I’m participating in a Strong Women in Fiction giveaway! You can win an audiobook code for any one of my books! I’ll be giving away 2 codes for the US Audible store and 1 for the UK Audible store. (If you can sign into Audible from your country just sign up for the appropriate country.)
I try to make all my female characters strong. They are strong in different ways. Eva is sort of physically strong, but she is very strong in intellect in her particular field, she is strong because she is a survivor. Faye is a survivor, she is physically strong, she is a leader and has the strength of her community. Daisy is strong, she’s got a long way to go to grow into her strength but she has the strength of convictions and passions. Diane’s strength comes from her kindness and love. Heather is strong in her passionate defense of nature. Jenna has the strength of a survior and her sense of self is strong. Ethel is magically strong and strong in that she has seen everything during her lifetime. Liv is physically strong and she’s strong for her daughter. Allie’s strength lies in dealing with the disasters she makes for herself (maybe someday she’ll learn how to not do that, but don’t hold your breath). Strength is different for different characters. I’ve only really got 2 physically really strong characters (and only 1 of them is incredibly strong).
Strength comes with complexities. Allie charges forward with a great strength of conviction into lots of impulsive decisions. She’s always sure they are the right choice. And she’s strong enough to struggle her way out of it when it turns out that they aren’t really. She’s not that smart, she’s fine and does ok at work, but wow does she make bad choices for good reasons. Coming to realize that would be strength…we shall see if she’s strong enough for that.
Diane is passionate about helping others. She loves to help animals. She cares so deeply for those around her. She would sacrifice anything to help and care for those who can’t help themselves. And that strength is incredible. Even if she’s clumsy and not quite sure how to piece things together and doesn’t always see what’s obvious. She’s going to be the one to bring you soup when you are sick and walk your dog. And that’s absolutely strength too.
Let me tell you a little about the podcast listener, reader, and audiobook listener I used to be.
I didn’t read, I devoured.
I would stay up until 11:30 pm and then went “well…I can just get the next book and like read the first chapter” and then it was 3 am and “well, I’m not going to sleep now so I might as well get the next one”…and then go to work and sneak off on every break I can to read and then do it until I finished the series. (I have now had to ban myself from reading novels during the work week or I will miss work.) I ruminated. I would spend days thinking about the world, the implications, and how it changed my life to have read that book. I totally wrote fanfic in my head (though I didn’t really call it that because I didn’t know). I would occasionally spend Sunday brunches rehashing all of that would a good friend.
I loved books. Books helped me survive breakups, job loss, and deaths. Books comforted me when I couldn’t get out of bed. Books were my friend when I felt utterly alone.
Podcasts and audiobooks?
I wasn’t just a listener. I never work out without them. Frankly I don’t know that I could leave the house without earbuds and something I’m looking forward to listening to. Every walk I’ve taken, every trip to the gym, every time I took the long walk home from work…It was always a podcast or audiobook.
Rethinking work? Planning a novel? Need a new organization strategy? A new to do app? Want to learn…anything? It was always podcasts and audiobooks. The amount I have learned and the ways I have changed my life thanks to podcasts and audiobooks is immeasurable.
But you might notice something is missing from how I interacted with those things. I never joined a Facebook group, emailed, joined an email list, visited a website*, or tweeted. I never interacted with the authors, creators, hosts, producers, narrators. I honestly never even thought about it for a moment. I never had any interest in connecting. I absolutely thought of those people as real, I would often see or hear their journies in ways that I could follow very closely. I never reached out to tell someone that they made a tremendous difference in my life. I never conveyed that someone helped me get out of bed when I felt like I was too depressed to get up. I never told an author, a podcaster or a narrator that they made me feel like I could do it, that they gave me the confidence in myself, that I stand taller because of them.
But they did. All those things. Authors, podcastors, narrators, creators. You did that.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person like this. Because people like this (me) don’t speak up and tell you they exist. Not everyone engages. Some just consume. We quietly download, buy, listen, and love. We cherish, adore, rage, and admire. Even though we never engage on social media.
When I am stressed, busy, tired, sad, whatever…I retreat to this position. Consuming, so much consumption. But not so much engagement. Because it’s something I don’t understand. It’s not intuitive to me. Consumption is intuitive.
I just wanted to let people who feel like only the engaged consumers care…others are out there. We just…are different.
*I have occasionally check show notes to follow a link to a story or paper, but usually just went right to google myself and only went back to the show notes when I couldn’t find it on google myself. And I would be more likely to give up than go to the show notes.
I’ve been doing a lot of learning new things lately.
My day job has been full of new learning. So much new learning. New programs, new systems, new ideas, new ways of working.
