Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: what makes a real writer

Diagnosing a Writer: Do You Have Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome, are you a real writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, humor, satire, Sean Penn's book, Sean Penn as an author, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, the writing life

Being a writer is the best job in the world, aside from those fortunate enough to be paid to pet kittens or sample new ice cream flavors. But is writing a REAL job? This question has set fire to the entire psychiatric community. Okay, most of them…the ones in my head *turns off fire alarms*.

Many in our modern culture don’t believe writing qualifies as a legitimate occupation. An unusual percentage of ‘average’ citizens firmly maintain that being a writer is NOT a real job. These same individuals, however, collectively spend billions of dollars and most of their free time enjoying entertainment (created by writers).

Cleaning Teeth= ‘Real’ Job

Writing= Goofing Off

Thus far, those interviewed have yet to note the irony of their assertions (or looked up definition of irony). Since being a writer is not a ‘real job,’ then this leads us to the next most reasonable conclusion. Writing, in truth, may be a mental condition. I have written about the 13 Ways Writers Are Mistaken for Serial Killers.

So there IS that…

What IS Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome (T.I.S.)?

Diagnosing a Writer: Do You Have Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome, are you a real writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, humor, satire, Sean Penn's book, Sean Penn as an author, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, the writing life

Tis’ a hard diagnosis for certain. Alas, Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome is a compulsive need to tell stories. We call those afflicted a ‘writer’ namely because ‘writer’ is shorter than ‘Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome.’ Also, those who used T.I.S. found others believed they were about to quote something from Shakespeare.

This only created even more confusion.

Writers (those afflicted with T.I.S.) frequently report ‘being born’ to tell tales. There is no clear indication if T.I.S. is congenital. Is it nature or nurture or both? Is it contagious?

No matter one’s preconceived notions, facts are facts. Background information reveals a symptomatology too eerily similar to be discounted.

Children/Young Adults exhibiting T.I.S.:

  • Preferred reading books, writing stories or drawing dragons 74% more than sports;
  • Were 89.3% more inclined to request ‘extra credit’ assignments;
  • Had a 300% greater likelihood of being found in school library when compared to non T.I.S. peers;
  • Displayed a 92.4% chance of ‘royally sucking’ at Dodgeball (data is inconclusive about skill level or simple desire to be ‘OUT’ so as to return to reading Goosebumps);
  • Demonstrated early addictive behaviors with office supplies. Parents who suspect their child might have T.I.S. should look for noticeable pupil dilation when shopping for school supplies;
  • Have 5000% greater chance of making up utter BS statistics that appear highly convincing.

Diagnosing if One is a Writer

Diagnosing a Writer: Do You Have Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome, are you a real writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, humor, satire, Sean Penn's book, Sean Penn as an author, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, the writing life

I won’t mince words here. Writer diagnosis is particularly challenging. Those who might actually BE writers can become rather tetchy at mere mention of the subject. A primary symptom of T.I.S. is that writers angst over what makes them ‘real.’ Few occupations struggle with such existential questions to this large a degree.

Am I a real cashier? I have a smock, a name badge and access to the registers, but am I merely a poseur?

Sure I graduated medical school, but does that make me a real doctor?

Everyone believes I fix cars, but I know I’m a fraud…even though I really do fix cars. Lots of them, actually.

Once the subject is at least willing to entertain the notion he or she may have T.I.S. then further diagnostic questions can assist in a proper assessment and more accurate diagnosis.

