Being a Writer is…

Being a writer is-

..spending hours trying to describe how a character walked through a door.

…looking up synonyms for “said” every other sentence.

…typing for 3 hours straight and then deleting everything but one sentence the next day.

…having 10 works in progress you’re probably never going to finish.

…imagining yourself discussing your books on a talk-show even though you’ve never finished anything.

…drinking so much coffee you consider cutting out the middle-man and just getting a caffeine IV drip.

…overthinking movie and TV plot-lines and envisioning how you could write them better.

…washing down crippling self-doubt with a bottle of Captain Morgan.

…forgetting to eat because you’re almost finished writing that scene you’ve already written 6 different times and will likely write 30 more.

…convincing your relatives what you do is still relevant to a society that thinks watching rich people getting manicures somehow qualifies as entertainment.

…asking Google things that should probably get you put on a watchlist or excluded from a dinner party.

…having a million tabs open at all times.

…going to a coffee place so often the staff begins to recognize you and you have to start going somewhere else to avoid the awkwardness.

…wondering if your story idea has already been written by someone more talented and attractive than you.

…needing to use your “lucky pen” that you do your best writing with.

…spending 10 minutes looking up just the right white noise so you can concentrate for once in your life.

…composing a strongly-worded essay in your head while in the shower and immediately forgetting how to speak your own language as soon as you open a blank document.

…meticulously researching to get even the most minuscule detail correct in spite of the fact most readers probably won’t notice.

…reading the best writing advice and not following any of it.

…anxiously awaiting feedback on a W.I.P. from a friend/family member only for them to eventually tell you it was “good.”

…habitually fluctuating between thinking you’re a total artistic genius and everything you’ve ever written is an insult to the written word in the span of thirty minutes.

…hoarding stories told to you by friends and family in hopes of using it to flesh out a character one day.

…combing through your work to make sure everything is correct, only to print it and immediately find an escape.

…writing tirelessly for hours only to produce a handful of paragraphs people can read in five minutes tops.

…looking up writing memes instead of actually writing something.

…reading blog posts about writing to avoid your W.I.P.

…actually writing.

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So, I’m Not Dead

Okay, so, excuse time.

Truth be told, I probably could have updated this blog a long while ago but I didn’t want to because I have not been satisfied with the content I’m working on. As of this writing, I currently have five blog posts in my drafts folder and two short stories I want to post.

Over the past few months I have been planning, writing, and editing blog posts only to immediately delete them due to their rambling nature.

Don’t worry.

I still have strong opinions.

I’m just trying to articulate them in such a way that is palatable for the masses.

……Or at least for the handful of friends that read and enjoy this blog.

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I know perfection isn’t a thing and I should just bite the bullet and get this crap out there to be read, but what is a writer without ego? I need to feel as if I’ve done my best work for that particular project and I haven’t been getting that feeling from anything I’ve been producing thus far.

So don’t worry if you’re worried…. which you’re probably not because you have a life and aren’t concerned about whether or not some random stranger on the internet is posting content in an already overly-saturated market of media.

But yeah. More content is coming and I’m doing my damndest to make sure it gets out there soon…ish.

It’s in the works! Book reviews, some personal essays, stories, it’s all coming!

There is no escape.

Until next time.

Unpopular Opinion: Outrage Culture Conditioned Me To Not Care About Anything

Just as a heads up, this is as close to addressing political issues as I am likely to get on this blog outside of discussions involving freedom of expression. The only reason I’m even bothering typing up this post is because, as bloggers, may of us have lives that are saturated by media.

Hell, most writers in general have pretty strong ties to the internet so, in a way, it is in keeping with my niche audience.

If you squint.

Getting to the point:

This may be more of a reflection of me and my growth (or degradation depending on how you look at it) as a person, but I’ve found myself becoming so overwhelmed by lists of people I’m supposed to be angry with that it’s difficult to keep track of all of them.

Every other day, Twitter tallies up an extensive list of people we are supposed to hate now. Jennifer Lawrence rubbed her butt on an idol, some comedian said Donald Trump may not actually be Hitler, someone called someone a bad name in the heat of the moment.

The next morning, HuffPo and various other media outlets are writing detailed, peer-reviewed articles about why this person needs to wear a crown of thorns and carry the instrument of their execution on their backs while we throw rotten tomatoes at them.

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At first, I was game. If someone calls a woman a whore on a podcast, they should be fired. If a man sends a tweet with sexual overtones that person should be called out….but this has gone on for weeks…months….years even.

And it has to be said, you guys, I can only hate a person I’ve never met so much. I have a finite amount energy to give towards anyone I will likely never encounter in my entire existence.

