Review

Grit – Angela Duckworth

Now that I finished Feck Perfuction and rediscovered my motivation to take risks and follow my passions for the sake of my mental health and ultimate happiness in the world, I’ve decided to pick up Grit by Angela Duckworth—a look at how “talent” is perceived by the world at large and how little it means compared to this little thing called “effort.”

I only just started this one, and so far it hasn’t gripped me, but I like the idea behind it.

How can one feel discouraged or disheartened when the only way to get ahead is to develop your “stick-to-itness”?

She poses the theory that there are two equations to achievement, and that effort counts twice.

Talent + effort = skill

Skill + effort = achievement

And on a basic level, this makes a lot of sense, and I’m curious to see where she takes her theory throughout the course of the book.

So far this one hasn’t grabbed me as much of many of the others I’ve read this year, but I’ll keep you posted as I get further into it!

Thoughts

Stop Counting – Start Talking

I’ve noticed another rise in my Twitter timeline of people doing follow loops and what have you, and that’s awesome! It’s nice to see people working together to help their follow Twitterers expand their network.

For some people, maybe it even works!

But I also notice a rise in tweets about how difficult it is to gain traction/make solid connections.

I’ve written a few posts here about networking on social media (though, goodness knows, I’m no expert. I’ll often disappear from my accounts for months at a time when I no longer feel like putting in the effort), but a conversation with a fellow Twit today (is that the appropriate noun?) got me thinking about what my goals/priorities are on social media/with other authors, so I figured I’d share them.

When I first joined Twitter back in the age of chronological feeds (*sigh* weren’t those the days?), I had the great luck of falling in with an amazing group of people. One of them because my mentor who encouraged me to self-publish and walked me through the process. Another I’ve met in person a number of times and have helped walk through the process myself.

Since that time, I’ve made a handful of similar connections. Not a huge number. Maybe one per five hundred people I’ve connected with, but enough to make me enjoy it.

I do my best to offer encouragement, to offer my experience in the hopes that it’ll help others, and to cheer people on as needed.

On my last day in the Byward Market for the year, I had the pleasure of meeting a debut novelist. She’d just released her book a few months ago, self-published, and has plans for the rest of her series. Although the sales that day were slow, I had a blast talking shop with her, answering questions, sharing some of my pitfalls and warnings, and generally just trying to pass along whatever wisdom she thought might be helpful.

This is my goal with social media. To encourage, motivate, and connect with like-minded people. Whether the numbers are big or small doesn’t matter–what matters is what you’re able to offer back.

It’s what keeps me returning to my Twitter account in spite of the dumpster fires.

What about you? What is your favourite part about social media? What are your goals?

Thoughts

Story Conventions that Drive Me Batty

This post is a bit more of me being a fuddy-duddy about writing choices, but I’ve been bedridden for four days with nothing else to do but binge watch some old favourite TV shows, and it got me thinking about some of my dramatic pet-peeves in storytelling.

So, you know, to get them out of my own head, I figured I’d throw them down here.

Please note: this is not a personal attack on any story in particular; just choices I’ve noticed that are not suited to my personal tastes.

  1. You might have seen my tweet about this, but why oh why do people blackmail murderers? You know this person just killed someone. It doesn’t matter what their reasons were, they were able to turn off their conscience long enough to exterminate the life of another human being, surmounting some of the basic barriers of human nature. You think they’ll turn to you with your request for $5,000 and go “Yeah, sure, let me get right on that. I absolutely trust that you’ll keep your mouth shut.” No. They’re going to come after you and bury you in their backyard.
  2. Why go upstairs if someone has broken into your house? Stay calm and find the nearest exit. This is the first thing you’re told in a drill, going back to when you’re six years old and the fire alarm in your elementary school is going off. Screaming like an idiot and running upstairs into your bathroom—unless there is a conveniently located fire-escape/porch with ladder attached to it—is silly, and you will likely die.
  3. One of my absolutely biggest pet peeves—and I catch myself doing it in my own first drafts until either I or my crit partner catch it and slap my wrist—is when characters keep secrets for no good reason. It’s too easy to see through this decision as a way to heighten tension in the story/between characters, and it’s incredibly frustrating. COMMUNICATE. Unless your character has been set up as someone who never tells anyone anything (which would be a very difficult character to empathize with), either spill the beans or give a really damned good reason why you’re keeping your mouth shut. A good lesson in relationships as well as storytelling.
  4. When the main character has proved time and time and time again that they know what they’re talking about and they’re really good at [insert skill here], but when the time comes where they make a life-or-death observation, no one believes them. Like the above, this is such an obvious “We are raising the stakes” moment that no real tension comes from it. Again, unless there’s a really good reason, like character wakes up in a parallel universe with all the same people where he usually isn’t good at [insert skill here]. Hmm….. Something to think about there.

I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones that caught my attention over the last many many episodes of many many crime shows.

Even sick, apparently, I keep a critical eye on a good story. I find it helps improve my own writing.

And it means watching television is research…

What are your storytelling pet peeves?

