On Writing: Procrastination

“If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it isn’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

–  Unknown

 

Hi, everyone! No, I haven’t died or been killed by my schoolwork (yet).

I’m sure some of my veteran readers could’ve guessed that my posting would be spotty at best when the school year kicked off. I told myself, “No, Caleb, this year it’ll be different! With a year of college under my belt, I can now manage my time infinitely better, and I’ll post so often that the WordPress servers will poop their pants!”

Then the other day I logged back into my account for the first time in two months, like:

shrekoops

Sorry about that, readers.

One thing I am pleasantly surprised to see, however, is that my reader stats haven’t even been dented. I appreciate everyone’s support during my sparse posting, and am glad you all enjoy reading old posts even when I’m not around to create new ones.

Today, however, I am! Which is a nice segue into the meat of this article: procrastination.

I think any person with internet access has fallen victim to procrastination at some point. The internet is a fluid place; one minute I’m watching a YouTube tutorial about the difference between Enantiomers and Diastereomers, then I blink and suddenly I’m watching a video called “News Anchor Laughs During Murder Report.”

So, how does this factor into the lives of writers?

The thing about writing—in my experience, at least—is that it isn’t a process that can be divided into tiny chunks.

Here’s what I mean: think of doing homework. Any high schooler knows this is a verb for watching TV and having an open textbook nearby. But perhaps, during commercials, you can knock out a math problem or two.

Writing isn’t like this. Sure, you can set goals for yourself (“tonight I’ll finish chapters two and three!”) but it’s difficult to write a handful of sentences every ten minutes or so. Writing takes intense focus, which is why authors are often found doing their work in a private study or an area of similar seclusion. I don’t have an office, but when it’s writing time, I lock myself in my room and put on ambient music. No one is to disturb me.

And then the internet comes in.

Maybe you’ve heard it before: several times, when published authors have been asked how they get their work done, they’ve said step one is turn off the Wi-Fi. Or unplug the Ethernet cord.

Easier said than done, my quasi-Amish friends.

Sure, yeah, turn off the internet! But hey, what if you need to decide on a name for that new character? Where are you going to look up name etymologies?

How about if, mid-sentence, you know the word you want to use, but can’t think of it? A physical thesaurus would be a good tool, certainly, but the online thesaurus would take a tenth of the time.

And don’t you dare look at that smartphone.

Get my point? This generation of authors has grown up with the internet, and we—dare I say—depend on it. I’m an active person; when I’m in the writing zone, my thoughts are spilling onto the paper like rapid-fire pellets of creativity, and if I need to look up a word mid-sentence, I want to do so now. Immediately. Not put the whole process on hold while I rummage around my books for a thesaurus.

This is a perfectly acceptable reason to go on the internet, in my opinion. But as soon as I open that browser, it’s only a matter of time before I find myself watching “Dumbest Answers on Wheel of Fortune- Part 1” or something.

Stop whining, you helpless blogger, the masses sneer. You’re perfectly capable of avoiding distractions if you choose so. Blaming the internet for being able to distract you is like blaming alcohol for being able to intoxicate you.

To which I say, I agree in full! This is most certainly not an anti-internet post. I love the internet. I think it’s fantastic that, in several simple clicks, I have the ability to open and watch a video titled “Crackhead Does Backflip off House for a Dollar.” But I also think that as a culture, we’ve become less productive as a whole because of these time-wasters.

Several weeks ago, I sat down at my desk to do some work. The plan was to check Facebook, pull up a Pandora station, then do my material balance problems for Chemical Engineering.

So I pull up Facebook, scroll through it, then close it out without thinking. I open a new browser tab…and somehow, I’m back at Facebook. It takes me a minute to realize that I, by complete reflex, decided that the first thing to do after closing Facebook was to re-open Facebook.

I thought for sure that this was the sign of unhealthy internet use, until I mentioned it to my roommates. All three of them had done the exact same thing before. It was common.

Perhaps that’s a college thing, but even so, the fact that these time-wasting videos exist proves that they have an audience.

So, what can writers do about it?

Well, killing off internet access is good in theory, if you’re willing to do your research and fact-checking the old-school way. I’m also a fan of checking all of my social media right before I start writing, so I can put it out of my mind and focus on the current task. In the end, however, I think the best solution is the simplest one: avoid internet use if you can, but if you must, get what you came for and go back to writing.

