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Faking It

The_Masquerade_by_amalieThe Masquerade copyright amalie

This year, I volunteered at the Writer’s Symposium at GenCon. Partly, I did it because I was late registering for events/panels which led to me being unable to get tickets for many and this left me with a lot of extra time on my hands and, partly, because I like volunteering and I like meeting writers/authors; they’re fun people to hang out with and I find I learn more from these casual encounters than I do from a traditional workshop or panel setup. And, all right, if I have to, yes, I did volunteer out of the self-serving desire to make my face known. Writing is a small field, comparatively, and SF&F writing is even smaller. I’d prefer people to know me as the helpful volunteer than the submitter asking for publication.

While I was volunteering, a topic kept coming up with a number of professional and hobbyist writers, the idea of being an imposter. The hobbyists didn’t usually have the words to express it (and neither did I, until someone else gave it a label), but what they described was almost exactly like what the professional writers who talked about it did, and is exactly what I’ve been struggling with for awhile now.

This feeling like you’re only pretending, and one day, everyone is going to figure out you’re a fraud and you’ve duped them into thinking you’re a “writer” (or, in the professional field, an “author”). This feeling that, no matter what you do, it will never be good enough, that you’ll fail no matter what you do, so why bother trying in the first place? This feeling like, even if you do succeed, it’s luck, not skill, because that’s all that runs this business, isn’t it? Chance? Luck? Someone in a good mood picking up your manuscript on a good day and thinking, “Yeah, this might have potential, maybe?” And more likely than not, they’ll be in a bad mood on a bad day, read it and think, “This is crap. What fool thought they should submit this?” Right?

I’d been sitting next to a writer in one of the hotel bars (if you know the Indianapolis Convention Center, you know there’s, like, five hotels all connected to the center and a hell of a lot of bars) when I heard, for the first time, a label for this feeling. I’d always thought it was something true to me (oh, self-centered creature I am), that no one else experiences this because no one else is quite the fraud I am. He’d been drinking his second Gin and Tonic, I was still nursing my shot of scotch (some seriously expensive scotch, but it’d been a gift for volunteering, in a roundabout, gift-card way) and he’d confessed to feeling like a fraud. Which made no sense to me. This man is a published author, he’s got books on the shelves, short stories in anthologies, had just submitted his most recent MS to a major SF&F publisher. How could he be a fraud?

And then he went on the describe the same damn feelings that I’ve been fighting against, called them “Imposter Syndrome,” and said that these were common feelings among writers, that a lot of us struggle with feeling like we’re lying to the general populace and, one day, someone will figure it out. Not only that, but we often feel like outsiders, even among our own, because we fear our own will finally notice that we only painted ourselves to fit in with the rest of the “real writers” and are, in fact, lying our asses off.

Masquerade_by_super_sheepToday, I woke up feeling like crap, the little gremlins in my head whispering, “What makes you so special you think you can waste someone else’s time with your words? You’re not anything of worth!” Which is probably why, instead of writing like I’d meant to, editing my first chapter, extending chapter eight, and pushing forward in twelve, I instead spent my day binge-watching City Homicide (which I recommend to anyone looking for another cop drama to fill the hole until regular TV starts airing their new seasons).

Between episodes, I Googled “Imposter Syndrome.” And, oh, how much information I found. Yet, there was nothing about writers struggling with it. Mostly, it was about women in cooperate fields or working toward their degrees to work in cooperate fields, and I did learn that, while it’s not considered a DSM disorder, it was named during the 70’s and it’s recommended by the nameless, faceless people of the internet that people suffering from Imposter Syndrome should talk to a therapist.

Which helped. But didn’t. I mean, it helps to have a label for it, since now I can see it as an enemy I can fight, and know that this isn’t “normal,” but it also isn’t “truth” either, it’s something that my brain made up and drilled into my skull for years. I do wish that there was more information out there for writers suffering from Imposter Syndrome (the only blog I could find on it talked about how the writer got past her Imposter Syndrome when she got her first case of her books, which didn’t really help me work through how I feel now, just give me the promise that, one day, I might not feel like this anymore).

