Too much blaming and not gaining


I cringe every time I see an article about eliminating straws.

It’s symptomatic of our society pushing the blame on the person who has no control over the situation.

Not just straws, but other things like diet and exercise.

I think it’s partially because of the rush of information. All anyone can do is check the box.

But it hides the reality.

What is the reality?

I’m going to pick on plastic because it’s easy to pick on.

Everyone focuses on eliminating plastic straws because it’s a small simple thing they can do. It feels important.

Well…

Critical Thinking Cat is giving that the evil eye.

I subscribe two newspapers. Every day they arrive, each wrapped in a plastic bag.

I buy ergonomic friendly dishwasher detergent pods. They come in a cardboard box, and each pod is wrapped in plastic.

I buy organic chia seeds. Plastic bag.

I buy organic raw almond butter. Plastic jar.

But we get lectured on not recycling enough. Really?!!

Critical thinking is much needed

This is where we all need our inner Critical Thinking Cat.

Close up of striped tabby glaring at camera in only a way a cat can.
Critical Thinking Cat. Photo from ClipArt.com

Too much information is flowing past us. We all need to question it and keep questioning it.

Critical thinking is asking:

  • What’s the other side of this?
  • What are they selling me?
  • What are they getting out of it? (which is sometimes, continuing to do what they want.)

There are always people who want to take advantage of that. Always.

Keep your Critical Thinking Cat well fed.

24 hour everything–can I get off?


This year is the first time I decided not to get the NanoWrite Story Bundle. It took me a while to figure out why. Turned out the reason showed up in a comment on the blog:

I’ve got to where I don’t take any more writing workshops or courses (same with marketing, etc.) because they all have the same information slightly rehashed and dressed up in different styles – but it’s all the same stuff! I’m even passing up free courses/workshops for this reason.

Pearl R. Meaker ‘s comment from a post last week.

Yup. There were lots of books on the craft of writing. It didn’t look like anything new.

Death of Information Flow

Writing Muse thinks it started with the 24 hour news cycle.

I remember when the first 24 hour news station came online. I remember because I was headed for war, during the first Persian Gulf War.

The 24 hour news was a novelty so everyone had it on. I heard several times a day some version of “Soldiers are going to die!”

Yeah, that made me feel really good.

Now it’s dress up the information, put a different spin on it.

Give it a marketing phrase. Pretend like it’s new.

Shhh. No one will notice.

Critical Thinking Cat

Since cats are really good at critical thinking….I think that’s their normal state.

Close up an orange and gray cat, with a single green eye visible
Critical Thinking Cat. Image from ClipArt.com

What’s in it for the person selling? Helping people out? Or getting another name on the mailing list?

Critical Thinking Cat is rolling his eyes. Knocks stuff off because he’s annoyed.

Whap! Tell me something that’s actually new. Dressing up the same writing tips (or time management tips or eating tips) doesn’t add any value.

Whap! Stop urgently repeating. If I’m not paying attention to it the first time, I probably won’t the second or third times, or tenth times.

Whap! Be authentic. I think that’s a tough thing for a lot of people. They have to get the dollars rolling in and spin makes that happen faster–but also doesn’t last.

Spin gets the shiny but doesn’t keep people around.

Additional Reading

Fun Bunny says “own the fun”


I don’t always go out and have fun like I should.

Sometimes it’s too easy to get caught up in everything happening and just leave fun to the wayside.

I have a day job and write fiction on the side. Which means evening and weekends are usually my writing time.

Sometimes I can say writing is fun. Where else would you have adventures like:

  • Traveling into space
  • Solving a mystery
  • Being a superhero

Yet, getting out and away is just as important. So I’m going to share some of my fun.

Visiting a farm

I grew up in Los Angeles, so no farms there. Just a concrete city, lots of sun, lots of movie stars.

So when I found out a local place called Frying Pan Park had a working farm, I had to go.

I really wanted to see cows. Don’t know. Just because.

Gratuitous animal photos

Of course, the first animal I found was a cat. Got some serious petting. The cat was also carrying a litter.

Rear view of pregnant white cat with brown and tan spots

Next up are the baby goats. And they were hungry!

