Three Things a Writer Will Always Do

It’s 5 am, I’m sick as a dog and I’m up writing. Guess you would call this a true labor of love. But I digress, as always. (If you follow my posts, remember I never promised you perfection or any resemblance of normalcy.) So I got on my normal “lost in thought” part of the writing process and came up with the 3 things a writer will always do.

So without further ado …

1. A writer will always think their writing sucks and that no one will want to read it. It doesn’t matter how well-written it is, how well you beat the shit out if writer’s block or if you had the best editor God ever gave the gift of grammar, the self-doubt will always be there.

And this brings me right to number two …

2. I’m a writer, damn it! I’m not an editor! Big difference! So I can still feel somewhat competent when I say THE EDITING PROCESS SUCKS CYCLOPS BALLS! (And I can only assume they would be massive and hairy, and very salty!) I can write 10 short stories in 30 days, but it will take me 3 months to rewrite, edit and perfect.

And last, but not least …

3. A writer will always find inspiration at the most inconvenient time. Mine usually hits me when dropping off the kids at school, sitting on the toilet, or right before I hit “Never Never Land”: the place between sleep and awake. Either way, it’s never in a place where I have a pen and paper handy.

Welp, those are the three things that made my list. I’m off to my second cup of coffee to prepare for another glorious day in corporate America <– please note the heavy sarcasm!

Do you have anything else to add to the list?

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An Apology Letter to My Main Characters

So I decided to write a letter to some of the main characters I created because we’ve been through so much together. And it goes a little something like this …

Dear Main Characters:

I know we’ve been through a Loy over the years, but I’ve been feeling the need to tell you how very sorry I am for what I’ve put you through.

I am sorry for the time I left you in that closet with only a plunger handle for protection while zombies ate your co-workers for three weeks.

That was never my intention, but I’d gotten so busy with work and the kids that I forgot I left you in there.

Then, of course, there was that time when I turned your brother into a werewolf that just so happened to eat your best friend. I swear to you that is not how your story was supposed to end. I was just trying to add some layers to my plot.

Ok, so I know what you’re thinking. I know I haven’t apologized for the worst part yet, but I swear I’m sorry for that too! Yes, I wanted to write about a possessed family pet, but the editor was requesting something really sick and twisted, hence the ending. (But we’re not going to talk about the details of that gross-out feat here.)

The long and short of it is that I’m a big enough person to say I’m sorry. I’m not perfect, but neither are you. But that’s ok with me.

Who wants to hang out with perfect people anyway. They’re boring as hell.

I just want you to understand that sometimes when my creative juices get going it’s hard to stop and even more difficult to try and predict where they’re going to go. Regardless of what happened , I want you to know that I love you.

I am, literary, nothing without you and I hope you can find it within your pages to forgive me.

Sincerely,

Erin T. McMillon
Author of:
“The Becoming of Us, Vol. I”
“The Becoming of Us, Vol. II”
And
“What’s Hiding in the Dark?”

P.S. Just an FYI, you’ll probably be getting run over by a truck or eaten by a horse of zombies soon, but I’ll write another letter for that later.

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I Quit My Job! You Should Too!

I don’t know very many people that get up in the morning, dress in their best, and skip to work because they are thrilled about what they do from 9 to 5.

I know there are some people out there with really cool jobs like the guy who rides roller coasters all day to “test” their aerodynamic soundness. Those few people aside, the vast majority of people I know drag themselves into work in the morning and are threatening to jump off the top of the building by lunch time.

Why? Because work sucks!

We torture ourselves every day to earn money to pay the light bill, buy groceries, and, for a lucky few, take the kids on vacation.

And this is why I’m telling you to quit your job!

But before you stand up, scream obscenities at your boss, and walk out the door, hear me out.