But one of the things that the blog asked was for writers suffering from Imposter Syndrome to talk about it, to share with other writers looking for answers their story, and, through sharing, let them know they’re not alone. Which, I suppose, is why I wrote this. In part, it lets me declare this is a problem I’m struggling with and make it into something concrete I can work against, and in part, if someone else is fighting with Imposter Syndrome (or has struggled with it in the past and moved beyond it), they can share this space with me.

Masquerade copyright Michael Brack.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

And So It Begins…Again.

Yes, everyone, you guessed it: it’s the return of Car Woes (with pictures!).

This time around, instead of a singular, pricey repair, it’s a list of pricey repairs and they’ve put my poor car out of commission until they get fixed. Let’s see…the rundown in rank of “Most Dangerous, Must Be Fixed Immediately” to “Annoying, But It Probably Won’t Kill Me”:

Front lower control arms: these things basically make the front wheels turn and make sure the wheels don’t just plop off. They’re kinda important.
Lower Control Arm 05

A lower control arm, in bits.–>

Oil Cooler Seal: so every few months, I notice my car is leaking oil, so I bring it to my mechanic who says, “Cracked oil pan.” I go, “Goddammit, again?” and pay for it to be replaced. BUT, as it turns out, it’s not the oil pan leaking oil (maybe the first time, but not the other three), it’s the oil cooler and that would be due to the corroded little rubber seal. So, new seal needed, else I’ll keep spilling oil everywhere.

Struts: you hit a pothole or one of those monster speed bumps, your car goes up and comes back down. The struts are the part in the front that cushions this force and are a single metal tube with two other metal components that slide up and down the tube when you hit bumps. In the middle is this rubber bellows that contracts and acts like cartilage in this metal joint. The one on the left side of my car is damaged, but functioning. The one on the right is missing the cartilage completely, so every time I hit a bump, strutDiagramthese metal parts of the wheel and shocks slam into each other.

It’s those big coil things up there.–>

 

 

 

Shocks:shock_absorbers the giant metal springs that cushion your car and stop the bottom from slamming against the asphalt every time you hit a pothole. Mine are pretty much shot, front and back.

<–The left is you driving. The right is your car on stilts.

 

 

 

 

 

Aaaaand—drum roll, please—the thing you’ve all been waiting for, the thing that drove me to bring my car in because it sounded like it’d suddenly assimilated a diesel motor cycle under the hood:

catalytic-converter<–It seems so small and unassuming…

Catalytic Converter: part of the muffler system, it makes the harmful, choking gases put-putted out of the back of the car slightly less toxic. Without one, you can’t pass the emissions test and your car sounds like an angry, hungry bear whenever you accelerate. a5956e114e932f2365905395b8ef3170

 

 

 

Oxygen Sensor: and in tandem with the catalytic converter is the oxygen sensor, which was knocked out when the cat converter went and died. The oxygen sensor basically scans the exhaust from the catalytic converter and tells the car’s computer exactly what’s getting exhaled out the muffler whenever the car is running.

In addition (and not being repaired until I win the lottery) are the brakes, the tires, the side mirror covers, the lights under the doors, the rear right door handle, and the trunk carpet (which has turned toxic and corrosive) all need to be replaced. PLUS, the left side of the car needs to be sanded, the rust removed, and repainted. ARGH! This car costs a bloody fortune! But, it’s resale value is in the toilet ‘cause of the three rear-endings it’s been subjected to (the frame is warped beyond repair).

2003 Nissan Altima 4dr Silver 01My car, if it were washed, scrubbed, the rust removed, the rippled doors replaced, and the mirror covers put on. In other words, my car, in happier days.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Pen Name, Get Your Pen Name Here

