This one is great for creating dialogue. (I also love when videos have kitchsy cartoons)
And, regardless of how you feel about Eat, Pray, Love (because there are two very adamant schools of thought about it) Elizabeth Gilbert wrote Big Magic which is a great book for creatives and creative-wannabes. And this is good.
Remember when you said, “If only I have time to write that book I’ve always wanted to.” *sigh* “If only…”
Wellllll, guess what? What else are you going to do for the next couple of weeks (indefinite future)? It’s tempting to sit at home and guzzle Netflix or watch the painfully repetitive. And of course —-> Eat. Cook. Nap. Eat. Repeat.
When you surface into society again, all you’ll have to show is the weight you gained. How about you eat that frog and write your book? If you can’t write a novel when you literally can’t leave your house, when will you? I will give you the players handbook on how to write a book and you will emerge into the world inspired, recharged, slaying.
Are you in? I said… ARE YOU IN?!?!
So let’s get down to business. 4 steps to starting your book start here —>
I remember the first time someone asked me what my elevator pitch was. I probably gave him a snarky look.
“A what?” I snapped. I actually thought he was making fun of me. What did an elevator have to do with anything?
Now, my much wiser self can inform you… An elevator pitch is what you would say if you had some important publisher to pitch to on a 20 second elevator ride. (Although pitching someone in an actual elevator is probably pretty tacky.)
Let’s talk about how to write the infamous (to most) elevator pitch. My first piece of advice is…
Think of an elevator pitch as movie preview
If we’re being honest here, movie previews are my favorite part of most movie experiences. What can I say? I like the highlight reels. (Especially if the narrator is throaty like James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman or Emma Stone) Movie previews are like the sugar center of a jawbreaker and, again if we’re honest, often better than the movie itself.
Your elevator pitch is the highlight reel of your book, except that you leave a lot of the stuff you think is really great and important out. Fun, huh?
Let’s try one together… (Imagine James Earl Jones’ voice here)
“Caught in the crossfire of an age-old feud, two young lovers defy their families in a romance that will cost them everything.”
Can you guess it?
“After his father’s sudden death, a young lion turns away from his destiny to be king and, in shame, abandons his throne and family. Years later, he must save his pride from starvation by confronting the current king, the power hungry uncle that murdered his father.”
So those that know me know I like lists. Like I reeeeeally like lists. I like them the way people like Netflix. I pursue them the way some people scroll Instagram. I read and reread and order and reorder them. Honestly, I don’t know how people function without them.
My brain simply can’t hold all the stuff I need/want/probably shouldn’t do.
(Note: In finding this image I went down a rabbit hole called “Exploding Brain Syndrome”. This is a thing.)
Arguably the mother of all lists is the BUCKET LIST. Like Google, it has even been “verbed.” But a bucket list is a problem for me because it indicates a plan to do things someday, preferably before you die. And who knows when that is, right? Continue reading →
I feel like I’ve edited these 300 words a thousand times.
Evan sees it in slow motion, the fall leaves scalloping Mara’s profile as the car hovers above her, the girl on the bike peddling by. He’s seen it a hundred times. Mara is turning to the sound of the squealing brakes, her silhouette swollen against the backdrop of autumn, her hand slung under her enormous belly. The breaching car winks in the sunlight and the sound of Mara’s body as the car hits her is like a sack of mortar being dropped from a truck. Then, she is gone.
It always start in the groin, the pressure so violent it’s almost pain. Evan stops walking. His fist clenches over six oval pills but when he opens his hand, it’s empty. He can taste the pills, the bitter film on them as he swallows one after the other. He feels the heaviness of his limbs, how easily he’d closed his eyes. But the pills hadn’t worked. He’s still here. Here.
Evan turns in a small circle, his feet squeaky on the white floor. A set of tapping footsteps fades in front of him as the man he’s following walks on without him. Evan tries to focus on the man but all he sees shapes, changing, colliding, lines unfolding like dismantled origami. Hexagons turn into ellipses, triangles to quadrilaterals. When he opens his mouth, the queasy taste of metal comes in waves.
The man turns, his face chiseled by the light. “Please try to keep up,” he says. “Our time is limited.”
Beyond the man is a doorway, the white hallway telescoping to it. “I realize you are disoriented,” he adds. “But it will come to you as we go. This…” The man tilts a thin hand toward a door. “Is the waiting room. I will bring you back here once we’ve completed the tour.” He makes eye contact and then continues.
How many ways can this be rewritten? I’ll let you know.
Many moons ago, I was a bright-eyed go-getter, bent on squeezing every drop from the gristly lime of life. I had a lot of things I wanted to do and I was in a big hurry to do them.
And then life happened. Every now and then, it occurred to me that the ME I had designed in my twenties was a long gone blueprint, some imaginary being the lab had given up on.
My priorities were unwillingly rearranged with children and societal pressure to normalize and the constant need to pay for some life necessity or another. The nerve.
Then comes 40. I’m on the countdown and it’s time to regroup, assess, question whether all that party planning and crafting really counts as moving forward in life. (Existentially, it is also time to question whether moving forward is the real goal.)
