Monday, October 27, 2008

Got Confidence? The Blog Chain Wrap-up.

Another chain has come to an end, and as the person to start the chain, I also get to wrap it all up in a neat and tidy bow.

So, let's review - shall we?

The question was:

How as a writer do you find the balance between having too much or too little confidence in your work?

I started things out with the conclusion that ultimately you have to vote for yourself.

Next up Archetype had an awesomely inspirational post with some great quotes, and the reminder that it is actually healthy to have confidence.

Michelle discussed how we all have our moments of weakness, even the great writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Learning to think of herself as a "student of writing" is how Sandra finds a good balance of confidence.

Then we came to Abigail wrote about confidence as the ultimate con game.

Next up Elena talked about how confidence from one part of your life, doesn't always cross over into another.

Before this chain Terri had never thought about her confidence levels, but she finally does and you can find it here.

Leah passes along the challenge of deciding whether her confidence levels are too high or low onto her readers.

Over at H.L. Dyer's Weblog confidence is described as a teeter-totter, full of ups and downs.

And finally bringing this topic to a close Mary Lindsey decides to "keep it positive and keep it real."

That's the end of this chain. The next one will start in a few days over at Archetype Writing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Word Count Meter

For a very long time now I have dreamed of having a word count meter of my very own, and to have that visual representation of my writing progress. Not only have I coveted the word count meters of other writers, I have even gone so far as to believe that true happiness may lie within having a word count meter of my own.

Finally, after ten minutes of googling, I have made my silly silly silly (yes three sillies!) dream a reality.


32000 / 100000 words. 32% done!

Isn't it beautiful? Don't you love how it gives a percentage too?! It makes things so official.

I will try to update my progress periodically, probably whenever I remember.

In the meantime if you want one your own bit of instant happiness - try looking here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Confidence Game

It's time for another blog chain and this time I'm not only starting it, but I get to choose the topic as well. The question that I want to discuss is something that I've been thinking about quite a bit lately, and that is:

How as a writer find do you find the balance between being having too much or too little confidence in your work?

Here's the thing, we sit in front of our computer screens (or in Jessica's case with her pen and paper) and make shit up. Sometimes it's sucks. Sometimes it's great. But (and this is the fun part) we never know for sure which one it really truly is. Whoooooo!!! Good times, right? RIGHT!??!

Okay, so we have crit partners and beta readers to help us sort things out... except when one loves the part where Cassandra kills the dragon, another hates it, and no one understands that the dragon is a metaphor for the first boy who ever broke Cassandra's heart!

What then?

Or even worse all your readers hate something that you love, or love something that you hate, or think that dragons are not metaphors.

That's when you start worrying whether you are like Kenley on Project Runway scoffing in the face of Tim Gunn's always astute advice or conversely are losing the authenticity of your own vision and voice to appease others.

Personally I struggle with this, but at the end of the day there is something that I try to remember and it's a lesson that I learned a long time ago.

Somewhere around sixth or seventh grade I specifically remember one day when our teacher gave us this fun little exercise. She gave us a printout with a beginning sentence on it and we had the rest of the page to write the rest of the story. I was the kid who at the beginning of the school year when we got our new language arts books I would frantically flip through it looking for the creative writing exercises that they scattered throughout the book. So, as you can imagine I was thrilled with this assignment (yes, my lack of popularity at this age wasn't entirely due to my red Sally Jesse Raphael glasses and tragic perm.)

While writing that story I was able to take a short break from wishing that I was anywhere but there at school, because I actually was somewhere else. I suppose it would be nice if I could remember that story and perhaps even scan the original copy of it so that I could display it here. Unfortunately, that story is buried way deep in a landfill right now and the only solid detail I remember from it, is that it ended with the shocking twist ending: "I'm telling this story from my grave."

Okay, so I wasn't exactly M. Night Shyamalan, but when we read them aloud the rest of the kids in my class liked it. In fact that they liked it so much that when a vote was held to determine the best story it was chosen as one of the top ones alongside the story by another boy in my class. Now here's where the (over)confidence thing comes into play, because I thought that my story was better. I might have even thought that compared to mine, his story kind of sucked.

But, but but. But when my teacher had the class do a final vote to determine the best (I think this teacher used to give prizes of pencils or candy to worthy students and that was the prize at stake, other than the obvious one, that is, of knowing that you were THE BEST.) story, and we put our heads down on our desks and raise our hands to vote - I voted for his story and not my own.

Yes, that's right - I voted against myself. I thought it was the polite thing to do. And I didn't want to look like I thought I was the best, even though I actually did think I was the best. And most of all I didn't believe in myself enough to vote for myself.

My story lost and I am not even making this up - it lost by one vote. In fact it was so close that my teacher even held the vote again to make sure that she hadn't miscounted and I voted against myself again. Although, to be honest the second vote against myself had more to do with not wanting to be seen as a flip-flopper.

