Writers, ‘If you want immediate money, get a job’

“Write because you enjoy it. Write for the long term. If you want immediate money, get a job. This writing career is about loving to tell stories. Readers want to hear about how great your story is, not how many copies you sold or how brilliant your promotion campaign was. Readers want to be lulled and drawn into a new world they love, not sold a popular fad.” – Hope Clark

If you’re on the staff of a magazine or newspaper, write news releases for a profit-making corporation or non-profit organization, write advertising copy, are among the listed writers for a television series, create computer documentation, or are employed in other positions that require you to create strings of words for pay, then you have a writing job and receive paycheck and possibly even have a benefits package.

However, none of those positions are on people’s minds when they dream of becoming a writer. They’re dreaming of the Pulitzer Prize or the Nobel Prize or the New York Times bestseller list or of seeing the words “based on a story by. . .”in the credits of a blockbuster movie.

As Hope Clark said in a recent Funds for Writers newsletter that for most writers, sometimes it seems like nobody’s out there because few readers write Amazon reviews or comment on writers’ blogs. So that’s why she advises dreamers to write because they enjoy it.

When we’re young, and don’t know any better, we see our current novel in progress as the next bestseller published by a major New York Publisher. Subsequently, we’re depressed to learn they don’t look at unsolicited manuscripts and that most of the agents who send work to those publishers also don’t look at unsolicited manuscripts.

If you’re a Hollywood star or even a famous serial killer, you’ll probably get a contract from a major New York Publisher because they think your book will sell 50,000 copies or more. Seems unfair, doesn’t it? But then, publishing is a business. Yes, that seems unfair, too, doesn’t it? Perhaps it will seem less unfair if we acknowledge that most people in other professions don’t start at the top. They work their way up. Other than famous people, I think the same is true of writers.

We really have to like what we do. And when it comes down to the words on paper, we need to enjoy putting them there and acknowledge those words are there for our prospective readers. Those readers need to find something that inspires them, takes them into exciting places with exciting characters, or provides a respite from a long days at the office.

Yes, it’s hard to know what readers might want. I think that means that we have to do the best we can as writers and hope we connect with somebody out there who enjoys reading our words. Looking at writing as a lottery where we might strike it rich usually dooms us to failure. If it happens, it happens. Until them, telling stories is what inspires us more than seeing our names up in lights.

Malcolm

Coming this year: ‘Lena,’ the third novel in my Florida Folk Magic Series

We hear that books in series tend to sell better than standalone books. But, we also hear that if the first book in a series is well liked, the author might have trouble keeping readers’ interests in subsequent books.

Early reviewers who liked “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” said they though book two, “Eulalie and Washer Woman” was even better. The readers were happy and I was relieved that I hadn’t botched up the whole thing by writing a sequel.

The odd thing is, the sequel has sold fewer copies than the original and has a fraction of the reviews. Go figure.

So, I had mixed feelings writing a third book. On one hand, I thought that with the declining interest shown for book two, it was kind of silly to write book three. However, I had a few things left to say. Or, perhaps, the characters did. Book three was harder to write than the previous books. So, it took longer.

But finally, Lena is almost ready to send to my publisher. We’ve already been having conversations about the cover. As far as the cover goes, our artist for books one and two has moved onto other things. So, we’ll need somebody new.

What’s left to do? Well, this is the polishing the manuscript phase. That means going through the story page by page to get rid of any inconsistencies, typos, continuity problems, or stupid mistakes I can find before sending the DOC file to Thomas-Jacob Publishing. Fortunately, we have a great editor who will catch 99 and 44/100 percent of the mistakes I miss.

I have no idea how long it will take to get everything squared away. Several months, perhaps. Like most authors who get to know their characters throughout a series of books, I will miss these people. But, I suspect it’s time to move on to other themes and other stories. (I reserve the right to change my mind.)

For years, I wondered if I would ever find the characters and story lines to write about the racism in Florida during the years when I was growing up. For prospective readers, I hope I did.

Malcolm

Click on my name for my website.

Polarized shouting matches won’t solve the school shooter problem

Yesterday, a friend of mine began a discussion of the school shooter problem with a measured status update that, rather than looking for simplistic solutions, clearly invited people to look at the culture and the nature of our society that are behind what might be called an epidemic.

