On Writing

The Extroverted Introvert / Writer

I would categorize myself as an Extroverted Introvert (yes, it’s a thing). Most people would be surprised at the Introvert part because I’m generally very social. However, like most Introverts, I absolutely must have my recharge time. Now, even being social, I’m not one who enjoys talking on the phone under most circumstances. Yesterday was one of those days, tho, when I simply did not want to talk to anyone. At all. No texts, no emails, nothing. I decided to bury myself in writing and sat down to write a blog post.

And so I sat there, intermittently playing Candy Crush and waking my computer to look at a blank screen. I didn’t want to write a blog post. I mean I really didn’t want to. Irritated at what I labeled writer’s block, I put the laptop aside, grabbed my journal, and started writing about not wanting to write. Lemme tell ya, the words flowed like hot lava. WTH? I realized, in and through my furious journaling, that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to write — I didn’t want to talk to my blog audience.

This epiphany made me look at other times I thought I suffered from writer’s block. Could it be, I wonder, that I slip into writing for a specific audience instead of just writing the story? Hrm.. me thinks we’re onto something.

Perhaps I’ve been in the technical/business/non-fiction writing realms too long. The first rule in that type of writing is to know your audience. With fiction, there are no rules. Okay, I know that’s not literally true – there are definitely some rules, or at least guidelines. Obviously if you’re writing a genre like children’s lit, you need to write for that type of reader, letting this guide your language choices and style and rhythm and whatnot. But in the grander scheme, do fiction writers write for their audiences? I’m intrigued by this idea and have made mental notes start keeping a closer eye on it. For a true extrovert, having an audience in mind may actually help. All of this stream of consciousness is purely theory salted with speculation. I’d be interested in knowing if anyone else experiences this type of mental block. The next time I’m trying to avoid writing I’ll have to do a bit of research to see if there’s anything out there on this topic.

On Writing

Saturday Morning in Columbia, SC

There is ALWAYS something to do in Columbia, South Carolina, which is one of my favorite things about living here. Today we chose a regular family favorite, the Soda City, our awesome weekly street market, where we ran into a friend of my husband’s from college, local artist Sean McGuinness. We didn’t bring the puppies this time since we were meeting a friend for lunch, but Soda City is a great, dog-friendly event that lets Fido get his social fix, too. Unfortunately, Riverfront Park remains closed from the historic flooding we had last Fall, but I’m looking forward to this summer we can combine a run along the canal with the dogs and a trip to Soda City.

IMG_9408Along with the street market we visited a few of the great stores along Main Street. Valentine’s Day weekend or not, we would have stopped Sylvan’s Jewelers, to see their recent remodel, which is stunning – I was so happy to see the character of the original store remain. I’ll have to post about them again when they update their website with new pics. After showing infinite patience while we did some Valentine’s Day shopping, the kids begged for a stop into Mast General Store to sample the barrel candy, and how could we possibly deny them? Point of interest: Mast General is dog-friendly, so feel free to let Fido get his shopping on, too!

For lunch, we chose Michael’s Cafe, which is definitely a favorite of mine as evidenced by how many of our Girls on the Run lunchtime meetings “happen” to get scheduled there. We met up with a friend who lives downtown and I finally got to see her lovely apartment with all its exposed brick… sadly, just as she packs up to move back to DC. Living in the downtown Columbia area has become the ‘thing’ to do, and this has really revitalized the area in the past few years. Turns out I know several people in the building, but that shouldn’t surprise me since Columbia, while a large capital city, feels a lot like a small town.

Overall, we had a very nice Saturday morning to kickstart the weekend. We have lots of domestic/family stuff to do or we could have enjoyed ourselves downtown all day. There just so much about ‘Famously Hot’ Columbia to talk about and to recommend – way more than this tiny sampling.  We have the State Museum, the art museum, the zoo, the children’s museum, the Nickelodeon Theatre, the historic district, the Vista, Five Points, Koger Center, the SC Philharmonic, the Trustus Theatre, Colonial Life Arena, the Town Theatre, the Village Square Theatre… it goes on and on. And the restaurants! Haven’t even started listing the restaurants. I feel the same way about my other home of Knoxville, Tennessee and could probably support a blog writing about just those two places. Maybe I’ll make a couple categories and make them semi-regular topics and show my cities some love.

On Writing

Erika for President

This is from my original blog, written in 2004.

After failing my first attempt at my Doctoral Language Exam (GASP!), I was unbelievably distraught.  Granted, health issues had affected my ability to concentrate and I had studied the wrong material, but nonetheless, I failed.

