On Thursday, my co-podcaster, Shaun, and husband guy, takes over the blog.
He’s adorable. I hope you’ll read what he says even if he does occasionally sound like a surfer dude from the 1990sor Captain Pontification.And no, we don’t always agree. 🙂
Our beautiful, white, very fluffy and hairy dog, Gabby, passed away a week ago today. We tried to get home from our vacation early, in time to just let her know that we loved her, but we didn’t make.
That sounds very sad, and it is. I have shed a tear or two on multiple occasions, including right now, but I try to be stoically calm as the “big, strong man” of the house. I have been the discoverer of our last two doggie’s passing and I usually take those moments of private time to tell them how I feel about them and appreciate all of the love, happiness, and protection that they provide to my family.
I did not get that alone time on this occasion and secretly (not so secretly now) I regret it. In fact, this will be news even to Carrie when she reads this. That’s okay. I am old enough to just be who I am and not try to maintain any pretenses for the sake of tradition any longer.
I guess that is kind of the point of this blog post. Which, if you haven’t noticed, is my first blog post in like four or five weeks. I mean, we have been on vacation and had a multitude of other things going on, but I am back, baby!
Anyway, I think people just need to start being who they are. There are plenty of people who live by that creed already, but I think it is a majority who don’t. Why live by societal expectations and the widely excepted norms? You know of course that I am not speaking of societal norms like don’t hurt others, etc.
What I am talking about is don’t try to emulate social media influencers. Don’t try to wear the most fashionable trends. Don’t attempt to copy someone else’s personality. Just be your damn self!
Life is so much more enjoyable if you feel free and safe to just be yourself and live your life as you choose. There is so much bull crap surrounding us and telling us how we should live our lives and how we should look. I mean seriously, it is as old as Barbie the doll (I know it is so much older than that!) and as recent as social media, but still just as useless.
All you need to do is be who you feel you really are and act kind to others whenever you can. I believe that most of humanity is kind and caring. Those that are not end up in jail or as politicians (sort of joking there).
Cry when you want to cry! Help another when they need it! Spread your love and goodness as often as you can! Enjoy yourself and this short lifetime that you have been blessed with! Act like a dog damn it!
Take my advice and always Love Your Way Through It!
Okay, you all. We know this is harsh, but it’s truth time. Life isn’t about random interactions. Success isn’t about it either.
When Carrie became Andrew Yang’s Twitter friend, it made her super happy, but it didn’t actually do anything for her. When the Rock retweeted her tweet about disabilities…
Full disclosure: Carrie has no depth perception and also has epilepsy.
…but when that happened? It was cool because it was the Rock, but it didn’t make her suddenly more successful or cooler.
The Rock would never remember that retweet. Andrew Yang isn’t going to remember being Carrie’s Twitter friend.
It was a nice moment, but Carrie doesn’t really need that moment to make her feel cooler or more validated as a human being. That’s because though she presents as really insecure, she’s actually pretty cool with herself. And other people’s perceptions – even when they are the Rock or Andrew Yang? They don’t matter.
There’s a guy in our town who is a bit off and he thinks we are basically Satan incarnate. Does Shaun care? Not one for one freaking second. Why? Because he knows who the hell he is. He’s cool with himself. For the same reason when there are rumors about him or Carrie or even his bffs, does he care? Nope. That’s because he knows he’s the sh*t. He knows who he is.
It’s confidence, but it’s also about knowing that you can’t control what other people think about you all the time.
But there’s another side to this, too.
You want to connect with your people, your readers, your audience, your friends, by being you, your authentic self, and you can’t do that if you’re busy worrying about what everyone else is thinking about you.
When you’re all ME ME ME all the time because you need to be an influencer or sell your book or whatever, you lose who you are and any connections you get? They aren’t even about you. They are about the false perception of you.
But it’s more than that, too.
When all you care about is people’s perceptions of you, you stop caring about people.
And then, you’re basically an egotistical sh*t. Is that who you want to become? No. So, focus on the work. Focus on making connections where you care about the other person. Having the Rock retweet you doesn’t mean you’re going to be a movie star or an international bestseller.