I’ve been taking on a new writing strategy and kind of way of thinking and that’s a lot of new learning.
I finally bit the bullet and took on a new DAW this weekend and am trying to learn to use that and learn a new way to do that work.
It’s something I know but forget, it exhausts me so much. Which I think is fairly normal. It requires a lot of new skills, brain power, and sometimes changing the ways you physically do things. Creating those new patterns and pathways in the brain in a lot of work.
It is also really frustrating to feel not good at something you’ve previously felt skilled at. And it’s not great to stack them on top of each other. I’m very much feeling a deep I’m not good at anything because of all of these parts stacking up on each other.
What do you do to learn? To feel like you excel at something? To get your footing under you in a new realm?
I’ve had a couple of really good chats with friends this weekend. Thinking about brain capacity, what you spend your brain energy on, wearing it down, and being short on capacity.
I kind of having been letting that shift around in my head a little and based on some of those conversations, here are my thoughts.
I have several different kinds of brain capacity and different things spend down different buckets.
This is the stuff that is the focused details, the checklists, the tools. For me this is something I spend down fairly quickly when I’m overwhelmed. I do ok when I have the same project or I know the work and just loop through and am repeating it. When I’m trying to come up with a new organizational plan it’s much more creative than organizational for me. But once I’m settled in, it’s just a matter of following through, which I’m great at when I’m not spending down my energy on other things. (I’ve had a couple of spates of this being really hard for me this year, when I was really sick for over a month, and when I had the Giant Person Eating Work Project. I was a mess.)
For podcasting there was a lot of creating a new plan and coming up with the structure in the month before and the 6 months or so after I started the podcast, but by that point I was settled into a routine and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I have shifted things up a bit here and there and I have a couple more shifts I’d like to make, but they are fairly small, and my routine feels comfortable and like it’s mostly accomplishing what I want.
For writing it’s still a really big challenge on the front and back ends. The middles I’m good with, and the short works I’m ok with. But the start and end of novels or novellas and the organization, planning, and structure that goes into those is rough. I have a novella I’m supposed to be working on putting out this fall and I’m just…exhausting thinking about it. I have no idea how I’m going to manage it.
Oooof. This is…hard. Just hard. It’s such a challenge for me, and the thing I always feel like I’m worst at. It’s also the most important when I’m stressed about other things so that makes it more of a challenge.
When I started the podcast I was at a really good humaning place at work which I think let me feel comfortable starting it out. I was surprised by the amount of humaning podcasting required, but I think that I am an underestimator of how much work it takes me to do. Meeting new people, reaching out, having new conversations, traveling uncharted waters.
Writing I don’t human as much, still more than ideally, but I think much, much less than I need to to really be successful.
And here’s the kicker. In the last couple months at my day job I’ve been moving into work that is basically entirely humaning. (It’s good and I’m excited, but for right now…) It’s exhausting. I need to learn a whole new set of people, how they react, what sets them off, what makes them gleeful, what pisses them off. What to do when I have to ask a favor. What to do when I screw up. And what to expect from them. When someone asks me a question, is it going to make me grind my teeth or will it be a whole lot of something for a 2 second answer.
This isn’t just writing, this is creative problem solving, this is creative thoughts about a project, this is trying to develop something new. Writing is a corner stone of this for me. And it is something that I was doing when my day to day work was less creative. I’ve had jobs that have had a ton of creativity in them. Not writing fiction. But there is a lot of creativity beyond that out there. But when I’ve been satisfied at my jobs, but not quite so challenged creatively, writing has been a great opportunity for me. I don’t think that I want to seek out jobs that don’t challenge me creatively simply in order to write, but I think that it is a internal conversation worth having. At this time and place in my life the answer to that is no. But that doesn’t mean it won’t change. I could very well some day decide that what I want is a quiet job I can do peacefully without strain for 8 hours a day and go home and be incredibly creative.
The day job is taking a lot more of my creative brain. When I’m letting my mind wander at 3 am it is more often wandering to work projects than wandering off into outer space. I’m thinking about how to resolve an issue with work instead of with a character. It’s left me feeling a little like I’m bad at being creative, but I don’t think that’s it at all, I think it’s just different. It’s not that I’m not good at thinking about the world differently, it’s that I’m applying those skills to a different problem in my life.
This might not be the perfect way to talk about this. And it isn’t exclusively technical as in computers and such. It is technical as in the meat and potatoes of the work I’m doing. If it’s writing it’s stuff like how well structured is this plot. Have I done a good job of developing all of my characters. For writing this might include things like creating character bios for all of my characters as well as just the put my damn pen to the damn paper (or my fingers on the keyboard) and write. For work this would be the actual every day work. The digging in and doing it.
