Knowing When To Be A Writer Show-OFF

I ended up talking to some of my writers about this, this past weekend, so I thought I’d share it with everyone. It’s pretty fun stuff and a helpful thing to know.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” said novelist Elmore Leonard.

Sometimes writers fall in love with words, and that seems like a lovely thing, right? Words are writers’ commodity. Writers are word merchants. They deal in words, flinging around and ordering about on the page in the hopes of creating an army of sentences that become a story.

But sometimes writers (like everyone else) show off.

And that showing off makes readers go, “Blech.”

Readers who go ‘blech’ are readers who probably aren’t going to keep reading. No writer wants that because then their words and stories don’t have a chance to motivate or distract or move the reader. Plus, crap reviews.

In his book, Writing Tools, Roy Peter Clark writes:

“Most writers have at least two modes. One says, “Pay no attention the writer behind the curtain. Look only at the world.” The other says, without inhibition, “Watch me dance. Aren’t I clever fellow?”

He likens these to understatement (the first mode) and overstatement or hyperbole (the second mode).

You don’t want your readers to be noticing all your writing adroitness and flourishes and showing off.

You also don’t want to be so underwhelming during really important moments that the reader shrugs and says, “Should I care that the universe imploded and Lassie died?”

Clark creates a little rule that he says works for him.

“The more serious or dramatic the subject, the more the writer backs off, creating the effect that the story tells itself. The more playful or inconsequential the topic, the more the writer can show off. Back off or show off.”

Here are a couple of examples where I’m writing about the same thing.

So, I was at the Boston Marathon today to take pictures of my friend, Lori, running and then crossing the finish line. Before the marathon I had lunch with my daughter Em. She was nervous.

“I have a bad feeling,” she said. “You need to be careful.”

“You have no faith in me. I am a perfectly capable person.”

“I just am worried.”

“I will be fine,” I told her. I insisted it, actually.

But I did several things that I don’t normally do. I didn’t take the T. I chose to walk from Cambridge to mile 25.5 or so of the race route. I figured out the T route and everything, but I just didn’t want to go on it. Walking was healthier, I figured. I was going to watch a marathon.

Pretty understated, right?

Here’s me writing that flamboyantly.

It is the kind of day where people blossom into heroes in Boston and become a part of a legend, a story bigger than themselves, the day of the marathon, a day of heaving chests, heartbreak hills, strangers cheering them on for just moving forward, step by step, mile by mile, until the make it (or don’t) to the finish line. My friend Lori was one of those people—the hopefuls, the push-your-way-through-its, the runners.

While she was on mile eighteen or so, my daughter and I were having lunch in Cambridge before I’d leave her to the doldrums of college and head out to the race route, somewhere around mile 25.5.

Before I left, my daughter hugged me. She smelled of hummus and coconut shampoo, her windblown hair flinging itself into my cheek as she said, “I have a bad feeling.”

You see the difference, right?

How do you work on this in your own writing?

Look at other people’s writing. Newspapers are great examples of this. What stories are on page one because of how they are written versus how newsy they actually are.

Take one of your own scenes and rewrite it like it’s spare bones. Then rewrite it like you’re trying for a very flowery Pulitzer.

Read humor. Great humorists have really mastered the difference between hyperbole and understatement and use it so well.

I took this when I was running this week. It’s so beautiful here.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Stopping Doomsday Thinking

A lot of great clients and students that I’ve worked with have what I like to call Doomsday Thinking. I’m pretty sure I didn’t coin that phrase.

What is doomsday thinking?

It’s basically catastrophic thinking.

In Psychology Today, Toni Bernhard J.D. writes, “The term refers to our irrational and exaggerated thoughts: thoughts that have no basis in fact, but which we believe anyway.”

Those thoughts become so big and so distorted that we get anxious.

I am a pro at doomsday thinking

I basically had these kinds of thoughts until last year.

Those negative, spiraling thoughts can become so big, so huge, that it’s almost impossible to be happy about who we are, what we’ve done, what we will do, or our life.

We forget there can be good outcomes too.

Instead, we think about all the bad potentials and build them up like super stores, giving them so much space in our thoughts that they take over.

The why is it always me syndrome.

One of my most brilliant and adorable relatives does this all the time. She gets stuck on a highway coming home from work because of a traffic jam and thinks, “Why does this always happen to me? The universe hates me.”

When in reality, she’s not alone in that traffic jam, right? It’s almost self-absorbed to think that the frustrating things are out to get you and only you.

