C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers: On Confidence

I just listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast with designer Debbie Millman. Good Q&A about designing our lives.  One of the takeaways for me was about confidence. Ms. Millman interviewed many successful people. She encountered only two who didn’t feel like impostors teetering on the precipice of defeat. The confident pair were octogenarians with long records of success. For everyone else, success is a moving target, ephemeral and slippery.

If you don’t feel successful, it’s okay. Even after you have some measure of success, chances are good you won’t feel big enough for your britches even then. On the other hand, I have run into individuals who are stunningly confident. They’re probably deluded examples of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. According to Wikipedia:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is.

From my experience, the people in publishing who sound most sure of world domination are novices. They tend to look at book publishing as a lottery and they’re a little too positive they’ve got the winning ticket with their first book.

The veterans have seen more failure so they aren’t betting on one book. They tend to look at each book as a journey, an exploration and an experiment. They also tend to look back on earlier efforts with some measure of regret: the writing that could have been improved upon or marketing mistakes were committed. More experienced authors appear more laid back about whether something hits. Even as they do a lot of smart things that make a heavy ROI more likely, they’re sanguine. They keep on producing. They don’t get sucked into review rages, shame spirals, bravado or defensiveness.

As a writer, it’s nice to have confidence but it’s not necessary. Do the work and enjoy the process more. Writing is its own reward first. Turning readers into fans is a separate thing, very different from facing the page and spinning out gold ink. 

Don’t worry about how much self-assuredness you possess or how little you’ve yet to earn. Confidence is a big soft pillow. It feels good until the stuffing gets knocked out of it. 

Just write.

~ I write science fiction, urban fantasy, apocalyptic epics and crime thrillers. Please do check out my books and podcasts on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

 

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Filed under: authors and money, publishing, Writers, writing, writing advice, , , , , ,

The Joy of the Staying the Hell Home

Most writers I know are trying to get out of their day jobs so they can write and do nothing but write. I’m in a bit of a different situation. I have four jobs. My wife, AKA She Who Must Be Obeyed, has three. We have plans to change that crazy trajectory but, for now, this is how we live.

Getting pulled in so many directions can be stressful, but it must also be said that we’re generally pretty enthusiastic about all we do. Nonetheless, precautions must be taken so exhaustion and burnout do not burst our overtaxed hearts. Not working ourselves to death is generally a good thing. That’s why I’m on vacation this week.

It’s not the sort of vacation where I lounge on a sun drenched beach. Who needs skin cancer? I’m not touring castles. I mean, castles are cool, but all that walking and bad food? Pfft! It’s not the sort of vacation where I fly anywhere. Especially since 9/11, air travel is a nightmare. I’m not enthused about the ordeal of going through security, allowing people to be rude to me and getting packed into a tube with irritable strangers for a death-defying trip on Air Schnitzel. I am staying the hell home.

This is a writing vacation and I couldn’t be happier. On the first day, I piled up 6,802 words. That might be a personal best. I can focus on creation and do nothing else. I don’t worry that I left the house unlocked or the stove on. I don’t have any other tasks looming overhead. What luxury!

When the economy went south, someone invented the term, “staycation,” to make a virtue out of poverty. We all need vacations though we don’t all get them. I am grateful for this opportunity. Don’t hate me because I’m relaxed. I’ve worked hard for this.

I know the story I want to write and it’s going great. It’s going so great, in fact, that I am about halfway through a new novel. I’ve committed to completing the first draft this week. The bulk of the rest of this year will be devoted to editing and publishing the many book projects I’ve managed to pile up in the last six months. You may call me lots of nasty names, but you can’t call me lazy.

I am always reluctant to take any time off but She Who Must Be Obeyed insists and she’s always right. Without fail, I return to work fresh and full of new energy and new ideas. 