And if the piece you’re currently writing is enticing enough to keep you away from those cat videos, then I think you have a real winner.

On Writing: When Have You “Made It”?

“There are two ways to get enough: one is to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

–  G.K. Chesterton

 

Success is perhaps the most basic of things that all writers ponder. From the minute you start hammering out that first draft of your novel, you picture sitting at a table in a little bookshop signing copy after copy for eager readers.

Well at least, that’s my fantasy. Those imagined by other people might include being a NYT bestseller, rolling in rich royalties, and having an internet fan base so large that the Twitter servers poop their pants.

The point is, no matter the specifics of your grand visions, one thing is common: every writer wants to “make it” as an author.

But what does this really mean?

To some people, it’s the moment they finally land an agent. Once I started getting full requests from agents, a lot of my friends and family were all, “Maybe you’ll get an agent! Then you’ll have finally made it!”

I disagree. Let’s go on a hypothetical journey and say you get a literary agent. For sure, that’s a rare and noteworthy accomplishment. Pop open the champagne! (Or in my case, sparkling grape juice). But have you made it yet? Is this where you’re ready to call it quits? I’d sure hope not.

Most people, I imagine, wouldn’t settle being happy with having an agent. They would want to try for a publishing deal. And surely, when that happens, then they’ll have made it!

So let’s say that person does get a publishing deal. And it even comes with a nice advance. Well now, you’ve truly made it, yes? You’ve jumped the final hurdle?

Except, out of every ten books published, only one of them turns a profit. So, I would imagine, the next challenge is to be that one that actually succeeds.

But let’s be optimistic! Let’s say you are that ONE, and not only is it successful, it’s wildly successful. People everywhere are reading your book and telling you how good you are. You get a plethora of requests to speak to students or do signings. And you might even have a shot at being on the New York Times bestseller list!

Have you made it yet? Or do you want to get on that list?

Well, of course you do.

And it happens! You get on the NYT bestseller list. You even crush the long-running reigns of the likes of Rick Riordan and John Green. Everyone knows your name. You make enough money to quit your day job. NOW, now you’ve made it, right?

But then there’s talk of movie deals.

You wouldn’t be interested in those, now would you?

I hope I’m not beating a dead horse here. What I’m trying to express in this drawn-out example is the fact that—sorry as I am to say it—there is no definitive point in the world of writing where you can dust your hands off, lean back and say, “I’ve done everything I wanted to.”

Why is this? Well, it’s because when one door opens, you want to move forward and open the next. That’s the natural, human desire for progress. As a first-time writer, your only goal may be to get a literary agent. But if this happens, your aspirations grow.

Many people imagine that once they get published, BAM! They’ve made it. They think their desires won’t expand.

Perhaps all those people are right. I wouldn’t know myself; I’m not a published author. But I have thought about it plenty, and I’ve asked myself that magical question: if I get a call saying my book is going to be published, will I be satisfied with my career as a writer?

Of course I won’t. I’m much too selfish for that. I want to be the best. I want to be remembered. I want to change the world.

Sure, these are good goals, and if I do accomplish them, great. But I need to stay grounded, too. And I need to accept the fact that, much as I’d like to say “I made it,” I probably won’t ever be satisfied with where I am.

I hope no one mistakes this for ungratefulness. Just because I’m unsatisfied with where I am does NOT mean I am unhappy. I accept that even getting to the “agent” stage is difficult, and I’m grateful to have made it that far. I’m thankful for all of the helpful feedback and all the time people have taken to assist me on my journey. But my desire for progress is driven by my desire to show all those people they didn’t waste their time. I want their faith in me to be rewarded.

If I go the rest of my life without making it ANY further in the publishing game, fine. What’s meant to happen will happen, and I don’t need a publishing deal to be happy in life. But that desire for progress will always be there, no matter how far I go.

All that being said, if I ever do get a publishing deal, I’m totally going to say, “hey everyone, look, I made it.”

Why, you ask?

I’m not sure myself. I think it has something to do with the fact that a publishing deal would mean I could hold my writing in my own hands, as a tangible stack of paper with a professional cover. Printed books have something beautiful about them, and perhaps if I ever have my own, then that’ll be enough for me.

