Tag Archives: motivation

Superdetectives are my Jam


It’s funny how I made it through just about 20 years of life basically indifferent to — and uninterested in — Sherlock Holmes, and spent the next (almost) 20 years with Sherlock Holmes and his myriad derivatives being my favorite kind of superhero.

It started when I watched Monk sometime in college. Tony Shalhoub played this detective with OCD — a totally understandable dysfunction for a detective to develop, actually. He was a germophobe, perfectionist, and kind of a genius. He couldn’t shake your hand, but he could figure out where you’d been when your neighbor said you were over for crappy grilled cheese sandwiches by the grease stains on your shoes.

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Thus began my fascination with the character who sees what the other characters don’t. In the intervening time, some of my favorite stories have been House (a doctor show based on Sherlock Holmes), Criminal Minds (a detective show where everybody has superpowers for determining truths about psychopaths based on their preferred method of decapitation and/or sexual abuse — a pretty messed up show, actually), and a host of other shows based on the character who had that vision for the thing misplaced, the nose for the detail that didn’t fit. Oh, and of course I went back and read the entire Sherlock Holmes catalogue (loved it), watched the newest iteration of Sherlock Holmes movies (loved the ones with Robert Downey Jr., despite the knocks against them. Hated the one with Ian McKellan as Holmes … so boring), and then there’s the brilliant Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (which is the funnest name to screw up ever — Flumbybums, Drumberdroops, Pookersnoots), which belongs in your life if it isn’t already there.

So it’s no surprise, I guess, that my latest protagonist — even in a novel that is decidedly not a detective story by any stretch — has a bit of that vision.

Funny how the right story can unlock your brain.

I’m gonna have to think about this more at a time when my brain isn’t as fried as it currently is.

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.

 

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Accidentally Inspired Year in Review


When Orpheus went to retrieve his beloved Eurydice from the depths of Hades, the resident god allowed it with one caveat: he could lead her back to the world above, but he couldn’t look back, or she would be lost forever.

Which is a little bit the way I feel here on the last day of 2017. Like things are just on the brink of being okay again, but — when I inevitably turn to look back — it’s all gonna turn to sharknado.

I know I’m not alone in this. 2017 has been a bumpy ride for us creative types: it’s hard to focus on the art when you fear for the world as you know it. Production is down, frustration is up. If I had to put an estimate on it, I’d say the average word has gotten 77% harder to write this year, and good sentences are 183% harder to come by. The brain just isn’t connecting right — there’s too much fog, too much distraction.

Add to the strife and struggle that most artists were feeling in general this year the added stress of our summer-long move (seriously, we started the process in March and didn’t finish until July — just in time to go back to work), and the end result has been a donkey kick to the balls of my creativity. Progress on the edits of my novels stagnated, to the point that one of them stalled out completely and I’ve had to abandon it like an iceberg-struck cruise ship. My daily word counts have bottomed out like a Formula One racer pulling into a Wendy’s. Even my posts around here have tapered off like the back end of a dolphin. And if you notice that there’s little rhyme or reason to those similes, well, see the previous paragraph.

And like the finely-tuned but ramshackle Rube Goldberg machine that, when one element misfires the entire contraption goes sailing off the rails, as goes the writing, so goes the rest of the ship. My exercise routine and the motivation to keep it up has cratered. Work — my actual money-making job — has felt harder despite, by outward appearances, becoming easier. Feels like my parenting skills are in the ditch because they kids are always fighting and screaming and stretching us to the limit. Needless to say, I’ve packed on a few pounds, so add that into the equation for some good, old-fashioned self-loathing.

I am more than ready, in other words, to see the back end of 2017. But doing that properly entails taking a look backwards, like Orpheus, so that I can fully appreciate the sharknadostorm.

So.

Current novel project status:

  1. Accidentally Inspired: still querying. I’m behind on sending out letters (go figure), but I’m still happy with the book.
  2. Untitled time-travel project: trunked. I spent many months making not a lot of progress in the edits and it just wasn’t working. Maybe I’ll come back to it one day, but there’s only so much good time I’m willing to throw down a hole.
  3. Untitled superhero project: rebuilding. I’m in the midst of rewriting a chunk of the middle of the book, after which I’ll move into proper edits. Many good feelings here, even if the progress has been slower than I’d like.