My vacation’s writing schedule is full. I know it’s not a vacation in the truest sense. I really mean that I’m down to doing one job: writing stories to melt hearts, tickle brains and make you say: ah-ha, ha-ha-ha, oh my gawd and wowzers (repeatedly, in no particular order.) Since I’m used to juggling four commitments, one job seems remarkably easy, especially when that one job is writing. I love writing. I’ll even get more reading done this week, too.

I’m having a great time. If you want to talk, email or dance the samba, I’ll be available next week. If you haven’t had a pure writing vacation this year, I urge you to plan one if you can. When I make the big move back to having one job and one job only, every day will be like this: coffee, couch and laptop. Writing is the one job from which one can never really retire. Happily so.

Love and kisses to all (substituting man-hugs where appropriate.)

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Catch all my sexy hexy texty epic weirdness at AllThatChazz.com.

 

Filed under: All That Chazz, self-publishing, writing, writing advice, , , , ,

How to keep moving forward.

My wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, deals with a lot of sad, difficult and traumatic situations in her noble work. She helps a lot of people but it’s not easy. To combat the downside, she keeps what she calls a perk file. That’s where she holds on to commendations and thank you letters from those she has helped. Writers should have a similar file.

As an author, you will have disappointments. It’s inevitable. As I wrote in a post below (The Writer’s Curse) we are imaginative and therefore perpetually dissatisfied. Copy and paste your fave reviews to a special file for those dark days to come. When the disappointments arise, reread those five star reviews and fan letters. Cherish them and keep going.

I’ve often thought about quitting, especially when I’m overwhelmed. (Quitting isn’t always a bad idea, either. More on that in a coming post.) I did stop writing completely for almost five years. Those were not good years. For me, the dissatisfaction of not writing is worse than the bad writing days.

This week, a reader reminded me why it’s important to keep going. Stories are powerful. I replied, thanking her for being a reader, of course, but her letter is too important an inspiration not to share with fellow writers. She wrote:

Dear Robert Chazz Chute,

I read zompoc because I need to read something that takes me away from my reality – a genetic condition that slowly transformed the woman who could turn somersaults in mid-air to the woman in a wheelchair.
Fortunately,my sense of humour is intact.
Friends, family and NHS have stuck with me, so I’m lucky compared to most disabled people.
And the connection with This Plague of Days?
It distracted me from my pain – always present unless I’m asleep.
Yep. Stories are that powerful.
Even when they’re stories about unrelenting terror.
This Plague of Days is an epic piece of writing.
But you know that already.
I just felt like telling you that I know that too.
And thank you for writing something that set me free, for a while.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and I am often sad. I get misty reading this letter, but in a good way. I am less sad this week thanks to this reader. You can check out all my stuff at AllThatChazz.com, or just read and reread this letter to get inspired to write something epic that distracts readers from their pain. Distracting us from pain is, I think, what it’s all about.

Now I’m off to write more. Thanks again, to all the readers.

Filed under: All That Chazz, publishing, Writers, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , ,

What qualifies you to say that?

If you’re looking for a brain surgeon, you don’t want an amateur (and probably not Ben Carson, either.) But there are a lot of topics where “expert opinion” is of questionable validity. For instance, the paid media pundits who predicted Donald Trump would flame out long ago have been proved wrong. Spectacularly wrong. Many still haven’t learned anything from what should have been a humbling experience. They’re still making political predictions based on what they want to be true instead of looking at what’s happening in the GOP primary by the math. (Please don’t take this as an endorsement of Donald Trump. I cab’t stand him. I am pro-reality, however.)

What makes a person an expert?

If it’s for purpose of commentary (as opposed to digging into organs with sharp tools for therapeutic purposes), anyone can be expert and everyone seems to think they already are. A lot of people have instant opinions on topics they’ve given no thought to. Experts, it seems, are everywhere. The number of “Social Media Experts” on Twitter is staggering, and most of the time, that title means nothing.

