I know many people have been involved in the Magic Spreadsheet. What is it? I’m glad you asked. It’s a spreadsheet out there on the internet that authors can use to track progress of their writing. If you hit that link, it’ll take a while to come up. Many authors (new and old) are using this thing to get their word counts out there in public. You can listen to Mur Lafferty’s interview with Tony Pisculli here.
I see many benefits from using a spreadsheet. I use one myself. I track the number of words I write on a given day. When I’m done, I love to look and see what progress I’ve made. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten a spreadsheet that really works for me and I’ve done a forecast of writing goals for the next few years (through 2020 actually). I’ve got it color-coded so I know when I hit my goal, came close, went way over, things like that. It makes me happy to look at when I get a nice string of good days under my belt and I’m really pushing the word count.
I do NOT participate on the magic spreadsheet. I almost did, but I won’t for many reasons. The biggest being that I write much faster than anyone I know that isn’t a professional writer. I don’t say that to boast, but I would hate to post on this spreadsheet and get struggling writers disappointed that they wrote 150 words that day that they’re proud of, and I’ve produced over 3,000 on that same day. I’m not here to disappoint or turn off someone who can only write 150 words a day. If that what you can do, I think that’s awesome. Go get ’em!
But I feel like some will look at the magic spreadsheet as a contest. A race. A way to point fingers at who’s slacking off and who’s doing really well. I don’t write to compete with anyone but myself, so I feel no need to post numbers on a spreadsheet for public consumption. Yes, I will post my numbers here on this blog if you care to look. I’m not shy. I feel bad about my numbers because I know I’m wasting time, procrastinating, doing things other than writing. I could probably write between 5,000 -10,000 words in a day if that’s all I had to do. I type very fast and I love the act of sitting and writing. But for now, I’m happy that I’m averaging 1650 words on the days I’m actually writing. I’ve only written 18 days in January, and I’m at nearly 30,000 words. Yes, I feel like that’s slacking off.
To me, putting my numbers on a spreadsheet like the Magic Spreadsheet would feel arrogant of me. Yes, I know I write fast. Yes, I type very quickly. I only spend about an hour a day actually writing. When I get into a groove, I can type 1500-2000 words an hour. I’ve typed up to 2700 an hour when I’m really moving. This is first draft. I’m not thinking deep thoughts. I’m just getting words on the page and getting the feeling of the story down. It’s not something that everyone can do, but should learn to do.
I’m getting sidetracked.
My spreadsheet isn’t magical. It’s informational. It tells me where I’m at, how I’m doing, and I can see that I need to improve my pace, even though I’m on target for the year. It tells me what I’ve got gaps in my days without a good reason for having gaps. If I’d kept my average word count over the past 29 days, I’d be over 47,000 words for the month. Yes, I’d be writing at NaNoWriMo speed. I get that. Like I said. I’m fast. My spreadsheet tells me that. I’ve had 7000 word days on days that I’ve put in a full 8 hour day, took the kid to practice, and came home and wrote until I was exhausted. Again, this is all personal. I keep track for me.
When I look at the spreadsheet, I see a spreadsheet of shame. I see a lot of people posting very low numbers, but they’ve got a string of days where they’ve written. That’s great. I’d just like to see more than an effort. I realize that some days you can only get in 10 or 15 minutes to write so your word count is low. If you look at Mur, she’s doing gangbusters. But I listen to her podcast and I hear her own disappointment when she has broken her string of consecutive days. She vows to pick it up and try harder and get a longer string of consecutive days. I find that admirable.
But again, this brings me to the spreadsheet of shame. Oh! You were doing so good! What happened? Why’d you break that string of 60 days of writing?
Pfft. Look at the total number of words written. Not the total number of days in an unbroken chain. That to me is far more important. If you’re knocking out big numbers AND getting in a good number of writing days done in a month, success! If you can crank out 10,000 words on Saturday and Sunday only, awesome! You’ll still put up big numbers in a month. But if you miss one day, two days, ten days, you can’t beat yourself up over those missed days. You just pick yourself up and go again. Figure out what you’re really doing this writing thing for. Are you just looking for validation that you do write and you have strings of unbroken days? Or are you trying to complete a story by hitting that keyboard as often as possible and making every moment at the keyboard count?
