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It's Friday in Varanasi!

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Dec. 7th, 2012 | 04:31 am

Varanasi is one of the seven holiest cities in Hinduism, the oldest continually-occupied city in the world, and a tourist magnet for Indians and backpackers alike. Over a million tourists a year come to the city on the Ganges, to bathe in the river at dawn, watch the evening aarti ceremony with synchronized fire-waving and chanting, and fend off the endless touts who would like you to take a boat ride, buy a sari, eat in their restaurant, or do a hashish deal. I say ‘no’ a lot here, and have practiced my looking-into-the-distance, past-everyone-close-and-trying-to-sell-me-something stare.

With twisty lanes in the Old Town area and plenty of hotels and cafes, Varanasi, like Amsterdam, Barcelona, and New Orleans, has fine-tuned the art of separating tourists from their money as charmingly and efficiently as possible. That said, I’m enjoying easy access to eggs and toast, wifi, and people who speak plenty of English of the doing-business variety. I’m having a couple of sick days (just a cold, nothing country-specific) and shamelessly eating at the same pizzeria and coffee & handicraft shop with every other whitey carrying the same guide book. And I’ll admit it, I’m snobbish enough to look with a critical eye at the unshaven, grubby hippies in their baggy Nepalese pants and mismatched scarves, despite being fully aware that to the Indian eye, I am no doubt committing equally gross fashion sins.


REJECTED!
I sent in a crossword puzzle to the Orange County Register and got a “no thanks but please send more” the very next day. So pleased they work fast! Crossword puzzles are something I love doing and creating, and I’m glad to have lost my submission virginity in this genre. End goal is of course The New York Times, but I’ll work my way up.

What’s interesting to me about the crossword market is how extremely precise it is—my puzzle was rejected because my theme, adding endings to the names of sports teams, wasn’t narrow enough. The editor suggested that they all be the same sport (I had one football, one basketball, one baseball for variety) and add the exact same letters to make the added-on phrases. So variety not the spice of life here.


BLOCKED!
No scores this week, just a paralyzing inability to get an article for the Times of India finished. I’m remembering to write every morning before I get up and I’m using a word tracker to make sure I’m doing at least 1000 words a day, but I’m having a hard time hunkering down and completing work. See Link of the Week for more on this.


OPPORTUNITY OF THE WEEK
I’m really enjoying reading The Review Review. This website assesses literary magazines of all types, online and paper, and reviews their content and presentation. I think most of us have heard of the biggies like The New Yorker and The Paris Review, but this site gets into the realms of “Places That Might Actually Accept Work From Newbies” and has some solid advice. I particularly like their round-ups of magazines by topic, like Yummy! Lit Mags Seeking Food And Drink Writing and Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Audio Lit Mags (that one written by my former classmate Nadine Kenney).


ME ME ME ME ME: THIS WEEK’S SUBMISSION(S)
The Surge to the Beyond the Pale essay contest, which was seeking short nonfiction about transgression. A crossword to the Orange County Register. A pitch for a radio story for this week’s theme “Dancing” on Definitely Not The Opera. A “House Tour” of my friend Don’s apartment in Patna, India to Apartment Therapy.

Why?
It feels better to have more things out at once, and a variety of things. However, I worry that my focus is a little scattered. Trying to decide if that’s maybe the point of this six-month writing focus, to try things and see what I like, or if I should be hunkering down to work harder at one thing.

How?
Email submissions all. And I paid—Paid! I fucking hate paying to submit!—to the Beyond the Pale contest, but I felt my essay was right for it, the prize is large, I know the sponsoring magazine is legit, and they extended the deadline which makes me think there will be a smaller number of entries.

What?
See above.

And then I hit 'Send'. WHICH IS LIKE TAKING YOUR CAR APART AFTER ONE CLASS AT THE VO-TECH, SQUINTING AT A GARAGEFUL OF GREASY PARTS SPREAD OUT ON NEWSPAPER AND THINKING YES I'M SURE ONE OF THESE IS THE ALTERNATOR AND I WILL TUNE THAT BABY UP.


LINK OF THE WEEK
Dear Sugar is a pretty amazing writer all the time, but she is especially amazing in this column, Write Like a Motherfucker.

