Saturday, February 13, 2016

Real, actual cures for writer's block (I swear)

     If you're a writer then at least once in your life you've experienced that dreaded moment when the words just will not flow no matter what you do.

     The ideas are in your head. You've waited all day to write. You sit down in front of your computer, or you have your notebook and 1.6 mm pen (their ink is so squishy) and suddenly you can't do it. Maybe you're nervous you won't get it right. Maybe it's an emotional scene that's hard for you to write. Maybe there's a bunch of crap going on in your life that is somehow preventing you from working on your favorite hobby or life's dream (stupid life crap--as if it isn't crappy enough as it is). Maybe you're too physically and mentally exhausted from your day job and family/friend duties to have the mental energy to write (writing is kind of paradoxical that way--it's fun and relaxing, but also takes mental energy). Or maybe there's just no logical reason at all. 

     You just can't get the words out.

     If you're lucky, this only happens every now and then and only lasts for maybe a day or two. Sometimes it's scene specific. Other times it's life event specific. Other times there's no rhyme or reason. 

     If the block plagues you long enough you probably start to feel a great gaping hole open up inside you. You miss writing. You've had it with people and their well-meaning suggestions for how to fix it. You're probably sick to death of the phrase "writer's block." You probably didn't want to read my post just because of the title. You've probably read every freaking article, blog post, book, paragraph, tweet, and piece of graffiti on a wall in an alley behind a Chinese restaurant ever written on the subject. You're probably sick to the death of the very word "block" and anything that remotely resembles a block. If you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or friends with children and they want to play with blocks you want to throw their blocks into the fireplace. Don't do this--the child might cry, and then you will be so guilt-ridden that your writer's block is guaranteed to go on for at least an extra month. 

     Don't worry. I'm not going to subject you to the standard solutions that you've all probably heard a million times. You know: write something different, stop trying so hard, outline, talk it out with a friend, take a walk, just sit down and write whatever comes to your mind, and blah blah blah. Nope. Not going to tell you these. Now I know you might be thinking: didn't you just tell us? No, I didn't. Honest. It just looks like I did. 

     All right. Here are my new and fresh ideas:

     1.) Go over to Spotify or Apple Music or whatever music subscription you use. Pandora (though I love it) won't work for this one. If you don't have a subscription, get a free trial, just don't forget to discontinue it before it runs out (gets me every darn time). Now do a search for "O Fortuna." Yep, you'll get a crap load of results. At least fifty, I think. Now, you'll have to sift through and figure out which are actual remixes and which are just the same version played by different symphonies. It's cool--it will kill a bunch of time and take your mind off the fact that you're supposed to be writing. Now once you've done that put all the ones that are actual different versions in a play list. And yes--now you are going to listen to them. 

     Yes. Each. And. Every. One. Of. Them. 

     Rate them. And yes--I actually did this. Some of you might remember me tweeting about it. 

     Okay, so I'm only being half-truthful. I made it through about 20 of them, and I only rated them in my head. There's an interesting heavy metal/rap-ish one (though I never really got the whole heavy metal/rap combo thing), and a cool techno version. 

     Pretty soon you may also be able to do this with the Game of Thrones theme song. I don't know what it's called, but I've started to hear lots of different remixes played at hockey games. At first I thought it didn't really go, but then I remembered how violent hockey is. 

     2.) If you have a Wii, make a Mii for each of your characters. Yeah, I know it's cheesy and dorky, but so what? And yes--I've done this. Though not for all my characters. Yet. This is also a good cure for insomnia. 
     An alternative to this is going through magazines or random pics on the net and finding ones that best fit your character.

     3.) Go "window shopping" online for your characters' clothes. In my YA novel my characters go to the Homecoming Dance, (because you can't have a YA without Homecoming--unless it's dystopian or AU) so I found pictures of each of their outfits. Yes, I did. I even found suits for the boys. You want to make something of it? It killed so much actual writing time. But when I was done I did lots of writing. I swear. 

     4.) Write a blog post about ridiculous ways to cure writer's block. 
Addition: if you like my style, you should totally check out the Go Fund Me my wonderful friend set up for me, because they love me and know writing is my everything.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Yes, we're still talking about racism

     And we're going to keep talking about it, because unlike some wrinkly white dudes would have us believe, racism has not been solved. (And oh yeah, by the way, global warming is a thing.) Actually, I would argue that despite the amazing progress we've made that in some ways racism is almost an even bigger problem today. I think that unfortunately the progress we've made can make people, even well meaning people, ignorant to the problems black people still face. Gains are made, and people start to relax a little and forget (white people who have the privilege to do so, anyway) that there is so much more work that still needs to be done. And that's when some wrinkly white guy opens up his big mouth and says, "Why are we still talking about racism?"

