Writing While Geeky

This post initially appeared on the Charlotte Geeks blog.  But as I am spending most of my time getting the Women in Horror Recognition Month anthology, The Grotesquerie, out for Mocha Memoirs Press  I am reblogging it.

The first story I wrote was published when I was five years old. Technically, it was a contest for the local paper where you had to finish the prompt. Something about finding a treasure chest in an attic and what was in it.

From what I remember, I wrote something like it was a TV and we all watched Bugs Bunny because it was Saturday! That’s not verbatim, of course. For that, you’d have to ask my Mother; I think she still has the newspaper clipping somewhere.

Now, ahem, several years later, my writing has progressed. I can also say that I’m a full-fledged geek as well. (It wasn’t long after that “publication” that I moved from watching Bugs to watching reruns of Star Trek and playing video games on the computer.)

Being both a writer and a Geek places me in an interesting position.  And certainly in a different headspace when creating fiction. The writing process can be challenging in general. Just ask all of the frustrated authors out there.

But it’s different for us Geeks. We’re special. And that has good and bad implications.

Me and my Geek title. In Scrabble letters. Thank you, Randy Richards.
Me and my Geek title.
In Scrabble letters.
Thank you, Randy Richards.

The good part includes the fact that we’re natural storytellers. We love to take an ordinary situation and add our own spin to retelling it. Even adding our own “what if” scenarios to make that book more awesome.

Also, most of us have an encyclopedic knowledge of our chosen object of geeky affection. References from comics, movies, books can weave their way into our lives so easily and deeply that they become part of us. It can create and fuel ideas. Like that time I wanted to translate “99 Luftballons” into Klingon.

But it’s also a challenge when writing.  It can make us think, “This will never be as good as insert author’s name here.” That can stymie us into only reading, watching, experiencing our faves and not creating our own work. Comparison can be detrimental to any author, but we Geeks have such love and respect for the creators of our books and movies and such, that they reach cult status. And we hesitate to toss our own work out to the public.

It can make us question our astounding creativity.  Is this too much like episode 25 of that show? I have it on DVD; I’ll watch it to be sure. Didn’t they already make something like this into a movie?  Even other Geeks may tell us this. “You know, this sounds like…” Geekiness can make us second-guess the ability of our work to stand out among the crushing amounts of awesomeness out there. But no one can write a story exactly the way you can. So stop worrying. Even if your lead character’s name sounds strangely like that starship captain’s. It’s okay, really. Finish writing and change it later.

Maybe.

We as Geeks can also get caught up easily with other pursuits. Heated Internet debates about the newest video game, introducing the uninitiated to our favorite TV series, watching someone else’s favorite TV series… The list can be endless.

While there’s a lot of shiny for Geeks to get distracted by, in order to effectively create our own awesome writing, we must do the unthinkable:

Take a break from our favorite things.

I know, I know. The thought of not watching the next episode, or of not making it to the next level up is torture. (“I’ll write after I finish this” is all too common.) But making this sacrifice will help you reach the goal of finishing a first draft of that short story or creating your RPG for the contest. Don’t give up your pursuits completely; just lessen the hours you devote to it for a short time. If it’s really a hardship, cut back on certain days or make a schedule you can live with that includes your writing and your Geek love.

Sometimes, I don’t even take my own advice. The lure of another Firefly marathon is too strong. Or I’m determined to beat the next boss without losing another life point and that takes me… some time. So I have to continually remind myself of the goal: Get the story done.

Writing while geeky is tough, but without a doubt worth the sacrifice to bring your vision to life and make your mark on the Geek world. Just think: It may be your work the future Geeks are debating via their neutral implants.

Happy Writing.

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Inspiration: Making Yourself A Character

I was having a conversation with a writer friend who was feeling somewhat uninspired and discouraged with her work. I asked how’d she been spending her non-writing time.

“Aren’t you going to ask me what I’m doing with my actual work in progress?”

“Nope,” I said. After giving me a quizzical look, she said that she hadn’t changed her routine—on anything—in over a year. And she felt that her stories and her characters weren’t exciting.

I told her that might be the issue. “In order to write interesting characters, you need to make yourself a character.” (Not my quote. My ex-manager said this when I was telling him about my vacation. No more information will be provided on this.)

She looked at me and took a sip of wine—the international symbol for: Not sure about this but go on…

Here is what I told her, paraphrased:

*Have experiences. Doesn’t matter if they’re all good. Use them as fodder to make your stories richer and deeper.

*Take risks with your writing. Tackle a genre you never thought you would. Write about a painful or awkward time in your life and push yourself to face it. Even if you don’t use it in your story, it can be a powerful example of how to overcome an obstacle.

