Life Counselor #1

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Joker and the Thief by Wolfmother)

Craig! Craig, wake up! I have marbles!

Hello, there, old friend.

It’s been a while since we’ve talked – I know we haven’t kept in touch too much over the last few years, but somehow, that doesn’t stop our friendship from continuing to grow. It’s strange, feeling like adults, isn’t it? After we were kids far longer than we had a right to be.

I owe so much to you. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have learned that religion can produce some of the best people in this world. I honestly might have become an atheist.

You taught me manners in a way my family never did – I’m sure I’ve lost them over time, but I can still pull some out when I’m trying not to make a complete ass of myself in public.

Oh, and you helped me make a complete ass of myself in public. Of all the people I knew in middle and high school, there were so few willing to tolerate my weirdness, fewer who would accept it, and only two or three who would engage in it with me. You taught me that it’s okay to be strange, and that sometimes being strange can bring the best people in life closer to you.

You taught me the prayer Catholics say before they eat. To this day, I still remember from so many dinners at your family’s house.

You taught me what it means to have a dog, and how the bond between a boy and his pet can be so much more than with anyone else. I think my love of animals started with Emmi. RIP.

You taught me how to be a better person without ever trying to push it on me. You taught me tolerance and understanding, acceptance of different lifestyles. You taught me to not try to worry about my sexuality or my identity – that those things fall into place eventually.

You taught me that it doesn’t matter if the person saying the microaggression believes in microaggressions – it only matters if the person hearing it does.

You’ve given me more inside jokes than I can count, and I’ve spilled more tears with you from laughing than from sadness.

You’ve taught me how much I can love a friend, fiercely, more than I ever would have thought possible.

When I introduce you to people, I tell them completely seriously that you’re one of the best people I know. And I have never meant anything less than that. You’re the good Samaritan in every sense of the word, to your detriment sometimes. And yet you’ll continue to be that person for the rest of your life, because you don’t know how to be less than that. If there’s a Heaven, and I like to believe there is, I know without a doubt you’ll get in.

Don’t you ever forget how much I love you. Don’t you ever forget how good an impression a person like you makes on this world. It’s hard, and it’s bullshit, how much you have to put up with. But please keep being you – there just aren’t enough people like you in the world, and the few of you are like beacons in the darkness.

Thank you for teaching me so much.

Yours, from eight years old until the end of our lives,

-R.R. Buck

New Series – Life Counselors

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Cigarettes and Saints by the Wonder Years)

I had pause today to reflect on how lucky and blessed I am to be living my life.

It seems as though many people around me are dealing with various forms of hardship, and somehow I’m immune to most of it. I think, besides being incredibly lucky, that the advice and counsel I’ve received over my nearly 23 years has had a lot to do with it.

When I realized this, it came simultaneously with a realization that I’ve done very little to recognize those people in my life who’ve given me such sound counsel. And, as you may have noticed, I’ve been looking for new series to post about, which is why I created Streed of Consciousness (where I just write about whatever comes to mind) and Reed’s Top 3, in addition to my regular articles with writing tips and nerdisms.

So I’m creating a new series, which I’m calling Life Counselors. Here’s how it works:

The very first line below the playlist of the day will be a reference that will immediately be noticed by the person it’s about – it serves the dual purpose of letting them know I’m writing about them, and maintaining their anonymity. So if you see the very first sentence of my article and you know what it is, the post is probably about you.

Then I’m going to write a list of things this person has taught me. It might be shorter than most of my posts, but every word will come from the heart.

Finally, I’m going to tell this person something. I don’t really know what – it might just be expressing thanks, or it might be trying to tell them something I haven’t been able to say to their face before. I guess we’ll find out when the first one comes out.

And, yeah. If you have a lot of people in your life who influence you, hopefully these posts will make you think of them and maybe remind you to thank them every once in a while. God knows we can all do with a little more love right now.

The first one will come out tomorrow, so I hope you all like it!

Yours, lounging in his new cape,

-R.R. Buck

Renaissance Pleasure Faire Los Angeles Review

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Ride by TWENTY ONE PILOTS)

I have found my people.

