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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Still Learning After all These Years….


learning-styleI’m almost 50. 50! When I say that I think two things immediately… (1.) Wow that used to seem so far away and (2) 50 ain’t so old… It’s funny that as you get to an age it suddenly doesn’t seem as “old” as it once did. When I was in my 20’s 30 was middle age…now…50 is definitely middle age. The point is, here I am and 50 isn’t just in sight but actually just one exit away and I’m seeing things through those eyes realizing how much I don’t actually know.

I used to wonder if I would ever get to an age where I didn’t have to learn so much. My grandmother used to seem so wise and I would think while listening to her tell stories, “hey I want to be that way one day; older, wiser, not having to “learn” anything anymore…” I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how silly that thought seems now. The truth is you never stop learning, or at least you shouldn’t stop learning. I suppose if you really wanted to you could refuse to learn at some point but I’m here to tell you that even if you aren’t actively learning, life has a way of teaching you a thing or two anyways, so you might as well have some control in the matter and be all active about it.

As a writer I strive to learn everything I can about everything. It’s not that I want to be a know-it-all, (although my brother still thinks I am) I just want to be informed so that when I write my novels I at least seem like I know what I am talking about. It’s important when writing to at least know “something” about your subject matter because if you don’t, your readers will shine a flashlight on your ignorance and that is downright embarrassing.

In this day and age when technology is often the flashlight, it is even more important because those little retired school teachers with nothing better to do but play Bingo on the internet will also point out your mistakes, factual or grammar-wise, for all to see…on the internet. When my second novel came out I personally got hit by a retired grammar Nazi who pointed out, in a review of my book on Amazon, that I had misspelled 42 words within the novel. In a book of some 90,000 words, 42 were misspelled and this little old lady not only found them and highlighted them but then pointed it out on the World Wide Web. (emphasis on worldwide) It was like being caught with your pants down in the backseat of a Ford by a traffic cop…you can’t pull your pants up fast enough.

That little old retired school teacher did teach me something though and, for that, I am grateful. I strived after that to make sure that I went over my spelling even more carefully. It was my first lesson in continuing education and I’ve had many others since. My point is this…I don’t know it all and chances are, I never will, but I can continue to learn as I go and make sure that whatever my subjects are I am as well versed in them as I can be. I don’t like having that flashlight shined on me but, more importantly, I really hate looking stupid.

Despite the fact that 50 is middle age (and you all know it is) I do still have a lot to learn and I intend to do so every single day. My advice to you fellow writers is to do so as well. Continue to ask questions, to read books, to watch movies and documentaries and, most importantly, to listen to the world around you. You still have a lot to learn…and that’s okay…you will, in the end, be a better writer for having done it.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Inspiration, Writing

 

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Not Dead Yet!


5H62U6OLDNM76_1OPPTNQ_PH_L_LSI’m back. After a harrowing 2 weeks of hospitals and tests, I have finally been released from the docs to continue my routine. I had a heart attack which was clearly not as much fun as it seems on television and now I have to change the way I do things. I learned a lot through this experience and even though I wasn’t writing (obviously) I did learn some things about writing…ironic huh?

I know, I know….it takes a certain kind of obsession to relate EVERYTHING to writing doesn’t it? But, alas, I do and while I was in the hospital I did…as usual. So here is what I realized about writing while having a heart attack… (hey, maybe I’ll write a book)

