Archive for the ‘behavioral change’ Category

Write Like The Wind

November 5, 2012

Heads up everyone,  it’s Nanowrimo!  That’s short for National Novel Writing Month, for those of us who haven’t already taken the 50,000 word challenge. And for those of us who have, let’s everyone have another go this year.

The call for professional writers to commit to finishing a draft of their novel in thirty days started over ten years ago with a mere 140 people.  In 2011 over a quarter of a million people participated in the event.  But not everyone ends up a winner.

In order to win you must log into the NaNo website and make yourself a username and password.  Use NaNo’s super fun word counter to keep a running tally of your progress throughout the month. That’s 1,666 words every day to you, Mr.

Getting stuck?  Try out the community forums and talk with other members who are well on their way.  Ask them anything from character tips to plotting techniques or just get some extra support if you are falling behind.

Even NaNo knows that a draft is only the beginning.  Don’t just send that sucker out with a agent query until at least the start of 2013.  And if you spend December congratulating yourself for finishing a draft, you may have to wait just a little bit longer.


Penelope Says

September 12, 2012

Are you married or single, asks Penelope Trunk at the start of our career coaching call.  I have already told her over email that I feel split between the idea of having a child and birthing the baby of a new career.  She has already suggested that I put myself in a position to pursue a family if I wanted to have one.

Long term boyfriend, I answer.  I am crouched over a phone in a conference room at the office I go to every day from 9-5.  The service is spotty and so my face is pressed up against the window as if that would allow me to hear her message any better.

What’s wrong with your current job, she asks.  You’re a project manager so you have to execute other people’s plans rather than make a strategy of your own, she summarizes before I answer. That fine, she says, keep doing that.

My heart falls. What worked for me in my twenties – sitting enveloped in a second hand executive chair glued to a computer screen night and day –  no longer worked in my thirties.  And yet my current life – taking the subway into Manhattan just in time to sling my bag over a non-executive chair and head to a 10am meeting  – wasn’t working either.  I wanted a new plan.

I hear myself giving examples of how my tenacious attitude had benefited me in the past and how I would rely on what had worked before to get me where I wanted to go next. I sound like I always sound, smart, persistent, with a tinge of crazy.  I was tired of this voice and yet I could not bring myself to accept that there was a reasonable solution in sight.

To Be Continued…

Line and the Light

July 30, 2012

It is the summer of 1988 and Joanne and Gerard Darkly’s son is doing what most kids do before they apply for college.  Fuck around.  Only Jake’s fucking around is gets worse as his parents become trapped in their own small lives and struggles.

So where things on the outside appear to be functional, they are actually reaching a boiling point. The accident is when things are forced to change.  The night that Phil and Jake have snuck out to cruise around for girls and whatever else they find to do outside their homes late at night.

The story is about when things seem ok and they are not but also when things that are not ok are actually ok compared when real trauma occurs.  So it’s about the difference between worrying about things and attending to things when they need to be attended to. Like pieces of garbage collected together to equal the thrown away feelings of our lives.

Yes there is a story.  It’s at summer of 1988.  The family is getting ready to sent their son away to school.  Only the son has other ideas.  He has been skipping class and not finishing his work and otherwise making it harder for him to to flee the coop.

The family is centered around a young boy.  When the boy is getting ready to leave for college some of the family unit kinds of falls apart.  Although it has been falling apart for years.

Warning, Fiction tk

October 7, 2011

I started fiveparagraphs so that I could publish an idea every day. It turns out that it’s hard to do writing when you don’t know exactly what you’re writing about. You spend lots of time reading other people’s blogs about writing and do little writing of your own.

At some point I will transition the writing here to fiction writing. But I’ll keep writing about the craft of writing. And the craft of making things in general – like great installation based performance work.

There are lots of blogs dedicated to the craft of making things though. So in order to offer something different,  I’ll write about the cast of characters that sometimes speak up if I wake up early in the morning.  When they are unhappy I’ll try to quell their fears, put them at ease on the page and deliver them to you.

I’ll also read or listen to a piece of fiction, a poem and an essay every day; as prescribed by Ray Bradbury. Live in the library, he says. And also: if you complain about how hard it is to write, than do something else.

If you stay with me, I’ll be happy. If I lose you, I understand.  But when you’re still here I’m looking to know, with each post whether you think:

Good for you, who cares, save it for therapy?
Fun, thanks, I feel better now and not in a misery loves company kind of way.

Voting functionality to come.

Today’s Ray:
Playboy Interview: Steven Jobs (1985) From Longform

Audio file of Flannery O’Connor reading A Good Man is Hard to Find

The Journey – By Mary Oliver









When you became who you are today

October 5, 2011

Mattie’s house was better than mine for one simple reason; she had a pool.  As adopted summertime family kids, we had our own towels from the house that we’d pin up to dry between the two trees. We’d get beat at Marco polo by the three girls of the house who were on the swim team.  When we’d plug our noses and crouch down to see who could stay under the water longest, I’d win.