Right now, I just hope I get the chance to find out.

What about you? When will you have “made it,” if ever?

High School vs. College: Snow Days

“Getting an inch of snow is like winning ten cents in the lottery.”

–  Bill Watterson

 

Luckily for me, I live in an area where snow is relatively common. We don’t get hammered by blizzards or anything, but generally every year we get a few snow days. The exceptional winter four years ago (2009-2010), when I was a high school Freshman, brought the Snowpocalypse which shut down school for a solid three weeks.

It was awesome.

This past Sunday, I woke up and looked out the window to see a few flakes of it starting to fall.

Woohoo! Snow is totally awesome, right?

It became a bit less totally awesome when I realized I had to walk through said snow if I wished to eat.

I flipped a coin.

In any case, my suitemates and I ended up hiding out in our room for the rest of the day. A few other friends came up, we decided to order pizza, and we all chilled there for the night while watching the movie Crazy Stupid Love (don’t worry; some of the people watching were girls).

And the next two days were snow days.

I’ll go ahead and compare snow days in high school to college.

Photo credit: iFunny

Photo credit: iFunny

 

Snow days in high school:

If anyone’s experience happens like mine did, then it goes something like this: you go to bed praying to every deity you can think of that there will NOT be school tomorrow; in fact, you’re counting on it, to the point where you didn’t do your homework. You Tweet about it. You seriously consider going to the superintendent’s house and hosing down their driveway. Then you finally go to bed clinging to the hope that you’ll get to sleep in.

Then when you get to, it’s fantastic.

After waking up late, you probably eat a lazy breakfast and watch movies in your pajamas. For some reason, I always watched the same movie, Perks of Being a Wallflower. Then I’d finally will myself to throw on some snow clothes, go outside, and alternate between shoveling the driveway and throwing snow. Most of my friends went sledding, too.

Then to finish it off, you probably come inside, take a super hot shower, and drink hot chocolate while watching TV. And you don’t do any homework.

Pretty cool, right?

 

Snow days in college:

Don’t worry, these are still awesome, just not quite as much.

First of all, for the record, snow days do happen in college. Contrary to popular belief, teachers don’t live in little lairs underneath their classrooms. They go home. Plus, a lot of college kids commute. In other words, if the roads are bad, school is closed.

In college, there are a few improvements to said days of snow. For one, all your friends are right near you! So you can all meet up and hang out. Granted, more often than not, people actually just take the time to sleep rather than hang out. But the option is there.

Second of all, campuses tend to have better hills for sledding. I know ours does. My friends and I meant to go, but it was REALLY cold out, and by the time it got warm enough for us to dare set foot outdoors, the snow had turned into slush. A few more ambitious students did make snowmen, however.

The point I really want to hit, though, is one I mentioned earlier: in most cases, in college, you can’t eat all of your meals (if any) from your dorm room. You have to brave the cold and march across the ice to the dining hall for sustenance.

My suitemates and I did it, but barely. We slid a few times, my socks were soaked by the time we got there, and my walk transformed into my emperor-penguin style shuffle. This shuffle involves clenching your shoulders, folding your arms close to your body, and loudly demanding that the freezing wind go have sexual relations with itself.

So, to conclude: snow days are awesome either way. In both cases you get off of school and get to lay around doing nothing. However, in college, you get to do this with your friends, even if you almost freeze your butts off whilst attempting to eat.

Winner: College, by a close shot.

Enjoy the snow, everyone!

5 Things People Need to Stop Doing on Twitter

“Some people tell me I have a short temper. I prefer to call it ‘A swift and assertive reaction to B.S.’”

 

This post was easy to write. I haven’t been on Twitter that long, but I’ve been on long enough to notice that there are some common behaviors that give me the urge to high-five a lot of people. In the face.
With a chair.
Sorry to sound so bitter…hopefully not too many of my readers demonstrate the behaviors listed below. If so, please stop.
Things people do on Twitter that annoy me the most:

 

1. Having stupid bios

For anyone unfamiliar with the general structure of Twitter, a bio is the blurb you write about yourself under your profile picture. After spending even a little time on Twitter, you can safely draw the conclusion that no two bios are created equal. Some are full of hashtags of their interests, some just have the Twitter name of their boyfriend or girlfriend, etc. I’ve seen ones with Bible verses tacked on, rhetorical questions (“bio like biology?”) and in quite a few cases, simply, “Everyone follow me!” along with a heap of profanities.

