Critics & Control Freaks—Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?
I confess. I am normally uptight, controlling and neurotic but after the recent death of my grandmother who raised me? Where I might have been a
five seven twelve, I was suddenly a fifty (on a scale of ten). I felt flung to the winds and adrift. I was out of control and that is not a feeling I enjoy.
Monday, I was really tired so I wasn’t up to taking Spawn to summer camp where he normally goes for a few hours so Mommy can work.
And so it begins….
Kids have a really honest and refreshing way of getting right to the point.
For instance. Recently we went out to dinner at a nice Mediterranean restaurant. I stand up and Spawn (Age 6) suddenly looks up at me aghast as if he is seeing me for the first time and loudly proclaims.
“Mommy! Your boobs are HUGE!”
Thanks kid, just thanks.
And the table of men nearby had to be scraped off the floor laughing.
Unlike friends and family, kids don’t sugar coat anything and we are wise to listen. Additionally beyond what children say, it is what they DO that can give us the most to learn.
Back to being too lazy to take Spawn to camp. I am busy uploading my guest post and trying to dig out of the mountain of emails that were left unchecked while I lay in bed for a week.
My left eye already had a permanent twitch from the piles of laundry to do, the stacks of dishes and all the work that lay ahead. I was super busy self-flagellating about how I was such a royal jerk for not getting edits back to students yet and how I was a selfish jerk for taking a week and a half to get my head on straight after my grandmother’s death.
Selfish Kristen! Horrible Kristen!
Spawn? What better time to decide to build a FORT? And right next to where Mommy is working so she can enjoy it!
At this point in time I was all right. Writing professionally is akin to being a war correspondent, especially for anyone with small kids and pets. No big deal. I am cool. I got this. I survived the Blueberry Yogurt Fiasco of 2014 and the Projectile Vomit Debacle of 2015. I’ve blogged while sustaining heavy NERF fire.
I totally got this.
Spawn THEN decides he is lonely in his fort and wants Johnny Cat in there with him.
At first he is wrestling with the cat (over my computer—where else?). I stop and say…
“You cannot force a cat to go anywhere. Let me get you a cat trap (pictured above). Set this baby inside and you will have a cat in less than 3 minutes.” Proof I am a genius (pictured below).
I keep writing and this fort just starts to grow…
And OH DEAR GOD IT IS THE BORG!
RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED….
By noon I am pretty much pushed out of my work area because I didn’t want to be assimilated along with two nursing pillows, Thanksgiving pumpkin decorations and pretty much every worldly possession Spawn has.
My OCD is going wild by now (actually my CDO because why is this NOT in alphabetical order as it should be?).
I’ve always been transparent with you guys because I want you to know that you are not alone. Most of us struggle. We beat ourselves up that we are not good enough that we should be trying harder, that we should be doing more. When we do write, we are our own worst critics and can edit the magic right out of a story with our insecurity.
Every level has its insecurities and challenges. When we are new, we feel guilty for writing because we aren’t yet “real” writers and so we are totally selfish jerks for writing because it isn’t as if we are published *rolls eyes*.
But how do we ever become successfully published unless we write a BOOK? Then once we do publish the pressure only grows. Now we need more books and this book didn’t do as well as that book and OH GOD! I HIT #1…but can I ever do it again? Am I a one-hit wonder?
Am I Tarzan Boy Writer?
I have a bad habit of setting myself up to fail no matter what I do. If I spend a day cleaning the house, then I suck because I didn’t get any writing done. If I write, then I am a terrible housekeeper. If I hire a cleaning service, then I am being wasteful with money.
Hey I warned y’all I was a neurotic in the beginning 😛 .
Then Spawn comes along with this fort. My first instincts are to beat myself up because the house is a mess. But the sheer joy he is having building this thing is infectious. I am a fixer and a problem solver (I.e. the Cat Traps) and have no idea how my own mother didn’t murder me as a child.
When I was four I got a Spirograph for Christmas and two packages of typing paper—regular and legal size. So what did I do? I created art and went door to door selling. Five cents for the regular, ten cents for the legal and a dollar for the stack and a promise to never bother you
again until the next time.
And in all the stress of being an adult I’d forgotten this. This thing called fun. Fun is not neat and tidy. Fun is chaotic. No fun IS chaos.
As the Spawn Fort was growing I just kept telling myself that he only is a little boy once. In a few years he will be off with friends and Mommy may no longer be his best friend and I will miss the Tinker Toys underfoot. I will miss the mess. I will crave this chaos.
Spawn Fort 1.0 was a structural disaster (because I refused to butt in) and was reclaimed by nature overnight. Spawn was distressed, but fortunately, Mommy was an expert fort builder in her day and after he asked for my help?
I bring you….
Spawn Fort 2.0—A.K.A. SUPER FORT
Super Fort is three times the size with a nice padded sleeping area and several storage lockers (under chairs) for NERF weapons. It has two “secret” entrances and more head room. Additionally, one cannot have intruders thinking they can just pillage whatever they like from your fort while you are away, so Spawn Fort 2.0 is equipped with a state of the art Storm Trooper Security System. It won’t hit anyone so you don’t have to worry about being sued, but the warning shots will at least scare them away.
Want to see a little boy explode with joy? Show him how to build a proper fort and think to guard it with a Storm Trooper.
So Spawn is happy and then he kinda freaks out that it isn’t finished. We forgot the cat traps!
Me: Honey, Super Fort IS a cat trap…
To date every stitch of furniture including a lamp/table has been assimilated into Super Fort….which now sports a Hot Wheels racetrack that leads to the fireplace and I am strangely okay with that. One of my writer friends said it best in a Facebook comment….
One day…all the forts built by childhood will be but dust in a memory. Your reaction is the only way that memory is fairy dust.
~ Michael Gray
And he was right. The grandmother who raised me, the one I lost? All that is left of her is the fairy dust of blanket forts and coloring books and a million Barbie shoes and I miss her very, very much.
In the end? Embrace fun. Embrace some chaos and for the love of all that is chocolate cut yourself some slack and lighten the hell up! (So y’all know, I am yelling that at myself).
What are your thoughts? Are you a control freak too? Are you too hard on yourself? Do you set yourself up to fail no matter what? Do you maybe need to create some fairy dust?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Check out NEW classes below!
All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.
We are doing ANOTHER round of Battle of the First Pages!!! August 5th
The first time we did this we had some tech issues doing this new format and we’ve since worked those out, but for now I am still keeping the price low ($25) until we get this streamlined to my tastes.
LIMITED SEATS. This is an open workshop where each person will submit his or her first page of the manuscript for critique. I will read the page aloud and “gong” where I would have stopped reading and explain why. This is an interactive workshop designed to see what works or what doesn’t. Are you ready to test your page in the fire?
Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages August 12th
The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is 90 minutes long, 60 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.
Your First Five Pages Gold Level
This includes the webinar and a detailed critique your first five pages.
Your First Five Pages Platinum Level
This includes the webinar and a detailed critique of your first twenty pages.
Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist August 19th
All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.
This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.
Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold
This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.