Reading: “Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You”

Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About YouSnoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is meant to teach you how to learn about people from snooping through their rooms, but it’s also a bounty for social media marketers or writers.

If your job is in social media, in reading the tea leaves of activity people leave on their profiles, this will give you a handy framework for knowing what’s relevant and how to place a particular piece of detail you learn about someone.

Fiction writers can use the book in reverse — learning how to apply the psychological principles presented to craft an interesting, realistic character. The proof is in the details, and this book will help you understand how to create the layers of detail and description that make up a real person.

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Seven Things I Learned from National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo)

This year, for the first time, I was a winner…a winner of National Novel Writing Month. I wrote a 50,000 word manuscript in 30 days. I wouldn’t call it a novel. It’s kind of messy. It’s the kind of things some writers refer to as a discovery draft. But I’m still pretty satisfied with my accomplishment. Sure, my manuscript is a lot like that bent over stick of a Christmas tree that Charlie Brown had in his eponymous TV special, but I did it. And on the way, just like Charlie, I learned some things.

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1. Writing is Work

Let’s say it again, together…writing is WORK. It’s not art. You don’t sit around staring into space, waiting for inspiration until suddenly the muse comes along and writes the pages for you. You sit down and pound out horrible words. If you’re not typing or scribbling, you’re not writing. It’s also not writing down ideas about what you would write in a notebook, which I used to do a lot. It’s writing those ideas as scenes in their horrible Frankenstein-ed-ness. Which brings me to point 2.

2. Word Count is King

It’s not about how good the words are, it’s about that you finished them. It’s not going to come out better later. You’re not going to have that sudden, brilliant inspiration. The hole gets dug by getting out the shovel and sweating. And you know what…

3. The More You Write, The Easier It Gets

When I started, I would piddle around, check my email and various social networks, wander the Internet looking for inspiration, do just about anything to avoid actually starting. By the mid-point, when I sat down, I found it really easy to start cranking out words, because it started to cease to matter that they be perfect. Exercise is the same way for me – as long as I keep doing it, I find it easy to keep doing it. But when I stop for a day or two, it starts to feel less good, and I have to remind myself how good I feel when I finish for me to really want to get started again.

4. We’ll Fix It In Post

But what’s the point of pounding the keyboard like an infinite number of monkeys, hoping to churn out Shakespeare accidentally, if all I have to show for it, in the end, is a lousy discovery draft? Have you ever watched the bonus content that comes with a movie? A movie isn’t created when the scriptwriter writes the screenplay. A movie isn’t created by actors speaking lines in front of the cameras. A movie is mostly created in the editing room, where all of the pieces come together. Same thing with a book. The discovery draft is your screenplay, your outline. As you move forward, each draft is another step where you shape and improve. Writing isn’t really about writing…it’s about editing.

5. Writing Takes Time

I kept thinking 2,000 or so words a day wouldn’t take long. Ultimately, it ended up taking me about 45 minutes on the best days. You do the math…I’m a writer. A real novel is going to take several drafts and usually be longer than 50,000 words. A novel takes a while to finish, and I’m finding, personally, I get bored with it after a while, worn out from running the course. Like a marathon runner, I think I need to train with shorter things. I think I’m going to work on some short stories, so I can have something I finished, and I shipped.

6. Planning / Outlining Is A Good Place To Start

This one’s controversial, but I found for me, I had easier writing days when I had thought about the shape the story needed to take. Some writers say they don’t do this, but I suspect they do – they just do it in their drafting process. For me, I found that if I took a couple of minutes during the day, I could write down exactly the things that needed to happen next. It’s a story – it has a certain, predictable shape, which is why we all enjoy guessing where a story is going next. When I took the time to just write down a couple of sentences during the day about where the next 2,000 words were going, I found it a lot easier to write them later.

7. Deadlines Are The Greatest Thing Ever

I never would have finished my Nanowrimo manuscript if I didn’t take the deadlines seriously. Like Douglas Adams’ famous quote – “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” But I took Nanowrimo seriously, and it paid off. I found time to write when normally I would have insisted I didn’t have time or I was too tired or that TV show required all of my attention. And in the end, I finished. FINISHED! Something I think we all need more of in our lives – the satisfaction of completion.

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The Writer’s Life, Chapter 1

Back in August I went part-time at my bread-winning job to actually pursue what I wanted to do for a career, which was to be a writer. Most people dream of quitting their jobs, dragging the old Smith-Corona out of the closet and pounding away, fueled by coffee and gin as they produce the great American novel. Me, I just wanted a single day to myself, where my brain wasn’t already polluted by the myriad tiny but complicated projects that make up my day job.

