29 May 2014

Ocean Kayaking, Writing, and the Occasional Need to Hurl

Writing is work, we all know that. But writing is also akin to kayaking. Let me explain...

May 11 2014, yours truly and the husband took the newly graduated son on what was supposed to be a kayaking/snorkeling tour in La Jolla Cove. I should have paid attention when the nice gal who checked us in said, "We've had to cancel the snorkeling portion because the water is a bit too rough. Would you still want to kayak?" 

Heck, there was a family with a six-year-old going, I couldn't very well chicken out, could I? As when beginning my writing endeavors, I had no idea what might be ahead. I enthusiastically agreed to continue.

People warn you. "Writing is hard." We were warned: "The swells are three to four feet and getting larger."  
Pah! I can handle that! How hard can it be?
Let me preface this story with a bit of background. My son loves being by the sea. But he's four for four when it comes to getting on a boat and suffering seasickness. As we were waiting to get outfitted for our adventure, he decided he needed to eat a sandwich. 
Me: Are you sure that's a good idea, honey?
Him: Oh yeah, I'm starving.
Me: Mmmk...
  Soon we were decked out in wetsuits, lifevests, and helmets. The Go-Pro camera was mounted on my son's helmet, so what you see in the video is his POV. A short walk got us to the beach where the kayaks and guides waited. After instruction on how to paddle and how to get back in if you fall out, we headed into the surf. 
As with writing, at first it seems pretty easy, gliding along. You have people behind you, pushing, and a guide or two ahead, waiting for you to reach their level. Then you're suddenly on your own, facing a bit of resistance as the first wave comes at you. Hurrah! You're through! Each wave, each hurdle grows. It takes more effort, harder work, to get through each one. 

The big wave at about the 2:28 mark in this video took me down.


I'd almost cleared the crest when the curl came over and flipped my kayak. I tumbled out and felt the initial sense of panic, trying to figure out which way was up. Every time I came up for air, another wave smashed over my head. I gulped a gallon of seawater--YUCK. The realization finally dawned that if I just relaxed, the waves would shove me right back to shore. When I did, the life vest popped me to the surface and at last got a good breath. But I never let go of my paddle, by Jove! 

One of the tour workers had run out into the surf, snagged my kayak, and worked his way out to where I was able to get to my feet to stand. By then I was determined I was going to get right back out there, so I hefted my big fat butt up, flopped into the kayak like a walrus--just as they'd told us to do--and paddled back out. This time, I made it to the deeper, relatively calmer area where everyone else waited. 

Luckily, the SD card for the camera had filled before seasickness overwhelmed my son and the  sandwich he'd scarfed (and more) hurled into the sea for the fishies. Luckily for me, we were nearly finished with the tour before all that saltwater I'd swallowed and the motion of the ever-increasing waves suddenly hit my stomach and I paid homage to Poseidon as well.

How is that akin to writing? Well, sometimes you're going along, thinking you're doing fine and you suddenly realize something just isn't right. You feel the need and soon... MUST. HURL. NOW. When you do, as soon as you get that yukky stuff out, everything seems much, much better. You can finish with a clearer head and enjoy the remainder of the experience.

As a final note, let me recommend that you still save whatever you cut from a writing project or manuscript. With time, life experience, and continuing craft skills, you will see it from a different perspective and possibly find something worth using in a different way. Maybe yes, maybe no, but it's worth a shot. Just like trying anything new, it's worth the effort.

Happy writing - and kayaking!

17 May 2014

Nuggets of Advice For Every Writer

I was going to write about my kayaking experience last weekend celebrating my son's college graduation/Mother's Day, but changed my mind as soon as I read this article by suspense /mystery author Russell Blake. I will post a few quotes here but do yourself a favor and go to the original blog and read it in its entirety.

Three nuggets to take to heart:
  "Time is not infinite, and it goes by quickly. Don’t waste it. Don’t write crap, don’t put out stories that are forgettable or that you wouldn’t read if you weren’t the author, and don’t take your audience for fools. Their time is valuable. More than yours. They are paying for your work – you aren’t paying them. That makes them the customer, and you should hold your customer in high regard because without them, you’re nothing."
 "The story is not being able to release 10 books a year. The story is being able to release 10 books your readership thinks are good and thus sell well. Don’t confuse yourself, and don’t settle for good enough. There’s no such thing as good enough. There’s as good as you can possibly do, and nothing less."
  "The internet is filled with gurus who know nothing. It’s hard to turn around without bumping into a writing or self-publishing expert. Most of them are completely full of shit, and don’t sell many books – but that doesn’t stop them from trying to get you to part with your money to hear them tell you what you need to do to sell well."
In my personal opinion there are two kinds of writers: those who do it because they have a burning need to write, and those who want to make a living at it. If you want to make a living at it, you need to take it very seriously and listen to those who have come before, such as this gentleman. Yes, we all want to sell our books, we want readers who love our stuff, and we want our stories to reach as many folks as possible, otherwise why bother getting published? But for me, I look at my writing much like my practice and my life: I don't have to be number one in the world. I simply need to do my best and be happy in the present. I don't need all the trappings of the modern definition of success; in fact, the fewer gadgets, bells, and bling, the better. But that's simply my outlook on life. I think Mr. Russell here has some excellent advice and makes good points--but not all of them apply to me.

As a final note, remember: You don't have to follow anyone else's path. Advice is easy to come by; the trick is finding what applies to you and discarding what doesn't.  Mine the precious metal you prefer, be it gold, silver, or copper, and let the rest remain. Above all, enjoy the ride.

Happy Writing,