Thursday, January 28, 2016

Why did I stop reading books?

After never being away from a book for more than a few days at a time my entire life, the last year has been devoid of finished books. What went wrong?

If that sounds like the setup for a piece that is going to explore some interesting ideas about reading, let me spoil it for you: It's not.

I genuinely ran into a wall.

Not for lack of trying. I read on a daily basis, often for work (research, etc.), and regularly for pleasure. I subscribe to a number of magazines -- yes, print magazines are still a thing! -- and have my face buried in text for at least a portion of every day.

Actually finishing a book, however, has become near impossible, and that's highly unusual.

I can't remember a time when I wasn't an avid reader. I've always had my face buried in books. Reading was both my escape and how I self-educated on topics I was interested in. When reading books for class in elementary school, I'd often race ahead and finish the book the first night or two, dooming myself to spend the next several weeks in class twiddling my thumbs waiting for the lesson plan to catch up. In high school, I often skipped the lunchroom and went to the library instead.

Yeah, I was that guy.

As an adult, I connected with close friends over shared reading experiences. Shared books with like-minded people and in doing so, changed one anothers lives. Had long, drunken conversations about books in that weird place where beer and books meet. Spent far too much money buying books I could not possible find the room to store (there are 17 bookcases in my house, all filled, and boxes of other books with nowhere to go). Even became mildly consumed with wanting to writing my own books (which by some miracle actually happened).

Since the early 2000s, I've even kept a log of each book and graphic novel I read, just for shits and giggles. This gave me a good month-by-month account of how much I read.

I like lists.

Listing things is fun.

I'm not a reading superman by any means. Many, many people read many, many more books than I do. A book or two a week? Not in the cards for me. But in the last 12 years or so I've averaged about 30ish books a year, sometimes climbing into the 40s, a few times dipping into the high 20s. A respectable number.

And yes they were good books. I wasn't tearing through empty beach paperbacks or whatever. Most were (to me) quality works by quality writers, or at the very least on worthwhile subjects.

But I haven't finished a book since 2014.

I have no idea what to make of that, but yeah. Not since 2014. Haven't finished a single book.

(For the record, the last book I finished was Cosmos by Carl Sagan.)

It hasn't been for lack of trying. I've started at least six since November 2014 or so and have meandered to a gentle stop on all. Great books, too. Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. James Ellroy's modern noir The Black Dahlia. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by the brilliant creator of The Wire, David Simon, who I have written about before. Cherie Priest's delightful steampunk and zombie mashup, Boneshaker (which features mom as the main character - awesome). Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood. The Martian (which I was well on my way to finishing, then I saw the movie and figured, eh, guess I'm done.) And the indie music memoir Our Band Could Be Your Life.

Abandoned all of them at various points, and only The Martian at more than halfway through.

Ain't their fault. I liked what I read in every single one. That I faded on Boneshaker broke my heart, because Priest was killin' it.

But nothing finished.

Dunno why. Can't focus. New habits since I started working from home. Focused on writing rather than reading. No more lunch breaks from the office during which to read (usually a regular reading time for me). Using mobile devices (like a Kindle Fire) before bed instead of reading like I normally do. A leech stuck behind my ear feeding on that weird grey stuff that builds up back there. Etc etc etc.

I don't know.

I'm climbing out of that well with the help of some short story collections. Four in particular, by H.P. Lovecraft, Philip K.Dick, Jack McDevitt and Arthur C. Clarke, are giving me that familiar taste of falling asleep to words again, and that is welcome. I feel like I need it. I not only need a reminder of why I started writing in the first place, but also some way to escape from the little box I now live in as a result of switching to the life of a freelancer.

And more than TV or movies or video games or running around the woods in only a pair of boxer shorts and a smear of peanut butter across my chest, books are where I have always escaped.

2015 might be the first year of my life since the 1970s that I haven't finished a book.

Let's hope 2016 rectifies that problem.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jason Dixon has a greener

Jason Dixon was the best artist in my 6th, 7th and 8th grade elementary school classes.

He was that kid who just had it. He'd doodle these cartoon characters that got people crowded around his desk to admire them. While I made crude comic strips to entertain friends -- "Step Off" was my big hit, and by "big hit" I mean it used to crack up my friend Abdul -- Jason drew the shit out of stuff as easy as you or I pull up our pants in the morning. Cartoony characters, superheroes, kickass tanks and stuff. He was good.

