Looking Past What You See

It’s hard being judged. No matter whether it’s for your gender, your age, your body or any other surface aspect, knowing someone is looking at the outside of you and making determinations about what’s on the inside is discouraging, to say the least.

People are like icebergs. We only see the tip and unless we take the time, we never know about the hidden depths below the surface. It’s easy, and lazy, to look at someone and determine their intelligence, their creativity, their life skills and their worth by an outer inspection, or even a casual glance. Such neglect robs the viewer of the surprise of true character.

This is even more apparent for a writer. Characters need layers as much as they require physical descriptions. There should be hidden depths that add spark to the story and make the reader long for more. I would caution those who wish to hone their writing skills with an admonition: if you are depending on the surface to tell you about the inner person, then likely you are writing stereotypes and not real characters. Be careful you don’t judge away the best part of your story.

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The Economics of Writing

I have this stereotype of a writer I cling to: sitting in a small cafe for hours, hunched over a journal writing, while sipping some form of expensive hot drink from time to time (or wine, which goes better with the fact that I’d really like the cafe to be in Paris). A small part of me still believes you can’t call yourself a true writer until you do that.

As with most of my dreams, however, this one gets hit by a reality check all the time. I am your basic introvert with one quirk: I love to be in crowds. Oh, I don’t want to interact with them, at least not beyond a smile and a few words of chitchat. I think that’s why I love them. They are strangers demanding nothing more of me than basic courtesy.

And I enjoy getting out somewhere to do my writing, somewhere where I can’t see the dishes or the laundry or all the other little things that can pull me away from writing. So I keep trying to find the perfect spot to sit and write. But experience taught me small cafes have a number of limitations:

  • they are very expensive
  • most of those hot drinks they sell contain coffee
  • I hate coffee

Most of them don’t have the noise either, at least not beyond quiet, polite chatter. When I first got serious about my writing, I would sit in a local diner. It was the most creative atmosphere I’ve ever found. There were kids running around, families arguing, waitresses calling orders back. It was awesome. And it was cheap. Which was excellent because more often than not I was broke. The gas money it took to get there was about all I had to spend.

When my finances got somewhat better, I started looking for one of my dream cafes, where artists of all kind would gather and the creativity vibes would reverberate around the room. Yet the writing I did fell far short of my diner journals.

Thanks to my grandchildren, I have become well acquainted with McDonald’s. It’s full of noise of all kinds, kids running around yelling, all the things you’d think would prevent any focus on writing at all. I even got to watch two old men almost come to blows the other day.

But I’m finally ready to admit I do my best work there. And it’s cheap. I can grab a coke for a dollar, there’s an abundance of excellent character material right in front of me and as long as I don’t start a fight, they don’t appear to want to throw me out. I wonder if they have McDonald’s in Paris?

I Read, Therefore I Judge

I’ve been reading the comments sections of posts. Perhaps a bit too much:

trollThe black cloud of negativity, who says things like:

“George R.R. Martin is the most overrated writer in the history of fantasy/sci-fi. His books read like a contract and substitute shock value for originality and talented story telling.”

“You want fluff, read a Dragonlance novel or that shite Gabaldon series.”

And I won’t even go into the comments on the #AskELJames fiasco on Twitter.

For the most part, those in many professions don’t get critiqued by total strangers online. Artists have become, for some unfathomable reason, the target for a kind of criticism that goes beyond taste. It isn’t enough these days to say a particular work isn’t the type you enjoy. It must be slammed into the ground, the artist portrayed as stupid, untalented, etc.

“I don’t like it” isn’t acceptable anymore. The very fact of dislike now impugns not only that work but everything an artist does and even who they are.

I wonder if those who do this have ever considered that wiping out the confidence and the desire of those who make art may leave them without anyone to criticize at all. How many artists give up under the weight of uninformed and untrue insults their work receives? And how many careers are damaged by the platforms so easily available to those whose only talent is to criticize?

I am reminded of an old adage: those who can, do. The twist these days comes in the second part of the saying: those who can’t, criticize.

Why I Have A History Degree

I get a lot of polite smiles when I tell people I have a BA in History. Even my dad shook his head and told me how much he hated history classes, how boring they were. I get it, I really do. The feeling isn’t the same for me, but I understand why people’s eyes glaze over sometimes when they read history books. Too many of them are written by people who act as if they’re still doing it for a grade.

My story is pretty simple. I have a degree in History because of Math. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a passion for history. What I have is much less passion for Math. In fact, I don’t have any passion for Math. Nor any real aptitude for it. It’s a truly loveless relationship.

It isn’t that I didn’t try. I made it a week and a half in the math class I took at the local community college (the remedial one that failing the automated test puts you into so you can learn enough to take the lowest level of real math). I understood more of what was going on in the French class I took.

When I left to complete my BA at a university, I worried about the obstacle of another math class. Then I perused the requirements of the History department. The classes sounded great and there wasn’t a single math class listed. It was made for me.

I studied medieval and reformation Europe, the history of Africa and Germany along with a class on the fall of the Soviet Union. It was awesome. Don’t ever let anyone tell you college doesn’t have a place for everyone. Even History geeks can survive.

Sometimes…

Sometimes I believe there is always a way…sometimes I wish the door would close forever. Life is a complication of choices, death a clear-cut selection.

Sometimes I think now is as good a time as any…sometimes I think yesterday was easier, it held more promise, perhaps more delusion. The truth lives more in today, taking hope in its own direction.

Sometimes there are no answers…sometimes there are no questions, simply facts. I am responsible for me, no one else, even if no one recognizes me anymore.

At this point in my life, no one seeks my heart with the intensity of a lover. Many are in my heart, but they arrived there by default or have been there so long they don’t notice its walls surrounds them anymore.

I realize day by day my heart has become a city that others inhabit but no one owns…or wants to own, at least not more than a small piece of it.

Yes, That Is A Giant Penis

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(A rainbow-colored, glittery one at that)

I love parades. Apparently so do lots of others. Like the folks here watching the parade I went to on Saturday. I like to get out from behind my computer every once in a while, to see the “real” world so I can create realistic, “normal” characters. Just a good writing skill I’ve learned.

A Writer’s Life is Complicated

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(This is me, trying to have it all)

Writing is an obsession. Writing is a chore. It’s the strangest dichotomy I know of to love something that makes you want to pull your hair out. Stories never stop meandering their way through my head. The problem is they don’t meander onto the paper, or the computer screen, at least not with anything resembling ease.

A second level of frustration, for me at least, is the vast difference in those stories. I love to write humor, to know that people are laughing at the words I put together. But I also love to write gut-wrenching emotion. I like mayhem and destruction. I write dark and sometimes morbid plays, humorous romance novels, contemporary murder mysteries and fantasy short stories. Perhaps I need mood management more than lessons on my craft.

And a bit of shameless promotion:

The latest review for my novel, Ghost of a Clue, from The Wild Rose Press can be found here: http://www.drcpromotions.com/2015/05/review-a-ghost-of-a-clue-by-debra-doggett/

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