Here’s To Embarrassment

Writing professionally is not for the faint of heart.

It’s true. Unfortunately, by its very nature, writing is a vulnerable business. Your stories are pieces of yourself, and putting them out to potential ridicule or even well-meaning critique is a difficult thing to do.

But there’s more to it than that, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years thinking about what makes starting out as a writer feel so hard—especially as my own career has gained a footing and is moving toward something like a real beginning.

This quote by Ed Latimore, a former heavyweight boxer and a full-time writer, sums up what I’ve discovered amazingly well.

“Embarrassment is the cost of entry. If you aren’t willing to look like a foolish beginner, you’ll never become a graceful master.”

Ed Latimore


Beginning any new skill, especially in a professional environment, is a difficult thing to do, whether you’re writing, have your first job straight out of college, or simply were asked to light the bonfire for the first time. You run the risk of failure, awkward mistakes, and breaches in etiquette that will hang around as a standby joke for meetings at the water cooler for years.

Okay, probably not for years. But that’s what it feels like.

I, unfortunately, am very easily embarrassed. I like to show my best face to people, and I always like to go above and beyond expectations wherever possible.

And, realistically, that’s not always possible.

Starting a new skill and beginning a career requires fumbles. It requires mistakes and failures and awkward, stilted first attempts and most of all . . . embarrassment. If you haven’t been failing, especially as a writer, then you haven’t been trying. Your work can’t grow and your career can’t grow, because you can’t grow. As much as I would like to think that my career is built on the things I’ve done right over the years, I know that it’s not. It’s built on the moments that I got hit in the stomach with a massive dose of embarrassment, swallowed my pride, corrected my mistake . . . and learned from it.

Because embarrassment might be a harsh teacher, but my goodness, do you learn from it.


What are some ways you’ve learned to work through embarrassment in your life? Tell me about them in the comments!

Writing Poetry

I dislike admitting that there is a kind of writing I can’t do.

I will freely admit that part of this—and only part—is a pride thing. I make my living off of writing, and I like to think that I can do most kinds well.

The not-pride part of the annoyance stems from the fact that I do make my living off of my writing. My career revolves around my ability to communicate with words, and when I run across a style of writing that I don’t automatically adapt to, it bothers me. I’m still a baby in the industry, but one of my goals is to be well-rounded as a writer, with multiple areas of expertise and a fat bag of tricks that I can draw from should the need arise.

So, when I was assigned a homework project a few months back that immediately made me think, ‘Oh, but I can’t write poetry,’ it bothered me.

Because I never write poetry. Ever. It’s not in my bag of tricks, it’s not something I would ever think to do, and it’s not something I would ever, ever claim to be skilled at.

And it bugged me.

And because it bugged me, I did exactly what I always do in these situations.I decided to change it.

Because I am not great about tolerating things that bug me and leaving them in peace, y’all. It’s not my thing.

Since I am a hands-on kind of person and have discovered that my learning style is ‘sit down and do it until you have learned to do it’, I decided to add a document to my computer and fill it with as many bad poems as were needed to produce a few good ones.

In case you’re wondering, it’s a lot.

Less than I was expecting, however. In fact, once I got past the whiny voice in my head that was complaining about not knowing how to write poems, I found that I quite liked writing them.

Who knew?

My original plan of one poem a day was derailed by deadlines, homework assignments, and family problems, but the ones I did produce aren’t too shabby. I plan on sharing a few and continuing to explore this new medium in the next few months.

We’ll see how it goes!


When was the last time you decided to challenge yourself with something you ‘couldn’t’ do? How did it go? Tell me about it in the comments!

Classes

Hey, remember how I disappeared for the last three months of 2021?

Yeah, me too.

I have a good reason, actually. See, besides working full time to get two scripts in before the end of the year, I was also in classes.

Class? Classes? One class, stretching out over multiple weeks?

Basically, the show runner for the radio production I work for let me know that one of their freelancers—a college professor—would be giving his college writing course to several of the people on the team. He asked if I wanted to join.

No pressure, of course. I wouldn’t have to do any homework assignments unless I wanted to.

I, naturally, replied very professionally that it sounded like a good opportunity and I would be happy to attend.

Then we hung up and I called four people and screamed because FREE EDUCATION Y’ALL.

Would you like a life tip?

Never, under any circumstances, pass up on free education in your career field.

Just don’t. You’ll regret it.

So, once a week, I fired up Zoom on my phone and scribbled notes like a madman while the amazing Phil Lollar—yes, I’m name-dropping, I’m sorry—taught us everything that he’s spent the last thirty plus years accumulating at a writer.

It was a lot.

Like, a lot.

The man knows things, y’all. He’s very smart.

I didn’t expect the class to add as much to my work load as it did—homework is actually a lot more work than I always thought it would be—but I made it through. Scripts got sent in, assignments were finished, hair was torn out, and I discovered more about my writing and myself than I would have ever imagined I would.

It was a great class.

I feel much smarter.

As helpful and informative as it was, our ten weeks are up now, and I’m back to a normal schedule and a normal workload—which means a book, a TV show, radio scripts, and this blog.

