Those pesky resolutions – 3 words

I’ve read several blog posts on resolutions, everything from how much they suck, to how to write them so they stick, to avoiding resolutions all together for three words (I was reminded of this by my friend Grant Baciocco). The concept is explained at the bottom by the brilliant CC Chapman.

I try not to make resolutions, because I’m very bad at follow through, and then feel like a failure. But I like the three words approach.

  • I’m dealing with the inevitable opinion that my body takes of I’m 40 now! I don’t have to be in shape to make babies, so I can slow metabolism and just take the next 40 years off! And this isn’t just “I’d like to lose weight,” it’s also my health, how my body seems to get hitches here and problems there. And when I’m not feeling well, or feeling too tired, I don’t have energy for my family, energy to go on adventures with my kid, hikes with my husband. I’d just rather stay in. So for a better, more exciting 2014, I’m trying to track my sleep and what I eat, wear the proper shoes (I’ve had weird foot pain lately and realize I have fancy orthodics that I’m not wearing), and start running soon. Yoga starts today. (It’s really hard to find one word that means “I’m going to take care of myself.” I blame the Puritans, as every “self” and “ego” word is considered negative. But dammit, egocentric can also mean self-concerned and self-loving and I don’t see anything wrong with that. It doesn’t mean “at the expense of all others.” As the airlines say, secure your own mask before helping others. And as we say in the South, ain’t nobody happy if Mama ain’t happy. So even though it has a negative connotation, I choose Egocentric.)
  • In 2013 I wrote close to 300,000 words. That included one book, some short stories, several chapters of another book, several rewrites of those chapters, etc. I’m proud of that, but that’s just the beginning. This coming year has got to be more productive. I have to start respecting the demands of the magic spreadsheet again, shooting for my daily wordcount of 500+ instead of 250. If I had kept to the spreadsheet’s guidelines, I might have closer to 400,000 words. I need a word better than “write” or “create” since those would be my words every year. I guess the key here is how I approach writing, a problem I’ve had in the past: Persistence.
  • I’m timid and afraid. See yesterday’s post. I walk the safest path, which is often the laziest path. It hits me when I worry I’m not supporting my kid enough when she wants to capture the moon in a butterfly net. I figure if I can be more risky, I can encourage her to do so. I have a lot of projects in my head that I feel are too risky, and that, obviously, is why I must try them. Risks.

So what about you? For you, my dear listeners, I wish for you persistence, a tough lizard-skin, kindness, an editor who stays in her box until the proper time, wine/chocolate/comfort when you fail, and cheers and tiaras when you succeed. Find your words, find your resolutions, keep writing, keep believing, and good luck.

Fear- The Ugly Cry

This is not one of those inspirational posts that talks with sanitized optimism and comfort about golly gee we all have fear and it’s important to overcome it. No, I’m going to talk about my own fear, my specific and ugly fear, and show you all the snot and the blotchy face and the sobbing. I’m baring my soul so I can have the cathartic experience and perhaps move on.

I’m afraid of starting new projects. I think I’ve gotten to a placid feeling in my life of having plenty of projects due – book contracts or school assignments or story requests – that I have gotten lazy. Nine years ago I had no audience, no readers, and I thought, hey, let’s do this podcasting thing. A project that had no money, no reward, just This Might Be Fun. And it was.

I don’t think like that anymore.

In my own defense, if I have a contract, it takes precedence. I shouldn’t blow off school work when I get a wild idea. But you know what? Right now I’m between contracts. I’m about to graduate from school. I have limitless potential. And I’m fucking terrified.

  • I’m afraid of failure.
  • I’m afraid of succeeding and not knowing how to handle it.
  • I’m afraid there are more eyes on me than ever and I’m open to more criticism.
  • I’m afraid of starting something and fizzling out and slinking away, ashamed. That’s probably the biggest one, the fear of my own lack of motivation.

I know that everything I say on I Should Be Writing is true – that you have to put fears in the Happy Box, that you have to strangle the Inner Editor, that you have to understand that failure, rejection, criticism, none of those will kill you. You can look at authors and other creatives who have tanked their careers (I often marvel at Hollywood in this case) and then five or ten years later rise from the ashes like the phoenix, stronger and better and more popular than ever.

But that stuff is hard to internalize. I feel its truth when I’m saying it on the show, but during the dark times, when I’m not podcasting, when i’m sitting here going AH GAWD I AM A FRAUD AND EVERYONE WILL FIGURE IT OUT ANY TIME NOW, that’s when I’m not on the mic, and I’m not saying the truths, and it’s when I need to hear it the most.

So this is my baring of the soul, the open look at the ugly cry. The truth is I’m so damn afraid of every project I have in mind. It is still hard to look at feedback and critique as helpful instead of “THIS IS DRIVEL QUIT NOW AND GO BACK TO MAKING COFFEE FOR A LIVING.” It’s hard to look at failed projects and think, “OK, what did I learn from this?” instead of “FAILURE MEANS I SUCK AND SHOULD QUIT.”

My subconscious always speaks in all caps. Little punctuation. I know it’s annoying, shit, I live with it every day.

When I’m feeling low, I can’t even look at successes without seeing downsides. I’ve written every day for 393 days? Well, somewhere around July I stopped hitting my big daily wordcount goal (which was something like 600 a day) and went back to hitting minimum 250. Sometimes I do more, but I haven’t been able to work up a good streak of writing over 500 words a day. I won an award? Well, that was for potential. I can easily not live up to THAT expectation. I got a book deal? Great, but those books are done and finished. What is in the future for me?

The absolute worst part of the fear is that when I speak them or write them down, they sound illogical and whining.

I don’t feel like I have the right to have these fears.

I did have a well-received book, I did win an award, I am about to graduate with my MFA. My career is going great. The answers to these fears are clear and obvious.

