Monday, August 25, 2008

About This 8 a.m. Thing...

I'm just wrapping up my first day back on campus for the new semester. After a few months of waking up at 8:30 at the earliest, I now need to not only be awake but also be on campus and in class by 8:00. It's going to take some adjusting. And coffee. Definitely coffee.

I think I'm going to like having my Comp. classes back to back, it seems like they go quickly that way. I got a pretty good handle on student names today, and I'm hoping that by the end of classes on Wednesday I'll have the names of all 46 students down. I know it may sound a little crazy, but I'm big on knowing names right away.

Then, after class was my office hours, then I had a getting back on track meeting for SCWP, and this semester I'm training a replacement who'll take over next semester when I'm graduated and no longer eligible for work study. So, we spent a couple hours doing the office tour where I showed her what got filed where, etc.

It's just 3:00 and I'm feeling like I need a nap. However, tonight's also CWC night, so no dice there.

Coffee, I think I need more coffee.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Novel in Two Pages

On Friday night I went to my first American Icon. It was fun to watch Deb, Fleur, and John get up on stage and do their stuff. And, nerves and all, each of them did a right proper job of it.

You've got to admit, however, that the premise is a bit insane. Theoretically you've written a whole novel, so some couple hundred pages of characters, setting, plot, and dialogue. Then you've got to pick out a passage short enough to be read in two minutes (i.e. about two pages) to represent the whole. Crazy stuff. Yet...

I was impressed at how it was possible to get a feel for a writer's work based on that short snippet. It only takes maybe thirty seconds to get an idea of who's a humorous writer, who's a dark writer, who's good at setting a scene, etc. The drawback is that it's still such a small slice of the novel that you can only guess at how the rest fits in with that two pages, so while you can get an idea of what the writer's about, you still can't entirely tell if you'd like the whole book.

All of this led me to trying to figure out which two pages I'd use if I were the one reading. I have an idea of what I'd pick from Oracle, but I'm not working on Oracle right now. So, what would I pick from the bar novel? Try as I might, I can't think of which two of the pages I've written so far would be the best choice. Luckily, it's not a pressing issue at the moment, but seeing the others get up there and do it felt kind of like a challenge. Maybe by the time Icon rolls around next year I'll have an idea?

If you had to pick only two pages of your novel, or say two paragraphs of your short story, to represent the whole, do you know what you'd pick?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Riches

I was browsing through Hulu, looking for a new TV show to watch and, quite by accident, I stumbled on The Riches. I'm just starting in on it, but it holds much promise. After all, anything with Eddie in it can't be all bad.

So far it's got plenty of dark, plenty of grit, and even a bit of poetry thrown in. Beautiful. Makes me wonder how much ad libbing Izzard does?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Slippery Days

I don't know what's going on, but the days leading in to fall semester are slipping through my fingers like a squirmy five year old. *Sigh* So much to do before I'm back on campus, sheesh. I'm excited about having 15 pages ready, but not excited about having made no progress this past week.

But, no time to worry about it, I've got a syllabus to revise, a new assignment to create, a key to acquire, rosters to get, reading to do...

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Vital Importance of Failure

Here we are, in the midst of the Olympics, talking about things like inspiration, and even more importantly, failure. Deb has a post about the topic, and so does John. Lately, between the bet with John and these posts, I've been vividly reminded of my time in sales.

For a little over a year, I was a salesperson who sold things. Even though my time in sales was relatively brief, it was dense, and in the end I have a hard time remembering that it was only about a year and a half of my life. By the end of my sales gig, I had achieved the single most important, and most monetarily costly, failure of my life to-date.

The sales gig was also one of the biggest factors in making me who I am. I like who I am and I know that missing that failure would mean missing certain changes that I made in myself. But, enough with the "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Though true, it's not my point.

My point, is that among other things, I learned how important it is to make yourself try. As a sales rep, and as a manager, I had a lot of practice setting goals. The best goals to make were never "sell X amount" but rather "schedule X appointments" or "make X phone calls." Because, as soon as you start weighting your success purely on end result, you set yourself up for falling short. Once you start thinking only of what you want, instead of the work you'll have to put in to get it, your chances of achieving that goal become poorer.

Not every sales call will end in a sale. It's statistics, you can't argue with statistics. However, in the sales job, we also knew that a certain percentage of sales calls would end in a sale. It all boiled down to a numbers game. If you wanted to hit a sales goal, you had to focus on first hitting a scheduling goal, which meant hitting a phone calls goal. You had to break it down and you had to count in a certain number for sales calls that you knew would not end in sales. If you wanted X in sales, you had to do a bit of number crunching and start at the bottom. Sales weren't a matter of getting from point A to point B, but rather from point A to something like point H.

Going through all those steps meant you could get to your end goal. However, at each of those steps there was the guarantee of a certain amount of rejection. We used to talk about ratios. Every "no" equaled a certain number of "yes"es. So, if you could wrap your head around it, each "no" became almost a good thing, because it brought you that much closer to the next "yes."

It became one great game of psyching yourself out and shifting your whole mentality of how you defined success. I remember one manager I had who had absolutely embraced this approach, and applied it to more than just sales. Specifically, he got a lot of dates. Granted, he was cute and personable, etc. However, this was not why he got dates. Not even close to the reason, in fact. No, the reason he got so many dates was because he got turned down so often. He knew that, like in sales, it was all a matter of statistics. For every X women who turned him down, X would probably say yes, which meant for every few dates he wanted, he had to ask out many more women. I would even, on occasion, hear him talk about his rejections with fondness, as if they were their own kind of success.

