Tag Archives: writing

Compliments and Confidence

I had the privilege of singing the Japanese and American National Anthems for my unit’s Change of Command ceremony this week. It went well. I didn’t make any significant mistakes (that I’m aware of at least). I received several compliments. Some people seemed genuinely surprised.

It got me thinking about the distance between compliments for a job well done, and confidence that we can do a job well.

I spend a lot of time in front of other people–public speaking in the form of leading mission briefs and planning discussions, public singing and musical performance in church bands or for secular functions, and of course… writing.

At a recent writing group, we talked about how hard it can be to accept the compliments or to truly believe “My work is of sufficient quality.” People give compliments to be polite, right? It’s easy to shrug those off or downplay them… after all, that’s the humble thing to do, and no one likes an arrogant jerk, right?

“Oh, it’s no big thing, you know, I’ve been doing this for years… just another day to me. Glad you liked it.”

The reason these thoughts came to mind was because then someone didn’t say something to me about the performance. Immediately doubts and questions arose. Did they not like it? Did they think I sucked? Was I off key? Were they not impressed? Do they care at all? Do they know how good I am? Am I not that good? Why didn’t they say something when all those other people did? What did I do wrong that they didn’t like?

The truth is, none of those things are true.  I didn’t do anything wrong and I did just fine if not awesome (if the compliments are to be believed). Yet that brief moment of silence creates so many questions where none are necessary.

Early on, in singing or speaking or writing, I needed those compliments – I need some praise and assurance. “You are good at this.”  That can become a crutch, a dependency that nags at the back of my mind when I check site views or book reviews. When I participate in a critique group and put my work out there to other writers, I might come at that experience looking for validation instead of constructive feedback.

“Oh, you’re so good at this!”

*fake blush* Thank you, I know…

On the other hand, I don’t want to become arrogant or overconfident about how good I think I am. That’s the danger of believing the compliments a little too easily: acting as though I’ve mastered a thing when I’m really only an amateur.

So I presume and hope that there is a comfortable middle ground—a  place where I can be confident in my abilities while remaining grateful for the praise I earn. Something like the prophets in the Bible following the phrase “Don’t look at their faces.” Don’t try to figure out how everyone feels about what you’re doing–figure out how to do it, and just go for your best.

That’s a place where I’m not dependent on what others think to find my own validation. A place where I know I do pretty fine at X, Y, and Z… but I still want to get better at them.

Today, I’ll be signing books at the Base Exchange and shaking customers’ hands. I have no illusions about how minor a thing it is to get a story published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. It’s not the first step to becoming a Stephen King or George Martin.

But a company paid money for my words and put them in print. Salespeople suggested “What if you came and signed books?” Maybe some people will buy it, even if just as a novelty.

So it’s something. And today, that’s enough.

Diffraction Free to Read on WattPad

It’s the Winter Solstice, the shortest period of daylight during the year. For various reasons, my mind ties that dichotomy of darkness and light to Lyllithe, the protagonist of my fantasy novel, Diffraction. 


I completed the revisions and final copy on the Solstice last year, then published it on CreateSpace and Kindle Direct. It’s been available for purchase for the last year, and I have deep appreciation for those who bought a paperback or e-book copy. That option is still out there (and the e-book is reduced to the minimum price I can choose based on the royalty plan).

I’ve also made the book free on Kindle from December 22nd through Christmas Day, so if you know someone who might like a free fantasy novel, point them that way.

However, the real point of this post is to call attention to the full book available to read on WattPad. Though I appreciate every purchase, what I need more than a buck from an e-book sale is a body of readers–and maybe some love on social media. Reblogging this post or sharing the WattPad link among your circle of friends might put Diffraction in the hands of interested readers.

Winter isn’t coming… It’s here. What better way to start it than curling up under a warm blanket with a cup of hot cocoa and an invasion of bloodthirsty zealots?

Wishing you and yours all the best this holiday season.

Fun with Writing

You never know what you’re going to suddenly need to research when you start writing.

This week, to complete the Blog Battle, I had to confirm whether one-way mirrors existed in the 1930s timeframe of my setting. They did. The first patent for one was submitted in 1903.

I got to dig through a description of China in the 1920s/1930s and was reminded of a bunch of historical details I’d forgotten due to lack of use. I also found a list of place names as they were known in that period – Peking instead of the modern Beijing, for example, and Tientsin instead of Tianjin.

I also wanted to double-check how your average woman might dress in the ’30s, so I could make the vixen’s clothing somewhat accurate but also inappropriate.

And I had fun developing a new foil for Grant and Teagan – playing with both the Chinese and Japanese versions of the word “who?” 


