Crazy May

Audio Edition Coming Soon!

Jorge Cham at PHD Comics (07/28/2014)


Maybe all this pollen in the air has addled my brain, but it seems like May 2018 has been the month for me to engage in some crazy writer shenanigans. Three, to be exact:

Shenanigan #1: Made a new website!

Don’t worry, The Cat’s Cradle isn’t going anywhere! I may be ridiculously behind on my Audio Editions, but I’ll still be posting here every other Monday on writerly topics. LeNoWriCha is sticking around as well, although I really dropped the ball on updating that in the last two weeks of April. However, writing has been kind of a drag lately, and I wanted to do something fun and geeky and that’s how Second Unit Reviews came into being. (See the FAQ on the site for more details about the content.) For the next several months, one old review will post every Friday, and I’ll add newer reviews sporadically as they occur.


Shenanigan #2: Participated in “Story-A-Day!”

The goal of this challenge is to write a short story or flash fiction of some kind every day (or on a certain number of days, depending on your personal preference and schedule) during the month of May. I signed up, but have been failing abysmally. Short stories are not my forte, and even though Story-A-Day recommended getting some practice rounds in before May, I totally didn’t do that, and now I’m floundering. It’s not that I lack ideas (I’ve got an entire Pinterest page dedicated to images that inspire stories) but rather I have a really hard time shaping them into short stories. I tend to feel like what I come up with for the short story is so flat and boring that I’ll never been able to get it to a point where it engages people. Yes, I know that’s a self-defeating attitude/self-fulfilling prophecy, but damn it’s been hard to focus. At this point, I’ve gotten about 3.5 stories done in a rough draft form. (The 0.5 belongs to a story that is missing pieces as I jumped from one scene to another to avoid having to describe procedures in a convincing fashion.) So at least I accomplished something and will hopefully be better prepared either later this year or for next May, whichever comes first.


Shenanigan #3: Signed up for a writing class!

Waaaaay back in 2017, I went to the Writers Digest Annual Conference in New York City. The conference itself was an emotional mess for me, but something good has come out of it. One of the panels I attended was “Rock Your Revisions” by Gabriela Pereira. I really liked her panel and her focus on trying to find a system that is efficient enough to get your work done, but flexible enough that you don’t try forcing a round story into a square system. When I got home, I signed up for her email newsletter and started learning about her flagship program DIY MFA (“Knowledge without the college”) which offers a cheaper and more streamlined way of approaching writing as an art, craft, and profession. MFA programs (Master of Fine Arts) tend to take several years of complete commitment and a lot of money. Those two factors, plus my own desire never to attend college again, contributed to MFAs not even being on my radar. But I was intrigued and I really enjoyed her limited-time video workshop called “Stop Dreaming, Start Doing.” It broke apart some writing myths and offered suggestions on how to approach your work.

The piece of advice that really hit home for me was about time. We all complain about not having enough time. But Gabriela points out that every one of us is given the same 24 hours, from best-selling authors to complete noobs. Granted, there are some responsibilities that you can’t get out of, like going to your day job or eating or keeping the house clean. But there is still time during the day. The question is, what are you doing with it? She urges writers to get out of the victim mind-set and into one that gives you more control, namely, acknowledging that when you are doing something that is not writing, you are making a choice. You are choosing to lay on the couch watching TV instead of writing. You are choosing to scrub the toilet instead of writing. You are choosing to flip through page after page of Facebook posts or Pinterest pictures.

This mindset puts your time firmly back under your own control. For me personally, it has been a nice little wake-up call and I’m trying to be a little more mindful of what I am doing when not at my day job or engaged in some other absolutely necessary task. When I’m doing something, I try to stop and consciously think about what I am doing and why I’m doing it. Is it because I’m anxious? Bored? Tired? Procrastinating? At the end of the workshop, there was a video that was essentially an advertisement for taking Gabriela’s course DIY MFA 101. (However, to her credit, this ad video was not grating like a lot of other self-promotional materials I’ve run across.) I decided to give it a shot.

But why? After all, it’s not like I don’t have a pretty decent grasp of the craft. I did finish an entire manuscript and have plenty more in the works. I’ve been making up stories since I was a kid, so this isn’t new to me. And I’ve read plenty of how-to books on the craft of writing, so it’s not like I can’t get access to a lot of the information that DIY MFA 101 probably contains. But as Gabriela pointed out, why waste the time when someone else has already curated and steam-lined the information for you? That’s time that could be better spent writing. And after my good experience with her panel and online workshop, I bit the $600 bullet and signed up for this 10-week course on writing. (That may seem a little pricey, but that’s about the cost of a 3-credit college course and you have perpetual access to the DIY MFA 101 materials, even after the course is done.)

So… yeah. I’m paying for a writing course. Something I never thought I’d do. But I have and we’ll see how this goes. I’m still a little skeptical, but also kind of excited. As much as I complain about school, I do enjoy learning, especially about something I’m very interested in. Maybe not all of the course will be useful, but whatever I can glean to increase efficiency and productivity is, I think, worth the price of admission. Wish me luck!

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