Protecting You from Your Feelings

We shouldn’t feel the need to be protected from our feelings.  Now this isn’t me advocating malicious intent or bullying, such things are wrong and should be condemned without exception.  I’m talking about people who seem to look for ways to be offended.  Are your presuppositions and beliefs challenged?  Does that hurt your feelings?  Well maybe then it is time to either understand better why you hold those beliefs or hold them up to scrutiny and test them.

There is a sensitivity to feelings in recent years.  If someone’s offended it is earth-shattering and one of the worst crimes against humanity.  A book’s job isn’t to protect you against your feelings.  This is true of fiction and non-fiction, and yes history.

There is a recent attempt to vilify historical figures in America.  Yes, they were flawed, deeply flawed and almost all of them did bad things.  Guess what, you did too and so do I, we are human.  I may not be a raging racist, but I do have a temper which has led me to regret my actions more than once.  Yes, I know that is a rather weak analogy, but the point is that all people are flawed, even those who did great and courageous things.  No hero is flawless, real or imaginary.

Now does this mean those great and courageous things make up for or wipe clean the evil they committed?  Not at all!  Evil is evil and that’s that.  It’s pretty simple.  However, that doesn’t mean we should see them as all-bad either.  After all, throughout the overwhelming majority of human history pretty much everyone was racist.  Current revelations about race are just that, modern.  That doesn’t make them less true and I’m not advocating moral relevancy, but the fact remains that looking at folks from the 15th-20th centuries through modern lenses is not getting the whole picture.

People sometimes look too deeply into fiction too, taking character’s actions as reflections on what the author really believes.  Mark Twain’s books have trigger warnings in certain contexts or are outright banned.  Yes, racial slurs are in his books, but that doesn’t mean he was promoting racism, he was giving an accurate depiction of the times.  Stephen King’s novels have racial and homophobic slurs in them, but I doubt anyone would accuse him of bigotry.

We need to stop being afraid of getting our feelings hurt (again, with the exception of malevolent intent).  It’s time to grow thicker skins and not try to rack up victim points, or worse to cower away from any challenges to your presuppositions and not learn anything from history or literature.

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Writing and Observing

If a person is going to set out on the adventure known as writing, then he/she needs to observe the world.  It is particularly important to pay attention to cultural and societal changes.

Paying attention to the news can be overwhelmingly depressing.  It will give the impression that everyone hates everyone and that no one can see anyone else’s side.  Thankfully, when I mean observe what’s going around you, I mean more than just paying attention to the headlines.

Observing people (not creepily) while out in public, on social media, and being introspective of your own thoughts are important to crafting stories.  After all stories are created by people for people.  The best way to go about doing this is to understand people the best you can.

Empathy is another factor that’s important for the writer.  You cannot simply observe what’s happening around you, it is necessary to put yourself in that other person’s shoes.  This doesn’t equate agreeing with everyone or forsaking your integrity.  It does require understanding why someone may think differently than you.

This might make it seem like I’m saying authors need to be armchair psychologists, and in a way that’s true.  Certainly, judgements and diagnoses shouldn’t be doled out just because you happen to spend more time in front of Microsoft Word than the average person.  However, a basic understanding of psychology can and does help the writer.

So, pay attention to the world around you.  Take notes if you must.  Ponder why certain people behave in a certain way.

The Unexplained: Bigfoot

*The Unexplained is a weekly series documenting strange and unusual phenomenon that inspire my writing.

Bigfoot needs no introduction.  It is the most popular cryptid and one of the most common paranormal encounters.  It has been sighted in every state but Texas, Pennsylvania, and Michigan (just to name a few.)  Sightings range from credible to the average attention seeker.

What is “Bigfoot?” Supposedly, it is an ape-like being standing between 6-9 feet tall.  It is named after the large footprints left behind attributed to it.  Some cryptozoologists believe it might be a hominid with a common ancestor with humanity.  However, most of the scientific community dismisses Bigfoot as nothing more than an urban legend with only a few anthropologists taking the phenomenon seriously since Bigfoot resembles humans.  Interestingly, there has been hair, blood, feces, and obviously tracks all attributed to the monster.  It can be argued the only piece of evidence missing is a body or fossil.

bigfoot

Bigfoot encounters have happened long before America was founded and are a part of Native American lore.  As with other paranormal categories, witnesses often are not believers before their sightings and many times they look for other explanations first.  Some of these witnesses are experienced with the outdoors and are familiar with the animals in the area which they spotted Bigfoot, which further deepens the mystery.

What’s fascinating is that Bigfoot has been linked to other paranormal activity such as ghosts and UFOs sightings.  Though in this case it is important to remember one of the basic rules of logic, correlation doesn’t equal causation.  It is interesting though that in some areas where Bigfoot sightings are prevalent so are UFOs and other paranormal entities.

Who or what is Bigfoot?  There are some who believe it is legend, others say it is an ape or hominid, others claim it is supernatural or even alien in origin.  I want you to make your own conclusions about this.  There seems to be good reason to believe people are seeing something, but the jury is still out on what it is.  What’s important is that you weigh the evidence for yourself and draw your own conclusions, and please don’t be shy to share them in the comment section below!

