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Positive ions, baby!

Positive ions, baby!

     Greetings, true-believer–whoever you might be (I can usually count on my brother to read my blog snot); I am not dead.
     I continue to soldier on with HTTS. I’m almost to Lesson 8’s homework and am eager to begin writing the first draft of my official HTTS WIP proper. Sitreps for 5, 6, and 7 will have to wait for now, but rest assured (who am I talking to?), I did complete them. Huzzah!
     Seven, however, threw me psychologically. I know these lessons are designed to be finished in a week, all things being equal, but that lesson was challenging, taking no less than five months…five months and eight days to be exact. The length of my response to the prep-work is what did it. I’m sure 38 pages of 10pt, single spaced reflection was not what Holly had in mind when she wrote the lesson, and which she obliquely warned against. It is, nonetheless, what happened to me. I’ll detail that rather cathartic experience and how I got through it later. In this missive, I’m going to give voice to one of my secret writing wishes: a writing-buddy…other than my writing totems and writing sound-track.
     At my age writing buddies are hard to find. Work, home and personal responsibilities are not illusionary or excuses; they are hard reality, and social opportunities wherein I might meet such a person conflict with that reality. That being said, I must confess to having been to only one such social gathering: a Nano’ write-in at the Queen Bean in ’12. There were three other writers there. One left almost as soon as I arrived. That left the organizer/leader, and one other writer who, God bless him, talked most of the time. He didn’t know me, so directed most of his banter at the leader, a gentle and understanding soul, whom he seemed to know. Maybe he was nervous, but at every pause he would bring up a book he’d read or banter on about his WIP–not a 30-word sentence, mind you, but a blow by blow commentary. At the time, it irritated me a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it was cool to meet a couple of locals, but the event was billed as a “Write-in.”
     In retrospect, I wonder if the poor guy wasn’t just looking for a buddy too. Maybe he needed to break the cocoon of silence and isolation we writers by virtue of our craft tend to work in. I mean seriously, I’m in my bedroom right now at my emergency writing desk, a common occurrence lately (why not in the awesome study-library down stairs I’ve written of before with its comfy chairs and 2,500+ volumes? That, sigh, is another story for another time), with my head-phones on; I might as well be in my own pocket universe.
     Dear Santa, I’d like a writing-buddy who is about where I am at: working full-time, home responsibilities, maybe a serious hobby to two, and a dream to write, a love of storytelling but with very little (nothing) published. This person would encourage me when my out-put was meager and challenge me when I began to wimp-out. I could be able to trust them not to steal my ideas and they would help me develop them without demanding copy-right. We would delight in knowing the other understood terms such as: rough-draft, revision, re-write, alpha-reader, proof-reader meant and be able to judge work…or NOT…accordingly. No “If I were you…” or “I think you should…” or “From my perspective…” without solicitation. They would have their own problems and challenges and look to me for support and encouragement. Above all, we would both understand how hard this thing we love is to do and would gather strength from each other because of that understanding.
     Sheesh! It sounds like I’m a teen again day-dreaming about the perfect spouse. Pathetic.
     There’s a local writing group in Modesto that meets once a month. The first meeting comes with a no-strings-attached invite: no sharing of work or critiquing required, just a look to see if the fit it right. Nice. Later, however, attendees are expected to upload material for members to critique prior to meets. And rightly so, I say, but two thoughts hold me back.
     First, from what I’ve read of their profiles only one or two of the 500+ members have published a novel. The vast majority are like me, un-published wannabes. As an unpublished wannabe, I can’t help but ask by what right of experience do I critique other writer’s work? I mean sure, I can tell when someone’s grammar and punctuation sucks or when they’ve made errors in POV, or tense, or voice, or misused some literary device (my students have been great for teaching me that), but as far as giving out sound advice concerning writing fiction, it’d be like the blind leading the blind. I mean really, WTF do I know save what I’ve heard on Writing Excuses and read in books?
     Second, because I’m an academic writing teacher, have read extensively about writing, and am working through Holly’s class, I know only too well where my writing is at in terms of stage and condition. All I have to do is wait a week and re-read what I’ve written and I can clearly see and hear the problems: “Puuuutrescence!” So, why in the world would I offer substandard writing for critique that I already know to be rough, flawed and broken…especially when I can see and address those flaws myself? It would be one thing to offer a manuscript for critique that I’d done everything I knew how to do to improve saying, “I’ve done all I can, but I know it needs work. Please help me see what I can’t” or “It’s coming along, but I’m not feeling it in this part of the story. Can anyone help me?” but to offer my rough-drafts, revisions or even my re-writes for critique seems, frankly, presumptuous of other folks’ time and not a little rude.
     It reminds me of my seniors who turn in Senior Portfolio Project assignments with hardly more than a cursory glance for mistakes knowing I’ll point them out, which they in turn correct and get full marks for from the Project Committee. I don’t mind if it’s a mistake they’ve truly missed, but what irritates the shit out of me is when they don’t proof for mistakes they could easily have found themselves if they’d taken the time to look. In essence they are too lazy to do a little proof-reading…just like a lot of wannabe writers who are in love with the romance of writing but not so much with the less fun realities of writing well.
     Oh, hell no; I’ll not be “…that guy.”
     I have a cadre of brothers who will most likely form the core of my beta-readers. They are intelligent, versed in my chosen genre and take well to instructions (as long as we’re not gaming; then, everyone’s a GM). What I wish for and want is a writing-brother-in-arms, who’s in the trench right beside me, as confused, hopeful and bemused as I am.
     Ah, well, until I meet one, I still have this blog…and the knowledge of thousands of wannabe writers out there are wishing for the same thing and getting it done without. Oh, and I can’t forget my writing totems and mojo. Can you dig the salt-crystal lamp my awesome mom gave me for Christmas? True magic, man, true magic.
     I’m sure there’s a neat metaphor in there for next time.