Thoughts

Bit of Luck – LOT of Passion

I’ve had a lot of reason to think about what it takes to run your own business, lately. What qualifies as success? When do you know you’ve “made it”?

I still don’t know the answers to that question. I’ve been doing this full-time author thing on and off for three years now, and I still question every morning as to whether I’m doing well enough to keep going with it.

But I do. Every day I face the paperwork and the writing-related tasks and aim to get the next book read and the current books sold.

Most days, it’s a challenge. Some days it’s next to impossible. The days between those, I stare at the wall and ask myself what kind of day job I’d like to have.

Why can’t I determine whether I’ve hit success or not? Because it’s the arts, and nothing about the arts is predictable. A book that’s selling really well today will stop selling altogether tomorrow. Then stay quiet until, suddenly, out of the blue, a wild promotion appears*! Books take off! I’m doing well! I’ve finally made it! …. then crickets.

A lot of the arts is luck, and anyone who tells you otherwise is likely too lucky to have noticed it.

That’s not to say it’s everything — luck without hard work is great for the short term, but it can’t last unless you’re, like, SUPER lucky.

The other important factor?

Passion.

Not just what you feel for what you bring to your work every day, but what you show the world. If you’re feeling meh about your project, why should other people care? If you’re super pumped about it — the motivations, the ideas, the meaning — then your audience/clients/etc. have something to connect with. They have a reason to feel passionate and excited about seeing the final product.

That’s what keeps the heart in the work.

That in itself isn’t easy all the time, but that’s why it’s so important to foster it, nurture it, express it in every way, shape, and form you possibly can.

So all the hard work with a liberal splash of passion and a healthy sprinkle of luck?

Sounds great to me.


*like now! Are you a fan of abandoned asylums, murder mysteries, and strong family ties? The first book in my supernatural thriller series is on sale for 99c until July 26!

Review

Feck Perfuction – Final Thoughts

Yesterday I wrapped up James Victore’s Feck Perfuction, and I have some final thoughts.

If you are a creative person, read this book.

If you are debating whether to start out on a new branch in life, read this book.

Basically, if you’re looking for some tough love to help you tackle your fear and just GO FOR IT, read this book.

From start to finish, these little one-page thoughts reinforced what some important people in my life have always told me/what I try to tell myself when the going gets tough.

Accept the fear, embrace it, love it, and do it anyway.

I plan to keep this book in my office and open a random page as often as I can for a fresh kick in the pants and an affirmation that I’m doing the only thing that will make me happy, no matter how terrifying.

Have you read this book yet? What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts, update

Change your Thinking

These posts are often a challenge to come up with ideas for (*slaps wrist – for which to come up with ideas), but it turns out that training a puppy can offer some important life lessons that translate to the rest of our lives.

So, from my torn-up, bleeding hands and exhausted mind to you, here are some tips on dealing with difficult situations:

  1. Find things to laugh at. When you’ve got a 10lbs dog’s needle teeth sinking into your ankle, and the only way to reach a safe place to put a barrier between you is to drag your leg behind you, you have two options: yell, curse, kick — which achieves nothing, or laugh at the fact that you look ridiculous to anyone lucky enough to see you. The laughter removes the tension and slows the tears, making it easier to deal with the stress once you reach your safe place.
  2. Forget the word “no.” I don’t mean don’t create boundaries and instill discipline, because those are kind of essential for everyone’s safety and sanity and development, but the word “no” is quite unhelpful. It doesn’t provide any information. Correction with guidance is more likely to earn cooperation and avoid discouragement.
  3. Go for walks. A puppy waking up for a long nap is a nice excuse, but why wait for one? Grab your shoes and go out for a 5-minuter to wake up the brain and get those synapses firing.
  4. Find the fun. You COULD get stressed about the fact that you’re behind on all your work and you’re waking up at unreasonable hours, or you find the joy of the small victories, the quiet moments, the glimpses of pure happiness that come up even in the most stressful, frustrating times.

These are the lessons we’re working on for the next little while (hopefully with more of that small victories, quiet moments, and pure happinesses as the weeks go on), and hopefully there are some little tidbits of wisdom in here to help you through the rough patches, too!

Review

Find your Inspiration

You guys know I love talking about inspiration. I love doing what I can to motivation people to discover and explore their own creative selves.

I’ve given talks about it (and I fall into the “more afraid of public speaking than death” group) because it touches such a fiery place in my heart so I can’t shut up about it.

I’ve written numerous blog posts about it.

I still don’t feel that I’ve quite hit on the right note to really express my own opinions/thoughts/passions about finding your art, your inspiration, your raison d’etre.

So until I do, I’ll send you off to James Victore and his kick in the pants book Feck Perfuction.

He goes for the tough love.

He promotes the idea that to live your life according to someone else’s wishes is to live unfulfilled and, therefore, what’s the point?

He pushes you to go after who you believe yourself to be, to embrace your weird, your voice, and have a f*cking opinion.

I’m almost halfway through the book so far after a recommendation from my husband, and I’ve already hit lots of quotations I just want to tattoo all over myself so I remember that risks are necessary for happiness.

