WINNING! How do you know?

Speaking of winning, I just wanted to let everyone know that my 'BlogOholics Anonymous' post is being featured on the Blog Entourage today.  If you're not a follower of the B.E., I'd highly recommend it.  They feature some great blogs (at least I'm telling myself that today), and offer opportunities for you to gain some exposure for your own blog.  Plus, I'll be monitoring the comments today and I'd love to see some familiar faces!

Here's the link.

What do  you consider to be a writing 'win'?

I also thought I'd take this opportunity to ask you all about your idea of 'winning' in the writing game.  When I started writing, I thought my idea of winning was publication.  That's it.  However, I've noticed that my idea of winning has become increasingly simplistic.

For instance, having a blog post recognized and featured on another popular blog makes me feel like a winner.  Having people say nice things about my blog in the comments, or seeing other people share my thoughts on Twitter also feels like a win.

Looking back, I'd compare my initial idea of the writing win to driving toward a mountain that you intend to climb.  On the way there, your goal is pretty simple: get to the top.  Then, once your standing so close to the base of the mountain that you can no longer see the top, you realize you've got more to worry about than simply standing on the summit.  You're going to have to first find a path through that gnarly looking brush, then you're going to have go around those impossibly large boulders, and so on.

I guess I'm trying to say that the peak no longer seems like the most relevant thing.

As far as 'real' writing goes I'm noticing more and more often that whenever I re-read something I've written, if it brings a smile to my face, I feel like I've accomplished something important.  Sort of like I'm becoming a fan of my own work, so to speak.  (Which hasn't always been the case.)  That's so far away from my original ideas of success it's not even funny.

I know many writers use word counts, etc. as tangible goals.  So what standards of accomplishments do you have?  Have they changed over time?


BlogOholics Anonymous: Are you an over-poster?

It's Saturday and I've got all my limbs and a few of my whits left.  That's a 'dem fine' week in my book!  (My Narnia peeps will get the 'dem fine' reference.)

Funny music videos aside, I've got something very serious to discuss with you.  Are you a blogOholic?  It's OK to admit it, this is a safe zone.  Anything discussed within this post, stays within this post.  Denial isn't healthy, after all.

What if you're unsure?  No worries, there are signs of blog dependency:
  • Have you changed your blog design/theme more than 3 times in the last 3 minutes?
  • Is Google Reader your homepage?
  • Do you have more followers than you have money?
  • Do you determine the day of the week based upon your blog schedule?
  • Have you ever missed a wedding or funeral to write a blog post?
  • Would you name a child after your most loyal follower? (ShagRat78 has a nice ring to it ...)
  • Have you ever offered up your soul as a blog contest prize?
  • Is your self-worth determined by the number of blog comments you receive?
  • Do you have more blog accounts than friends?
  • (feel free to keep this going in the comments)
If any of the above apply, you might have a blog problem.  

Perhaps the most serious indication of blog dependency is a condition known as Over-Posting.  It occurs when a blogger posts more content than readers can keep up with.  A typical over-poster will update their blog 7-15 times a week, and in severe cases more than 30.  Over-posters are notoriously clever, often disguising their frequent blog updates as required participation in various 'blogfests' or  stating that, 'something happened that I HAD to share with my readers'.   

In particularly desperate cases, the over-poster will give cute names to each day of the week in an attempt to validate their need to flood the internet with their content.  You may see the following tags accompany their daily blog updates:  'MEGA-MONDAY!', 'TIP-TUESDAY', 'WILD-WEDNESDAY', 'THRIFTY-THURSDAY', 'FABULOUS-FRIDAY', 'SUDDENLY-SATURDAY' or 'SUPERFLUOUS-SUNDAY'.  Regardless of the title, each post is a new mask for the shameful self-loathing and anguish they feel for indulging in their own illness.
    HOW CAN YOU HELP?  First, let them know that  you care.  Reach out to the over-poster, and let them know that you're always there to listen--but only at 3 pre-determined times each week.  More than that, and you risk becoming an enabler.  Second, help the over-poster see the value in non-blog activities.  Perhaps you could lend them a good book, recommend a humorous television program or show them sunlight.  Lastly, you can resist feeding their habits by not-commenting on inane posts.  Sure, you may feel the urge to say "How fun!" or "LOL" at the picture of funny cats they just posted, but you're really only encouraging their behavior.  