Now, that was a long time ago. I've since traded the dorky glasses for contacts and straighten my hair instead of trying to make it curl. It's still hard though sometimes to stick my hand in the air and say that I believe in what I have written. And I have to do it when I send out query letters, or put something out there for a crit, or even when I just have to tell myself that it is worth it to sit in front of that computer screen for a couple hours instead of spend a little extra time with my husband just chilling and watching TV.

So there's the question and my answer. And I'm gonna go on the record saying that I think it's pretty damn good. I am certain the rest of the blog chain is going to have some great responses as well, and you can find the next one over at Archetype Writing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Borrowing Poetry

The Red Pepper Plant

so much depends

a red pepper

glazed with tap

beside the white

This poem was liberally borrowed from William Carlos William's The Red Wheelbarrow.

The picture of the pepper above though is my own. In April my husband and I bought it as just a tiny seedling from the Home Depot. Andy swore that it would be dead before a pepper ever grew (the summer previous to this one I tried to grow herb plants from just seeds with less than stellar results, which may be from where he was drawing this conclusion.) from the plant, but he was wrong. This is actually the FOURTH pepper that has sprung from this plant, and their are more coming along if only they will ripen before it gets too cold. We also successfully grew thyme and basil. Alas, the sage did not survive our week long vacation to Buffalo, while it sat in the sun without water.

Anyway, soon the first frost will come and my plants will be dead, but now there is a record for all to see that while I may have killed every indoor plant I've ever had (including bamboo which is supposedly unkillable), this one time I grew red peppers... and they were good.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Halloween and Quiz Blonks

So, this is a fun quiz that I recently took to see what kind of writer I am. I cannot resist a quiz that will tell me what kind of anything I am - whether it be breakfast cereal, Sex and the City character, or extinct animal - I need to know!

Going through this quiz I was thinking, as I always do with multiple choice quizzes, that none of these answers truly fit me, but everyone probably thinks that when taking a multiple choice quiz, and after much agonizing I was able to choose the answer that I thought fit best. Well, guess what? The answer was write (that's not a misspelling it's a pun... yes, I know the misspelling would have been less shameful than stooping to lame puns and yet I could not resist.) on the money. According to "What kind of writer are you" quiz, I am:

Your Result


You're a Dialogue/Character Writer!

And it's totally true! Woh, what are the chances. If you take the quiz, make sure to leave a comment letting me know how close yours was to pinpointing the type of writer you are.

As promised in my blog title, this blonk also has some Halloween fun. Now, if like me, around this time of year you have the desire to buy a bag of candy corn, despite the fact that you have absolutely zero interest in actually eating them, but have rather been programmed by your childhood to associate there tri-colored mix of waxiness and sugar with Halloween - then this next product might appeal to you.

Yes, candy corn that you wear on your head instead of between your teeth. If you follow the link there should be a downloadable free hat pattern, so if there are any knitters out there who want to send one my way, I'd be happy to supply my head measurements.

And just think now that you no longer have to eat those horrible candy corns you will have more room for miniature Milky Ways and Three Musketeers... or, ooh those mini Twix bars are good too.

Which reminds me, a final question to ponder for anyone reading this - have you ever found yourself snacking on the mini candy bars and when you finally stop eating and see the pile of mini wrappers that you have managed to accumulate - have you been shocked at how many mini candy bars you consumed in one sitting? Yeah, I've been there. And you know it's really bad when you start doing advanced mathematical computations to try and convince yourself that the mini candy bars you consumed could not possibly be greater than the size of one regular candy bar. C'mon someone please tell me I am not alone here.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Elena, of Mindless Musings tagged me, which means that I answer some questions and then tag someone else to answer those same questions... except all of my blogging buddies have already been tagged, so if you are reading this, have a blog, and have not yet been tagged - feel free to play along!

4 goals I have in the next 5 years:

1. Have a successful writing career.
2. Have a successful writing career.
3. Have a successful writing career.
4. Have a successful writing career.

4 places I will visit someday:
1. Italy (I recently read Eat, Pray, Love and the food descriptions are just insane!)
2. Hawaii
3. Washington, DC
4. New York City (I've actually been here a few times, but not for several years now, and I would love the chance to get back there and see some Broadway shows.)

4 of my favorite foods:
1. Pizza with pepperoni and green peppers
2. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
3. Bread is almost any of its wonderfully carbalicious forms
4. Apple Pie

4 jobs I've had:
1. Niagara Falls Tour Guide
2. Waitress at The Melting Pot
3. Waitress at The Olive Garden
4. Grocery store cashier at Wegmans

2 places I've lived:
1. Buffalo, NY
2. Los Angeles

2 places I'd like to live:
1. Buffalo, NY
2. New York City (under the right financial circumstances, that is)

4 things I'd do with my spare time (if I had any):
1. Read or just spend a good hour or two browsing through a bookstore
2. Hiking
3. Watch TV
4. call friends I haven't talked to in forever and catch up with them.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho!