My house, in comparison, was much quieter.  I spent time at my desk looking through prom magazines, evaluating dresses, while on the phone with girlfriends with their own line.  My first boyfriend, in the third grade, told me that I should be a psychologist because I was so good at listening.

As a younger girl, I was serious about dress up. Every morning I’d wake up with a story in my head that I wanted to tell.  My mom dedicated a small room to props and costumes I’d use to make myself a part of the action.

There’s still a small kid in me that wants to be the star without too much competition.  In the world of personality tests, I think I’m an ENFP.  But there are skills involved in taking on extroversion that I’m not sure I’ve completely developed.

When I took the Myers Briggs the first time though, after I left my last start-up job, my result was different: INFP.  Now I wonder, was the “E” just suppressed and the “I” overemphasized in the years that I became a good kid?  Or am I just looking for more E because I want to learn to synchronize swim.

Cool Down, Let Go

October 4, 2011

In college some friends and I got pulled over for driving around with a busted tail light.  “Here, hold this,” said a girl sitting next to me in the back seat of the car, as she handed me a small bunched up bundle wrapped in plastic.  Then I let go of her as my friend.

Picture me standing in front of you now, squeezing two hot rocks in the palm of my hands.  Ouch, I tell you, I’m in pain.  Of course you’re in pain, you say: those rocks you’re holding onto are burning your skin.

I could just put the rocks down, right? Just open up my hands and let them fall to the ground.  But how will I know I’m there unless I’m holding onto something that hurts?

If my hands are open and free I’ll think – now I’m not enough.  Oh, what’s this here, I’ll say, as I pick up another round black smooth object from the ground?   Nice,  I’ll think.  Heavy.   Perfect for holding onto.

I want to be someone who knows a hot rock when I see one.  I want to learn to take a look at that hot rock and say – oh you’re hot!  And then I want to keep walking.

Grantland – For Guys with Half a Brain

September 22, 2011

But just because you’re guys doesn’t mean you don’t also find yourselves curious, to the point of obsession, about Ryan Gosling’s white satin Scorpion jacket in Drive.  It’s not like you have anything to hide just because you stay up late at night wondering about the inspiration for the design, the number of jackets used throughout film and whether or not you’ll be able to buy a version for yourself soon.  So, if there’s nowhere else that will print smart sports and entertainment commentary for you, you just have to go do it yourselves.

But let’s get one thing as clear as the shape of Elvis Presley’s pompadour – you’re making a guys site.  So you’re not going to spend precious dude-filled hours considering whether there should be more than two women on your staff of twenty-six columnists.  There’s room for more women writers but why go on an internet bender trying to find them when you already know enough guys that write well.  Besides, women write about women things, and it’s not your job to put men in the kitchen wearing aprons and high heels.

You know you’ve lucked out big time by getting Molly Lambert, former editor of and author of the widely passed along piece on How To Be A Woman In A Boys Club, to play on your team.   Who cares if her current stories finger Cindy Crawford as the model of vanity or sends us off to “go home and make love to your man” after watching Sade’s performance at the Staples Center?  She’s just Molly being Molly, writing about whatever it is Molly wants to write about, just like any of you on staff do over at Grantland.

Because really.  Do guys actually care about what it’s like to be a woman? And you’re not just talking about menstruation, child care or buying the right sized bra – but the extra work we do to confront people’s messed up ideas about what it means to be a women, each and every day?  You don’t even need to answer that.  You’re just guys, being guys.  Hangin’ out.  Writing.

Another time though, when your current New Yorker look starts to feel limiting, you’ll hire a female designer.  You’ll all go out to lunch and she’ll start talking about her homeschooling hairdresser who left her gambling husband to take her kids on a year long trip to walk across America.  You’ll all have a good laugh and a short convo about your own family dysfunctions and your back to the farm dreams.  Then you’ll go back to the office and you’ll recruit like mad.

The Working Life

September 20, 2011

I’ve spent five years managing web projects for other people and another six managing work for myself.  Both are difficult paths: The self-employed route requires so much DIY chutzpa that it becomes difficult to focus on what it is that you do best.  But having someone else direct your work often means putting aside your priorities and doing your best to understand someone else’s motivations.

It’s hard to feel like you’re getting anywhere when you’re the boss of yourself.  There can be so many accomplishments but there’s not much moving up.  There are few people other people to direct (unless you get funding) and there are a limited amount of projects you can take on and be involved with at any one time.  There’s lots of doing without concrete results and a constant nagging feeling that you may just not be good enough.