“Writing is hard for every last one of us...Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

Um, wow. I think I need to read this every day for a few days and internalize this excellent advice.


____________________________________________
Something is paralyzing me from forward motion on bigger projects: is it fear, loathing, arrogance or laziness? Vote in the comments!

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Comments {18}

Dom

(no subject)

from: comedychick
date: Dec. 7th, 2012 11:55 am (UTC)
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I say ‘no’ a lot here, and have practiced my looking-into-the-distance, past-everyone-close-and-trying-to-sell-me-something stare.

Haha, I know and use that look well ;)

I've paid to submit short films to contests, but not writing. I've not taken that leap yet, I think in part because I'm afraid my writing isn't good enough and so I'm not willing to part with my money for nothing in return. ;) My films didn't get anywhere either, but I had more belief in those anyway. I have considered paying for screenwriting contests, but have not taken that leap yet either.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 8th, 2012 03:37 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, that's some of it - I don't want to pay if I don't think I have a pretty good shot!

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drwex

I vote for lack of focus

from: drwex
date: Dec. 7th, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
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It's very hard to do many things, which you clearly are doing, and also do one big thing. Some people can do it, but his name is Joss Whedon and I think he's probably clinical in some good way. And we're not him.

Most people need time to dive into a big thing - good research backs up the conclusion that it's something like 15-20 minutes to get started. Are you giving yourself the time of focus on the big thing that it needs to get your mental energies up to the task?

Sometimes big things just come to us and that can fool us into thinking we can slip into that set of clothes any time we like. Others, other times, not so much.

Maybe you just need more practice at working on bigger projects? Can you remember the last time you did make forward motion on such, and remember the context, settings, details, practices, etc that were associated with that success? How much of that can you create for yourself now?

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whipchick

Re: I vote for lack of focus

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 8th, 2012 03:37 pm (UTC)
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I'm definitely realizing that I need to be in one place for a big project (see below in comments) and I think that's a good thing to know!

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blink

(no subject)

from: yachiru
date: Dec. 7th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
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Gah I hate paying to submit too. Makes me feel all dirty. >_> But yay for multiple submissions! I do that with poetry sometimes. They usually get back to you faster on poetry.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 8th, 2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
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That's good to know - I've held off on poetry because I thought maybe they get more submissions in that genre?

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blink

(no subject)

from: yachiru
date: Dec. 8th, 2012 03:42 pm (UTC)
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I think they do get more submissions but I think the faster turnaround is because most poetry is so short and you can tell pretty quickly if you like it or not.

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it's a vain pursuit but it helps me to sleep

(no subject)

from: rezendi
date: Dec. 7th, 2012 05:36 pm (UTC)
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Varanasi is when I first discovered, thanks to the burning ghats and an errant gust of wind, that charred human flesh smells a whole lot like bacon. It was a disconcerting moment.

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it's a vain pursuit but it helps me to sleep

(no subject)

from: rezendi
date: Dec. 7th, 2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
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Er, "where", of course, though it is (or was) one of the rare cities for which "when" almost seems appropriate.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 8th, 2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
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Agreed :)

And I had my scarf over my face the whole time, so I didn't get the smell, but I did have the moment of "that piece of wood in the fire looks a lot like a face! Wow, it really looks a lot like a...oh."

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SuperCAILEfragilistic

(no subject)

from: caile
date: Dec. 7th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
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I once paid to submit a novella to a Nova Scotia Writer's Federation contest, knowing full well that I was not going to win, but curious about their claim to offer feedback from experienced manuscript readers. I did indeed get feedback - but I was very disappointed in its quality. I write fantasy, and it was clear that their judges aren't fantasy readers and didn't have two clues about the genre.

And now I'm reading that letter to Dear Sugar, and the reply, and I'm not even all the way the through but I had to stop to blink back tears. Nobody is going to give you a thing. You have to give it yourself. You have to tell us what you have to say. Ahhhhhhh.