If I had to put a total word count on what I’ve written novel-wise this year, I’d put that number around 40,000. Not great by any stretch. But I’ll temper that by noting that I wasn’t drafting much if at all this year; all my work has been in edits. Which is a bummer, because there’s nothing like the thrill of raw creation that comes with drafting, but there it is.

State of the blarg:

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Posts are down, which means readership is down. Interestingly, I have more unique visitors than in years past, but less views per visitor, which is both good and bad. Good: more people seeing my stuff. Bad: not as many clickarounds to read what else is on offer. I could make some excuses for this, but I think it comes down to tone. I’ve done a lot of grousing about how hard things have been this year, and people can only take so much of that. Hell, I can only take so much of that. I also suspect that the more time I spend splashing around in my mudhole of despair, the more despair I get on me, which demotivates my writing, and *begin 2017 death-spiral all over again*.

I look into my stats and I see that some of my most popular posts were my Terrible Reviews, which is a category I’ve neglected this year, and also a thing I quite enjoy writing, so getting back to more of those wouldn’t go amiss.

I also think, in a psychological mind-gaming myself into less effery kind of way, that my standards are hurting me. For a while, I prided myself on getting my average post length up over 1000 words. Which is great when it happens, but also — who has the patience to sit there and read 1000 words of drivel on a blog? I’m guessing not a ton of people, to say nothing of the time it takes to churn out 1000 words — especially when I could better use those words on my novels. The blarg still serves, I think, as a release valve for creative energy and is a solid way to Just Keep Writing, but it’s felt like a job somewhat. That doesn’t strike me as a formula for fun.

And this sharknado is supposed to be fun, for fargo’s sake.

John Goodman’s exterminator in the aptly-named Arachnophobia was a teetotaling sort. He brought a flamethrower to deal with a subterranean basement infestation, which, y’know, plus ten for total domination, but minus a thousand for good thinking. Still, when asked what to do about the problem of wood rot in a basement early in the film, he offered this gem: “Cut out bad wood. Put in good wood.”

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Easier said than done, probably. And the spiders totally got him in the end. But marvelous in its simplicity, and some advice I’m gonna try to live by.

In fact, I’m gonna take that quote, change one letter (okay, FINE, one letter TWICE) and make that my mantra for 2018. (Not a resolution, because resolutions are bullsharknado, but a mantra.)

“Cut out bad word. Put in good word.”

Maybe not poetic, but a good thing to aim for.

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See you in 2018.


Resolutions Suck. (Make them anyway.)


It’s sort of my style to gripe and complain about things around here. Every year I take more than a couple of posts out to pooh-pooh the things that tend to wind most people up: New Year’s Resolutions. National Novel Writing Month. Birthdays. Puppies. Maybe it’s my skeptical nature, maybe it’s some deep-seated, culturally-cultivated urge to strive against, or I dunno, maybe at my core I really am just a grinch.

But here at the end of 2017 I find myself looking around and I see I haven’t done quite so much of that. Hard to say why off the cuff, except to point out that 2017 seems to have been a generally crappy year for lots of creatives, particularly those of us who lean liberal. No politics today, except to point out that it’s been hard to exist in the world without taking a higher-than-usual interest in politics, which comes at the expense of the fargos you have to give every day.

Still, it wouldn’t feel right to finish up the year without taking a big, hearty piss on a beloved American tradition, so here it is:

That New Year’s Resolution you’re contemplating?

You’re going to eff it up, and probably eff it up badly.

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It’s just not going to work.

Or, at least, it’s not going to work right now, if you’re making the resolution because it’s the end of the year and you figure it’s time to get off your ass. We know this. Most NYRs fail, sure as the Browns taking the field on Sunday. We fail to plan, or we don’t have the resolve, or we don’t actually care that much. We’ll make it for a few weeks, maybe a month or two, but we’ll run out of steam, lose momentum for a day, then two, then we fall off the train completely and we’re right back where we were on December 31.