Or, we get rejected when we send our book to an agent and think, “This is impossible. I will never get published. I am doomed to suck forever. I give up.”

When in reality, you don’t suck at all. Writing is subjective and that particular agent just wasn’t for you.

Change happens.

In doomsday thinking whenever something bad happens, we assume that this is the way it will always be. It isn’t.

The world is chaos and full of change.

I just was texting with one of my friends the other night and I wrote, “I bet Five-years-ago Steve would never have imagined this.”

The this was good stuff happening in his life. And he hadn’t. He hadn’t predicted any of it.

We’re all like that. I didn’t imagine I’d be where I am five years ago. That’s because change happens. Even the bad doesn’t stay always bad. We can’t predict the outcomes and all the variables even when we think we can.

Here’s the good thing about change

Since things change, it means that you don’t need to stay stuck forever. And you don’t need to stay in those negative thought patterns forever either.

Why not? It’s pretty easy to lean into your internal critic, right? But you don’t have to. You can stay calm. You can take chances and make choices and shut them up.

We all have inner critics, but we also need inner cheerleaders

I used to imagine my inner critic as John Wayne (the dead movie star/cowboy). He was so harsh on me. Always telling me to work. So, I created an inner cheerleader who turned out to be the Muppet, Grover. Yes, from Sesame Street. My brain is a weird place.

John Wayne and Grover would duel it out for supremacy in my head.

Weird! Weird! I know. But by giving an identity to that negative voice/inner critic, it helped me to recognize that doomsday thinking and shut it down so that I could take chances and risks and do things.

Allow yourself to treat challenges and projects like you’re playing

Another thing that helps is giving myself a chance to play and fail. You can do this, too.

Find something you’ve wanted to do. Start a blog? Make a video? Learn to paint? Ride your bike every morning? Make it something that excites you.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Give yourself a time frame. I have 30 days to do this! That sort of short timeframe.
  2. Schedule time into your day/week to do it.
  3. It helps if you have an end project. So, tell yourself what your end product will be.
  4. Do it.

By giving ourselves a product and a timeframe, we give ourselves a chance to try things. It doesn’t seem like a forever-worry that way and it usually shuts up our doomsday thinking and John Waynes a tiny bit.

You’ve got this. I believe in you. You need to believe in you, too.

xo

Carrie

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Three Super Common Writing Mistakes Explained

If someone writes its for it’s or lay for lie? It doesn’t mean they deserve to die or get your hairy eyeball of judgement. It just means they made a mistake. It’s part of being human. And it’s okay.

All you all,

I am the WORST copyeditor for my own work. I’ll admit it and that’s because as a writer, I’m too close to it to pick out my errors, right?

That’s why it’s good to have other people read your stories before you put them out there.

Every day or everyday

What the what, right? There’s a difference?

Yes, yes, there is.

Everyday when it’s all one word is an adjective. That means it’s describing something that happens all the time.

Dreaming about manatees is an everyday occurrence for Carrie.

Every day when it’s two separate words is an adverbial phrase. Doesn’t that sound fancy and terrifying? Adverbial phrase.

It just means “each day.”

Every day Carrie dreams about manatees.

The magic apostrophe

I talk about apostrophes a lot and that’s because a lot of us just haven’t gotten the memo yet. That’s okay! Don’t be hard on yourself. Here’s the memo again.

Apostrophes have two main jobs.

Job #1 is to show that something is possessing something else. No! Not in an exorcism kind of way, but an ownership kind of way.

The manatee’s flipper was so cute.

The manatee owns that flipper. It possesses it.

Job #2 is to show there’s some letters missing because we have smooshed or contracted two words together.

So, ‘It is’ becomes it’s. The apostrophe is replacing the I in ‘is.’

Or ‘they are’ becomes they’re. The apostrophe is replacing the A in ‘are.’

A lot of us write a word and maybe that word ends in an s. We go, “AH! It ends in an s. There should be an apostrophe in there, right? I shall put one in.”

Right: Apostrophes are cute little buggers and it’s hard to resist them.

Wrong: Apostrophe’s are cute little buggers and it’s hard to resist them.

Lose it or Loose it?

These words are evil little buttfaces. It’s that double ‘o’ versus single ‘o’ that gets our brains all hooked up. Choose or chose has this issue too.

Why are those o’s so confusing? I don’t know, but I do know that when I was little, I loved to put pupils inside them and make a smiley face.

LOOSE means not tight. It rhymes with booze!

LOSE means you have lost something. You poor honey.

CHOOSE means you have to make a choice. It’s the present. It’s happening now. It also rhymes with booze!