That’s the easiest way I can describe my experience at last day of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire just outside of Pasadena. It was like one long extended nerdgasm for an entire (sun-drenched and dehydrating) day.

My friends and I kind of decided to go on a whim after hearing about it, and I mostly imagined a cross between a historical museum and a way-too-serious roleplaying experience. What I got was nowhere near that.

It actually almost reminded me of the Sawdust Festival up in Laguna – it’s a showcasing of a plethora of different local artists who do everything from forge steel and pewter into weapons and tankards, to leather workers who create clothing – not costumes, but actual clothing, as one of them reminded me several times – from historical time periods, to random other things like crystals set into headbands and tiaras or medallions hand-stamped to order with a fucking guillotine. We watched a glassblower make a wine goblet and then promptly shatter it for our entertainment; some of my friends saw a one-man performance of Romeo and Juliet, and we even watched a jousting tournament.

I was surprised at how no one tried to be over-the-top in accent or demeanor; instead, it just felt like a bunch of people who were nerdy about certain periods of history hanging out together and showing off their stuff. Most of the people I met ranged from pleasant to straight-up helpful; one dude saw me eyeing suede capes and cloaks and immediately suggested a few vendors to compare.

The other thing I loved about the faire was that it didn’t strictly conform to the Renaissance time period. From steampunk to piracy to the gypsy lifestyle, there were cosplayers and merchants derived from any interesting and fantasy-relatable time period. There was even a dude dressed up like the Twilight Princess version of Link (and if you know me, you know that I immediately accosted him and asked to snapchat him).

Some previous influence had suggested to me that a Renaissance Faire would be a high-LARP, almost ridiculously over-the-top experience where anyone who wasn’t dressed like a 15th century swordfighter would look stupid and out of place. Instead, it was a really nice mix – both fairgoers who clearly just wanted to look around, and roleplayers or cosplayers who had spent thousands of dollars on fantasy outfits reminiscent of Game of Thrones. I would seriously recommend it for anyone who even has a passing interest in history, fantasy, or roleplay.

And I may or may not have bought a hooded cloak for my D&D sessions. By which I mean I absolutely did.

Yours, feeling quite white and nerdy,

-R.R. Buck

Book Review – American Gods

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin)

Okay, I just want to point out before I start this one that I was planning on reading it before the mini-series was announced, and it was only just two weeks ago that I was able to make it to a bookstore to pick it up.

Anyway, here we go on my first book review:

Title: American Gods

Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fantasy

Premise: A recently released convict finds himself out of a job until an enigmatic old man offers him a position as his driver, bodyguard, and right-hand man. But working for Mr. Wednesday has all sorts of strange implications and consequences.

So, this was my first Gaiman novel (unless you count Good Omens, which I don’t). It was an interesting blend – at times it was almost a biopic of the continental United States and that small-town America vibe, and at others it was this nearly overwhelming mythological tale involving every pantheon you’ve never heard of.

I came into reading it as someone who knows very little about mythology, and isn’t the biggest fan of small-town America, so I wasn’t really sure what to think when I picked it up. It was recommended by a friend, but she warned me it was paced kind of slow – another red flag for me, as someone who’s never been able to finish Great Expectations and took three tries to read Dune all the way through.

That being said, I thought it was pretty damn good.

In terms of characters, you don’t have to know any gods to get an immediate sense of who all these people are. Their dialogue and accents feel perfectly genuine; their interactions run everywhere from engaging to gripping and intense; and they always act the way you expect them to. In a novel where a lot of the main plot is hidden and you’re always a little confused about something, the dialogue is a great constant to come back to – it feels like old friends talking.

The main character, Shadow, is a depressing dude. If you’re not down for dark novels, you’d better watch out for this one, because it had me gripped by the balls of my soul the whole time. (Yeah, I just said that.) You find yourself really resonating with his struggle, even though you don’t really know what that struggle is, and it’s interesting that the protagonist of the novel always seems to be playing second fiddle to literally everyone he interacts with.

