In Praise of Late Bloomers

For those of us who are in our 40s and are constantly reminded that creativity is best suited and served for by those younger than us (see Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 List), here’s a reminder that just because you’re 45 and you still haven’t published that novel (or, worse yet, finished it) doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

In Praise of Late Bloomers

The history of literature is rife with so-called “late bloomers,” writers who had the desire and the inklination to write, but never had a major work published until they turned 40 or later. Charles Bukowski didn’t publish his first novel, “Post Office,” until he was 51. Toni Morrison was nearly 40 when her first novel was published. You get the idea.

We tend to romanticize this notion that youth is a requirement for producing major works of art, and while that may be the case in, say, music or visual art, it doesn’t lend itself that well to literature. Sure, you can write a great novel when you’re 25. But you can also write a masterpiece when you’re 50.

For more inspiration, there’s Bloom, “…for writers and artists of all ages and stages, for anyone who believes that the artistic journey is, and should be, as particular and unique as each one of us; that there is no prescribed beeline to literary achievement.”

I, for one, need to be reminded of this every day, and remember that it will never be too late for me to achieve what I want to achieve as a writer.

(REPOST) – NaNoWriMo Is Upon Us: How to Get Inspired Even If You’re Not Participating

Hey everyone,

Sorry for the lack of posts here lately. Life’s getting in the way of blogging. Hopefully that will change soon.

I read this article this morning on Flavorwire, and was thinking of everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo, and those of us who aren’t:

NaNoWriMo Is Upon Us: How to Get Inspired Even If You’re Not Participating

Some helpful ideas to keep us writers engaged while we’re not participating in NaNoWriMo.

As NaNoWriMo Approaches, A Decision…

Around this time, many of you, myself included, would begin gearing themselves up for the exhilarating marathon known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Thirty days, 50,000 words. I myself have participated in it three times, having successfully completed it in 2012. It’s a blast, let me tell you. There’s no greater rush than that final week, the words simply flying out from you, and you’re not editing yourself as you’re going along. Just let it come out of you, and the rest will follow. It’s an incredible high, and, believe me, I know highs.

Right before the November 1st kickoff, we NaNers (the term I use for NaNoWriMo participants; the proper term is “NaNoWriMos”) will prepare ourselves, if we are the preparing type. We have a precise idea of what our new work is going to be about. We’ve begun outlining the story, fleshed out characters, consulted our trusted books on the writing craft. We’ll even put together our NaNoWriMo Survival Kit – lots of caffeine and snacks will be involved.

So how am I preparing for NaNoWriMo 2014?

I’m not.

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.

Nope. Not happening.

While I do have some life events that will likely prevent me from dedicating as much time as I’d need to give NaNoWriMo the attention it deserves (I start a new full-time job in two weeks, and my wife may be having surgery in mid-November), the honest truth is that I simply don’t feel like taking part this year. I’m in a self-diagnosed writing funk lately, and NaNoWriMo isn’t going to spur me out of it, either. I haven’t written much of anything lately, and what I’ve written doesn’t interest me. I’ve taken a short break from writing just to recharge and rethink some strategies. Taking part in NaNoWriMo isn’t a strategy that I want to be a part of right now, since my head and my heart just aren’t in it.

I will, however, cheer my fellow NaNoWriMo survivors on. If you’re embarking on this annual marathon, know that I’m thinking of you, and I know you’ve got what it takes to reach the finish line. But remember, ultimately it’s about the challenge, not the finished product. If you can’t finish, don’t beat yourself up over it.

If you’re thinking about doing this, for the first time, NaNoWriMo is a great exercise in the art of sticking to a deadline. While 30 days and 50,000 words won’t produce genius, it will produce that ass-in-seat mentality you need to be an effective writer…says the writer who’s taking a sabbatical from writing.

Ignore me.

Anyway…more from me later, from the writing front, soon.

Happy Belated Second Anniversary to This Blog!

For my 205th blog, I’d like to mark a special occasion. I meant to note this a week or so ago, but life’s gotten in the way again, but Out Where the Buses Don’t Run just turned two years old. Happy Anniversary to this blog!