What he was not good at was blowing his nose.

To this day, the thought of a snotty nose brings Jason and a jingle I sang to (or at) him to mind.

We were in our 6th grade class. It was located in the then new wing of our elementary school building, next to the gymnasium. We had a tall blonde teacher whose last name began with T and who wore pencil skirts. I sat near a kid who would go on to become the Superintendent of Schools in that district. He also played a mean 6th grade piano. There was also my friend Jim, who two years later would get hit by a car while I watched. He was okay, just a little banged up. He remained a Flyers fan, though, so that was a downside. I remember reading Terry Brooks' "The Sword of Shannara" that year, too, and being taken aback at what a "Lord of the Rings" clone it was.

That was also the year drawin' man Jason did a crap job of blowing his nose.

http://www.123rf.com/stock-photo/runny_nose.html
(If it seems like I'm building to something good here, rest assured, I am not. You're about to be let down.)

So one day Jason is all sorts of congested and sick. This comes to mind because I am congested and sick as I write this. Pity me.

Anyway, Jason is congested, and he blows his nose, wipes it, and carries on with his day.

Except he somehow didn't realize that he had this thick plug of green mucus still filling in one nostril, sitting there like the worst kind of cave-in. Sometimes when he breathed, it would breath too, a little quiver that trembled like Jell-O and occasionally threatened to explode. If he were John Hurt, I'd have expected a tiny alien to burst from it.

How he did not notice this is beyond me.

But naturally, being the little shit that I was, I had to make sure he knew that I noticed it.

So I began to chant in a sing-song, Ramones-esue jingle, "Got a greener! Yeeeeah, yeah! Got a greener! Yeeeeah, yeah."

Not sure if the term "greener" existed for that brand of stuffed nose. Maybe I made it up. Maybe I didn't. I hope I did; it's a pretty good term. Regardless, I chanted. Maybe some of our classmates joined in on the chant. I don't remember. Let's pretend they did, because what's the use of sharing a story if you don't inflate your moments and make them seem much bigger than they really were?

Anyway, I (and the fictional "we") chanted, "Got a greener! Yeeeeah, yeah! Got a greener! Yeeeeah, yeah."

We did that until Jason Dixon got a tissue and wiped the rest of his nose.

...

That's it.

That's the whole story.

Told you I wasn't building to something.

I don't know whatever became of Jason. My old hometown was a town with a lot of military families, and his was one of them. Some time during the summer between 8th grade and high school, he disappeared. Presumably his family was shipped off to serve in Guam or something. Military families always had to go somewhere shitty, and just the name "Guam" sounds pretty shitty, like the film that forms on your inner thighs after working in the yard on a hot summer's day or something.

Wherever he ended up in life, I hope it was good. Maybe he followed his dad's lead and joined the service. I like to imagine that right now he's somewhere painting really cool faces and monsters and shit on the nose of fighter jets.

That could be cool.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Should you hire a freelance editor?

Self-publishing a book is a lot of work. Doing it right is a lot more work than doing a book the "legitimate" i.e. traditional way. (I've done both.) It's a lot more work than most writers are willing to do, in fact.

This is a cute elephant, and it's awesome
It sucks.

And sadly, a great deal of self-published authors don't do the work they should be doing. The number of shoddy, poorly-written, error-filled hackfests on self-pub services are legion. Were they to develop a unified mind they'd form a giant cube and hassle the United Federation of Planets, but alas, they are mostly like me: dudes and ladies who don't want to lift shit for a living.

Which is fine, really. I do it, and by "it" I mean I don't lift shit unless it's by choice, because I am small and weak and lifting shit is hard.

But one thing I don't do is to crap out books just because I think they're awesome four minutes after I've written them*, because that's exactly the shoddy bull people expect from self-published books. Believe me, errors creep into my work. Both my self-pubbed works and traditionally published works have a gaff or two that have slipped through the cracks. It happens.

However, this all-too-typical part of the self-publishing world is something else altogether: Write a first draft, think it's awesome but can't have anyone (qualified) give it a critical reading first because yer so precious, put it out, and if anyone says anything negative about it they are a big meanie because this is my inspiration!

To anyone who does it that way, fuck you for ruining it for the rest of us.

Yes yes yes yes, allow me to cut you off at the pass. Of the nine books I've written or contributed to, five have come via traditional publishers. When Hitchcock's Villains, Geek Wisdom, Stuff Every Husband Should Know, A Year of Hitchcock, and Stuff Every Groom Should Know were published, a team of professional editors combed them over again and again to stab any errors in the ass.