What makes you succeed is the work you do, the care you give, the problems you help other people with.
Carrie is a successful novelist. Her books have won awards, been NYT and international bestsellers, but that’s because she took the time to learn to write and to understand people. She now uses those skills to help other people write their own books.
And those people? The ones she coaches and teaches and gets to know so well as they make their stories? Those are the people that matter to Carrie, that make her a success. Not the Rock. No offense to the Rock!
Pretending to be someone else, being preoccupied with others’ perceptions of you? It destroys you. Don’t be destroyed. Celebrate who you are and who other people are too.
Writing Tip of the Pod
Don’t pretend to be another writer or adopt their style. Be you. Write what you want to write.
Dog Tip For Life
Be the dog you’re meant to be. Have your values align with your actions. And bark a lot about it if that’s your thing.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.
The other night Shaun and I imbibed some alcohol and I declared that to not have a who-gives-a-swear-word attitude is to be compliant.
This made Shaun really happy.
I said it because I was talking about authors and politics and being afraid to say what you think because you are afraid of backlash. I’ve been listening to a lot of entrepreneurs and marketers who all preach putting your authentic self out there so that your group of supporters are supporting the real you, not some fake, shadow version that’s trying to appeal to everyone.
Shaun said “Google authors who struggled and said, ‘F-it, did a 360, and found success.”
This was hard to do, actually. There was no nice search results for that. But one thing it brought up was the infamous book called, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*&k.”
“Chances are you know somebody in your life who, at one time or another, did not give a f- and went on to accomplish amazing feats. Perhaps there was a time in your life where you simply did not give a f- and excelled to some extraordinary heights. I know for myself, quitting my day job in finance after only six weeks and telling my boss that I was going to start selling dating advice online ranks pretty high up there in my own “didn’t give a f-” hall of fame. Same with deciding to sell most of my possessions and move to South America. F-s given? None. Just went and did it.”
There’s a lot of stupid minutiae that we go around giving too many f’s about daily, isn’t there? And that? It drains are energy for the things that are important to care about.
Manson goes on and says, “Indeed, the ability to reserve our f-s for only the most f-worthy of situations would surely make life a hell of a lot easier. Failure would be less terrifying. Rejection less painful. Unpleasant necessities more pleasant and the unsavory s-word sandwiches a little bit more savory. I mean, if we could only give a few less f-s, or a few more consciously-directed f-s, then life would feel pretty f-ing easy.”
There are a lot of super famous authors who struggled for a bit before hitting success. Toni Morrison. Stephen King. Raymond Chandler. Margaret Atwood. Frank McCourt. Madeleine L’Engle, a much lauded children’s book author, almost stopped writing after getting a rejection on her fortieth birthday.
She is quoted as saying, “I had to write … If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing,” she claimed.
Her book, A Wrinkle in Time was rejected twenty-six times and then was a smash hit, winning the John Newbury Medal.
She stopped giving a f about it being a waste of time, feeling guilty that she wasn’t financially contributing, and did it.
Or think of someone who isn’t a writer-writer. Jay-Z tried to get a record deal from everyone in 1995. No company would sign him. He didn’t let their lack of vision or support define him. No. Instead, he didn’t give a f- about what they said and made his own record company. Then the same thing happened as he tried to make a distribution deal. He also allegedly stabbed someone at a record release party, so that might be taking the not giving a f a little too far, but seriously? The guy has done so much and become such an influence.
Still though, no stabbing.
So, how about you? What’s holding you back? What are you wasting your energy on?
Writing Tip of the Pod
What would you write if you did not give a f- about whatever is holding you back?
Dog Tip for Life
Embrace who you are and don’t give a f- about what other dogs think of you. They don’t know your story. You get to be you.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.
On one of my Patreon sites I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD. This is a monthly membership site (Hear the book chapters – $1/month, read them $3-month, plus goodies!). Sometimes I send people art! Art is fun.
On this, my second site, WRITE BETTER NOW, you can do a one-time purchase of a writing class or get two of my books in eBook form or just support our podcast or the dogs. It’s all part of the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME.
It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.
