There is clearly a racist message here because
a) it's being circulated by a racist party of fascist Nazi racist racists,
b) because of the oh-so-clever hidden subtext of the phrase 'white Christmas' that Cyclops/Fuhrer Dickibegyourpardonnick Griffin's reichschancellory full of political geniuses have cryptically woven into it.
But, as Metro have pointed out, it's an altered stock image, also used by thoroughly mainstream publications.
The Aryan child - pale and blonde and blue-eyed - is still the vanilla standard of beauty and innocence in the aesthetic system that capitalism calls Christmas. Mainstream adverts and cards will engage in tokenism so as to simperingly hook in with sentimenal one-world platitudes, and sell to more than just white people, but non-white faces are still the variety sprinkled around the white standard.
It's not the young model's fault, of course. She's just peddled her own image in a system of bodily commodification (as we all must peddle ourselves, one way or another, in order to get by) only to find her image purchased and used by a bunch of evil, twisted, shambolic fascist pisswizards.
(BTW, my derision may reflect the current state of the BNP, but I don't mean to dismiss them as an archaic or dormant threat. They're still Nazi filth and they still hurt people.)
[Peanuts, January 8, 1967, reappearing as today’s strip. The pink background is well chosen.]
Lucy has made a piece of toast for her brother and has extracted from him ever more fulsome expressions of gratitude: “Thank you, dear sister.” “Thank you, dear sister . . greatest of all sisters.” “Thank you, dear sister, greatest of all sisters, without whom I’d never survive!” If anyone in the comics is going to observe a distinction between nauseated and nauseous, it would be Linus van Pelt.
I learned about this distinction — if it is one — from David Foster Wallace: “Nauseous for nauseated” is one entry in the page-long catalogue of bad usage that prefaces Wallace’s essay “Tense Present.” In Infinite Jest, Kate Gompert speaks of feeling nauseous. Her doctor refers to feeling nauseated. The novel’s third-person narrator also distinguishes between the words.
This distinction — if it is one — has a long history for snoots and sticklers. There’s no entry for it in the original Fowler’s. Nor is there one in the 1959 edition of The Elements of Style. But Theodore Bernstein’s The Careful Writer (1965) has it:
A thing is nauseous if it makes one sick to the stomach; the unfortunate victim of this malaise is nauseated. The common misuse of nauseous appears in this passage: “When he sits too long, turns his head too abruptly, or walks any distance, he gets dizzy, loses balance, and becomes nauseous.” He doesn’t become nauseous unless he turns other people’s stomachs; he becomes nauseated. A person who feel sick is no more nauseous than a person who has been poisoned is poisonous.Wilson Follett’s Modern American Usage (1967) makes a brief mention:
When, for example, we have two adjectives, nauseous and nauseated, it should be clear that the first applies to the substance that causes the state named in the second. To call oneself nauseous except in self-depreciation is to ignore the point of view of the word.I wonder: could the language of advertising have prompted attention to these words? Were people in mid-’60s Pepto-Bismol commercials proclaiming themselves to be nauseous? I have a vague memory of such commercials — “I . . . feel . . . nauseous.” Or was it “I . . . feel . . . awful”? Did such commercials precede these books? I don’t know.
E. B. White caught up in the third (1979) edition of The Elements of Style:
Nauseous. Nauseated. The first means “sickening to contemplate”; the second means “sick at the stomach.” Do not, therefore, say, “I feel nauseous,” unless you are sure you have that effect on others.And Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009) says that the use of nauseous for nauseated
is becoming so common that to call it an error is to exaggerate. Even so, careful writers tend to be sickened by the slippage and to follow the traditional distinction in formal writing: what is nauseous makes one feel nauseated.And examples of careful use follow, the first of which comes from — yes, from David Foster Wallace. In Bryan Garner’s Language-Change Index, nauseous for nauseated is at Stage 4, meaning that use is “virtually universal but is opposed on cogent grounds by a few linguistic stalwarts (die-hard snoots).”
The repeated if it is one in this post signals my skepticism about this distinction. There are many -ous words that can describe people (cantankerous, flirtatious, generous, outrageous); nauseous is easily at home among them. And we do have nauseating to describe whatever makes one nauseous.
The curious thing, which I find in no discussion of this distinction: the Oxford English Dictionary has this earliest (now obsolete) meaning for nauseous (1613): “Of a person, the stomach, etc.: inclined to sickness or nausea; squeamish.” Look at that: the word first described people. And according to the OED, nauseous in American usage has applied to people since 1885: “affected with nausea; having an unsettled stomach; (fig .) disgusted, affected with distaste or loathing.” That makes the nauseated/nauseous distinction — if it is one — look tenuous indeed. There are other matters of usage more deserving of attention. Some of them have me climbing the walls. Literally!
This post is an instance of what can happen when I read the comics.
[“Thank you, dear sister . . greatest of all sisters”: not a typo. Just as many a cartoon hand has only four fingers, a cartoon ellipsis may have only two dots. The first edition of the OED gives the earliest meaning of nauseous as “inclined to nausea; fastidious” and does not address American usage.]
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.
I found a script for Doctor Who.
CINDY & BISCUIT no.4 is here!
28 b+w pages, colour cover
After it’s debut at this year’s Thought Bubble, Cindy & Biscuit no.4 is finally available. 28 pages, comprised of all of the Cindy & Biscuit one-pagers, Cindy & Biscuit and Mr Andrews, as well as the brand new strip ‘Cindy & Biscuit in Abominable’.
I’m super proud of this work – it’s the densest, most formally playful work I’ve ever done, but still includes plenty of hitting and smashing. Don’t forget that Cindy & Biscuit were also nominated for Best Young Person’s Comic at this year’s British Comic Awards!
You can buy it over at the Milk The Cat Shop, along with their other adventures
Check out some sample images:
Derek's Weekly 45: Beverley - Happy New Year b/w Where The Good Times Are
There's not a whole lot of songs that focus on New Year's celebrations besides the perennial what-are-the-words-no-one-knows-the-words Auld Lang Syne.
Young Randy Newman penned this charming ode back before he began own solo career, and the song certainly lends a positive feeling for a new year or, simply, a new beginning.
While 'Happy New Year' is the side of honor considering the date, it's the flip side that REALLY cooks, and has a quite remarkable sotry as well.
The "Beverley" here in question at the time was Beverley Kutner. A few short years later, she married legendary (and superb) British folkie John Martyn where the two recorded some lovely music together.
HOWEVER, just a few short years earlier (1966), we find 19 year old Beverley backed in the studio by Jimmy Page (laying down some of his finest ever guitar workings, with a chunking riff that's virtually the blueprint for "Communication Breakdown") as well as John Paul Jones (making this one of the earliest sessions that these two played on which is heavily proto-Zeppelin-esque). This was also the debut release from Deram records, the highly influential London beat/psychedelic/ progressive label.
This record is hypnotic; the lulling piano (played by Nicky Hopkins) juxtaposed with the heavy guitar, Beverley's confident, swaggering vocal and the always fantastic British drumming.