Recently, Sean Penn was ridiculed by professional journalists for his interview of El Chapo in Rolling Stone. He responded that (a) they were focusing on the celebrity angle instead of the drug war, and (b) he dared them to show him their journalist licenses. It was a clever retort to a lot of envious whiners from a guy who risked his life to go into the jungle to interview a killer.

Whether Penn’s story was well-executed is another issue. The core of it was, anybody who is willing can be a journalist now. I have a journalism degree. It’s hanging in my downstairs bathroom over the toilet, where it belongs. It got me interviews and jobs with major publications but, as a license? Ha! Let’s just say any degree — or no degree — will do now.

Report on any issue you’re of a mind to. Citizen journalism may not be polished, but it often looks more honest. The value of the journalism degree has eroded since the Internet disrupted a once-great profession. It’s not all the fault of the Internet, either. Many outlets have abandoned the journalistic principles that once made the calling worthwhile. For instance, when network news shows backed by defence contractors interview shills for defence contractors and don’t tell you who they’re really representing? Yeah, no good. Many so-called journalists downgraded themselves to propagandists when they decided to help sell a war instead of reporting on it. If those reporters had journalist licenses, they should have been revoked.

It seems that most of the best journalism isn’t accomplished by big media, anymore. The best journalism and commentary I’ve seen in the last few years has been reported by comedians (e.g. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver) and web-based shows with vast audiences they’ve earned through authenticity (e.g. The Young Turks.) These models of better communication dig deep, tackle tough issues in an understandable way and they don’t treat their audiences like idiots.

I bring this up because one of the books I’m writing at the moment is non-fiction. Someone (a fiction writer) asked me what qualified me to write it. As a former journalist, the premise of the question struck me as silly. Research any subject thoroughly and you, too, can be an expert. Read a bunch of books, go deep and bang, you’ve got yourself a qualified opinion because you are not informed by one expert, but many. You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist to have a worthwhile opinion about nuclear power. You don’t have to be a doctor to explain a vasectomy. (Just don’t try this at home, kids!)

I have 24 years of experience with the subject of my next non-fiction book. I’m also bringing in a co-author with  multiple relevant degrees and 20+ years in the subject, too. Our backgrounds will undoubtedly make a better book and we can refer to real life case studies from our work lives. However, you can write a non-fiction book about anything. Okay, if you’re an idiot, maybe not but, in general? To claim expertise, all you have to do is research. To write a book based on that expertise? All you have to do is write the damn book.

Make the world better and better informed. Those two things are one thing.

 

Filed under: DIY, new books, publishing, Rant, television, writing advice, writing tips

Writers: When you’re down dooby-do, down, down…

Book Coer credit: SelfPubBookCovers.com/Shardel

Book Cover credit: SelfPubBookCovers.com/Shardel

  1. Some snooty, snotty gurus will tell you not to write faster than they can. Some fascists will tell you you’re writing too slow. This is why every scout must have their own compass. Don’t get lost. Use your own compass. Get away from the rest of the troop and leave them in the woods to feed the ticks and snakes. Find your way into town and get ice cream.
  2. No matter how much you accomplish, someone will tell you that you should never have tried and you’re doing you all wrong. Don’t believe me? Someone said recently that Stephen King can’t write. Seriously. 
  3. Sometimes, it seems we are surrounded by dream killers, trolls and monsters. Those cowards scatter like cockroaches and skitter under the fridge when you turn the light on them, though. They don’t talk like that to people in person. If they did, Mom and Dad would revoke their computer privileges. Adult trolls would have all their teeth knocked out if they tried that shit in person. Ignore and forget them. You’ve got worlds to build, stories to tell and braingasms to deliver.
  4. We are also surrounded by people who aren’t jealous and who bear you no ill will. These are people who take pleasure in the success of others. They actually want to enjoy your work and they’re ready to be entertained. They want you to succeed and they understand that another person’s success or failure has nothing to do with their destiny. Spend more time with these people. 
  5. I don’t have much for you if you’re feeling downtrodden. Nasty words sting. That’s what nasty words are built to do. However, it will ease your pain considerably to be one of the writers who inspire widely, encourage eagerly, coach privately and applaud loudly. 