Sample Diagnostic Checklist 

Writers frequently:

  • Experience wild mood swings (A.K.A. ‘Revision Syndrome’);
  • Display visible signs of distress, pain, and at times, explosive violence when shown sentences such as, ‘Your an amazing person,’ ‘Their are no more donuts in the brake room,’ and ‘There here to orientate the new hires, or so he lead us to believe’;
  • Exhibit significant cognitive-tactile impairment when texting (refusal to employ ‘ur’, ‘IDK, ‘BRB’ or even the seemingly innocuous ‘lol’);
  • Insist on using full sentences and proper punctuation, which leads to withdrawal from interacting with text messages and eventual social isolation;
  • Can become agitated with certain trigger words such as bae, turnt or fleek;
  • See nothing wrong with discussing rates of body decomposition, history of guillotines, The Black Death, or bot flies at social functions involving food;
  • Are known to choose mates based off vocabulary, intellect, appreciation for Monty Python, and ability to operate, repair, and set up laser printers (leading to an abnormally high ratio of writers choosing engineer ‘types’ as partners).
  • The final test is only to be used by a trained imaginary diagnostician. Read excerpts from actor Sean Penn’s new ‘novel’ Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff aloud, then time how long subject lasts until he or she a) begins weeping b) curls into fetal position or c) begins bleeding from ears.

Word of Caution

Diagnosing a Writer: Do You Have Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome, are you a real writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, humor, satire, Sean Penn's book, Sean Penn as an author, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, the writing life

This last diagnostic should be used with extreme care and medical staff on hand to ensure subject’s safety. A trained medical team can also ensure the person reading the excerpt’s safety. All medical personnel are strongly advised to wear ear plugs.

Alas this ONE sentence (seriously it IS only ONE sentence) can be remarkably helpful with diagnosis:

Whenever he felt these collisions of incubus and succubus, he punched his way out of the proletariat with the purposeful inputting of covert codes, thereby drawing distraction through Scottsdale deployments, dodging the ambush of innocents astray, avoiding the viscount vogue of Viagratic assaults on virtual vaginas, or worse, falling passively into prosaic pastimes. ~ Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff Page 36

If the subject understands this ‘sentence’ and doesn’t immediately exhibit signs of physical pain, the subject is probably not a writer. Rather the subject is most likely an actor who mistakenly believes he/she can write. Best recommendation is to gently guide subject back to the theater people who can properly care for the patient from there.

The Impact of T.I.S.

Diagnosing a Writer: Do You Have Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome, are you a real writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, humor, satire, Sean Penn's book, Sean Penn as an author, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, the writing life

Those afflicted with T.I.S. cannot help but make up stories and believe they have no choice but to write. The DSM-V is due for updating. T.I.S. might qualify as a dysmorphia, since those with T.I.S. require a keyboard, pen, Crayon or some writing implement to ‘feel’ whole.

All evidence indicates writers must write to maintain reasonable emotional and psychological stability.

***Note: Parameters for ‘reasonable’ WAY broader for actual writers.

Writing, thus far, is one of the best ways to ameliorate the negative symptoms of T.I.S. Regular interaction with the ‘voices in their heads’ has a calming effect similar to the smell of pencil shavings and new paper.

For those afflicted with ‘Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome’ (storytelling) the condition can be challenging not only for those born with T.I.S., but for those who ‘associate’ with the writer. Obviously when a person is diagnosed as a ‘writer’ others, including family, cannot help but be impacted as well.

Parents might blame themselves for encouraging their children to read, being too permissive with time at the bookstores or library. Why didn’t they encourage accounting games instead?

Writer spouses/partners might find sometimes (usually during edits) they’ll have to…cook for themselves. I know! It’s harsh, but to be expected. Also, children might have to make their own cereal and find matching socks while unsupervised.

I’ll stop there.

Writers & Impact of T.I.S. on Friends

The study of T.I.S. on friends has been uniquely challenging. Writer ‘friends’ usually are ‘people’ writers make up in their heads, because, and I quote: ‘Normal people are boring.’

Additionally, (since on the topic of writer ‘friends’) after repeated unsuccessful attempts, we’ve concluded houseplants and pets are almost impossible to effectively interview.

Houseplants scored slightly higher than cats.

Embrace Being a Writer

For those of you out there who know you are a writer, that you do have Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome, it’s okay. You are not alone and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

***Unless you’re a pretentious actor who believes he/she is a writer. Then? Be very ashamed and go back to acting.

We need to celebrate T.I.S. despite criticism. The world NEEDS writers. Without writers, we would have no books, movies, articles, research papers, or television shows. It takes a WRITER to succinctly craft warning labels spelling out of the dangers of EATING TIDE PODS.