It’s almost as if you, as a reader through Shadow’s perspective, are just observing the events of the book, until those great few moments where Shadow decides to have some agency and do something cool. A very strange read, but completely enjoyable for it.

I actually found it most interesting as an encapsulation of middle America, and that way that most people view America. Having lived my entire life in California, I thought it was really interesting to see, to feel, how middle America lives, thinks, and breathes. I feel like this would be especially interesting to non-Americans who want to immerse themselves in our culture.

Downsides? There were a few. It’s written excellently, but there is a pretty large chunk in the middle that moves very slowly. You’re still interested in what could happen because that’s how good the writing is, but you kind of want things to move on. (Of course, I read the anniversary edition which has a few thousand more words in, so maybe that was it.) And I did feel like some of the events of the ending were kind of anti-climactic – I won’t give any spoilers, but for a character like Shadow where you’re waiting for them to have some powerful sense of agency, the final moment where he does something, I wanted to feel like it was a little more.

Overall? I think it’s something you should pick up, especially if you’re interested in American culture or mythology, or just somber, dark stories.

Reed’s Rating: 8/10

Yours, preparing to read some small-press fantasy novels next,

-R.R. Buck

How To Stage A Reveal In Your Writing

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Push It by Salt-N-Pepa)

If you’re anything like me as a writer, you love putting in twist, turns, and surprise reveals. They’re not just for suspense and mystery – fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, and many other genres also like to incorporate their own styles of twists. It’s a fun way to keep the readers engaged and guessing as they struggle to figure out just what is awry.

In my experience with my alpha readers, there are three types of readers when it comes to reveals or plot twists. And, because I’m me, I’m gonna give them dorky names.

  1. Sleuths – these folks are paying so much attention to the little things, they’re hardly paying attention to anything else. Oftentimes, if they’re veteran readers of a genre or an author, they’ll know some big plot twist is coming, and they want to piece it together as quickly as possible. They’ll pick things apart looking for every inconspicuous sentence or detail, and they’ll probably see right through anything that comes too easily, which makes them the hardest to please with plot twists.
  2. Welpers – these are people who read books in detail, not skimming anything, and so they naturally pick up on hints and clues. And, as they come across a strange, unexplained sentence or event that hints towards something more, they say “Welp.” And move on. I like these people because they’re clever enough to notice every Easter egg, but they like to be surprised and/or don’t want to put the effort in to figuring out what all the clues mean.
  3. Bwammers – I definitely fall into this category of reader, who is in no way stupid (no, seriously). The Bwammers are either super interested in the books to the point of skimming past minor incongruencies, or they’re not very invested and don’t really care if something doesn’t make sense in the overall plot. Either way, they’re not really looking for clues, and if they read them, they’ll probably just ignore them. These folks are the best to spring a surprise on, because they’ll have no idea it’s coming, and only when the reveal occurs will they start to realize the little things that forecast it from the beginning of the book. BWAAAAAAM.

It’s kind of hard structuring your reveals to give satisfaction to all three types of readers. But as I’ve had a lot of people read a lot of books of mine, I’ve noticed that a certain type of vague structure seems to apply. It does change depending on what act your twist occurs in, and whether it is integral to the main plot, but here’s what I’ve got for you:

If it’s a minor twist occurring in the first or second act:

  1. An initial mention of it, as early as possible – something really hidden, but strange to the Sleuths and Welpers who pick up on it. The key to this one is making it really subtle – just to instill a bit of confusion in the reader, and get them started thinking about what it could mean.
  2. A lead-in to the reveal, occurring just before the actual reveal occurs – it can be as early as a chapter before, or as late as just a few paragraphs before. More on why this is important below.
  3. The reveal, which usually should occur in just a sentence or two. It can be followed by explanation, if needed, after the fact, but for just a moment or two, drink in the surprise of the reveal – you deserve it, and your reader craves it. Leave the explanation aside and just make it as shocking as possible.