  1. You can relate anything to writing – While being rushed into the ER I was the guest of our local paramedics. I have to say that while that was not really all that fun, I did find myself realizing some things about paramedics that I hadn’t known before. First off, you know how on television they seem all calm and cool…not true in real life. Those guys are just as scared as we are as patients. It was oddly amusing to realize that once these guys realized that I was “actually” having a heart attack…they were completely panicked. They did a great job but I realized how human they really are. I would have written them differently before that.
  2. You do realize what is important in a crisis and for me it was writing – When I was being wheeled out of the house on a gurney I had two thoughts, (a) crap I think I’m really having a heart attack and (b) where’s my iPad. Seriously….
  3. It is important to relate to others that you are a writer – Let’s be honest, we are a different breed of human. I ask an enormous amount of questions and I know things that other people don’t normally know or even care about. So when I started going through tests and was coherent enough to talk, I asked question after question causing quite a few annoyed looks….until I explained that I am a writer. Once the hospital personnel heard that, the flood gates of info opened. Of course, I got just as many questions back but that’s okay. For most people being a writer is kind of cool….work that…ALWAYS.
  4. It is important to figure out what you want in life and then aim for it – I had a lot of time to think while I was in that annoying constantly moving hospital bed. (it moves to help your circulation but it’s annoying as hell) I thought about all the regular stuff like how my spouse and my kids were feeling, that I needed to spend more time with them and all, but I also thought about my writing, my work. I wondered at one point if this was it…was I going to die? Then it hit me…for the last four months I have been working on the worse story of my career and I have been trying to make it work. If I died, that would be the last impression of me…crap! It is important to really consider what you are working on and if it isn’t what you want, let it go. The reaper can come at any time and for Pete’s Sake you don’t want your legacy to be something stupid that you just couldn’t let go. Stop wasting your time and get on to the good stuff.

The last few weeks have clarified a lot for me but mostly it clarified that I love what I do and I should be doing it more and better. So if I pass on anything at all to you fellow artists, it’s this…figure it out…all of it. Don’t wait until a heart attack comes knocking; find your passion and get on with it. Life is short…trust me.

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Healthy Writers

 

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Patience Please


Please be patient with Jai. Jai had a minor heart attack on Sunday and is now recooping….The Writer’s Advice will return on Monday, January 28th. If it’s not one thing it’s another right?

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Writing

 

You Can’t be a Writer if you’re Dead….


thSo I had a health scare this week, a pretty serious one in fact, that is changing the way I do everything, including writing. On Monday morning I woke up to a dreadful “pain” in my chest. I thought it was indigestion…it wasn’t. So after a week of testing, being poked and prodded by doctors, nurses and maybe even the janitor at the local hospital I have been told that I have an enlarged heart and not in the Grinch Stole Christmas good way either.

The diagnosis hit me between the eyes because last year I lost weight and had been generally taking better care of myself than I had in years…or at least I thought I had. I was wrong. Sure I was eating right and drinking more water. I was making an effort to move around more and I was watching less television but still…it wasn’t enough. My doctor, (who knows that I am a writer) and I had a long talk. Here is what I realized…

As a writer I spend more time sitting than anything else. It doesn’t matter if I make myself get up once an hour, I am still, for the most part, sitting. I also tend to eat at my desk so I can work through lunch. (and breakfast and dinner and snacks..) I spend more time at my computer than I do sleeping, especially when on deadline. I allow myself to be bullied by publishers and clients who “need stuff right now” instead of setting limits. I am allowing my writing to kill me and that’s not good.

Being a good writer doesn’t mean that you have to be glued to a chair writing 24-7. Being a good writer is more about making sure that the time you do spend is “quality” writing time. You have to make it count. There are a lot of “mentors” or “experienced” writers out there who will tell you things like, “butt in chair” and “writing has to be your number one priority”….those things simply are not true. You can’t write if you’re dead (and if you can…well…there’s a whole other issue) so the actual most important part of writing is taking care of the actual writer.

My lesson for this week….I have to limit my time at my desk, I have to take part in my own life and I have to at least ensure my survival if I am to write at all. My advice to you? Get out of the chair, limit your writing time to quality time and don’t try and literally write yourself to death. One day you may have a doctor in your face telling you that you have a lot of adjustments to make or your grandkids will never really know you and that sucks. I’m changing…how about joining me.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Healthy Writers

 

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Reset Sunday – Take in a Game…No Not that Kind of Game…


AZ-Brain-GamesYes, it’s Sunday. Yes, folks expect you to watch football. But here’s a thought…instead of veg’ing out in front of the television…how about a brain game? A what? A brain game, something to work on keeping that noggin of yours clear and bright.