pen-name-cartoonFor the longest time, I’ve been battling this, saying that using a pen name is a cop-out, that I want to be published as myself, for who I am, and all that. But recently, it’s occurred to me: there’s a lot of stories I want to send out, but am afraid to under my name because people I know will insist on reading them and, yeah, they bare a side (or sides) of me that are deeply personal but at the same time, not me at all, and I don’t particularly want to have to explain what parts are me and what parts are not. I also have realized that I value my privacy. As much as I babble on here about personal stuff and, for the most part, complain about my fairly uninteresting life, I don’t feel comfortable talking about my writing on here nor am I particularly comfortable with the idea that someone can Google my name and find where I live. Lastly, a part of me feels that it’ll be easier to dissociate critique of my work from critique of my person by crafting a writing persona that is me yet at the same time, a character, a mask I can put on, so when people say “What the hell was that writer thinking, are they stupid?” I’ll know that those words are directed at the mask not at me as a person. It’s…difficult to put into words, rather like trying to catch a squid in water dyed ink-black, but I think having a pen name will help me in the long run. Also, if I ever need to “kill” a name for some reason, it’ll be a pen name and a mask I’m burning, not my legal name. (“Rhiannon” is also hard to spell and there’s a horror writer namedcartoon0514 “Rhiannon Held.” I realize that a lot of writers have name cross-over, but since “Rhiannon” is rather unusual, I think us having the same name might be detrimental)

Which puts me in a difficult position: what name do I put on all my writing? I’ve been seriously considering using R. J. Howell, since Howell is a fairly easy to remember name and R. J. are my real initials, so it’s not like I’m utterly abolishing every part of my identity, but there’s enough of another person there to not be me. The other possibility is R. A. Howell. There are no other writers by the name of R. J. Howell, though, which is nice (unlike R. J. Taylor, where there is another SF/F author by that name). Although I’ll need to come up with an email address, since rjhowell@gmail is already taken and I doubt yahoo will have the username open either. There was an article I was reading which said that picking a name for yourself is harder than picking a name for any of your characters or all of them put together. I’m starting to see what they mean.

Anyone else used a pen name? If so, how did you choose yours? At what point did you say, “Screw it, this is me now”? Also, anyone have any thoughts on R. J. Howell? (I keep accidentally typing “R. J. Howeel” but there we are)

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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iMoron

As I’d mentioned earlier, I replaced my power supply in my desktop, fired it up, and everything was running smooth.

Until I put in a CD.

Okay, so the drive door opened, it had power and everything, but for some unknown, strange reason, it wouldn’t read the disc. After some brief troubleshooting (checking the active drives and drivers on the computer; “Odd,” I thought, it’s not showing up), it hit me: I forgot to plug the cord leading from the motherboard to the drive, which lets the motherboard tell the drive to start reading and for the drive to transmit information.

I now hold the title iMoron. I really should’ve double-checked that I’d plugged in everything before sealing the computer up. D’Oh.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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I Am Content With My Machines

20130107-hardware-PowerSupply

When I left for WisCon last Thursday, I shut down my big desktop computer (named, The Beast) because I feared it would be a fire hazard if I left it on for five days unattended. Most computers, I wouldn’t worry too much about. This one, however, has been running hot for the last year or so, never going into idle, always functioning at the highest possibly capacity even when it hasn’t been touched for days. I’ve also been a little worried about shutting it off after a major catastrophic failure I experienced last year of an overloaded motherboard (I lost functionality of half the computer) and, since then, it doesn’t always like to turn back on. So I turned it off, left, and when I returned, I discovered it to be deader than a doornail. No life whatsoever dwelled within this machine.

Which left me with two options: either I try to fix this one’s problems, of which, I managed to narrow it down to either a dead power supply or a dead motherboard (this computer has had a history of motherboard problems), which could cost anywhere between $40-$500 OR I buy a new computer, one with a lesser processor than my old one, for $400.

The more I mulled over it, the more I came to realize that I wanted THIS computer, not a new one. I’m quite happy with THIS one, even though its going on five years old and has an outdated operating system. I have the ability to simply transfer all my old files from my desktop’s hard drive to another computer rather easily, so loss of data wouldn’t be a concern, and I could always cannibalize the old one’s RAM cards to upgrade the new computer, so that wouldn’t be an issue either. After days of thinking (or, in some cases, stressing), I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want a new one, I wanted my old one back, so did my research, found a new power supply for a decent price and setup my backup option of a used motherboard for $50 if I needed it, and gave myself a maximum of $200 I’d be willing to pay to repair the old one.

This morning, I switched out power supply units, and ‘lo and behold, The Beast arose, and quite a bit more quietly too. So now I’m back to where I was (and with a power switch in the back to boot, something I’ve always wished I had on my old power supply).