Technical seems like the bucket that is most easily replenished. It is also the thing that I can most easily OOMPH my way through if I just need to dig in and get shit done. If that’s writing it’s on day 25 of NaNo still sitting down at the keyboard and typing even though I don’t feel like it. It is following the plan and structure that I already have based on the creative skills and the planning I did. If there’s an outline of what to do, technical is following it through.
Technical isn’t bad at all. It is something I am extremely proud of. Technical is what turns someone from a dreamer into an author. Technical is what makes an “ideas person” into a leader. Technical is doing the damn work. And if you aren’t doing the damn work and you’re just talking about it?
(Thank you Meg from Indoorswomen (which is awesome) for being the Gif Queen!)
I’m mostly just sharing this because I think it can be really helpful to examine where you are (where I am!) and what skills you are flexing or using. Right now I’m using a lot of Creative and Humaning at work and I’m leaning on my Technical for podcasting (which makes me feel really good about the podcast, about being a podcaster, and about podcasting, all forms of that word!).
What are your brain capacity buckets? What do you use? Lean on? Flail with? Other?
There are a lot of New Year’s Resolutions and 52 weeks of and 365 days of things. I generally like to try to aim to build on and do things without imposing too much structure because then I become a overly, inappropriately devoted to the structure instead of the things. So I like the Year of idea. (Thank you Cortex!)
I’ve been thinking about what my year is. I didn’t have a great plan or strategy. A few ideas sort of floated around and I kept working on the things I knew I wanted to work more on.
I feel like all of those things I’m thinking about are now sort of focused on the thing that it has all coalesed behind, so I don’t know that I can be even objectivish about it.
So what is it?
The Year of Story
It sort of all came together. I’m not entirely sure how. A moment of clarity, or confusion, depending on how you see it. This year is the year of story. In writing, in podcasting, in work. I’m not entirely sure what this means for me as I keep going.
I’ve been reading a lot about storytelling, both the art of stories for fiction and for stories of a kind at work. I’m going to be doing more work with other kinds of stories at the office. The trainings I’ve been a part of this year have talked a lot about story. And I may or may not have pushed them that way…
Much of what I’ve been thinking about is the power of stories and the way they are told.
I don’t know that I’ve come up with anything that changes anything, but it will help to coalese some of these things in my own head.
Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?
Yes. Very yes. Absolutely I quit. I didn’t think it was something I could do. I thought it was something that was in my past. There was a tale that I wasn’t creative and I believed it. I completely bought it. I thought that writing was something I wouldn’t be able to do anymore. That part of my life was over. I needed to move on. Enjoy reading and do other things with my life.
I started to have tiny little glimpses that maybe I could. Maybe there was space somewhere for me in writing. Maybe I wasn’t too old, logical, cynical, boring, whatever else. And that little hope grew. I did some writing here and there. I tried to feed and nurture it despite all else. Let it continue to grow.
Then I read something by Lois McMaster Bujold in the course of my regular reading. And it was good and so I looped my way back into the start (I am completely unbothered by reading out of order so it was somewhere later in the series). I read Shards of Honor and Barrayar. Something about a character who was an adult. Not just old enough to drink. But overall quite reasonable and adult. That was amazing. Something about that made me double down on the writing.
Reading more, learning more, writing more. I really started back in on it. And not all my characters are like that, but it very much kicked me into feeling like there was space for me. I also really enjoyed that despite the books being old, like decades out of date, they didn’t feel like it. I didn’t read them and flinch at the language, the characters, the ideas.
So yes, I quit. And yes I came back. And I’m glad. I might do it again, and that too will be ok.
Scrivener is THE tool. It’s great. If you’ve used it for writing, you likely enjoy it. It might be too complex or not quite right, but a lot of people really love it. I certainly am a fan. But mostly I use it for writing novels, short stories, things like that. But this year I’ve expanded how I use it. I’ve started using it as a promotional tool.
Scrivener and Marketing
I have a file that’s just my name (it started as just the name of the podcast but I use it for more than that). And it has in it several sets of things one is a task tracking kind of set. It’s not a great To-Do tool, but for the things that I’m using it for (add the podcast to these places, write up this author interview, etc) it works great, I move them through and then have the final information on things I’ve done all compiled together.
First is a task tracking kind of set. It’s not a great To-Do tool, but for the things that I’m using it for (add the podcast to these places, write up this author interview, etc) it works great, I move them through and then have the final information on things I’ve done all compiled together.