Airing these fears makes me feel ashamed. But I don’t feel as if I can work through them if I let them fester, so here they are.

I’m afraid nearly all the time. I hold back creatively nearly all the time.

It feels hypocritical since I give advice to deal with this stuff. But that’s one reason I give the advice; the problems of writers are so obvious to me because I feel them all the time. I don’t know if it will make you feel any better, knowing you’re not alone if you feel this way. It could make you feel worse since you might hope that these things go away once you get a book deal/the book comes out/you win an award. For me, they didn’t.

You know when you’re walking down the street and you stumble and flail like an idiot, and you look around and see no one saw, you have that sense of relief that kind of washes over the embarrassment? That’s being a new writer and writing something that doesn’t work. Doing a project that no one cares about. Getting a rejection. Yeah, you stumbled, and that can be disappointing, even disheartening but who cares? No one saw.* Try again. Next time you won’t be as likely to stumble.

The thing is, when you have eyes on you and you stumble, well, it’s a little more embarrassing.

If only we all had the humor and strength to deal with it as well as Jennifer Lawrence did.

And so, now that more eyes are on me, I’m terrified of stumbling; I have held back. And my cold logical stern mind says yeah, but if you don’t walk anywhere, you don’t go anywhere. You take the risk of stumbling when you take that step. And the rewards are worth that risk, dammit.

So there is my ugly cry. I’m afraid of new things. And I’m airing this on New Year’s Day to be cathartic and hopefully push me into realizing that these fears, while very real, are also very stupid, and I need to just create and get it done and over with, and move on. 2004 Mur would be appalled if she saw how I hold back today. We don’t want to appall our past selves.

Now, to create.

Happy New Year!

* And if you’re thinking, “THE EDITOR SAW, MUR!” I promise you, it’s rare the editor formed any opinion about you when they rejected you. They probably didn’t even register your name, unless they’ve seen it many times before. And EVEN THEN you’re still a new writer, and all new writers are expected to submit and be rejected. It’s part of the process. You see it as huge,** that the editor is singling you out to reject you, while you’re just a part of the process to them. You can see this as a positive or a negative. I try really hard to see it as a positive.
** And it is huge. I remember the sting of rejection, and still experience it. But there’s the sting of rejection and the humiliation of public failure, two different feelings, two horrible things.

2013 – Not a bad year

2013 was a weird year for me. Personally and professionally, it was amazing. To many people around me, and close to me, it could have been a hell of a lot better. 2013 brought me the launch of my first book (call it traditionally published, or professionally published, or whatever) in May, which was a huge thrill (The Shambling Guide to NYC). I got asked to be part of a large video game project that was crowdfunded over $1 million (Torment). I became part of another storytelling project (Storium) that should take off next year. And even though graduation will be in January, I still feel as though I’ve ended my MFA program at Stonecoast this year, as my thesis is turned in and my presentation nearly done.

One of the biggest thrills of 2013, and, indeed, my life, was winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author, which I completely didn’t expect. Last year I learned how to lose an award, and I was fully prepared this year. I still feel somewhat stunned when I think about that night.

Another unexpected thing was getting nominated for the RT Best Urban Fantasy award, which cemented my decision to attend the RT conference next year in New Orleans, where the award will be given. (Also, Ghost Train to New Orleans was completed this year, and will launch next year. I may be hosting a party in NOLA. Stay tuned.)

I had my first Guest of Honor gig at VCon, which was, well, an honor. (Also I was GoH alongside Dan Wells, who is a delightful man and a disturbing writer, and John Kovalic, who I managed to spend time and only squee and fangirl at once.) It’s a great con, and I highly recommend attending if you’re in that area of the country.

I got a new agent this year, Jen Udden with the Donald Maass Literary Agency, and I’m excited to be working with her. She’s already giving me tons of feedback to make my WiP better.

Personally, the family is doing great, the kiddo is loving middle school and the husband just celebrated his first year at Google, and is loving working there. Jim made it to San Antonio with me so he could hold my hand at the Hugo Awards, and we also had a few other family trips.

The year had its downsides too. We had several family health problems, including Jim getting hit by a car in May, and some other family issues that it’s not my place to put in public. Most of our issues are resolved, or healing, now, and right now I feel lucky, because things could have gone so much worse.

What does 2014 look like? Well, I certainly hope there will be fewer vehicular accidents. I have the book coming out in March, and I will be doing Torment work early in the year. My convention schedule includes, for sure, RT in May and WorldCon (LonCon!) in August. I’m graduating from Stonecoast in January. I’m teaching at the Shared Worlds camp for teens in July.

And in the middle of it all, I’ll be writing and podcasting like always. This month marks 9 years podcasting for me. NINE. Per tradition, I forgot the actual anniversary. But at least I hit the month, right?

My new year, I hope, will contain more creation and less fear. (I will be blogging about fear later on this week.) More fun and less nursing loved ones back to health. (Of course if they need it, I’ll be there. I more hope they will not need the nursing.) Exercise, running, perhaps even a return to kung fu. But as we all do, I’d just want to take it one day at a time.

Ronin Scientist’s Advent Calendar Day 20-22

So we are now without our computer that does that magic video thing. Scientist is on the run, and all we got is an iphone and a web browser. And it didn’t work! So the video is lost for the season. BUT we got pictures for Day 21. Only those failed too. it’s a Christmas curse. I think we need the Ronin to come home.

But our housesitter is in place and we’re in Buffalo NYC, and the Ronin Scientist is discovering something scary upon arrival. The ornaments on the tree are gone!

Despite our technical difficulties, we did manage to do a live hangout today with Grant and many other advent calendar openers, and that video DID get saved. Mainly because we weren’t involved. Check it out below!

Tomorrow we use Vine.