The funny thing is, when you get right down to it, they were.

One of the best ways to succeed at something is being willing to fail. By saying this I don't mean you shouldn't put your blood, sweat, and tears into it. I'm saying that failure is the key part of success. At the end of the day, how you deal with your failures says the most about your potential for success. And, if you're dedicated enough to what you're doing, you will fail. In fact, you will fail many times. Better get used to the idea, because it's only through that failure that you really stand a change of winning.

There are very few things we get right the first time, or the first ten times, or maybe even the first hundred times.

Wanna know the real secret of highly successful people? Being too stubborn to quit, despite all the times they've failed. Or, in some cases, because of it.

Remember, the guys who get the most dates are the ones who are most often rejected.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

With Time To Spare

I made my 15 pages, and e-mailed them to John for proof. Of course, now that he knows how much I've done, I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to outdo me on page/word count. But, I say I get a time bonus for getting mine done first.

Alright, alright, enough with the posturing.

I got my 15 pages done on time, and hit my goal. That adds up to 4,200 new words for the novel that I did not have a week ago. All competition aside, I'm feeling good about that.

Sometimes a friendly wager can be really productive. Add in the chance of having to make a public admission... and watch the fingers fly!

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Gentleperson's Wager

Once upon a time, John gave me grief about getting 15 pages done in a week. So, I said, "Care to make a bet?" I mean, he needs to get his own pages done, after all, so why not make things interesting?

The rules: 15 pages by midnight Sunday. They must be double spaced, Times New Roman font, and with standard margins. If we do it, then we've got the pages. But, if either of us fails, there will be an allusion to the third episode of the fifth season of the X-Files.

Now, of course, he's already talking big, but it remains to be seen where all that talking is going to get him.

I'm up to six pages, John. What've you got?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Now I Guess I've Got To

After I put up a recent post on this blog, Deb said she'd race me to catch up, and then a certain person thought it would be cute to send me an e-mail which started, "DID YOU GET ANY PAGES DONE YESTERDAY?!? HUH? DIDJA? DIDJA?" and ended with an inquiry about my ability to get my page count up to 15 by the end of the week.

Well, you put those two together and it sounds like a challenge to me, and as has probably become apparent through this blog, I have a difficult time backing down from a challenge.

Now, I was going to let it slide, I really was, but then I figured out the second part of my issue with the next bit of the novel (basically that there was no rule against skipping ahead a couple of months in the timeline) and so I sat in front of my computer and started typing.

Before I knew it, I had two days worth of page count and I started thinking about the above comments. And how can I let it slide now that I've got some pages? Yeah, not gonna happen.

15 pages by Sunday? It is so on.

(P.S. I'm going to hold to 15 pages, even though my goal is 2 pages a day and that times two weeks equals 14. Obviously, some people can't do math.)

I'm Gonna Make This Pencil... Disappear

I saw The Dark Knight last night. Now y'all can stop nagging me about it :)

The problem with walking into a movie for which your friends whose opinions you respect have gushed their love for is that your expectations are high. I'm not saying it wasn't good. However, I was hoping for it to be awesome. Sadly, while I do agree it's good, I think they missed a couple of opportunities to make it really great.

Best parts: Michael Caine and Heath Ledger.
Second best parts: Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart.

My main disappointment, though not a huge one, was Christian Bale. Mostly, I think the writers could have upped a couple of aspects of the film regarding him and accomplished more. There were a couple of emotional bits where I was expecting them to close in on him and give him a moment where we could really see the knife turn. They did this some of the time, but seem to have not wanted to on one of the most key points. I felt let down.

Then there was the whole issue of that one thing... *Spoilers ahead*

So, Joker says "You can save one of them" and then we get that fallout, but am I wrong, or did Joker reverse the addresses? And there's no payoff for it (aside from the obvious). That was where I really felt let down. *Sigh*

Overall, good stuff. I love the direction Ledger went with the Joker. Creepy, creepy stuff, and the makeup for him was fantastic. Great stuff there.

So, I'm not saying I didn't like it. I'm just saying it didn't blow my mind as much as I hoped it would.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Word In My Defense

I just want it on-record that though I've been lagging on page count, it hasn't been purely all procrastination. The past week-ish has actually been pretty busy for me. I picked up an extra night at the bar (aka more research for the novel), currently have out-of-town relatives visiting, and had various other activities, including:

Getting ready for and attending my dad's retirement party (no birthday was involved whatsoever, the decorator was just delusional).

Going up to the mountains with dad over the weekend.

Tackling some cleaning around the house and especially in my office, where I've been depositing my horde of binders (note the big box) and gradually running out of storage space and thus resorting to use of the floor. (Dog included for scale)

I've also been refining my new polymer bead style and adding additional, and even more labor-intensive steps to how I make them. Now, along with all the other steps, I'm sanding too.

So, no, I haven't been keeping up with my 2+ pages a day writing goal, but it's not like I've been an absolute slacker, either.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Why Demons Are Good

Here I am, almost a week in on the 2 page a day goal. As you may have noticed, my page count on the sidebar hasn't changed.

Only two pages a day. Shouldn't be hard. Shouldn't be hard at all. Is proving otherwise.

My difficulty is deciding what the next arc will be. My first CWC submission pretty much consisted of the starting arc - you know, introduce the people and get Jess started working at the bar. Easy, everything has a logical progression. Then, later, I have other plot arcs already decided on, but it's still too early to start on those, so I've gotta figure out the arc that comes in betwixt.

If I had the pressure of a close deadline, I'd figure it out quick. Without, though, I'm lagging. Crap. Need more pressure.