CHOSE means you already made that choice. Are you regretting it?

Spoiler Alert: Don’t be a douchebag about other people’s grammar mistakes.

Here’s the thing: We are all human. We all make mistakes. It is not the end of the world and other humans (the good ones) shouldn’t be trolls about it. No offense to trolls. But we all have to be a little less harsh, a little less judgmental and a lot more understanding and forgiving.

If someone writes its for it’s or lay for lie? It doesn’t mean they deserve to die or get your hairy eyeball of judgement. It just means they made a mistake. It’s part of being human. And it’s okay.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Continue reading “Three Super Common Writing Mistakes Explained”

Sometimes it’s okay to not fit in: Writing in the liminal spaces

While I was doing my five-minute break from work today, I pulled up YouTube and saw a video about feeling like you don’t belong by Marianne Cantwell

And it was all about her book, which came from her experience.

But her talk was about how some of us aren’t terribly good at fitting in and that’s okay.

As a writer, I’ve felt this.

And as a person, I’ve felt this.

I almost quit my MFA during the first residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts because I felt so much like I didn’t fit in. I’m pretty sure I actually said, “I just don’t belong here. I need to quit.”

One of the teachers there at the time, the lovely and kind and brilliant Lisa Jahn Clough talked me down. And I stayed. And I learned a lot. I never fit in and that was okay because the people there were cool like Lisa, who told me she often felt like she didn’t fit in either. They were chill with me being me.

But that wasn’t the only place where I felt like I didn’t belong.

plot pacing and proms writing tips

I never fit in with my family, too quirky, too weird, and though I’m quite pale my skin was far too dark. DNA explained that away eventually.

My sibling would say to me, “You’re so weird.”

My mom would say, “You’re just a bit special.”

My sibling would say, “Who dressed you?”

Or “Are those Snoopy shoes? What the hell?”

It wasn’t easy. I usually tried to hide by sitting on the floor at all family gatherings, hoping not to be noticed because to be noticed? It was to be hurt.

I didn’t fit in at college even though it was a great college.

I wanted to study political science and theater and psychology and it all felt too—confining.  My friends told me I was anti-intellectual because I worried about class issues. Nobody else worried about class issues except for this one Marxist guy from England that eventually fled from the FBI.

Everyone else seemed to want to procreate all the time and I didn’t really think about sex, worry about sex, be motivated by sex. I wanted to write poems, figure things out, write stories and plays and understand Derrida and Kant. I wanted to be Derrida and Kant, honestly.

I worked as a security dispatcher because I had to work as part of work-study. I interned at the district attorney’s office while other people spent their summers interning at family law firms and sailing and leading cool Outward Bound trips. I hung out in court rooms with cops and lawyers and alleged criminals.

Still didn’t fit in.

And as a grown-up, I didn’t fit in during my first career as a reporter. I wrote too fast. I cared too much. Same thing as a city councilor.

People said, “Carrie’s nice and smart. But she has pigtails.”

Spoiler alert: They were braids.

They’d say, “She just doesn’t seem tough enough to be a politician. She cares so much. Too much.”

And as an author? I don’t fit in all that well very easily. I’ve gotten to hang out with people who are considered “great,” Printz Award winners, super bestsellers, those whose books become Netflix and tv shows, and also those who are just quietly brilliant and awesome. But never ever have I been part of a clique.

Still no fit.

And I kind of thought I’d fit there. But instead, like always, I have random good friends who fit in their own cliques and I love all of them.

I joined Rotary International because it’s all about service above self and helping others. Still nope. I truly didn’t fit in there at all though I loved SO MANY Rotarians and had so many wonderful experiences talking to massive conventions.and helping others. But did I fit in? I didn’t even own a business suit. So no.

The video reminded me of a few things and we talk about some of them during our live podcast of Loving the Strange:

  1. You can shift careers and professional tracks if it doesn’t suit you and it gets to be too much. You don’t have to stay.
  2. Sometimes if you are okay with persisting in a career where you don’t fit in, you can create great things there.
  3. You can create things all on your own—your own path, careers and ways of living that might not be the ones society thinks are ‘successful’ or where you should fit.

How Does That Relate To Writing?

In the Ploughshares’ blog, the brilliant Yasmin Adele Majeed writes

“Writing is a liminal act, one that comes from a place between the writer and the world, the writer and the page. In this way it is mediated by death, desire, and dreams, those other “in between” spaces we move in and out of in this life.” 