My Own Little Boxing Match: Conflicting Emotions On Evander Holyfield
Sadly yet another example of this appeared within hours when Evander Holyfield put forward the Christian perspective on same-sex attraction: Holyfield remarked that finding someone of the same-sex attractive was akin to having a birth defect that needed medical attention.
This is enough for anyone to recognise he hasn't a clue about the subject at hand. Sexuality is a complicated and fluid thing and the dangerous idea it needs to be policed when it harms none is one should be mocked and vigorously argued against. (And for those who would point out "Well it does harm people" I would ask them to explain in what way touching another member of the same-sex's genitals in a consensual setting could possibly harm another as a general rule [i.e. sexually transmitted diseases, not unique to same-sex couplings, don't quite cover it]).
All well and good so far, I'm fighting on the side of the "angels" (for which read the leftie, liberal progressive worldview).
But the reaction from Channel 5 and Ofcom, with dodgy wordings from Big Brother such as:
"While Big Brother understands these are the views you hold, they aren't the views that are held by a large section of society, and expressing these views will be extremely offensive to many people.
Do you understand why?"Exactly what point are they trying to get at? Homosexuality has, for a great deal of time, offended a large section of society. That didn't mean homosexuality was wrong. If I were to base my moral and ethical judgments on what a "large section of society" believes I think I would be far less moral and ethical than I currently am (for which see people who think boxing is a suitable sport to watch or participate in).
And Ofcom's suggestion that it might investigate Celebrity Big Brother over the remarks stinks of the sort moralistic mothering that crushed LGBT people's freedom of expression for years.
I hate to do this but I, for the most part, find myself agreeing with Brendan O'Neill (a man whose career is partially based on supporting every homophobic remark or campaign he comes across out of a sense of contrarianism) when he calls attitudes towards Holyfield "intolerant".
I wholeheartedly believe that Evander Holyfield is an idiot. I completely oppose his position that same-sex attraction is in any way worthy of shame or correction. But, just as when I've stated I'm not opposed to LGBT folk seeking ex-gay or ex-trans therapy regardless of its efficacy or lack thereof, I cannot see any reason (he makes no threat of violence nor demands action against others) to censure or censor his remarks officially.
Let the anti-LGBT folk hang themselves with their words. My office was filled with derisory laughter today over his remarks. They were hardly eloquent or thought-provoking enough to have engendered any other reaction from most reasonable people. We must argue forcefully against such people. But let's try to be the better people whilst doing it.
As I’ve discussed before in this space, I am not one for New Year’s resolutions. They are, like most last-minute life-changing decisions, made in haste and repented in leisure. They generally set their sights unrealistically high, which is an easy and delicious recipe for chicken-fried failure, or they’re so easily attainable as to not be worthwhile in the first place. Besides, there’s something about tying your acts of will to a turn of the calendar that makes it seem as though you’re helpless to get your shit together without the assistance of an entire centuries-old system of marking time. If you want to do something, just do it; you never hear anyone say “This is the year I’m finally going to do something about my house being on fire.”
This isn’t to say I never even attempt to flap my arms hard enough to direct my life’s tailspin towards a nice dramatic mountainside instead of an anonymous flat patch of earth. Like most people, I go through periods of wanting to eat better, dress better, make halfway-decent use of my health insurance, or finally comb the rust out of my beard. But I don’t really trust the efficacy of publicly announced resolutions, because who gives a shit if I live up to them or not? If there was a Supreme Soviet of Resolutions that would send me to a prison farm if I didn’t use my parks pass at least once a month, that would be one thing, but most of the things I care enough to make myself do, I, well, care enough to make myself do. All my writing-related resolutions are just forms of self-discipline, which one needn’t fancy up with holiday frills; they’re just things you’re going to do or you aren’t, and if you lack even that level of drive, then probably a creative life is not for you. (I had planned on writing a blog entry for every movie I saw this year, but, illustrating the level of intense devotion I bring to all my projects, it only lasted four days into 2014, at which point I got zooted and watched Good Burger. No one needs to read a thousand words about that.)
Worse than that, though, is the fact that most New Year’s resolutions are just so…trite. The United States government, which apparently has taken care of that pesky unemployment problem we were having a while back, collected the most popular resolutions for 2013, and a more dreary lot of vows I have not heard since I narrowly escaped joining the holy orders as a member of the Flabby Brothers of the Impertinent Scowl. I know many of you have taken these very vows, and bless you for it; I don’t even know who you are reading this, but I am sure that you are a better person than I am, and I am equally sure that 2015 will find you having lived up to these impossibly tedious resolutions. I won’t be joining you, however, and here, aside from the fact that they are depressingly dull, is why.
DRINK LESS. Nope. I won’t be doing this. I’m getting up in years, and a lot of my friends who were once head-in-the-toilet drunks are taking the primrose path of sobriety. I am happy for that if it lets them live longer, and I’m sure their clean-and-sober stories will be much more interesting than the thousand other ones I have heard over the years, but I will not be joining them on that path. Here’s why: I enjoy drinking. I enjoy being drunk. For reasons too terrifying to contemplate, I no longer get hangovers. And best of all, I’m good at drinking. I’m better now than I ever was. I can glug down gin like iced tea and wake up the next morning ready to watch other people run a marathon. It’s safe to say that I am not good at nearly enough things that I can afford to give one of them up so easily. ”But Leonard,” I hear some of you nosey Parkers saying, “Your father was an alcoholic.” Exactly! Which is why it’s such a miracle that I’m not, and why it’s vital that I continue the mission of drinking myself stupid for as long as I possibly can.
FURTHER MY EDUCATION. I could do this, or I could take all the money I get paid from my job and set it on fire. It might be tempting if I had something to further, but I never even graduated from high school; even if there was some payoff for me going back to school, I wouldn’t get a degree worth wiping up ketchup stains with until I was in my mid-50s, and I’m pretty sure by that time the highest-paying career for proletarian scum like myself will be selling limbs for food. Besides, if I had the knack for education, I wouldn’t have hit the rocks when I was fifteen.
GET A BETTER JOB. I like my job, but even if I had designs in that direction, this is on the level of “win the lottery” as something you can attain through sheer personal determination. I can barely compete with 20-year-olds for parking spaces.
GET FIT. Uggggh. So dreary. Look, I have nothing against getting fit. My body appears to have a constitutional disinclination for it, but I will admit to missing the days when I weighed in at a lean 235 instead of being a beer gut surrounded by a human donut hole. But there is nothing remotely interesting about working out, losing weight, getting fit, fat-shaming, paying thousands of dollars to the weight loss industry, or doing any of the things you have to do to live three years longer than I will. I always want to eat better, but hearing people talk about their dietary habits is exactly as depressing and futile as hearing retirees discuss their own failing health, which is exactly what today’s fitness enthusiasts will be doing when they’re that age. Luckily, their obsession with the contours of their own mortality will leave them ill-equipped for any painful speculation about why they didn’t focus on getting their minds in better shape, or being better people instead of thinner people. (Side note to vegetarians: on most of the key elements of your argument, you are 100% right — probably even righter than you’d be comfortable with. It’s just that I don’t care.)