Edited at 2012-12-07 06:38 pm (UTC)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 8th, 2012 03:34 pm (UTC)
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It always astonishes me how snobby a lot of readers are about genre, given that in the market it sells the most and has the most readers :)

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blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Dec. 7th, 2012 09:40 pm (UTC)
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Writing is easier on the canaries. :)

As far as working on a big project, I think it is easier to do a big project with a routine - same place, same time, etc. You just don't sit still long enough. :)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 8th, 2012 03:34 pm (UTC)
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You're right, see below :)

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Lindsay Price

Sit Still

from: lindsaywriter
date: Dec. 8th, 2012 01:23 pm (UTC)
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I agree with Kathryn Rose. You don't like to sit still. A couple of months ago you told me the point of this period of time was to write and finish that TYA - but it's coming across as the point of this time being about your travel experience. Which is fine, it seems like you're getting a life times worth of wonder. It has been fascinating to follow your adventures. But it's not what you had originally set out to do. Which is also fine. But which is it? What do you want? Do you want to be known as the traveler or the writer? If it's the traveler, then stop talking about your novel. Be the traveler and focus on that. It seems that you love it so. But if it's the writer, then you have to finish the writing. And stop talking about how you can't write. Stop talking about tricks and how you need this or that to get something on the page. Be a coal miner. I'll tell you, I don't care when people compliment me on how much I write. It's meaningless. No one says to the dentist - "wow you fill so many teeth!' I do it, because that's what it is and that's what I do. My job is to get it done. It is a job, a lovely wonderful job, and I treat it as such. But I feel I've said this before, so now I'll stop.

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whipchick

Re: Sit Still

from: whipchick
date: Dec. 8th, 2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I think you're right :) And I did already know this in my head, but now I'm knowing it for real - I have to be in one place to do a big project. I like what I've been writing here, and I've written almost every day and I'm writing quality work, but I'm going to pick one location to be in in February/March and work on the book.

So I'm going to call it a win that I've generated quite a few hopefully-sellable essays, and another win that I've realized it's not enough to take the time off for a larger project, it has to be stable time off, and another win that if it's short, place-specific work, I can write it anywhere and that's a good discovery, too.

I think I may also be doing a lot of neurotic hand-waving--even while on the road, I did get another 40 pages done on the YA. So maybe I'm stressing because I see how much you accomplish and I compare :) Drama Queen Alert over here :)

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blahblahblah, whatever

Re: Sit Still

from: kathrynrose
date: Dec. 8th, 2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
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I think people who can churn out the word count don't realize that it's a strength that not everyone has.

Sure, writing is the job. Sure, we have to actually DO it if we want to be a writer. I used to have a job doing training and quality assurance for a phone center. I rocked as a trainer. (And I'm not someone who usually brags about my skills.) I was particularly good at breaking down and explaining processes and answering questions in a way that boggled people could "get" it. My coworker wasn't. Her brain didn't hop around comparing concepts and creating analogies. She was methodical and detailed, but her delivery in the classroom was flat and people lost interest and stopped learning.

But when it came to quality assurance, listening to and scoring phone calls for hours and hours on end, she rocked circles around me. I haaaaaaaaaaaated that part of the job, and had to make myself sit and do it, but even when I did, I missed things that she would hear. My scores in calibration sessions (where the whole team listened to the same call to compare scoring) were never quite where I wanted them to be, and she was always right on the mark.

So when someone knocks out thousands of words every day, I boggle. I wonder at the ability to consistently shut down the inner critic and get the first draft on paper. When people say, "just do it." They don't realize what it sounds like from inside my head.

In The Dresden Files books there's a little character named Toot Toot. He's a dewdrop fairy, and he is a wonderful bit of comic relief whenever he's around. One day he meets a character from Russia who is visiting Harry in Chicago. Toot and the visitor begin arguing in Russian. Harry is surprised and asks Toot how it is he can speak Russian. Toot is exasperated at the question and says, "Well, you just DO it, don't you?"

I've been more serious about writing this past year than all the fifty other years of my life, and I've learned things, and I've improved my skills, and I've been frustrated and excited and burned out. I've come to wonder if writing is something I am realistically meant to do. Maybe I'm just a hobbyist who fancies being a real writer. When people tell me, "you just DO it, don't you?" I am convinced I missed it somewhere. I haven't figured it out, and I should have by now.

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Jemima Pauler

(no subject)

from: jem0000000
date: Dec. 12th, 2012 01:31 am (UTC)
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*hugs*

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