    If we work together, we can end over-posting.

    This message brought to by Bloggers Against Blog Abuse (BABA) and readers like you.


    Clearly this is meant in jest, and frankly I've done most of these things myself.  What prompted this bit of frivolity is that I've noticed that if I leave my blog posts up for a couple of days in between posts, I get more comments.  There are undoubtedly numerous factors that contribute to this, the most likely being that it gives folks who use their readers to follow blogs the time to catch up to me.  Regardless of the reason, it got me to thinking about how often we post, and that maybe less is more.

    What do you think?  Do you limit the number of posts you do each week?  Do you get more comments if you leave a post up longer?  Just curious...

    Have a great rest of your weekend!


    Something Fishy - Crusade Challenge #2

    Happy Hump Day!  I've mentioned before that I'm a member of the 2nd annual Writer's Blog Crusade, which is basically a group of insane people who blog about various crazy things on cue.  (Who needs trained dolphins?)  As part of this group of miscreants, I will occasionally be posting something altogether nonsenseical.  Today is just such a day ...

    The 2nd 'challenge' is upon us!  Here are the rules:

    "Write a flash fiction story (in any format) in 100 words or less, excluding the title. Begin the story with the words, “The goldfish bowl teetered” These four words will be included in the word count. "

    I've decided to write my piece in the style of the most revered fiction of of our time--middle grade.  Here goes:

    The goldfish bowl teetered in Geoffrey's hands. Some of the putrid brown water sloshed onto the sleeve of his robes. The smell of decaying fish curdled his stomach.

    “Careful, boy,” the Master snapped. “Set it on the table and produce your wand!”

    After doing as instructed, Geoffrey tapped the bowl with his wand three times. TINK TINK TINK On the third strike he muttered the spell. 

    A familiar tide of disappointment swept his hopes away as the bloated belly of the lifeless fish bobbed on the water's surface.  But then, quite inexplicably, there was a ripple of movement.

    What do you think?  When life gives you lemons, write flash fiction I say.  Did I mention it's freaking hard  to write anything in 100 words or less?  :-)

    Thanks for humoring me!  Until next time,


    Writing Group Revelation: We are SO alike

    Howdy all!  My apologies for the blog-silence of the last few days, but I've been on 'spring break' both literally and mentally.  While I know it goes against the Blogger's Bible, I think it's good to take step back from time-to-time.  I always seem to come back with fresh ideas and a greater appreciation for the process in general.  At any rate, after loads of yard work and house chores, I'm ready to settle back into my comfy chair and do a little writing.

    You might have noticed that I changed the curtains on the blog.  I was way overdue for a remodel, and think it better fits where I intend to take the blog in the coming months. Your thoughts?

    I did get up to one major writing related activity last week.  I attended a new local writer's Meetup.  I've been a part of writing groups before (both 'live' and online), so you'd think I'd be acclimated to the process. Nope.  I was as nervous as a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  AND I WASN'T EVEN SHARING MY WRITING!

    It's a small group format (there were 7 of us), and you critique 3 works by other participants for every 1 work you submit for critique.  I like that method as it prevents 1 person from constantly having their work read/critiqued without offering feedback on others (something I've experienced before).  This being my first meeting, I read the 3 works offered and set off with my typed notes in hand.

    As I pushed on the cold glass-faced door of the business office we were using for our meeting, I realized that my palms were covered in a sheen of cold sweat.  I was also gripping my notes tightly enough to cause carpal tunnel.  Quite inexplicably, I found that I was terrified at the prospect of meeting other writers.

    Now I'm definitely one to enjoy his 'own' time, but I do have degrees in counseling and psychology and believe that I'm something of a people person when I put my mind to it.  So it wasn't some anti-social fear welling up within me.  I was simply afraid to declare myself as a 'writer' to a group of strangers who had also declared themselves as scribes.  Moreover, I was really afraid they'd think my feedback was offensive, absurd or altogether unprofessional.  After all, I'm no Hemingway.

    After exchanging pleasantries with the hostess/group founder I was quickly put at ease.  She mentioned how new the group still was, and that the first 2 meetings had been fairly stiff because people seemed afraid to take their thoughts too far or share too much.  I took my seat reassured that I wasn't the only Nervous Ned.  One-by-one the members shuffled in and exchanged nervous greetings, giving each other shifty glances that back-room arms dealers might recognize.  I smiled at last; these were my kind of people!