ANYTHING INVOLVING MY FINANCIAL SITUATION. I’ve discussed at length my deep distrust of any gesture towards ‘maturity’ or ‘being an adult’ that involves a massive transfer of my already meager income into the coffers of multi-billion-dollar financial institutions, so there’s no need to belabor that point. Twice before I’ve made resolutions to save money towards my retirement, but the stock market did not make a matching resolution to not collapse due the the machinations of greedy scumbags, so it was a wasted effort both times. Indeed, most of my financial problems come down to being under the thumb of the Man, so it seems like he’s the one who should be changing his behavior, not me. I am working on my debt situation through the tried-and-true measure of ceaselessly avoiding my creditors, and if you check back with me in about six or seven years, I reckon it will have worked out quite nicely; and I’m well on my way towards saving a lot more money this year than I usually do, but that’s just so I can spend it later on things I like. Unforgivably juvenile, I know.
TAKE LESS DRUGS. Look, I’ve spend literally my entire adult life wishing I could live somewhere with a sane drug policy. Now that I finally do, it would be terribly hypocritical to cut back on my THC intake.
TAKE FEWER DRUGS. I won’t be doing that either, but I do have some suggestions for a few of you anent being an insufferable grammar pedant.
Basically, I plan to spend as much of 2014 as possible relaxing, reading, watching movies, listening to music, hanging out with my friends, spending time with the people I love, traveling aimlessly, maximizing my enjoyment of life, and making sport of mankind’s hilarious delusions that it will last forever and that it controls its own destiny. But I do look forward to your end-of-year equivocations, so please do cc: me on those. Happy new calendar, everybody!
Mirrored from LEONARD PIERCE DOT COM.
The SNP is determined to track down every last Yes vote
Why we should give free money to everyone.
Lord Ashcroft’s mega poll has UKIP on 16pc – the highest his surveys have ever recorded
The latest Lord Ashcroft mega poll has just been published as part of a study on how the Tories could win at GE2015. The poll was carried out online amongst a sample of 8,053 more than a month ago.
Unlike the regular YouGov and Populus online polls Lord Ashcroft doesn’t use party ID weighting which tends to depress the UKIP voting numbers. To me it is striking that the 16% UKIP share is very close to tonight’s 17% share from Opinium which also doesn’t use such a weighting.
The big problem for the Tories is that even though Dave rates ahead of Ed as “Best PM” and the Tories have a lead on managing the economy a total of 37% of those who voted blue in May 2010 say they won’t next time
In his commentary on the poll Lord Ashctoft highlights the fact that many voters doubt the Tories on fairness and public services.
LAB majority drops 5% as preferred GE2015 outcome
The big change in the above chart is the 5% drop in those wanting a LAB majority and the increase in those who’s like either a CON-LD or LAB-LD coalition.
On the economy Cameron/Osborne beat Two Eds 57-43 but there is a big question mark highlighted in the following finding.
Will “Me and my family” matter more to voters than “Country as a whole”
I’m sure there are lots of goodies in the poll detail which I’ll be writing about when the datasets become available.
Blogging from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble 2004-2014
The Most Beautiful Fraud: Her
Even if you’d never heard of him before, you’d know from seeing Spike Jonze’s latest, Her, that he isn’t a first-time director. Visually speaking, it’s powerfully effective, verging on masterful; he manages to set up almost every shot, even relatively inconsequential place-setting ones, in the most precise manner to deliver whatever mood he’s trying for at the moment. Her is, as befits a movie about computerized intelligence, saturated in its own artificiality; it looks like it was made by a high-profile advertising agency. That would be a complaint for a lot of movies, but for Her, which often seems like a blend of a tragicomic romance and an informercial for a future that hasn’t quite arrived yet, it’s perfect; Jonze’s mise en scène is calculated to perfectly fit a movie where commercial products are designed to fill emotional voids. He gets why advertising works so well on our neuroses and desires, and everything about Her, from its IKEA-clean apartment towers to its high-waisted pants of the future, looks like it was developed to nurture those desires.
Just as obviously, though, is the fact that Jonze is a first-time screenwriter. Her has a lot of problems, and they’re ones that might easily have been solved by a more experienced collaborator having a go at the script; it’s hard to imagine, for example, Charlie Kaufman delivering a finished product with as many nagging problems as this movie has. Among the mistakes made here — rookie miscalculations, all of them — are widening the focus when keeping the view narrow would have worked better; miscalculating the right moment to switch from comedy to drama; and, most fatally of all, creating a world full of questions and then failing to answer most of them. This is an error common to a lot of genre specialists (which it is to be sincerely hoped Jonze does not become); though it’s presumptuous of a critic to outline the film he wanted to watch instead of the one he actually saw, the inescapable sensation at the end of Her is that it would have worked just as well or better without the sci-fi trappings.
Her is the story of Theodore Twombly, a gifted writer who’s given up on art and now directs his special empathy towards working at a tech company that artificially hand-crafts personal letters for people unable to express their own feelings. Despite this gift, he’s incapable of truly committing to a relationship himself, and his marriage has recently collapsed — a reality he’s entirely unwilling to face. (This predictive aspect of the plot and the film’s constant exercise of the theme of people being incapable of saying what they really want puts Her in the company of the mumblecore crypto-movement; thankfully, nothing else does.) He lives and works in a near-future Los Angeles that is so similar to our own that it seems immediately disruptive when we’re introduced to the concept of an artificially intelligent computer operating system that is so indistinguishable from a human being that Twombly finds himself falling in love with his — and having to deal with the consequences when it develops more rapidly than he can cope with.
There’s a lot to love in this story. The acting is excellent across the board; Joaquin Phoenix fully lives in the role of the gregarious but reticent Twombly, Amy Adams is predictably excellent as an old friend of his, Chris Pratt is his usual scene-stealing self as a co-worker, and Scarlett Johannson does perhaps the best acting of her career as Samantha, Twombly’s OS. (She does so while never appearing on screen, which is, depending on your perspective, either to her credit or her detriment.) There are some genuinely surprising and fascinating moments, especially when Samantha engages the services of a sexual surrogate in a deeply misguided attempt to step up her relationship with Twombly. It’s pretty funny in several places, and it’s never less than visually engaging. And like very few other romance movies, for I think it’s fair to call Her that despite the myriad distractions, it tries to deliver a lot of emotional truth, and more than a few times, it succeeds.
The biggest problem is that when it doesn’t succeed, it’s usually because the science fiction gimmick gets in the way of the story. Time after time, aspects of Samantha’s nature are questioned when convenient and ignored when it would be difficult to provide answers. Twombly confronts her about the artificiality of her sighs but not of her orgasms; she makes huge leaps forward in her intelligence and perception when the plot requires it to happen (that is, when it is needed to become an artificial barrier to their relationship), but why didn’t it happen when she first came on line? Didn’t anyone beta-test this thing? Twombly is presented as a realistically flawed but human character when the movie wants us to feel for him, but the inherently creepy quality of the whole relationship is never addressed — after all, if Samantha has true emotions and intelligence, being someone else’s property introduces a highly questionable power dynamic; and if she doesn’t, then who cares? This all comes to ahead in the film’s final half-hour, when an aspect of her nature becomes clear when it should have been a factor all along. This clearly was done for plot reasons, to throw a largely arbitrary roadblock into the path of their relationship; so it becomes necessary to ask, why not just make her an actual woman in the first place? By trying to have it both ways, Jonze avoids the most essential of the emotional issues he’s spent a lot of time setting up.