Hey! Welcome to a bonus interview episode of Dogs are Smarter Than People, the usually quirky podcast that gives writing tips and life tips. I’m Carrie Jones and with me today is Anne Marie Pace
Anne Marie is an authenticity rock star. She’s the author of Vamperina Ballerina, Pigloo, Sonny’s Tow-truck, human-parent to animals and humans. She likes to read, cook, do some fine choral singing and be an all-around great friend. Anne Marie, it is so great for you to be here.
We talk about the inspiration for Vampirina Ballerina, a vampire who wants to take ballet lessons, cats who throw up and dogs who eat it, openness and mental health and being authentic even on social media.
I hope you’ll give it a listen and support one of the coolest writers around.
I spend almost all my time trying to be a nice person. It’s always been like this; I kid you not. Like in fifth grade I was voted MOST COURTEOUS like that was some kind of damn honor or something, right?
Carrie is polite.
Carrie is courteous.
Carrie is word-of-the day worthy.
That’s not who I thought I was.
“Most Courteous” wasn’t what I wanted to be, you know, right? Like I wanted to be “Smartest” or “Prettiest” or “Class Clown” or “Most Athletic” even though “Most Athletic” is something I could never be since I have zero hand-eye coordination. This is because I don’t use my left eye to see. They thought I was blind when I was born. I had an operation. I had glasses when I was one year old and kept them all the way until fifth grade when I prayed to God every night to not have to have glasses in middle school.
There was this stupid Dorothy Parker quote that says, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,” and that quote was like the word of God to me. I knew I would always be most courteous and not real superlative worthy unless I actually got rid of those damn glasses.
So I prayed.
At the doctor’s office, I sat in the chair and stared at the eye chart. It was all on my right eye, I knew. It had to perform at 100 % to get rid of those damn glasses.
The doctor was all, “Can you read this line?”
And I was all, “E.”
And he was all, “Can you read this line?”
And I was all, “T.O.Z.”
He made an interesting noise, like he was impressed. “Go down as low as you can. Just keep reading each line. Start at the top. How about that?”
“Okay.” I took a deep breath and started from the top. “E F P T P Z L P E D.”
I went on and on. I could see them all.
Sadly, the magical return of my eyesight didn’t make me magically popular as one boy reminded me at a sixth-grade dance at St Joseph’s the one Catholic church in our town. We had one Catholic church, which was where some of the Irish and French Canadian kids went. We had Protestant church, which was Presbyterian. That’s it.
I wanted to be one of those church kids so badly. But one of my dads was an atheist. Another dad was a lapsed Catholic who believed that hell was where we were living right now, on Earth. And my mom gave up her Methodist Church in Manchester because she caught the minister cheating at bowling and called him out on it.
“He lied to my face, that man,” Mom would self-righteously retell us for decades. “Right. To. My. Face. And this man was supposed to be in charge of my spiritual growth? I’ll show him spiritual growth. He was always looking at my cleavage, too. Creep.”
Bowling mattered a lot to my mom. But I was just annoyed because her cleavage and insistence that you aren’t supposed to cheat in bowling meant I couldn’t go to church.
And I wanted to.
I wanted to belong, you know?
So, when S. slow danced with me three times in a row at the CCD dance, I felt like I might actually belong.
But then he pulled away from me and said, “Carrie, let’s face it. Neither of us are lookers. So we might as well make do with each other.”
I stepped out of his arms and I said one word, “What?”
“I’m saying… I’m saying… We’re not tens so we might as well make do.”
I cried and I ran away and hid in the bathroom. I didn’t come out even when his mom, a freaking chaperone, came in to check on me. I didn’t come out until there wasn’t any music playing at all.
Only then did I run out to my mom’s old Chevy Monte Carlo, which was waiting in the parking lot. I wrenched open the door and slammed myself inside the car.
“What is it?” Her smile went into the anger place where her lips were just straight lines. This was how she looked when she talked about her little Methodist minister friend.
I blurted out what S. said. With my mother, there was no pretending something bad hadn’t happened. There were no secrets, unless they were hers.
“That bastard,” she said.
“I’m ugly.” I sobbed that out somehow.
“You aren’t ugly. That boy is ugly. His heart is ugly. He was working some line. He thinks he’s some actor. Some comedian. He’s a punk.”