Don’t get distracted by a spreadsheet. Please. Yes, I keep a spreadsheet, but it’s not a competition. It’s not for bragging rights. It’s not even to prove anything. It’s just for me to look at and see how I’m doing. That’s it. I’m my own worst critic with regards as to how I’m doing and that’s it. I do it to keep myself on track and to keep my goals in front of me so I push myself that little bit harder to get more words down on the page.
Speaking of numbers, here are my counts so far this month. Like I said, I know I can do better and it’s up to me to push and motivate myself. I don’t post my numbers on the magic spreadsheet as I don’t want to discourage those that do use it. What I’d like to make sure of is that people are using it for the right reasons, to actually get themselves to sit down and be productive when they sit and write. To hold themselves accountable to their own, personal goals.
So what is your take on the magic spreadsheet? Do you use it? Have you thought of using it? Am I wrong?
Regardless of my own feelings, I will continue to use my spreadsheet for my own personal use and to keep myself on track. I will post my numbers here on a regular basis. Again, I’m not doing this to brag, to show off, to gloat. I’m doing this more to show what’s possible. The magic spreadsheet doesn’t give me the opportunity to communicate this, therefore I don’t participate.
Speaking of words and word counts…
Until Next Time!
I’ve written this post at least five different times and each time I just never felt I was getting the right tone. I’m going to try yet again and I hope it comes across right this time. We’ll see how it goes. I may delete it again just for the sake of deleting it.
EDIT: I decided I finally got it right this time. Enjoy!
This list is a simple list of do’s and don’ts, but I’m going to try and go a little deeper than do this cuz I say do this. I’m going to try and give a little background and examples as to why these are a good idea and how they’ve worked out for others (both good and bad).
1) Don’t misreport your numbers:
I’ve been around the podcasting community since before podcasting was a term. I was listening live when the term podiobooks was coined. I recorded promos for many podcasts over the years and I’ve seen its ups and downs. I know a large core of the earliest podcasters and I saw much of what was happening.
There was an author that saw some other podcasters get published by a small press and he wanted to be the first with a big six publishing deal. So he took his podcasting downloads and convinced an editor that each download represented a potential reader that would buy his book. Sadly, that’s not how podcasting works.
If I download each episode of a podcast, I’m one person even though I may download the same episode from 3 different devices across 30 episodes. That’s not 90 potential readers, that’s 1. So by inflating his numbers to make it look as if he had 70,000 plus listeners, there were high expectations as well there should have been. Even if 10% buy a copy, that’s 7,000 books sold which is pretty good for a first time author.
Now I can’t fault this person for trying. He pushed and pushed and pushed to try and sell more copies, but sadly there just weren’t enough people that had already listened to the podcast that wanted to buy the book (I bought one). So this author was rejected to publish the sequel through the big publisher. The backlash was pretty sever by the author and he vanished from the podcasting community burning his bridges as he went. It was sad to see because he really was a talented author.
So a simple lesson, don’t pump those numbers. I’ve had over 100,000 downloads of V&A Shipping episodes, but have only sold a handful of copies of the ebook and print book. I had no expectation that it would explode out of the gate. That’s just not reality.
What you should do is one of two things. Either tell them your numbers and accurately what they represent, or leave them out all together. For the most part they’re unimportant and could only raise unrealistic expectations. Let your work speak for itself.
Author Scott Sigler did this the correct way. He had a publisher approach him because of his podcasting. They released his first books and they were a moderate success. He kept podcasting books and publishing books. He grew his audience slowly by giving away content to the point where he had enough people buying his books to support him keeping content out. At no time did he try to be more than he was (well, not personally, but his online persona he was HUGE, but that’s another story). Scott did things right by allowing things to grow at their own pace and used real numbers (book sales) to propel him to a big 6 publishing deal.