If it’s a major twist occurring in the second or third act:

  1. The same initial mention – It should be anywhere from about as subtle as a small reveal, to much less subtle, as you want all three types of readers (if possible) to be aware of this, since it’s an important plot point as well as a reveal.
  2. A reminder (and this might be one or multiple, depending on how late the actual reveal occurs) of the incongruous detail, perhaps building extra suspense as you go. This is to keep people reminded of what’s important, as well to build a trail of clues which your Sleuths will go apeshit over.
  3. The lead-in which is where all of your Sleuths will realize what the twist is (and in some cases, some of your Welpers too). This gives them the satisfaction of feeling like they figured it out early.
  4. The reveal for your Bwammers, who won’t know a thing and will be totally knocked over by the reveal, which is exactly what they want. So everyone’s happy.

It’s also important to keep in mind that you might have some layered reveals for really important plot points – as in, person A has a secret that comes out in Act 1, but then it’s revealed they weren’t telling the entire truth in Act 2, and in the rising action of Act 3 the full secret is revealed. If this happens, you’ll want to consider each reveal as being a reminder from the list above, but each with its own little lead-in and resolution. That way, people won’t feel like they’re being lied to or deliberately misled.

For instance, [SPOILER ALERT FOR MOVEMENT 1 OF SYMPHONY OF LEGEND, SO ANY ALPHA READERS WHO HAVEN’T FINISHED IT SHOULDN’T READ BEYOND HERE:]

….

They gone?

Okay.

In Act 1 of my book, there is a small reveal about a character whose best friend is hallucinated. (Okay, yeah, it’s not original, but it is a part of a layered reveal as described above, and is only the first step to realizing the hallucination’s identity.) So how do I go about getting my character to realize it?

Well, in the first scene, which is an idyllic family scene where we’re meeting the protagonist’s brothers and sisters, he’s being followed around by this girl Deira, who presumably is some kind of sister or friend. She hangs out with him and his mom at the breakfast nook while the mother and son chat, and then something weird happens.

The mom says, “Does Deira want any breakfast?”

And the son, Sera, says “Mom, you don’t have to patronize.”

If you’re a Bwammer, you won’t even notice this little detail. If you’re a Welper, you see it happening, maybe make note of it, but you just shrug and move on. If you’re a Sleuth, you’re reading it over and over again, trying to understand. Is the mother patronizing her son? Patronizing Deira? You can’t figure it out, but it’s there in your mind – a warning light for the next time Deira comes up.

Which she doesn’t. For four more chapters. You meet Sera’s other friends and learn about them from their own perspectives, and you kind of forget about Deira for a while. But then, at the outset of Chapter 6, we’re back to Sera’s point of view, and Deira is hanging out with all of them.

The Bwammer doesn’t really notice anything different, but the Sleuths and the Welpers are saying to themselves, “Where was she all the last four chapters? Why is she just reappearing now?” And as the scene goes on and none of the other characters seem to acknowledge Deira – at one point, one of them even steps between her and Sera, forcing them apart – the Sleuths might start guessing that this person is not real.

This whole chapter so far is the lead-in, and it comes to a head quickly when Sera and Deira are talking and another character comes up to Sera and says, “Hey, quit talking to yourself.”

And then, immediately after, Deira says, “I’m real, you know.”

The Sleuths are feeling smug they figured it out. The Welpers can see, in retrospect, how the clues slowly lead up to the reveal. And the Bwammers are BWAAAAAMing, out, having seen none of this coming right up until Deira spoke.

After a few paragraphs, it’s revealed that she’s a hallucination, that he’s been seeing her the last three years. But for that moment, the audience is taken aback, and that’s one of the best feelings in fiction.

Yours, having pushed dinner back for this post and is now insanely hungry,

-R.R. Buck

Reed’s Top 3 – Standalone Novels

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: The Lemon Song by Led Zeppelin)

Hey everyone,

I need to write something short – I’ve been running around all day with random things (joke’s on me for making my unemployment too productive). And I’ve also been looking for a new series with a catchy name, so here’s what I’ve got:

Reed’s Top 3 – in which I name my top three favorite somethings and explain why they’re so cool. What’s in it for you? Absolutely nothing! (Unless you care about the details of my personal life.) But hopefully I can be entertaining and informative when talking about my favorite three types of nuts (pistachios, almonds, and deez).