So they should be pretty good (but not 100%), and I'm blessed in that regard.

Cute rabbit. So adorable, right?
Meanwhile, Breaking Down Breaking Bad, Celebrating Mad Men, Lakehurst: Barrens, Blimps and Barons, and Dissecting the Walking Dead were all handled by yours truly. That means I had to trust myself to get it right, right?

Errr, no. Hell no! Bad idea. Terrible idea.

YOU CAN'T EDIT YOUR OWN WORK. I don't care how good you think you are. You can't. You can't. I can proofread work by other people, I'm good at it. I can look it over and make it better and catch errors and all that shit, but my own work?

Nope. I'm susceptible to the same thing every other writer in the world is susceptible to, which is to mentally fill in the blanks as you read and correct things in your head without realizing you're doing it. No lie, I can read my own writing with words missing and it will read just fine to me, because you self-correct in your head as you read. It's why these blog posts tend to be so awful!

That's why you need outside readers, and it's why they need to be capable of editing and proofing rather than just reading. Reading is great, but having an eye for correcting and improving is another thing altogether.

For my self-published projects, I try to get at least two readers other than me to comb the piece for errors, three to four if possible, and invariably they are people capable of doing the work. Teachers, editors, published writers, and so on. It helps to catch all the crap I let slip by (and that's a lot). (A lot.)

(A ton, really.)

Even they aren't perfect. If I told you those books are error-free I'd be a liar. We beat the shit out of them to knock out all the errors, and even still I'm sure there's stray nonsense that slipped through the cracks. It happens. It's inevitable, especially when the final say rests on your shoulders and you (me) are a jackass.

This is a cute Rhino. Love!
That's why having pros is better.  Always will be. Nothing is better than a professional proofreader. Putting stuff out without them looking over your work IS STUPID.

It is.

And I know this from experience, what with me being pretty stupid and all.

Don't do it, because if you do you will suck worse than I do, and I suck a lot (figuratively speaking, of course).



*You know why this is here

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

10 things you could do with those Powerball winnings

The Powerball lottery is up to like $43.74 or something like that, a huge amount of money that is sure to ruin the life of anyone who wins it. Whoever wins is probably going to be dead within 10 years, absolutely miserable, will have their entire family ruined, and will raise another generation or two of entitled assholes.

I bought five tickets.

But this isn't about me, it's about YOU. It's about the amazing things you can do if you win. Here are 10 great ideas:

1) You could buy every single kitten in the pet shop and give them to children in need or put them in the garbage disposal one by one.

2) You could set up a grant at your old elementary school that rewards children for writing fiction -- writers should always encourage the next generation of writers, after all -- perhaps giving a $20,000 scholarship to the best short story written each year, and $5,000 each to four runners up. Each year, you could publish the entries in a collection called "Images of Creativity: 27 Stories About the How Obama Did 9/11," and put their stories next to pornographic images of hobbits.

What winning the lottery looks like
3) You could pay Kate Beckinsale to serve you stout beer while wearing a short skirt and stockings.

4) You could run someone over and get away with it, then write mean letters to the family.
5) You could get an Egg McMuffin, then tip the girl at the drive-thru $1,000. Later, after hearing about her struggles to raise two children on her own, you could buy a car for her and purchase her home so she no longer has a mortgage. That would lift a HUGE burden from this young mother's shoulders. Then you could evict her and pour sugar in her gas tank.



6) You could hire One Direction to record a David Bowie tribute album for you. The album cover would be wrapped in tinfoil so the government mind beams couldn't get you and you could release it on purple candyswirl vinyl, and then spray vinegar at the sky to stop the chemtrails because that's what seems to work best.

7) You could pay Hostess or whoever the hell it is that makes Twinkies to fly over those knuckleheads camped out in Oregon and drop thousands of pounds of loose Twinkies on them so they could continue their brave stance against whatever they are bravely standing against without starving to death, except the Twinkies would all be expired because screw those dopes, and they would be all upset because their Twinkies were stale and they would seek comfort in one anothers arms and soon it would be a giant, sweaty mess of Brokeback Patriots or something, except for that one guy with the crooked face. No one wants him. Not even his rebel friends.

8) You could donate the money to charity.

Heh.

Heh ehhehehe.

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...

Yeah, no.