The goats came from another farm. Those mama goats gave birth to three babies, but they only have equipment enough for two. So the farmer sent them over to the park so they could survive. Both of these are a week old.

Two baby goats getting fed milk
BAAAAHHHHH!

Another baby goat. This one was older. He walked right up to the fence and checked me out.

A baby goat looks right up at me.
Got food?

Ah ha! Found baby cows. There were two hanging out in the stable.

Two calves and one sheep in a stable
Ooh, can’t quite get that itch

Da cow! Da cow!

Dark brown cow with a white face, grazing out on a field

Scratching the itch

These days, it feels hard to be spontaneous. We’ve become a world where planning everything is encouraged.

How did we go from children wandering outside to play with dolls (or action figures) to planning every minute of the day?

Why does everything have to have sa specific purpose?

Sometimes there’s value in just doing.

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Overbalancing at the speed of a turtle


We have a pond at work with about 50 turtles. I like walking around the pond when the sun’s warm and watching them.

Turtles actually have three speeds, not just the slow and steady of Aesop’s fable, The Hare and the Tortoise. (Golden Retriever Muse said it was fun revisiting this story.)

Speed 1: Sitting on a rock, soaking up the sun. They usually have one of their feet kicked up in the air.

Speed 2: The slow we all know. This is the turtle on land, each step slow and deliberate.

Speed 3: Watch a turtle chase a fish in the water. It’s zip, zip, zip!

Learning at Turtle Speed on Steroids

Most of the learning we get today is taking that third speed and adding more speed. Even the Hare wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Our world wants to move fast, fast, fast!

Learn one thing. Hurry! Move onto to the next.

More is better.

Except that it really isn’t.

We aren’t always taking the time to process what we learn.

Collecting Information is Not Learning

Part of learning information is evaluating it.

How can I use it? What do I think of it?

Even questioning it.

Golden Retriever Muse finds a lot of information is presented as shiny. At the grocery store, she eyed a magazine on how dogs communicate. Or the magazine on how to simplify that was busy with tips.

Yet, all feel rather superficial.

Even writing sites are superficial

Writing Nerd has sometimes been frustrated by the lack of information on how to write–amid the clutter of information on how to write.

Writing fiction isn’t the only place. Everywhere seems cluttered.

Most of it is superficial. Someone else holds our hand and tells us what to do.

It’s like taking a multiple choice test.

But we don’t actually take in the information because we’re like the Golden Retriever Muse–off to the next shiny thing.

The Key is Balance of Speed

That’s where the other turtle speeds come in. Sometimes you have to slow down to learn.

And sometimes it’s best to sit in the sun and do nothing while you absorb what you learning.

It’s all about balance.

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Logic Squirrel agrees…disagrees…agrees


This came over my Facebook feed (paraphrased):

We can’t talk about politics or religion because we haven’t learned how to talk about them.

Logic Squirrel ponders if we ever actually learned how, or just learned how to be civil about it.

The internet has stripped away civility.  Now everything is interpreted in black and white.

Everything is actually shades of gray.

That have shades of gray.

And it’s not just politics and religion that we have trouble discussing.

It’s everything.

Not a One-Size Fits All

I’m a fiction writer (which you can tell by the books on the site).  I don’t use an outline to figure out my story.

How I write is a shade of gray with a whole lot of shades of gray.

The only thing that really should count is the finished book.

But writers want to divide up into the outliners versus the people who don’t outline (there are terms for the non-outliners.  Logic Squirrel thinks all of them are silly).

“If you don’t write exactly my way,” a writer will say, “you’re doing it wrong.”

Writing Nerd has been told this a lot from both sides of the aisle.

Logic Squirrel scratches head.  Nope, not fleas.  He’s puzzled.  It shouldn’t matter.

Yet, it does.

So why do we go to our separate corners?

Human beings have a need to put things in buckets.  Sometimes it’s pretty useful.

But it also stops us from asking questions when we should.

Not just in writing but anything really.

And it takes away from being a human being.  Part of being a human being is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  You might not agree with them but you understand at least why.