In her own blog, Jeannette de Beauvoir writes:

“Liminality is the borderline area, the frontier, the place that, as a Lewis Carroll character might say, is neither here nor there. Rites of passage move people through liminal moments. Borders move people through liminal places.

“That liminality is on my mind because I’ve recently been having trouble sleeping, and so I’ve been hyper-aware of that almost-but-not-quite asleep moment during which (as in all liminal spaces) magic quite clearly occurs.

“For me, magic always has to do with writing. I am a writer not just in the sense that writing is what I do, but also in that it’s my most authentic and innate self.”

Writers and artists are specialists in the in-between spaces, but they aren’t the only ones who are. There are masses of us out there, searching, discovering, not quite fitting in, making our own spaces, claiming our own spaces.

We all are capable of stripping through the layers of society and self and getting to the essence of who we are, who the characters in our stories and our lives are.

As E.E. Cummings said, “The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned in order to know himself.”

Writers do that with characters, building them piece by piece on the page, and when we do that, we reveal what it is we believe about people, about character, about cause and effect, society and connections.

But we can also do that with our own selves, right?

We can look and see where our identities stem from, our choices, and we can stitch together the narrative that suits our lives and who we want to be. Sometimes that’s lonely because it’s not always the ways we’re taught to think.

And just that phrase – taught to think – shows how terribly important it is to pursue an understanding of the different layers of your identity, to understand who you are at your deepest core without society or even your family or friends telling you who you ought to be or who you are expected to be.

In a speech back in 2010 at the Edinburgh Book Festival, author Jeanette Winston said,

“Art is such a relief to us because, actually, it’s the real world — it’s the reality that we understand on a deeper level.… Life has an inside as well as an outside, and at the present, the outside of life is very well catered for, and the inside of life not at all…. We can go back to books or pictures or music, film, theater, and we can find there both some release and some relief for our inner life, the place where we actually live, the place where we spend so much time.”

And that’s what it’s really all about, striping away, expanding, creating, living, finding relief, finding our own story and reality even as we create inner lives for others and ourselves.

I hope you find your space. I hope I find mine, too. We’ve got this, right?

There’s No Power In Being a Negative Nelly. Rock Your Expectations and Goals

When we want things that we don’t expect to get, it makes us feel pretty bad inside and it also keeps us from having positive progress towards our goals.

What happens when we make our expectations negative? Usually it isn’t good stuff. For me it often starts a big downward spiral. But people (like me) keep doing it all the time.

I’ll never find love.

I’ll never get published.

I’ll never make a difference.

Those expectations and fears can be come prophesy because they take up so much space in your brain that you can’t break free from them to create good outcomes.

So what do you do to break free from negative expectations?

When you find that negative expectation taking hold of you, you can ask yourself, “What would I rather have happen?”

It seems like a simple step. It is. Here, let me repeat it and make it a header just to be cool.

Ask yourself, “What would I rather have happen?”

Got it?

Now you have to do that next step—you have to take the steps to make that positive result happen. You can focus completely on what might go wrong, but all that time you spend thinking about what might go wrong is time where you don’t get to think about where you can make it go right.

Yes. It’s simple.

But it’s true.

“The only place where your dream becomes impossible is in your own thinking.”

Robert Schuller

We waste a lot of time thinking and expecting only about what might go wrong, and that gives up all our manpower and energy and intellect away from dreaming and acting on the good, positive, awesome possibilities of our wants.

This example might help explain it.

I have a client that I worked with. He’s an older gentleman living in another country and getting a bit worries about his wonderful books, which he had previously self-published. He wanted me to read two of them and just tell him if they were any good. Not edit them. Not give an editorial assessment letter. And he wanted me to charge him $35 an hour to read the stories.

“It’s a great deal,” he basically said. “You love reading. You’re being paid to read.”

And I do. I do love reading. And I love stories. But what the problem was here is that he wanted me to take six hours for each book and pay me $35 an hour. There are limited hours in my day (like everyone else’s) and I tend to get paid between $75 and $100 an hour.

So I had to choose between helping this man out and taking a loss of $240 (at least). Or the loss of six hours I could spend writing my own books, painting, cleaning the house, being with my family. Because I’m not monetarily motivated, I did it. But he didn’t understand that choice.

We have to choose what to do with our time.

Do we want to spend it helping people out? Do we want to spend it thinking negative things about ourselves? Do we want to maximize it? Do we want to minimize it?

We only have so many hours in a day. We can spend that time focusing on negative expectations and our fears or we can spend it focusing on our wants and positive expectations. The choice and power is ours.

