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December IWSG Madness

Hey team!

It is the first Wednesday of the month, which means it is time once again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group to gather together, share our writing successes, failures, insecurities, and goals. If you aren’t already a member and you call yourself a writer, you really need to do better. Check us out here if you know what’s good for you-

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

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Special thanks to Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh for his fearless leadership. Also, my good blogging buddy J.H. Moncrieff is among the co-hosts this month. She’s way groovy.

I am actually writing this on Tuesday afternoon. As you are reading this (the Wednesday folk at least), I am somewhere wandering the streets of Manhattan. Lucky me, right? This means I won’t be commenting on other blogs or replying to this one until next week. That makes me a bit sad as I really do enjoy the Wednesday interaction. Hopefully, you will all be as willing to talk to me when I get back.

For the third month in a row, I am answering the suggestion question.

In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

My five year plan from five years ago didn’t quite pan out, which makes me a bit hesitant, anxious even, about the next five. My three novels languish on my hard drive. The fourth refused to let me write it. Something about ideas falling apart after 5,000 words or something. It is my first NaNo failure and while I’m not completely discouraged (I’m still working, writing), it is an unexpected and frustrating setback.

That said, I feel like my writing future has potential.

I am still waiting to hear from Black Lawrence Press regarding their chapbook competition and am very hopeful about my chances. I feel I submitted a very good bit of poetry and hope to use any success from that as a springboard.

Short stories are brewing in my head and some older ideas (that were flash pieces or two page efforts) are telling me they’d like to be longer. When that happens (soon, early 2017), these tales will find contests and submission locations to test their legs.

The query efforts will begin again in earnest this Spring, with maybe a resubmit to an agent who gave me a little nibble two years ago. All of this seems like a plan, right?

So, five years from now, I hope the above plan has me writing, submitting, publishing something, still hopeful, determined and happy.

Week Two

Yesterday was my 46th birthday. The day was mostly uneventful and passed by very much like the day before and the day before that. I’m not complaining, really. Those I care most about wished me happy birthday, and I was able to spend the afternoon with the boys and the evening with Sheryl. I am a very fortunate person, could not ask for a better life or better people around me.

The weather has been fantastic all month, with temperatures hovering in the 50’s and 60’s. Yesterday was no exception. Today, the wind and rain have arrived. Snow will soon follow. I like to believe that Autumn hung around just to wish me a fantastic birthday, which I appreciated.

Winter will come. It always does.

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Forty six.

I’m not quite sure what to make of that, but I’m sure birthdays bring out the reflective quality in all of us. Somewhere along the way, the person I see in the mirror is not the same as the image I have in my mind. I am different in almost every  conceivable aspect. My 20 year old self would likely not recognize me if we passed on the street. Older, balder, fatter, all those things that we promise ourselves will never happen, happen. Luckily, aging is less traumatic than I expected, and while I have my melancholic moments, I do my best to look forward rather than wallow in what is gone forever.

I’ve seen what living in the past can do to someone. Watched as they’ve tried to relive and recapture emotions, events, that they somehow think are better, more important than the hear and now, often ignoring those around them who they profess to care for, love. The isolation. The self deprecation.

I’ve spent too much time doing that myself, seen years slip pointlessly by pining for people and things, places. It is soul crushing. Climbing out of that hole was hard and painful.

There are better things ahead of me, I know that. New York City in December, for one. More time with family and friends, vacations, parties, graduations, weddings– The list goes on.

 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I got records (vinyl) and a clever new laptop for my birthday. And also, if you were wondering, you didn’t get me anything–so you are collectively the worst friends of all time. *wink wink*

 

Feeling Fine

Hey guys!  I’m back from my week long camping adventures in the land of the flesh eating flies, sore and dirty, but mostly intact. Sadly, I missed the IWSG posting day for July. I had planned to share a post before I left last Tuesday morning, but in the rush of packing the car, making sure we didn’t forget too many things, it slipped my mind. I will do better next month, I promise.

On with the show.

Last evening, I was able to participate in a TEDx event held at the Marmalade Branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library. A few months ago, the librarian hosting the event, who also happens to be a good friend of mine, asked if I’d be willing to offer my perspective on the topic- The Power of the Written Word.  I really did not feel I was the right person for the task, but it is difficult to say no to Azra.

The event included two prerecorded TED talks about the subject, followed by a short presentation by a guest speaker, me. Yep, just me.

In the weeks leading up to the presentation, I experienced a strange range of emotions from complete confidence to outright fear. I am passionate about writing, reading, and I sincerely believe that words have the power to alter the world, create meaning. Still, it was hard for me to feel qualified to stand in front of any crowd and offer my insights. I’m just a guy with a blog and some unpublished novels on his computer hard drive. Certainly someone, anyone else would be a better choice.