     Because racism is still a problem.

     All right, I went off on a bit of a tangent there. So I'm talking about the Super Bowl, though not any of the actual football stuff. Unless you've been living under a rock you've probably heard at least a little something about Beyonce's wonderful awesome halftime show (getting an idea of my opinion on it?) So, I'm not a reporter, and I'm not writing this to give a detailed recap on what happened. So, quick summary: she used her new song "Formation," her video and her performance, to send an important message that needs to be heard about racism, police brutality, black women and black hair and black people being black, Ferguson, hurricane Katrina and I think some other things too. I actually didn't watch the halftime show. But just reading about it later gave me chills.

     I think what she did is awesome. Black people still do not have enough of a voice. They aren't being heard. Beyonce is a black woman with a voice who was given a huge platform and she took that opportunity. Hell yes. Power to her. She was given use of one of the most watched nights of the year and she used it for more than just cheap entertainment. It was brilliant. It got people talking. A lot people weren't happy. So what? It needed to be said. People didn't want their night of watching sweaty men potentially giving each other life changing concussions and other injuries for the purposes of making rich people richer ruined by important issues. Boohoo.

     Of course, she's getting a lot of backlash. Because people still just don't get it. I don't understand how people still don't get it. It's so frustrating. That's what makes me sad about the whole thing. People think she's lashing out against cops and white people and that's not what it's about. She's standing up for herself and for black people. Her message wasn't heard by everyone. And because her message still wasn't heard we are still going to be talking about racism.

     And while we're talking about the Super Bowl, let's talk about Cam Newton for a minute. Has anyone heard about how terribly unsportsmanlike it was of him to give such short answers during the post game interview, and then to just walk off? Have you all heard about what a sore loser he is? Yeah, you may have heard that a few hundred times.

     First of all, I think it's pretty crappy to make the losing team give an interview so soon after losing. I mean, come on. Seriously? Are we really kicking them when they're down? Oh yeah, it's the media. Of course we are. Come on, nobody likes to lose. I was up for a promotion at work once. When I didn't get it, I was so upset that I called in sick the next day. I'm not proud of it, but there you go. There was even talk about Newton not being deserving of MVP. Come on. Give the guy a break.

     Second of all, immediately after the game, on the field, Newton shook Manning's hand and congratulated him. I saw it live. I later caught a still shot of it and saw that Newton had a genuine smile on his face.

      It should also be mentioned that at the same time that Newton was being interviewed, Denver cornerback Chris Harris was in the same room, separated only by a curtain, talking about the game. So, it's no wonder he was upset. 

     Further more, when the Indianapolis Colts lost Super Bowl XLIV to the New Orleans Saints, Peyton Manning went straight to the locker room without shaking hands with Drew Brees or Sean Payton. While he was criticized for this, he wasn't given nearly the same amount of crap about it that Cam Newton is being given. At least Cam Newton tried to do all that was expected of him. He was upset. He lost the Super Bowl. Come on, people. Give. The. Guy. A. Break.

     Oh, and in case the point I was trying to make wasn't crystal clear, I'll just spell it out. Cam Newton is black. Peyton Manning is white.

     Yep. We're still talking about racism.

     I really hope that one day we can stop.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Swimming in Cucumber Water (Not Gatorade) Accomplishments Rather Than Drowning in Tears of Defeat

     If you know me personally or have been following my blog than you know I've submitted my first novel to agents and publisher around thirty times and received around the same number of rejections. Let me just say--if I hadn't said it before, that's rough. Being told--whether it be through a form rejection, a personal email, or simply no response, that you aren't good enough (because regardless of the actual reason, that is what a rejection feels like) is hard. Being told this once is hard. Being told 30 times? Really freaking hard.

     There were tears. There was yelling. There was irrational cussing and bashing of the publishing industry (none of which I actually meant, which is why I did it in the privacy of my home and not on the internet. I just needed to vent. Please, please, if you are upset over a rejection, call up a friend and vent. DO NOT get on twitter and bash the agent or traditional publishing. If you do, you're pretty much screwed.) There were pep talks. There was beer. There was wine. There was ice cream. There was chocolate. I think there may have even been chocolate wine. There were realizations: I need to make my query letter better and my book better.

     I know that before any of my books get published my number of rejections will be far above 30. That number may even be in the three digits. I now know that this is quite normal for many writers. That's okay. I can handle it. Because being published is what I what more than anything (at least career-wise).