“All stress begins with a negative thought. One thought that went unchecked, and then more thoughts came and more, until stress manifested. The effect is stress, but the cause was negative thinking, and it all began with one little negative thought.

No matter what you might have manifested, you can change it ….with one small positive thought and then another.”

~ Rhonda Byrne

Changing your expectations makes your life better. There are actually studies about this. Your brain leads your way. Make it lead the way to somewhere good. Those negative expectations limit you and your future. But those positive expectations? That’s where the power is.

Your power.


BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Why You Have To Make Time To Write And How

There’s a lot of writing advice out there and some of it is amazing and some of it is bad, but the one piece that I’d like every single one of my writers to remember is this:

If you want to be a writer, you have to actually write.

You have to put pen to the page.

You have to put fingertips to the keyboard.

You have to put voice to the voicerecorder.

Joe Frassler has a great blog post on lithub that feeds towards his book where he talked to 150 authors about writing. And the very first tip/advice he has is this.

It starts with a simple fact: If you’re not making the time to write, no other advice can help you. Which is probably why so many of the writers I talk to seem preoccupied with time-management. “You probably have time to be a halfway decent parent and one other thing,” David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas, told me. That can mean mustering the grit to let other responsibilities languish. As he put it in short: “Neglect everything else.”

Many authors need to put blinders on, finding ways to simplify their experience and reduce the number of potential distractions. That might mean consistently keeping a single two-hour window sacred, as Victor Lavalle does, morning time he safeguards against the demands of parenting and full-time teaching. For others, it means finding ways to ward off digital derailment. Mitchell does this by setting his homepage as the most boring thing he can think of: the Apple website.

Ultimately, the literary exercise is about finding ways to defend something fragile—the quiet mood in which the imagination flourishes. As Jonathan Franzen put it: “I need to make sure I still have a private self. Because the private self is where my writing comes from.”

Frassler “I Talked to 150 Writers and Here’s the Best Advice They Had”

You don’t say you’re a doctor if you don’t practice medicine (or did at one point). The same thing goes for a lawyer or a guitarist.

For most of us, skill takes practice. Practice means that you have to devote a block of your time to doing the thing that you love. That might be writing. It might be art. It might be hiking. It might be baking.

And that means choice.

You have to actively choose to spend time writing or cooking or being a manatee groomer. Whatever it is, you have to choose to spend your time doing that rather than something else.

I often tell people that who they are and who their character is in their story isn’t defined by internal thought really. It’s defined by choices and action.

If you want to be a writer, you have to choose to write.

You have to make that choice over and over again. And you might have to neglect other things like David Mitchell said. That doesn’t mean that by neglecting other things you get to be a butt face, but it does mean that you have to make that choice.

HOW DO YOU MAKE TIME TO WRITE?

  1. Allow yourself to write sucky first drafts. Don’t let your desire to be perfect keep you from writing your story. People ask me all the time how I can write so quickly. It’s because I don’t have writing filters. At all. I know that I’ll have tons of errors in my first draft. I even share first drafts on my Patreon so people can see that.
  2. Look for blocks of time that you can write. You only have ten minutes? That’s okay! You can get a lot done in ten minutes. I used to write in the car when I was waiting to pick my daughter up from school or gymnastics or soccer or rehearsal. I got a lot done that way.
  3. Try not to distract yourself with email, texts, Twitter, TikTok. Set aside time for that too.
  4. Look at the very beginning and very end of your day. Can you get up a half hour earlier or go to sleep a half hour later? Or how about lunch? Can you take 15 minutes then?
  5. Don’t blow it off. When I start running again (every time), I get performance anxiety and try to think of ways to not run. Then I miss a day. When I miss a day, it’s so much harder to run that next day. Writing is like that too. We can get out of the habit so quickly, but if we truly want to be a writer (or a runner), we have to face that page or road and go all Nike ad and “just do it.”
  6. Do other things more quickly. This is honestly my biggest tip. I wrote my first book (thirteenth published) when I was a newspaper editor, coach, shuttling my super overachieving daughter everywhere. It was because I did everything else as quickly as I could. Washing dishes. Making dinner. Cleaning. Writing news stories. Taking photos. Uploading things. It was all about making the time to write that story. It all adds up. You can do this.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Diaries be Damned. There’s No One Way To Be a Writer

I don’t do diaries or journals and this gives me a lot of strange looks from people who DO do diaries or journals.

They usually gasp. “But you’re a writer!”

I am.

I am a writer.