Working through what I wanted to say, there were many times I thought to contact Azra and tell her I was out, that I couldn’t do it. In fact, sitting in the library last night, watching the final seconds of the prerecorded talks, I had the same desire. Surely I could just lean over and whisper “Hey, Azra. Sorry, but I just can’t do this.” She’d understand, right?

I kept that thought to myself.

Azra stood and introduced me, saying very kind things. People offered some nice applause, and the moment had come.

Feeling like an absolute poser, I made my way to the front of the room, looked out over the faces in front of me, and as confidently as I could, gave my speech.

It went well enough, better than I expected, and in the end, I survived. Most of those in attendance even seemed to be interested. A few asked me some questions about writing and I gave some honest, even useful answers. I had fun and though I probably shouldn’t admit this, I’d do it again. Next time, I might even tell people in advance.

I’m still a poser, but a poser with passion for writing and a little more confidence under his belt.

 

Mettle

All words are metaphors. 

The A to Z blogging challenge continues, and I’ve noticed a drop off not only of comments on my blog, but in number of posts from the blogs I’ve engaged with. I am sure I’m missing out on thousands of other great blogs and need to do better at finding them.

I’m struggling as well. The first week, I was excited and motivated. I posted, then spent the next two hours reading and commenting. I feel that determination slipping, and we are only on the letter M.

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Pushing through, writing even when I’m sure I don’t want to write will show my mettle.

For a large portion of my life, I was not very skilled at confronting adversity. When things got dicey, I tended to surrender. As a junior in high school, I achieved a dream by making the school basketball team. For some reason I thought I had made it, and the rest would be easy. Instead, things only became more difficult. Most of my teammates didn’t believe I deserved to be there, and I was constantly challenged to prove myself. I hate to admit it, but I shrunk away. Rather than practice more, fight back and show them my skill, I let myself slide into the background. I didn’t quit, and because I did have some small amount of talent, I had a few great moments. There weren’t enough of those moments to make me stand out, and the following year, I did not make the team.

I wish I could point to that experience as the event that changed me. No particular instance stands out as the catalyst, but somewhere along the way, I either got tired of quitting, or finally understood how to fight back.

This might be a silly example, but I’m going to use it regardless:

In my 20’s I mountain biked, but never worked at mastering the skills that would make me a better rider. I never learned how to climb properly, and therefore always ended up walking my bike up difficult hills. After a while, I just quit riding altogether.

In my early 40’s, I decided I wanted to switch to road cycling. I invested in the proper equipment and spent time training my body and mind. When faced with a climb, whenever my legs hurt or my body screamed at me to stop, I was stronger physically and mentally. I ignored my discomfort and completed my ride.

Climbing the hills around my house (and there were some epic ones) strengthened my will and resolve. With my brother along side me, I was able to ride up a local canyon (Emigration Canyon) to a summit called Little Mountain. It wasn’t a huge climb, but certainly a more difficult challenge than I had yet undertaken.

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Encouraged by our success, we planned a more strenuous climb for the following Spring. Up the road from Little Mountain summit, is the much steeper switchbacks leading up to Big Mountain. Unlike the Emigration Canyon climb, there is no gentle slope, no moment to catch your breath or let your legs rest. Big Mountain is a serious climb, but by no means insurmountable.

The day came.

As we cycled along the last semi-flat road and approached the first switchback, I was afraid. I could already feel the strain on my knees and thighs. The total elevation gain for the ride would be 3300 feet, and I wasn’t sure I could make it.

I had been taking pictures on the ride, trying to document the climb; snap shots of trees and the road in front of us. Big Mountain didn’t allow any of that. I had to focus, keep my eyes locked on the road a few feet in front of my tire. If I looked up, I worried the remaining distance, the steep grade, would be too intimidating. My body screamed at me and the voice of doubt in my head begged me to just quit. I knew if I stopped to rest, it would be easy to convince myself I’d done enough and that I should just head back down. Down would be fast and fun.

For a while, we were barely moving forward (under 5 miles an hour at one point), struggling to keep our bikes upright. Dozens of riders passed us, which would have been disheartening if not for their words of encouragement. Sweat stung my eyes. I was about out of water, but we kept climbing.

And then it was over.

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We were standing at the summit, talking with other riders, all of whom were much better at this cycling thing than we were, but we had made it.

Heading back down, with the wind in my face, I felt such a rush of accomplishment. To this day, whenever I feel like the road has beaten me, I recall the sensation I had when I mastered a much more difficult stretch of tar and asphalt. I smile and keep pedaling.

I know what I am capable of accomplishing, and if I can climb up mountains, I can finish a silly blog challenge.