While most of my family does not understand my obsession with grades, my brother Ben listened patiently as I pouted, ranted, and raved.  A few days later, he happened upon one of those great little bookstores with the yummy musty smell and books piled to the ceiling (Book Nook in Prescott Arizona).  In browsing, he found a book with an interesting title that made him think of me.  He flipped inside to this passage:

image1“Mrs. Cooke’s face was a picture of shock and confusion.  ‘Why, Erika, you’ve never failed a subject in your life.  You’ve never gotten less than a B-minus for anything.'”

Too perfect.  He bought the book and gave it to me last Christmas.

Erica for President by Carol H. Behrman

Hence the name of this site (spelled correctly).  It will, of course, also come in handy should the need arise for me to force a Democrat from office.FullSizeRender

Ah, grad school. It’s funny how much perspective we gain with time and distance, isn’t it? Petty things like tests and grades seemed end-all-be-all important back then. When, in the course of my daily life today, will I ever need to be able to translate passages of literature into English? And if I did, why would’t I just use Google Translate?

I did love graduate school and I miss being a creative writing major… when I read 2 or 3 books every week and writing was my whole world. I loved the daily camaraderie with fellow students and professors and even though I stay in touch with many of them, it’s just not the same.

FullSizeRender 2

So anyway… that’s where Erika for President came from and I love it. My brother (who is an amazingly talented artist and is also currently writing his own novel but needs to update his blog) still “gets” me. The other day he sent me a text at nearly midnight to alert me about a couple of typos on my blog that, of course, I had to fix right then and there.

Perfectionism is a bitch, ain’t it?

But, even though I still have to spell everything right (yes, even in texts I capitalize sentences and use punctuation), I have mellowed considerably when it comes to “perfection” … especially in writing. What I have come to realize since grad school is that there’s no such thing as perfect – often because of subjectivity. I know there will be people who love what I write and people who don’t. I’m okay with that. I know that I’ll look back at something I wrote, like the passage above, and think of all kinds of ways I could edit it that may, or may not, improve it… until more time passes and the eyes of an older me see even more ways to edit it. I think this realization has triggered my desire to write fiction again after so many years of writing non-fiction.

I am Erika for President – I represent the writers and my platform is that whatever you write can only ever be as “perfect” as it is in that moment – with what you know then and have experienced up to that time then. Whomever reads it will bring their own experiences and their interaction with what you wrote will be personal to them – and some will like it while some won’t. And guess what? With the perspective of time and distance, you won’t even care. It just won’t matter to your future self the way it churns your stomach up today, so just let go of it. All of it. Let go of all of your critics, especially the one inside your own head.

On Writing

Organising Chaos – Scrivener for the Scatterbrained

I love Scrivener – all I have to do is find a way for it to read the hand written notes I’m still so fond of and, maybe, scan my brain, as well. 🙂

Lisa Reiter - Sharing the Story

I have notebooks everywhere. And loads of notes.

When I say everywhere, I mean car footwell, glove box, handbag, desk, rucksack, my other desk, bedside table, kitchen drawer

View original post 404 more words

On Writing, Random Thoughts

Back in the Saddle

After a many-year sabbatical, I’ve decided to start blogging again. I went back and forth for a while, but as useful as personal journaling is for a writer, there’s nothing better than an audience to help exercise skills and to keep learning and growing. It has been a really long time, though. Curious, I looked back and discovered I’ve had this ErikaForPresident URL longer than I even realized. Turns out I started my first “real” blog circa mid 2004. I kept it up pretty steady until 2007 when things like MySpace and Facebook had grown enough in functionality and popularity that I decided to give them a try. MySpace lasted 55562_1605416465512_2447708_oabout a week, and I enjoy keeping up with friends and family on Facebook, but Facebook is much more personal than a blog so I keep mine locked down.

So here I am again. I look back at some of my old blog posts and laugh, like I do about most of my old writing. I’m sure I’ll look at this blog someday and laugh then, too. Luckily, I have no problems laughing at myself. Life is too short.

What do I want this blog to be about, anyway? I think, like my last blog, it will evolve over time. I’m sure I’ll write a lot about writing, and because one of my current writing projects is a book about Project Management and Agile, I’ll write a lot about those topics, too. As a reader, I appreciates a good book review and always turn to reviews to help me choose between all the billions of books out there. One of my New Years’ Resolutions was to write more, including actually completing book reviews of my own.

That’s a start, anyway. I’ll have lots of random thoughts I’ll share, I’m sure. I already have a long list of blog topics. One of the things I look forward to most is conversing with fellow bloggers. I get some of that on Twitter, but the character limit often forces us to DM, and if you tweet, you know how many junk DMs you get – conversations often get overlooked for days.

I hope you enjoy the evolution of ErikaForPresident. One of the topics at the top of the list? Why is my blog called ErikaForPresident?