    We are a nervous and twitchy breed, full of baseless fears and conspiratorial thoughts.  "Look at the way she's judging me; THAT WOMAN HAS SOMETHING AGAINST COMMAS, I KNOW IT!  If they see an adverb, I'm toast!"  What I realized, watching each person prepare for their feedback as if they were facing down  a firing squad, is that we're all the same.  We are kindred spirits. Like awkward cousins at the family reunion, we're going to find each other and we're going to realize that we are more alike than we ever could have imagined.

    When it comes to feedback, we are afraid of the same things and we want to hear the same things.  Above all, we believe that the stories we write are not some kind of entity that exists in isolation outside of us.  They are a part of us--an extension--and any judgement of their worth or quality is somehow a reflection of our own quality or worth.  While some may swim a little better than others, we are all fish in the same neurotic pond, trying desperately to navigate the murky waters of our deepest thoughts and emotions.    
    I think what truly distinguishes us is our ability to balance those fears and anxieties against the scrutiny of evaluation.  It's our willingness and ability to learn--most often through trial and error--that separates the successful from the unsuccessful.  With that in mind, I think I can go to our next meeting with a little more confidence.


    I'm feeling green ...

    and it isn't the ale talking.  (Yet.)  Just wanted to wish everyone a HAPPY St. Patrick's Day!  Hope your day is filled with visions of rolling emerald meadows in your mind, songs of the sweetest memories in your heart and the company of your dearest friends and most loving family at your shoulder.


    Who do I love? Could be you ...

    Oh time change, how do I hate thee?  You make me feel like this ...

    Hello all!  A couple of things on my mind ...

    First, I can't express in words the heartache I feel for the folks in Japan.  Oddly enough, the catastrophe has had an impact on my small part of the writing world.  One of my longtime blog friends and writing group cohorts lives in Japan not far from the most heavily impacted areas.  After I awoke to the news, my thoughts immediately went to her.  I began to scour her blog and send out e-mails to our writing group partners, hoping beyond anything that someone had heard from her and that she was OK.  She had no internet, but was able to Tweet from her phone that she was fine.  I've rarely been so relieved, and it made me truly grateful for the technology.  

    Do any of you have similar stories?  I'll leave the topic with this:  Help anyway that you can.

    Second, and on the significantly less important side, it's Spring Break in my neck of the woods (and it actually feels like Spring!), so I've been busy getting some odd jobs done around the house.  It's kind of my ritual for this time of year as I've got the break from school, and the weather is still cool enough to get a lot of my plantings and garden maintenance done without risking heat stroke or 3rd degree sunburn.  While I've got tons I want to talk about with you all, the postings this week might be sporadic.  Next week should be back to business as usual.  

    As such, I thought this would be a good opportunity to continue my special recognition of the people who've inspired me to continue with the madness that is blogging.  (YOU!)  It's also my way of saying thank you for any any and all blog awards I might have been given and failed to properly recognize.

    Here are two more followers who deserve a little spotlight:  (HINT - Links to the blogs are the large titles below.)


    The Bio: Donea is a self-proclaimed Utah "lifer" and lover of food, writing and many other things.  She's also one of the friendlier "faces" you'll see in the blog world.  Here's the bio from her blog:

    "Welcome friends ~ so happy to have you here. You're welcome any time! :) I'm a UT-lifer, an oldest daughter, a BtVS fan 4 ever, a lover of baked goods, a huge proponent on GNOs, an eternal day-dreamer, a reader, a blogger, an aspiring writer, and so many other things. What you might find here are my musings on everything I love about life and a bit about my journey to publication. (Oh, and you get the pic of my dog because, well...he's cuter than I am. :)) Thanks for stopping by! ~Donea Lee Weaver"

    Why You Should Follow: As Donea hints at in her bio, she's an eclectic person.  Her blog postings follow a similarly varied style.  (A style I adore, btw.  As if you couldn't tell from my own random blogging ...)  You'll find recipes, music and tons of writing related goodness.  She keeps a regular blog schedule, and I always find her stuff interesting because it's rarely exactly like anything she has posted before.  Did I mention she's funny as hell too?  In other words, you're not going to be bored with Donea any time soon.