You can bet Agent Dare (a.k.a. Shay) will be showing up again soon.

Unrelated to the Blog Battle, I read some challenging news stories about tragic situations in the world today, and figured out how the futuristic tech in my sci-fi novel would circumvent the difficulties of conducting effective military operations amidst a chaotic, multi-front, multi-party conflict.

This week, the highlight of my plotting and playing around was when I toyed with Mandarin characters to translate various key words of my fantasy novel. Translation is fun because of all the nuances in which word to use when. Google Translate might render “I studied Chinese” as “wo xuele zhongguoren” – which means “I studied Chinese people” instead of the language.

So when I wanted to find a term for “Devoted” or craft a term for “Soulforged,” it took a little digging. One word might mean devotion as in loyalty to an ideal. Another means dedicating one’s all–time, energy, resources–to a particular cause. And putting two characters in the wrong order might create the concept of a Forge of Souls — which sounds like a mythical item or location in World of Warcraft, and definitely does NOT sound like a person whose soul has been hardened and prepared for greater trials than others will face.

I suppose if I’m honest, the “research” I do for writing is a convenient excuse to justify following Wikipedia rabbit trails and weird Google searches. I’m okay with that. 

What’s your weirdest or most recent “strange” search effort? Tell me in a comment. Maybe it’ll spark an idea. 

If a Place Called Writing Town Existed…#writerslife #writer #amwriting

This comes from the quite-talented Blondeusk of http://blondwritemore.com

And it hits a little too close to home, as I wander between her version of the Bloggers Market, Social Media Square, and Procrastination Boulevard (which I’m pretty sure connects the two on any map).

Enjoy and give her a follow if you like what you read, because she’s always posting humorous and creative things like this.


For today’s post I have imagined that there is a place called Writing Town. It is where we all hang out on a daily basis. For noting – this week I have had a stinking cold (bedridden) and this post was written whilst I had a temperature / on heavy duty cold medication – […]

http://blondewritemore.com/2016/03/10/the-different-parts-of-writing-town-writerslife-writer-amwriting/

Author & Book Promotions

From Dave – many of you on WordPress know the Opinionated Man, Jason Cushman. He has often made his blog available to help those with smaller followings gain some free exposure. He is now using his large following as an opportunity to promote indie and self-published authors, myself included. 

My experience with Jason has been very positive. He’s shown himself to be dedicated and eager to help others pursue success. 

Please share this on! I am offering contracts to promote authors and their books. I know there are many indie authors and writers that struggle to get their books noticed! It is a tough and competitive business right now and everyone wants to write a book these days. There are very few opportunities to get […]

https://aopinionatedman.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/please-share-this-on-author-book-promotions/

Making Time

“I would, but I don’t have the time!”

Whether the topic is exercise, writing, a volunteer opportunity, or some other optional pursuit, I’ve heard and said those words countless times. I’m sure you have too.

But we’ve all probably heard it said: <em>You make time for what matters to you.</em>

It took me by surprise a few years ago, but writing really matters to me. Given my job–or more specifically my desire to keep my job–fitness matters too. Most of all, spending time with my wife and kids is a priority, but it’s so easy to get distracted and shove that to “tomorrow.”

I’ve found I can double the benefit I get out of the same amount of time.

One: a lot of my writing is done on a stationary bike. I can prop up the iPad and Bluetooth keyboard, and tap keys while pushing the pedals. Can’t I find an hour a day to spend on NaNoWriMo? Why not spend it on the bike?

Two: I took a board we had from moving and laid it across the arms of our treadmill. Makeshift desk for free instead of hundreds of dollars, and I can walk at a light pace (2-3 mph) while writing. It’s not much, but it’s not sedentary!

Three: I’ve been reading to my kids for some family time, doing funny voices for different characters and sharing some of my favorite books with them. Now I often do it while walking on the treadmill. Again 3 mph seems the magic pace where I can read (a little uncomfortably) while challenging myself a bit.

Four: For relaxation, I play video games like World of Warcraft on my laptop. Hello, treadmill desk! Yes, I’ve run instances in WoW and finished off quests while walking on the treadmill at the same time. If I’m going to play for an hour (haha, an hour, that’s so cute, let’s be honest 3 or 4 hours) I might as well get something beneficial out of the time. Something more than just another level or another piece of pretend equipment.