Have I lived enough? I asked myself. Have I accomplished enough? Have I adventured enough? I’ve never even been to India!
This anxiety sent me straight to list making, because making lists is every Type-A’s therapy. A well-written list can solve any problem.
Now, while I’m still ruminating on the existential meaning of life, I’ve constructed a really scintillating list. 40 things I want to do before I turn 40. Because if there’s one other thing a type-a likes, it’s a deadline. 😉
So, if anyone is so inclined… jump on board and do a 50 before 50 or a 30 before 30 or a 47 before 47 (although it, admittedly, doesn’t have the same ring).
(Legal disclaimer: I got a version of this idea from Gretchen Rubin, who on her podcast appearance with none other than Tim Ferriss, talked about her 18 for 2018 resolution list.)
Here’s my 40 Before 40…
Publish book – Come hell or high water
Sing karaoke – IN PUBLIC
See the Northern Lights – I was born in Alaska and don’t even remember ever seeing the aurora borealis. poo.
Do the splits
Take Scottish dancing class – Seems random but I am Scottish, did Scottish dancing as a teenager (see how cool I was?) and am thoroughly obsessed with all things Scottish.
Do 10 pull-ups
Take a painting class
Take a hip-hop/dance class – Maybe improve my Elaine-from-Seinfield moves. Maybe not.
I had to.
Go tent camping – Glamping doesn’t count, much to my city-boy husband’s chagrin.
Take a pottery class
Buy a Motorhome
Motorhome across the country
Go to a horse ranch
Organize/print digital photos – Honestly, this may be the hardest thing on this list.
Go whale watching
Go to Iceland
Try aerial yoga
Try acro yoga
Ride a skateboard – Friends are trying to talk me out of this due to potential physical injury to my middle-aged body.
Learn to ski
Meet Tim Ferriss – Tim, if you’re out there, I’m a total fangirl and will likely have nothing intelligent to say due to nervous paralyzation.
Do a handstand
Get back to my college fluency in Spanish
Remodel our home office
Go rock climbing – Indoor is ok. I’m not a snob or anything.
Learn how to swim strokes – like real swimming, not bobbing and flapping
Play the ukulele
Go to a poetry reading
Read the Harry Potter books – Because I have heard this should be on every bucket list and apparently I’ve been living in a barn having not read them.
Organize travel memorabilia – Hmmm, what to do with train tickets from Belgium, coasters from Peru and sugar packets from Morocco…
Burn music to hard drive – I literally do not have a CD player
Teach my kids to play chess
Teach my son to read
Go to a trampoline gym – I’m thinking without my kids. Would that be weird?
Be vegan for a week
Make a good (thai) curry
Make a scrapbook for my husband’s last birthday – I’m such a giver.
Take self-defense class
Get laser hair removal – because shaving sucks
Ride a jet ski – I have never done this and stole it from my friend’s bucket list because I was like “Oh yeah, I HAVE always wanted to do that.”
So there. I’m about to get at it.
P.S. If any writers out there are feeling mid-life crisis-y like I was, be comforted by the statistic that 95% of great writers are over the hump of 40. Like fine wine, apparently literary success improves with age. One in the pro column for getting older.
I’ve been editing for so long, I forgot what it’s like to sink my teeth into fresh prose, to get that high from creating rather than rehashing and hacking. I am finally into a new book and my appetite has been whet.
I was gun shy to start a new novel, not because it’s an agonizing, hair-pulling, time-consuming process, which it is. I dreaded it because I didn’t want to commit to a new set of characters for the next few years of my life. Honestly, I hadn’t met a bedfellow I thought I could handle the commitment with. We’re talking about fictional characters, people, but sometimes, you’re just SICK OF TALKING TO THEM.
I’m going to do everything different this time. First, I’m writing an outline (before I start describing settings and layering characters). I’ll make sure I have a working ending so that I can build it from the beginning rather than retrofitting it in later. (and then re-retrofitting it on the second draft) See? I can learn.
Tonight, one of my writer friends said that if she knew how hard writing actually was, she would have taken up painting. She’s on her 7th draft, which made me self-conscious about my own 3 paltry drafts.
But THIS is what it’s all about! It’s the rush of lifting my fingers from the keys after three hours and having to resurface enough to maintain a conversation. Sure, I then realize I’m running late and haven’t brushed my teeth but who cares?! It like a drug to me.
So if you can’t find me for the next year of my life, know I am holing myself up in a dark corner, face creepily lit by my laptop screen and a look of crazed joy on my haggard face. Writing like a ninja.
I once did a pie chart of my day, down to how long it took to eat, groom, commute, etc. Beyond trying to creatively multi-task (one should not do squats while brushing ones teeth, FYI), I discovered that apparently, I have a finite amount of “free” time. You know this, yes. But when you do a pie chart, you reallyknow it.