All this might have been a moot point — or at least one a lot easier to ignore — if Her kept its focus just on the relationship between Twombly and Samantha. But like a lot of neophyte writers, Jonze is enamored of his own ideas, and opens up the world to show us that everywhere you go in this bleached-white world, people are developing friendships and romances with their OSs. All this accomplishes is to muddle the plot, suggest dozens of questions to which no answers are forthcoming, and set up conflicts that are never resolved. It changes what could have been a very good movie into a tremendously flawed one; what remains is worth watching, but it sinks under the weight of its own elaborate conceit. Lucky for us, Jonze is already a great director, and he can always get better as a writer. When Kaufman went solo, his first directorial effort was Synecdoche, New York; Jonze may have a masterpiece in him on the level of his former collaborator’s debut, but Her isn’t it.
Mirrored from LEONARD PIERCE DOT COM.
Outside the Gobernment 15: Newtons Sleep
Lately cannonballs have flown their arcs, leaving the crystal sky unbroken, while on Earth their traces are all too visible: Englishmen reduced to piles of offal and powdered bone; the ruins of fastnesses, once impregnable, now shattered and exposed; the earth ripped asunder and scorched by sizzling violent impacts. The glass dome of the sky is undisturbed, and Heaven has never seemed so far away. So are proved the observations of the Europeans; of Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe, Kepler, and of freshly-dead Cartesius (whose worlds whirl not by the command of the primum mobile but on dimly-imagined vortices): the celestial spheres are of a distance only God can conceive.
Irrelovence – the paradox of the stance of the SNP
I have, until now, remained neutral in the debate over whether Scotland should remain in the UK or become an insignificant independent country entirely dependent on UK trade links, UK technologies and UK financial systems but without any say in the policies that determine its place in the world or the future of its people.
I have maintained the view that the choice between or is entirely a matter for the Scottish people.
However, reports on a poll conducted by the SNP indicate support in the rest of the UK for an SNP led independent Scotland to remain in Sterling and hold common passports with unrestricted travel throughout the UK.
The problem with this poll though, is that the hypothesis on which it is based is entirely unfounded because in the event that Scotland votes for independence she will be voting herself out of the European Union, whilst the United Kingdom will remain a member of the European Union.
The moment Scotland leaves the EU she will lose her right to free movement in the rest of the UK by default, she will need to establish an independent Passport and there will need to be border controls both at the English/Scottish borders and at our airports and ports. This isn’t a matter of choice for the rest of the UK, this is a matter of requirement under the UK’s membership of the EU.
Herein lies the paradox that the SNP have failed to address in their case for an independent Scotland remaining in the Sterling Zone. Under European membership rules the Sterling Zone can not extend beyond the European Union. Scotland must be a member of the European Union if she is to remain in the Sterling Zone, and to become a member of the European Union an independent Scotland must first apply for membership and demonstrate that she meets the economic conditions for entry.
Whilst Scotland is achieving those economic conditions she can not remain in Sterling because she is not in the European Union.
Therefore the paradox of the position now being taken by the SNP is that in order for Scotland to remain in Sterling and retain free movement throughout the rest of the UK, Scotland must remain in the UK.
It is just a pity that the SNP have spent so many years campaigning clearly for electoral success only to demonstrate when they get it that their position has always been impossible to achieve.
With remaining in Sterling and free movement throughout the UK now the stated policies of the SNP they face the paradox of campaigning for Scottish Independence on a platform that can only be achieved if Scotland remains in the UK.
BIT PLAYERS now online at Subterranean Magazine
Why Procrastinators Procrastinate
From Wait But Why:
pro-cras-ti-na-tion |prəˌkrastəˈnāSHən, prō-|nounthe action of delaying or postponing something: your first tip is to avoid procrastination.
Who would have thought that after decades of struggle with procrastination, the dictionary, of all places, would hold the solution.
Avoid procrastination. So elegant in its simplicity.
While we’re here, let’s make sure obese people avoid overeating, depressed people avoid apathy, and someone please tell beached whales that they should avoid being out of the ocean.
No, “avoid procrastination” is only good advice for fake procrastinators—those people that are like, “I totally go on Facebook a few times every day at work—I’m such a procrastinator!” The same people that will say to a real procrastinator something like, “Just don’t procrastinate and you’ll be fine.”
. . . .
It seems the Rational Decision-Maker in the procrastinator’s brain is coexisting with a pet—the Instant Gratification Monkey.
This would be fine—cute, even—if the Rational Decision-Maker knew the first thing about how to own a monkey. But unfortunately, it wasn’t a part of his training and he’s left completely helpless as the monkey makes it impossible for him to do his job.
. . . .
The fact is, the Instant Gratification Monkey is the last creature who should be in charge of decisions—he thinks only about the present, ignoring lessons from the past and disregarding the future altogether, and he concerns himself entirely with maximizing the ease and pleasure of the current moment. He doesn’t understand the Rational Decision-Maker any better than the Rational Decision-Maker understands him—why would we continue doing this jog, he thinks, when we could stop, which would feel better. Why would we practice that instrument when it’s not fun? Why would we ever use a computer for work when the internet is sitting right there waiting to be played with? He thinks humans are insane.
In the monkey world, he’s got it all figured out—if you eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, and don’t do anything difficult, you’re a pretty successful monkey. The problem for the procrastinator is that he happens to live in the human world, making the Instant Gratification Monkey a highly unqualified navigator. Meanwhile, the Rational Decision-Maker, who was trained to make rational decisions, not to deal with competition over the controls, doesn’t know how to put up an effective fight—he just feels worse and worse about himself the more he fails and the more the suffering procrastinator whose head he’s in berates him.
. . . .
The Dark Playground is a place every procrastinator knows well. It’s a place where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening. The fun you have in the Dark Playground isn’t actually fun because it’s completely unearned and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred, and dread. Sometimes the Rational Decision-Maker puts his foot down and refuses to let you waste time doing normal leisure things, and since the Instant Gratification Monkey sure as hell isn’t gonna let you work, you find yourself in a bizarre purgatory of weird activities where everyone loses.
Link to the rest at Wait But Why and thanks to C.R. for the tip.
U.S. Pays $1 Billion for black farmer discrimination
Decades of this. Racism is still dogging things. And for everyone who says everyone should be able to self-bootstrap, how the fuck were the black farmers supposed to do that when the field was literally tilted against them?
“The U.S. makes loans and grants to small farms to help them buy the seeds and other items they need to get started with a new year’s crop, to expand their land, or to buy equipment. The program can be a life-line for family farms.
But that isn’t how it has worked for black farmers. While whites submit applications and receive decisions within the 30 days allowed by law, black farmers like Lloyd Shaffer get nothing but humiliation, as Yes! Magazine reports. A white loan officer left Shaffer, who farms in Mississippi, ignored in a waiting room for an entire business day — eight hours — while white farmers who arrived after him went in and out. Three other times, the loan officer took Shaffer’s application from him and dropped it right into the trash.”
