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Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

  1. Speak now or forever hold your head in your hands

    April 23, 2017 by Diane

    It seemed like a good idea at the time.

    After all, I’ve survived haircuts in the past. It goes like this: I show the stylist a photo, say, “I want this cut,” and my stylist says, “Your hair won’t do that. You’ll look like a man.” We dicker, I give in, and she gives me a cut that makes me look like a conservative middle-aged woman.

    Which I am.

    Minus the conservative part.

    My hair has been earlobe-length for twelve weeks. Well, not the entire twelve weeks. It took twelve weeks to mosey to my earlobes, and I would have let it mosey to my shoulders, but it was starting to straggle, not mosey, so I decided to go for pert and fun instead.

    I decided to get a pixie cut.

    I scoured the internet for photos of pixie cuts and printed them out, including one of an older woman with a severe style that was the perfect example of what I didn’t want, and showed them to my BFF, Dave.

    He liked the manly one.

    “You’re taking beauty advice from a man, because…?” My old stylist said. I trusted her opinion, so popped in to get her feedback. By the time I’d popped out, I’d committed to an appointment with her, three weeks in the future, at a price I couldn’t afford.

    Why didn’t I tell her the truth? You’re worth every penny, but I don’t have that many pennies to part with!

    After squirming for days, I sent her a text message. I need to get my hair cut sooner rather than later, and since you’re totally booked, I’m going to have to cancel our appointment. It was the truth. I was attending a networking event and wanted to look professional, not scraggly.

    My new stylist, the one I can afford, doesn’t know how to be brutally honest. When I showed her the photos, saying, “I want it short at the sides like this, with longish bangs, full in the back, and cropped close to the neck at the bottom like this,” she said,

    “We can try that.”

    I looked up. “But can you do it?”

    “It will be very short in the back, but we can try.”

    There was that word again. Try. I looked at her long Asian hair, with a wide strip dyed a sort of orangish-blonde, and put my head in her hands.

    It seemed like a good idea at the time.

    Until she brought out the clippers.

    I’m not talking about toenail clippers. I’m talking about those electronic razory things that teenage boys use to buzz-cut their hair. The gizmo barbers use for a manly cut.

    She brought out the clippers and started buzzing the back of my neck. Waves of hair plopped into my lap. I squirmed. What have I done? The more she buzzed, the more I squirmed, until finally, she put the clippers away and finished up with scissors.

    The front looked great. Pert, the way I wanted. Maybe I was overreacting. I felt cautiously optimistic.

    Then she brought out the hand mirror. She held it up so I could see the back.

    I was speechless.

    Stunned.

    I thought I might be sick.

    That’s not me. That’s…a BOY!

    “Let me take a picture,” she said. She took several shots of the back of my head with her smartphone and showed them to me.

    I batted it away.

    “I’m sorry,” she said. “Don’t worry, it will grow.” And then, “It’s cool!”

    I managed to write a check and drive home.

    I stuffed a chocolate truffle in my mouth.

    I called my mother.

    “Just don’t turn your back on anyone,” she advised. I pictured myself backing out of every room.

    I jammed the movie Sabrina into my DVD player and watched Julia Ormond dazzle Greg Kinnear and Harrison Ford with her girly pixie cut, and tried to drown out that inner voice screaming, WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SOMETHING WHEN YOU SAW THE CLIPPERS?

    Why didn’t I?

    Why didn’t I speak my truth?

    Because I didn’t trust myself to know the difference between a clipper cut and a scissor cut, even though past experience had shown me that razoring fine hair is always a bad idea.

    The truth is, I sat on my truth.

    What other truths was I sitting on?

    Here’s one:

    Writing a humor blog seemed like a good idea. A way to amuse myself, and, hopefully, others, while pushing my work out into the world. A world of seventy people, but still, my corner of the internet universe. And it was a good idea. Fun. Until I latched onto the crazy idea that a humor blog would be a terrific platform for literary fiction. All I needed were, oh, 10,000 subscribers, and I’d attract the attention of an agent or publisher, followed by a big fat cash advance for my novel.

    Which meant attracting another 9,930 readers to my blog.

    Piece of cake.

    I hopped on Twitter, and tried to entice followers to my website by sharing my blog posts, a form of virtual arm-twisting of strangers. Which is just…icky. Aaaand, to get those 9,930 blog subscribers, I needed like a million Twitter followers, and I had about 1,600. So Twitter, which started as a platform for my platform, became a bad math equation and a popularity contest gone haywire. It brought up feelings from high school, when I was lousy at math and anything but popular.

    Yes, my amusing little blog had morphed into a full-blown Twitter addiction.

