Self deprecating humor, solid advice

I decided to revisit a post I wrote back in 2016 and update it a little bit. When I started blogging, I used a self deprecating title and tagline to catch the reader’s eye —advice from WordPress’ Blogging 101 course. It was fun for a while, but in time I chose to make the blog more professional and eliminate the silliness. The blog was called: Meg Sorick Writes Better Than She Dresses and the tagline read: “She tried to look picturesque but only succeeded in being untidy.” To explain, here is the post I wrote in 2016:

Have you wondered what the deal is with the tagline for my blog: “She tried to look picturesque but only succeeded in being untidy?” It’s a quote from Oscar Wilde’s “A Picture of Dorian Grey” and refers to Victoria, Lord Henry Wotton’s wife. In the scene from which the quote was taken, Dorian is lounging around at Lord Henry’s house waiting for him when Victoria comes in. This is how the narrator describes her:

“She was a curious woman whose dresses always looked as if they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest. She was usually in love with somebody, and, as her passion was never returned, she had kept all her illusions. She tried to look picturesque, but only succeeded in being untidy.” There’s more of it, but that’s the bit I like.

I imagine you all read the blog title and the tagline and think to yourself, “that Meg must be a mess.” Well, not true, mostly. For one thing, I rarely wear dresses. Skirts, yes. I can match them with a black t-shirt. My friends and family do roll their eyes at me though, because I tend to wear the same or similar things all the time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to look nice, I do. Those fitted black t-shirts from H&M are very flattering. And no I’m not too old to be shopping at H&M. Not for t-shirts, anyway. Besides, I am also cheap.

I guess I don’t easily tire of wearing the same things. I’ve always said I’d do well in an environment where someone told me what to wear. Like the army or prison, maybe. Frankly, it sure makes getting dressed in the morning easier and faster. I will not be the reason you are late getting out the door. Nevertheless, I assure you I am not untidy. I just really find those lines from ‘Dorian Grey’ amusing.

When you think of a writer, what image pops into your head? The disheveled man or woman, still in their bathrobe, sitting at the computer with coffee stains all over their notebooks and crumpled bits of paper strewn across the desk and overflowing the wastebasket? If you write full time, work from home and don’t actually have to see people face to face, would it be easy to slip into that habit? I think it could be. My office is in my home but seeing patients prevents me from sliding down that slippery slope of not bothering.

Imagine what that would do to one’s self esteem after a while. Not getting dressed, not fixing your hair or putting on makeup. Who cares? No one’s going to see me… That’s just one step away from: “I’m not worth it.” I wrote a post in December about treating your writing like a job. Making time for it, being disciplined so that it doesn’t get shoved onto the pile of unfulfilled dreams. Let this advice be another aspect of that discipline: Take care of yourself. Get up and stretch, get some exercise. Come home and shower and make yourself presentable. Wear perfume, just for yourself. Put on makeup so that when you walk by the mirror you won’t be terrified (ok, that’s just me, you probably look fine without makeup). Guys – shave (or at least groom, if your a beard guy), ditch the sweatpants and put on clean jeans and a nice shirt.

Don’t let your writing space turn into a dump, either. Granted, when you’re in the middle of a project, a certain amount of clutter is inevitable but don’t let it get out of hand. Wipe up the coffee stains, empty the wastebasket and whisk the crumbs off the keyboard. Wait till you see how much better that feels. You wouldn’t get away with that if it was your desk in an office building, right? Pretend that it is.

Will these habits help me find inspiration? Cure writer’s block? Help me edit more clearly? I say yes. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.

Take These Chains

Some wonderful words from my friend Roger today. Reblogged with his permission.

rogermoorepoet

IMG_0196.JPGThe Great Chain of Being … Happy

The Great Chain of Being, a concept applied to Medieval Literature by Arthur Lovejoy, suggested that all beings are related in hierarchical structures that link them from top to bottom in an ordered chain. I have always liked that idea and see myself as one among many voices, past, present, and hopefully future that feel and write about the joys of living on this wonderful planet that we inhabit. This thought immediately poses the question: do we write from joy or sorrow? Obviously, it depends upon the individual. Equally obviously, we can write from joy at one stage of our career and from sorrow in another stage.

Antonio Machado phrased it this way: En el corazón tenía / la espina de una pasión. / Logré arrancármela un día: / ya no siento el corazón. I felt in my heart a thorn…

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You know you’re not going to make it, right?

A writer’s life…

I’ve got a five year plan.

Lately, I’ve become more and more realistic about writing and publishing in this brave new world of authorship. I read a great deal about the self-publishing world and the immense effort it takes for an indie author to stay afloat in this vast sea of writers and self publishers. I watch my fellow writers blog about their Amazon marketing strategies, their Twitter blitzes, their visits to independent bookshops, courting their email subscribers, and writing up monthly or biweekly newsletters. Imagine all the time and energy that takes and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Frankly, it’s discouraging. Gone are the days when a writer could concentrate on their craft. Poring over their manuscripts by the light of a candle or an oil lamp, gaslight, even. I want to be F. Scott Fitzgerald banging away on the typewriter at the beach house with a ubiquitous glass of whisky. The modern author is expected to self promote, market and network. That’s what agents used to be for. I don’t want to spend 90% of my time promoting myself and 10% working wearily on my next project. All the while worrying whether it has the right hook, the perfect opening lines so that it will sell. Because that is what even the traditional publishing route is looking for —a self-motivated author with mass market appeal. Oh, and don’t forget, a unique and compelling story that has never been told before. Sigh…

Since I’ve been here on WordPress, I have met so many talented people, some really exceptional writers and storytellers. I’ve seen them blog enthusiastically, begin projects, slow down and eventually run out of steam. Then, poof, they disappear. We’re not all going to make it. That’s the cold truth. All the talent in the world does not guarantee you commercial success. Only guts, determination and massive self confidence is going to win you the seat at the publishing table.

Look, I think I’m a pretty good writer, but I don’t like saying it out loud. That sentence even made me cringe. The little bit of promotion I’ve done on my blog makes me uncomfortable. I hate the idea of constantly barraging my followers with posts screaming: “BUY MY BOOKS!” I don’t want to write a biweekly email newsletter and beg everyone to sign up for it. I’m not even on Twitter! I don’t have the stomach for that. I get nauseated thinking about it. But this is the climate we live and work in today. Is there any hope for a writer like me?

Back to the five year plan. I am writing a new novel, separate from my previous series. I may even publish under a pen name. When it is complete, I will try to shop it around to an agent. Five years. That’s how long it took John Grisham to find someone to publish “A Time To Kill.” If, after five years, and no success, I will hang it up. Throw in the towel. Listen to the voices around me saying “you’re not going to make it” and move on. Let’s get real. I’ll be ok. And…

I will always be a writer, even if I am writing for an audience of one.