(Via U.S. Pays $1 Billion for Years of Discriminating Against Black Farmers | Care2 Causes.)
A busy year: Lord Bonkers in 2013
In the February issue of Liberator, his lordship reported his experience of taking part in Call Clegg on LBC:
PRESENTER: Our next call is, er, Lord from Rutland.
ME: What this I hear about you supporting secret courts, man? Have you taken leave of your senses? What the devil is behind this ridiculous idea?
CLEGG: I can’t tell you that.
ME: Why not?
CLEGG: It’s a secret.******
By the time of the April issue, an archaeological dig was taking place in the car park of the Bonkers' Arms:
"Having seen how well Leicester is doing out of Richard III, I have decided that we need to find a body of a king here in Rutland too ... I am saddened by this lack of progress, and a complicating factor is that we have to have everything put back by Friday because that is the day the Smithson & Greaves lorry comes. If it cannot make its deliveries, we shall all be reduced to drinking the dreadful gassy Dahrendorf lager."******
In May there was a Liberator's blog exclusive as Jo Swinson visited the Hall. As the boys had gone off to try the vaulting horse they had just made, she addressed the girls:
I have to report that I am somewhat surprised by Jo’s approach. “Blimey,” she says to one girl, “you’ve been stirred in the ugly wok, haven’t you?” before describing another as “a bit of a munter”. Others are dismissed as “mingers”, “butters” and “complete double-baggers”.
One wonders whether this is quite the way to attract the fairer sex into politics. I suspect the first Lady Bonkers would have clocked Jo one if she had addressed her like that.******
June saw Lord Bonkers taking a party of tourists around the East End haunts of Violent Bonham-Carter:
I tell them of Bonham-Carter’s early struggles and patronage of Barbara Windsor (the black sheep of the royal family and, when they first met, a promising bantamweight) and take them for a drink at the Lame Deliverer – the very pub where Violent is said to have done away with the biscuit magnate Jack “The Hat” McVitie.
The landlord, who witnessed this notorious incident whilst enjoying a ginger beer in short trousers, is quick to point out that McVitie was widely thought to be “getting lairy” and to be “well out of order” – it was, after all, Violent’s manor. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the affair, a good time is had by all and I depart for St Pancras with enough in tips to keep me in Auld Johnston for another year.******
A month later and Lord Bonkers was posting a video of the Dalai Lama's monk blessing the turf at Lord's:
I generally ask the Elves of Rockingham Forest to do this here at the Hall. I forgot to pay them one year and it turned square before lunch on the first day.******
In August he gave someone asylum:
Meadowcroft finds a youth, dishevelled and wet through, sleeping in his potting shed and hales him before me for judgment.
“Please don’t send me back,” sobs the accused, “I have escaped from the Liberal Youth Activate weekend. I thought it would be fun, but all we got was endless canvassing drill and lectures on the perils of self-abuse.”
I give him a hot bath, square meal, suit of clothes and ten bob for the train, but am left troubled. “What has happened to the Spirit of Liberalism, which was first brought to these shores by Joseph of Arimathea?” I ask.******
A month later I made an exciting discovery: Earl Russell really did have a big band.
Also in September, Lord Bonkers contributed his usual foreword to the new Liberator Songbook:
Risselty-rosselty, hey, pomposity
Nickety nackety noo, noo, noo.
There is no denying it: the Scots have a way with a lyric.******
In September Sir Alan Beith made an important discovery:
“Good heavens man! You’ve found the spirit of Liberalism. I shall have it cleaned and polished at once.”
“I expect you will give it to Clegg when you have done that.”
I consider Beith for a moment and then reply: “No, old fellow. I think you had better look after it.”******
Which book should ambitious young Liberal Democrats read? In November Lord Bonkers recommended A Fortunate Life: The Autobiography of Paddy Ashdown - "which is by Paddy Ashdown, incidentally".
I know of no book that sets out half so clearly what is needed to win an election campaign. I don’t mean the chapter on "The Winning of Yeovil" that was made available free on the electric internet recently, excellent though it is In Its Way: no, I am thinking about the section on jungle warfare in Sarawak where Ashplant explains how to mount patrols, the best way to lay an ambush and how to treat an open wound using red ants. It was no surprise to me when, armed with this knowledge, we took control of South Somerset District Council.******
Also late in the year, Lord Bonkers recounted his meetings with great philosophers, while I made an important archaeological discovery that casts light on his ancestry.
Mrs Wibbsey's Festive Diary - Part 7
MRS WIBBSEY'S FESTIVE DIARY
“Coach Ryan, if you want to fight me on this, I’m absolutely prepared to go over your head.”
“Jennifer, I can assure you, it’s…”
“Remember, you’re just the athletic director. If you think I’m not willing to talk to the president of the university, you’re sadly mistaken.”
“I just don’t feel it’s an appropriate sport for a co-educational college.”
“Oh, so this is a boy’s club thing!”
“No, no! I just meant that…”
“That’s not why they call it cockfighting, you know, Coach.”
“I know. I know. I meant it’s not the sort of…”
“I assume you’ve heard of a little thing called Title IX.”
“Title IX? We don’t even have a men’s cockfighting team!”
“And I suppose you’re going to blame that on the women’s cockfighting team draining your funding away. Look, it may not be a big-money sport like football or baseball, but it’s got a very proud and noble tradition.”
“But…well, look, I…”
“If it’s the money that worries you, I even have a sponsorship deal lined up.”
“Sponsorship? From who?”
“Quaker Oats Full-O-Pep Growing Mash. They’ve promised us five grand and little jerseys for the bantams. Plus, there’ll be the television money.”
“Cockfighting doesn’t really play on the radio, Coach.”
“No, I mean…who’s going to televise it?”
“ESPN2. They’re pretty desperate for programming. Apparently the Magic: The Gathering tourneys aren’t drawing a big viewership like they used to.”
“Look, Jennifer, you’ve obviously put a lot of work into this, and it’s something you clearly care about a great deal…”
“You’re damn right, Coach Ryan. My family has raised champion blood-bantams and fighting hens since before the American Civil War.”
“It’s just that, well, cockfighting is…isn’t it illegal?”
“Not in three states. Of which we just happen to be one.”
“But, I mean, there aren’t a lot of schools that have cockfighting programs, are there?”
“Sure there are! At least 23 Division III schools in those three states.”
“But we’re a Division I school.”
“What’s your point?”
“Even if I were to allow this, who would we play?”
“That’s the beauty of it, Coach Ryan. We’re guaranteed a championship at least the first two, three years. By the time the other DI schools catch up to us, we’ll already be in the history books.”
“Show me the little jerseys.”
The New World of Publishing: How to Get Started Selling in 2014
In the old days, meaning more than four years ago, the path to becoming a professional fiction writer was pretty simple to understand. You wrote stories and novels and mailed them to traditional publishers directly. When the story was rejected, you kept the story (or novel) in the mail until someone bought it.