Not only that, he’s got an audience NAY! A community of junkies out there that cannot get enough of his work and have no trouble telling everyone they know about Scott’s work. He didn’t force a community, it just grew up around him. I’m not sure that was even his plan to start with, but it was incredible to watch him posting his first episodes on the Dragon Page to where he’s now pretty much a machine pumping out content left and right and the quality just keeps getting better and better.
2) Don’t artificially inflate your numbers:
But Jay, isn’t that the same thing?
NO! NO! IT’S NOT! Let me explain before you jump all over me. Sheesh. I mean, it’s similar, but different.
So I saw a Google+ posting by an author pleading for people to ‘click the link to visit her home page’. Well, that’s fine. I’ve seen that before. I’ve posted links to my site for people to visit. I get the desire for traffic. This author went about 20 steps too far. The next lines in her post caused me some concern. “Hit refresh a few times and if you can, please do this every day. I have a few friends hitting refresh on my site about a dozen times a day each because I need to get at least 4000 hits on my site a day so I can go back to a publisher that said if I get 400,000 hits on my site in 6 months, they’ll give me a publishing contract.”
I wanted to cry. I really did. Why? Did you read #1? This author is setting herself up for FAILURE! Failure in a major way. The publisher will have expectations. If they think you’re getting 400,000 real hits in six months, they’re going to translate that into sales numbers and set a target. If you miss, you lose. You will never again get a publishing contract. You will have lied your way in and fall flat. I cannot express how bad of an idea this is.
Want my numbers? I get about 3 hits a day to my site. On a crazy busy day I’ll see 30, some days I won’t see any. I know people are reading via email and with rss readers, and a few even follow via wordpress.com. I get that. I know there are more people reading what I post than visit the actual site. I understand that. Really, I do, but I’m not about to start asking people to pump up my numbers just for the sake of pumping up my numbers.
Author John Scalzi has done this right, in my opinion. Sure, it’s taken him fifteen years, but he’s getting on average around 50,000 visitors per day. He gave away content, posted his views, played nice, and built a community around his website. Yes, because of this he was able to sell his novels and make a good living. Like his work or not, he’s done well and did things right with how he got his community going. There’s that word again, community. We’ll talk more about this later. For now, just don’t bother telling people your numbers or try to get people to help get your numbers higher. It’ll happen. Don’t force it. You can’t force a community to grow up around you just like you can’t fool a publisher with unrealistic numbers more than once. Sales will point you out as a fraud.
3) Don’t be afraid to offend people:
Now I’m not talking about going all Orson Scott Card and spewing hatred disguised as an opinion. That’s just plain wrong and you will burn in your own personal hell of your own design.
I’m talking about people like Chuck Wendig. Chuck has no problem speaking his mind, using offensive language, and get all up in your grill about what he thinks. He’s very passionate about writing and has no trouble telling you that some writing is crap while other writing is brilliant. He comes across as a cross old grandfather that sits at the end of a bar with a scruffy beard, a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other telling the kids how much things sucked when he was a kid.
The thing is, at no point, does Chuck go off the deep end and attack people personally. I’d love to meet Chuck one day because I have the feeling he’s really a great guy. He’s funny as hell and his blog is a blast to read (if you go there, be aware there’s lots of offensive language). But you can’t be afraid to be who you are. Or build up a persona that you can hide behind and spew things that are offensive, but not hate-fueled. You need to find that line, dance on it, but don’t cross it. Like I said, check out Chuck. He’s doing things right.
4) Don’t be a dick:
Many things will get you far in life. Being a jerk to people won’t. Now I’m not saying you need to be a saint out there (you saw the above post, right?) but you need to mind your Ps and Qs. I’ve seen authors do some pretty crappy things to each other. Using sock puppets to leave negative reviews, starting flame wars, blogging about untrue information, using their community to try and trash another author, and just plain being jerks. This could be from denouncing women as inferior, to claiming that minorities aren’t as good as ‘whites’, or any number of things. I don’t care even if you feel this way, not all press is good press. Just because you’re a misogynistic butthead doesn’t mean you need to spread hate to try and build a community. You attract more flies with honey than $#!+ my mother always used to say.