Five: “But Dave,” you say, “I don’t have a treadmill, and I don’t have access to a good gym or a stationary bike.” Great point. Let’s assume you’re fortunate enough to have a tablet or at least a smartphone. Hopefully you also have access to a school track or walking path, or a safe sidewalk route where you won’t get run over or jostled by other pedestrians. (Come on, certainly you have a place to walk.) I walk around the track sometimes, tapping away at my on-screen keyboard or entering words into my wee little phone screen. I’m going to have to edit later anyway, so mistakes and auto-correct failures don’t really matter. And do I look weird? No, I just look like I’m trying to relive my teenage years, walking with my head down, eyes and thumbs glued to my personal device. People are going to judge anyway. I might as well do something productive while they’re doing it.

I know, none of these are novel ideas or earth-shattering fitness breakthroughs.

IMG_1322.JPG

What they are, though, are answers to many of my excuses.

What have you found as a helpful way to maximize your productivity? I’d love to hear in a comment.

A Critique Feedback Method

Last night, I chatted with an old friend and former co-worker who is also an aspiring writer. It turned out he was looking for a writing accountability partner. I was happy to oblige, as I can always use another kick in the rear to get me motivated.

Here's some feedback for my lazy butt.
Here’s some feedback for my lazy butt.

He suggested a feedback system that I thought balances the positive and negative very well. It captures some important overall aspects without necessarily digging into line-by-line details (which is what I normally do in my current critique group).

I thought I’d share it here as another option, perhaps less intrusive, for getting some feedback on a writing project.

After reading, answer the following questions:

1 – What did you like best overall? (Feel, characters, tone, etc.)

2 – Best lines (hopefully 1 or 2)

3 – Things that worked (made you want to keep reading)

4 – Any other comments

Then

1 – What doesn’t feel right?

2 – Worst lines / paragraphs

3 – What confusing thing needs further clarification now (i.e. not an intriguing mystery to be explained)?

4 – Things that definitely don’t work

5 – Other constructive criticism or funny/biting comments

I think this is a great idea, and I am eagerly looking forward to how this partnership develops.

Any thoughts about additions to this feedback method? Are there any aspects you’d want to see covered if it was your piece getting reviewed? Let me know in a comment.

Also, I really can’t say enough about the importance of getting a real person’s feedback on creative writing. Critique group has been the most wonderful experience thus far in my short writing journey, and it’s the school where I’ve learned the most lessons in the shortest time.

I documented many of those lessons in a series of posts in April, discussing Elements of Critique that I look for when critiquing a piece of writing. These lessons are condensed into this free e-book .pdf for your use: Elements of Critique

It’s designed to help any critique know what to look for, and to help anyone set up their own critique group if they don’t have one available to join.

If you find it helpful, I’d love to hear about it.

Critique Group Freebie

In April I participated in the annual A-to-Z Blog Challenge, with “Elements of Critique” as my theme. I wrote from A to Z (plus 3 extra posts) on everything to look for when critiquing someone’s writing, as well as a suggested method of running a critique group.

The series was well-received, and I committed to compiling the posts into one handy document.

Finally, the 64-page PDF is available, set up for easy digital viewing with hyperlinked chapters and table of contents.

It’s free for personal use, because I’d love for other writers to get the benefits and joy I received from attending a positive and helpful critique group.

Elements of Critique

If you find it useful, I’d love to know. It’s also going to remain on a permanent page at the front of my WordPress site.

Thanks for the encouragement along the way. I hope this serves you well.

H Words

On Thursday, I sat in the presence of an apparent hate-monger. Worse, I listened to her advice on illustrating, collaborating with writers, and marketing.

I might never have known, without the intervention of the Huffington Post on my google search. The day has been saved, if “saved” is not a word too charged with religious meaning.

The local Christian writers’ group I joined two years ago, the Omaha WordSowers meet on the 2nd Thursday of each month. They have a guest speaker who provides information or personal experience about some aspect of the writer’s journey from creative idea to published work.

Yesterday’s guest speakers were Lori Schulz and Hannah Segura, who talked about the process of publishing Papa’s Plan for Buddy Bee, which Lori wrote and Hannah illustrated.

Papa's Plan for Buddy Bee
A 100% Hate-Free Children’s Book

Lori gave her blog site link, but Hannah only mentioned an online following where she posts some of her art. I searched in hopes of finding her blog or site, since I hope to stay connected with the friends and fellow writers I’ve made here.

Hannah is one of many home-schooled young people I’ve met that challenge old stereotypes of that method of education. She is (like they are) full of vigor and joy, polite, socially at ease, well-spoken, and most of all just plain nice to everyone.

So the first few sites I found surprised me, because Hannah was equated with hate. Some time ago, she illustrated another book written by a different Christian author, on the subject of God’s design for families. A Bible-believing author wrote a kids’ book about marriage being one man and one woman for life, and a Bible-believing illustrator drew pictures to match the story. This came as no surprise to me. It should come as no surprise to anyone else.