Out Where the Buses Don’t Run went live on WordPress August 29, 2012. When I started this blog, my goals were modest: blog for the sake of blogging, just for the therapeutic value. But I found a community of like-minded bloggers who encouraged me to pursue this blog further than I could have imagined. Without this encouragement, so much could not have happened:

I would not have been Freshly Pressed twice

I would not have been followed by 2,057 readers. Nor would this blog have been viewed 20,115 times, and 2.813 comments have been posted.

It goes without saying, but a thousand thank yous to everyone who’s read this blog, from the day it came online two years ago, to today. Thank you for reading my blog posts. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for sharing my blog posts. Thank you for inviting me to post on your blog sites. Thank you for giving me the freedom and the encouragement to keep this grand experiment going, even when there have been times when I’ve been absent for extended periods. It’s your encouragement that gives me the fuel and the ambition to try new things and stretch my writing muscles on this blog.

You’ve seen glimpses into my works in progress. You’ve taken part in several robust bitch sessions. You’ve read me rant furiously about injustices everyone, or about the shitty sandwich I just ate. Most importantly, you indulged me, and that’s important to me.

Here’s to another year of blogging!

Thanks again, everyone. I really mean it!

What “Sharknado” Teaches Us About Perseverance and the Power of Positive Thinking (Sort Of)

Last week, like many of you, I tuned in to watch Sharknado 2: The Second Coming.

 

 

Remember the names Anthony C. Ferrante and Thunder Levin. I’ll get to them in a bit…

Thanks to the magic of Twitter, the original Sharknado (in which a freak hurricane attacks Los Angeles, causing man-eating sharks to be scooped up into the storm by water spouts, thereby creating a “sharknado.”) because a huge cult phenomenon. Naturally, a sequel was immediately commissioned. I watched Sharknado. I laughed hysterically at how idiotic it all was. I watched Sharknado 2. I laughted even harder this time around.

But let’s be real here: Sharknado is beyond fucking stupid. It has plot holes the size of New York City manholes. The acting is deliberately awful. The special effects seem like they were designed on an iPad. And let’s not get into how beyond implausible the whole Sharknado thing is.

Implausible. Sure. But we love implausible. Consider the top grossing film at the box office this past weekend: an adaptation of an obscure comic book series about a misfit group of heroes, one of whom is a humanoid tree, the other a wise-cracking, gun-totting, genetically-modified raccoon. You read right. So lest anyone think we’re all about cinema verite, then Rocket Raccoon and his Guardian of the Galaxy mates proves we love premises that are bat-shit crazy (provided they keep us entertained AND don’t insult us), then surely the wink-wink insanity and sheer stupidity of the Sharknado films isn’t all that hard to swallow now, is it?

The point to Sharknado and its sequel isn’t art for the sake of art. It’s a glorious attempt at redefining what “bad” means, and by “bad,” I mean, “it’s so bad, it’s actually good!” Sharknado makes no bones about how stupid and brainless it is, and when Ian Ziering rips a shark apart with a six-foot chainsaw, you’re howling with glee. Why? Because there’s nothing cynical about the purpose behind Sharknado. Shit, why not be as insane as you can be, right? Why not be over-the-top, and do it with tongue firmly in cheek? See, the difference between this steaming pile of shit-sized fun and a $200 million dollar home movie like the Transformers films, directed by a 10-year-old for other like-minded and drooling 10-year-olds, is that Sharknado never takes itself so damned serious in the way Michael Bay wants to make the Citizen Kane of rock’em, sock’em robot films. That fucking idiot.

So what do the names Anthony C. Ferrante and Thunder Levin have to do with all this? Well, respectively, they’re the director and the screenwriter of the Sharknado films. They’re the creative (and that’s putting it mildly) geniuses behind these cult classics. They had an idea: a hurricane that somehow smashes into LA (IMPLAUSIBLE IDEA #1), which then sucks up all these man-eating sharks (IMPLAUSIBLE IDEA #2), the mashup which then creates a “sharknad0” (IMPLAUSIBLE IDEA #3). And not only did they see this idea through, some producer, probably a coked-up fellow just coming down a weekend binge with a few high-priced hookers, heard this idea and shook his fists at the heavens and shouted, AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, ‘SHARKNADO WILL FUCKING HAPPEN, BITCHES!