I would give an example of how this has been done, but i don’t want to give the person any more traffic than they deserve.
5) Do Be nice and give back:
John Scalzi does this with does this with his “Big Idea”. Chuck does this with his Terrible Minds interviews with other authors. Scott Roche did this last year when he gave away an indie book a week! There are many ways to do this. I’ve never done much of anything and in the coming weeks, that’s all going to change. I’m going to start a series of posts about authors that are close, personal friends of mine that I think you should be reading. Be they indie, pro, or just giving away work on WATTPAD (or any combination of the three). This will be just a little way to give back. I know I don’t have a massive audience, but I feel I should share those authors that I enjoy.
6) Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there:
I’m going to mention the first two bloggers that come to mind: Mur Lafferty and Jenny the Bloggess. Both of these women are AWESOME in totally different ways. I’ve met Mur and she is a wonderful human being. I haven’t met Jenny and I’m not sure my brain could handle meeting her, but I do have a beaver skull to protect me should I run across her one day and her army of taxidermy animals.
Mur has had issues over the years with confidence. She’s spoken publicly about this and she’s also suffered with depression. She’s put all that out there in her struggle about writing and how difficult it is at times for her to get past her demons and just sit and write and not feel like a fraud (Mur, you’re the real deal and you’re awesome #justsaying). Much of the time she’s filled with wit and is highly entertaining, other times she’s just Mur being Mur and keeping it real.
Jenny has also had similar struggles. She’s blogged about them on some rather serious posts, and other times she posts things that get you inside her head and make you wonder what makes her tick.
Both of them are terrific people and even though they’ve mentioned they have trouble talking about their issues in public, they’ve gone ahead and do so anyway. Much to their surprise, people weren’t frightened away and many rallied to them to try and boost them up in times of need. They didn’t shy away from those ‘bad’ days and they didn’t sugar coat things either. To watch them over a length of time and read their blogs has given me a profound respect for what each of them has gone through over the years and each of them has been successful in their own way.
So what does this little list give you? It gives you ways to get yourself out there and grow a community. Like I said, I’ve watched, I’ve learned, I’ve not followed through. Hence, I didn’t grow a community around me. I know how to do it and I know it’s not something that can be forced or done artificially. It just happens and usually to the surprise of the person the community forms around. I don’t think any of these people set out with a plan of “I’ll build a community and sell tons of books.” They just did what came naturally and what felt right and it worked. They were entertaining enough to attract people to them and real enough to keep people around them. They also interacted with their audience and be part of their own audience rather than be put up on a pedestal to be admired.
I respect each of the authors I’ve mentioned. I’ve read works by each of them and I’ve been thoroughly entertained by their books, but more than that, I’ve been entertained by what they do beyond the books. I read each of their blog posts, I listen to those that have podcasts. I don’t always leave feedback or join in the conversations, but I do enjoy what they have done, are doing, and will continue to do. Each of them has, in their own way, made me a life-long fan of them, not just of their books.
I’m off to go do things right.
Until Next Time!
I post regularly over at sffworld.com and here is a post that some might find of interest. It’s most of the reasoning behind why I went self-published vs traditional published. The main thread is here.
My two cents:
I decided to go the Indie (self-pub, whatever you want to call it) route. I’ve been writing since the 90s, been submitting stories and books since 1999. Been on these forums for quite some time. I’ve developed quite a thick skin. Over those years I’ve written over 100 shot stories (most of them are terrible) and 14 novels (a few of those suck and a couple have been completely rewritten). I’ve submitted to publishers and agents both big and small both via snail mail and email. I’ve collected a large number of rejection letters (all of them form letters for my novels). I’ve even attended conferences and had one publisher that said pull me aside for a personal conversation and had me pitch him my novels and asked me to send them along. After more than a year with no response, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.
