Thoughts on The Martian.

Included with the thrilling story of The Martian is a short essay by author Andy Wier that gave me much food for thought. In this essay, he describes the origins of the story that began as a story he gave away for free. Over time he got feedback from readers that helped him sculpt the story into a best-selling novel that went on to become a movie.

This sounds like the way for me to go with getting my novels published. I can post my rough drafts of my story on this blog and use your feedback to make it even better. Who knows, maybe my novel too will become the next big seller. Maybe there will even be a movie version starring Matt Damon. I’m ready to give this a try if you all are.

Thoughts on travel logs.

I admit I was hesitant to post the travel log of my second trip to Chicago. Funerals are never fun to write about, let alone read about, and I’m sure it adds a depressing mood to this blog. But the good news is that I have just posted the last of its sad words.

The bad news is that I have no more travel logs to post.

Along with the logs from my trips to Chicago, I also have my trips to Montreal covered with descriptive summaries of the day’s events along with miscellaneous thoughts and observations. I posted that log on this blog, which you can find by doing a quick search.

When keeping a travel log, I have to use the humor it contains. Years from now when I re-read my logs, I’d rather be amused by these bits of humor instead of yawning through boring bits and pieces of what I did during the trip.

In my Montreal travel log, I created a separate section for my comedy bits called Stuff du Junk that had fictitious anecdotes such as this one that fortunately never happened during the flight:

We all got a bad scare then the oxygen masks suddenly dropped from the ceiling. As the passengers screamed and struggled to put the masks on, the captain announced on the intercom, “Sorry, my bad. Why the hell did they put the coffee dispensing button so close to the oxygen mask eject button?”

I also have a section called Thought Nuggets With Honey that I used to put in observations of life in Montreal.

Gilligan’s Island is enjoying reruns here, however, there are French voice-overs. By the way, Gilligan is pronounced “Geeley-GAHN”.

Adding sections like these to your own travel logs will spice up their pages, no matter where you may roam.

Expand your vocabulary.

I just started reading yet another book on spicing up my writing. This one’s entitled Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide To Punchier, More Engaging Language & Style. I’ve only read a few chapters and am already getting some seriously good advice, such as the need to learn new words to punch up my paragraphs. The book lists some web sites with free mailing lists that deliver a new word to your inbox each day. I list them here.

And here’s one I found myself.

Not a bad way to start the book.

Freewriting.

When I was in high school, I took Creative Writing as one of my elective classes. One of the things I learned as a means of getting ideas for things to write about was freewriting. My teacher told us to just start writing whatever came to mind without stopping until he told us to stop. Here’s what I came up with:

So, here I am, looking out the window on this cold night. The heat trickles out weakly from the vents and it warms me as I think about my future, how to go about it in this big maze. So, if I manage to pull through this maze, there’s always another one and another one after that. It keeps coming to me that Life is not as easy as it was when I was younger. People did stuff for me, and I didn’t have to help much. Then – BINGO! Here I am, being the chief helper around the house, and it gets pretty tiring after a while, then I manage to be lazy for a time and someone comes in and asks me “What are you doing?” I say nothing and they drag me out of my room and shove me to a job that I like a little or not at all. I must think for myself and that is quite tiring. I feel myself still developing and such dramatic changes can throw me off track. So, I feel I need some kind of help to get me through this big maze of life. Once I get through this…”STOP!”

Then my teacher told us to review what we wrote so far and find something to write about in the second freewriting assignment. I noticed I mentioned a maze of life and decided to explore that further. Before I knew it, I had just found something to write about.

Obstacles are all around me as I run through this semi-dark terror. I cannot see any hope of making it through this maze, because I hope to get out of it as soon as possible. Aha! I have escaped the maze! But, unfortunately, there is another one coming up ahead and that is another hard task to carry forth and so, I begin. That last maze is a boosted grade in algebra, but this one is improving my social life. I go in, and there in front of me is a hall, branching into two. I cannot choose but one and I take it. I run through it. Ah, DEAD END! I turn around, and time is wasted. I go down the second hall, and it too is a dead end. I stop and think, I am stuck in this maze.

So the next time you’re stumped for ideas for writing, just write nonstop for a specific time frame and then review what you wrote. You might just find something to write about after all.

Standing at the crossroads.

I have reached that point in my life where I need to stop and think where I’m headed and whether I will encounter true happiness along the way. I have traveled down other paths before this one and they led me through constant stress and frustration, so to turn back now and return to those paths is meaningless.

I have traveled down paths I thought would lead me to a lengthy career filled with opportunities, but they were just mirages that weren’t visible until I got close enough for smoke and mirrors to lift out of sight and the dead ends fully exposed. I have been on similar paths earlier in life that also concealed such sinister trickery. For a while I thought I was happy with where I was but eventually the happiness wore off and the ugly truth began to set in, which effectively derailed my further travels down the route I thought would take me to a lengthy career.

