UNFUCK YOURSELF, PART DEUX

Air Cav infantry Soldiers compete in company challenge

I’m continuing with my list of toxic crap writers shouldn’t do, courtesy of Chuck Wendig’s terrific blog post. If you haven’t yet, please skip on over to read his, because it really is right on the money. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/01/03/25-things-writers-should-stop-doing/?subscribe=success#blog_subscription-2

I have renewed enthusiasm and vigor now. The kids are back in school and, wait—can you hear that? You can’t? Exactly. It’s called peace and quiet, and my sanity depends on it. As does my writing.

8. Your body is not a teenage wasteland. Sure, you could once get away with staying up until 3 am, chowing down on pizza while guzzling cheap beer, but nowadays whenever I do exactly that, it takes me 3 days to recover and I feel like hell to boot. Disciplined Mind = Disciplined Body = Disciplined Mind, which essentially means if you’re sitting in your chair like a lump on a log, with your mind fuzzy and tired, how productive do you think you’re going to be? Not very, plus you’ll get Writer’s Ass. Eating crap and not being active will result in all those words that should be flowing onto the page to settle in your ass, instead.

9. If I didn’t complain, I’d have nothing to say. I’ll admit part of my endearing charm comes from my pessimistic, glass is half-cracked attitude. Can you imagine if I were a boring optimist? I’d have nothing to blog about. I know I could temper my negativity a tad. In fact, I’ve actually been trying, thanks to Facebook and all the warm and fuzzy inspirational quotes on there that make me want to go hug my cats. Yes, I’ve lost a few friends from my bad attitude (“I say FUCK ‘EM all the way to the moon if they can’t—” Uh oh, deep breath. I digress.) The point is, if you don’t have anything good to say, then STFU. Nobody wants to hear it. Or channel it into your writing and make a million dollars so you can rub it in the faces of all those frenemies who once rejected you. As I always say, Success is the best revenge.

10. Speaking of…it’s because of those frenemies that you’re in the sorry boat you’re in. Or it’s because of your parents. Most likely, your parents. Part of the job description of being a parent is to get blamed for everything that’s wrong by your kid; it’s why I’m saving for my son’s therapy, instead of his college. However, the first rule of therapy is to stop blaming everyone, especially one’s parents for one’s crappy life. I tried blaming Facebook for my woes, then Amazon, if for no other reason than they’re just so huge and successful. Then I tried blaming the inventor of Post-its, because had I thought of the idea first I’d be huge and successful, but in the end, Meh, blaming doesn’t do a rat’s ass bit of good.

11. Be the writer’s version of Madonna or Justin Timberlake. So what if my father wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer and has disowned me because I’m not one? Had I listened to him, right now I’d be an overachieving, perfectionist anorexic with fake breasts and Botoxed lips who drinks too much and can’t hold a relationship together due to fear of intimacy. Thank goodness I’m only one of those. I’m proud to be a writer, and I tell everyone who’ll listen. Madonna’s not the greatest singer in the world. Did it matter? Nope, but she had passion and complete originality in everything she did. Is JT embarrassed to admit he was in a boy band, with a gazillion teeny-boppers screaming his name every day? I’m guessing his bank account says NO. Everybody has to start somewhere, so get your name out there and shout it loud and clear.

12. Everyone makes mistakes. Sigh. Some more than others. According to my “therapy” sessions on Facebook, you’re supposed to learn from them. Or at least that’s what those square-shaped inspirational quotes with the rainbows say. You wanna know my biggest mistake? Not learning how to type! There, I said it. That’s right, I’m a writer and I don’t know how to type. Oh, the stupid irony. So, other than that mistake kicking me in the rear each and every day, I suppose I should let all the other mistakes go so I can move on (to type slowly).

13. I may not take risks like I used to, like riding on the back of a motorcycle going 120 without a helmet, or traveling alone through Southern Italy, but you don’t get huge rewards playing it safe, either. That’s why I go to Target on a regular basis and shove one of my bookmarks for The Accidental Cougar in the center of each bestselling romance there. Think outside the box. It’s the only way to get noticed. Or arrested, but we’re trying to think positive here.

14. Embrace your control freak and then kick him/or her out of bed for eating crackers. I’ll admit I’m a control freak, but that’s only because nobody else can do things the way they need to be done. That’s why I don’t let my son wash dishes or clean the bathroom. When it comes to reviews though, or the collapse of traditional publishing, or e-book piracy, I could care less. There’s nothing I can do about it, so why stress? There’s soooo many more things to stress over within my control, like Writer’s Ass and getting caught by security at Target.

15. Unless you’re obsessive-compulsive, variety really is the spice of life. You can choose to write only novels your entire life, or poetry, or a sex column, but I’ve noticed that the writers today mix it up. If they’ve written a novel, then they usually try to get an article published somewhere to promote that book. Well-known magazines pay ridiculous amounts of money, and also give the opportunity to exercise a whole different set of skills. Diversity is the name of the game. In all areas of life.

Nope, I’m not done yet. There’s 25 of these bad boys…

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HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT

When it comes to any kind of success, the question to ask oneself is: How bad do you want it? With any type of creative success especially, one has to want it very badly, because the competition is fierce. Sure, if you look like Megan Fox, chances are you’ll get work in the entertainment industry, but truth is most of us resemble Zach Galifianakis, from The Hangover movies instead.

Mega-stars and bestselling authors have admitted to wanting success more than anything else in their lives—more than their families (evident by those who are on their third or fourth divorce), more than upholding their morals (casting couch, anyone?), more than success in any other area.

