Writing With A Friend

Writing With A Friend

So I’ve been working on a fun blog post the last couple of weeks but it’s not quite ready yet.  I’ve tried a few times to get the ball rolling faster to no avail – for this post I’m dependent on the availability of three other people (Which is fine!  It’s not like I control everyone else’s lives.  I mean, it would be kinda cool if I was all-powerful like that, but alas I am not).

Instead I’m relegated to sitting in my home office working on my book and a few short stories.  Oh, the BOREDOM.  Actual Writing?  No thank you.  (Just kidding).

(Sort of).

Luckily I have a brand new companion to keep me company whenever I work from my home office instead of a coffee shop or random dirt patch somewhere. Continue reading “Writing With A Friend”

How Not To Be A Writer

How Not To Be A Writer

Have you ever noticed how many “How To Be A Writer” guides are floating around the internet?  Have you seen all the articles about what being a writer means, detailing tips to fit the bill, sharing the holy guidelines you have to follow to truly be able to classify yourself as a “Writer”?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.  Most of these guides are well-meaning; some of them are actually helpful.  Tips of the trade!  Tools of the craft!  Help for the struggling me!

True, there is a lot that goes into being a writer, but I think at its core it’s very simple.  We can break it into tiers pretty easily. Continue reading “How Not To Be A Writer”

Shred It, Dude

Shred It, Dude

After four days in Utah I’ve found a new frontrunner for a vacation timeshare.

For those of you that don’t know (and now that I think about it, why would you?) I’ve been skiing and snowboarding for most of my life.  My mom put me in ski school when I was four, but I switched over to snowboarding at around eleven or twelve because, “Snowboarding is way cooler mom you just don’t understand me JEEZ JUST LET ME LIVE MY LIFE UGH.”  Anyway, that means that I’ve been snowboarding for over a decade, and if my sister has to hear me say “Shred it dude!” one more time she might disavow our siblingship. Continue reading “Shred It, Dude”

I’m A Frustrated And Insecure Writer, But That’s Okay

I’m A Frustrated And Insecure Writer, But That’s Okay

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions from friends and family about the book I’m writing.  Most days I welcome questions like these; they give me a chance to talk about my favorite subject and the coolest person in the entire world: Me.  But recently these questions have been making me feel shy for a minute or two, something that I’m decidedly not.  So I started wondering why this could be happening, and I came to a slightly uncomfortable realization.

Continue reading “I’m A Frustrated And Insecure Writer, But That’s Okay”

Murder On The Orient Express

Murder On The Orient Express

Call me Hercule Poirot because I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out who killed Mr. Ratchett.

Right now I’m about 200 pages into Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and, despite the fact that this book would never make it onto the bestseller lists if it were published for the first time today, I’m enjoying the hell out of it.  Go ahead and strip away the extra words!  Delete the fluffy paragraphs!  Scratch the flashbacks and backstory!  Pare the story down to its naked bones, present it as it is (a closed circuit murder mystery), and charge forward at the fastest pace possible.

Reading this amazing Agatha Christie novel has got me to thinking about how much fiction has changed in the last 80 years.  While I’m loving the book, and Agatha Christie is certainly a literary treasure, I can’t help but think about the fact that Murder on the Orient Express would not succeed in today’s book market.  The book is a pure plot vehicle without any of the extra frills that make today’s novels great.  Sure, the characters are defined well on the surface – they’re the best 2D characters I’ve read in a while – but what are their motivations, their backstories, the things that make them tick?  All of that is left out.

Not to say that that’s a bad thing.  Leaving out some of the extra crap serves this book well.  Christie presents the story exactly as she intended it – a murder mystery – and the entire goal is to figure out whodunnit.  How exciting!  You get to rip through 53,000 words (so short!) in one or two sittings and simply enjoy her masterful puzzle.

For writers I think there’s an added bonus, in that it teaches us about how to drive a book forward using just one aspect of our arsenal – plot.  It’s like a writing 101 book that teaches you the different elements one by one. 

If you want to learn characterization, or theme, or-setting-or-dialogue-or-whatever, look elsewhere.  But if you want to just focus on plot today look no further than this book.  As the story peels itself open, every layer advances the murder mystery without any extra or wasted words.

Still, though, if this was presented to an editor today they would probably say something along the lines of: “Great mystery.  Love the Plot.  But this is just the skeleton!  You have to really flesh all this out for it to be a truly great book.”

But here we are, 80 years later, still reading and enjoying Agatha Christie’s novels (And Then There Were None, anybody?).  It makes you wonder if there is still a place for these short hyper-focused-on-one-element stories in today’s reading culture.

I guess the classics are classics for a reason (I’m kind of stretching the definition of classics here to encompass all books pre-1950), though I have to admit that my repertoire is a little lacking in this area.

What are some good books you’d recommend to a friend that would fall under the ‘Classics’ category?  Which is your favorite?  Which do you think we could learn the most from?