Thankfully, I have a wife who cares about my soul. She’s been telling me for years to find the thing that would make me happy. (Besides her, of course.) She actually quit a job many years ago for a month or so, and tried the writing life. She was good at it. But she longed for human contact and security and a little more cash to pay the bills, so she went back to her old job, and ended up being very happy for a while. She understood where I was coming from, and when I finally decided to be a tiny bit brave and take back some time for myself, she was at the top of my small pyramid of cheerleaders.

One of the things they tell you, when you want to write a novel, lose weight, or set any similar goal where failure would be mortally embarrassing, is to tell a bunch of people. I’m a chicken. I didn’t start out aiming to tell people, but they found out anyway. As I talked through the details of rearranging my work schedule, people kept asking me what I was going to do with my extra time. I’d tick off a small list of things like, improve my web development skills, learn a bit more about programming, try some dumb creative projects with glitter and ice cream sticks…maybe even write a book.

For some reason, the book was the idea that always stuck with people. It got around. Suddenly, people were coming up to me in the cafeteria going, “I think it’s so great that you’re pursuing your dream! How’s the book going?”

I really need to find a way to marshal that network for marketing when I’m done with my book.

The funny thing is, writing wasn’t really top of the list.  I thought maybe I’d pursue some of the practical things first. I thought I’d work on the skills that would help me buy more bread in the end. But the world seemed to be speaking to me, and I decided to listen. I sat down with my writing box, with all the old half-formed story ideas and fragments I had on my hard drive and on backup CDs and thought about what I wanted to write. I picked one, maybe not the easiest idea to pursue, but one that I felt I could do, and do pretty well, and that I thought would have some resonance in my soul.

And I started writing it.

Why Write?

At one point, I decided I wanted to return to blogging because I missed writing regularly. I haven’t really done it for a while, partially due to the distractions of everyday life, and partially because I didn’t really have much I wanted to write about. I didn’t really know why the passion to write had left me, but I found it much easier to go watch TV or play a game than to sit down and try to make something with words.

I started blogging originally with the idea that I would do something for friends and family to read that would interest them and give me an outlet for what I had to say. In the end, I found I had this mild discomfort with the whole thing, because I kept having to think about what I wanted to write. I mean, the world was reading it, and despite the fact that the world might not know exactly who I am, they were getting a deeper look into who I was. I was very careful about what I wrote. I mostly linked. And the whole blogging thing became kind of boring for me, as well as the world.

Not too long ago, I moved from a position at work where I was mostly allowed to be introverted, to a training position where I had to be more extroverted. At first, I was nothing but uncomfortable. Mostly before, I was allowed to do my thing, and people would thank me for it. It kind of reminds me from the scene from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” where Arthur saves everyone from certain doom, and Zaphod tells him so, to which Arthur replies, “Oh, it was nothing.” And Zaphod shoots back, “Oh, was it then? Well forget it.” But I actually liked fading back into the woodwork after that.

There’s been this slow transition since then, where I’ve been more in the spotlight, and I realize I don’t mind attention so much. When I was a kid, I loved attention. My mom was a singer who worked with a few polish bands on and off, and she would often drag me up on stage with her to sing, and I ate up the attention from that.

But what does this have to do with writing? Well, when I finished college, I tried to write. Heck, I had a degree in it, right? But that lack of interest crept in. And it took me this long to realize that it was because I didn’t have an audience. I mean, no one was reading what I was writing. I didn’t really send it out, because I didn’t think anyone wanted to read it. And I think I was also afraid, as all artists are, that I sucked.

So, now, in an effort to find that mojo that writing is, I’m going to be brave and post some things out here. Feel free to enjoy them, hate them, comment on them, so I can understand what you don’t like.

I’ll start at the beginning, kind of. A silly poem I wrote when I was in fourth grade, for what is the Internet for if not self-publishing your own fourth-grade drivel? ;P This actually won first prize in the “Court of the Mystical Rose” poetry contest that year. I owe special thanks to my dad, too, since well after my bedtime on the night before this was due I was sitting there crying and struggling to finish it. He stepped in and helped me and we got the darn thing done. Everyone needs someone to help them meet their deadlines in life.

Anyway here goes…

New Horizons

Hope for tomorrow, bright and true,
‘Cause into your life will come something new,
Sometimes we’re sad and sometimes we’re blue,
So let’s hope tomorrow will be better for you.

If you missed your chance today,
Prepare for it another day,
Tomorrow will be better, true,
Your future dreams depend on you.