I recently stopped giving my “all” to my job. I woke up one day and resolved to keep my head in my 9 to 5 and my heart in the things I really love to do. It was a conscious effort at first because I didn’t want the quality or quantity of my work to suffer, but got easier as I went along. I learned how to do my job, do it well, leave it at work, and focus on me and the things I like to do.

It’s been two months and I have a book of short stories (getting the editing done is a whole different story), a plush, full garden (with tomatoes coming any day now), and two kids that enjoy their “cuddle time” with mommy after work.

WHAT?!?! I didn’t have any of this when I was pouring myself into my 9 to 5!

I was always told that if you work hard, you will be rewarded. What I had to learn was that you have to carefully define what “work hard” means to you and how to apply it to your personal and professional lives.

I quit my job and made my life richer! Don’t you want to do it too?

Pinocchio: “I’m a real writer I swear!”

 

I had plans to write this epic blog Monday morning about an article I came across a few days before.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t write it because my mind couldn’t focus on anything but the fact that it was 5 a.m. and I still hadn’t finished my first cup of coffee.

With my mind still in Never Never Land (the land between sleep and awake for those of you who don’t know), the thoughts of self-doubt began creeping in.

For the past month or so, I’ve been writing more and faster than I thought I could.

Hell, I’ve pumped out 12 short stories and of course I think they’re pretty good.

I came up with the brilliant idea of putting ten of them together and publishing a book of short stories. I got my manuscript together, sent it out to my beta readers, and then the doubt set in as I sat at my computer on Monday.

Can I really do this?

Am I really a good writer?

Will people like it?

I sat here staring at the walls, letting the feelings rush over me.

I carried it to work with me and went on about my normal day. I punched this key for that and that key for this. It sucked.

I talked to a few co-workers and everything was “normal.”

But out of the blue, a co-worker handed me a beautifully bound leather journal with the words “just keep writing” inscribed on the cover.

What the what! Was that the universe talking to me or what?

If that wasn’t enough, I got off of work to find the proof of another book I wrote sitting in my mailbox. While I was wallowing in my self-pity, I’d forgotten about putting the order in.

Just holding the proof in my hands made it all seem so real. It made me realize I can really do this.

I think all writers doubt themselves. It’s as much of a part of the process as picking a cover or editing.

Getting over that hump takes a brand of courage I don’t think many people can truly understand.

Needless to say, I’m back to pumping out writing like a book factory.

And it feels damn good!

 

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How to Beat Writer’s Block!

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I was on a roll for a minute there. I’d come home after work, sit at my computer, and pump out an entire short story in one night. Not sure what happened, but if the legend is true …

I’ve been stricken with writer’s block!

Dun, Dun, Duunnnn!!!

Doctors and scientists have been studying this phenomenon for centuries and there is still no cure on the horizon. Some will tell you to turn on music to get the juices flowing, while others suggest writing anything — anything at all. But those who are truly afflicted by this debilitating ailment will tell you none of these home remedies work.

What does a writer do? ß In my most dramatic voice.

To plot the course for the unblocking process, one must first be properly diagnosed.

Symptoms include:

  1. Being a sloppy, unfocused mess as you switch from the word document that should house your literary masterpiece to Facebook and back as you read the same posts you just read 10 minutes ago.
  2. Watching your favorite reality show and telling yourself you’re going to write on the commercial breaks.
  3. Obsessively staring at the blinking line in your word document, praying the Gods will reward you for your amazing attention span with some inspiration.
  4. Trying to avoid admitting you have writer’s block out of some irrational fear that it may make it truer (It’s already true!)
  5. Then getting pissed because you do have writer’s block.
  6. Taking 15 smoke breaks, or pee breaks, or water breaks, or whatever suits your fancy.
  7.  A general annoyance with life, hinged on the thoughts of “never getting this book done.”
  8. Getting groundbreaking, original ideas when in one of the following situations – a. stuck on the toilet with no toilet paper; b. sitting in a meeting at work; or c. picking up the kids from school – and then immediately forgetting them when you finally get to a piece of paper and pen.