Thank goodness for that.


Do you have a favorite class you’ve attended, either in college or otherwise? Tell me about it in the comments!

Studying Away

Today, the trees outside my house are stiff with frost and almost shockingly white against the blue sky.

It’s cold.

It’s been cold for days.

It will be cold for many more days.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’m sick of cold, but I’m definitely getting there. I want to go outside again. And not have to light a fire every time my house is chilly. 

But it’s December, Christmas is coming, and winter is not leaving.

So I’m trying not to be sick of cold. The trees are pretty, at least.

Since I can’t go outside without risking extreme frostbite, I have been focusing my energies in other areas. Writing is getting done, cookbooks are being read, I am nearly three quarters of the way through Les Miserables (which happens to be an excellent book, by the way), and—best of all—I am cruising through my MasterClasses.

They’re turning out to be a mine of information.

Thus far, I’ve finished Neil Gaiman’s storytelling class—which I highly recommend—and am now making my way through a screenwriting class by Aaron Sorkin, another spectacular writer with a long list of successful projects and awards in his back pocket.

I’ve been devouring his classes.

I don’t write for the screen. Radio dramas are not as popular as they used to be, and you aren’t likely to find a MasterClass—or any other kind of class—about how to be a successful radio writer. Screenwriting is probably the closest that I’ll get as far as classes, and thus far, it’s proved wonderfully helpful. Aaron Sorkin is known for his dialogue, which is an area that I always need help in, and between his classes and Neil Gaiman’s masterful approach to story, I am learning in leaps and bounds.

Also, I’ve been learning how to make Middle Eastern food with Yotam Ottolenghi.

Because my life is not entirely about writing.

Now I can make a fabulous hummus, and just try telling me that isn’t a necessary life skill. Everyone should know how to make hummus. Hummus is amazing.

I’m still trying to convince my husband of that, but I’ll get there.

What are you learning about these days, either from some kind of classes or just in life? Tell me about it in the comments!

A Year of MasterClass

Christmas came early this year.

Mostly because of Black Friday, because who doesn’t love getting a good deal?

Neither my husband or I are big on gifts, so rather than running through the gauntlet and making him guess what I might like for Christmas, I made it easy and told him I wanted the all-inclusive subscription to MasterClass that was going on sale.

Now he has to play fair and tell me what he wants.

He hasn’t decided yet.

In the meantime, I get to play around with all my new classes! I’m going to fly through as many of them as I can in the next year, taking into account my somewhat limited time, and focus mainly on the writing classes, the directing course by Ron Howard, a gardening course by Ron Finley, and about ten different cooking classes, all of which I’m wildly excited about.

Oh.

And the Art of Negotiation by Chris Voss.

Because it’s taught by the FBI’s most successful hostage negotiator and who wouldn’t want to take that course??

I mean, how cool does that sound?

I’m pretty sure I can use that information in my life.

Somewhere.

In one of my books, at the very least. I’ll make something up.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my progress through the classes, give you shining reviews, and tidbits of information as I go along! I’ve started my first one already, and because I am a writer with a lot left to learn about story, I naturally jumped for Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Art of Storytelling’.

Because I love Neil Gaiman. His books are brilliant, his characters are everlastingly memorable, and I could listen to his accent for years. Seriously, narrating his own audiobooks was a genius move. I would listen to them just for his voice.

I’ll let you know how the MasterClass turns out! Thus far, it’s been very interesting and surprisingly helpful. I’m excited to see what else he has in store.

Have you gotten into any of the MasterClasses lately? Tell me about them in the comments!

Writer’s Group and Sabbaticals

img_3662I went on a sleepover this weekend.

My first since quarantine, in fact.

Not that I make a habit of sleepovers. Not since I was like sixteen. Except when I get trapped in town due to crazy snowstorms and six-foot snowdrifts.

But I went on a sleepover this weekend. With my writer’s group—or most of them, anyway. (We love you and missed you, Caylene!) We ate chocolate, read each other’s work, talked about way too many stories, and stayed up until all hours of the night.

Midnight, to be specific.

Ten minutes after midnight, I knocked out.

But we got some writing done, caught up on each other’s projects, and reconnected after being away from each other for months. Kelly’s hair ended up in curlers. She looked amazing. Before and after, actually.

There was talk about pink hair dye.

That didn’t happen, but it would have been pretty exciting.

Now that I’m back home, and spending way too much time writing down all the appointments that I am making for my wedding, I’ve had to take a minute to be realistic about my energy and time right now. So . . . I’ll be on sabbatical until after my honeymoon. See you all October 1st!

On Sabbatical Until October 1st!

A List of Lists

I got engaged last week.

Is that crazy or what? I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Sometimes it amazes me how quickly life can change. All the sudden, my weekends are booked with wedding planning, engagement photo sessions, and attempting to figure out all the things one is supposed to do to prepare for a wedding.

Apparently there are a lot of them.

I need to make a list.

Two lists. I need two lists.

Okay, I need to make a list of all the lists I need to make.