    The Sample: Here's an excerpt from one of her blog posts -

    "First, may I ask a question?  Is there a brutal murder of chapter one in your foreseeable future?  Do you want to hit it with a hammer?  Stake it through the heart, maybe?  Gunshot to that first word?  String up the ending and just let it hang?

    I was thinking ice pick, but heck.  I'm no Sharon Stone.  It's more likely I'll need to call a priest, because I'm not dealing with plain ol' maniacal chapters here.  My first chapter is THE DEVIL!!"
    Margo Kelly by Margo Kelly :0)

    The Bio: Margo is another of my oldest and dearest blog friends.  I think her blog was one of the first I ever followed, and she was one of my first followers.  (funny how that works)  It's kind of like we've come from the same e-Hood.  Here's the bio from her blog:

    "In January 2009, I decided what I wanted to be when I grow up: a published author. Yup. That's right. I've written the book. Revised it until my brain exploded all over the pages, and then I revised it again. I am currently in the query process seeking an agent. In an attempt to not let my head explode again while waiting for query responses, I have started writing a second book. I have also submitted short stories for publication. 99% perspiration ... right? At least the effort to secure an agent should burn off some of the calories from the Symphony Bar I just ate. Come along with me for the journey. It could be entertaining. It could be helpful. Or, it could just be fattening."

    Why You Should Follow:  Margo has a love for writing that is simply infectious.  Spend two seconds on her blog and you're going to see that she studies the craft and takes it seriously.  (But not TOO seriously.)  You're going to find tips on agenting (like fishing, but for agents), writing, blogging, reading and bunches of other things that all tie back into writing.  She is an extremely active blogger, and I find that her plain spoken insight is often exactly what my hyperactive writing mind needs to get me to focus on the writing and not all of the other 'junk' ... looking at you, Twitter.  

    The Sample: Here's an excerpt from her blog -

    "How do you provide a great critique of someone else's writing?

    Here are some points to keep in mind, first:
    1. Be polite: comment on things you do like about the writing
    2. Be honest: give your true opinions
    3. Be aware: give accurate advice
    4. Be helpful: make suggestions for improvement

    Next, before you can be a great critique partner, you need to read a book on the craft of writing (in my humble opinion!). Once you've read a book, you will know what to look for when critiquing. "

    Be sure to check back next time, I might be in love with your blog too!


    Author Vs Author - Can't we all just get along?

    Howdy, all!  Sorry for the blog silence, but I had a busy weekend that involved 40 middle school students and their first ever visit to a college campus.  We took our group of students to the city of Austin to visit the University of Texas, one of the most progressive (I shan't use the word 'liberal') university/city combos in the nation.  Such a cool experience for students who still view a college education as something akin to climbing Everest.  It was great fun, but exhausting all the same.  I've been struggling with trying to get caught up ...

    At any rate, I have a bit of fun news to share.   Have you ever wondered what motivates my tiny brain to write?  (You haven't, but just play along.)  Here's a hint: It has a soundtrack!  I did my first ever 'guest post' on Chris Phillips' blog to the 'tune' of naming three musical selections that inspire my writing.  (See what I did there?)   Head over and we can talk tunes!  You can check it--AND Chris' excellent blog--HERE.

    Now to the meat and taters ...

    Those who've followed my blog for any length of time know that one of my favorite topics is that of ePublishing and the general impact that technology is having on the publishing industry.  As an aspiring author, history tutor and a student of human nature I find it endlessly fascinating on multiple levels.

    To be perfectly clear, as of yet I have no horse in this race.  I've not published anything (outside of grants) traditionally, nor have I have joined the Indie Army and uploaded my work to Amazon, et al.  I've definitely expressed that I support the ePub trend, but in general I like to think that I'm a neutral observer.  A scientist, if you will, who is simply going to allow nature to run its course and document my findings.  I've generally had the attitude of:

    If the hyaenas eat the lion cub, I'm just going to point my camera in the general direction and try not to get all queazy on my new Timberlands.  

    Still, as the topic has now grown into a full-sized bull elephant that has taken up residence in the one bedroom efficiency apartment that is publishing, I've come to realize that I cannot claim complete neutrality.  I do have a side.  Specifically, I have two sides.  I'm for authors, and I'm for readers.  I think that's why I'm so disturbed by what I've been reading ...