No, I’m kidding. Kind of. But I will try to stick to things you might care about. For instance, as writers, we are naturally readers, and if you’re a good reader, you’re always looking for a new interesting book to try out, right? So here we go on my top three favorite standalone novels!

NUMBER 3: THE DREAM MERCHANT, BY ISABEL HOVING

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

I have to admit that I haven’t read this one since I was in middle school, but what little I remember changed me as a kid. The basic plot is a group of children who are hired by a corporation to sell goods in the world of dreams – there’s a really cute initiation ritual where the kid has to trade up from like a rubber band to a diamond or something of that sort. But things change when the main character, Josh, gets stranded in the dream world and has to work through its entire geography to exit, during which time he learns a lot about the secrets of the dream.

If you’ve been keeping up with me, you’ll notice that this sounds like the intellectual precursor to The Kalin Chronicles, which I wrote a year or two ago and failed to get anyone interested in (click here for my terrible query letter). This book first made me realize the potential that dreams have as an area of fantasy, and that lingering interest was what made Inception my all-time favorite movie (I guess that’s a spoiler for my Reed’s Top 3 – Movies edition).

It may not stand the test of time, but the only way to know for sure is to check it out!

NUMBER 2: I AM THE MESSENGER, BY MARCUS ZUSAK

Genre: Kind of transcendent, but my best guess is biopic/philosophy

If you’re the kind of person who likes stories that are somehow both depressing and uplifting, I would highly recommend checking this one out. Zusak is more famous for The Book Thief, but in my opinion it doesn’t even compare to I Am The Messenger. It’s the story of a lower-class shmuck of a cab driver who has no clue what he’s doing with his life, who accidentally foils a bank robbery (this isn’t really a spoiler, it’s in the very first line of the book). And afterwards, his life starts getting weird. I don’t want to give anything else away, but essentially he goes on a kind of odyssey of character where he learns about the world around him, the relationships between people, and how we as human beings can come together in little acts of altruism and kindness. It’s an incredible novel, but it’s pretty adult with sexuality, so I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who’s not down for that.

Suffice to say if you’re looking for a book that gives you an accurate, beautiful look at the best and worst humanity has to offer – and in a way that is completely novel and inspiring – you should check this one out.

NUMBER 1: GOOD OMENS BY TERRY PRATCHETT AND NEIL GAIMAN

Genre: Low Fantasy

Oh, man. This book.

Before Good Omens, my favorite book for about seven or eight years was I Am The Messenger. But sad to say, my mind and soul belong to those bittersweet philosophical novels, but my heart, the part of me that loves a book ferociously, is infatuated with satire.

And I have to say that Good Omens is probably the funniest book I’ve ever read.

I can’t even begin to explain the absurd and convoluted plot, but essentially it has to do with an angel and a demon making friendly when the apocalypse begins. That’s seriously all I want to tell you.

It’s freaking ridiculous. Every moment is saturated with witty culturalisms and allusions, ridiculous circumstances and action, and the kind of characters you hate to love, but they’re just too goddamn funny not to. If you’ve read anything by Terry Pratchett, you’ll know what I’m talking about; if not, think of the absurdity of something like Catch-22 or Candide and combine it with that evangelical fantasy structure of something like American Gods.

I promise you, if you’re quick enough to catch what goes on, you will actually cry from laughing too hard. And it actually ends up being pretty sweet, in the end. So, seriously, if you’re looking for something new to read and you like satire, just read the first page of this book and I promise you’ll be wanting more.

Anyway, that’s it! Turned out to be longer than expected. Hope you all enjoyed it, and if you want to see more stuff like this, let me know!