While most of those commenting seriously tried to talk about why people with access to guns today are becoming school shooters when young people have, for years in this country, had access to guns (hunting, trap and skeet shouting, informal target practice) and–until recently–didn’t kill their classmates in mass shootings.

Other commenters didn’t like this approach for various reasons centering on beliefs that (a) so-called profiles of school shooters also described a lot of other people who “suffered the same problems” but didn’t become shooters, (b) the solutions–such as get the guns, arm teachers, put metal detectors at school entrances–were clear and, if approved, could be implemented before efforts at understanding today’s youth would get off the ground, (c) psychology is a “soft discipline” that most insurance plans don’t even cover, so how could it possibly be expected to solve what people believe is a law enforcement issue.

Some people said they thought the media–both news and social–helped fuel the problem by inciting copy cat killings, contributing to the so-called easy fix approach  through non-stop panels of experts, and by providing a fame of sorts to the shooters. Others speculated that non-stop texting and social media use made today’s youth more isolated while giving them the impression they were tied into a larger whole.

In his “Psychology Today” article “‘Profiling’ School Shooters,” George S. Everly states that  While the debate rages on gun control and is not likely to be resolved in the near future, renewed interest in “profiling” those who are at highest risk for committing violence has emerged. However, we must proceed cautiously as no predictive paradigm in behavioral science is perfect, especially “profiling.”

The emphasis here is not, I think, to come up with a formula that predicts who, amongst people suffering similar problems, will be the next shooter. To me, what’s important is considering conditions which appear to have impacted shooters to date and using them not as predictions but as issues to address in schools, families, and perhaps society itself.

Every’s list of primary factors, includes:

  • Males who were students or former students at the school–that is, they were part of the target school’s population.
  • Anger and revenge from people who had been bullied or felt they had been treated unfairly.
  • Individuals who were socially awkward and had few friends.
  • Media contagion as a motivator to frustrated and angry individuals.
  • Dysfunctional family situations.
  • Individuals who expressed frustration/anger through social media posts or some form of “art.”

My list oversimplifies the article, so I encourage you to read it. Whether or not such indicators are within the purview of school counselors is not for me to say. I suspect they are already overworked with a career-choice focus. Parents and parent associations might discuss these in relation to their own children, though we don’t expect a dysfunctional family to have a family meeting and vote to become functional.

Those who think rooms full of youths who are all texting others who aren’t there rather than interacting with those they’re sitting next to certainly have an issue to study. Why do kids do this? Does it isolate them and/or cripple their social skills of dealing with people more directly?

The legality of looking too closely at these indicators might pose problems, such as muzzling a free press, stifling free speech, or the school’s intrusion into emotional issues that parents think belong within the family’s discretion.

As a former journalism teacher, I think there is much the press can do to act with greater caution and restraint in its reporting. “Sitting on a story” for hours and hours during periods when no new information is available not only gives rise to inaccurate reporting and reliance on the opinions/speculations of experts, but ignores other news around the world. For shooters who are looking for their 15 minutes of fame, this endless coverage gives them more fame than they ever dreamt of.

Santa Fe school system photo

We saw how the Ferguson, Missouri violence was fueled in part by the lies told–and perpetuated by the media–about the Michael Brown shooting by people who claimed to be witnesses who weren’t even there. A lot of violence occurred based on those lies, and even after they were proven false, many people continued to believe them. A network I won’t name was taking phone calls after the Santa Fe, Texas shooting from people that did not appear to have been vetted who claimed to have been there. Were they really there? The network took their comments as gospel, something no good reporter would ever do. In this approach, the network wasn’t a news organization but another cog in the social media spreading viral information that could only incite more incorrect views on causes, and perhaps our next shooting.

Addressing these so-called indicators isn’t a quick fix. Personally, I am more interested in knowing what in society has changed that has allowed/facilitated this epidemic.  Some people think “getting the guns” is a quick fix, yet they seem to have no idea that much of the prospective legislation bandied about so far wouldn’t have stopped many of the shooters and/or would be unconstitutional. Trying to repeal or alter the Second Amendment is a process that–even if Congress starts the procedure–would take years and would probably fail. Not a quick fix. Others suggest metal detectors at school doors  which, of course, would have to be manned. So far, the costs appear to be higher than school system budgets. Not an easy thing to do even though it seems so obvious.