I am a person that has to write just like I have to exercise and be outside. I am a miserable, horrible beast if I don’t get to do those two things for at least a half hour a day.

But you don’t have to fit into other people’s ideas of ‘what a writer is’ or labels in order to be a writer.

Almost all my teachers told me to write in a diary. All the good kids in grade school, the Kathy Albertsons (I love her) of the world, had these beautiful diaries where they’d write about their day and their feelings in perfect looping handwriting.

I was no Kathy Albertson, but I wanted to be.

So, I tried to write in my diary. There’d be two entries for a year.

My sibling looked at it, scoffed and said, “Carrie, you have no follow-through.”

Spoiler: I have a lot of follow-through. I just didn’t like writing in a diary about the most boring subject in the world–me.

This is the kind of quality entries, I had. Obviously, meant to be both an artist and author, right?

When I was little, I hated writing in my diary because I was positive that my life wasn’t interesting the way books were interesting. Plus, it took so long to write those words on the page and I was impatient for adventure. I wanted to be a spy, find Big Foot, save the world from bad guys and apparently constantly take the Lord’s name in vain and go straight to hell.

I also had big plans that never made it into my diary.

One teacher told me, “All writers write diaries, journals of their feelings. If you want to be a writer, you must journal!”

And I said, “Guess, I’m not a writer then.”

Spoiler #2: I’m a writer.

Spoiler #3 : I still don’t journal unless you count blog posts.

I ended up volunteering for so many groups once I was in middle school and through to adulthood. They were mostly social justice groups, human rights groups, politicians. I still didn’t write a diary more than twice a year. I joined a singing group and got paid. I canvassed neighborhoods by myself before high school. I did things and lived. Still, none of it got put in my diary.

As a reporter, I wrote columns that ended up being about the things I saw in my community. I’ve often been an accidental witness. I loved writing columns actually. They were probably my favorite things to write (other than features) in the newspaper world.

I still, however, didn’t write a diary.

And now, when I see the world that can be so angry, so full of hate and hurt, I still don’t write a diary even though I’m absolutely wowed by other people’s journals.

But even though I don’t write a diary or a journal, I write. I write novels. I write editorial assessments, poems, podcast, blog posts.

And that’s the thing.

There’s no one way to be a writer. There’s no one way to be a human.

And once we start putting those constraints on others and especially on ourselves, we lose our way and what was once a joy? It becomes a struggle. When we try to be someone wonderful–say Kathy Albertson–then we lose the person we are.

If you can and it works for you, try to write for a tiny amount of time every day if you want to be a writer. Make it a practice.

Write about yourself if you want, manatees falling in love with hamsters in the Joshua Tree park, vampires who are not apocalyptic. Write whatever you feel or want to. Poems. Journals. Parables. Jokes. Books. Write for the practice and write for the joy. Write because you don’t understand things. Write because you do. Write because you’re powerful. Write because you’re powerless. Write for control. Write for a lack of control. But write. Write if it’s what you want to do.

And if you hate writing every day? That’s okay, too. Remember. There is no one way to be anything but especially there is no one way to write, to art, to human, to sing, to shine.

And if you’re having troubles with writing, check out below.

Ask Yourself:

What makes you stop writing?

Why do you sometimes think you aren’t a writer?

What keeps you from writing?

What stops the words from flowing?

Sometimes just these questions can open up layers of your soul. Give them a try, okay?

Continue reading “Diaries be Damned. There’s No One Way To Be a Writer”

The Best Kind of People (especially writers) Notice Things

There is a fantastic blog post on Tim Ferriss’s blog about the work and thoughts of professor/writer Sam Apple. I have a link at the end of this post because you should probably read it in its entirety if the act of noticing as a writer resonates with you. Or maybe even if it doesn’t

When I mentor people and edit them, I often tell them to go specific in their details (but don’t overload those details), and in order to go specific, you have to become adept at noticing things.

Apple speaks of what it means to ‘notice as a writer.’

I like to define it as “the combination of close observation and insightfulness.” 

Sam Apple

He then explains ‘close observation.’

Close observation is easy enough to grasp. Let’s take an example: As I’m typing this sentence, I might look down and notice my hands moving over my keyboard. That’s “noticing” in the ordinary sense of the word—what you might think of as “first-order noticing.” To notice my typing hands in the way of a writer, I have to be far more specific. I might notice the rhythmic rise and fall of my knuckles or how the tendons on the back of my hand bulge and twitch with each keystroke. I might notice how some keys are almost silent while others respond to my fingertips with a pronounced—and somehow satisfying—clack.