For some time I was pursuing a job doing tech support in a call room. I considered myself computer-savvy enough to solve basic computer problems and issues with Internet connectivity, so it felt like I had a good chance to get hired and I made up my mind that this was the kind of work I wanted to do. After numerous job interviews I finally landed myself the job I thought I had been looking for. I was hired to work in a call room providing Internet tech support and for a while I thought it was a cool enough job for me to enjoy. But as the months passed I began to tire of my job. It was nothing but sitting at a computer and reciting the same script over and over as if I was a robot. Soon I began to hate my job and that attitude clearly showed up in my work, and I was let go. So much for a career in tech support. Since then I have ruled out ever working in a call room again.

I had other jobs that led me down similar paths. At the start I thought they were cool jobs but towards the end I had difficulties staying on the path that would have led me to furthering my career development but I fell astray of managerial expectations and instead took detours to a premature exit.

As I write this post I am working as a lot associate where I spend most of my day pushing shopping carts across the parking lot. Too many times I wonder if this is where I really want to be and I conclude every time that the answer is no. I like my job and do it well but I just don’t see this one as the one I’ve been waiting for. I know deep down I still need to keep searching, no matter how tired I am of it.

So here I am at the crossroads, pondering my next move. I want to be able to choose a different path this time, one that will lead me away from phone calls and 8-hour monotones. I see a possible route ahead that leads through uncharted territory, for I have never traveled it before, yet I’m willing to give it a try.

I’m thinking of pursuing a career as a free-lance writer. I keep hearing compliments on my writing abilities and even I impress myself with the way I put words together. Perhaps it’s finally time to capitalize on this talent and generate some income along the way.

I have purchased two books from Amazon to help me get started, starting with Freelance Writing: How Anyone can Start Making Money from Home by Writing Online, which looks like a nice quick read. I haven’t finished it yet but I’m already getting assurances that this could be a worthwhile career move.

I also bought 141 Websites & Magazines that Pay You to Write!: Ultimate Reference Guide for Freelance Writers. I already have plenty of poems and stories I can submit for publication, and I’m hoping they make it to print. That alone will be worth the effort I’m more than willing to make.

Stay tuned.

Introducing Kevin and his staff.

I suppose it’s time to give you some background information on the stories about Kevin and his staff I’ve been posting lately. The characters are based on real people of the same name whom I once worked with in a previous job.

The real Kevin was the director of the Information Systems department who oversaw the operation of the hospital’s computer network. He was hired after the director who hired me got transferred to a different facility, but for some reason he didn’t last very long in his job and was soon replaced before he could have much influence. That’s why the Kevin in my stories doesn’t have much influence either.

Charles is the network manager. I remember him for his chronic belching, stinky farts and extremely short temper. When things weren’t going his way, he was not a pleasant person to work with. He’s even yelled at me plenty of times, but for some reason I still liked him enough not to take it personally. I heard he got fired for threatening to bring his gun to work.

The third primary character is Robert, the mild-mannered system administrator. He often finds himself an innocent bystander right in the middle of the many conflicts that take place.

To come up with my stories, I simply bring these characters to life in my mind and sprinkle some situations to see how they react. Often the results are so hysterical that I have to share them here.

I also find it helpful to visualize a visit to this office from time to time just to see what’s new. During my last visit, there was a huge hole in the ceiling after Charles fell through while assessing the old network cables that still run above the ceiling. Don’t worry, he’s OK. In fact the first thing he did after he fell was send out a department-wide e-mail alerting the staff to the old network cables that continue to make the ceiling tiles sag.

This has got to be the secret to effective story writing. I imagine this is how authors are able to make a living from the words they write.

In pursuit of writing.

I’ve been running this blog for 6 years now and it seems ironic that only recently has its true purpose dawned on me: to serve as an outlet for my writing. That seems fairly obvious as this is the primary purpose of blogs in general. There are tons of blogs online that are maintained by insiders of every industry on the planet – news, technology, entertainment, politics and assorted nonsense, all of them serving as outlets of their respective authors.

As for this blog, it simply serves as an outlet for my writing skills and to give me a chance to develop them further with each new post. I really don’t write about anything in particular, occasionally I’ll post a link to web sites of interest or perhaps some unusual video I find on YouTube. But with each post I write, I develop my writing skills a little more, giving me a chance to draw from influences from the books I read at the time. As you might tell from the Harry Potter-themed posts I did earlier, I’ve been reading a lot of Harry Potter books lately. They have done wonders in firing up my imagination.

If you’re looking to sharpen your own writing skills, I offer this advice: just do it. Never mind how bad your writing may be at first, just keep at it and your writing will improve. That’s what I did when I was going to school. I wrote for the fun of it and filled sheets of notebook paper with stories and poems, many of which were written when I was supposed to be paying attention in class. Needless to say, it got me in trouble numerous times but even that didn’t deter me from my craft. Eventually I invested in some blank journal books that were soon filled with stories, poems and journals of what was going on in my life. Later when my family acquired a desktop computer, I set aside one of my floppy disks (a 360KB 5 1/4″ disk to be exact) and used it to create a digital diary of sorts with small text files detailing events taking place in my life. It was as close to a blog as I could get during the days of MS-DOS 3.2 and 2400 baud modems.

The point from all this is that I never stopped writing, and it’s from years of writing that I developed the style I have today, and it still continues to evolve and improve on a daily basis. I’m rather proud of it.