There’s nobody else there to tell you to come home after school when all of your other friends are out playing with other friends.  Nobody’s going to remind you that the extra coffee break means fifteen last minutes spent researching or editing except you.  And there’s no job title to reaffirm your role.

Making time to think about what you’re doing before you start doing becomes more important.  Keeping yourself accountable to your long term plans becomes essential.  You become a living breathing work in progress and your life and work fuse together in an almost unrecognizable way.

Yet there are countless blogs and books about creating your own path because making your own mistakes can be so rewarding.  When you’re on your own and you mess up, you can just pick yourself back up and try again.  Because even when things get bad, you’re probably not going to fire yourself.

Write More, Publish Often

September 15, 2011

It may seem silly for a new writer to already be giving tips on writing.  The blog though is mine and mine only so you can keep that opinion to yourself.  Or hell, put it in the comment section if you want to make a big stink about it.

I’ve read that writers write when they learn to Write Badly, simple sounding tip to side-step the hemming and hawing one usually does before sitting down to write. For public purposes, pretend to be like Amy Hempel – who says that a bad sentence drives her so batty, she can’t let herself see one on the page, or Muriel Spark, who supposed each word that entered the world from her pen was a direct message from God.  But I feel sure that somewhere – in some leather journal with a thin silky ribbon – these women found a place to write very badly, albeit in secret.

The job of a writer, then, becomes to sort through all this bad writing – all these meaningless words and terrible phrases – and find inside them something worth holding onto.  That thought scribbled in a marble notebook hastily and hardly legible could be something that someone has been waiting to hear. And this tip is more traditionally meant for first draft, I’m going to extend the idea to the very final draft too – because if you’re a person for whom few things are good enough – you may have to learn to just sit with things that you find intolerably terrible in order to publish anything at all.

I hate to Leave time to Revise because doing so means I wasn’t perfect, like I’d like to be in the first place.  My daily fantasy is that the words I put on the page the very first time are good enough to send away without a second look.  Because the revision part requires you to not only see what’s not perfect, but to also see what you can do to make a change. And change is hard.

Change is also well worth the effort.  The thoughts that fly through all of our heads are undoubtedly brilliant but we have to work to get them to a point where our words reflect them as best as possible.  The more we revise the closer we get to perfection – although perfection isn’t the goal.  Revising forever is tiresome and terrible so there’s a moment when you have to just know that the thing you’ve made is put a fork in it done – but leave time anyway – just to see whether your most important points are on the page the best you know how.

Writing is experimental so it’s OK to change things up and Play with Voice when you feel like that’s fun. Anonymity could help shine light on whatever topics or thoughts you’ve previously thought of as unsuitable for wide release.  Me, I’m trying to see what happens if I let little parts of different selves drip outside of the one you all know and sometimes love.  But I like the idea of coming up with persona so the part of me that wants to run around in flapper dresses sloshing my olive scented martini all over other people at the bar can have a place to roam free.

So don’t be too proud to Pay for Readers.  Cook your friends dinner for reading, or spend some dough on a local class.  Later someone will be paying you, but for now – figure out what it is you write that makes people give a damn.

Blog publishing software allows you to get your writing to people quickly.  Reference links, photo, videos and the once over for typos all add up to the last 10% – the part I like to forget to plan for.  Details like categories, tags and headline rewrites make posts seem pro,  so Plan  for Production.  Choosing new templates, changing designs or adding new features don’t count as production and are forbidden until the post is up and ready, all five steps complete.

Emily Vs. The Internet

September 13, 2011

The internet is to blame for my inability to trust myself.  I’m sure of it. If there was a webpage that someone else made dedicated to my life I’d probably change myself to fit the page.

Why can’t you get off the computer already, I ask my boyfriend? Meanwhile I’m curled up around my iphone watching videos on home remedies for acne in the T-zone area.  How many different options does one need to find the best way to apply olive oil as moisturizer?

Are Aries and Aquarius a good match, a co-worker asked me? I don’t know, I’ll do some research, I answer.  Do some research?  What kind of purple tight wearing internet addicted kind of crazy have I become?  Why don’t I just ask the Aries and the Aquarius at the table what they think?

Part of my Myer’s Briggs profile is introverted thinking, aka know it all.  Surfing the W creates new thoughts in my head that are not raging with to-do lists.  But only yoga and meditation have encouraged me to feel on my own in a quiet self reflective manner.

So I decided, no more internet after 8pm.  It’s like Mark Bittman’s vegetarian before dinner only flipped around:  I can binge on as much internet as I want all day long. The evening is for home, friends and events – not fusing my brain to the screen.

Stay tuned for posts about clipping my toe nails, making collages and torturing the cat.