The only remedy I know for dickishness is to make sure you don’t add another dick to the pile. Wherever you are, you can bring down Earth’s Dickishness Index today and every day. It’s a beautiful life. 

~ Robert Chazz Chute then nodded and smiled to all assembled, leapt on the back of a unicorn, galloped over a rainbow bridge and retreated to a magical cave to create another fabulous nightmare of the coming apocalypse. Find out more about his visions of our robot, zombie and demon-filled futures at AllThatChazz.com. Cyberpunk? Dark fantasy? SF? Mysteries? Thrillers? That’s all that Chazz jazz. 

Filed under: writing advice, ,

San Andreas, The Rock, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and Bad Reviews

I cleared my calendar and, full of energy, I looked forward to an afternoon of writing. Then I accidentally ran across a negative review of one of my favorite books. Worse, it’s one of my favorites that I wrote. I didn’t agree with the review. In fact, this person might have been reviewing a different book because the reviewer made a point that…honestly, I have no idea what they’re talking about.

And so I started thinking about the futility of trying to please everyone and, yes, this is part of the business…it happens to all who dare… be mature…and blah-de-blah you’ve heard all that crap before. We aren’t supposed to have feelings. Certainly some reviewers write reviews as if we don’t. I’m still human so, I admit, I didn’t tough it out and set my jaw and type on bravely. My enthusiasm died. Instead of writing, I retreated to a darkened theater alone to watch a disaster movie because that seemed like the metaphor for my life.

From Wikipedia:

The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, is a series of emotional stages experienced by survivors of an intimate’s death, wherein the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

And so…The Writer’s Five Stages of Grief after a Bad Review:

1. Denial.

“No! Can’t be! That book is really good! Maybe even great!”

2. Anger

“My book is fantastic, dammit! Whose house have I got to burn down to get some justice in this cock-eyed universe?”

3. Bargaining

Maybe if I talked to the reviewer… (instantly rejected as a terrible idea, but that bad idea always flashes by.)

4. Depression

“What’s the point? Maybe I could do something else to finally prove my worth to Dead Mom.” When I read that bad review (and reread it over and over) I thought I might write a blog post entitled, Writing in the Post-enjoyment Age, or something similarly grim.

And then…a light.

The movie started. San Andreas is a really cheesy movie that makes me want to see the original 1974 Earthquake starring George Kennedy, Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner. San Andreas is packed full of tropes and cliches and plot holes and a startling amount of product placement and a few unintentionally funny lines that sound like a rehash of a dozen movies.

But you know what? That’s some tasty cheese! I forgot about my bad review and watched the Pageant of Crazy that is this disaster movie. I couldn’t quite decide who was prettier, Dwayne Johnson or Alexandra Daddario. (She edged him out for gorgeous, but The Rock makes me want to work out more and get huge.)

As the destruction flag unfurled before me, I remembered a review of San Andreas that complained there were no awe-inspiring moments. WHAAAAAAaaaat?

CGI is the star of this show! Nothing is left standing! C’mon! How could it not be awe-inspiring? What more could anyone possibly want from a silly disaster movie on a Friday afternoon?

Ah.

Somebody didn’t get what San Andreas was doing just like the reviewer didn’t get what I did. It wasn’t for that person.

That’s okay. I’m looking for 10,000 true fans who want to board my crazy train. There are other readers who do get it, and will. Just as people like music but they don’t like all music, people like books but my preferred form of Chazz jazz isn’t for them. It doesn’t make them wrong or bad necessarily. They just aren’t into my flavor.

Finally…

5. Acceptance.

Deep breath.

You can find what you’re looking for in the strangest places sometimes.

Back to writing….

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I invite you to partake of a couple of free ebooks, podcasts and a fair degree of whatnot on my author site, AllThatChazz.com

Filed under: writing, writing advice, , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

Write to live

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