That word choice, hate, really bothers me.

Maybe it’s because I am a linguist by profession and a writer by passion, so words and their definitions matter.

Maybe it’s because I know Hannah as an acquaintance, and as trite as it may sound, she doesn’t appear to have a hate-filled cell in her body.

Maybe it’s because I’ve heard the same term used to accuse me of feeling a way I’ve never felt about someone else.

And maybe it’s because I’m sick of rhetorical guerilla tactics, using evocative words to provoke a reaction and “win” a cultural battle without any reasonable discussion.

People throw hate and homophobe (among other terms) around at anyone who bucks current public opinion, regardless of motivation, regardless of personality. It’s equivalent to creating a minefield around the discussion table. Anyone who tries to say something gets blown up before they can speak their mind. Nobody wants to be affiliated with hate. No one wants to be associated with a homophobe.

The target changes from discussing a cultural, political, or religious position to attacking an individual person.

Worse yet, if one’s intended purpose is to convince the opposition to reconsider their view, attacking them as individuals shuts them down.

“You’re full of hate.” If I don’t feel hatred toward anyone, this makes me defensive, eager to absolve myself of crimes I don’t think I’ve committed. It doesn’t help me hear opposing views.

“You’re a homophobe.” If I am not afraid of homosexuals, if I’m not one of those who says, “Eww they’re icky” and acts all disgusted, then once again I will feel the need to object instead of open up to a different point of view.

“You’re too close-minded,” I’ve heard people say when confronting so-called “hate.” Yes, I think, because you’re closing them down by attacking instead of opening them up by connecting.

That sword definitely cuts both sides of this cultural debate. I hope we all want to be above that sort of thing, whichever side we’re on.

Nobody gains anything from a discussion that never happens.

I’m a fan of understanding, of seeing from the perspective of the other. I have said and done many things out of ignorance, and my responses over the years on the subject of homosexuality are no exception. Thankfully, I’ve had the benefit of friends and even rational opponents who take the time to open my eyes to their point of view while demonstrating willingness to listen to mine.

So what helps that take place?

First, avoid assumptions.

Some hate and fear is obvious, but not all. Jumping to conclusions about what motivates an individual gets us nowhere but angry at each other. If I can’t know that someone hates another person, then ‘hate’ isn’t the right word. If I don’t know that someone actually fears another, then ‘homophobe’ is a poor choice. Build bridges, not walls.

Second, use accurate terms.

Maybe “ignorant” or “unfamiliar” is more appropriate. It’s hard to walk in the shoes of another, and we all pretty much suck at it. So instead of declaring “I know what your kind is like,” how about “Can I tell you what it’s like from my point of view?” Speak to flesh-and-blood people, not emotionless positions.

Let’s trade some hate for harmony.

Always Learning

I walked out of my brief doctor’s visit and headed through the lobby to my car. The hospital has a valet service, but I need to walk. After all, I’m going through post-surgery physical therapy, so I don’t use it.

The valet is a young man, maybe in his early 20s. He’s got a sketchpad and pen out, and he has a burly superhero-type man flexing next to a typical comic book female figure (the sort that would make Barbie feel unattractive).

Many visitors don’t take advantage of the valet service. Even when they do, the young man jogs out to retrieve the car, so he ends up with a lot of down time. And he’s using that to hone his skills, to build up his craft as an artist.

That’s worthy of respect. I made sure to catch him and pay him a compliment.

My daughter surprised us last night as she was getting ready for bed. She grabbed her violin and practiced for about five or ten minutes, playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for her brother to help him go to sleep. It didn’t work, but both Mom and I were pleased with her willingness to take a few minutes to practice. She wants to learn, and she shows that dedication in moments like these.

I think of the civilian in my technical school’s chow hall almost 20 years ago. When the customers were intermittent, he always got out a drawing pad and started working on some project, taking advantage of every spare moment, every opportunity.

That’s why I have a notepad or my iPad pretty much everywhere I go. Sitting for 10 minutes with ice on my ankle after physical therapy, I can write the majority of my next A-Z post. Waiting for the doctor, I can jot down a few ideas. When someone in public says something unbelievable, I take a quick note to save it for a future character.

There’s a need for scheduled practice time, just as with any pursuit. But I think one difference between having a hobby and having a passion is that desire to fill every available moment with effort to hone the craft.

Just something I noticed as I walked out the hospital door this morning. What’s your favorite way to take advantage of opportunities throughout the day or week? Maybe it’s a suggestion I, or another reader, will find useful. Let me know in a comment.

Have a blessed Good Friday.