 

The Letter A

I need a jump start, a reason, a purpose to write more on this blog, which sort of feels cowardly, and mildly pathetic. If I don’t want to blog, I shouldn’t, right? No one expects it, needs it, will know if I refuse this A to Z blogging challenge. Maybe this is just for me, and maybe that is all that matters.

Do I need an overall theme? How about- 26 random blogs with subject matter completely dependent on my selfish mood. I like how that feels.

Today- A, which stands for Acceptance.

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I accept the challenge to write one blog a day, excluding Sundays, for the month of April. Each day, the post must have something to do with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. Twenty-six letters, twenty six days.

I accept that this will be hard for me, because I’m lazy lately when it comes to blogging. I also understand that I am attempting this challenge for very selfish reasons.

If I complete this challenge (wait, let me rephrase that, WHEN I complete this challenge), it will mark the most blogging I have done in a one month stretch since the creation of this blog, and certainly triple the amount of entries for 2016.

I’m going to challenge myself to also read blogs from others participating in this challenge, and to comment on said blogs. I want to participate more, contribute more, meet new and different bloggers, be part of a community.

Gosh, I’m an accepting sort of guy.

Day 1- Complete.

 

My, Oh My

What an insane week. The United States Supreme court has been handing down controversial rulings left and right all week. Today was the big one for many. In an expected 5-4 majority decision (no matter the ruling, most of us anticipated this sort of split), the court decided that no state can deny the right of same sex couples to marry.

I’m pretty giddy about the whole thing.

I’ve rather enjoyed watching those dismayed, upset, angered by the decision offer up scathing rebuttals, filled with superb hyperbole. But l should be fair. Not everyone who “lost” has reacted so irascibly. Some have been thoughtful, and for the most part, those I interact with have been kind and civil.

I do wonder about some of the bile, and whether it would be different if rather than a court ruling, a vote had ushered in marriage equality? Perhaps it would be similar, just pointed in a different direction.

On a related topic, I’ve been intrigued by a growing movement (funny enough, louder as marriage equality has gained momentum and success), to remove the State (government in general) from the marriage game altogether. I’d love to hear more about this, how it would work in regards to estates, heath and wellness, issues with children, that sort of thing. Any insight would be appreciated.

Regardless, enjoy your weekend. I’m finding joy in watching all these couples who thought they’d never gain legal status embrace and cry, love each other. Love is always a good thing.

For My Own Satisfaction

For the second year in a row, I spent most of November writing the first 50,000 words of a novel. I love the concept of  NANOWRIMO, even if I don’t actively participate in the local events or upload my pages to the website. I like the idea of having a daily and final word count goal, but I know my books will not be finished at 50,000 words. I still count reaching that number as a win. Maybe next year I should actually play along, see if I can complete the story in a month.

Last November, writing was a wonderful, sometimes frustrating experience. Some days I felt humiliated by my own inability to write. Some writing sessions defeated me. Four or five times, I quit working well short of my word goal. I kept fighting, scraped for ideas and pushed words out of me. Finally, sometime on the last day, I reached 50 thousand. The story wasn’t finished (that would take another four weeks), but looking at the amount of words I had put on the page gave me a huge feeling of accomplishment.

Over the next five months, I edited, edited some more, then edited again. Some fantastic people helped me find mistakes I never would have caught on my own, and offered suggestions that made the writing stronger. I am grateful to the readers who volunteered their time and efforts to offer me differing opinions. Their efforts made a hastily thrown together book something worth reading and something I am very proud to have written.

Sadly, I have not had much success finding an agent who feels as passionately about my book as I do. I’m still hopeful, but it is a discouraging process.

This year, the writing went much, much easier (can I say much again?). Only once did I fail to reach the 2000 word goal. Many days, I surpassed it. Even with skipping most Sundays (and a great portion of Thanksgiving weekend), I went into the last day only having to write a bit over 2000 to reach the goal. I still had days when every idea seemed like a bad one, especially if I let myself ponder the book after trying to go to bed. Part of that comes from knowing this book is so much different than the previous one. Last year, I was uncertain I could write a book. This year, I was uncertain I can write THIS  book. The subject matter is vastly different, and while both books have what I believe to be strong characters, this new book is more plot driven. I can say that writing this second book has been much more fun, and I have tried to pay more attention to the process of writing. I am succeeding again.

I’m taking today off from working on the book, but have my word count goals for December set in my head. I will finish before Christmas again. Then I will edit, then edit, then edit some more. Agents?

I love writing.

Also, if anyone has interest in reading the first book, I’m likely to let you. I still have hopes of publishing it (maybe on my own eventually), but as a writer, I want it to be read. Email or ask me if you’d like to give it a go.