There are so many people in this world that I want to save my hatred for: people who don’t use their turn signals, that cashier that always tries to make me sign up for a rewards card whenever I go shopping, people on Medicare, etc.

I am not a negative person so I only have so much scorn to give. I don’t have the energy to waste it on people who, at the end of the day, did things that are, by and large, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

I know what outrage culture is designed to do. It’s meant to weed out people who defy social norms and try to force them through public shaming to be a better person.

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However, what outrage culture doesn’t take into account is that people are highly adaptable. If you expose them enough times to something, they stop caring about it as much. It’s like violence in various forms of media. While it doesn’t necessarily make us more violent as people, it does desensitize us to viewing it.

It seems to be the same for outrageous behavior.

A few days ago, Youtuber and self-made millionaire PewDiePie said the n-word on one of his live-streams and nobody seems to care. Sure, a few people have made videos on it either reprimanding him or defending his speech as a “mere slip of the tongue”, nevertheless, this sort of remark would normally have people screaming from the rafters. However, it didn’t make nearly as much of an impact as it should have.

Many will likely credit this as a product of the rise of “white supremacy” in America, but I think it has more to do with the rise of outrage culture.

I think the general population is just bored of it at this point.

Myself included.

It’s not for want of trying, you understand. I read and reread articles, watch and analyze video clips, trying in desperation to feel even a tingling of rage. Nevertheless, I can’t muster up the same feelings of indignation that used to be part of my daily internet experience.

There are still people who are willing to fight the good fight from behind their desktops, adding their tweets to the pile of those declaring their outrage at (insert name here) for doing (insert activity here). But many of us have grown weary of this cycle and it is a cycle as it follows the same predictable pattern each time. The offender is shamed, the offender apologizes, the accusers don’t accept the apology and continue a smear campaign, right up until the event is no longer timely and everyone stops giving a crap.

Then it’s on to the next poor sod convicted of wrong-think.

Sometimes the outrage is reasonable and justified, sometimes it’s not.

Regardless, I think it will take some time before I will be able to hate again.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

I’m not going to lie.

I had many, many illusions about blogging when I started The Crooked Pen.

I thought that, with enough vigor and talent I would be able to flock hundreds of thousands of people to this site. I had seen other blogs similar to this one and I thought I had them all beat. Surely, if this unoriginal tripe can get over one hundred likes, my posts, which are much more original, can receive the same amount of popularity as well….

That did not happen.

Ever.

That isn’t to say I haven’t made progress in both my writing style and my following. Nevertheless, it has never (and likely will never) garnered the sort of popularity I had hoped it would have.

This blog was created for two reasons: 1. So that I could go on lengthy diatribes about things the laymen doesn’t care about (fiction, writing, the literary merits of popular TV shows etc. And 2. So that I could create a platform to launch my writing career.

When it comes to the former, I have been more that successful. When it comes to the latter however….

I tried.

I didn’t exactly make a schedule, but I put it in my mind that I would attempt to make at least one blog post a week. When this didn’t attract as many people as I had hoped, I begun reading other people’s blogs and following them. I commented, liked, followed, engaged as much as I possibly could and still make time for my own personal writings. I did notice an increase…but, again, not as much as I hoped.

I decided to take a bit of a break.

I focused more on my actual writing and found that I was enjoying myself much more. When I wasn’t making a competition of it, constantly comparing myself to other writers, I  enjoyed it…quite a lot, actually.

When everything was just for the love of it and it wasn’t about how many likes or comments I would receive, I found that I felt much freer and my body of work increased in quality.

I’ve since returned to the blogging world (albeit at a less frequent rate) and I’v decided that, rather than worrying about how many like or comments I have, I’m going to focus on writing what I want to write even if it’s not popular. I enjoy putting my words out there, even if only a tiny portion of people read them.

I appreciate you guys!

Your Characters are NOT Your Friends: A Public Service Announcement for Writers

I’ve seen several Instagram posts that say things like “is it sad that my characters are my best friends?” or “I have more conversations with my characters than I do with real people. Is that bad?”

Yes. Yes, it is.

Not because you’re a wallflower with friends that exist only in your mind. That’s perfectly normal*.

It’s sad because this means one of two possibilities: One, you are a horrible friend, or two, you are way, way, way too nice to your characters.

It’s natural to form an attachment to people that you’ve created. People have been doing this for centuries. The problem is when you care too much about someone, you want to nurture them, perhaps even protect them from impending doom.

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You cannot do this with your characters.

If you want a good story, you must put your characters through hell. Kill their families, have their lovers break-up with them, have owls eat their dogs. Nothing is allowed to go their way, or at least not for very long.

Loving your character too much might encourage you to go easy on them, to pull punches. Don’t do this. The best characters are forged in fire.