I don’t have the answer. And, it might be possible that even if we knew exactly what had changed in our society to create this problem, it might include a slough of so many things it would be hard to address. However, what doesn’t help, is intruding into a civilized Facebook post that’s looking for reasoned discussion with a single-quick-fix solution and then slamming those who don’t agree with it.

If this Facebook thread mirrors society as a whole, we’ll never stop the shootings. Meanwhile, as one survivor of the Santa Fe, Texas, shooting said in an interview, “It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here too.”

Let’s hope public policy doesn’t become fatalism.

–Malcolm

A friend of mine has continued some helpful resources:

The School Shooter: A Quick Reference Guide
HOW WE TALK ABOUT BULLYING AFTER SCHOOL SHOOTINGS CAN BE DANGEROUS: EXPERTS
Are mass shootings a white man’s problem?

Magic: Imagination flowing into intuition – Part Two

While practicing healing and intuition exercises, beginners are told to begin with their imagination and that in time, their imagination will slide away and they’ll be seeing reality. (See Part One.)

Here’s a personal example that surprised me at the time, first that it happened at all, second that it was vivid and intense.

In a discussion group composed of people who at taken one or two Silva Method courses, we often talked about visualizing healing energy flowing from ourselves to other people. Usually, these were people we knew were sick, and the energy was sent after we relaxed our minds and closed our eyes and “saw” the energy as a beam of pure white light flowing toward (and enveloping) the person.

Some suggested we could send energy to people we saw on the street or on a bus or in a room full of people. We’d simply imagine it happening without closing our eyes or using any self-hypnotic countdown of numbers to relax our minds.

Headlights and Tail Lights

Clipart.com image.

I tried this out on a dark country road that had a relatively small amount of traffic. My plan was to send energy to the people inside the cars as represented by pairs of headlights and tail lights ahead of me, on side roads at intersections, or in my rear view mirrors.

When only a car or two was visible, I could “say” in my mind, “Healing energy is flowing into your car for all of you.” When traffic grew heavier, that changed to quickly saying “Energy to you” for each pair of lights.

Even though I wasn’t far from home, the night was very dark, so I couldn’t possibly recognize any of the cars or the people in them.

After doing this for ten or fifteen minutes, I began to “know” how many people were in the cars, whether or not any of them were really sick or depressed or happy or having an argument, and sometimes whether they suddenly felt a “jolt of health” or a “jolt of happiness.” Their thoughts and conversations were becoming strongly apparent.

Soon, I was in tears because the impressions were so strong, the white light of the energy appeared before my eyes like flashes of lightning, and for some of the cars there came a validation that I was sensing actual moments and/or providing (through the energy) a bit of help.

I was an emotional wreck by the time I reached my destination (my house) and sat in the dark driveway for a long time trying to process what had just happened. I have never tried to replicate this experience because the impressions and flashes of lights were so vivid, they were beginning to dangerously impact my driving. I worried that I might close my eyes without realizing it and end up wrecking my Jeep.

So What Did It Mean?

First, it demonstrated that what begins as imagination can become more than that. It also showed me that the shift from imagination to intuition is most likely to happen when one isn’t trying to force it to happen. I thought I was pretending to send energy. Maybe it began that way, but it became an overwhelming validation that the process works.

Second, it gave me the confidence–usually in an easy chair with my eyes closed–to send energy or “see” situations while my mind was in a relaxed (alpha waves) state. The experience showed me what it felt like when intuition has taken over. So, I was going to a place I knew. People using biofeedback to lower their blood pressure while hooked up to a flashing light that indicates their progress, discover (when the light slows down) what it feels like when the biofeedback works. This allows them to do it without the flashing light wired to their fingertips. If you practice intuition and/or various energy healing programs, including Reiki, “what it feels like” is a good guide to how you’re doing, so to speak.

As a writer, artist, musician, or any other creative person who loves to let their imagination run free, I think we all discover in time that whether we’re writing a book or playing mind games, sometimes we learn things we didn’t expect to discover.

Even now, I “know” (even though I’m not thinking about that old exercise) what kinds of people are in the cars represented by headlights and tail lights on the roads at night. Yes, I avoid those who seem malevolent or feel a kinship with those who are happy or depressed. One never knows why kinds of faculties an exercise will unlock.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism novels where the magic and the realism are real.