I have a folder that is just “About Me” and it has in it a lot of links. So many links. All my social media links, all my books in all the places they are (and for a bonus…the html for some of those link sets), all the podcast links etc. This makes it much easier when some form wants me to enter all this information? Just open this up and drop in all the links. It also means if anything happens to the website, or anywhere else? I’ve got that code right at my finger tips.
I also have my bio. All the forms of it organized and as I imagine it evolves I’ll have older versions stashed away there too.
I have a media folder. Some day I’d like that folder that is sort of a press kit. And that would be a generic version. I think the ideal place for the press kit for each book will be in that book’s Scrivener file. (Though…here would be nice too…hm.)
The media I have right now is all the links to my work, interviews, places you can find someone else talking about me, or me talking to someone else.
I’ve been wondering a little lately what’s the point? Not in general. I mean a little in general. But specifically with intellect. What’s the point in being the smartest person in the room if you never bring anyone with?
At the times in my life I’ve recognized that I’m smart (which are not all the times, sometimes I haven’t been…sometimes I haven’t recognized it) I want to do what it takes to bring everyone else along. I don’t want people to fall behind. I don’t want people to get frustrated, flustered, or hurt because they aren’t able to keep up.
Not My Job
I’ve heard a few people who are smart revel in their intelligence and just let others fall behind.
I feel like this is sort of an idea of bootstraps but in another kind of way. You just have to get yourself there, you have to do it on your own.
But I think that part of being smart, especially part of being the smartest person in the room is helping others. If you can’t explain things to people who don’t already know it…how well do you really understand it. You might not be able to get them up to your level, but you should be able to get people a large part of the way.
Sometimes that means stopping and explaining it in a new way. Use an analogy, a metaphor, a story, anything. Do something to help people. Don’t just keep repeating the same phrase over and over.
It’s So Obvious
I’ve done this. I’m trying to do less of this. Some things are, or seem to be, super obvious to one person and completely obscure to another. I see this when I step into another world. I think other people should regularly step into another world. Do something that is someone else’s expertise where you have to. Learn something and feel a little out of your depth. Or don’t even learn it, but have to deal with something in your world that isn’t your thing. That uncomfortable, lost, frustrated feeling. Remember that.
When was the last time you had to deal with something that was outside your realm of expertise that made you feel lost and concerned?
(By the way. I’m not feeling great, I’ve been sick for the last week plus, really rough shape. Ugh. If I’ve missed contact with you please reach out to me again. Thank you for your patience.)
Another round of Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This time I’ve been thinking about revitalization.
The Official March Question
Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?
Um…yes and no? “Really old” is pretty subjective. I feel like it’s hard to say yes because I’ve not pulled out anything that existed only on paper. (Though my mom did find a story I wrote when I was 5. It was adorable. But I didn’t feel the need to rework it.)
Dangerous Metal was initially a radically different story. I wrote it, tried to go back and edit it, actually went through and changed the tense and POV for about 75% of the book before I realized that the whole story didn’t work. I finally reevaluated what the story really needed to be about, what was the core of it, what was the conflict, what was interesting. So I sat down and wrote Dangerous Metal with the same(ish) cast of characters and what had been barely a side plot turned to be the focus. What had been the primary plot trashed entirely. What had been the genre trashed entirely. And really pivoted hard. Hard.
I think it turned out really well for the most part. Far better than the initial, which had some good moments, but was still really rough. I’m not a great writer now, I hope to always be able to be a better writer and be able to see that I can be a better writer. But wow was I worse then. I’ve learned a lot of stuff since. And that’s continuing to be true.
I feel like I’ve had several hurdles I’ve manage to climb over (because that’s what you do with hurdles, I mean, you’re supposed to effortlessly leap them while staying low to the ground and maintaining an incredible speed… but when I as not a magician try to deal with hurdles I climb over them). Each time I manage to get to the other side I do better, so I look back and go WOW.
First, characters. This was a long time ago, creating characters-for the most part-seems like the natural thing to do.
Then I spent a lot of time, strangely writing …descriptive things? I once write a wikipedia style thing about an alien solar system, including all the math. That was fun. (I’m not kidding, I quite enjoyed the math and structure that came with it.) Then oddly once it came to creating characters or plot I just went…nah! (And more of these hurdles…dot.dot.dot boring!)
I think I’ve come a long way, and I can see that what I go back to redo doesn’t have the benefits that present me brings to the table so it is hard to rework some much older things, or things that are significant hurdles ago. Sometimes it is easier to set things aside. I know the times I struggle the most are when I try to rework something that has real deeply fundamental flaws because I’m simply a writer with more knowledge now than I was before. That’s ok. I’d say that’s great. But it does make it harder to rework things.
How about you? Check out what other insecure writers have to say too!