To further my point, I found some bios of Twitter celebrities that are real gems:

  • Bobby V.—“CEO BLUKOLLADREAMS! 4GET THE WAGON COME JOIN DA BAND! UPS 2 ALL MA HATERS! NEW ALBUM AVAILABLE NOW!”
  • Macy Gray—“I want to be as famous as midnight as powerful as a gun as loved as a pizza”
  • Chris Bosh—“The coolest dude alive”
  • Shaq—“VERY QUOTATIOUS, I PERFORM RANDOM ACTS OF SHAQNESS”
  • Miley Cyrus—“Im a dime. best top of the line. cute face slim waste with a BIG behind”
  • Draya Michele—“I am not her, she is me! *blowin’ kisses and flippin’ the bird*”

For the record, mine is “I apologize in advance.”

 

2. Whining to a mystery person about how they act

I know a few people who do this. The majority of tweets will all be things like “why don’t you grow up?” or “fine, I hate you too” or anything along that line. Except for the tiny glitch that the tweets aren’t ADDRESSED to anyone.
I understand that Twitter is a venting place. But there’s a difference between venting and directly yelling at a person who isn’t there. Maybe a lot of people reading this are thinking I’m a cold and heartless person who doesn’t care about the problems of others. If my friends have a problem they want to talk to me about, just let me know! Heck, tweet about it; I did say Twitter was a venting place. But as soon as you start throwing out the messages to no one, I won’t know if something’s wrong. I’ll just wonder if you’re crazy.

 

3. Tweeting unintelligible nonsense

To quote Liam Neeson from Taken, “you’re telling water not to be wet.” I get it; Twitter is a place to say whatever you want. Go ahead. But there are some things I’ve read that no one could possibly decipher or derive any meaning from. Examples include tweets such as “what’s shakin bacon” which is sadly a real example. I don’t know, sir…what is, indeed, shaking?

 

4. Excessively tweeting at celebrities

First of all, I get where you’re coming from. It’s cool to be able to message famous people. I’ve done it myself, and I even got a direct message from the lead actor of—you guessed it—Super 8.

JCDM

But there are some people who create Twitter accounts specifically to constantly bombard the members of One Direction with tweets about how awesome they are. This isn’t a mortal sin, but if you’re going to do it, please warn me so I can unfollow you pre-emptively.

 

5. TWEETING CONSTANTLY

According to a study in 2009, the most active person on Twitter had a total of 1,560,818 tweets, with an average of 2,268 tweets per day. And this was in 2009, four years ago. Does this gentleman have a problem? Yeah, I’d say so. Granted, he only had twenty-eight followers at the time, but that contradicts my point. There are lots of people who tweet literally every thirty seconds, yet they still have hundreds of followers. I don’t understand the point of following someone who spills their thoughts every second of every day.

But then again, I don’t really understand Twitter, either.

Hurricanes and Halloween

“I got a rock.”

 –  Charlie Brown

 

First of all, no, I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet. I can see why you might think so, between my week-and-a-half absence as well as our good friend Sandy slapping the stuffing out of the east coast, but I can assure you I’m perfectly fine and haven’t suffered any injuries other than death by homework.

I realize that going more than a week without posting is normal for some blogs, but I hate being inconsistent and will try to keep my future dry spells under four days. Underscore on ‘try’ and attachment of apologies.

So, then. My first topic…Hurricane Sandy.

First of all, I hope everyone stayed reasonably safe and their possessions/dwellings are relatively intact. I should say upfront that no matter what your situation is, you automatically have the right to complain about it to me. Because I myself didn’t lose power at all, had no trees or damage whatsoever in our yard, and my evening was spent watching The Avengers on our big-screen projector while writing and sipping hot chocolate. So you could say I have very little room to whine.

There were several things about Sandy I found interesting before the storm even hit. The fact that it had not one, two but at least three Twitter accounts was a bit strange, especially to someone like me who doesn’t have Twitter and thus missed the coveted privilege of Retweeting the storm’s updates such as “I’m comin, fools!”

