My oldest child is about to turn twelve. This freaks me out. I remember being twelve, and that’s why I just don’t think it’s possible for me to actually raise a child of this age. So I wrote this blog post as therapy. An affirmation, so to speak. (I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!)
Here are my top seven reasons why Generation X Parents ROCK:
1. We survived some of the 70s, and all of the 80s and 90s. Think about it. These three decades defined disco, big hair, bigger hair, the entire span of Michael Jackson’s fame and demise, Nirvana, OJ Simpson, Columbine. Our parents might have been hippies or beatniks. We’ve been through it. Just sayin’.
2. We have choices. Diet or regular. Organic or pesticide-laden. McDonalds or Chic-Fil-A. Netflix or satellite. Our choices are endless. If anything, we have WAY TOO MANY CHOICES. What a great problem to have, right?
3. We have resources our parents didn’t have. A seatbelt requirement, for example. Sturdy infant carseats. Oh, and yeah…the entire span of human knowledge at our fingertips. Plus…wait for it…this one is my favorite one…A SMALL, VERY IMPORTANT DEVICE that can always be taken away. Worse than grounding. Worse than losing allowance. It’s the best incentive for good behavior EVER.
4. We’re streetwise about boy bands and fame. We weren’t surprised when Justin Bieber was arrested for DUI and resisting arrest. I mean, seriously. We were raised by people who had Elvis, the Beatles and the Doors. We cut our pop culture teeth on Madonna, LL Cool J, Metallica, and Kurt Cobain. We had Snoop Dogg, NKOTB, NSync, Color Me Badd, and Milli Vanilli. We know how to guide our kids through celebrity worship. We know the limitations of entertainment.
5. We embrace technology. We understand it’s a necessary tool. We know that children who have access to the latest technology will have more opportunities in a future workplace, so as taxpayers we vote for tech funding in even the lowest income schools. We know that kids pick up on this stuff faster than we do, because they grew up with it, literally from the cradle. We might be jealous of this. But we’d never say so.
6. We absolutely don’t trust technology. Facebook isn’t private, no matter what the settings tell you. Since logging into the online world sometime in our early-ish years, we’ve been hacked, tracked, and digitally violated in so many ways it’s not even funny. As children we thought mandatory finger-printing was sort of creepy. Now we cyberstalk our kids and feel no shame in doing so. It’s part of the job description.
7. We could survive without smartphones. Granted, it wouldn’t be pretty. But most of us remember a world without texting, Google, or Siri. We could do it, if we absolutely had to. We might wander the countryside aimlessly, looking for a payphone or the Encyclopedia Britannica or something, but we’d pull it off somehow. Our kids, on the other hand… well, I guess we better teach them. Just in case.
I mean, that’s what parents are for, right!?
Alright, it’s summer. For many of us, that means snowcones, sunscreen, and family vacations. For the readers among us, it can be a terrific time to kick back under a colorful umbrella with a fun beach read (or for strange people like me, beach reads and creepy thrillers, plus some sci-fi thrown into the mix).
But for writers, especially writers with families and other commitments, summer presents a challenge: precious little time for writing.
*Mental health disclaimer: if you are a writer or an artist of any kind, you MUST absolutely CREATE TIME for your craft. I tend to agree with Kafka, who said that “a non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” But it often isn’t easy to entertain the muse at the height of summer fun, while wet towels grow mildew and bored children search YouTube for tips on “how to make a bomb with leftovers from the fridge.” Balance is key, I think.
The good news? If you have access to a library, bookstore, or the Internet, you can work on your writing style even when you don’t have time to write. From the publishing frontlines, here are two non-writing ways to improve your writing:
Dissect the first page of at least ten books. The first page of any published book should be a finely honed specimen of solid writing. By the time a book hits the shelves, a slew of beta-readers, trusted friends, agents, and editors have weighed in their two cents about every word on that page. So grab your library card or Kindle and STUDY UP on at least ten books of your own choice. Does page one grab you? Why or why not? What makes you want to keep reading, to take that coveted glance at page two? Is it the action? The nuance? The voice? The main character? What about pacing? Sentence structure? Paragraph length? This is more than mere literary analysis. Trust your own opinion. Make it personal.
Critically read the first chapters of five books in your genre. Writers learn from other writers. So grab (or download samples for) at least five books in the same genre you write, and read the first chapter for each one. What happens in the first chapter? How much backstory does the writer withhold about the main character, and how much does he or she surrender? At the end of the chapter, what do you know about 1) the main character, 2) the plot, and 3) the external and internal conflict? How did the writer go about establishing that knowledge in your mind? Again, make it personal. This is your chosen genre, after all. Your opinion matters.
So there you have it, two free and simple ways to improve your writing this summer, without breaking a literary sweat. In the next post, I’ll address poolside ideas to strengthen your social media platform… with a cyborg twist.
Have you ever been tense? Stressed out? In limbo between one choice and another? Good. Then you have what it takes to be a writer. Writing is about tension. We all know that life has an abundance of inherent tension. The writer’s job is to draw out the tension and elevate it to heightened levels.
As a matter of fact, I’m tense right now.
Waiting…Hoping… Restless. Anxious. Agitated.
Because I’m at an “in-between” place in my writing. A few weeks ago I attended the fantastic DFW Writer’s Conference. Three solid days of networking with authors, agents, editors, and writers of all levels. To be honest, it got me so pumped up that I’m just now starting to come down. This may sound crazy, but if you were there… then you understand what I mean. This was my third year attending DFWCon, and it was the most inspiring yet.
Oh yeah. Back to the tension.
So at DFWCon, I pitched my novel to several agents and an editor. Actually, I pitched to anyone who would listen. Then I sent out queries with the requested partials, full manuscript, and/or synopsis. Now I’m waiting. But then again, “waiting” isn’t really the best word for it.
That’s the word.
An uncomfortable place between one point and the other. Taut. Stretched. Precarious.
To cope, I’m writing and researching the next book in the series. Editing for Henery Press. Getting in trouble with friends and family. Writing some more. Also, I’m chain-eating candy. Guzzling coffee. And so on.
I imagine many of my fellow DFWCon writers are in the same boat. It was all fun and games at DFWCon, a band of literary world-changers linked arm-in-arm with our pens and notepads. But now we’re back to the reality of the writer’s life in the slow-moving publishing industry—one person against the clock and a blank page. So to pass the time, I’ve compiled a few inspirational quotes from what I learned at DFWCon, especially related to tension in writing.
DFWCon Forensic Panel, The Science of Crime: “With a decomposed body, look for bugs in odd places. You normally get bugs near moisture. The eyes. The mouth, etc. Bugs in odd places are a clue.” (Not sure about you, but for me this statement does a GREAT job of establishing tension.)
Finally, a simple but relevant quote from bestselling author Jonathan Maberry: “Writing is art. Publishing is a business. The quicker you get that, the happier you’ll be.”
And the tension?
Pour it into your writing. Raise the stakes. Remove backstory. Look for bugs in odd places.
The writing life might be tense, but it is NEVER boring.