9) You could buy those shoes you've been thinking about. They were very nice!

10) You could pay Eliza Dushku to make you a western-style omelet while wearing a plaid skirt, because western style omelets are delicious.


Not Kate Beckinsale

When she’s done, you can criticize her for not being Kate Beckinsale.

What is wrong with you, Eliza Dushku? Go make me some eggs.

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie was my first concert. Here's what happened

David Bowie was my first concert.

I was 16 years old. My girlfriend at the time, Candice, was an angry blonde with a gigantic pear-shaped ass and a tendency to pick fights with older guys, assuming that I would then step in and defend her honor, because of course she did.

My father was going to drive us to the show, but two weeks prior he took his own life, so my step-mother drove us instead. The ride to the show was awkward. Candice and my step-mother didn't get along very well.

Nobody got along with Candice, really.

But those two especially didn't get along because my step-mother was racist, and Candice was Russian. (You had to be there.)

We got pretty stoned before the show. I had a great weed hookup and we took full advantage. The opening act was a little hazy. I don't remember what they were called, but they played really long organ-based songs and I think they may have sung about dragons. It was pretty awful. At one point, a stoned pair of hippies screwed in front of everyone. That was also awful, because they were unshowered and filthy and her bush was thicker than the fog left behind after a Bill Cosby cocktail.

Bowie, however, was pure magic. This was in his transvestite days. I've always had a real thing for transvestites. You know how they are men who are dressed like women? Yeah, it's amazing. He opened the set with some song about a space alien, but all I could think of was that beneath all that makeup was a dude. I was fascinated by this. I wondered if he tucked his pee pee back or just wore boxers?

Meanwhile, Candice was starting to get loud. REALLY loud. She always did when she smoked pot. I hated that about her. I got quiet when I toked up. She didn't. She wanted to fight people. I have no idea why we were together. It's not like the sex was good. There was no sex. That didn't happen for me until I was 31, and it cost me $300, a stolen credit card, and three penicillin shots.

So Candice starts talking trash about this group of dude bros who has, for reasons I'm still unclear on, come to the show in full frat boy football player duuude regalia. I'm talking varsity letter jackets and combs in their pockets and all that shit.

Naturally, her relentless assault eventually got turned on me, because I'm the guy so of course it did. I was in no position to fight them. I was only 4' 10" when I was 16 and weighed in at a robust 76 pounds. I couldn't fight them. Best I could do was to try and talk my way out of it.

Too bad about all that weed, though. My mouth and my head just couldn't come to an agreement about what words to say. The result was something that sounded like a garbage disposal trying to speak German, then slowed down to grandma driving speeds.

When the leader of the dudes bros, a snotty blonde American stereotype if ever there was one, took his first swing at me, all I could do was stagger backward to avoid it. Stabbing him in the testicles with my little glass pipe a moment later wasn't a conscious decision, it just happened.

Pulling his testes out from his scrotal sack, however, was.

At this point, Bowie was playing that song about flying into outer space. I can remember it like it was yesterday, because the countdown part was playing as I waved Dude Bro's testes at his friends. "7 ... 6 ... 5 ... 4 ..."

They were screaming something at me but I don't recall what it was, because Candice was yelling in my ear and Bowie was counting down in the other and Dude Bro's testes felt like warm, unshelled oysters in my hand. The crowd seemed into it, and then security arrived and ruined the whole thing.

Bowie finished his set while I sat in the security area waiting for police to arrive. I was hit with some charges, but since I was underage they have since disappeared and nobody will ever know about them and nobody ever will, because you don't just TELL people about things like this. You keep them secret.

I don't know how Candice got home because I haven't talked to her since. She didn't think that testes thing was cool and wouldn't return my calls, not even once in four and a half years of trying. I saw on Facebook that she's now a professional wrestler who briefly dabbled in pegging porn. Good for her.

As for me, I've been a Bowie fan ever since.

Friday, January 08, 2016

... In which I yell at a cloud



Yes, I'm fine with my crummy old pay-as-you-go cell phone. To tell you the truth, I'd be fine even without that. I don't need to text with you all day. You don't need to reach me wherever I happen to be. Go away.

I love video games. I have played them my entire life. But video game players are the worst people in the world.

The second worst people in the world are Star Wars fans.

Also, I am a huge Star Wars fan.

Speaking of Star Wars, we went from the prequels, which would get you attacked if you dared suggest maybe they were only 99% suck instead of 100% suck, to The Force Awakens, for which you'll get attacked if you say it's only 99% good instead of 100% good.