That’s because we make resolutions at the new year because we feel like we’re supposed to. Which is bullsharknado. The time to make a resolution is when it’s time to do the thing, when that little voice inside you — your conscience, the twin you absorbed in the womb, or god if that’s your thing — tells you this thing has to happen NOW. When, if you don’t do the thing now, you will suffer.

If that voice happens to speak up around the new year, great. Probably it won’t.

Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t make the resolution anyway.

Just because you’re going to fail at a thing, and probably fail badly, is no reason not to try it. Failure is the best teacher, after all, and once you fail at the thing, well, you know the mistakes not to make when you try the second time. And when you fail that time, you know even more mistakes to avoid. And if you’re lucky, eventually you learn to avoid enough mistakes that you just might finally make it through the mine field.

All of which is to say that 2018 feels like a great year for making mistakes.

Or, put another way, a great year to go out there and fargo some sharknado up.

Dang, I was supposed to be dumping on resolutions.

Okay.

Resolutions suck.

(Make them anyway. Whether it’s a new year or not.)

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.


Top 20 Posts of 2017


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Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages…

My name is Glen Donaldson and I am a most regular reader of this blog. If that statement sounds even vaguely like some kind of soul-bearing admission usually reserved for the opening minutes of an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting, allow me to correct that impression and say it’s not at all meant to.

Before I launch into the detail of how and why ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED came to stitch a multi-coloured, metaphor-dipped square of appreciation and loyalty into my personal soul quilt, I should make a few things clear off the bat –

  • Matt Pavlak (aka Pavowski) and I have never met.
  • Living more than 14 000 kilometres apart on two different continents (I’m in Brisbane, Australia)  it’s quite possible and more than likely we may never meet.
  • It took  some serious arm twisting on my part to convince Matt to publish this post, which, if stripped down to its bare basics, essentially represents a fan’s glowing tribute to both the blog and its owner’s considerable writing talents.

Via ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED, Matt Pavlak’s been hitting literary jukeboxes to make them play beautiful word music just like Fonzie used to since as far back as March 2014. I joined the party as a follower sometime during 2015 and quickly realized I’d struck pay dirt as far as quality blog writing goes. Since that time I’ve grown even more convinced the blend of worldly wisdom and hilariously observed, downright Seinfeldian recall of life’s micro trial’s and tribulations that make up the content on ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED represents the very tip of the blogosphere spear.

This year Matt attracted his 500th follower. As he’s one blogger who would never think to stoop so low as inflicting anything approaching mediocrity on his readers, not even a single time and not even for a sentence fragment’s duration, I feel confident in saying the quality of his writing warrants easily twenty times that number of followers.

At the risk of labouring the point, if ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED ever decided to install a paywall and charge people to read his musings, I’d no doubt be one of the first to sign up. With thought pieces that hit like the shock wave of a concussion grenade plus channeled wordery that, frankly speaking, rises on very regular occasions to be things of sheer beauty, I can say, quite unequivocally and without word of a lie, he’s that good.

By his own standards, Pavowski claims to have had a somewhat less than stellar year as far as writing goes. Regular readers of this blog will know he’s put this down to a state of mild disorientation brought on by the situational insanity of house selling and moving as well as a slew of time and energy sapping work commitments. Matt’s so-called less than stellar year would be most other people’s Pulitzer Prize winning year, and trust me, he’s not paying me to say that.

Before I launch into counting down my pick of his 20 most memorable posts of 2017, selected from more than a hundred published on ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED throughout the year, I will address the question of what has moved me to cover myself so unashamedly from head to toe in brightly coloured nerd froth. Simply stated, in a world experienced by most of us as a never-ending series of mixed blessings (or put another way, quoting the insight of modern man’s answer to Socrates, Forest Gump – “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna git”), it’s a revelation to come upon something you consider genuine quality. And it’s kinda fun to celebrate it on the rare occasions you do stumble across something like that.