With that sadly small sliver on my pie chart of “free time”, I had to decide how it was spent. TV? Long hot bath? Workout? Read? Write? Troll Instagram? Work on backhand? Clear out overcrowded inbox? Read magazines? Take up wood carving?
2. What is worthy of that time?
Have I ever mentioned that I want to speak like four languages, play the violin, become a black belt and a ceramicist?
If you have seen Tangled, (Yes, the children’s movie. Don’t judge!) you have seen my life’s aspiration.
So many skills, so few hours in the day. *sigh* How, with this finite amount of time, could I ever do all the things I want to do?
I could work on each project/hobby/goal for 5 minutes a day and likely never become proficient at any of them.
I could spin my wheels on day to day stuff and put the big goals onto a different, less visited list.
Or I could devote and invest time into a single life goal and see it to fruition. Singular purpose. Multi-tasking is a no go here.
3. Is being busy and productive the same as accomplishing?
Being busy feels like being productive, right?
But the little stuff is usually not connected to the big stuff. For example, having a detailed car, washed dog and organized garage has little to do with my life goals. And a lot of the time, we DO have to choose. (Yes, even acknowledging this, I choose wrong.)
It’s tempting for us Type A’s out there to just put it all on the to do list and start pounding the pavement. We can do it all. We MUST do it all. WE WILL DO IT ALL!
Beyond the usual advice about burn out, the fact is, with an uber long to do list, you’re less likely to accomplish the things that matter most. The goal becomes shortening “the list” as opposed to working long and hard on a single project (with the reward of a single notch on said list). Guilty. At the end of the day, it’s easy to see a lot of little things done and harder to see a little of a big thing done.
But it’s fake productivity! Big things often don’t look like accomplishments until they are. And true accomplishment is only the big things. In 5 years, no one will care how busy you were, how clean your dog, pristine your garage, or tidy your files. What will you show for all that busy-ness? (if you think this is an excuse to not clean the garage, you wouldn’t be wrong)
Choose your biggest priority, the one you will care about in 5 years, for instance. Then, use those little slivers of pie time for it. As much of those pockets of time as you can for AS LONG AS IT TAKES.
Yeah, sure it’s not terribly gratifying when someone asks how a project is going and the answer is “still working on it” again and again. But one day they’ll be like, “I don’t know how you did that.” But you will know. You will know.
(* no wild pigs were injured in the writing of this book, albeit theoretically)
Moku heard the shot that killed the sow. He was almost relieved. The feral pua’a were overrunning the mountains and pigs stunk up the place. They’d made mud holes in Moku’s lawn again.
He hadn’t thought about the boar piglets until he saw them foraging under the mango tree. He pulled out the traps Auntie had bought to catch the mongoose that was chewing into her packs of cuttlefish. Every time she set them, the cages turned up empty, the bait missing.
The piglets had already lost weight. One was limping. Moku was never much of a hunter and they were good as dead anyway so Moku baited the cages with rotten mangoes stewing in a puddle of Bud Light.
By the next morning, two cages contained the thrashing bodies of small pua’a. Their snouts were bloodied from lunging at the cage walls. Their beady eyes panicked as they shook and squealed. It had been hard to see them as the true pestilence they were. The third cage was empty, both of pig and bait. The work of a mongoose.
Moku had laughed. Always the third little pig that gets away. He puffed up his chest and exhaled loudly and deliberately in the direction of the closest pig cage. When his lungs were empty, he laughed again, more loudly this time.
“Some big bad wolf, eh?” he’d said to the pigs.
Moku’s first impression of Carol was from her car. The three black boar had squealed in their kennel at the hairball hacking sound it made as it bounced down his dirt road.
Moku had been sitting on a plastic lawn chair on the porch, smoking and thinking about reseeding the St. Augustine grass where the pigs had torn it up. When Carol parked the green car, crooked and mostly in the road, it backfired and Moku had flinched. He had stared past her then, hoping she hadn’t seen. When she’d spotted him on the porch, she laughed nervously, shrugging and looking sheepishly from the car to Moku as though it was the first time the car had ever embarrassed her.
Up close, she was smaller than she had seemed from Pahoa’s house. Her cheeks were wizened from too much sun and sinewy blond hairs glittered against her tanned forearms. She walked like a mynah bird, strutting and stomping, a kind of falling forward like she was hopping from rock to rock. Before now, he hadn’t given her much thought. Auntie always had enough to say about her for the both of them. Carol probably didn’t know that Pahoa was such a gossip. He reported everything he saw or heard and he and Auntie speculated together.
Carol seemed younger that day, probably because she was so short. Her tank top had been tied into a knot at her middle where a thin strip of pale skin was visible when she raised her arms. It was white as coconut flesh. She had a quick smile, apologetic almost. He was the one who’d been sorry. She shouldn’t have come here.
“Hi, I’m Carol. Are you Manu?” The words were spoken clearly; the vowels clipped and with too much emphasis on the last syllable, just like a haole would say it.
“Moku,” he’d said. His high had been wearing off and it was making him raw, irritable but also open, like when a song touches you somewhere dark and fragile and you hear it for the first time.