First of all I’ve been watching the self-pub movement for quite a long time. I’ve watched the vanity presses suck in authors with hopes and dreams and watched people get taken. I’ve watched people toss their one book they spent 15 years writing and re-writing and watched them fail because no one bought their one book. I’ve watched podcasters skyrocket to stardom (Scott Sigler, Mur Lafferty, Nathan Lowell, Tee Morris, Philipa Ballantine) and a couple do very well being persistent and release multiple podcast novels to coincide with their novel releases (both traditionally and self-published), and others release one novel, release a book, and wonder why it failed. I’ve watched J.A. Konrath and read all his blogs. I’ve watched Dead Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathrine Rush, Michael Stackpole, Amanda Hocking, and many others go the self-pub route and have great success, but I’ve also watched a LOT of other smaller name authors have a level of success that has allowed them to quit their day jobs and write full time pulling in a nice annual income with many titles.
What I’ve seen is those that can produce a large volume of work reap the rewards. Those with one or two titles generally fail because they don’t see immediate success and throw up their hands and give up. This isn’t a game of throw your book out there and you’re guaranteed success. You can’t force people to your book in 6 months and expect it to be a hit. That just doesn’t happen. All of the people I know that have made it spent years working hard to improve their craft and wrote a lot of books. Amanda Hocking release 9 books her first year and did so in a hot genre that helped her gain popularity. J.A. Konrath acquired his backlist and got better editing, better covers, and re-released them all. Same with others I mentioned. They fought for their backlist, got it, and put it out there. People couldn’t find their backlist due to publishers not giving these authors priority. They’re a rare handful.
As for me, I’ve done a couple podcast novels, but due to life happening I stopped. I had released one novel myself, but again, life happened and I stopped. This year will be different as I never stopped writing. I have a backlog of 14 novels and several in process of being written and/or plotted out. A couple of my older books I will be re-writting because I know I can make them better. I have a great and inexpensive cover artist. I have three friends that all proof read my work (one is a technical writer with a background in editing, another went to school for editing because when she retires she wants to be an editor, the other is just good at picking my stories apart for content). It’s taken me many many years to reach the point where I’ ready to get my stories out into the world. I also have a backlist of my own stories that I’ve had edited, I just need covers, book layout, and I can get these books out the door and into readers hands. I’ve spent nearly a decade watching the market, the self-pub movement, and keeping an eye on what’s worked and what hasn’t.
I didn’t come to this decision lightly. I would love to have a standard publishing contract from a major house, but I’m not getting any younger and I’m frankly tired of waiting and submitting and waiting and being rejected. I haven’t been idle and I know it’ll take a long time to gain readers. Going this route, for me, won’t mean overnight success. It might take me another five or ten years to gain an audience, but I need to keep at it and keep trying. Getting my books out there, going to cons, doing interviews on podcasts or where ever I can, and doing blog tours, anything to get my name out there. I also need to keep a steady stream of books flowing out. I need good covers. I need good editing. I need to be patient.
If you’re wondering, I currently have 5 titles out (2 middle grade, 1 collection of short stories, and 2 novels). I currently sell about one book every other day. That’s since the start of this year. I’ll be releasing two more books next week (1 middle grade in the same series, 1 sci-fi thriller novel). I’ll be releasing another novel next month. I’ll be re-releasing my first self-pubbed book with better editing the month after that. I’ll be releasing at least one novel per month for the rest of this year. If I’m lucky, I hope to sell a book a day by the end of the year). I’ve got next year planned out and I’m writing books to release next year, this year. I’ve got 10 years worth of books planned out and I have no real intention of stopping. I’ve got many more ideas than I can write in a short period of time and I am a fast writer. Last year I wrote 490,000 words. This year I’ve written 100,000 thus far and I’m shooting for 365,000 as a good goal given my release schedule. I’ve got a spreadsheet to track my progress. I’ve got friends pushing me to stay on track. I’ve communicated with my family my goals for the coming years.
Even with all of this in place, I still might fail. That’s a very real possibility. But if I don’t get books out there and try, I’ll fail before I start. I can’t have that. I have to give it a try.