In my day, we didn't send out event invitations and Christmas greetings on Facebook, we forgot to do it by mail and we LIKED it that way.

I'm sick of newer, bigger, better TVs coming out each year. DVD, blu-ray, 4k? Go away. What we have now is fine.

Any statement that begin with "kids these days" is probably going to be stupid.

Facebook is awful.

Twitter is a lot worse. What's the deal with Twitter, anyway? What do people see in it?

I don't like when people park in front of my house. Go away.

In my day, we didn't take a jillion pictures of ourselves and plaster them online and tell everyone what we were eating at any given moment and pretend like we enjoyed our vacation when really it was just as miserable as every other day of our lives, and we LIKED it that way.

We'll always have shitty politicians, but doesn't it seem like they're getting shittier?

I miss the days when bigoted assholes were willing to admit what they were instead of dancing around it with coded language and not-very-plausible plausible denials. Just own up to what you are, asshole.

Also, bigots: go away.

The comments on a news story -- any news story -- are the worst thing ever.

The second worst thing ever is Starbucks. In my day, we had gas station coffee and we LIKED it.

Go away.

Monday, January 04, 2016

These Are the 5 Authors Who Made Me Want to Write

Writing begins with reading. There is a vague rule of thumb that good writers read. A lot.

Granted, reading a lot doesn't mean you'll be able to write. It's a start, though. And without question, the thirst with which I drank in books as a daydreaming kid, and later as an in-way-over-my-head young man, had a huge huge huge (three huges) impact on my later, and very ridiculous, decision to devote my life to writing.

It led me to journalism and books and other stuff, and these days, it has me working as a freelance writer.

Which is amazing and stupid and can barely buy me coffee in the morning, but it's so worth it (and SHAMELESS you should totally write me at ericsanjuan@gmail.com and hire me).

Yet none of that would be the case without these five amazing authors:

5) Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke
It's hard to nail down exactly why I feel Arthur C. Clarke belongs here (and believe me, I've gone over this list in my head for years, and Clarke makes it every single time). As a stylist, Clarke is stripped down and utilitarian. Erase his byline and you'd never know it was him. That is, perhaps, one of the great points in his favor. Clarke also filled me with wonder and ideas and the notion of grand visions without needing fancy writing or lofty ambitions to fluff it up. He just told good, solid stories about wonderful things that somehow always managed to be grounded in reality, and he did it in a way that you never actually noticed him. That's a gift that my self-indulgent self still needs to learn from.

Throw in the fact that Clarke, a self-described atheist, wrote a few of the greatest stories you'll ever read that seem to support the idea of faith (something I recently discussed with my friend and writing compatriot Keith Howell), and suddenly I realize that I have nailed down why he belongs here. Because a man who can manage that kind of balancing act is worthy of praise.

4) Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick is so bold, I can't even get halfway to where he was even when I'm trying to steal from him. He was fearless. Maybe it's because he was a little crazy. He wasn't a brilliant prose man, perhaps (though he had some amazing moments, particularly in the final pages of Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said), but his ideas were abundant and his writing was deeply personal in a way few people realized until after his death. His every work was a reflection of himself. He explored the same themes repeatedly, yet they always felt fresh and surprising. I've read 30+ of his novels, and thematically almost all share the same connective tissue, yet they feel amazingly different from one another. Plus, he managed to deal with powerful issues without beating you over the head with them. The Man In The High Castle, The Man Who Japed, A Scanner Darkly. This is important stuff.

And yeah, as egotistical as it sounds, I'd like to leave behind a body of work that people look back on and say, "I didn't notice at first, but this guy had something to say with these stories; they were a real reflection of himself." Some of that came from PKD.

3) Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut somehow escaped being lumped in as "mere" science fiction and is praised widely by critics, despite his work clearly belonging in the category. (Aliens, time travel, "magic" formulas, etc.) I kind of admire that, even if he had no real choice in the matter. Perhaps it's his wry conversational style, which I love but have rarely been bold enough to try on for size. Perhaps it's his willingness to engage in social commentary without feeling the need to disguise said commentary, something science fiction does exceedingly well. (Hide its social commentary, that is.) Whatever it is, Vonnegut's work inspired me from the word go. After passing up Slaughterhouse-Five in my high school library many times over -- it had a reputation I vaguely knew was positive, but the title conjured up images of ponderous early 20th Century novels about blue collar workforces and sweaty work conditions, and I had no interest in that -- my dear friend Jeff forced me to read Cat's Cradle.