A lot of folks have discovered Sudoku and I’m all for that if you are not math challenged as I am. I prefer brain games that make me think and are fun. If you have an iPad there are games galore. I have about 20 on mine that are all “zen” oriented, meaning you can go at your own pace and they are designed to relax your brain in a way that isn’t hurried or stressful. But there are also games that test your brains response time too. Nintendo DS has the “Brainage” games which were actually designed by doctors to hone your skills. These are fun too.

But if you don’t have all the electronics you can still relax on a Reset Sunday and work on your brain through crossword puzzles, word searches and even a puzzle. The whole point is to challenge your brain while relaxing and having some fun as well. So take a Reset Sunday or even weekday evenings and instead of the television, work that noggin…trust me, when you are older, you’ll be glad you did.

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Reset Sundays

 

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The Importance of Being Patient


patience-quotes(Saturday’s Column)

We live in a world of now, now, now. We want our dinners microwaveable, our dry cleaning instantaneous, our responses to e-mail and phone calls immediately. We don’t care who we put out because, damn it, we have stuff to do!

This is a sad state for the world to be in, in my humble opinion. Things like savoring have fallen by the wayside and we, even as writers, don’t take the time to do anything except hurry up. It’s time folks to slow down a bit. If you don’t, you may never get that favorite story of yours published and here’s why….

Despite the fact that the planet has been switched to fast forward, humans are still humans. We still put our pants on one leg at a time, we still have to put that microwaveable crap into a plate or bowl and we still find ourselves winding down between 2-4 p.m. It is the nature of things and no matter how much you want to hurry some things up, because we are human, we still have to wait to some degree. This goes without saying for your writing too.

You have to slow down and edit the story, you have to slow down and find the “right” publisher for that story and, you have to slow down and wait for a response from said publisher once you’ve submitted your work. All of these things require patience. If you don’t edit correctly you’ll look like a boob, if you don’t find the right publisher, the one you send it to will call you a boob and if you bug that publisher you submitted to enough, you’ll get a refusal letter that begins with, “Dear Boob…go away now”. (Disclaimer – I don’t happen to think that “boobs” are stupid in anyway and understand the resentment from some women at the implication by the usage of said word above….I simply am using it as it has been for years, yet, I am now wondering why that began in the first place…I digress….)

To be a successful writer, patience has to be involved. Ours is not a craft that can be rushed no matter how badly we need to pay the light bill…it simply is what it is…a process…. So remember this week to slow down… Take the time to do what you do correctly and you will see that for all your patience…you will be rewarded….in the words of my grandmother…”Be the turtle”……

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Healthy Writers, Writing

 

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The Death of One Man’s Voice


freedom(Friday’s Column)

Yesterday it was reported that Aaron Swartz, 26, was found dead in his New York apartment, an apparent suicide. Swartz became an Internet folk hero, pushing to make many Web files free and open to the public. In July 2011, he was indicted on federal charges of gaining illegal access to JSTOR, a subscription-only service for distributing scientific and literary journals, and downloading 4.8 million articles and documents, nearly the entire library. Aaron was indicted for trying to make knowledge available to everyone.

Now as a writer, you may be thinking, “wait, what do you mean he wanted to make information available to everyone? It isn’t what you think. Aaron wasn’t trying to make your writing free…he was trying to make the places you research free. The places where you find the information to support the writing you do. If the government had had it their way, and you wrote something that they found, “offensive” they would be able to dump your entire website and then ban you from the inter net for life. All that advertising you do for your book and maybe even your book itself would be deemed “anti-government” and that would be the end of your writing career. Aaron Swartz was fighting for us all.

What the government did to this young man whose future may well have changed ours is an outrage. Whether you believe that Aaron Swartz killed himself or was murdered, his death was unnecessary and our government had a hand in it in an effort to shut him up, stop him from changing the world for the better. Take a listen to one of this young visionary’s talks and ask yourself…is this the kind of world that you want to live in, and if it’s not…keep posting, keep accessing information, keep writing and keep supporting those who would protect our civil liberties from those who want to take them away for the sake of control.

 

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2013 in Inspiration

 

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