So what am I getting at with all of this? Don’t just jump into self publishing without being aware of what you’re getting into . Don’t think this is a road to riches. If you’ve got one book, I would recommend rethinking and keep trying to get that book through a traditional publisher. Write another book, and another, and another while you wait. If you’ve built up a number of books and you’re still not getting anywhere with traditional publishing, then consider self publishing. Understand that you’ll need to learn cover design, you’ll have to learn scheduling, you’ll have to learn book layout, you’ll have to build your blog and your website, you’ll have to learn all the distribution outlets for your book and ebook, you’ll have to learn all those systems for getting your books into the hands of readers. Yes, you could take your word doc and throw it up on kindle tomorrow, but ask yourself what you’re hoping to get out of it? You’ll only get out what you put in and there is so much to learn.
I said a lot more than I intended. Wow! I’m sure I could say a lot more, but suffice to say, do your homework before making the jump. Don’t just jump and hope. Hope doesn’t sell books.
It’s been calm, smooth sailing around here lately. If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
I’m just over half-way through My Teacher is a Vampire (it’ll weigh in around 20,000 words when I’m done). Hopefully all subsequent books will weigh in between 20,000-30,000. These are middle-grade/YA books and I want to keep them short for those with short attention spans. I’ve got big plans for this series and I’m having fun with it. I would like to write 3 of these a year and give the series time to grow that I know it’ll need.
Oh! And I’m doing a Goodreads Giveaway! My Teacher is a Zombie GoodReads Giveaway! If you’ve got Facebook, you’ve got GoodReads. Check it out, sign up to get a copy.
That being said, I’m also doing a giveaway for V&A Shipping on GoodReads as well! Check this one out also.
Lastly, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m done with V&A Shipping II. One thing I’m looking for, if you enjoyed reading (or listening to) V&A Shipping and want to read V&A Shipping II before anyone else, head on over to Amazon, GoodReads, Barnes and Nobel, Smashwords, or anywhere you find the title and leave me a review! Send me a link to your review (twitter me, facebook me, email me, tape it to a rock and throw it through my window) and I’ll add you to a list. Once I’ve got the book through rewrites and edits, I’ll send you an advanced ecopy so you can laugh at all your friends that will have to wait until it’s out. This will be at least a month before it goes on sale later this year.
So that’s the news type stuff. A lot of personal things went on over the weekend and will likely keep going on this week. I will still try to hit my word count, but when a friend needs you, everything else is secondary. Words will happen when words happen. That’s all I have to say about that.
Speaking of words, even with all that’s going on, I’m still playing catch up on my annual word goal. Currently I’m 17,000 words behind schedule and slowly, ever so slowly, getting caught up. My Lent goal is 2000 words a day and with the bumps I’ve hit, I’m currently 4700 words behind on that goal and trying to catch that one as well. For those keeping score at home, that’s nearly 79% of the goal I set. I’m not too bad off, but I don’t want to let that number slip. I want to hit this goal this year and at the very least beat last year’s word count (I was off by 19115 words or 78.28% of my goal). I think I can do this as I’m in a better position this year and much more focused than I was at the start of last year. Of course losing the first month of the year put me at a disadvantage, but I know over all I’ll be able to get to my goal. Focus and dedication.
In reading news, I’ve signed up for a number of GoodReads giveaways and started rating a lot of books I’ve read over the years. I also picked up the Bundle of Holding (Thank you Mur!). There’s some great books on this list and part of your purchase goes to charity. So why not?
I’ll be heading over to http://stormwolf.com (author site for Mike Stackpole) and picking up his latest self-published work. He’s been an inspiration for me to self-publish my own works.
Finally Nathan Lowell is re-releasing his Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series as self published works. I want to pick these up not because I don’t own them already, but because I really want to see Nathan Succeed. He’s got a number of sites, but this one should get you to everywhere you want to go.
So many words, so little time. There are a LOT of books I’ve bought that I’d love to read, but there are only so many hours in the day and I need to spend time watching videos of cats doing stupid things or demolition gone wrong. Speaking of which, I’m late on getting over to watch a video about dogs chasing their tails.
Until Next Week!
I’ve been a long time listener and reader of your work. I discovered you from your geek essays on Wingin’ It! O so many years ago. It seems like it’s only been a short time, but years have passed and I’ve only rarely reached out to you. I am poor at communication with others. This is a fault I’m working on.