And that was it. Life changed. I read his stuff and said, "Holy shit, why am I not doing this?" Here's how good that book is: it doesn't even fall in my top 5 Vonnegut's anymore, yet it STILL changed my life. Plus, I LOVE the notion that he's a genre writer "slumming" it as a critical darling rather than the other way around. You go, Kurt!

2) Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury
If there is a writer I would want to be, a guy whose work I'd most like to run through with an eraser, rubbing away his name and replacing it with my own, it's Ray Bradbury. He's a brilliant stylist who got sent away to the science fiction ghetto and, despite being as good a wordsmith as anyone in the 20th Century, has never been able to fully escape it. Total bullshit. (Vonnegut, for reasons that have never been clear, gets a pass, despite most of his works clearly falling under the science/speculative fiction umbrella.) He's also a fantastic idea man, someone who thrives in the short story setting and who has thrown away more fantastic ideas than most writers will create in an entire lifetime. Even without his ideas, Bradbury strung together words in a way that was as delicate and beautiful as a dew-covered spider web; his prose was poetry, and yet never ventured into being self-indulgent.

Bradbury is legend. I've written about my love for his work before, and for good reason. If I could steal some of his mojo, oh man ...

1) J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien
This is not news. I've posted before that J.R.R. Tolkien is the guy who made me want to write. His dense, rich, alive world drew me in like nothing else ever had. When I finally wrapped my head around the idea that some guy created it, I realized that it was something you could do. You could create worlds. All this stuff could spring out of your head and you could make it real for other people. Holy shit, that was powerful. For a time, I wanted to be J.R.R. Tolkien -- at least, in the vague kind of "I want to follow his exact creative path" kind of way. I don't want to write like J.R.R. Tolkien anymore. It's been a long time since I wanted to, actually, but he belongs at the top of this list because I wouldn't have started this journey without him. He's the guy who made me want to write in the first place. Plus, I still want to move and inspire and influence people like he has, even if I want to do it in a different way.

You won't catch me riffing on Tolkien's style or ideas, not anymore, but since I wouldn't be writing corporate blogs and the like had Middle Earth not touched me all those years ago, no one else can be atop this list.

Thank you, John. You, and my dear son, are the anchors of my life.

A Few Honorable Mentions

There are works that had just as big an impact on me as the above, and in some cases even bigger, but since I'm talking about bodies of work rather than individual books, they don't make the list. That said, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Orwell's 1984 (perhaps no other book has informed my worldview more), Golding's The Lord of the Flies and The Inheritors (both of which are powerful fables about humanity), and almost anything touched by Alan Moore between 1980 and 2005 (no one has done more to convince me of the worth of the comic art form).

There is also the matter of authors who came to me after I decided I wanted to write for a living. I think of people like Ursula Le Guin, one of the greatest authors of the 20th Century, in my estimation, but who I didn't discover until my 20s, as well as inspirational friends too numerous to name. And there are others.

But they are for another post. Maybe several more.

Friday, January 01, 2016

For 2016, a new short story every month

I'm blessed that writing (sort of)(barely) pays the bills.

But one result of taking something you love and turning it into work is that it becomes an obligation rather than an escape. You HAVE to do that if you want to make a living from it, of course -- I would have faltered years ago if I didn't decide that I had to prioritize writing in the same way you do any other job -- but you lose a little of what drew you to it in the first place.

For me, it was the joy of playing with words; of creating people and situations out of whole cloth; and of looking at a page and saying, "Holy shit, I made that!"

These days, I write more than ever before. Every day. Lots.

But rarely do I write creatively just for the hell of it.

This year, that's going to change. I'm going to write and finish a short story a month all year. Some I'll post here. The good ones I won't, because I'll be trying to get them placed in a magazine, but other stuff I will.

'Cause dammit, I need a creative release.

And yes, I fully recognize that by posting this I have essentially made even this into an obligation, and more writing obligations are the last thing I  need right now.

That's okay. This is the sort of obligation worth having. Besides, I feel like I can indulge in this because ultimately it still plays into my goal of writing being What I Do. I mean, hey, who knows, some of these stories may even help advance my overall writing goals and lead to good shit.

So really, it's just part of the plan.

Now it's time to start on the first one...