During the last week of April, I chose to take a hiatus from most of my social media sites. Despite all my efforts to cut back on how many times I logged in, I was still feeling anxious and stressed about them. I feel now that it was because it wasn’t only time I should’ve been focusing on, but my actual activities/habits on them as well.
I’ve watched a lot of TED talks lately, including on social media, and some of the speakers discussed something known as FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Some of my shares/posts/tweets online were kind of like that; they had become more of a compulsive obligation. That is something I will need to change.
So, I’m once again examining and reconsidering my social media habits and how I can make them feel more productive and positive. For the time being, I do not think I will be as active as I was before. It’s also in the back of my mind that I might eventually quit a couple of social media sites, but that hasn’t been decided yet.
I hope you’ll read and review it, along with my other published work! If you’re a poet looking to get your poems featured, be sure to check out SAP’s current submissions!
Additionally, I recently learned that a micro memoir piece that I wrote has been accepted by an online religious literary magazine, WOTL!
If you’re interested in giving a presentation at the 2023 Maryland Writers’ Conference, the Maryland Writers’ Association is accepting submissions! It’ll be in person in October, so you know.
At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to be more positive. It hasn’t been easy, but after the Easter holiday, I was resolved to keep faith in myself and continue toward that resolution. Even after Easter, though, I have still found myself feeling low and battling self-doubt, which makes me question my previous accomplishments.
Nevertheless, I know need to keep going, and I may have to reevaluate my Internet and social media habits even further as well. I’ve tried being more productive and mindful of my time, though I’m not sure I’m satisfied yet. But at least I’m aware of this, and I know I need to once again remember to believe in myself.
Change happens all the time. As someone who suffers from Asperger syndrome, I can tell you that change to routines and patterns, stepping outside of my comfort zone, has never been easy. Change, especially when it occurs outside of my control, sends my mind spiraling, and I feel trepidation.
But change can lead to benefits. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been making efforts to cut back on social media time, but I’m also seeking to change my online habits, too. During the COVID shutdown I spent more time online, especially Twitter. I did get the word out about my work more and made some new connections, but now the hashtags I followed haven’t helped with book sales. The same’s been happening with tweets asking for book recommendations. These habits and the time spent on them and other sites feel more like a hindrance. To counter them, I’ve tried walking more, and for that, I’m glad.
With most sites, I’ve gotten down to generally 1-2 logins per day. Nevertheless, that is also something that could change in the future. Sometimes, I’ve found myself going up again if I need to do something specific, like website maintenance. I’ve felt if I can limit myself with those moments, I’m fine.
Nevertheless, the temptation is still there, and it can eat time. Plus, I’m aware these efforts could turn into new patterns that could become just as constrictive and worrisome. I need to curb the scrolling, searching, and that addictive, time-eating cycle that can result, but simultaneously, I also shouldn’t try to control everything, because anxiety always comes from not being perfect. It’s been said that with reviews, quantity over quality. With online time and content, it’s the opposite. Now I need to put it into practice.
Likewise, I’ve tried getting back into the writing routine I’ve mentioned before. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, and other times I do not get the word count I’d like, but I need to remind myself that progress is progress, no matter how small. I need to see the fun in writing again, as author Nour Zikra put it. This year, I hope to be more positive about my writing, my online/social media time, my habits, and, most of all, myself.
I realized through prayer that I need to think more positively. Then, at the beginning of Advent, when I was feeling low and anxious again, after an earnest prayer to God, I opened my copy of the Bible without any specific section in mind. It opened to Psalm 77, and as I read it, I knew my prayer had been answered. Even if you’re not Christian or religious, I hope you too will remember all the good that’s been in your life when distressed. If I need to make changes to meet new circumstances, I will have to do so.
P.S. Enjoy these videos of my readings from last year’s open mics!
It is a question every writer is asked at some point in their careers: “Where do you get your ideas from?” It’s become a cliché, really. Still, there are others out there suffering from writer’s block who feel their well has gone dry, so to speak. Or perhaps you’re in the middle of an ocean of ideas and don’t know which fish to bait for. Well, I’ll elaborate on some familiar answers, which in my opinion aren’t always suited for every situation.
Write about what you know.
This has been said a lot of times, and it is logical. You’re pretty much guaranteed to do well with ideas you are knowledgeable about. The situations and experiences from your own life can help provide a far more solid base upon which to build a story. Such examples can include professional experiences (Jeremy Lloyd drew on his experiences working in a department store for Are You Being Served?) or places you have visited or lived (Stephen King’s stories are often set in his home state of Maine or in Colorado, where he went on vacation once he was financially able to do so). Then there are personal hobbies and interests, which leads to the next point.
Write about what interests you.