Another problem you can run into is making your characters too perfect. You want the audience to love your characters as much as you do, so you will have them always put their best foot forward. Problem is no one actually wants to read about perfect characters. Real people aren’t perfect so reading about someone who is takes the reader out of the story, constantly reminding them that what they are seeing is an illusion. And not even an entertaining one at that.

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Lastly– and I hate to break this to you– if your characters were magically able to obtain a physical form and interact with you they would probably hate you.

I’m not saying you’re a bad person it’s just that….

Let’s face it, you are responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to them. Every illness, every death, every catastrophe that has every entered their lives is on you. You could literally make all their problems go away with the scratch of a pen. And yet, you sit there, drinking your coffee like a psycho.

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I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about your characters at all, if you don’t care then the audience probably won’t be persuaded to either. Just keep in mind that in order for them to reach their full potential, you must keep an emotional barrier between yourself and your creations.

A mother hawk may love her babies, but she’ll still push them out of the nest so they can fly.

Some of them may die, but it’s a risk you’re going to have to take.

*I have been informed that this actually isn’t normal and that most people have friends that exist in the real world. I was so shocked I couldn’t even find a gif that appropriately conveys my emotions. 

Social Media Killed My Curiosity About Authors

When I was a child I daydreamed all the time about talking to my favorite writers.

While I was toiling for hours over my own horrible manuscripts, I would wonder to myself what wisdom they would impart onto me if I ever mustered up the courage to write to them.

Writers back then were these mystical figures I imagined as silhouettes, tapping away at a typewriter in a clocktower alone all day everyday.

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Their lives were a mystery to me and the only connection I had to them was their work. I could only speculate as to what they did all day, what their hobbies were, what their childhood was like.

Now that I’m adult we have social media, and authors can communicate directly with their readers (and vice versa) at the push of a button…….

I wish they could go back to being silhouettes in clocktowers.

Perhaps it’s because I’m an adult now (technically), but I’ve lost that desire to know more about the people that create the works I read. In fact, I seldom follow well-known authors on any social media platform.

When it comes to famous authors, their social media platforms are usually divided into one of two categories: generic/bland or annoying/repetitive.

The authors in the first camp usually post motivational platitudes about determination and never giving up on your dreams. This on, the surface, isn’t a bad thing, but when that’s all they ever post it’s like “are you a real person, or are you an AI that’s been programed to monitor human behavior?”

The authors in the other camp are the ones that believe that because they are the creators of a universe that doesn’t exist, they know absolutely everything about everything and must, therefore, inform the poor plebeians about what to think. In addition, it would seem they have to tell their readers absolutely everything that is going on with their lives.

EVERYTHING.

“Getting my nails done!”

“Some guy at the mall said something rude to me.”

“Obsessing over (insert popular show here)!”

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I miss being able to imagine what my favorite authors were like because the authors themselves became part of the fantasy. They were just as metaphysical as the characters they wrote. They were untapped pools of mystery and wisdom.

Now that you can learn just about anything there is to know about a person with a quick Google search, the desire for knowledge is gone.

Nobody is interesting anymore.

They’ve become too accessible.

Perhaps I’m just longing for the days when I was more young and naive to the ways of the world. Back when I thought writers were these heroes of myth that brushed hands with the gods and had their lives together. Now that I’m older and social media has pulled back the curtain, I’ve been exposed to the naked truth. Or at least the naked, slightly airbrushed truth.

Writers are mortal.

They’re people with flaws and stupid opinions.

And those stupid opinions might discourage me from reading their books.Books I might need those in my life without realizing it.

As such, I choose not to peek behind the curtain.

I think I’ll stick to my clocktower.

When a Writer You Admire is a Jerk

A few years ago, my novel writing class had a high-profile guest speaker talk to us: the award-winning author of a YA book we had been assigned to read about a week prior.

I was pretty jazzed about it considering how much I’d enjoyed the story. I’ve had predominately good experiences with meeting published authors in the past and have always learned quite a bit from talking with them, so I thought this would be a positive encounter.

My first impression of her was not a bad one. She glided into the room on a cloud of confidence, cool oozing from every pore. She made us laugh, told us a bit about her writing process, and then she opened the floor for questions.

I was the first to raise my hand. She called on me and I asked her how much of the book was based on her own life.

I knew she was an army brat from the bio on the back cover of her novel, but I was curious as to how much of her MC’s life mirrored hers. I had a hunch there were quite a few parallels since most authors derive minute details from their own experiences, but I didn’t want to assume that everything was a perfect representation of her youth.

“Oh,” she replied, “that’s a tourist question. That’s not a good question at all.”

Me:

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Her:

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It’s always disappointing when you discover someone you admire is a jerk.

