Tag Archives: writing

Blank Screen Blues

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t.

No, wait. True, but not the bifurcation for which I was searching.

There are two ways to approach a blank computer screen, staring at you, demanding to be filled with information, riveting information, information that will change the lives of readers and the destiny of nations and the course of civilizations: fear or eagerness.

Despite the last sentence above, I see a blank screen as an invitation to dive in and begin creating something, anything. Nature abhors a vacuum. (Much to the dismay of the Orek people, who keep having to replace Mother Nature’s vacuum system almost every week.) I abhor a blank screen.

If you’re the type who sees a blank screen and immediately your fingers begin itching for a keyboard so you can start filling that screen. . . We’re good. You can come back next time. Class dismissed for you. Go out and do something. Get some experience so we can strip mine that little memory, rip it into its constituent engrams and rebuild it into a story worth telling.

It’s the rest of you I want to talk to today. The ones who still are fixated on the whole blank screen sentence up above. Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey, you! Down here. Right.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Good. That’s good. Time to let go of the panic (at least a little bit) and concentrate (at least a little bit) so we can get to writing (at least a full page). (What? You thought I was going to advocate for only writing a little bit? We’ve got a lot to learn about each other, friend.)

So, the idea of a blank screen fills you with fear? Makes you quake in your Joseph Campbell high heels? Makes you tug on that full, manly beard and mumble about doing the dishes? (Hopefully one or the other because Joseph Campbell doesn’t make shoes big enough to fit the beardy types and no one likes to write with sore feet.)

There’s no need to fear a blank screen. The odds are very low that it will bite you or otherwise do you physical harm. The only damage that’s going to be done to you is by you. Or, more accurately, by your poor frightened brain.

People afraid of a blank screen are a little like my oldest son, Sarcasmo (Names changed to protect the not-so-innocent-but-still-likely-to-complain-incessantly) when faced with a roller coaster. He hated the things when he was younger. He would start to build up the idea of the roller coaster in his head until it was some massive monster, barely slapped together with dry chewing gum and goblin spit. Taking him to an amusement park was a waste of money because he was not getting on anything that moved fast or had the possibility of intentional loops.

Until the day he went with friends and they teased him into going on a roller coaster. (I didn’t say they were good friends) Forcing himself to step forward one foot after another, Sarcasmo climbed into the coaster car and prepared for the worst. Which never happened

He later told me he kept expecting to be torn apart, or feel like someone was trying to twist his brain around in his skull. And it never happened. The roller coaster wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d built it up to be in his head.

Now, insert you for Sarcasmo and blank screen for roller coaster. It’s the same deal.BS flag

People will build up the idea of a blank screen so much, they begin to fear it. They begin to fear it because they believe they must produce deathless prose the moment fingers touch keyboard. They must outwrite Shakespeare, out copywrite Don Draper each time they see a blank screen.

That’s a load of . . . bunk. Throwing my bunk stuff flag on this one.

Precision and nigh-perfection come with rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting some more. Before you can get there, though, you have to write. And that does not have to be perfect. Or pretty. Or even likable. It just needs to be there so you can work on it later.

In fact, let’s make this formal.

You, hereinafter known as “the writer,” are formally given permission to produce sucky first drafts. It’s what you do with the sucky first draft when you’re done that determines your worth as “the writer.”

When faced with a blank screen. . . type. That’s it. Just start typing. It doesn’t matter if it’s any good, or even on point. Just type. Sort of like what I did to start the post. (Which was kept in there as an example that I could point to from down here.) I typed out a stupid joke and that enabled me to get warm and start warming to the topic from there on out.

melting iceThat’s all you have to do.
It doesn’t matter what you type, as long as you begin to type away. Once you’ve got some words, that fear will simply melt away.

Let’s get to it.

First published at Writing Lifea new blog by yours truly that examines how we can use our memories to create compelling personal essays or memoirs.

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Arm Yourselves With Home-Made Mini Crossbows

So this is what it feels like to rule the world through massively overwhelming force.