And then Ferrante and Levin got the green-light to see their creation come to life.

And then Ferrante and Levin got the green-light to see their creation come to life in a sequel! This time, where New York City gets bitch-slapped by the Mother of All Sharknadoes!

The cynics will scoff and declare that Sharknado proves anything gets made these days, and they’re right. For you, the writer, the artist, the creative, it proves that if something like Sharknado, with its emphasis on insane set pieces bordering on the shamelessly stupid and with tongue once again firmly in cheek, can see the light of day, then your work, the one you keep telling yourself is just too weird, too offbeat, and that no one wants to read, well, then think again.

Because if a screenplay involving man-eating sharks falling from the sky can get made, and spawn a sequel, then my novel, in which a suicidal woman embarks on a road trip with the protagonist from her favorite novels so she can convince the author to kill the protagonist, will not only be finished, but it will be published, and it will be read.

Scratch that. AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, MY NOVEL WILL NOT ONLY BE FINISHED, BUT IT WILL BE PUBLISHED, AND IT WILL BE READ, BITCHES!

Word.

And yes, there will be a Sharknado 3. Please please please let it happen in Miami. I’d pay money to see a Sharknado chomp on some over-tanned Euro-douches. Or Kim Kardashian.

All Aboard the Blog Train!

Not one, not two, but three writers have asked me to hop on the blog train. I was invited by Rebecca Douglass, the wonderful talent behind The Ninja Librarian, Kat Glover, who blogs over at Your Mama’s All Write, and Victoria Sawyer, who runs the terrific Angst blog, to take part in a blog train. The way the blog train works is pretty simple: the blogger that “rode the train” the week before writes a post answering three questions, and at the end of the blog, features three of their favorite bloggers. The featured bloggers keep the train a-rollin’ by doing the same a week later.

All three blogs are favorites of mine, and I enjoy reading their work and their takes on the everyday things that make you smile and gnash your teeth. If you’re not familiar with any of these blogs, it’s high time you got yourself familiar with them right now.

It’s my pleasure to take a ride on the blog train. ALL ABOARD!

Here now…The Questions!

1. What are you working on now?

Several things, actually. This blog, for example; I’m taking part in the Daily Post’s Writing 101 monthly writing prompt blog, posting a blog a day based upon their writing prompts. This has been a fun writing exercise for me in that it helps me flex my writing muscles and keep them moving. Nothing like muscle memorization to help you along, don’t you think? I also have several other blog posts I’m writing for the month – my weekly Friday List blog, an upcoming primer on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and definitely the random blog on what’s on my mind at the moment.

The work-in-progress that’s currently keeping me occupied is a full-length “upmarket fiction” (i.e. – a hybrid literary/commercial fiction work) novel about a suicidal woman who embarks on a road trip across 1990’s America with a fictional character. It’s pleasantly insane, which is why it’s kept my interest: there are always more layers of crazy to unpeel, and I’m having fun doing that.

I also have several pieces of short fiction that I’m polishing up and submitting either for competition or just to answer an open call for submissions.

Finally, I’m collaborating with fellow writers on judging entries for an anthology, and I’ve volunteered to copy edit another anthology.

 

2. How does your work differ from others of the genre?

My work differs not so much from others of the genre, but from other writers I’ve met so far. I don’t like the “genre” label because it implies limitations, so I much prefer to work without any preconceived confines. I do like the idea of “upmarket fiction,” which takes the best of both the literary and commercial fiction worlds, neither of which I have a preference for, but both whom feature very strong writing.

 

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because, honestly, no one else is writing this. I write what I want to read, simple as that.

 

4. How does your writing process work?

I wish I had an actual process, you know, where I wake up in the morning, fix myself a pot of coffee, sharpen about 10 pencils, and get to writing. But I have a demanding job that takes up more than 40 hours per week, and I’m a husband and a parent. So when I write, I often have to use pockets of time throughout the day and simply make the best of it. When work wasn’t as demanding, I had more time in the day to write.