    I'm seeing a lot of discourse between traditionally published authors, and authors who have gone the indie route.  In fact, I recently took part in a two week debate on a fairly prominent writing forum that had both sides practically tearing at each other's throats.  At one point, a pro-traditional publishing person referred to all self-published writing as "crap".

    See, that's kind of where I draw a line.

    Writing is art.  (Yes, even those vampire stories!)  As such, it will always be the domaine of subjectivity.  We can't label the creative expressions of others as unfit, because it's like saying a color is ugly or that a number is unlucky.  Maybe to you it is, but there might be 50 other people who disagree.  Or perhaps  only two other people, but that still doesn't change the fact that your opinion is just that, an opinion.  It governs you and no one else.

    Do you know how many people I know think Picasso is crap?  TONS.  Does everybody dig the Beatles?  NO.  Was Twilight for everyone?  NOT HARDLY.  Does that change the scope or importance of the work?  Not in the slightest.

    Don't get me wrong, there are certainly levels of refinement involved, and there is certainly a 'style' factor.  But that variance is precisely what makes all writing unique.  Furthermore, we're talking about something (DIY publishing) that allows consumers complete control over the value.  If the writing isn't polished to a degree and skillfully done, people aren't going to buy it.  No one is getting hoodwinked.

    So why then is there suddenly a need to label one type of writing versus another, particularly among those who are creating it?

    As a fan of YA material, I can tell you that YA authors have faced similar attacks on their credibility over the years.  Many think writing for children is a 'dumbing down' of literature.  That serious writers wouldn't think of doing it.  Don't believe me?  Recently lit fiction author, Martin Amis, said that only, "If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children's book--I would never write about someone that forced me to write at a lower register than I can write."  

    I bring this up, because I view the criticism slanted at indie authors as a pebble in the same pond, so to speak.  As such, I was really disheartened to read one of my favorite YA authors take negative stance against his fellow writers.  Rick Riordan, of Percy Jackson fame, posted the following on his blog:

    "I don’t talk about books that I didn’t like, but I must mention that I read a very hyped e-book on my Kindle – or tried to read it. About a hundred pages in, I started wondering why it seemed so poorly written. How did this get past an editor? Then I looked at the Kindle site and realized it was published straight to e-book. Ah, it didn’t get past an editor because apparently it never had one. I will be more careful in the future to check the provenance of e-books. Don’t get me wrong. While I still buy a huge quantity of physical books, I love my Kindle and my iPad, too. They are great for travel especially. But publishers and editors do serve a vital role in shaping manuscripts and making sure they are ready for prime time. It’s possible to circumvent this process with the advent of e-reading, but that’s not necessarily a good thing for readers. Caveat emptor."  

    There are several flaws to Mr. Riordan's line of thought, most notably the fact that he has--through gross generalization--thrown thousands of authors into a one-size-fits-all bag.  Not all indie books are poorly written, and many of the authors are hiring independent editors.  That brings me to the second thing I'd have to disagree with, which is the presumption that only publishers (and the editors who work for them) are capable of creating a "consumer worthy" book.  Lots of English majors in the world, and lots of people with the composition chops to put together a solid read, and they don't all work for Random House.  The final area of my disagreement is the idea that every book that graces the shelf of your local Barnes & Noble has somehow passed a gold standard test of quality assurance.  Have you ever purchased a paper/traditionally published book with typos, plot holes, one dimensional characters, etc.?  I sure have.  Is there a greater likelihood of finding poorly written indie books?  I just don't have the numbers to say one way or the other.  (Alas, I don't read one indie for every traditional book, nor have I even touched the surface of reading a small majority of all books that have been traditionally or indie published.  When I do, I'll check back in. :-)

    I guess I was so upset by Riordan's comment because as an author who has made his fortune writing in an area that so many people ignore, disregard or otherwise downgrade, I think he should know better.  Pigeonholing is for marketing gurus, media and fools--not artists.  Anyone who enjoys the freedom of expression, not to mention survives off of it, should avoid this kind of broad evaluation.  

    Authors have to get away from tearing each other down.  If a writer can self-publish and make a living doing it, support that.  Furthermore, don't denigrate their desire to get their writing in front of readers simply because they're trying a different path.  Traditional publishing cannot logistically make certain that all worthwhile stories get published.