Sunday Shatterings -Stormy, Stevie, CNN, Tropical Fish, &c.

You will be happy to know that I’m running out of relevant titles for posts that rhyme with natterings and clatterings and will soon think up better titles.

I’m wondering today when you lost your innocence. (That’s a rhetorical question.) I don’t necessarily mean in the backseat of a car at a drive-in theater while a Godzilla movie was playing on a screen that was barely visible through the fogged up windows. I’m talking about larger issues.

  • Wikipedia art work.

    Since today is Mother’s Day, perhaps it’s fair to say that my world was shattered when I learned that my mother didn’t know everything. She came up to me one time when I was home for a visit from college and said, “Malcolm, I don’t know why you decided to start smoking.” The world moved. How could she not know? I thought she would know before I knew.

  • Many years earlier, I was reading one of those books most of us hide under the mattress and discovered that people had sex pretty much the same way the tropical fish in my aquariums had sex. Okay, well, it doesn’t usually happen while swimming, but otherwise. . . (I’d been told that God simply sent people a baby when he thought they were ready.)
  • On any given day, many newsworthy events happen. My faith in the news media is shattered when–instead of reporting that news–they’re showing panels of talking, and biased “experts” who are telling us what some news event from weeks ago actually means. Frankly (for example), I don’t care about Stormy Daniels and don’t know why she’s getting so much air time. Okay, of course I know why: ratings.
  • Since I ran out of fresh reading material, I picked up a romance novel that has been on our shelves for 32 years. I don’t know where it came from, but I’d never read it. It’s called Through a Glass Darkly. Everyone in the book is obsessed with sex. How boring is that?!
  • Every issue of AARP Magazine ends with the pictures of five or six well known people who are still attractive, busy and successful in spite of being old. Gosh, Stevie Nicks is 70 and Mich Albom and Michelle Pfeiffer are 60. How do these things happen?
  • In other news, I made a pot roast this week that came out okay, my wife and I mowed the yard, and I am getting near the ending of Lena, the third novel in my Florida Folk Magic Series. CNN didn’t cover any of this because they were still talking about Stormy Daniels.

Malcolm

Are You Creative? 

Writers question their creativity. They think it ought to be magic, something that travels down and strikes them out of the ether, when in actuality, creativity isn’t so esoteric. While we think it just happens, in reality, it is the culmination of our experiences, our education, and our willingness to let loose of the manacles of rules.

Source: Are You Creative? | FundsforWriters

An excellent post from author Hope Clark along with a very perceptive opening quote from Steve Jobs that you’ll have to click on the link above to see.

Hope believes we are more creative when we free ourselves from rules and other people’s logic and allow ourselves to see connections between things that weren’t obvious before. A lot of great fiction, great inventions, and innovations in many fields come from walking our own paths.

In fact, if there’s a path already there, avoid it, for it won’t take you to an undiscovered place.

–Malcolm

In praise of those analog clocks that aren’t going away quite yet

According to Snopes, the viral story “Are Schools Removing Analog Clocks Because Students Can’t Read Them?” is mostly false. Like viral memes and tweets about political issues, this story got twisted up through multiple re-tellings so that when all was said and done, people were shouting out silly ideas as gospel.

For one thing, the story–such as it was–focused on the U. K. and not the U. S. Heck, we haven’t even embraced the metric system yet, partly because speeds posted in kilometers sound really fast and partly because cookbook publishers don’t know how to translate a “dash of this” or “a pinch of that” into milligrams.

I’ll stipulate that some of the clock makers who don’t bother with numbers should pay a little more attention to the length of the hands. The example here is easy enough to read, but sometimes, all the hands look the same. Could be a problem.

Now, I wish I could say that–like analog-recorded music that sounds much more real than digital recordings–analog clocks make time sound better. So far, my research shows that they don’t. Of course they do give a hint that time has something to do with where the sun is because the hour hand might remind you of the sundial in your garden, assuming you have a garden with a sundial and it’s not night or cloudy. I learned as a child that shining a flashlight on a sundial at night didn’t provide the correct time.

Some of those who believed that analog clocks were being thrown in dumpsters faster than used toilet paper said that teachers had better things to do than teach kids how to tell time. My teacher didn’t teach how to tell time. I knew how to do that fifteen minutes after I was born since the hospital sundial was right outside my room.

Malcolm