If you have two or more of these symptoms, you have writer’s block.

Now that you’ve been properly self-diagnosed, we can move forward to the discussion of the cure, which is …

Oh, Sh*t! There goes that writer’s block again.

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Attack of the Life Altering Tomatoes!

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So it’s raining like an S.O.B. right now and I really don’t mind.

“What!” Sometimes I surprise myself with the stuff I come up with. This time last year I would have had a million and one comments about how sugar melts in the rain I don’t mind it so much because it’s good for my garden. It’s my first time around and while I still have yet to harvest one kale leaf I think I’m doing well.

With the help of my dad and kids, who could use any excuse to play in the dirt, I have a raised garden stuffed to wood with the aforementioned kale, tomatoes, spinach, and peppers.

At least that’s how it started. I planted early and got the tail end of the last frost. I thought my gardening dreams were over. I almost cried when I came outside that morning, lifted the tarp I’d so carefully placed the night before and saw my already less than hardy tomato plants shriveled up like Mr. Burns at the beach in April.

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I called my dad and whined and complained, but he told me to give it time. “Plants have a funny way of coming back to life.”

A week or two later, they did just that!

 Two weeks after that, the strawberry plant I put in a pot burst open and I got one … just one … strawberry. This was the stuff legends were made of as I quickly named it, took its picture, and let it live in infamy on Facebook with the eloquent caption, “I grew a strawberry, bitches.”

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I haven’t been this excited about much of anything in a long time.

The things I’ve learned about gardening in the last few weeks go far beyond putting seeds in the ground. (Aside from having to figure out what the hell these things are and why the trees would decide to let a million of them go at the same time.)

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It reminds me of our experiences as people. You’re born so small and frail and it’s your parents job to protect you from the cold world.

Sometimes that protection works (my dad said his tomato plants did just fine with the tarp) and sometimes, for various reasons and circumstances, you end up hurt and shriveled. Then there are people who will count you out and there are those who will always be in your corner. But with the right environment, a few good rains, and some sun, you can always come back.

Hell, if you’re strong enough and get deep enough roots you just might be able to make it through the winter.

It’s downright poetic when you really get into the weeds (pun intended) and think about it.

I guess it just took me by surprise. Of all of the things going on in my life right now, I have found a place of calm and insight in the nursery of Home Depot.

Who knew?

So as I sit here this morning and look at the sunrise covered in heavy clouds and rain, I’m not thinking about how my feet are going to get wet as I run to the car or what it’s going to do to my hair.

What’s important is how much taller and stronger my plants will be after the clouds clear.

 

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What is Normal?

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Photo Credit: Thenextweb.com

I’m an average American. I get up every morning, shower, dress, make coffee, and head out the door (sometimes ten minutes late) to start my day. I sit in traffic, drop the kids off, and make it to work in time to check emails, run reports, and attend meetings. You know, normal stuff.

While the term “normal” has a debatable meaning, it is still safe to say that this is what the average person does Monday through Friday.

But is this what I want to do?

“But nobody likes their job.” This is what I usually hear when I ask people this question.

But why is that normal?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to spend my life in a cubicle, giving my all to company that’ll give me a gold watch after I’m no longer able to think and perform at a rate that’s no longer satisfactory to them.

I don’t want to sacrifice time with my children to work long hours and dedicate myself to a project for a firm.

I don’t want to sacrifice my partnership when I come home with an attitude sparked by being over stressed.

But then I come to the crossroad: if I don’t want to do any of these things how the hell am I supposed to make money? Feed the children I love to spend time with? Be a financial asset and not a liability to my partner?

That’s the part I haven’t figured out yet.

But what I do know is that if being normal means constantly having to push aside your values, beliefs, and integrity to the side for several hours a day, I don’t want any parts of it. The risk for me does not justify the reward.

But before I throw in the towel, let me shower and dress so I can head out the door and be normal.