I Trick Myself Into Writing

I Trick Myself Into Writing

There’s something beautiful about the metal pop that comes from pulling open a flip-top can.  Slide your nail under the aluminum tab, get some leverage, pull it open until the metal tears.  The sound is charming; a nice and sharp ‘click-crack-fizz’, followed by the slow hum of bubbles.

Or, wait a minute, back up… how about this one? Continue reading “I Trick Myself Into Writing”

Take Control, Why Positivity Matters

Take Control, Why Positivity Matters

For some reason, 2017 seemed to churn out almost as many self-help / positive thinking / motivation focused books as it did detective thrillers.  Ok… wait… that isn’t impressive enough… Maybe it churned out almost as many as the entire mystery genre combined.  One second… think bigger…  Maybe it produced as many as all fiction books put together.  Maybe as many as all fiction books ever published in the history of man.  Maybe this is hyperbole.

No matter where you look today you’ll be able to find a book about life, about how to live it, about how to make it better, about how to overcome challenges.  It’s a phenomenon peculiar to very (I mean, like, the last 50 years) recent history (though I’m not saying books like these didn’t exist before then at all).  A lot of people think this recent uptrend is taking place because society is having a crisis of identity and happiness (maybe true), while a lot of others think there are too many writers out there acting opportunistically and turning to this sub-genre for money and exposure (also maybe true).  Either way, there are a plethora of books coming out that have to do with positive thinking and taking control of your own life in some way, shape, or form.

But when it comes to positive thinking, I am actually (plot twist) A HUGE FAN.

Shocker, right?

Hear me out, though, because I think that the ideas behind positive thinking and motivation get a bad rap.

Unfortunately I have too many thoughts on this topic to cram into a single post, so I’m going to focus this one here on a guy who I think epitomizes (in a weird way) how I feel about positive thinking and motivation (though he uses a lot more curse words than I do).

I’m talking about Mark Manson, the very interesting and talented blogger and author.  Last year Mark released a book titled ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***’, which he explained as A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life.  But well before this book ever came out Mark had posted hundreds of blogs that seemed to ride the full spectrum of topics, thought they all wove around the anchoring thread of Motivation and Positivity.  The book title itself is a misnomer, really, because it’s actually about knowing where to focus and give a person’s very limited amount of F***s, rather than not caring about anything at all.

Because the thing about positivity is that it isn’t about being happy all the time.  Bad things happen in life – war, poverty, disease, loss of friends and loved ones, setbacks in our professional and personal lives – these things are unavoidable and are almost integral to the full experience of being human.  What matters is how you choose to react to these things, what you choose to dwell on vs. what you choose to overcome and move on from (i.e. What you choose to use your F***s on).  Positive thinking is about coming to terms with the world and life as it is, to not sweat the things that you can’t change, to focus on trying to positively impacting those things you actually can impact (both in your own life and others).  If we believe in our own ability to dictate our life as much as a person possibly can, if we train ourselves to see the good in things, we give ourselves confidence and energy which in turn helps us accomplish our goals.  And in the process it helps us deal with the bad things in life that inevitably happen.  Not to say a good cathartic rage or cry or rage-cry isn’t necessary or good sometimes.

I say all this knowing that some people have unfair advantages over others, some people are given tougher paths, some deal with more loss and heartbreak, some have it easy, some have it hard… those differences matter, and fighting for equality while understanding the hardships other people had to go through is important, but that doesn’t make this form of positivity wrong; doing the best you can in every situation, seeing the good in things, taking control of your life with as much joy as you can muster is often the most important thing we can do in our lives day-in and day-out.

Mark sums up a lot of incredible thoughts in my favorite post of his ‘Life is a Video Game—Here Are the Cheat Codes’.  FULL DISCLAIMER, though: This post is full – and I mean ridiculously full – of curse-words and all-around vulgar language.  If any of this offends you please don’t read it as I’m trying not to fry anyone’s sensibilities on a random Wednesday morning!

In a lot of his posts Mark hides an astounding amount of insight and truth behind irreverence and R-rated language and content.  He strips away propriety, ramps his emotions up 10x, and lets his mouth (typing fingers?) fire off like the cannons on a pirate ship.  I personally appreciate his style as a change of pace from the normal ‘Self-Help’ books/gurus, but you have been warned!

I wanted to quickly thank a couple of my fellow bloggers for inspiring me to share how I feel about positivity and motivation: Milly Schmidt (‘omg another call out? leave me alone already Dave’) for mentioned Mark’s book in her recent post, which reminded me just how much enjoyed it, and Alisa from Write What You Know! for her recent post about Motivation (after commenting on her post I immediately plagiarized from my own comment for part of this blog).

The concepts around positive thinking, motivation, and self-help are open to interpretation, which is what makes them so great.  I know that focusing on the positive has materially impacted my life over the last few years, building upon itself over time to the point where the difference is easily noticeable to my friends and family, and I’m grateful for how far it’s taken me.

Hopefully some of Mark’s words, or just these types of thoughts in general, can help other people, too.

Thanks for reading!  Let me know what you think, or what questions (or criticisms!) you might have below.

P.S. Yes, that’s me in the blue shirt and white shorts in the picture, just trying to practice positivity with some friends, ya know?