It's time for another blog chain, wherein a bunch of writers blog about a shared question, linking to one another along the way. This round I am second in line after Mary who came up with the question:

What kind of quirky habits or rituals do you have regarding your writing?

(or regarding anything else, if that is more fun.)

Now I certainly have a few quirks. For example at Panera's my favorite sandwich is the Bacon Turkey Bravo (should the name of a sandwich be capitalized? I mean it's just a freaking sandwich and capitalization seems to give it a little too much importance, on the other hand this is its official name. Hmmm.) . I order this sandwich often and every time the first thing I do is open it up and examine the contents.

First off, I always ask for NO tomatoes, but often when I ask for no tomatoes the person making the sandwich forgets and then picks them off at the last minute, leaving behind tomato seeds. Tomato seeds and their accompanying tomato slime are a no go - so those are removed. Then I remove a few slices of turkey. I don't like biting into a sandwich and just tasting turkey, especially since I don't especially like lunch meat turkey.

Then I need to see how much of their special spread they put on (my husband, Andy, swears that this special spread is in fact a mixture of mayo and thousand islands dressing, which I refuse to believe because I hate both of those things, but actually do enjoy this spread within the context of this sandwich at least. If you have information regarding this matter, I strongly urge you to NOT share it with me.) because they usually just slather it on. I usually go through several napkins removing most of it so that it does not squish out when I bite into the sandwich. Spreads or sauces that squish out when I bite into a sandwich is a major no-no, unless we're talking about relish in which case I can't get enough of it... but that's a whole different quirk.

My husband, bless his heart, has become immune to my sandwich behavior, and has actually become a rather helpful ally in my crusade against letting tomatoes touch my food, however there are other times when I am engaged in one of my quirky behaviors when he will look at me like he has no idea where the hell I just came from. It was during one of these times that I floated the idea to him that I might have a touch of the OCD. Our conversation went something like this:

ME: I think I might be a little bit OCD.

ANDY: No you're not.

ME: No, really. I think I might be.

ANDY: Really? Like you have a bit of the face blindness too because you have trouble telling Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro apart?

ME: I really have trouble telling them apart. Which one was in Rain Man again?

ANDY: (Sighing, shaking his head, and giving me the "you are an alien" look.)

ME: And I think I might be OCD too. Just a tiny bit.

ANDY: No, you don't. You're not clean enough to have OCD.

And there you have it, from my own husband. And what the hell does any of this have to do with writing? Well, in her post Mary discussed her need for a neat and clean working space, which in turn made me examine my own workspace.

My working space is less tidy and more... well, chaotic. That one clear spot on the desk is usually occupied by my laptop (for when I do my part-time transcribing job), but if the laptop was not filling that spot within twenty-four hours or less the piles of stuff would soon fill that space as well. The only stuff on this desk that is actually necessary to my writing, besides the computer, of course, is: the glass of water, chapstick, tissues, and cell phone... oh wait there is actually a notebook buried somewhere on there with some plotting notes, and I'll occasionally take a peek at that. Also, the cell phone is only important in that I write while my baby naps, so if the phone rings I need it close by so I can silence it as quickly as possible before it wakes him up.

Now here you get the bigger picture. The horrible old chair is wwwaaaayyy past it's prime (a hand-me-down from my father-in-law to my husband), and when you sit back, it tilts so far back that my feet don't touch the floor, and if I sit this way for too long I start to loose all feeling below the knees.

Above me are the crappy Ikea shelves of death. The stupid things can barely support their own weight on the wall, and so only very light objects can be placed on top of them, but even better they are made of this slick material so that if the people in the apartment next door slam a door too hard, something sharp and dangerous can come careening off the shelf and onto my head. It gives the whole proceedings a real sense of excitement.

The full length mirror... well, that is just there because we don't have anywhere else to put it, and it mostly just exists so that I can make sure my shoes and clothing are working together okay.

As for quirks or rituals proceeding the actual writing I can't say that I have many besides always briefly giving into the lure of the Internet and email when I first sit down at the computer (a great quote from the Simpsons I saw a few months back. Sideshow Mel is talking to Lisa and he tells her, "Applause is an addiction, like heroin, or checking your email." This is sooo true. Uh, well the applause and email at least.).

I always had this idea that as a writer I would have a desk looking out onto a beautiful scene that would instantly fill me with inspiration. And there actually is a pretty good view from my window:

However, I've since learned that from windows come glare on the computer screen or glare in the eyes, which is why I sit with my back to the window and usually keep the blinds closed. There is probably something deep in this, like that writers need to look inward to find inspiration... or maybe it just tells me that I need to worry about a Vitamin D deficiency.

And there it is: a peek into my own personal writing life. I have a feeling that many more quirks and odd rituals will be revealed before this chain is over and you can find the next one over at Archetype Writing.