Random Thoughts

Valentine’s Day with George

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and while for many people that means making plans with a significant other, a large number of people will find themselves alone this year. Many of my single friends seem perfectly okay with that, but others lament and spend hours on Pinterest posting pictures of a someday dream wedding. I totally understand feeling lonely on Valentine’s Day or any other day once in a while; however, in this era of Keeping up with the Joneses, the desire to be in a relationship can take on a new flavor. The pressure to be in a relationship in order to appear happy… or worse, to actually be happy, seems to encourage a disturbing trend. The Fake Girlfriend/Boyfriend.

Now everyone loves the light-hearted fodder of a sitcom or romcom. Ok, well, maybe not Just Go With It, which seriously may be one of the worst movies of all time. But who doesn’t love humming along to My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada?  That being said, what if the fake S.O. isn’t a sitcom, though. What if it’s not just a way to get grandma off your back and it actually masks a societal shame of being single. Or if it’s a narcissistic compulsion? Could it be a symptom of a deeper mental crisis? Oh, Jan!

This may be old news to some people, but I just happened upon a news story today about an app called The Invisible Boyfriend. Really?!? This app lets users create, and communicate, with their fake boyfriend. As the website says, “HAVE TEXT CONVERSATIONS, SHARE PHOTOS, AND TELL A BELIEVABLE STORY ABOUT YOUR ‘INVISIBLE’ BOYFRIEND.” I wouldn’t self-identify as a feminist, but this whole phenomena just kills me. Why is it so bad to be single? And why is it such a problem for some people to have something that other people don’t have, at least at any given moment in time? Ladies, Ladies, Ladies! You’re making us all look bad. Get a grip. Also? Quit encouraging this behavior in others. It’s just not healthy.

728px-Fake-Having-a-Boyfriend-Step-7In preparing to write this post, I found a wikihow site that gives instructions on How to Fake Having a Boyfriend. It gives tips, dos and don’ts, and even suggests an exit strategy.

Step #7 Stage a break up. Before you do this come up with a reason why and who initiated it. Opt for something believable. (Example: Your “boyfriend” cheated on you.) You may want to consider moping around for a few days, anxiously checking your phone for messages every ten minutes.

This is all just horrible and sad. If you’re one of these women who plan to spend Valentine’s Day with your very own George Glass, this message is for you.

You don’t need to do it. You think people care or are judging you, but they really aren’t. And if they are, why in the world would you care? Just walk away from that nonsense. Bottom line – You are you. You are not who you’re with (or not with), not what you own (or don’t know), not what you wear or where you live or what you ate for breakfast. All that a fake boyfriend will do for you is

  1. Prevents you from finding a real boyfriend
  2. Causes you to lose friends when they figure out you’re lying to them (and they will)
  3. Makes you look like a douche and/or a mental case
  4. Perpetuates the so-called shame of being single
  5. Pushes the rest of us women back into the 50s

If you’re single this Valentine’s Day, do something awesome for the love of your life. Yourself. Go have a spa day and get a facial. Read a book. Or do whatever it is you like to do when you’re off on your own. But please don’t embarrass yourself. A fake boyfriend (or worse, a series of fake boyfriends) is not as easy to pull off as you think. Even with invisible boyfriend pictures and texts, most people will figure it out pretty quickly.

Random Thoughts

Valentine’s Day and the 5 Love Languages

A lot of my friends admit to categorizing Valentine’s Day as one of those “Hallmark Holidays” hyped to get people to spend money on cards and trinkets. They also admit to being the first in line at the Hallmark store. The expectation to participate in this holiday seems to become greater every year…and it used to drive me crazy. I’d always been far more comfortable giving gifts than receiving them.

A few years ago, my husband (then boyfriend) asked me to take the 5 Love Languages quiz. We had been going through a rough patch in our relationship and someone suggested to him that he might find the key to why his constant attempts to “demonstrate his love to me” might be falling shy of the mark. Interestingly enough, we both ended up learning quite a lot about each other.

Of the 5 Love Languages (Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch), Receiving Gifts had landed at the very bottom of my list. My husband had given me gifts nearly every week since we’d met, and in our rough patch, had doubled the quantity and tripled the quality. What he learned was that a more IMG_5404infrequent (for him) and deeply meaningful gift spoke much more clearly to me than a constant barrage. I learned to accept gifts much more gracefully as I finally understood that gift giving is a love language – a way to demonstrate love, not a way to buy love.

In large part due to an over-indulgent Christmas, my husband and I agreed last Valentine’s Day to not exchange gifts. It was, after all, just a Hallmark Holiday, and we made some significant home purchases right after Christmas. My husband’s interpretation of “not exchanging gifts” meant he didn’t want to receive anything and I absolutely had to have new earrings and an adorable hand-made card. Knowing now what I do about the languages of love, I couldn’t be even a little irritated. As his top language is Acts of Service, I knew he’d enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal and a nice massage. I guess Valentine’s Day isn’t so bad, after all.