Yours, eating Sour Patch Watermelons,

-R.R. Buck

What Our Characters Say About Us

(Reed’s Playlist for the Occasion: Just What I Needed by the Cars)

Today I made a new character for a brand-new D&D campaign one of my friends is starting. (Yeah, I know, that means I’m a part of 6 ongoing campaigns right now. #addicted)

Anyway, I was creating this character and reflecting upon how the characters we create as writers can say a lot about who we are as people. Like, for instance, in The Oasis, there’s a bit of me in both Terjjen and Olienna as characters – I identify both with Terjjen’s indignation and Olienna’s positivity and (let’s be honest) naivete.

It seems to me when I’m writing that most of my characters end up being one or two characteristics of me taken to extremes, or those characteristics injected into a “stock” archetypal character like the war-ravaged veteran or the sunny, innocent child. That way, especially with D&D, it never feels particularly difficult to act as that character because in some way, they’re like a piece of me.

But I think it’s even more interesting to see how our characters, and really our writing in general, reflect upon what we’re currently going through as people. If I take things all the way back to when I first started writing semi-seriously in the beginning of college, the characters and themes in my work both reflected upon that kind of coming-of-age, “learning to take my life in my own hands” mentality that I was developing in college.

Contrast that to now, when so many of my short stories are about social justice issues – The Oasis dealing with race and prejudice, Needs-Be-Met about my contempt with the political process, and my most recent writing project, Symphony of Legend, attempting to tackle several issues like mental health and mental illness misconceptions, the impact of humans on the environment, and the struggles of survivors of sexual abuse. Clearly, the things that are foremost on my mind are finding their way into my writing.

I know this is kind of obvious, but it’s kind of cool to me to look back through my writings and see my development as a person – like my whole psychological growth track in a series of books and stories.

And it also is kind of cool to consider classic literature in the same way – like, if Orwell hadn’t been born around WWII era, 1984 may never have come out. Times like this, when I imagine this immense chain of events leading to some really cool books, are the only times when I actually find history interesting.

Er… sorry, historians.

But I have a challenge for YOU, other writers. I challenge you to reflect upon your most recent writing projects, and try to examine what the stories and the characters have to say about you – your mental state, what you’re struggling with, what you find important. If you discover something interesting, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

“See you in the funny pages, Mr. Stromboli Bones.” – Dunkey

Yours, preparing his mind to be blown by Breath of the Wild,

-R.R. Buck

Hang In There (and Keep Writing)

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Wet Sand by the Red Hot Chili Peppers)

It occurred to me this morning, as I sat facing the mirror in my bathroom shortly after waking, that I am an adult.

I’m not sure what it was that was different – maybe the fact that I had allowed my beard to grow a little scruffier than I’m used to, maybe the slight bags under my eyes, maybe that look of I’m surviving that I’ve been seeing more and more on my face the past few weeks. But for whatever the reason (his heart or his shoes), I looked at myself in the mirror and I saw an adult for the first time.

This isn’t one of those things where I go off on some ramble about how “I don’t recognize the face in the mirror anymore,” because I did. It was my face. How could I not recognize that ugly mug?

All I mean to say is that I saw myself, for the first time in my life, as an adult. It was definitely a weird sensation, especially considering the timing of it. I’ve just graduated, I don’t have a job right now, I’m 22 going on 23 pretty soon, and even when I do have a job come the fall, it will be unlikely to become a career. I don’t have a car or a credit card. I am paying for 80% of my costs of living (I’m assuming phone bill and insurance are about 20%) but I’m not doing what I expected to be doing after college – at least, not really.

Maybe it was because, for so much of undergrad, I had a plan. I was going to finish my bachelor’s in neuroscience, go to graduate school, get a PhD, and be a professor at a research university while loving my wife and cherishing my children. The plan usually doesn’t go as well as expected in your head, and I know that. But it does seem like most of the people around me – my friends, my brothers, my girlfriend – are all in jobs that translates to career-applicable skills (if not already on a career path).

I know these are biases. I know my friends are intensely motivated and most people graduate and don’t know what to do with their lives. But saying that is like walking up to a single person and saying “You know, you’ll find someone eventually.”

(Sorry, single people I’ve said that to in the past.)