     This morning I was thinking: if there's anyone out there other than fellow writers who understand rejection, it's athletes.

     I tricked you guys, didn't I?

     This post is not about surviving rejection from agents and publishers. It's about . . . wait for it . . .

   . . .  wait for it . . .

    No! No, please! Loyal readers, don't go away! I'm sorry I tricked you! But it's Super Bowl Sunday! Come on! You had to at least have had some idea! The word gatorade is in the title! If you've ever caught a glimpse of a championship game you have to know about the gatorade! Please keep reading. I promise the above preamble wasn't 100% a trick. It's relevant to the post.

     In actuality this isn't about football. While I am a fan, and do know a fair amount about the game, I don't feel that I know enough to write a post about statistics and strategy and all that. This post is about winning and losing and the vast difference with which players are treated on a weekly basis based on how well they're doing or not doing.

     As a Colorado native I'm a pretty big Bronco fan. My nails are currently painted orange, blue, and white. I'm very excited that the Broncos are in the big game. My boyfriend is from--well, for simplicity's sake we'll say he's from Indiana, so while he's a Colts fan he is also a Peyton Manning fan. So, happily, we are rooting for the same team today. He said the other day, "I would love to see Peyton Manning win and go out in a blaze of glory." My stepdad (also a Bronco fan) said, "I would love for the Broncos to win, Manning to get a ring, and retire." I'm sure that many Broncos fans, and probably many Colts fans, have made similar statements.

     The other day I said to my boyfriend, "Well, even if the Broncos lose, why shouldn't Manning get to go out in a blaze of glory?" The team made it to the Super Bowl for crying out loud. That's a huge accomplishment, especially considering the fact that the Broncos as a team, and Peyton Manning himself have had a freaking roller coaster of a season.

     Let's talk about that roller coaster of a season. This is where the rejection I talked about earlier comes into this. For Peyton Manning and the Broncos, last season's playoffs didn't go so well. One and done. At that point, media and fans (egged on by the media) were going on and on about how Manning was old, he was done, he didn't have it anymore, he should retire, the team should put in Brock Osweiler, etc. etc. etc. Despite the fact that it had come out that Manning was injured during that game, the media didn't shut up about how he was too old to keep playing.

     I was angry, to say the least. Now, as a fan, I of course want the team to win. But, I'm also a psychology student. Well, I have a Bachelor's degree and am not currently in school, but still consider myself a student because I love to keep learning stuff on my own. So, the psychology of sports fascinates me. There are so many different factors other than athleticism and how good the opponents are that can affect players: a previous win or loss, home field vs. away game, fan attitude, media attention, various things going on in a player's life, etc.

    Other than a writer, a sports fan, and a psych student, guess what else I am? I'm a human being. Shocker, right? Well, I have another shocker. You guys might want to sit down for this. It's going to be tough to swallow.

     Are you sitting?
     If you have a friend or family member nearby, you might want to take their hand. I'm serious. This is going to be really hard. Maybe grab a stuffed animal or something.

     Okay, are you guys ready?

     Do you know who else is human?


     I know, right? They're human beings. They have feelings. They have lives outside of the sports they play. Weird, right? They have families, friends, hobbies, and interests other than sports. They are affected (whether they admit it or not) by the media (maybe some more than others). Even the greats like Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, and all the other greats whose names I don't feel like listing are human beings. I sometimes get the impression that fans forget this and think that guys like Tom Brady are robots who were built to play great football and do nothing else. (Although, I recently heard that Tom Brady has never in his life tried coffee, so that does call into question whether or not he is actually human.)

     So, even when it was announced that Manning would be playing with the Broncos for the 2015 season, not all of the fans were happy. As a fan, I was angry with the media and my fellow Broncos' fans. I support the team, no matter who is playing. If it's Manning, okay. Go, Peyton! If it's Osweiler, okay. Go, Brock! It it's that third string guy whose name I don't know, okay. Go, guy! (Hey, maybe his name is Guy. You never know.) And for crying out loud, an older and not quite at his best Peyton Manning is still Peyton freaking Manning. He's one of the greats and always will be no matter how this season (or any other season he plays) ends.

     For the first half of the season the media continued to question whether Peyton Manning still had "it" and whether or not Osweiler should be put in, despite the fact that the team started the season7-0. Now, granted, many of those wins wouldn't have been wins if it weren't for the defense, but still, at the end of the day, a win is a win.