Diagnosing a Writer: Do You Have Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome, are you a real writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, humor, satire, Sean Penn's book, Sean Penn as an author, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, the writing life

It took a WRITER to warn the public that the electric meat thermometer was not intended for rectal use on humans. For those still alive who do NOT have a turkey thermometer lodged in their bum? Go bless a writer.

*moment of silence*

Only a writer can lie well enough to claim cheap deodorant has the power to make anyone sexy.

Seriously, just go Axe them 😉 .

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you suffer from T.I.S.? You are not alone. Do you find it impossible to text message because it takes so long? Do you experience anger when auto-correct tells your friend you ‘don’t have any ducks’ left to give? It’s okay. We get you.

What are some symptoms you experience that might be added to this ‘totes legit’ diagnostic test?

I think Sean Penn is an incredibly talented actor. He’s also remarkably brave for calling himself a writer. Don’t know about you, but I’ll never see alliteration in quite the same way.

Cheers! *raises glass*

For more inappropriate laughs—fine, a totally gallows humor but fast-paced mystery suspense—I hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend my ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get both Plot Boss and Art of Character in the Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND). Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

Have to write a query letter or synopsis? Conference season is coming! Pitch Perfect: Crafting a Query & Synopsis Agents Will Love. Class is April 19th 7-9 EST and $45 for over two hours training y’all how to do the toughest parts of this job.

I love hearing from you!

And am not above bribery!

What do you WIN? For the month of April, for 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).

March’s winner will be announced next post.

 

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I’m finally home from speaking in Pennsylvania. Was honored to keynote for The Write Stuff Conference and super sad to leave. I get so attached to the writers and miss them when I have to go. Their passion, imagination and enthusiasm never fails to inspire me. I’d keep them and collect them in my basement except apparently this is called “taking hostages” and is “illegal” *rolls eyes*

…that, and I don’t have a basement.

I never prepare a speech. I’ve tried. But I am too ADD and end up ignoring/forgetting everything I prepared, so why not save time? Also, I present quite often and never want attendees to feel like they will hear the same things from me. Every class, every presentation is new. I love listening to those around me so my content fits better because it’s custom made.

This said, when I arrived in Pennsylvania, I had no idea what my keynote would be about specifically, so I had to keep my ears open for the common themes.

There is NO Aspiring

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Some of you have fallen for this when I speak. I will begin and ask how many aspiring writers are in the room. Yes, it is a trick question and yeah, it is more than a little evil of me, but it never fails to make a point. When the timid new writers “follow instructions” and raise their hands I yell, “NO! Stop it! You are a pre-published writer. Do or do not; there is NO TRY. 

Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for the weak and it takes guts to do this job.

Hey, I did it too. When I was new, I’d written tens of thousands of words, spent every spare moment reading about writing, studying, going to writing groups instead of the mall. I spent every spare bit of money on conferences instead of a vacation…but I was aspiring? NO. Writers WRITE. Stop being existential. We are REAL.

No one meets a lawyer who just passed the bar and asks if they are a “real” lawyer.

Really? A lawyer? How many cases have you won? 

Granted there are aspiring writers. They are pretty easy to spot because they say the same crap:

Yes, well I want to write a book, but I just have to find the free time.

My life is SO interesting. It would make a GREAT novel. Hey, how about I give you my story, you write the book and I will give you half?

Um? NO.

Writers Deserve RESPECT 

This is my new hot button and I’m going to handle future interactions very differently because I’ve had enough. I spent all day Wednesday traveling across the country. Didn’t get to bed until midnight. Presented from 8:00 in the morning until almost 6:00 in the evening. We were rallying to leave for dinner at the bar of the hotel’s restaurant and THIS conversation actually happened:

Guy at Bar: *looks at me and two fellow authors and starts polite conversation* What are you doing here?