I know I’m being too hard on myself. The job I took for the UCLA Library last year, the one I plan on continuing come the fall, has helped me build some great skills in communications and writing which I’m really glad to have. I guess I just assumed that graduating from college was going to mean something more for me.

It’s that classic quarter-life crisis scenario. A kid puts in all his work for thirteen years to apply to one of the best universities in the country. He goes through life there, picks up his studies even more, comes out with a (okay not great, but definitely not terrible) GPA and a degree, and… that’s it. No bright, happy lights. No fanfare. No security.

Everybody seems to have advice, but when you’re already overwhelmed by the decisions you have to make, advice becomes poisonous. You need to feel like you’re in control of your own life, and all you hear are people telling you what you should do, and something inside is saying, “Aren’t I supposed to know what to do by now?”

What a stupid place to be in. I’m a white middle-class man with no threat to his safety or well-being in this country; I’ve achieved a college degree, which many folks are not even able to have access to in the world; I had a job after graduation which I am allowed to continue while I figure things out; I have a wonderful life filled with wonderful people who love and care about me enough to put up with these rants; and somehow I can’t fully enjoy all that, just because I’m worried about the future.

But hey, I’ve said it to other people before, and I should say it to myself – there is no such thing as a quantification of problems. My problems are not “smaller” or “larger” than other people’s – they are important to me, and I am allowed to be upset about them as long as it doesn’t make me lose track of the bigger picture.

I’m having a good time right now – I really am. I just wish that good time didn’t have to be overcast with these clouds of insecurity, self-doubt, and worry.

WOW I’M SUCH A DOWNER AREN’T I.

How about some good news before I sign off? I’m beast-moding through part 2 of my novel, which I’m now fairly certain is a single novel and not a trilogy. I’m almost halfway done after only nine days of working on it – 25,000 words in 9 days is nothing to scoff at. And it’s progressing really well, and my poor characters have been through so much but they have so much left to go, and I can’t wait to see them succeed – or fail – as they will choose to.

I guess that’s the point I’m coming to. Writing is such an incredible way to focus my mind. In some situations like this where there’s no point in worrying, it helps me ignore those stupid doubts and give me some people with real problems to write about. And in other situations where I’ve needed to gain some clarity, the writing was the only thing that could help me do so.

Yet another point in the bucket for why writing is such an important thing for us to do, as bloggers and as people with problems.

Here’s to hoping all you recent or near-graduates can take something away from this rambling post.

Yours, ponderously,

-R.R. Buck

Call To Write [Repost]

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Gravestone Love by Bullets and Octane)

As I said yesterday, I’d like to repost something I guest posted on Rachel Poli’s blog a little while ago. Just a motivator to remind all you other writers out there why we need to do what we do.

Enjoy!

 

To the dreamers, the creators, and the readers. To the wonderful souls left lost in the darkness of the adult world. To the children-at-heart. This is to you.

Write. Please, write. Write every day you’re able. You may not think you have anything to say, but you’re wrong. You may not think the world cares what you have to say, but you’re wrong. Your voice is your own, a unique beacon in the night. You can draw others to you, people who believed their thoughts could never be voiced by another.

It is the most difficult thing you may ever do in your life. Anonymity makes monsters of men, and there will be those who try to dissuade you from writing. They may say you’re not good enough, you will never be good enough. They may be right. The flame of your voice may be extinguished in the harsh climate of rejection.

Or you may keep it inside you, a warmth from within but not without, a gift stolen from those who might need it most. I will not blame you if you cannot bear to share it. I will only smile, and continue to call.

Write. Please, write.

To the hopers, the secret-keepers, and the dissident. To the rebels without a leader, hungry for change. To the people who will save this Earth. This is to you.

Speak. Please, speak. Speak up against injustice. Criticize the world around you for all its flaws. Shed light upon the skeletons in the closet, the mess swept under the rug for the public to ignore. You may believe your cause is already lost. You may think the world deserves to burn for its sins. You are wrong. This world is a quagmire of pressure and loss, a mold that forces conformity and acceptance of horror. Its people are nothing more than slaves to a power they can’t understand or change.