    Every time I wrote a post with the goal of getting more subscribers, every time I checked my stats on WordPress and my followers on Twitter, every time I considered setting up a Facebook page, and, oh, how about a page on Medium?—which I did—I squirmed inside.

    So I meditated on the question: to blog, or not to blog? I begged my higher self to give me a clear sign, first thing in the morning when I woke up.

    And I got a sign.

    An image.

    Of me in a straightjacket.

    It made perfect sense!

    I’m hampered by the blog’s name: Squirrels in the Doohickey. I’m boxed in by the theme: writing about the nutty stuff we do, say, and think when confronted with the stuff that drives us nutty. I tried sneaking non-humor pieces on: Before the Bulldozers Came, When Innocence Wore Your Brother’s Baseball Glove, even the early Only the Lonely. These were some of my favorite posts. But they weren’t keeping with the theme. An agent or publisher would raise an eyebrow and tell me, gently, that a humor blog is not a platform for literary fiction.

    I know that. Like I know clippers are razors in disguise.

    So, what is my truth?

    I remember why I enjoyed sharing humorous anecdotes in the first place: hearing my mother’s laugh. She has a great laugh. When I tell her my latest squirrelly encounter, she gives a sort of choking, squeaky laugh, then says, “Another one for the book.”

    But that’s not the book I want to publish.

    I was talking to a co-worker about Steve Martin. There’s Steve Martin the comedian. Steve Martin the film actor. Steve Martin the writer. And now, Steve Martin the banjo player touring with his band. Steve does it all, but not necessarily at the same time. He chunks his life into whatever pulls him, and I envy him that focus! At some point, when he was doing stand-up, he held up a mirror so to speak, and said, that’s not me, I’m an actor. And off he went.

    In the mirror, I see a humor writer. Fair enough. Part of me is a humorist. But lately it feels like that’s not me. I’m a fiction writer.

    So my truth, right now, is to blog for the joy of it, with no other outcome than this: if I make one person’s day, get one person to smile or chuckle or shoot coffee out their nostrils, it’s worth it. No pressure to attract more whatevers. No pressure to churn out a post every week on the dot. Just blog when something amusing strikes me, and leave it at that. So I can focus where my heart is leading: writing fiction.

    One thing is certain: whenever I feel uncomfortable, unsettled, and I start squirming, it’s a clear sign I’ll soon be holding my head in my hands, muttering, “That’s not me.”

    Although, truth be told, I am a bit of a tomboy. With this new pixie cut, jeans rolled at the cuffs, sneakers and a sweatshirt, I have the urge to shoot spit-balls at strangers, and make farting noises with my armpit.

    And I have an extra bounce in my stride.

     

     


  2. Afraid of Commitment? Join the Challenge!

    July 17, 2016 by Diane

    Yikes! Commitment.

    Yikes! Commitment.

    I have commitment issues.

    My wise friend pointed this out over lunch at the sushi place. I was forking my way through a super vegetable roll while rattling on about blogging.

    “I’ll blog when I have something to say, and not because the powers-that-be suggest that I blog to attract followers or build a writer’s platform,” I said. “I’ll blog just for the hell of it and okay, maybe I’m taking the middle road, but I don’t know if this whole blogging thing is what I want to do anymore.”

    And my friend, carefully placing a slice of pickled ginger on her salmon roll with her chopsticks, said, “What I see is, you start a project and then skid to a stop. You have a problem with commitment.”

    I allowed myself to take that in. I resisted the urge to fold my arms, gaze at the corner of the ceiling with a thoughtful frown, and zone out on the live poker-playing event on the overhead television.

    Instead, I agreed.

    I have a commitment phobia.

    From actress to dancer to writer, I reached a tipping point and then slammed on the brakes.

    I studied acting and dance, acted and danced on stage, taught others how to act and dance, and then chucked it all to write.

    I’ve written first drafts for four-and-a-half novels, and when I started to rewrite the first one, I hit the wall.

    Marriage? Forget it. Children? As long as they’re not mine. Vacations? It depends. How far, and for how long?

    I’ve been known to buy fifteen different kinds of shampoo because one smells nice and one is for curly hair and one is for dry hair and one is for fine hair, and…well, you get the point.

    Sleep? Too boring. What if I’m missing something important? What if there’s something else I should be doing?

    What if I choose the wrong guy, the wrong project, the wrong whatever?

    Driving home that day after sushi, I was sitting at a stoplight, and I thought about gravity. I thought:

    We’re spinning in space. Right now.

    I thought about how the Earth is tilted on its axis and we’re spinning ever so slowly in a vast universe.

    What if gravity decided to stop doing its job? What if it decided it didn’t want to commit to pulling everything toward it, and wanted more space?

