examine the boss's oddities on this blog and elsewhere. (*See conveniences of having a pen name...)

So quit wanting out! Take a look around and pretend you work in an asylum, because brother, you do.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Gist, Newanda...

I write because you, the reader, need to see what I see, and how I see it.

I'm on the other side of the two way mirror and there are things on this side you are MISSING. And if you don't want to know about them, it can only mean you don't UNDERSTAND what you're missing. It is my duty in life to make you understand.

There. Did you see that? Holy crap! Holy, holy crap!

You missed it? Oh, yeah, you. are. screwed.

Well, slip me a Mr. Franklin and I'll tell you what you missed. You'll just have to trust me. It's worth it.

Okay, I'll take a five.

The writer on the inside,

Friday, January 15, 2010

Holy Cow, I'm Happy.

So I was fantasizing yesterday about being the next Stephanie Meyer or JKR and wondered what it would be like to have all that money, to be a NYTBSA and obtain the fame and vindication that would complete my life.

(And yes, I'm pretty sure that's what I'm after--oh, and a lifetime's supply of chocolate covered almonds).

I dragged my husband in on the fantasy, since such an occurance would also change his life. We debated on selling the house, but decided to stay and add on (so our autistic son wouldn't have wasted the last 21 years of his life memorizing an address only to have us MOVE.)

I was excited about the prospect of having a maid, but Hubby claims he wants to stay home and be Mr. Mom. He doesn't mind cleaning the toilets either. I suspect he would rather do that than allow strangers access to his bathroom.

So we decided to travel. He suggested buying a motorhome and driving around the country to visit our children. I pointed out that it was nearly certain all of them will live within 30 miles, even after the last of them marries.

We'd spend a lot on food and eat anything we want...but we already do that.
We'd spoil our children...done.
We'd buy new cars, but our neighbors would think we'd moved if there weren't at least a trio of paintless wonders in our driveway. Even family would drive past saying "Oh, that can't be it."

I know there are a lot of big things I haven't even touched upon here, but the point, Newanda, is that this little conversation made me realize that I don't want my life to change. I like my life. I'd like my bank account to change--who wouldn't--but the life? It's pretty good.

Then I realized what this meant: Holy shit! I'm happy.
When did that happen? Where was I? When was somebody going to tell ME for hell sakes?

So who knows? Maybe I'll be a kinder, gentler writer who only encourages you to focus on your writing with uplifting stories of patience and success.

Maybe NOT!

I may be happy, but you aren't! And you're not going to be happy until you've finished that damned book, or short story, or article for your church newsletter (cough, cough). (And yes, the coughing was to cover up the LAUGHTER. If you're only writing for the church ladies, why in the hell are you reading this blog?)

Happy Ainsley who has not misplaced her whip.

Friday, January 8, 2010

No Country For Casual Writers

Wanna be a casual writer?

Wanna write when your muse takes your hand and gently guides you to a pen and paper because the breeze tickling your sheer drapes has kissed her cheek and brought her out of her deep sleep and she's ready to dictate the lovely dream she's been having?

Do you want to write when the stars are aligned at the same time your family leaves you alone in the house unexpectedly?

In ambitious moments do you make a writing schedule and celebrate when you hit your goal a couple of days out of the month? Or even spend more time blogging or emailing about your writing than you actually spend on the manuscript itself?

Then you are a casual writer. Nothing wrong with that. You probably enjoy your writing more than most; it is a gift, not a chore.

For those of you less casual about your writing, I don't know if you've noticed, but the writing industry has turned into a GAUNTLET. It's no longer a row of desks spread out in the middle of a field like archery targets where we stand back and try to lob our babies from afar, hoping the desk it lands on, or bumps into, is the desk of someone who will appreciate said baby and if they dont, we'll pick it up, dust it off, and lob it at the next desk.

The new GAUNTLET is a damned busy public transit stop in Asia with thousands lined up waiting for the next train, to shoot their bodies toward the doors as soon as they crack open regardless of the people who are getting off and making room for more. With enough effort, after all, the agressive new group can push them out the other side of the train.

And these gentle human beings are anything but. While they wait for that train, they've either got their heads down, nudging their way forward, looking for familiar faces with whom they might gang up and weild more power, or they're trying to thin the crowd. "I hear the next stop has short lines...why don't you try it?"

Sorry to say, that if you're trying to get on this train, you should bring thugs with you (fellow writers) and embrace the gang mentality (writer conferences). At least you'll have a better shot of survival when the excitement gets people pushed onto the tracks. Friends, if they haven't been turned by the smell of blood in the air (angels), can at least pull you back up on the platform.

And once you're on the train, you'll have to fight like mad to get away from those doors before they open again. Grab any handle and hang on for your life. And if your work stinks, there are trap doors that will dump you out between the tracks. For pity's sake, DON'T STINK! You want some editor or agent to take one peek at the manuscript under your arm, think you smell like money, and offer you a seat next to him or her.

Screw the soft breeze. It's a rough wind that accompanies the publishing train and you don't want your nightgown blown around like a doomed ship's sail pulling you toward those sharp iron wheels. The only legacy you'll leave behind is a youtube video of that stupid surprise on your face, just as you're going under.

Have I thinned the crowd a little?
Good for you. See you at the station.

Ainsley, the world traveller