But I knew in my heart that my mom was lying. I was ugly. I had to be.
I suddenly became someone I didn’t think I was.
And the thing is, no matter how many times I’ve heard people tell me I’m not, heard boys and girls call me cute or beautiful or lovely or pretty, I’ve never believed them. It’s S.S’s words that I hear in my head, over and over again.
Neither of us are lookers.
We’re not tens.
I have this other friend who photographs well. She is the opposite of me because I photograph like poop.
She says to me sometimes, “I don’t know how so many guys like you. You and me? We’re alright looking, but we’re not beautiful like OTHER GIRL.”
And I smiled at her.
OTHER GIRL is skinny and blonde and full of acne scars and holes of anxiety that threaten to eat her insides away. And I worry for her all the time.
And I am?
Alright looking, I guess. I became who she said I was.
Her words shouldn’t matter.
It freaking matters.
Other people’s words have echoed and echoed and shaped me until I don’t even want to be in a photograph anymore. I’m too afraid that the image of me that I see will be even worse than I imagine.
I had delusions of insignificance. Every time I felt badly about who I was it was because someone else had put me in a comparison situation.
You know how that is right?
Ah, I’m not as successful as Rick Riordan.
Ah, I’m not as beautiful as all these famous actresses and models or even that random police dispatcher in my town.
Ah, I’m not as smart as…
Ah, I’m not as good a runner as…
But the thing is? That’s crap. You are magical as you. You don’t need to be compared to anyone else or compare yourself to others. Superlatives are bull. We are all superlative at being ourselves.
Your life is your message to this world.
And what is that message? The truth of you? The truth of me? It sure isn’t how we look. It’s how we are on the inside. For me that’s word-of-the-day Carrie, Courteous Carrie, Writer Carrie, Photographer Carrie, Hug Your Dogs All the Time Carrie.
That’s the truth of you, too.
And looking into mirrors? It’s about more than seeing what’s on the outside, about more than being defined and labeled by what’s on that same outside. It’s about the inner you. The real you and seeing it – really seeing it – and knowing how freaking magic you are just by being you, authentically and truly you.
That’s not saying you don’t have flaws, that you won’t mess up. We all mess up. We mess up constantly.
Some people are afraid of the #metoo movement, of making their own mistakes when it comes to racial issues, religious issues, sexuality, identity, ability.
That fear? It’s good. It makes us better. We are all heading straight into truth; burning it out of ourselves, all the ugly things that we don’t want to see. We can’t let our fear slow us down. We can’t let other people’s visions of us control us. We can’t be afraid to look into the mirrors that see deep inside of us.
Social media brings out trolls. That’s so true, but it also gives us a voice, a hope. We have a new template for telling our stories, for making our lives and for sharing them in a world where our voices often didn’t matter. We can share our magic in so many ways.
And it’s intoxicating and terrifying. People are interested in other people. People are sharing with other people. People are even interested in us. In us.
And that’s power.
And that’s magic.
Use it wisely. I know I will try to. I know I make mistakes. I know that I am human. But the thing is? I love being human. I love growing and evolving and changing. I hope you do, too.
For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out my website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.
The next book coming out with Bloomsbury in August is this one! More on the series here.
OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE – New episode tomorrow!
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice, and life tips.
Last week, I got the first pass proofs of ESCAPE FROM THE BADLANDS, the third book in the TIME STOPPERS series.
I am afraid of pass proofs.
But they are still super cool.
Why am I afraid of them?
Well, they come after the copy edits, so even if you suddenly realize that having your main character fall in love with a bottle of ALL NATURAL SNAPPLE ICED TEA was important to the plot of the book, you can not magically make this happen now. It is too late!!!!
Snapple: Is it ever really too late to make SNAPPLE an important plot choice/love interest? I doubt it.
Yes, Snapple! It is too late.
Why is it too late?
Well, the first pass proofs are really what the book is going to look like on the page. It’s sort of all set and ready to go.