    There would be consequences, that’s what. We’d all spin into infinite darkness and vaporize. I had a tingle of discomfort in my spine, thinking about that. I had to go home and lie down and ponder.

    And I’ve concluded that it’s a good thing, commitment. I’m grateful to gravity for its commitment to hold us to its breast.

    That’s a step in the right direction. Being grateful.

    My boss, I’m fairly certain, is grateful that I show up for work and get my job done. My muse is grateful that I allow her to play in the first draft. But my editor is knocking at the door, wanting to clear the clutter, and he’s mighty pissed that I’m lying on the bed gazing at the ceiling.

    The fact is, I can’t even commit to avoiding commitment.

    After all, I commit to watching America’s Got Talent every Tuesday night. I commit to reading an entire book, buying groceries, cleaning the shower and showing up for work.

    But something creative…that’s when the problem kicks in.

    So, here’s the deal.

    I’m going to commit to rewriting my novel. And blog about it so I’m held accountable. It might take six months, it might take a year. But I’m going to face this thing head-on, and when the fear rises, I’ll use my mindfulness training, my cognitive behavior therapy, my humor to overcome it. And I’ll let you, dearest reader, in on what transpires, in case you have commitment issues as well.

    It won’t be easy. I see roadblocks ahead: fear of failure, anxiety about feeling boxed in, agitation about all the effort involved.

    Doesn’t matter. I’ll find a way to work through those blocks, or scoot around them, or I’ll kick those suckers down. For better or worse I’m going to rewrite my novel.

    Do you want to join me in this challenge? Do you want to be my commitment phobia-busting buddy? Let me know in the comments. What will you commit to doing?


  3. A Pep Talk for Writers Who Think They Suck

    June 19, 2016 by Diane

    hand opening red curtain on white.

    “I suck at writing!”

    How many times have you told yourself that behind the writer’s curtain? Or publicly, on Twitter, in a forum, or to your best friend as you gobbled down a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia?

    I’m here to say, “You don’t suck.”

    The fact that you’re writing means you’re putting in effort. Nothing sucky about that.

    Now, you might be a beginning writer. Nothing sucky about that either. You’re learning. Genius rarely happens when you pop out of the womb.

    I took golf lessons in college. I love watching a golf game on television. There’s something meditative about all that green, the sports announcer whispering about club choices, the placid ponds that dot the grounds. But out there on the course with my own club, I spent a lot of time in the bunkers, and hollering, “Four!” as my ball sailed into another student’s thigh.

    I could moan, “I suck at golf!” But I refuse to accept that label. I haven’t yet mastered the swing. If I wanted to, I could invest years practicing my swing, but frankly, that doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather watch golf than play it.

    So, are you saying you suck at writing because you don’t want to expend the energy? Do you want an easy out? Do you want to throw in the pen?

    If so, claim it. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t want to put in the work. Be honest. “I’d rather read, than write!”

    But if you want to study the craft and improve, if you want to write every day, you’ll discover that some days your writing vibrates with energy, and other days when it’s just “meh.” Some days you’ll read your work and say, “hey, that’s pretty good,” and other days when you want to rip it in half and grind it under your heel. Your writing will surprise you and embarrass you, inspire you and depress you, move you and bore you.

    That’s how it goes. Up and down. Sometimes sideways.

    Now, If you’re an old hand at writing and you play the “I suck” card, well, my friend, you’re not playing with a full deck. I implore you to set aside your work for a day and go out and play. Then come back and read it again.

    I guarantee—you’ll find something in those pages that shines. One sentence. Grab it, and use it to start a freewrite. Put the new pages away for a day, come back and read what you wrote. Find another shining sentence, use that as the start of a brand new freewrite, and keep going until you hook into something strong.

    Let’s say you just started blogging, and after a post or two, you’ve run out of ideas. The words you write sizzle out after three paragraphs. Do you suck? No! You’re learning how to blog. Maybe you don’t have a solid idea of what to blog about yet. You need time to experiment, discover your topic, discover your voice. You will. Keep at it.

    Let’s say you labored over a short story, or a book, and sent it off, and it was rejected. Do you suck? No! That particular journal or publisher wasn’t right for your work. Or you had too many typos, or cliches, or a passive voice. Or the story didn’t grab the editor. All of these things are fixable!

    Research journals or publishers to find a better fit. Submit again. And again and again and again. Have a good editor go over it with a red pen. Rewrite, if need be. Don’t use the “I suck!” excuse to avoid the work. Yeah, it can feel draining, and frustrating, having to rewrite and resubmit after you’ve invested oodles of time in the darn thing. So take a break. Recharge. Then get back to it.

    Takeaway this week:

    To learn more about submitting to literary journals, and what an editor wants, read this.