Once I found your podcast I downloaded all your episodes and listened to them all and stayed caught up for a very long time. I listened to each episode and how you would give such great advice and you would admittedly say “It’s easy to give advice, but so very difficult to follow it”. This is human.
I watched as you morphed from writing essays for fun, to writing them for pay (Knights of the Dinner Table and Suicide Girls) and you would talk about your previous work on Role Playing games. I enjoyed listening to each of your podiobooks.
Sadly, as things happen, I ran out of steam and my enjoyment for podcasts has faded to where I only listen to very few these days, but I’m reading more blogs. I still read your blog posts and lately you said you’re suffering from depression and bouts of self-consciousness. I feel your pain. I’ve been there.
Being positive and upbeat is not an easy task. For me, I’m mostly an unknown person. When I do something I don’t have 1000 people looking at what I did. I’m lucky if 10 people a day see what I do. I have few comments on the work I’ve done and they’ve been mostly positive. So far I’ve managed to avoid any haters.
Then I see what you’ve done. I’m amazed at not only the quantity you’ve produced, but the number of people who consume your work. I could only hope for that at this point. I want you to know that I admire what you’ve done. I’m proud of what you’ve accomplished. It’s hard to see you down and I wish there was something I could do to pick you up.
I don’t know if you remember, but Mike Plested and I met you at WFC2011 in San Diego. Even though it was the briefest of moments, I was happy to shake your hand and make your acquaintance. You were busy with an interview so we didn’t talk much. I want you to know that you had an impact on me just by being there. I can now say I met Mur.
Because you’re so well known, I’m sure you’ve had your share of both positive and negative feedback. I know how much positive feedback can pick a person up. I also know how quickly one little piece of negative feedback can tear a person down. Pile on top of that all that life has to throw at us, and things can get quite gloomy quite quickly. I’m here to let you know that you’re not alone in having these feelings. I’m also here to let you know that I’m glad you share these feelings. I’m hoping that, even though I don’t comment much on what you do, that you know I’m here for you. I also know I’m not alone in saying that. Watching you struggle is something that many people do in silence and they let it over run their lives. Putting it out there for everyone to see is not an easy thing to do. I applaud you for doing so.
You are great at giving advice, but have a hard time taking your own advice and have said before you wish someone would give you some motivation for a change. Alright.
Suck it up, Mur! There are a lot of people who have remained silent for years and enjoyed what you’ve done. Please keep at it. Sit down, escape into the world of your creation and keep going. It’s not because we want something new from you, it’s because we need something new from you. We want to see you write and succeed! You’ve accomplished a lot over the years and better things are around the corner. Persevere and push forward. Don’t let negative thoughts get in the way of your work. Instead, put that negative energy to work for you and press on if for nothing else, just to spite those negative emotions. Write through and put it behind you.
Feedback will come and feedback will go. It’ll be both positive and negative. For the most part, readers and writers are introverts and the silent majority are enjoying what you’re doing and would love to see you continue until you’ve reached the top. You are motivation and inspiration for those of us who still want to get there.
Mur, thank you for all you have done, all you do, and all you will accomplish. I wish nothing but the best for you.
First, if you’ve read this, keep reading. If you haven’t read this, go check out Mur’s letter to her daughter.
I’m not going to cry or complain about my childhood here, I’m just going to explain how it was for me growing up.
Growing up as a kid in the backwoods of Minnesota, it was expected for you to ‘be a man’ even when you were an 8 year old weakling. I wasn’t ever that strong, or at least I didn’t think I was. I never really liked all the things that other boys liked. I’d rather play jump rope with the girls instead of hitting a baseball. Sports were boring and I wasn’t big on pain. This earned me a lot of ridicule and I was called gay/girlie boy/fairy/fag you name a term, they gave it to me. Girls started to shun me because they didn’t want to be associated with me.
My step-father was a man’s man. He was a roofer, hunter, baseball coach, self-employed, all those things that made a man a man. My brother and I spent a great deal of time in the woods cutting down trees, loading them into a truck, and splitting the wood to be stacked for our own use or to be sold. It was hard, backbreaking work, but it made us stronger.