*If you enjoy this blog, please consider following me.

 

References:

https://www.newsweek.com/where-has-bigfoot-been-sighted-most-washington-california-pennsylvania-among-1421288

https://www.livescience.com/33846-10-active-bigfoot-sites.html

https://www.travelchannel.com/interests/haunted/articles/top-10-paranormal-myths

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/is-bigfoot-possibly-an-alien_b_1578844?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAK41QUUmZwPSeOmIDkwuY5KFi4RKT4bRceJzc5FGyvP4ckjC_KNTiAIU7mJg5n3b1FOlRR_tTNAH8Tn66kRfGoCF6tdpXl_DFaTCPS2GRkLD-9QNLLvbeJr-VPwKjz0kVxBKWzNo3_KZcW75VzO6ptat_uTJZtBiTCmKyhIVt7aH

That’s Just a Myth!

We are all familiar with myths of old.  There is the rich Greek, Roman, and Norse mythologies that still inspire stories today.  There are lesser-known myths from Babylon, Assyria.  Then there are the tales and legends from Japan which influence video games.  There is folklore of werewolves, vampires, and zombies, monsters that have become especially popular again in recent years.

What is a myth?  Why do they captivate us so much?  As a Fantasy writer, it is undeniable that myths are a heavy influence on me, therefore I feel it is important to take a closer look at.

The term “myth” has come to mean something that isn’t true, especially superstitious or spiritual beliefs held in ancient times.  It is also applied to a widely held belief that is untrue.  However, I feel that is a watered-down view of myths.  Concerning mythology of ancient times, they were stories rooted in fact intended to convey a philosophical or moral message.

Essentially, a myth may or may not be real, but that doesn’t diminish its intent or meaning.  I believe that most myths are rooted in truth, whether it the truth is found in the message or something else.  Even modern myths I find it likely to be rooted in some truth, obviously not all.

Stories of strange encounters or haunting are intriguing, especially for me since I’m a writer.  Some are of course more believable than others.  In the modern age of science, it is difficult for those of us who live in the west to see truth in myths or mythology. It is how we were trained to think, which isn’t necessarily bad.  However, we lose something if we dismiss a story simply because it doesn’t fall nearly into a scientific worldview.  That’s not to say reason and science should be thrown out the window, not at all.

The point is that there can be truths revealed about a person or a people group when it comes to the myths they believe.  That’s because a myth is something Legendary, popular, a well-known story passed down.  An example of what I mean is Abraham Lincoln.  He was a real man who had real accomplishments, but he is a legend amongst American presidents.  He has become a symbol of the office itself.  Many things he is credited for aren’t true or partially true, some things are tue.  It would be silly to say Abe Lincoln didn’t exist, but at the same time it wouldn’t be wise to believe everything culture says about him.  George Washington and Julius Cesar are just a couple more examples of real myths.

 

Myths, especially those from ancient times, are enthralling and far deeper and richer than we can often realize.  It is the natural reaction of a modern westerner to dismiss something that isn’t completely factual or can be reproduced in a lab.  Again, rationality should never be thrown away, but there is wisdom in acknowledging the value of myths.  For myths don’t have to be untrue in order to be classified as a myth.

Broken Promises

When people find out you are a writer, there are a few different reactions.  Some might be in awe, others might think you don’t have a “real” job and others will show interest whether it is genuine or not and promise to read your book(s).  When the time comes for the folks who promised to read or review your book to cashing on their word, they are absent.

Reviews are essential for authors.  Alone they may not sell books, but they are an important part to get the ball rolling.  It is not uncommon for folks to say they will review a book, they may even purchase it, but as the weeks turn into months and months turn into years you realize the review is never coming.

This is likely to happen with most who say they will review your book, even with gentle infrequent reminders.  They may be your friends or family too which can lead you wondering if they simply don’t have interest in what you wrote or if they are flakey.

The lesson is that as an author you should take everyone’s promises with a grain of salt.  For some reason, folks occasionally feel compelled to support you in person whether they have genuine interest in your books or not.  Personally, I would rather people be honest and say they wouldn’t want to read my stuff then say they will and never follow through.

From what I’ve read on other writers’ blogs, this isn’t uncommon.  So what do we do?  Ultimately hope for the best but expect nothing to come from people’s promises.  We must remember that our books may be important to us, but few people will be that invested in our works.  Simply put, our books aren’t that important to them.  That is why it is important for us to “wow” them when they do give our stories time.

What are your experiences with these types of promises?  Does it bother you when people don’t commit?

 

 

Repulsive Blogging

If we are going to write, it needs to be relevant to someone other than ourselves.  Sure, we can spew our thoughts on our blogs like it’s Twitter, but will anyone care?  People have short attention spans online.  Using our platform to complain or talk about what angers us isn’t productive.