Well, not so much anymore. Fiction writers now have that dreaded word: Choice. And so, the path to being a successful fiction writer isn’t so clear anymore. In fact, I would call it downright muddy.
So I’m going to update this article that I did last year because there are so many people coming to this place now that weren’t coming last year, I figure it wouldn’t hurt. If you read this last year, you might want to read it again for updates. I will put two other articles here on this same topic over the next two days.
Warning: Some of you early-career fiction writers may not like my suggestions or observations. Just remember that there is no right way and there is no one way for all writers to take.
I’m just going to try to put some road markers up to keep a few of you out of the ditch. Follow or not follow. It’s your career. Your choice.
The Major Choices
Let me detail out what I see as the six major paths that a fiction writer can take in 2014 when starting out.
1… Follow the myths, write one novel, rewrite it to death, then spend all your time tracking down an agent.
This path seldom leads to a decent sale or decent writing, but most beginning writers still follow this path like blind sheep. I keep hoping I will see signs of this changing, but alas, I just don’t.
2… Write a novel and mail a submission package for your book directly to editors. Then while that book is in the mail, write more novels and mail them as well while working on becoming a better storyteller.
Keep learning from everywhere. This is the way it’s been done forever in publishing and is still valid. (Only difference now from ten years ago is that now you need an IP attorney to work on your contract instead of an agent. Contracts are much more difficult these days and if you get a small deal, chances are they will want all rights forever. But you can worry about that after you get the offer.)
3… Follow the myths that have developed over the last few years. Write a novel, rewrite it to death, pay a gad-zillion bucks to have someone put it up electronically for you and then take a percentage of your work, then you promote it to your 200 friends on Facebook until they start fleeing out of disgust.
This path seldom works, but it is part of the promotion myths.
4… Write a novel, learn how to do your own covers and formatting, put the novel up yourself electronically and in POD and then write the next novel and work on learning and becoming a better storyteller. Repeat. Do not promote other than telling your friends once each book is out.
This is more of a standard, traditional path that will work, but takes time as you learn how to tell better stories that people want to read. Plus there is a learning curve on learning how to do covers and layout interiors that many find very scary, even though not once in the process can anyone come to your house and threaten you with an ax.
5… Follow #4 and #2 at the same exact time, telling the editors in the submission package that the book is published by your press and send them a copy of the paperback in the package.
Very few beginning writers are trying this method because they are afraid traditional editors will come to their houses and break their fingers (or some other fear just as stupid.)
6… Forget novels completely and only write short stories, selling to traditional magazines as well as publishing indie.
This method has a lot quicker feedback loops and is a good way to learn how to tell great stories, but it takes a mind set most beginning writers do not have or will ever have. And you must learn how to do all the indie publishing work yourself. This method was never a path to making a living writing fiction, but now it is possible if you really, really, really love short fiction. Otherwise, just write a few stories here and there to help your novels. Remember, unless you are scary creative in marketing, short fiction does not sell well indie.
That’s the six major paths I see toward making a living selling fiction in 2014. (You won’t make a living starting in 2014, but they are all paths toward making a living in five to ten years time.)
Or you can come up with your own slight variation on those paths.
#1 and #3 don’t work unless you get fantastically lucky.
#2 and #4 lead to long careers, but take time to build.
#5 might get you to making coffee money a little faster, but it will still take years, as it should.
#6 only if you love short fiction with a passion that not even your friends understand..
In my opinion, all writers these days should be writing, selling, and publishing some short fiction along with writing novels. The short fiction market is booming and short fiction should just be a part of any business plan for a fiction writer. (Yeah, yeah, I know, you can’t write short fiction. So learn and stop whining.)
The Problems New Writers Face in 2014
Let me list a few of the big ones.
These are everywhere, and are mostly flat stupid. But all beginning fiction writers (me included in my day) buy into myths because beginning writers look for the secret handshake, the shortcut, the way to sell books without learning how to tell good stories.
The truth is that the best way to sell books is write a lot, work on learning how to be a better storyteller constantly, get your work in front of editors or readers or both, and plan for the long haul. But new writers ignore that advice, especially the long haul advice.
I have an entire book coming out called Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing. I put them all up here for free, but here are some examples (not all by a long ways) of some major myths in 2014.
a) You need an agent to sell a book.
b) You need an agent to sell a book overseas.
c) You need an agent to sell to Hollywood.
d) Traditional publishing gives you better quality in production and editing.
e) If you lower your price on your only novel, you will make more money.
f) As an indie publisher, you can’t get your books into bookstores.
g) You can pay someone to help you sell a lot of books.
h) You need to promote your book.
Again, there are many more, but those are what I consider the top eight killer myths for writers starting off in 2014.
2) Reactions to information.
In this high-speed world of the information age, any person can offer an opinion. This blog is no exception. The problem early fiction writers face is what to believe, what to listen to, and what to ignore. Now granted, this was the problem when I came in as well back in the 1970s, but now the information is out for everyone to see no matter the source. In my day, we only had to sort out what the established professionals were saying. Now anyone who has a few short stories up can blog about how they did it and what everyone should do.
And there are scammers out there who have never written a word of fiction, but think they can teach you how to write fiction.
How to solve this problem of where to get good information? I have no easy solution.
One suggestion is set up a writing computer that is only for creation of new words. Have no games, no email, no internet connection on that computer. Make it only a writing computer. That way the creative side of things has a line between it and the information overload and opinions flooding at you from everywhere. It honestly will help and be worth the few hundred bucks for a new computer.
Second suggestion is to only listen to people who have more than twenty or thirty or more novels in print and who have been in the business for more than twenty years. Also, make sure this person is also versed in both sides of the business of publishing, both traditional and indie. Some of the old professionals still have their heads in the sand and can hurt you worse than listening to a person with a few titles out indie only. Find the balance between the two extremes.
Third suggestion is listen to your little voice. If it sounds wrong to you, it might be. But if the advice coming at you makes business sense for you, then explore it.
In other words, it’s your career and there are no right answers. Learn to think for yourself. And learn business as fast as you can.
3) Getting in a hurry.
This is the area that is also normal for early fiction writers. And I honestly don’t know the reason why, but I was no exception to this problem when I started out. Now, with the indie publishing, this problem is no longer hidden in each writer’s office, but is out on full display for the world to see.
When watched from the outside, and from a point of distance like I now have, this all seems laughingly funny to me. I watch new writers, who have managed to complete their first novel, promoting the life out of their “book” because they believe they should (myths), and then complaining when there are very few sales.
From a place of perspective, this is like watching a brand new violin player stride onto the stage at Carnage Hall with their very first recital piece and wondering why no one showed up to listen even though they advertised their concert to everyone they knew. Let me simply say, “Duh.”
So one of the worst problems new fiction writers have now is that inability to see that the fiction writing profession is an international profession and it takes years to learn, both on the craft side and the business side. Yes, I said YEARS!!!
And, oh yeah, it takes years of practice as well. (Lost all English majors right there.)
The solution to this is take a deep breath, focus on the writing and learning to write better stories and put the books out either indie or to editors or both and leave them alone. If you get a few buyers, great. If not, no big deal. Trust the audience and the editors to decide when you have graduated to professional-level storytelling.