Because I was so shunned by boys and girls alike, I grew up very self conscious and hating my very existence. The girls were less mean than the boys, so when I had the choice between shop (all boys take shop) and Home Ec. (All girls take home ec) I took Home Ec. I had already learned how to sew from my mom and how to cook, clean, iron, all those things. So the class was easy for me. I even taught some of the girls in the class how to thread a needle because they just couldn’t get it. Being the only in class got me a lot of harassment from the boys in shop class.
What happened because of this? Teachers saw that I was the only boy and how well I did and a new policy got passed. All children had to take shop and home ec. Sex no longer matters, all girls would take one semester of shop and all boys had to take one semester of home ec. This earned me even more hatred from the boys who had no desire to do girlie things.
Back to my Step-dad for a moment. In his eyes, it wasn’t alright for a boy to cry. I’d get a smack upside the head if I did. It didn’t matter if I had stepped on a nail and could see it protruding through the top of my foot or if I had dropped a log on my foot. I was a clumsy kid and hurt myself often. His ‘tough love’ was to hit me to make me stop crying. Brilliant.
What did happen is I grew stronger during my youth and during an arm wrestling competition with the other boys in 9th grade I bested all of them except one. The only one I didn’t beat was a kid who had flunked twice and was 3 years older than I was. I was also the youngest kid in the class. Even some of the kids from the class behind me were older than I was. But being strong gave the other kids a little respect for me even if I was a dork/geek/insert bad name here.
I also wasn’t smart. I grew up and had a sever lisp, I wore glasses (the only kid in the class to wear glasses), I was overweight, slow, shy, and I had dyslexia. It wasn’t until 6th grade that my lisp got help from a speech therapist, and my dyslexia got diagnosed and I also got help for that. Getting the right strength glasses also helped me seeing the blackboard better. Gee, I wasn’t stupid, I was just having other problems.
I still didn’t like sports .Fortunately it was at that time that my mother divorced my step-dad and I moved in with my father. It wasn’t fortunate that I moved away from my mother, I missed her a lot. But I was now away from any stigmas that I had grown up with. I moved to a land where I wasn’t judged by which sports I played, or how strong I was, or anything like that. I made friends and life moved on for me.
Reading Mur’s letter sparked a lot of memories for me. One thing I’ve always tried to instill in my favorite daughter is to be proud of who she is and what she does. She plays volleyball for herself. Some boys had teased her that volleyball is easy. During gym class she spiked a ball into more than one of those boy’s faces. Not to be mean, but because that’s what she’s learned to do playing volleyball and the boys who said ‘it was easy’ couldn’t return the ball coming at him that fast. They’ll learn quickly enough that my kid isn’t one to be messed with.
She also took kickboxing lessons for a short time. In the Navy, I was taught how to take a hit and how to deliver a punch. I taught my favorite daughter how to hit. I did this so well that she bruised both my arms. I wish I had bought a punching bag. I also taught her what to do it someone tries to grab her, assault her, kidnap her. Yes, she can be a shy, delicate little flower, but she can also defend herself. I had the bruises to prove that.
I would have done the same thing if I had a boy. I’ve never tried to put limits on my kid’s imagination, inspiration, or focus. I’ve let her wander into any topic of her choosing. She grew up with Barbies and Dinosaurs. Unicorns and trucks. She was the only kid in her group during science class that wanted to cut open the cow’s eye while the boys cringed and squealed as she did this. I always let her pick up bugs, crabs, tiny fish, anything she wanted that I knew wouldn’t hurt her, but I would explain the dangers of other things like spiny sand crabs that pinch hard.
Just like my mom let me be me, I’ve let her be her. Her choices in music and television shows may bother me to no end, I still accept her choices. If something it inappropriate I will intervene, but if she wants to watch Pretty Little Liars with her mom and Mythbusters with me, I’m good with that. She’s not a girlie girl, she’s not a tomboy. She’s her own person and I couldn’t be happier with the person she’s become.