The thing is, I’m constantly plotting, jotting notes down, keeping the fires going. So that’s a process, right?

 

Now, for the other three that are coming along for the ride…

1. Tracy Cembor and I share something in common: she too finds the time to write, whether it’s a few scribbles or a thousand words, while balancing the demands of a full-time job AND being a parent. She shares her insights, her triumphs and her setbacks, all with a great attitude, over at her blog site. She’s well-worth the discovery, people!

2. M.L. Swift is a riot. His “About” page is exactly the way an About Page should be written. He’s funny and incisive and extremely generous. I’ve been a big fan of his blog and have enjoyed bantering with him on all kinds of topics over the past couple of years.

3. Bud Smith…well, shit, if you don’t know him or his writing, it’s your loss, pal. Seriously. Your. Loss.

 

 

How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating and Fall in Love With My Work-in-Progress Again

Yesterday, I rediscovered what it was like to get lost inside a work-in-progress again, and feel excited by the prospect of it all.

All the interruptions in life meant several things that were near and dear to me were sacrificed. One of those being my work-in-progress. The truth is I could have made the time, but the more distance I gave the WIP, the easier it became to ignore it, and that’s simply a cardinal sin a writer shouldn’t commit. Whatever excuses I made – and there were plenty, and all we’re legit reasons – there was likely nothing that would have prevented me from taking even fifteen minutes to jot down some notes or flesh out a character or sketch a scene.

Regardless…

For some reason, I have no idea why, I was thinking about baseball, and I had remembered this one elderly man who worked the security desk at the building I worked in when I was a Pfizer employee from ’94 to ’00. In addition to working the security desk, he had a unique second job: he worked for the New York Yankees, as the greeter at George Steinbrenner’s private suite at Yankee Stadium. Pete was his name, and he was constantly yapping about his beloved Yankees (a source of annoyance for this long-time Mets fan: OH SHUT UP), and sometimes he was WAY OFF about his opinions. For example, right before the ’96 season got started:

“Not sure what Mr. Steinbrenner’s soon’ hirin’ Joe Torre. He couldn’t win anywhere. He might be fired by the All-Star break!”

Torre won nearly 1500 games and 4 World Series.

Also, same conversation:

“This new shortstop’s not all that good, Jeter. He’ll end up in the minors not too long.”

OOPS. When Derek Jeter retires at the end of the 2014 season, he’ll be the Yankees’ all-time leader in hits, runs scored, and games played, and perhaps the most beloved Yankee since Mickey Mantle.

Just goes to show we can’t always be right.

When I thought about Pete, I thought about some of the blowhards, both men and women, that I’d worked with. There was some background I felt that was essential that was missing so far from my WIP, namely my protagonist’s professional life. What she did for a living was as important as who she works with. I thought these past experiences of mine would make for good details to plug in, and see where the story leads me. I was eager to do some plugging and revisit my WIP.

But being that yesterday was Memorial Day, with swimming pools and gas grills galore, my day was going to get monopolized by all things Memorial Day. My daughter was itching up get to the pool. I was itching to get some writing.

Compromise: I took my daughter to the pool, and while she splish-splashed with her friends, I wrote 5 pages longhand in my notebook, lounging on a deck chair. 907 words in two hours’ time, just letting the words flow while the sun was beating down on me. I didn’t stop to edit, I didn’t make notes about what I wanted to write. I just wrote. What took place kinda reminded me of this picture I once saw of Hunter S. Thompson, before he became the legendary gonzo journalist:

(I swear, I was doing the same exact thing: notepad, beer, shorts, bare feet. Maybe there is something to writing in the sunshine, huh?)

I’m setting some time aside tonight – after this blog gets posted – to capitalize on the momentum I’ve suddenly picked up, now that I’ve rekindled my love affair with my work-in-progress. More importantly, it’s essential to me that regardless of the amount of time I set aside each day, whether it’s fifteen minutes or a few hours, those are the moments I should most take advantage of. There’s a work-in-progress that’s been neglected for too long, and it’s time I give it the full attention it truly deserves.