Again, to be clear, mail or publish your first work and then keep learning. And publish the second and the third and so on. Follow Heinlein’s Rules right from the very first story.
They might not sell, but the problem comes is when you, the writer, EXPECT them to sell. Just put them out after you do the best job you can and move on. They can not hurt you. (It’s a myth that they can kill your career because you don’t have a career. Duh.)
The Path in 2014
I’m going to give flat out advice right now. Please understand this is only my opinion and please take or leave what you want.
My advice to fiction writers starting out for 2014:
1) Spend 80% of your focus and time on producing new fiction. Not rewriting, not researching, but producing new words on the page. Period. (Follow Heinlein’s Rules to the letter.)
2) Spend 15% of your time on learning craft and business. Both a little at a time. In any way you can. We do a lot of business workshops here besides craft workshops. So do other major fiction writers.
3) Spend the remaining 5% of your time mailing finished work to editors or getting your work up indie published or both. (The #5 path above I believe in 2014 is the best if you have the courage, but most won’t try it.)
4) Think five and ten years out and set production goals. (Not selling goals, you are not in charge of those, but you are in charge of your own production and how much you learn.)
The writers who follow my suggestions are following a path well-worn by generations of professional writers. All of us did it just slightly different in the details and time depending on our background, but we all walked that same basic road.
Even with the indie publishing side of things, which can help cash flow a little, this new world has not varied from the time it takes to learn how to tell a decent story.
Telling a good story is an art form. As with any art, the art takes time to learn.
Make writing new words your main focus. Make learning business and craft your secondary focus. And get your work out for people to read right from word one.
Don’t get in a hurry.
It really, honestly, is that simple.
And that hard.
Copyright © 2013 Dean Wesley Smith
Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime
This chapter is now part of my inventory in my Magic Bakery. I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling (licensing) any of the pie.
I make my living with my writing. Sometimes I write these for fun, to entertain myself, sometimes I write these to help others.
Either way, if you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery. Or maybe subscribe to Smith’s Monthly.
If you can’t afford to donate or subscribe, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.
And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated over this last year. I don’t always get a chance to respond, but the donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!
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The New World of Publishing: How to Keep Your Writing Going for All of 2014
This an almost complete update of a post I had here in late 2012.
I figured it was worth my time and energy to get this updated and out again, especially since so many of you have been watching me with my “Writing in Public” posts and some of you are even subscribing to Smith’s Monthly to read what I actually write.
Thank you, everyone, for that support over the last year. It’s made this all great fun.
Some basics to start:
Any business and production plan you decide to set up for yourself is made up of goals that can be attained with work.
The focus of the goals you set is to attain a dream.
A dream is what you work toward with a series of goals.
Setting Up For Failure: A Warning
I’m starting this post with a couple of warnings: Understand what is failure in a goal and what isn’t failure.
Every time I talk with writers at the end of the year, I hear goals being set that are seemingly impossible when you do the math. I’ve set a few of them myself, to be honest, over the decades.
I honestly have no problem at all with impossible goals. None, as long as the person setting the goal understands that the likely failure can also be deemed a success. But most writers I know don’t understand that simple detail.
For example: Three years ago here I set a goal to write from titles and publish here and online 100 short stories. And even though slightly behind, I felt I was pretty much on schedule to hit that goal when one of my best friends died and I took over his estate. I turned away from writing almost completely to do the estate and only did what deadline work I had.
So did I fail? Nope. I wrote and got out over thirty original short stories that year, plus a number of stories for original anthologies that didn’t count in the challenge. Not the year I hoped, or even my best year, but not a bad year considering all the factors. It would have been far, far worse without the challenge.
But most writers I know, when faced with actually missing their goal, just stop completely. The problem is that the goal sets them up for a failure, and then they use the failure or life issue as an excuse to stop writing.
So caution when setting goals so extreme you can’t make them in any fashion. And if you do set an extreme goal, have fall-back success levels.
The first steps needed…
— I assume you have done the math to know how many original words you can produce of fiction per hour.
— I assume you have figured out how many hours you have each week to write original fiction outside of your family and job requirements.
— I assume you have set up a writing space, and have told your family and friends how important your writing is to you.
— I assume you will protect your work, your time, your art in the new year.
Goals must be set from a position of knowledge, not from a position of wishful thinking.
A Sign of the Classic Want-To-Be-Writer: Another Warning
Every long-term professional fiction writer can spot a hopeless want-to-be fiction writer easily.
— They are the fiction writers who talk about writing, but never finish anything.
— They are the fiction writers who feel jealous of all your writing time because they can never find the time.
— They are the fiction writers who come up with one idea and spend years on it, talking about it, researching it, workshopping parts of it, but never finishing it and moving on.
— They are the fiction writers who believe they will never succeed because they don’t have a major fan base like a major writer, so why bother. Or worse, they finish one thing and spend all year “promoting it.”
— They are the fiction writers who decide they are going to write in the new year, but set no plans, no goals, no structure.
— They are the writers who just get to their fiction writing when they can, when the muse strikes, because ideas are hard and writing is hard. They “just can’t find the time.” And then the following year they try the same thing that didn’t work every year before.
If you don’t want to be one of those “writers,” be a writer who makes your production of new words important.
How to Set Fiction Writing Goals in 2014
I’m just tossing out suggestions here. There is no one way for every writer, or only one way for the same writer from year-to-year. Use what strikes you in these ideas, alter them to suit your needs, and set the goals for yourself.
And also I think it would be fine to combine some of these suggestions.
Set your plan to strictly follow Heinlein’s Rules.
The rules are:
2) Finish what you write
3) Do not rewrite unless to editorial demand. (Meaning New York book editors who can buy your work, not someone who you hire. It is fine to fix mistakes first readers find and spelling mistakes.)
4) Put it on the market for someone to buy it. (Either a New York editor or readers indie published.)
5) Keep it on the market. (For indie publishers, this means leave it alone.)
If you are one of the very few who have the courage to even try this, let alone succeed with the attempt for an entire year, you will be stunned at how far you will move toward your writing dreams and how much fun you will have. If you don’t understand Heinlein’s Rules, I did an entire lecture explaining why they work. You can find it under the lecture tab above.
Warning on this one. Deceptively simple looking rules, fantastically difficult to actually follow because of all the myths that swirl around fiction writing. You will find yourself spending a ton of time coming up with excuses to not follow them. (Please, don’t comment on your excuses here. These rules are a Yoda situation. Either do. Or Don’t.)
As Robert Heinlein said about his own rules. “But they are amazingly hard to follow — which is why there are so few professional writers and so many aspirants…”
Set a new word count you would like to hit for the year.
“New words” means finished words that can be either indie published or sent to traditional editors. Rewriting, researching, and all the other excuses you have do not count. New words only.
(If you hear yourself say right there, “But…” you may have an issue to deal with.)
Here is how to do this:
Say you would like to finish a quarter of a million new words this year. A very solid, but scary goal. A very large elephant.
1…. So divide the total word count desired into 50 weekly parts. (Two weeks off for vacation.) Example: 250,000 words divided by 50 weeks = 5,000 new words per week.