*Read widely. For those of us that can’t climb Everest or go back in time to meet our favorite historical figure (Okay, none of us can do that second one. If you can, email me.), reading is a way to get information, a new perspective, and possibly learn something that gets the brain cells revved up.

Deadpool enjoying the Dragon*con magazine
Deadpool enjoying the Dragon*con magazine

*Change your routine. Even if it’s just going to the “other Starbucks” for morning coffee, it’s something different. And that little bit of veering off your schedule can help move you off the conveyor belt of the mundane and onto a more creative path.

Happy writing.

Embracing Geekdom: The Crossword Puzzle

My mother loves to solve crossword puzzles. Puzzles of varying length and difficulty. And bless her, she usually does them late at night. If she gets stuck and unable to find an answer, she’s gotten into the habit of calling me.

Doesn’t she have a dictionary? Plenty of them. Doesn’t she have a computer? Absolutely. She also has a high–speed internet connection because when she had dial up and I visited, I could polish my toenails between web pages loading.

Mom could use any of these means to get her answer but she is what I believe to be a puzzle purist. She feels there is someone who knows the answer without resorting to artificial (read “computer-assisted”) means. So she will pick up the phone.

Recently she called me for such a reason. When I picked up the call, she asked without greeting me, “What is Spock’s father’s name?”

I wanted to reply by asking why she thought I would know.  But Mom has a person to call for almost every type of puzzle predicament. A friend she goes to church with is the consummate holder of the cup of religious and movie knowledge.  My cousin is the guru of who’s doing who in the celebrity world.But my mother calls me to answer a Star Trek question. And she’s not the only one that asks me these questions. Non-geek friends and co-workers have posed similar questions to me.

So how did I get to be the go-to-girl for sci-fi trivia? At what point did my love of comics, space-travel television shows, and gaming become obvious to the world at large?

Could it have been the time my manager came to my cube with a stack of paperwork and I waved my hand and told him I wasn’t the droid he was looking for? (He turned and left, by the way.)

Was I fooling myself that people thought I was being a feminist when I sang the lyric, “No man can be my equal”?

Conceivably, it may have been the time I walked into the office dressed as Lt. Uhura. Yes, it was Halloween. And yes, I still have the costume. There’s a distinct possibility it might make an appearance this Halloween.

An eon ago, a guy I sort of liked told me I was odd.  At the time, it triggered a flashback of things kids I grew up with teased me about. My thick glasses. The bagel with cream cheese in my lunchbox. Our ancient house people thought was haunted. The fact I seemed unable to contract any childhood disease. Okay, that one gave me pause, too.

Years later, I agree with that guy. I am odd. Sometimes, I wear a flash drive as a necklace. My hair has been in Princess Leia honeybuns during dinner at a restaurant. There is a glowing letter “G” for geek on my forehead. And I’m okay with that.

So when Mom called me with her late-night question, I smiled like Scarlett O’Hara with a hip flask. Then I sat up in bed and adjusted my medical officer blue nightshirt as I gave her the answer.

“S-A-R-E-K.”

The Kitchening: Food as Inspiration

I’ll admit it. My creativity has been waning lately.  Possibly due to my job draining my energy.  My day job, that is.

It’s the one where my manager sends me an email on Friday approving a letter to send to a client, then follows that up with another email today complete with edits to the same letter. The letter I mailed out yesterday.

Grrrr…

Yeah, it’s that kind of party.

So my writing has slowed. I’ve tried to motivate myself by plunging into other artistic mediums. (Painting– no poetry– was the worst. I still shudder at the results from that attempt. )

None worked. Then I saw a picture of this:

Golden cupcakes: eat one and you will be forced to tell the truth…

And I knew I had to bake something.

To me, baking is scientifically creative. It is an art form that touches all of the senses. (Yes, even the sound of a mixer is pleasing to me.)

So I took to my kitchen (After two trips to the store because I forgot one thing…), churned out two white chocolate pound cakes, a pan of crunchy peanut bars, and some almond milk chocolate mousse.

Hours later, almost too exhausted to hold my glass of shiraz, I headed to the computer. While the pictures I took of the entire process downloaded, I realized that I knew the next step in my novel.

Being successful in one thing can carry over into another. My kitchening helped me move past a significant stumbling block in my writing process. Between spoonfuls of dark chocolate mousse, I wrote. And wrote.

My protagonist now has multiple hurdles to cross. There’s someone he wants to help, but there are numerous reasons he shouldn’t. His best friend has started to show his dark side. And the dead are talking to him.

Again.

It’s good to be back on the page.