Thankfully, my fiancé’s brother and sister in-law rescued us from wedding planning on Sunday and took us up to a reservoir about an hour away. We took their boat out on the lake, and my fiancé and his brother tried wakeboarding.

They offered to let me try.

I declined.

I’m happy to watch people get sprayed and dunked and yanked along behind a speeding boat while attempting to stand upright. Not so happy to do it myself.

Thankfully, they didn’t insist.

I’ll try next time. When we have a tube instead of a wakeboard. Tubes need less balance. And strength. And skill.

And basically all the things that I have in short supply.

However, watching is great fun, and so was sitting on the back of the boat when we stopped for lunch and fed the geese.

I got toasted in the sun.

Okay, I got toasted on one side. My arms are unevenly burned now. Red on one side, white on the other. Hopefully that doesn’t last long. I don’t want to add ‘uneven tanning’ to one of my to-do lists.

Any wedding planning tips for me? Tell me about them in the comments!

Back in the Office

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I went back to work last week.

Back to my office, actually. I’ve been working all along. Just from my couch instead of my standup desk. And with free access to snacks. And very little motivation to get out of my pajamas.

It’s going to take me a little while to get used to the no-snacks thing.

Especially no popcorn.

Popcorn is my favorite.

Other than that, I’m very happy to be back in my office. I can go to the gym again, talk to my coworkers, ask my manager questions, water my special tiny tree that I bought for the occasion.

The bamboo I left behind when this whole quarantine thing began . . . ahem . . . did not survive.

Three months without water will do that to you.

It was pretty withered. And brown.

So now I have a tiny tree instead. And life at the office—at least two days a week—has begun to go back to normal. Albeit with masks. And temp checks. And sign-in, sign-out sheets. But normal!

Sort of.

Since my life is showing a serious lack of normal nowadays, normal at the office feels pretty good. So does my gym. And the occasional restaurant visit. Even wearing masks when we go out and making sure to social distance can’t change how wonderfully good it feels to be out and about and to see people.

As an introvert, I never expected to be so excited to see people again. In shops, at work, in restaurants.

Man, that’s a good feeling.

Has life begun to return to normal for you yet? How? Tell me about it in the comments!

Running Away

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I almost got eaten by an alligator this weekend.

Maybe it was an alligator gar.

Or a catfish.

Something.

But it tried to eat me, I’m pretty sure. Killer catfish are dangerous too, you know.

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

I ran away from my life on Thursday. Packed up my car, grabbed my toothbrush, the whole nine yards. Because I’m a responsible person, I requested time off from my job and told people where I was going and when I would be back too, but it still counts as running away. I mean, I planned it in all of two days, and that’s definitely what you do when you’re running away.

You also get up ridiculously early and leave in the dark before it gets light, and I did that too.

Then I drove to Missouri. To see my editor.

It was glorious.

First off, there was the drive. I was gone for four days, and two of those were nothing but me and the open road, all the snacks I could eat, and as many audiobooks as I could possibly listen to in 24 hours of straight drive-time.

In case you were wondering, I plowed through four and a half books.

Three and a half of them were scary.

The last one was sad.

I am still questioning my choices.

The other two days were spent soaking in the  Missouri sun, canoeing down a gorgeous river straight out of Jurassic Park, almost getting eaten by a killer catfish, horseback riding through the woods, and slapping at bugs.

The catfish didn’t actually bite me.

But it flopped like it was going to bite me.

I screamed in self-defense and it was a totally normal reaction, so you can stop laughing now.

Anyway, I’m home again and running on no sleep and adrenaline, so wish me luck for the next week. I’ll sleep when I can’t run away from my problems anymore.

What were you up to this weekend? Anything special? Tell me about it in the comments! 

Keeping Pace

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Reading has been hard lately.

Isn’t it weird how that happens sometimes? Life gets busy, people need your attention, work takes up more time than you expect, and BAM! You’ve read two books for the whole month.

Ouch.

I actually don’t remember how many books I read in May. I’d have to check. Hopefully, it was more than two, but I have my doubts. Reading has been HARD lately. Sometimes, even the most important things in your life can get pushed back because of stress or work or people or about a hundred other things that I don’t have the energy to list right now.

Life happens, is what I’m trying to say. And when it does, you have to pick your priorities in order to keep pace with it.

And right now, sadly, reading one hundred books this year is not one of my priorities.

Tragic, right?

Oh well.

The nice part is, I really do have time to read occasionally. In the mornings after my workout . . . six minutes before I start work for the day. Or in the evening, fifteen minutes before I drop into bed. It’s not for long stretches, generally, but I do try to pick up my books often enough to remember that I love to read. Thankfully, I have no shortage of things to read. There’s the audiobook on my phone that I have neglected to start. And the book on my phone that I’m reading for work. And my many, many bookshelves which are full to bursting of books I would love to read or reread.

Still haven’t chosen one of those since I finished the last one. Should probably do that.

Leaving a book on my end table right next to where I sit has also proven to help remind me to read. A page here, a page there. I may not reach a hundred books this year, but I’m keeping pace. And I’m getting a few books read while I do.

How do you keep up with your reading when life gets busy? Tell me about it in the comments!