I’ve come across more than a few blogs with headlines along the lines of “What Pissess Me Off.”  Okay, so?  Why should anyone read or care about what pisses you off?  Perhaps your response is that you don’t care, you blog to journal.

Keeping a journal is fine and healthy, but it doesn’t have to be public.  Writing on a public forum should bring value to the world, otherwise it would be better to type out your thoughts on Word and keep it on your computer.

Now perhaps there is a hint of irony in this post, it is a blog complaining about bloggers who complain.  I haven’t missed that.  It is something we should all be aware of, we should only post content that is useful to readers online.  No one is perfect and we can all analyze our content and see if we can improve it and focus on enriching our reader’s lives.

Whether we like it or not, writing publicly is not the same as keeping a journal.  A public journal is the same as going outside, shouting to your neighborhood everything that is wrong in your life and what your cat did today, then when you are done going back inside like nothing happened.  Not a pretty picture is it?

This is not to say that sharing our opinions isn’t okay.  The premise of this post is an opinion.  However, our opinions should serve the purpose of entertainment, information, or to help others ponder a different perspective.

Anxiously Writing

Writing requires patience.  That is something I’m not good at.  I have anxiety and it is easy for me to jump to the worst conclusions.  I am the harshest critic of my work and constantly feel like I’m not living up to my potential as a writer.  I say this not for sympathy or attention, but because I believe many writers struggle with the same thing.

I’m a perfectionist.  I want the blog or books I write to be as perfect as possible.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I want them to be inhumanly perfect!  However, I intellectually know that is an impossible goal.  It doesn’t help that to many being a “writer” isn’t considered a real job either.  To family and friends, it may seem like us writers just sit around all day typing leisurely at the keyboard, with no real responsibilities.

Writers feel this pressure added on top of the implausibility of landing a traditional publishing contract or standing out amidst the drivel that is self-published (not saying all self-published works are drivel but there is a lot that is).

The days of writers being only novelists are long gone.  We have to market ourselves, blog, freelance, and donate a large portion of our work we slaved away on.  While this happens, we need to wait years to see if our hard work paid off.  We know we shouldn’t give up, but there are doubts that come in nonetheless.  Doubts that are stronger some days than others.

If you struggle with this as well, you aren’t alone.  Writing is hard work, following any dream worthwhile is hard.  If you are an anxious person like me who tends to catastrophize, it may feel like success will never come.

How do you overcome the doubts and keep plowing forward?  For me, I remind myself that this is my calling and writing regularly is how success will come.

On Horror

This may be blasphemy to the Horror genre, but I hate what it is anymore.  The classical horror of the Victorian era let the imagination of the reader fill in the blanks allowing for more “horror” than bombarding people with gore.  Yes, I know, death is a part of the genre, but in recent decades, death and gore isn’t a consequence, but the point of the story instead.  In fact, story takes a back seat to gore and death for much of horror.  I would like to challenge people to see the beauty in classical horror.

The setting is a rarely traveled part of the world, perhaps the woods, and there is either a killer or monster lurking.  Unfortunately, a group of stupid college students go in that region and get picked off one by one in terrible and gruesome ways.  This is the sort of thing that passes as horror anymore, with few exceptions.  I enjoy tales of werewolves, in fact my upcoming book will include them, but gaining inspiration was pretty challenging because there are very few quality werewolf stories out there.

I enjoy stories that are based around suspense and unknown with supernatural elements. This is what horror used to be.  It isn’t just horror that has changed, fantasy has grown darker and grittier.  Dark and gritty isn’t inherently, bad but both modern fantasy and horror have grown incredibly cynical in their messages.

In horror most of the time everyone dies brutally, life is cheap, and it seems fantasy is adopting that approach as well.  Why is that?  Storytelling tends to follow cultural trends, have some genre fiction stories gotten darker, horror much earlier than others, due to an increasingly cynical outlook on life?  Is it due to changing tastes that accompany an evolving culture?  What if storytellers focused on plot and character development over pushing boundaries instead?  At this point it is hard to imagine any boundary that hasn’t been pushed anyway, perhaps all of us who craft stories need to examine why we write them and what is their purpose.

5 Things to do When You Feel Like Your Writing Sucks

If you are like me, then you are your own harshest critic.  Noting you write is ever “good enough.”  You May receive compliments, but all you see are the flaws in what you produced.  Being introspective is a good quality for a writer, but some times we go too far and feel like we should quit.  We may be struggling to sell our book(s) and only have a few hundred followers on our blog, but should we give up? No not at all.  Here are a few pointers for those moments when you aren’t sure of yourself.

 

  1. Know that becoming established takes time.
  2. If you’re that worried about it, find someone you trust and get honest feed back from fresh eyes.
  3. Remember you aren’t alone. Most people struggle with feeling like they aren’t good enough in their careers.
  4. If you are writing regularly and have stuff published, you are further along than most. Many people claim to want to be writers but don’t do anything with that desire.
  5. Building trust takes time, and it is difficult to sell things online to strangers who’ve never heard of you. Just because your book isn’t selling doesn’t mean it’s terrible. 

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