This should be fun.

The Best-Laid Plans (Often Fall By the Shitter)

Several months ago, in the spirit of the New Year, I decided to set some personal goals for myself for this year. I wrote a lengthy blog post about setting realistic goals and finding ways to make myself more accountable for the things I want for myself.

I set for myself the following primary goals:

  • Continue with my diet and exercise regimen
  • Spend every available moment with Jaime and Sophia and make that time count.
  • Meet with my therapist once a week
  • Read one book per week
  • Write 8-10 hours/1,000-2,000 words per week
  • Post 3 blogs per week.

These primary goals have since gone by the wayside, ever since life got in the fucking way.

With May coming to a close, I thought I’d publicly humiliate myself take a look at the goals I’d set for myself and see how far I’ve gotten in achieving these goals. Drumroll, please.

  • Diet and Exercise: I was the Paleo diet kick, eat the way our cavemen forefathers eat. Lots of protein, zero processed foods. It was a bit of a bitch at first, as the sugar withdrawals were unbearable, but I grew to really enjoy Paleo-centric eating. I was also running again, and because Paleo was helping me feel lighter, I was able to run longer distances and not feel as worn out. But since my job’s become something of a 60-hour-a-week job, and with all the stress about possible relocations and a new home purchase and the uneasy feeling that we may be able to afford the new home after all, the diet and exercise has given way to apathy and emotional eating. I know I shouldn’t beat myself up about this, but I really feel like a shit. Oddly enough, I haven’t put on weight. Go. Fucking. Figure.
  • Time with my wife and daughter: No problems there. If anything, living in an apartment over the past eight months has meant we’re spending every available moment together, whether we like it or not. All kidding aside, I can’t complain. I want to spend more time with Jaime, and more time with Sophia. This is a complete win for me.
  • Meet with my therapist once a week: AND THANK THE GODS FOR THIS, BECAUSE IF I DIDN’T HAVE SOMEONE FOR WHOM MEDICAL INSURANCE DIDN’T PAY FOR ME TO BITCH TO ONCE A WEEK, I MIGHT JUST DO SOMETHING REALLY FUCKING STUPID. LIKE WRITE AN ENTIRE BLOG POST IN ALLCAPS.
  • Read one book per week: I’ve read fourteen books so far. For some of you voracious readers who read a book a day, you’re probably reading this and thinking to yourselves, “Geez, what a slacker.” Whatever. You have time. I clearly don’t. But I’m making more time for reading. I just started reading The Goldfinch. It’s over 800 pages. Light summer reading to enjoy while lounging by the pool, right? At any rate, one book per week roughly averages to about 50 books per year. I may need to read some James Patterson novels to help me pick up the slack, but then I would feel like a whore while knowing subjecting myself to the literary equivalent of a drunken bachelor party.
  • Write 8-10 hours/1,000-2,000 words per week: Ugh. My writing schedule’s been so ridiculously inconsistent, writing only in fits and uninspired spurts. I did manage to crank out seven short stories over the past few months, but my WIP is simply sitting there, waiting patiently for me to pick it up again. I’m almost afraid to , as if I don’t know how to even write it, or even a sentence, anymore. Think I’m joking? I just bought this course as a refresher. Hey, I’m not ashamed to admit I might need to re-learn how to write a sentence.
  • Blog 3x per week: See above. For a while, this blog was pretty dormant, but I’ve fired it up again, and as many of you may have noticed, it’s gotten a makeover. I realized what better tool for me to bounce off my frustrations than my blog? Why just limit my blogging to musing about the writing process, now that my writing has slowed to a crawl, and whatever I have to declare about writing is just bullshit, anyway?

I did promise that I would not beat myself up for not reaching these goals…OWWW!

I won’t beat myself up.

I won’t beat myself up.

I won’t beat myself up.