However, it can be a beneficial lesson to learn. It’s a reminder that, in spite of all that someone may have accomplished, they are still a human being, capable of fallibility. Some foibles are more significant than others, but we all have them. Even the most gifted of us. Especially the most gifted of us.

I’m happy this woman could teach me this lesson. So… very… happy.

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In fact, I’m so happy that I’ve been inspired to write the ultimate novel that will earn me critical praise as well as sacks and sacks of money. I will then use those sacks of money to create a giant pyre and burn all her books in a ceremonial fire.

Beware, jerk writer, I will be avenged through the power of literature!

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If You Want To Be a Writer, Lower Your Expectations a Lot

When you decide to become a writer, there’s one truth that you must confront at some point: what you write will probably not be as good on paper as it was in your head.

I’ve come to realize this after multiple drafts and constant rewrites of fiction, nonfiction, blog posts and etc. I know it’s not just me who feels this way. Writers and artists like Philip Pullman and Leonardo da Vinci complain that their work is not a perfect reflection of their intentions either.

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It was Leonardo D that once said “art is never finished, only abandoned.”

So how do you know when to abandon your work?

Well…you don’t….

That’s what makes rewrites so exciting!

You never know if what you’re doing is improving your work or if it is becoming exponentially worse due to your constant attempts at redressing problems that may or may not exist, and therefore you chip away at your metaphorical sculpture until little remains but rubble and a caffeine high you obtained from drinking six cups of coffee in a row so that you could finish this one draft before you begin your shift in the morning at your dead-end job that you applied for to pay for your college loans and keep yourself a float until you get published which at this rate may be quite a long time as you’ve read from multiple sources that the likelihood of you getting your work seen by another human being, even if you chose to self-publish, is ridiculously low because so many people are more interested in making their own voices heard that they choose to ignore the other three million people who want the same thing so now you are all just screaming into the abyss, being heard by no one and eventually you become so spiritually malnourished that you start taking whiskey shots in your coffee every morning just to keep the edge off—

Fun!

But I would suggest getting a second opinion from someone you trust. Someone who reads as much as you do. They’ll tell you if you need to continue or not. And if they think it’s done, consider that it might very well be.

You do eventually want to finish this thing. Then it’s on to the next project. Aaaand it’s likely the same thing will happen all over again.

…….If anyone wants to start a support group, I’m on board.

UPDATE: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going

Life has been sucking recently so my writing has been put on the back burner….well, my writing is usually placed on the back burner, but now that life is not going that great, I at least have an alibi now.

I haven’t updated my blog in two weeks. From a professional standpoint there’s no excuse. Tolstoy wrote War and Peace and he had 13 kids. It’s not for nothing, I have been busy. I started a new semester and am currently working with my college’s newscast and this was my first week working at a new place, but I should be better at balancing out my life.

I also had a major life-changing event occur that totally ruins everything.

But, you know, I’m cool.

Everything is totally alright.

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I would make a promise that I’m going to try to update more frequently as I resolved to do, however, I’m not sure if that is going to happen. I just figured I owe it to people who read this blog to let them know where I am.

I’m not giving up on blogging, it’s just that the length between posts will likely increase.

I have a few ideas for posts, but I’m not sure how they will pan out.

Until then, remember me as I was: a slightly less embittered individual with a propensity to procrastinate to the point of self-paralysis.

Good night.

My Muse Hates Free Time

Does anyone else get their ideas when it’s most inconvenient?

I think I am at my most creative during the height of the school semester where everything is due and my entire future hangs in the balance..

I’ll be mentally calculating how much time I should commit to studying and she’ll show up, donut in hand, asking “hey, what would it be like if the human race was forced to live under the sea?”

“Now is not a good time,” I’ll say, reading about Metella and how she likes to sit in the atrium.

“What if they were down there for so long that they forgot what life on land was like?”

I’ll pause. “That sounds kind of cool.”

“Yeah. You should totally spend the next five hours thinking about it.”

“I have a test tomorrow in a foreign language.”

“If you don’t write down everything now you will forget about it and you’ll never be published. You will spend the rest of your life working a 9-5 grind. Your soul will become drier and drier until you are simply a husk of inadequacy.”

“Crap. You’re right.”

When I actually have some downtime, however, my muse can’t be bothered. She’ll be out partying with her other muse friends, only to turn up around 12 a.m. to tell me about how she worked out a way to fill that plothole in my last project. Which, of course, I’ll be too tired to do anything about.

Writers aren’t supposed to wait for their muses to show up. They’re meant to start writing and slowly their muses will materialize.

But it’s so much more difficult writing without her. She makes it more exciting. Sure, she doesn’t always have the best ideas, but at least she makes it fun.