Sam Apple

So, then we have that second aspect — insight.

Great writing typically involves more than description or a simple narration of events. Writing is also a search for meaning. Sometimes an observation or image speaks for itself. But often writers need to be able to say something about what they’ve noticed. 

Sam Apple

And that’s where I think being a great writer and a great human overlap. If we can notice the worlds and details, the feeling and aspects of other people, animals, landscapes big and small? And then if we took that extra step to let insight bubble and sprout from what we’ve noticed?

How big a deal would that be?

How deep? How growing?

Apple teaches a class on noticing at John Hopkins and in the blog writes:

For my class, I ask students to keep a “noticing journal” throughout the semester. Sometimes I ask them to notice objects or actions, as in the typing examples above. Other times, we apply the same observational and imaginative powers to our own lives and emotions. When we turn to the noticing of others, it can lead to remarkably empathetic writing. It is hard to truly hate people if you’ve spent enough time observing them and wondering about them. The celebrated fiction writer George Saunders captures this notion perfectly in this essay on “what writers really do when they write.”

Sam Apple

You don’t need to be a writer to train your noticing skills or your empathy, but both writers and those of us who don’t write, can really learn from this.

We can learn from noticing, observing and wondering. And maybe that’s one of those steps we can take to make ourselves better people and this a better world?

RESOURCES

https://sam-apple.squarespace.com/

Continue reading “The Best Kind of People (especially writers) Notice Things”

It not just about thinking positive; it’s about doing positive.

We’ve all heard that if we just think positively everything will be better.

We have journals and lists that we create every night or morning of how we’re blessed.

Then there’s the mantra, “Change your thoughts, change your life.”

And sometimes when I see these things I get a little ragey because it isn’t always that easy. It’s hard to always think positively when your dog has just died or you’re in a war zone or your being hurt.

We’re all allowed to be a little ragey sometimes or sad or gleeful or even covetous. That’s because we’re human, but it’s also because of something even more important that we all need to remember.

WE ARE NOT OUR THOUGHTS.

We can think, “I am Jesus” all day long but that doesn’t make us Jesus. We can think, “I am Beyonce” or “I am the president.” But it doesn’t make us so.

What makes us who we are?

The things we do.

I have a friend who does one act of kindness after another, who cares passionately about the people she loves. But people can annoy her sometimes. Injustices REALLY annoy her.

And after she has a judgement-free rant, she’ll say, “I’m so awful. I know! I know!”

But that’s the thing.

She’s not awful. She’s amazing. She’s one of the best people I know. And that’s because who she is isn’t just about her thoughts. Who she is stems from her actions, her choices, her decisions.

When she needs to persist or overcome, she doesn’t give in to her thoughts of doubt, her insecurities, or even her anger. She acts. She makes a difference.

How cool is that?

Yes, it’s important and super healthy to have a positive outlook. But it’s not always possible, and when you don’t achieve that? It doesn’t make you bad. If you think you’re bad, then you’re just going to end up in another negative thought spiral.

You’re too awesome for that.

And you can’t sit around waiting to be happy, hoping that this will be the day where you aren’t in pain, or someone isn’t a troll, or the basement doesn’t flood. You have to make the choice to be happy and take the actions that help you feel that if that’s what you want to feel.

You can think about changing all the time, but actual change come from doing the work, the actions, making the choices and going for it.

You can do that.

So, how do you do that?

DO THINGS

Acting/doing/participating in something takes you away from negative thoughts and thrusts you into the action, gives you focus. People in Asia and Europe have talked about the flow state for a long time. People in sports tend to call it being in the zone.

But it’s a place, and damn it’s beautiful.

To get there though, you have to do the action. That might be running, writing, painting, climbing, figuring out a theorem, creating a blog post, but it happens because you are doing an action. Do the things.

PUT YOUR THOUGHTS IN THEIR PLACE

Really. This isn’t new either, but it works. When you feel that negative thought spiral coming on, call it out. Say, “Yo. Negative thought. Just because I forgot to close the bedroom door before we made the sex and forgot my avo and Aunt Rose Marie were coming over does not mean ‘I am so stupid.’ It just means I was so in the moment that I forgot to close the door.”

You’ve got to try to see those negative thoughts for the bullies they are and sometimes all they need to chill out is just to be noticed.