2… You have determined you can do about 1,000 words per hour. So divide the 5,000 words by 1,000 = 5 hours of writing per week.
3… Look at the fiction writing time you have figured you have each week and find about eight hours total to get those five hours of writing done safely in your schedule. (The extra three will give you a cushion.)
4… Then protect those eight hours and write during that time every week to make sure you get the 5,000 minimum words per week done.
At the end of the year you will look back and have finished one quarter of a million words. And trust me, you will be a much better fiction writer at the end of the year with that much practice, and if you finished and mailed or indie published everything, you will be on your way.
A quarter of a million words a year sounds like a great big elephant. But 5 hours of writing per week does not. Yet one equals the other. Weird how that happens, isn’t it?
Set up a production goal.
A lot of people, me included, like production goals more than word-count goals.
When I started seriously writing, I set up a production goal to write and mail one short story per week. That sort of breaks down to the same word count as Idea #2 of 5,000 words per week. But the focus for me was on the finishing and mailing. (I was following Heinlein’s Rules religiously also during the challenge and still do, which is why I am still a professional writer.)
My ongoing challenge is also production based if you notice. I need to write enough to not only fill outside work, but fill Smith’s Monthly every month.
The reason production-based goals sometimes work better is because of the end date. If your goal is to finish one short story every week, that keeps your mind off of the larger goal. You only focus down on one project at a time.
If you are writing novels, I would highly suggest you break it down into smaller goals, such as finishing a scene per day or a chapter per week. And then only focus on that small bite.
Again the key with eating an elephant is to not think of the task, just chew up one bite at a time, only thinking of the bite.
Get one new book up indie published every two weeks. (Take two weeks off, so you are aiming for 25 by the end of the year.)
This is a great challenge a friend of mine is running and a lot of people are taking part on a private list. Set up your own group.
The idea is that the book can be a short story or a collection or a novel. And the key is to have the total at the end of the year.
So if writing a novel, a month or so will go by with nothing new up, then do some short fiction and then a collection before going back to the next novel.
Also, if you have some stories you have written and haven’t sold, or backlist of stories that were published and you now have the rights back, get those up as well. They would count.
There are lots of ways of doing this, and it really works. And having 25 new books in print by the end of the year is something you are going to be very happy about. Trust me.
Reporting In To Someone
Here is the key to success for every major method of goal-setting. You must have someone, or some method, or some way to keep you on track.
If you don’t make your weekly goal or word count, you must tell someone you didn’t make it. If you did make it, you must tell someone you did.
When I started writing fiction seriously with my short-story-per-week challenge, I actually had a bet going with Nina Kiriki Hoffman. If I missed my story for the week, I had to buy her a steak dinner. I couldn’t afford a steak dinner.
Sometimes you can put your progress on your web site as a weekly update. Even if not that many people show up to your web site, you know some will and your failure or success will be out there in the open. You can even use one of those word counters that you can get as a plugin for your site if you are doing a word-based goal.
(Interestingly enough, my posting of my Writing in Public blogs don’t really push me. It’s getting Smith’s Monthly content that pushes me. The Writing in Public daily blogs I can miss writing on some days and it’s no big deal. I don’t want to miss a Smith’s Monthly. Subscribers paid money for those. Remember, every writer is different. You would think that people coming to this blog would push me. Nope. I just hope the posts help other writers at times, and people tell me they do, so I’ll keep going for a while on them. But Smith’s Monthly will continue for a long time into the future.)
When I was writing media novels, I had very hard and fast deadlines. Sometimes I was trying to beat the movie out when I wrote novelizations. There could be no excuses. (I have done about twelve movie novelizations, including Rundown, The Core, 10th Kingdom, Final Fantasy, and so on.)
And with ghost novels, it was the same way.
Sometimes this person you report to is just another writer, sometimes it is a family member, sometimes a post on your blog. But with every small goal achieved or missed, report to someone or post it somewhere where people will see it. Set it up ahead so that person knows what you are doing. (No I will not be that person for anyone and you can’t use these post messages for the task either. Sorry.)
And if you don’t report to the person you have set up, make sure they know to ask you how it is going.
If you hate this idea of reporting in some fashion or another, check in with yourself to see where the fear is coming from. And then use that fear to drive you even more.
An important reminder right here. NEVER SHOW A WORK IN PROGRESS TO ANYONE. Protect your art. You can say you finished chapter 52, but don’t show it until you are ready to release the entire book to the world.
What Happens When You Fail?
Everyone with a family and a day job and a life will fail on short-term goals set at the beginning of the year. There are almost no exceptions to that rule. And if you think you will be the exception in 2014, you are delusional, I’m afraid.
So what do you do when life derails you?
Climb back on the next week. Or as soon as you can.
Say you are doing a short story per week with the intent of getting to fifty by the end of the year. Suddenly life gets in your way and you miss three weeks in April.
DON’T TRY TO CATCH UP. Just get back on the focus of the weekly goal and keep going. Trust me, at the end of the year you will be very happy with 47 stories finished.
But if you let it stop you cold, you won’t be happy by the time the end of the year rolls around.
And these year-end check-in-points just keep happening every year.
So here are my suggestions when life derails you and you miss your short-term goal.
1… Don’t even once think about catching up. Can’t happen and will make things worse.
2… Climb back onto your production challenge or weekly page goal as soon as you are able.
3… If life alters so much as to make the original weekly pace impossible, stop and reset a new goal for the year and for each week and then stick to that.
4… Somehow, with help or with some mechanism, remember these suggestions.
Chances are you will not remember. Sadly.
You will be buried in a life crisis and then when that clears you will be mad at yourself for not doing the impossible and protecting your writing time and meeting your weekly goals. And you will be swirling in the failure instead of just focusing on being successful the following week.
Wow, was that easy for me to type and so hard for any of us to do. (grin)
The real key to having a successful year (writing fiction) is that when you get stopped, and you will, to start back up as soon as you can.
— Get your available writing hours figured.
— Get your writing speed per hour figured.
— Tell your family and friends around you how important what you are going to do is. Be prepared to remind them all the time.
— Get ready to protect your time. Set up an office without distractions and a computer without e-mail or games only used for fiction writing.
— Figure out a yearly goal for words or production, then back it down into weekly goals that will get to your yearly goal. Make sure your weekly goals have extra time in them for small life events.
— Plan in time to keep learning, to go to a conference or two, to take some classes, to read some writing books, to read other novels and stories for pleasure.
— Set up someone or some place to report your progress and failures to.
— Then decide to have fun.
That’s right, I said have fun.
If the act of fiction writing isn’t fun for you, get out of this chase now.
If you aren’t excited and scared about the coming year and the learning and writing, get out of this chase now.
Fiction writing isn’t brain surgery. It is entertainment.
You are trying to be an entertainer in 2014.
For heaven’s sake, have fun doing it.
2014 is a brand new year. The world didn’t end. Traditional publishing didn’t fail. More fiction writers than ever are making money with their fiction.
It’s a new golden age for fiction writers.
Have fun. Happy New Year.
Copyright © 2014 Dean Wesley Smith
Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime
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