Writing about what you know won’t be enough if passion isn’t in it. It will show in your writing if passion was absent. Interests and hobbies are a great source of ideas because the writer can share those passions through stories and perhaps spark interest in readers. Plus, your passion can compensate because you will compel yourself to drive and learn more about your passions/interests in order to write a better story. Bram Stoker spent seven years writing and developing Dracula, and he never visited Romania, where a good portion of his book his set. He drew on research and his own imagination.
So perhaps in the end, perhaps you need to draw on a combination in order to make a blend. And in my case, certainly, I need to remind myself to not stress over it, which I admit is still hard to do. I must keep hope that ideas will come, especially when I’m not looking for them.
In 10 days, the two-volume anthology Into the Glen premieres from Fae Corps Inc! The volumes are respectively named Into the Light and Under the Shade. The former will feature my short story The Harbor Master, inspired by real-life stories about monster-sized hammerhead sharks. Many thanks to Fae Corps for this opportunity! They did a great job with the cover and promotional photo:
Some pre-order links are already available on my short stories page, and more will come! Additionally, the 2021 July edition of Pen in Hand featuring my fencing essay is now available on Amazon and Goodreads! Links are on my creative nonfiction page.
One other thing I forgot to mention last time: my novel Mystical Greenwood won in the Science Fiction / Fantasy / Speculative category of the 2021 MWA Novel contest. That’s the first time I’ve won 1st in anything writing!
A couple minor publications are in the works! First, the July edition of the MWA‘s literary journal Pen in Hand features my essay about my experiences in the fencing club at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, which also began there as an assignment in a creative nonfiction class I took during my final semester there. The PDF is available! More links will follow when they arrive!
Here’s a picture of me from my college days in full fencing gear:
I also have a short story that will be appearing in an upcoming two-part anthology from Fae Corps Inc titled Into the Glen. The story is titled “The Harbor Master,” and it was inspired by real urban legends about monster-sized hammerhead sharks in Florida and Bimini.
And don’t forget to check out the other anthologies from Fae Corps that I’ve been in as well. Here’s some promotional material from last year’s marketing campaign for two of them, Fae Dreams and Nightmare Whispers, Volume II: Madness Echoes:
With the latter, it can be purchased as part of the whole Nightmare Whispers collection too, if you would prefer to get all three volumes at once rather than individually!
Once a writer’s work is published it is out there—and at the mercy of the critics. Reviews are what help spread the word about their writing, but the simple fact is that not everyone is going to like it—or at least be glowing with praise. Of course, one would hope they would, but people have different likes and tastes, and so they will find certain things they like—and don’t like—about a particular work. A writer puts hours—years—of passion and hard work into it, and to have it criticized—yes, it can make a writer feel low.
I know. People have posted reviews of Mystical Greenwood over the past three years. Most, I’m happy to say, have enjoyed it. But there have been aspects about it that weren’t to their taste. For example, some thought the language was still too flowery, or didn’t like the alternating points of view, or had trouble connecting to the characters, or felt I didn’t do enough showing not telling in regard to characters’ emotions, and typos. It has been discouraging for me. But at the same time I’ve noticed some aspects of the story and how it was told were disliked by some but praised by others. While the dislikes certainly have stung, it demonstrates how people have different opinions, and, as a writer, one can’t please everyone.
Criticism should never be deliberately insulting or hurtful. Constructive criticism helps writers become better by encouraging them rather than insulting them. It was one of the founding points I included when I started my own critique group years ago. But there have been reviews of books that were harshly negative. Edgar Allan Poe was nicknamed the “Tomahawk Man” because when he reviewed something (or someone) he didn’t like, he was absolutely brutal and unrepentant towards the author and their work. But it’s also been observed that many critics in his time would be positive no matter what, and some even took bribes in exchange for giving glowing reviews. Poe, on the other hand, was honest, and most of those he heavily criticized aren’t as well known today.
It goes to show if not everyone is glowing with praise, there’s a plus side: your work is being taken seriously. Books that have been heavily criticized have endured, becoming literary classics. Several were banned for one reason or another, but that has become a badge of honor for many books, many of which were revolutionary for their times and for literature. And writers mustn’t forget about constructive criticism: they can see what could have been done better. Writers can take that (gradually, of course) to become better at their craft. So while it is difficult to get over criticism, it is possible. It may initially hurt, but a writer can rise up again and become better. Writers should never stop believing in themselves and their writing. And in my case, with Mystical Greenwood no one has yet to give it two stars or one, so that’s a good sign.
Happy Holidays, everyone! Wishing you all a Happy New Year, especially after a year like this. Today is the day of the Winter Solstice, which is the origin of many winter holidays. As the light and warmth of the sun will return, may the new year bring new light and warmth for all of us! I am certainly hoping 2021 brings changes and progress both career-wise and in writing.
And don’t forget: books (and book reviews) make great gifts! My Amazon author page was updated to include more anthologies from past and present, including As the World Burns, which came out last month.