     Well, the Broncos' first loss of the season was delivered by the Colts (salt in Peyton's wound). The next loss against San Diego was even worse. After that game it came out that Manning had plantar fasciitis--to put it simply, a foot injury (I feel his pain, literally. Okay, so I literally feel my own pain, but can relate to his pain).

     Despite the fact that it was quite clear that his sub-par playing was clearly a result of the injury, the media was again all over stories about how Manning's career might be over. What was worse was the fans. I made the mistake of checking out Twitter during games. Fans, loyal Broncos' fans were absolutely vicious. They just said mean, horrible, foul things. I wanted to get on there and remind people that Peyton Manning is a great player, that most of those people probably couldn't throw a football if their life depended on it, and that Peyton Manning is a human being and this crap might affect him. But I didn't, because arguing with people on social media is pretty much the equivalent of banging your head against a brick wall.

     I've never been to a football game, but watching games on TV, I've noticed that when the home team is doing bad, the fans boo. Not just Broncos' fans, but most fans of any sport team. And they aren't booing the winners. They are booing THEIR HOME TEAM. It makes me so mad. Psychology, people! Being booed is not going to help a person's confidence! It's not going to help them win! It's only going to make them play worse! Have some freaking common sense! Have some compassion! (All right, I'm getting a little fired up.) Remember, these are not robots. These are people. They hear this. They maybe see these tweets (though if they're smart, I imagine they do their best to ignore most of it). This affects them. Support your team, whether they are doing bad or doing good.

     I am sure that athletes have strategies and coping mechanisms for dealing with this sort of thing. Having listened to some of Manning's interviews, he handles the media beautifully. How the comments on social media actually affect his ego/confidence--I don't know.

     I wish I could get some tips from some of these athletes. I know when the day comes when I'm published (and it will come, because I don't plan to stop until it does) that the negative reviews will come in. I've read negative reviews of books. People are cruel. I will no doubt get some ugly reviews and it frightens me. It will be one of those things where I shouldn't read them but probably will. There will be tears and anger and I will probably question whether or not I ever should've written that book in the first place. But I won't stop writing. Maybe I'll sit down with Peyton Manning and we can talk about how to deal with fan rejection.

     Yeah right, but hey, you never know.

     Back to that conversation I had with my boyfriend the other day about Peyton Manning going out in a blaze of glory. I said, "Even if the Broncos lose, why can't he? He made it to the big game!"
My boyfriend asked, "How many years back can you remember the teams who've lost the Super Bowl?" I thought about it, and I could only think of a couple.

     I thought about it some more and realized: that isn't right. Making it to the Super Bowl is a huge accomplishment. The losers should be remembered.

     I've been rejected 30 times. But you know what? I wrote a freaking novel. That's huge. Go me! I was brave enough to send it out. Go me! I was brave enough to continue to send it out even after being rejected again and again. Go me! When the rewrite is finished, and when my other two novels are finished, I'm going to send them out. They're going to be rejected several times before they're accepted. But I'm going to keep trying. Go me!

     So . . .

     Congratulations Seattle Seahawks 2014 NFC champions!
     Congratulations Denver Broncos 2013 AFC champions!
     Congratulations San Francisco 49ers 2012 NFC champions!
     Congratulations New England Patriots 2011 AFC champions!
     Congratulations Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 AFC champions!
     Congratulations Indianapolis Colts 2009 AFC champions!
     And congrats going all the way back to 1967, because if I list any more out you guys will probably get bored and stop reading.

     I have a suggestion for the losers of tonight's game. You know how the winners always get gatorade dumped on them? You guys should go somewhere and get cucumber water dumped on you. Why? Because you should still celebrate. Sure, be sad. You lost. You should be sad. But you should also be happy and proud. You made it to the freaking Super Bowl. You won your freaking NFC or AFC championship. And cucumber water is a million times better than gatorade. Or, 7 times better.
1. It helps you age gracefully
2. Boosts bone health
3. Heals a hangover
4. Keeps cancer at bay
5. Helps you lose weight
6. Enhances healthy blood pressure
7. Supports supple skin (because what 200 pound football player doesn't need supple skin?)

Does gatorade do these things? No. Okay, sure these benefits come from drinking cucumber water, but I'm sure having it dumped on your head in a weird grieving/celebratory ritual still has benefits.

When my rejections start rolling in again, I'm going to celebrate with ice cream. When I get my acceptance, I'm going to have cucumber water dumped on my head. Why? Because it will remind me of what it took to get to my win. (And, any friends who are reading this, I expect you to hold me to the cucumber water thing.) Plus, gatorade is sticky.

Cucumber water: the stuff of losers and champions.

(Go Broncos!)