Writing Nerd wanders in

Logic Squirrel just spotted an acorn.  Zoom!

I think it’s also just easy to put something into a category and have blinders on that other people can have other experiences that make their viewpoint different.

The worst part about those blinders?

We stop learning.

Maybe it’s time to find the shades of gray and start asking questions.

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Fearless rabbit trails and owning your inner nerd


The other day I thought about this:

We haven’t done anything big and adventurous in a long time.

Ponder this: During the Skunkworks days of Lockheed, pioneers built the Blackbird in just a few years.

Now we have jet technology that takes decades and runs into cost overruns.

What about Hollywood?

I remember when Star Wars came out. People stood in long lines at the theater to see it. How many times you saw it was a big bragging point.

Today?

I can’t even name a movie I think people will remember and still talk about in ten years.

TV series are cancelled and people don’t even remember them. Star Trek was created in 1966 and is still memorable over 50 years later.

What happened?!

Writing Nerd Speculates

I’ve watched as this destruction of taking chances started in television. Then it showed up in the movie industry. Now it’s in the publishing industry.

Dollars versus creativity overbalanced.

Understandably, companies and people wanted to make money.

Heck, I want to make money with my books.

But people focused too much on making money. In fact, I think now it’s only on making money.

We saw the publishing industry gut their mid-list writers because the books didn’t turn into best sellers. Never mind that in the next few years, their reliance on best selling writers is going to hit critical mass.

Hollywood’s already hit critical mass. They do not take any chances. Everything’s a remake because a remake is a “sure thing.” It was successful before.

So we get retreads.

Can it be fixed?

This is one of the reasons I’ve changed what I’m posting. As a fiction writer, I don’t stand out when everyone else is all talking about writing. I fell into the trap of being like everyone else.

It means trying out something that’s not only outside the line, but the line is nowhere in sight.

It means taking a chance that something might fail–and probably will.

But it’s what we learn from the failure that propels us to success. And sometimes the success isn’t immediate, but long term.

Embrace your inner nerd today.

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Busting Writing Rules: Show, Don’t Tell


General Business

Got a name change for my upcoming pantser book: Writer’s Toolkit: 7 Secrets No One Tells Pantsers.   It’s all the things I wished I’d known decades ago.  Several of the secrets are almost never talked about, which is astounding.

Onto the next installment….

Show, Don’t Tell

Like the “no adverbs” rule, this one showed up on all the top ten writing lists in the major writing magazines.  In critiques, writers are lectured sternly on it and scratch their heads, trying to figure out what exactly they’re doing.

What it Actually Means

 This rule boils down to a basic concept: Use specific details in your descriptions from the character’s perspective and include the five senses.

Busting the Rule

This is a rule that has been oversimplified to the point of making it meaningless.  Unfortunately, not everyone understands it really well to start with.

How can you figure out if you tell too much and don’t show enough?  There are some clear signs:

  1. You’re keeping your description to a bare minimum.
  2. You’re abusing adverbs.
  3. You’re abusing dialogue tags.

It’s pretty hard to show a character is angry if there isn’t any description available to do it.  That results in telling to explain that the character is angry.

But does that mean telling should be entirely done away with?

No!  And that’s why the absolutes of a rule are such a poor choice.  Saying something like “It took two and a half hours to drive to Santa Barbara” is telling…but really, would your story actually need to show a road trip where nothing happens?  It’s a matter of common sense to figure out where to use telling.

What you can do

Be specific in your details

This does mean ramping up the description skills.  If the room in your romance novel is “perfect,” what does that entail?  Does it smell of main character’s other half?  Why does she like the furnishings?  What memories might they evoke?

There are a lot of places here where you can get specific and have some fun building the characterization.

Just remember—when doing details, use only three at a time.  Then switch to something else, like an inner conflict or a puzzle, and then switch back for details.  You can study this technique in pretty much any bestseller.  In Elizabeth Moon’s Oath of Fealty, the new king wakes up for the first time in his palace room.  We learn what the room looks like and also how uncertain he is about this new place, all at one time.

This is a skill that simply takes practice.  Have fun doing it! You’ll be digging deep into who your character is and that makes the best stories.