It’s a short read, with full pages just doodles/mottos to remember and little one-page anecdotes to ponder over.

So if you’re looking for something to light the fire in your creativity and spur you on to finish/start your next project, pick this one up and give it a try.

Already read it? I’m interested in your thoughts! Let me know in the comments below.

There won’t be a post from me next week — it’s Canada Day and I’ll just be getting back from a weekend away, but I’ll be back on July 8th!

reading, update

New Resources

For myself but also all current and future clients, I’m always on the hunt for resources to help with proofreading/copy-editing.

Strunk & White’s Elements of Style is generally always on hand, various dictionaries, style manuals…

But this one, I think, will be a new trusted source. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on it for months, and the bookstore did not make it any easier, losing my order twice before it was finally delivered today.

It’s finally here! I WANT TO DEVOUR IT.

From everything I’ve heard and everything I’ve seen with a quick flip-through, my nerdy little heart is in ecstasies.

I’ll be sure to report back with my thoughts once I’m through it!

Thoughts

Let Loose the Imagination

I hate horror.

With a passion.

The last real horror film I watched was The Ring back in 2000.

I hate the feeling of adrenaline taking over. Not knowing what to expect, bracing yourself for the worst.

It’s not even the “in the moment” pain I suffer, it’s what comes later. After I’m in bed and the lights are out. Or worse, when I’m in the shower and the curtain is closed. You never know what’s waiting on the other side (little girl ghosts. ALWAYS little girl ghosts).

It’s worse when there’s nothing else to distract me.

When there’s nothing to stop my imagination from taking over.

I know people fall on either side of this argument in horror: whether it’s better to let the imagination lead the viewer/player/reader through the story or whether it’s better to reveal the Big Scary.

The closest horror experience I’ve had in recent years has been being in the room while my husband played Layers of Fear. If you haven’t played it, it’s quite a fun game if you like that sort of thing. Around and around the house you go, and each time to finish a circuit… things get weirder.

I watched most of it through my fingers, and there was at least one nightmare-ridden night because of it.

But for the most part, the Big Scary was never revealed. Just hinted at. Glimpsed in the corner of your eye. Shadows where there shouldn’t be any. Objects moving, being knocked over. A wicker wheelchair.

So creepy. So well done.

But I guess the developers felt the weight of critique, because we just started Layers of Fear 2 (which we’re streaming live on Twitch every weekend if you want to watch me scream and be reduced to tears), and I keep being pulled out of the game. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I will limit this particular example to simply saying: the imagination is given less to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I still watched it between my fingers, but there were times where the fear wasn’t there (thank goodness, really), and I really don’t think that’s what they were going for.

The imagination, the brain, is pretty cool like that. It finds patterns out of nothing. That’s a big part of what it’s wired to do, which means as soon as that adrenaline is going, it will seek out the threat, so nothing could be there, and there will still be a few jumps and shrieks every time you open a door or hear a thump in the distance.

Why bother to make that threat real when just the suggestion of one is enough to get the heart rate going?

The imagination is a powerful force. If you’re looking to evoke emotion in whatever project you’re working on, it serves well to remember it, use it manipulate it.

The advice “show don’t tell,” in my opinion, can be used given just as accurately here as in any other part of creation, and the audience will be more satisfied for it.

So where do you lie on the argument? Should they have shown the demigorgon in Stranger Things? Would Paranormal Activity be more terrifying if they gave away the Scary?

Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts, writing

Working Through Distract-huh?

Working under the dream conditions is, well, the dream.

The perfect view, the perfect volume level, the perfect temperature. No one walking into the room. The kids quiet. The pets asleep.

Ahh…

But how often does that happen?

And, honestly, how easy is it to work when you finally get there? Are you able to actually focus, or do you tend to find reasons to put off starting. Picking the right music, adjusting the height of your chair. Making sure the cat’s still breathing.

Distractions are everywhere — so how do you work through them?

I write my blog posts on Mondays while my husband sits beside me and plays video games or watches youTube videos. Despite the noise, despite his cursing and swearing after he gets his ass handed to him for the 30th time in a row playing Sekiro, I do my best to write some at least semi-coherent blog posts that have something useful to offer.

Some days, it’s not easy. The focus isn’t there, and watching him work not to throw his controller across the room is far more entertaining that figuring out what words to put on the page.

But I get there.

Usually.

My personal trick? Honestly? Persevering. Buckling down, tuning out as much as I can, and taking things one sentence at a time.

So, really, the same trick I use to get my work done on the best day.

Not to say it’s always like that. In coffee shops or out in public, I’m a headphones in, music loud kind of girl. Drown out all the ambient noise and pick my own poison.

At home, in the “best conditions,” I voluntarily distract myself with Spider Solitaire every 500-1000 words, slowly stretching out the break times, which makes it easier to focus in between.

The distractions never go away, so if we let them stop us, we’d never get anything done.

What are you methods of drowning out the world to tackle your projects? Let me know in the comments!