And that’s scary. Your book baby is ready to go off into the world of anonymous reviews and bookstore shelves, and there is nothing you can do now to toughen her up, make her street smart. She will be out there on her own very very soon and you just have to pray she won’t be a train wreck and become the kind of book that the paparazzi take pictures of because she’s always forgetting to wear her underwear when she gets out of cars.
And all of this made me think about vulnerability.
Because writing a blog, a book, a podcast, creating art, any type of true communication and art is an act of expression and it makes you vulnerable. And this world? This world is currently full of people who attack others. Some of those attacks are horrific and visible. Some are hidden.
So, why do it? Why do anything?
Because if you don’t, the trolls win.
Because if you don’t, fear wins.
Because for every troll attacking you, there is someone who needs your story and your voice. That’s why.
This is why you should still be vulnerable despite the evil in this world. Ready?
Vulnerable People are Leaders
People who lead need to connect to others. Vulnerability and authenticity are ways of connection, ways that we break out of our comfort zones and reach for bigger, better things.
Vulnerability Helps Others
Almost every time I blog or post about something that isn’t considered cool, (Having epilepsy, growing up poor, sleeping in a car, being assaulted), people tell me that I’m inspiring. I sure don’t ever feel inspiring. At all. And I have a hard time accepting that compliment, but… I appreciate that kindness because it means that it means those people are getting something positive out of my life or what I’m saying.
Plus, how cool is it that they took the time out of their lives to deliberately say something kind and supportive.
Can there be a bigger gift than hearing that you’ve helped someone else? Somehow? Even though you were just being you.
Vulnerability Is Contagious
Being brave and exposing yourself and your truth? It helps others be brave. Sure, it can backfire. When I first posted about my daughter being worried about me going to the Boston Marathon, trolls said my daughter (who is a Lt in the Army) must be a terrorist and have known about it or else why would she be worried about me. Yep… They actually went there.
And that’s the thing. You never know when someone is going to attack you or what for, but you can’t let that fear of evil suppress your voice, your story, your thoughts or your truths.
Silence is oppressive.
But vulnerability? It’s contagious.
Telling your story gives strength to others who haven’t been able to tell theirs yet. Facing your demons helps others to face their own. Isn’t that the kind of infection we want? Instead of a lack of civility and a parade of trolls, how about we work towards authenticity and vulnerability and truth?
A vulnerability contagion…I think that would be pretty cool. So, today’s Wednesday Writing Wisdom is to be vulnerable. No art is any good without it.
I’ll be at Sherman’s Bookstore in Bar Harbor on April 28 from 1-2.
To find out more about my books, there are links in the header. And if you buy one? Thank you so much. Let me know if you want me to send you a bookplate.
The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.
COOKING WITH A WRITER
I have started a tongue-in-spoon subgroup in my blog all about cooking vegetarian recipes as a writer. It is silly. The recipes still work though. Check it out here.
THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN
The awesome six-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money. We’ll be having a Zoom class to learn more about it and I’ll share the details as soon as they are official.
FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES
These books are out there in the world thanks to Tor.
What books? Well, cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.
This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking action –School Library Journal
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In Episode Five of our podcast, we get a closer look at the interpersonal dynamics of Carrie and Shaun and also insight into the ingredients of a White Russian, which is now called the Caucasian.
The subtitle for this podcast is Sometimes Even Those Who Lack Confidence Must Insist They Are Right
Writers like Carrie sometimes don’t have a lot of confidence. Carrie is constantly being told by business people the following two things:
There is no money in modesty.
She needs to be more confident.
Sidenote: It’s hard to feel confident when people tell you that you lack something – confidence. If you are worried about being someone’s confidence, give them a hug instead of a lecture. Always
However, Carrie turns that thought back around and claims that her lack of some confidence occasionally actually allows her to strive to be better, to keep learning. And her openness about her lack of confidence actually makes her authentic.
She is confident about being authentic, basically.
Dog Tip of the Cast: Be you. Be alpha dog. Don’t be alpha dog. Do what makes you happy and don’t worry too much about negative labels humans might give you.
Writer Tip For Life: Self doubt can help you sharpen your skills. Don’t pretend to be the person you aren’t. Strive for better but don’t deride yourself for the who you are right now.
Share this if you want and also because it would be super nice of you!