You can change it. You can speak up against it. Yours can be the voice – the pen – the blog that reminds others what matters most. You can keep humanity on track to recovery, to catharsis. But you cannot do that from inside the confines of your insecurities. You must leave them behind, for the good of yourself and others.

Perhaps your insecurities are unbearable. Perhaps there are days when you can hardly move for the weight of them around your shoulders. I will not blame you if you cannot speak your mind. I will only smile, and continue to call.

Speak. Please, speak.

 

That’s it, folks! Keep writing, and I love you all 🙂

Yours, in sibling-hood,

-R.R. Buck

Four Things To Do When You Start Hating Your Writing

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Sh-Boom by the Chords, Twist and Shout by the Beatles, A Little Less Conversation by Elvis)

It disturbs me how much more my titles are sounding like Buzzfeed articles recently.

Okay, so if you’re anything like me, you might be writing something, going along at a great pace, really feeling into yourself, and then all of a sudden the momentum dries up. And then reverses.

You read back over the words you thought were totally genius while you were writing them, and they sound like shit. As a matter of fact, you now realize that the entire project is shit and should be tossed immediately.

God, what an absolutely terrible feeling. There’s no way to get rid of it, at least not entirely – but you already probably know that it’ll fade in time. Your main goal when this happens is to find a way to combat it in the moment, to keep yourself from clicking that DELETE key and losing something that might not just be salvageable, but also potentially great.

Here are four things I try to do when that feeling strikes me. Remember, it’s all about momentum – you don’t have to start the ball rolling forward again, you just have to stop it from moving back.

  1. Call in your Adorer. This is one of my four preferred types of alpha readers – the wonderful person who always seems to think your writing is better than you do, the one who always has something good to say about it. Your Adorer can keep you from the brink of nervous collapse with that oh-so-crucial validation that you’re doing something worthwhile. (Plus my Adorer is pretty cute, so that helps too.)
  2. Put your project down and do something else. Trust me, it will still be there tomorrow after the negativity has passed. This one is kind of a slippery slope; you may end up not coming back to the project once it’s down in the dust. But that’s on you; you have to find the energy somehow to get back to it. Mine is writing every day – since I have to write every single day, I may as well write the thing I’m currently working on, instead of trying to start something new.
  3. Find just one sentence you think is awesome in the scrap heap. No matter how bad I think my writing is when I’m in a slump, I can always seem to find one thing – a perfect bit of dialogue, an especially well-written description, even a bit of prose that just seems poetic – that I really like. Cling to that little flower sprouting from the manure. Remind yourself that this is why you slave over writing – for that single sentence that, in isolation, is a gem. If you continue writing, you’ll definitely find more of those gems hidden in there.
  4. Read back over some of your projects from years ago. I try to do this at least once a year, just because it’s healthy to laugh at yourself. When you read back over stuff you wrote three or four years ago, you will truly know shitty writing. And then by comparison, you can see how vastly your writing has improved. Seriously, sometimes it takes my breath away to see just how much better I’ve gotten at writing in the last two to three years – it’s an entire world of difference, and many of my readers have said so. Remind yourself that improvement isn’t a binary – you’re always going to be walking a slow uphill path, and sometimes you might roll back a step or two, but you’ll be continually moving forward on a macroscopic scale.

I’ve said before and I’ll continue to say that being an artist sucks when you’re so emotionally close to what you’re creating. When it’s going well, nothing can wipe the smirk off your face and the joy from your soul; when it’s terrible, you can’t help but wallow in self-pity and self-hatred. But you have to try to divorce yourself a little from your work; it’s the only way you’re going to be able to continue to move forward.

Hopefully these were helpful! And please, continue to keep your chin up. I think tomorrow I’m going to repost something I guest-posted on another blog a while back, a motivator to remind us to write. I hope these two posts in conjunction are enough to keep your head on your shoulders when things get tough.

Yours, moving and grooving on,

-R.R. Buck