Me: We are writers.

GAB: Really? *genuine shock face* You are writers? Like…real writers?

Me: Yes.

GAB: Real writers? People actually DO that? For a living? This is your real job?

Me: Yes.

GAB: How much money do you make? You can live off that?

OKAY, I am DONE. I have had this conversation WAY too many times. So, the next time someone does this the conversation is going to look like this:

Me: Well, what do you do?

GAB: Human resources. I’m an HR manager.

Me: Wow *genuine shock face*. People DO that? That’s a real job?

GAB: Yes.

Me: Are you sure? Don’t they have an app for that? Or robots? How many people are you in charge of? Can people make money at that? Really? HR. You can live off that? How much money do you make?

And THIS is why Kristen requires adult supervision 😀

Thing is, yes humans do write for fun or for a hobby. But if we are asked what our job is and respond, “I’m a writer” odds are we are not writing bad haiku on a Starbuck’s napkin all day.

And I get it. Writers (creative professionals) are like unicorns. Everyone knows about them just they would be pretty shocked to meet a real one. Yet, what other profession has to endure this amount of disrespect? No one else has to cough up a tax return or show a profit to prove their job exists.

Keep this in mind. If we don’t respect who we are and what we do then why would anyone else?

Stop Apologizing

Image with Twig the Fairy
Image with Twig the Fairy

I hate the term “aspiring writer” because it takes guts to do this job. Everyone loves what we do. Their lives would implode without it. Without writers there would be no entertainment, no instruction, no industry. No movies, no television series, no books, no manuals, textbooks, magazines, newspapers, trade journals, warning labels, laws, speeches, and all songs would be instrumental. No lyrics. Heck there wouldn’t even be an Internet.

It would be all pictures of cats.

Modern society hinges on writers. If we can take a step back and truly take in all we contribute it’s easier to own our profession and value it. Most people take what we do for granted because they fail to make the connection that their favorite television show began as an idea and started with a writer. 

They just assume they will log onto the Internet and be able to google anything they want. It’s easy to forget someone wrote that information.

So yes, I get it. This is a tough job. But if what we do didn’t matter then why is it dictators arrest and shoot the writers first? 😉

Writing is More than Literacy

Help those with no voice!
Help those with no voice!

Yes, it is probably great to be literate to become a writer, but what we do is more than stringing words together in sentences. We have a unique set of eyes and see the world in a way mere mortals cannot. I saw this mannequin while out shopping with the family. I guarantee you that hundreds of people had passed by without wondering why the mannequins were getting too fat for their cardigans.

😀

Before my keynote, a fellow writer told me the story of how he was staying in a hotel that was run by foreigners. We’ve all seen the signs clearly written by someone who didn’t have English as a first language. Anyway, he’s in the bathroom and there is this sign that reads:

Beware of Soap Dish

I have NO idea what that warning was trying to convey, but as a writer? What the hell is so dangerous about that soap dish? It is demonic? Does it try to eat people when they sleep? Does it steal souls? I might have even had to call management to know exactly what makes this particular soap dish so sketchy…

And THIS is the stuff writers think about 😀 .

What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with apologizing for what you do? Do you get tired of having to justify your profession? Are you now going to ask people if they are real doctors?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MARCH, 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).

Also, for more help on how to use characters to ratchet anxiety to the nerve-shreding level, I am finally back teaching and offering my Understanding the Antagonist Class on April 18th and YES, it is recorded in case you miss or need to listen again because this class is jammed with information.

I LOVE teaching this simply because our antagonists are pivotal for writing a story (series) readers can’t put down. Yet, too often we fail to harness characters for max effect. I look forward to seeing you there! I also offer the Gold level for one-on-one. Maybe you’ve hit a dead end. Your story is so confusing you need a GPS and a team of sherpas to find the original idea. Instead of wasting time with misguided revisions, I can help you triage your WIP and WHIP it into fighting form 😀 .

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