I don’t believe women can have it all, like the glossy magazines suggest. Unless you’re taking your child’s Adderall, something will suffer. My stepmother’s sister works as a lawyer in a “prestigious” firm. She recently had a baby. Everyone seems to think she can work from home a few days a week and everything will be fine. Seriously? Unless she gave birth to a Stepford baby, their full-time nanny will be mostly raising that child. You’ll never convince me she’ll be able to make partner in her firm AND be an effective full-time mother.

My stepmom couldn’t understand why I wasn’t willing to commute for a higher-paying job. I told her I didn’t want strangers raising my son. What’s the point of having a child if other people get to see him more than I do? Now granted, she was a stay-at-home mom for both her kids. She never had to make the dreaded Money vs. Welfare of my child decision, so as I always say, “Until you walk a mile in my shoes, shut the duck up.” Besides, who can take advice from someone who has NEVER made Mac n’ Cheese out of a box?

I find myself having to make difficult choices constantly with regard to my writing career. Writing is a full-time job. So is raising a child. Serious decisions have to made, like: I’m in the middle of my work-in-progress, words are finally flowing, my son has had only Cheerios for breakfast. It’s now 2 pm. What do I do?

Okay, so that’s a no-brainer. I haul my butt up and feed him, of course. Ah, but what do I make him? Something microwavable or chicken soup from scratch, like my stay-at-home mom friend does? You got it. And if I don’t have something microwavable, anything from a can will do, as well.

Scenario # 2: I’m trying to figure out something on the computer, like how to separate my Facebook personal page from my fan page. I’ve already spent sixteen hours on it, but I’m stubborn, so I’m willing to spend sixteen more. I hear shouts from my son’s room, obscenities being yelled. My son and his friend are getting into it over who knows what? It sounds like it’s escalating to something physical. What do I do?

Let them duke it out, muttering, “boys will be boys” under my breath, while continuing to read yet another post of how easy it is to do what I’ve been trying to figure out for hours and hours.

I’ll admit that sometimes my maternal skills are crappy. I spend more time on the computer than I do making homemade Play-Doh, or taking my son to the park. More often than not, my writing and all that’s involved with it takes precedence in my life. Does that make me a bad mother? I’m not satisfied being just a mother. And while I admire mothers who can find fulfillment in, well, mothering—who embrace and commit to it 100%, I am not one of them.

I try to be both—mother and writer. At times I fail; sometimes I do a half-assed job at each. At least I’m the one picking up my son from school and helping him with his homework, rather than a day care or a grandparent. With any luck, the only gripe he’ll have about me in future therapy sessions will be the fact that I was a crappy cook.

SUCCESS SUCCHMESS

Success means something different to every writer. For some it might mean earning a million dollars, being on the NY Times Best Seller List, or simply being published for the first time. Others may define it as getting a favorable review from the snarky gals over at Smart Bitches,Trashy Books, having more than five people unrelated to you attend your book-signing, or just being able to buy soft, name-brand toilet paper on a regular basis.

For me, success means having at least fifteen people (who don’t know me) purchase and read my book. Even better would be if they were to like it. That’s it. Modest, no?

It satisfies the Validation aspect of success for me: that a completely objective third party can find my work enjoyable –work I’ve spent enormous amounts of time and energy on; work that has finally come to fruition, and been recognized in a fiercely competitive business.

I always smirk when the average person mentions they’d like to write a book. Go ahead and try it, I think to myself, feeling slightly superior. They think it’ll be a piece of cake. Until they sit there, in front of a blank screen and actually have to string words together that make sense. Kinda like the romance reader who foolishly believes she can easily write what she’s been reading all these years. Structure, characterization, motive, plot, tension, a beginning, middle and end? “But it looked so EASY.”

Money was never my motivator. If it were, I’d have become an investor or married rich. Doing a job solely for the money always left me feeling like one of those sad ponies at the fair, going round and round in circles. Talk about an utterly void existence. Yet when I was doing theater in New York and getting paid nothing, I was the happiest I’d ever been.

What other profession is one willing to do for zero money in return? That is the definition of a true artist. Yet the payoff one gets is usually worth more emotionally, mentally and physically than all the earnings of Jay-Z and Beyoncé put together.

I recently posted an announcement on Facebook of being offered a contract for my first novel. My stepmother called me immediately. “It’s so great when we, as parents see our children succeed!” she said.

What about all the years when I didn’t succeed? I wanted to ask. I was treated like a leper. When the blaring insinuation was that all I was doing was sitting on my unmotivated, “wasting my college education,” “expecting things to be handed to me” ass? Ah, yes – where was the love then?

Simple – there was no love, because I hadn’t SUCCEEDED at anything. See, in some families, if children don’t succeed at what the parents determine is “success worthy,” then it reflects poorly on said parents. Like they must have done a crappy job at raising their kids if they haven’t grown up to amount to anything.

I remember when I worked retail and all my father kept telling me was “It’s not like your job is hard. A monkey could work retail, for God’s sake.”

I wouldn’t care if, when he grows up, my son wanted to be a doctor or a mechanic; made a million a year or minimum wage. Sure, the amount of his salary will ultimately affect the quality of the nursing home he’ll stick me in when I’m old, but it certainly won’t make me love or approve of him any less.

I wish some parents would learn the obvious: That by giving their children unwavering and unconditional love and support in their choices – whatever they may be – it allows them to succeed a helluva lot more effectively than when they have other people’s expectations shoved down their throats.

What is your definition of success?