Or just the battlefield that is my home.

Yes, dudes, when you can weaponize hair clips, you know you’re on This screen grab is from the video posted by TheKingOfRandom.com and showing you how to create a mini crossbow from hair clips, popsicle sticks, hot glue and twine.the top of the family heap. Luckily for you out there in reader land, I’m feeling in a benevolent mood and I’m going to show you how I learned a method of creating a mini crossbow that can fire wooden matches, either lit or unlit, a distance of several yards.

This, dudes, is how you protect your cube.

Or just annoy the little dudes until they get angry enough to actually build one of their own and start firing back.

Whichever.

A big tip of the hat to my writing pal, The Dragon, for sending me the link that showed me how to create the massive crossbow gap that currently exists in the not-so-friendly-anymore confines of Casa de Dude.

Here’s the clip.

Pretty neat, no?

Pretty neat, yes indeedey oh!

If you’re like me and do better with written instructions, you can go here to download a .pdf listing all the gear you’ll need and the steps necessary to weaponize hair-care products.

I’d love to see whatever you dudes come up with after watching the video and checking out the instructions. Mine didn’t look quite as good as the ones here, but not bad and, even better, it worked.

Thanks to the mini crossbow, I now possess an almost insurmountable advantage in desktop weaponry. I shall rule with my iron fist, velvet glove optional.

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In Need Of Some Spirit Glue

Well, that was a spirit breaker.

I don’t know if you dudes have noticed, but I’m a bit of a writer. (Perhaps you’ve heard of a little thing called A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook?)

Having worked as a newspaper reporter for the first part of my professional career, I equate writing with getting paid. I’m also a bit old so I’m a bit of a traditionalist. That means I want to sell my stories and books to an actual publisher (like Barry and I did with A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook) and get paid for it that way. I’m not all that into self publishing, although I do see it as a perfectly valid form of expression. It’s just not for me right now.

Because of that, I can’t just write something and toss it out to the public. I have to sell my work to someone in a publishing house, which means I face a lot of rejection. Seriously, dudes, I’m talking a lot of rejection.

Heck, compared to the writing career, my success with the ladies in high school and college was legen. . . . dary. That’s the level of rejection I and most writers tend to get from the traditional publishers.

Lately, however, I’ve been feeling pretty good. My critique group seems to like the book I’m working on with them. I managed to crank out a good-sized YA book in a couple of weeks and actually liked the result. I’m halfway through a middle grades book and also feeling good about it.

However, on Tuesday evening, I received an email from one of the larger publishers telling me, in essence, thanks but no thanks. What’s different about this one is that I was able to get my book directly into the hands of someone who works there, who, in turn, gave it to an editor.

Being rejected this time feels a bit more . . . solid.

In my brain, I understand this rejection is no different from any other. I know in my brain that not every story is for every person and I only need to find the right agent or publisher and they’ll love my work.

But, just for now, I’m feeling a bit like I’ve been wasting my time trying to write. That what I’ve just produced won’t be read by anyone but me. That I’m not going to succeed, by any definition of success that means anything.

Please, understand I’m not looking for sympathy. I’ll probably get over it.

My issue right now is that I’m pretty open with my young dudes. They knew that I was submitting a book to this big publisher. I’m going to tell them I got rejected, but I also want them to see me taking it in stride.

I have to set the right kind of example. I need them to internalize the idea that one setback (or 12 setbacks) isn’t enough to make them quit. Will never make them quit. I need them to know that the only thing that can make them quit is inside them already and they have control over that.

But, right now. . . It’s hard to set that sort of example. Knowing you’re good enough to succeed is a bit easier than finding the folks who will agree with you and can help you achieve that.

So I think I’m going to take a bit of a breather, get myself together before telling them about this rejection. I need to get my head in the right place so they can see I remain hard at work, that I’m not going to let this minor roadblock stop me. That I fell, but only so that I could learn to get back up.

After all, Tempus sanat omnia vulnera.

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