What I’ve discovered, however, is that I am content with exactly what I have. Even though I occasionally browse Ebay for stuff like headphones and computer carrying cases and when I’m in the store, I’ll play with the computer floor models, I realize that I doubt I’d ever buy a new one for as long as I can help it. Same goes for my car. It shall be a sad, sad day indeed when I finally have to look at it, The Beast, or my laptop, The Beastling, and officially retire it for need of something new and functioning.

Also, the new power supply makes the inside of my computer’s chassis glow with a soft yellow, which is pretty cool. Much better than that glaring green light in the back of the old power supply. Less obtrusive.

Image Source: http://www.itinfopoint.com/contentsimages/20130107-hardware-PowerSupply.jpg

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Scrivener 2.0

‘Lo, for I have given up on Scrivener, mostly because Word has been doing me just fine and I just figured out how to use bookmarks to keep track of where my chapters and scenes are. Much easier. Not as pretty, but much easier on my brain.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Scrivener

Image ‘Lo, I have discovered Scrivener.

And am quite confused.

 

 

 

.

 

ImageScreenshot of my first chapter, now in Scrivener, copy/pasted directly from Microsoft Word. Something funky is going on with my formatting here…

To be honest, I downloaded Scrivener ages ago (last year, I’m thinking?) for the free trial, took one look at the overly complicated tutorial with all its buttons, subfolders, subfolders of subfolders, binders, notecards, and typewriter formatting ability, got a headache, and quit, going back to my Word 2007 (before anyone says anything, I was trained how to use Word when I was in gradeschool, have been using it to write stories for around ten years that I can remember, so it’s comfortable and easy for me, even if it’s not the most efficient word-processor out there).

After an online interview I had with Alexandra Hughes (author of Clean, Sharp, and, newly released, Marked), who seems to have a writing method/process similar to mine and had strongly suggested I try Scrivener if I edit as I write, which I do, in order to keep things orderly, I decided to give Scrivener another go. So I copy/pasted the first chapter of my novel into the “Chapter 1″ “Scene” section.

My formatting is weird. It seems to have taken the Word formatting and “page” constraints and translated it to visual text, so I’ve got this bar of white to the right side that’s making the text wrapping go all funky on me. I can’t seem to fix it and I really don’t feel like physically transcribing over 30,000 words into Scrivener on a trial version which I might end up not buying. If anyone knows how to fix the text wrapping, that’d be awesome.

Anyway, so now I’m trying to put “Chapter 2″ in, only to discover that in order to make my folders line up properly and not become subfolders, I have to keep grouping and ungrouping, moving them around, fiddling with it so they line up just right, then do it all over again when it becomes a subfolder again. I want a button, a little button at the bottom of the section of folders which makes a new folder on that line. Not on the big line, not a subfolder, but that line. In addition to a button, I’d also like a keystroke, like how Photoshop has SHIFT+CTRL+N to make a new layer over CTRL+N which makes a new document. I can learn keystrokes but since that damn tutorial took me two hours to slog through “Chapter 1, Section 1,” if there are keystrokes, I’m not finding them.

While I cognitively like how it’s laid out with the ability to flip from “Chapter 1, Scene 1″ to “Chapter 21, Scene 2″ with little difficulty, it’s going to take some time getting used to. I like my Word. I like how, with the dark setting, it’s easy on the eyes (maybe I should change the background color on Scrivener…?).

Ahah! So that’s how I make the folders fall under the “Manuscript” folder! I click and drag the new folder onto the “Manuscript” and voila! Instant lining up.

…this is going to take awhile.

What I’m really hoping for is that there’s some kind of “Find all italicized text” option so I can quickly change the italics to underlines.

Come to think of it, I don’t know if the Word keystroke CTRL+SHIFT+W works to underline only words and not spaces. I should try that.

…it doesn’t. Crap. Gonna have to learn the keystroke to that, or else I’m going to have to underline my MSs by hand in Ye Olde Typewriter style.

Blarg. I should learn this. It should be easy, damn it! I learned WordPerfect pretty quickly (though, to be honest, it just looks like an MS Word with more clear blue glass design).

Does anyone else use Scrivener? Any tips for mastering it quickly and relatively painlessly?

And why doesn’t my Scrivener file look as neat and tidy as this fellow’s?:

Image

Image Source: http://riyria.blogspot.com/2011/12/scrivener-and-building-better-book.html

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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