Here then are my nominations, counting down in order, for the best 20 posts of 2017 as appearing on Matt’s blog ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED

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# 1.  Never Go Back to your Alma Mater (June)

A trip back to The University of Georgia evokes mixed feelings.

“Going back to your Alma Mater is a little bit like looking up an ex. You do it out of pure curiosity, with the purest of intentions. Just want to see what they’re up to, what they’ve got going on. But it can only end in depression”.

Remember it here

#2. PBV Syndrome (August)

Unpacking the highway phenomena of vehicles (particularly trucks and SUV’s) competitively speeding up when you attempt to pass them.

Remember it here

#3. Stupid House-Selling Stories : Stairs (May)

The sticking point for a prospective house buyer was “too many stairs!”

Remember it here

#4. Faking It (May)

With disarming honesty, Pav hints that easy interactions and an air of confidence may not always be his native tongue.

Remember it here

#5. Toddler Life Chapter 148: Because it’s Hard (September)

The joys of completing late night ‘Sprout’ homework (“The bloody firefighter presentation is tomorrow”).

Includes a reference to ROCKY and a quote from JFK.

Remember it here

#6. Toddler Life Chapter 68: Lack of Sleep Chronicles (June)

A guide to coping with alternative family sleeping arrangements while on vacation amidst “strange barometric pressure”.

Includes a profound use of the word “discombobulates” as well as a nostalgic reference to “planking videos from five years ago”.

#7. Fixer of Things (March)

Home handyman par excellence saves $300 and in the process baths in a warm inner glow of a job well done. Includes a contender for Picture of the Year.

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#8. Scrub Up and Slice In (May)

Narrative surgery.

“The problem is, like an insane spider’s web, every part of the thing is interconnected”.

#9. Watch out – There’s Girls Driving! (June)

An incident at the supermarket that perfectly illustrates why Pav and his family prefer to shop on a Sunday morning at 8am.

#10.  Splinters (September)

Giving praise to the Gods of Carpentry and what it takes to build a kitchen bench.

Includes maverick use of the word “perambulate” and Picture of the Year.

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#11. Cleansing the Stream (February)

A writer’s brain is compared to a mountain stream.

This majestic post boasted an inspired use of the word ‘panoply’.

#12. Can’t Complain (March)

Where Pav pops the lock on his formula for living a happy life.

Includes a quote from Ferris Bueller.

#13. Project Projections: 80% Chance of Bloodbath (March)

A gripping confessional where he admits the plot of his current novel in progress needs work.

“The plot needs work to be sure, but it’s more multi-knotted rescue rope with the odd loose end than formless hairball of half-digested tail fur.”

This is also the post where Matt comes clean on the worst kept secret on the blogosphere – that he loves a good simile or metaphor like he loves a third slice of cake.

#14. Spiderwebs (July)

Pavowski’s spidey sense tingles overtime in this classic post.

“Spiders spin webs because their spidery nature compels them to. They spin webs because if they don’t they will literally die. That’s writer-y”.

Includes sublime use of the word ‘topiary’ and another strong contender for Photo of the Year.

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#15.  A Burp of Inspiration (January)

Matt let’s on one of his favourite quotes comes from Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), the one about “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

#16. Who Ever Wanted More Deadlines? (May)

The motivating force of impending deadlines.

Plus a bonus: Matt reveals he’s accepted an offer on his (then) current house.

#17. WriterSpawn (June)

The day Pavowski’s asked his five-year old son if he wanted to go down to the beach and he replied, “No, I want to finish making my book. I’m so excited to read it to you.”

#18. Toddler Life Chapter 419 – Cite Your Source (May)

Where Pav observes his five year old son can craft an argument, make a literary allusion and cite his source. Admits also he grows to hate all books his son loves.

#19. The Fly (November)

The fly is that little idea that gets into your head.

Kenny Rogers is a quoted source of wisdom in this post that contained quite the buzz as well as the classic ‘a fly flew’ “obviosity”.

#20. Magic Signs are BS (June)

There’s no such thing as a sign that it’s time to write that novel.