On the personal front, I want three things to happen:

  • I need to hit the pavement, and start running again. Even if it’s just fifteen minutes of me sucking wind. I need to shake off the cobwebs and send a shockwave through my system and jumpstart my drives again.
  • Give my WIP the attention she deserves. She shouldn’t be treated like a neglected housewife. This means I need to have at least a draft done by the fall, and revisions by Christmas.
  • Keep blogging 3x per week. Even if it’s just me babbling excitedly about the new Led Zeppelin reissues. In vinyl, no less. Hmm…maybe now I’ll finally buy me that turntable I’ve been dreaming of…

I won’t beat myself up.

Why Befriending Writers Should Bring Out the Competitor in You (Insecure Writer’s Support Group)

Author’s Note: Another first Wednesday of the month, another post for The Insecure
Writer’s Support Group
. Be sure to check out the many other writers participating in this blog hop. Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for leading the IWSG.

This Blogging Things Works Wonders! (Insecure Writer's Support Group)

 

Like me, many of you are no doubt friends with authors. Some of those friendships are mere acquaintances, perhaps, others closer than that. It seems obvious, of course, to be a writer and have friends that are also writers. I mean, why not surround yourself with those who understand why it is you delve deep into your prose, obsessing over the rhythms and cadence of every sentence?

I am inspired by my writer friends. They too have embraced the self-publishing wave, opting to become their own imprint. From their footsteps, I was inspired to take my own leap into the self-publishing world. Many of my writer friends helped me along the way, and continue to do so.

But I confess to being envious. Envious of the plaudits they’ve received, and the attention they’ve garnered elsewhere. However, I am not a man who wallows in jealousy. It’s a stupid, pointless emotion that gets you nowhere. If I’m envious, it only fuels my competitive streak. So when a friend gets a great review on Goodreads, I am excited for them, but there’s a part of me that says, “C’mon, Gus, you can do better!”

That I can do better doesn’t mean I want to one-up my writer friends in the my-book-got-better-reviews-than-yours, or, “Hey, look, my short story got picked up by Glimmer Train, and yours didn’t, NYEAH NYEAH NYEAH NYEAH!!!” It means I have to work harder, and write better. That competitive streak has fueled me to crank out more than 10 short stories in the past couple of months, as well as plug forward with my work-in-progress.

My point is we should draw inspiration from our fellow writers, because we share the same trials and tribulations, as well as the triumphs. And it doesn’t hurt being competitive with one another, as long as that competitive nature fuels your creativity, not your jealousy.

Want to Write Better? Let Ernest Hemingway Help!

In my never-ending quest to learn valuable tricks of the trade, I stumbled upon the best app a writer can use to effectively help them understand how to write better. It’s called the Hemingway App, and it’s very simple to use. You cut and paste some random text, and let the Hemingway App analyze the text for the following:

  • Sentences that are hard to read
  • Sentences that are VERY hard to read
  • Adverbs – dreaded words that end in “-ly”, like “effortlessly“, “really” and “overly,” for example.
  • Words or phrases that can be simpler
  • Uses of passive voice
  • Readability (think grade level)

I recommend reading the text that appears on the app first, to get a better idea of how the app works, before you copy and paste your own text and let Hemingway App analyze how good a writer you are.

To show how this works, I took a screenshot of an analysis the app did on a short story I wrote a couple of years ago:

hemingway snap

Overall, the story possesses good readability. If anything, I was guilty of using too many adverbs. Then again, how many is too many adverbs? Some will say a few, others will say none at all. Regardless. the analysis left me with a great feeling about my writing, and it helps me to see where some strengths and weaknesses lie.

This app appeals greatly to me, for the simple reason that it’s got the name Hemingway associated with it. Hemingway was my first literary hero. I devoured The Complete Short Stories and The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories one summer during high school, and then moved on to his novels. From Hemingway, I learned the importance of choosing the right word, even if it means opting for a simpler, more direct method of prose than a more dynamic, floral prose often practiced by some of his contemporaries. He still remains one of my greatest literary heroes.

So if you’re looking for a tool to help your writing become more focuses, more leaner, more meaner even, you might want to give the Hemingway App a whirl. It’ll be fun, at the very least.