I have wicked social anxiety. It’s like a weird kind of stage fright. And the only way for me to battle it is to just act right through it. So I get in the car and drive to the party and tell my negative thoughts that nothing horrifying will happen and my actions won’t make people go to jail. I go to the board meeting. I do the live podcast. I buckle up and stare down the negative thoughts and once I’m doing the actions? It helps tamp down the anxiety. But if I hesitate? That fear builds up and up, gaining so much power that it’s a vicious battle to tamp it back down.

And I love people. I love the joy of public speaking. I love moving people and inspiring them in person, right? So, it’s almost like my fright is excitement gone terribly wrong. It’s almost like a part of me thinks, “Who am I to get to do this? To be this happy? To have people listen to me?”

For a kid with a speech defect (and now an adult with one), that’s a pretty amazing thing. Middle-school Carrie would have never imagined it.

Pay Attention To The World Like A Tourist or a Poet Would

I know! I know! Poets and tourists don’t seem to go together, but they both search for experiences and explore their worlds.

A Roman emperior, Marcus Aurelius, would detail the world like the best of writers or artists. Ordinary things became extraordinary under his pen.

Noticing things is an action. Seeing things is a gift. Empathy and understanding can be byproducts of observation. Be present. Don’t overlook the ordinary. You’ve got this.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

 

How To Deal With WHITE ROOM SYNDROME

One quick revision note. There are still some scenes in here that could use a little bit more grounding detail so that the reader can see Emily and her friends/relatives interact with the world and setting.

So what is this again? This white room syndrome?

According to inventingrealityeditingservice.com:

Rather than fully imagine such a world, some writers instead create a quick, unformed facsimile of their own. For example, they start the story with the line, “She awoke in a white room.” The white room is the white piece of paper facing the author. This is known as white room syndrome, a term coined a few year ago at the Turkey City Workshop in Austin (a group that has included authors William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Lewis Shiner, Rudy Rucker and Walter Jon Williams).

They officially define white room syndrome as “an authorial imagination inadequate to the situation at end, most common at the beginning of a story.” In short, because the world wasn’t fully imagined, it can’t support the story that unfolds from it.

Or as Lauren Mullen says:

The scene is coming together just as planned. Your dialogue is snappy, witty, and poignant. The action is electric, carrying your characters from one spot to the next. You can see it all unfolding to you as if it were happening on a screen…but the setting details are absent. As a result, all your character’s amazing dialogue and action happen in a blank space.

But what I really like that she says is here:

Think of when you go over to someone’s house for the first time, how they decorate and treat their home says a lot about them. Are they the type of person who cleans up when expecting guests or not? Do they keep a lot of books? Collect art? Fan memorabilia? Are there any pets? What are they? A dog owner says something different about a person than a hamster owner. You learn a lot about a person by how they decorate and treat their home, likewise this is why description and setting are so vital to good storytelling. 

When done properly, the world in which your characters inhabit can take on a life of their own. It is important to spend as much time fleshing out your setting as you would a persona. This helps the space in which your characters exist feel grounded and real. 

So, how do you keep it from happening? Or how do you fix it?

There are some good ways!

  1. First make the decision about how you want the reader to feel about the space where the scene is happening.
  2. Add details that make that happen. Is it a crowded space? A quiet café? A darkly lit jazz club? Are the tables sticky? Does the office smell like onions? Do you hear the fast clickety-clack of coworkers keyboards? Do smells come from another cubicle? From the coffee shop’s kitchen?
  3. Think about how you learn about people from the first time you walk into their homes? Give that feeling to the reader. Is it well lit? Shadowy? Are the salt and pepper shakers shaped like manatees or plastic? That sort of thing.
  4. Allow yourself to set the scene as a stage where the details you choose reflect the emotional struggle of the character and/or the plot.
  5. Use the five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) and try to use three of them in each scene. Oh! And don’t have the three you use be the same for every single scene.
  6. Don’t overdo those senses, but do use them a bit.

Why is this important again?

It’s important because:

  1. It keeps your characters from just being talking heads.
  2. Setting is a tool that you can use to create ambience, tone, reality.
  3. Readers like to know where the characters are.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

  1. It allows your reader to be fully in the experience of the character of the book.
  2. It’s a tool. The setting can be a metaphor for your character’s internal struggle. If your character is having an anxiety attack and stuck in her job and life, making her hide in a bathroom stall is perfect as metaphor.
  3. It can be a character in your story. The city of Chicago or New Orleans can influence the plot and character a lot. The city can grow too as the character grows.
  4. It helps create tone and conflict. If you’re writing a novel about an apocalypse, the details you choose in your scene’s setting help show that.
  5. It shows class and divisions in society, too.