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On behalf of everyone who regards ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED as blogging royalty, thank you Matt for a spectacularly entertaining 2017. Good luck with getting the agent representation we know you are seeking for your two novels and we look forward to reading another swag of true-life literary gems in 2018.

 

 

 

 

 


Metaphor Monday: The Snow Field


Our little suburb of Atlanta took on more snow than just about any other part of Georgia this weekend, so we were treated to several days of the white stuff. As a guy who has lived in the South for all his life, this is a treat: we don’t see snow very often, and when we do, it’s usually either a sad little dusting on your grill and the top of your car, or a slushy, icy slurry that freezes roads and locks up traffic for days. But this was the real thing. A bona-fide blanket.

Driving around the neighborhood, we saw a picture-perfect scene, right out of the Christmas movies of your childhood. Entire blocks awash in white, roofs radiantly shining under a brilliant blue sky. Fields sprawling under a soft, silent cover. Treetops bowed and glowing, crowned with frost. A true winter wonderland. Perfect in its completeness, perfect in its simplicity, perfect in its total transformation of the city.

It was so perfect, in fact, that we almost hated to disrupt it — but disrupt it we must. We have kids, after all, and they weren’t about to let such an event slide by without the requisite snowball fights and snowmen and snow angels and the fuzzy blankets and flannel pajamas afterward. And of course we had to move on with daily life, too. The trash must be taken out. The roads must be braved for an emergency trip to the grocery store. And yes, the dog still has to go out (watching her do a dance while neck-deep in snow was beyond satisfying.) So, within very little time at all, our beautiful, snow-blanketed yard became pretty disgusting. Footprints all over the place. Deep divots where the green-brown of grass beneath has stained the snow. Wide swaths of exposed ground, sodden and muddy. An eyesore. Especially next to the neighbors’ yards — neighbors whose kids have either grown up and moved on or who are nonexistent, neighbors who had the good sense to stock up in preparation for the storm, neighbors who hunkered down and hibernated like bears when the first flakes began to fall.

My father-in-law called up my wife to lament that they don’t have any kids in the house to go out and play in the snow this year. (Their youngest is a college freshman.) They got out in it a little bit — walked a neat line of steps to the sidewalk and around the neighborhood — but left the bulk of it undisturbed. Unenjoyed. Unplayed-with. What a shame.

After a day, our yard was trashed. But then, isn’t a snowy field meant to be trashed? Isn’t it the ragged snowfield, marred by footprints and muddy patches, that has lived up to its full potential? It’s been played in, kicked and thrown around, stuffed into shirts — it’s lived, unlike its slumbering, undisturbed counterpart.

A lovely, but ephemeral, glimpse at a perfect world.

Which of course puts me in mind of the ever-present writer’s paradox: the blank page.

When you start a project — or when you return to a project on a new day — the same lovely, terrible expanse greets you. A perfect blank page, unblemished and interminable. It’s so lovely and so calming and so pristine, it seems like a crime to defile it. Any words we might write upon the blank page are just that — a defilement to its perfection. A crime against its peace. A hurled tomato against its steamed and pressed costume. I look at that blank page, and I think I can’t possibly make it better. Then I start writing, and not only am I not making it better, I’m actively screwing it up. The words never come out right on the first go-round. Some sentences come out as grammatical train-wrecks. My overapplication of modifiers is like so much yellow sprayed across the snow.

But, screw it up we must. Just like my muddy, stomped-in front yard, the blank page’s perfection is just temporary. It’s lovely to look at, but its true function, its best use, is not to just sit there and be perfect. Its calling is to get messed up, to suffer the wordy slings and arrows of our halting, harried advances. The blank page is never so alive as when it’s strewn with ink, letters stamped indelibly into its surface, the heavy plow of purpose and inspiration carving deep furrows across its face. The blank page yearns to be written upon. It begs to be ruined.

The page that you leave blank is the page that never lives up to its full potential. The blinking cursor on your screen is its coy invitation. Go ahead. Type a few words out. Roll up a snowball or two.

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Pictured: maybe not exactly my backyard. By Simon.

Your yard will be ruined in no time.


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