Probably the most notable thing about this whole event was the unending supply of ridiculous names the media whipped up for this storm. ‘Sandy’ itself isn’t a particularly intimidating name by any stretch, and ‘Hurricane Sandy’ almost sounds like it should be the main character of a children’s book detailing how hurricanes form.

And ‘Frankenstorm’ is just stupid.

I apologize to whoever the first person was to coin that term, but couldn’t you have been a *smidge* more original? We understand the humor. This storm is the mixing of two smaller storms. So it’s a new creation, like Frankenstein. And it’s close to Halloween. Tee hee.

Well, let me switch off my cynical side for now and move on to Halloween.

It’s sad, because this is my last Halloween as a kid. Next year I’ll be a legal adult, which is scary, and somehow I don’t think there’s trick-or-treating in college. So this year I hoped to go trick-or-treating—yes, I was prepared to do that—but due to the storm and the business of my friends I’m not sure I’ll be able to. Nonetheless, I helped decorate my house and went to several Halloween parties dressed as Joe Lamb, the main character of Super 8 (which meant dark jeans and a green button-up similar to the one he wore for the first ten minutes or so of the movie).

In addition, I passed the time yesterday afternoon by carving a pumpkin. Luckily I found an Iron Man template online, but I’m still not sure how well it worked.

 

So yeah, I’m hoping my last Halloween will be fun and not too affected by the storm’s damage. I’ll probably sit at home, watching Criminal Minds after finishing homework. I’ll also gorge myself on sweets like most days of the year, except this time I won’t feel too bad about it.

I’ll also write a review of the movie Woman in Black, which I’ll post on here tomorrow night. So in the meantime, Happy Halloween. Don’t be afraid to be six years old again…acting your age on days like this is overrated in my opinion.

Facebook vs. Twitter

“Let’s see if this diseased lung can get more likes than Miley Cyrus!”

   –  An actual “local business” page on Facebook

 

Almost everyone says the same thing: Facebook is on its deathbed, and Twitter is rising from the ashes to smash it to pieces and reclaim the world of social networking.

I don’t exactly agree. Don’t get me wrong…on a scale of one to ten, Twitter’s stalker score is a solid eight. When in the hands of people who Tweet every single thing they’re doing every day of their lives, it admittedly is a formidable opponent to Facebook in terms of creeping power.

(Don’t worry, Facebook. You’re well on the way to your stalking comeback with the now-mandated Timeline.)

But in terms of usefulness, I’d say Facebook wins hands down. No other network lets you join groups, like statuses, or create pages much like the one I mentioned above (which, by the way, is not only real but is complete with a profile picture). Other actual pages I’ve encountered include “If this gets 100 likes I’ll name my dog Voldemort” and “I will name my son Batman if this page gets to 500,000.” It currently has 770,000.

I know; Twitter lets you follow celebrities. I admit that’s cool. But unless they follow you back—which, more often than not, they don’t—then it’s similar to liking a celebrity page on Facebook. You still stream pictures of their hourly activities either way.

Now, let’s get hypothetical. Facebook is like McDonald’s and Twitter is Burger King: both have the same stuff that goes by different names, they’re equally famous, and they leave you wishing you had more interesting things to get to in your life. In addition, both cost virtually no money, are run by invisible CEO’s in secret locations, and are terrible places to ask your girlfriend to marry you.

To continue the metaphor, Google+ would be the internet’s Sonic…good, but really the same old stuff in disguise and liked by fewer people. Which means that MySpace is Waffle House.

“But wait!” the less mainstream people might be saying. “What about Tumblr? What about Skype, and LinkedIn, and (how could we forget) INSTAGRAM???”

Maybe I’ll address those in the future. I personally don’t use any of them, with my reason more than anything being I don’t like devoting very much time to letting the world know my thoughts (that’s what this is for, right?)

As I said, Twitter is probably nice for updating frequently, but Facebook seems like a better way to connect. It groups you with your peers all while suggesting “people you may know” with disturbing accuracy.

Plus, if you’re feeling especially bored, you can change your username to “no one” and like peoples’ annoying statuses.