    Conversely, don't hate J.K. Rowling or Steph Meyer for being successful, even if you don't enjoy their writing.  In fact, if you're an indie, you should go out of your way to support traditional folks.  Their popularity and presence are essential to fueling reader awareness for every type of writing.  

    The bottom line: Now more than ever we need champions of literature at every level, and we're not going to get it by destroying each other.    


    Who do I love? Could be you ...

    That's right, brothers and sisters, I *heart* all of you.  Today marks my first attempt at paying it forward. (BUT NOT IN THAT CREEPY HALEY JOEL OSMENT MAN-BOY KIND OF WAY ...)

    I mentioned last week my complete FAIL when it comes to accepting and reciprocating all of these blog award things.  As a remedy, I've decided that each week I'll randomly select a blog follower (or 2) of mine to highlight on Ye Old Blog.  Sound good?  Great!  Let's get cracking ...

    WHAT'S COOLER THAN BEING COOL?  ICE COLD!  Oh, and these blogs.

    Fiction Lessons from My Reading by Kay Theodoratus

    THE BIO: Kay is one of my longtime, and dearest, blog followers.  She comments frequently, and makes me laugh (bonus points for that).  I've been looking for an excuse to heap praise on Kay's blog (and have many times in other forums) for such a long time.   In terms of writing thoughts and tips, Kay offers some of the most straightforward and honest you'll find.  Don't believe me?  Here's the bio from here blog:

    "I do the fantasy writer thing -- for adults and tweens."

    Pretty straightforward, no?  :-)

    WHY YOU SHOULD FOLLOW:  Kay is one voracious reader, reading both for fun and critical analysis.  She's almost always got her nose stuck in a new book.  The best part?  Kay shares her frank thoughts and insights on her blog.  You all know how I feel about watered down book reviews, and you won't find them on Kay's blog.  Furthermore, she has a tremendous knack for stripping away "the fluff" of a novel and finding the stuff that applies to the writing, which is what most of us care about.

    THE SAMPLE:  Here's an excerpt from one of her blog posts -

    "Everyone wonders where author's get their ideas -- readers and writers, alike.  Fantasy writers probably make people wonder more than mainstream types.

    Imagine my delight when I read the back notes in Laurell K. Hamilton'sFlirt where she discusses how she discovered and shaped an idea into a novel .  She also blew my mind.  Hamilton has written 29 books in 15 years, probably more since I think she's finishing one now and has another at the publishers.  --  Makes my 500 words a day [sort of] anemic at best."  

    Nothing Cannot Happen Today by Misty

    THE BIO: Misty, like most of us, is an artist spreading her wings in the blog world.  She has a poetic soul mixed with a fun and eclectic style.  There's also a dash of practicality.  Her bio simply reads:

    "I'm a writer."

    It made me smile, because sometimes it can (and should) be that simple.  Right?

    WHY YOU SHOULD FOLLOW: Misty clearly has a passion for writing, and she shares it beautifully through her words.  You'll find lots of poetry and writing samples.   You'll also find heaps of practical life tips (as they apply to writers, of course), including info on eating on a starving artist's budget, and how to exercise patience both in writing and the real world.

    THE SAMPLE:  Here's a poem/lyric from the blog -


    Jump into your big boots, Scribble Mates.  There's work at hand.
    Ok.  We're world builders. 
    So tonight, we build.  
    Let's make Area 51 look like a
    leopard-printed rabbit hole.
    Yeee ah.
    In the morning, we can buy new lamp shades
    and hose the place down with bleach
    but tonight,
    oh honey
    WE RIDE.

    Hope you enjoy the blogs as much as I do, and check back next week to see if your name/blog is in the spotlight.  Happy weekend!


    Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n Roll - What writers can learn from our cooler creative cousins

    **UPDATE**  Wanted to mention that this post made the current edition (3/2/11) of Ed Bajek's Publishing News Twitter-zeen.  Ed features some really cool #publishing content, and I'd recommend following on Twitter.  You can check it out here.  (I'm under the #publishing section.)

    It's Tuesday, the most useless of all days.   (Unless you count leap year ... LAME)  Fortunately, I'm not going to let the dregs of the week stop me from sharing a little of my brain with the helpless masses.  (That's you!)  You see, I'm afraid I've been thinking --A dangerous pastime, I know ...

    If you immediately thought of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, you win the Cool Award!

    Writers tend to twist in the wind during the best of times.  Uncertainty, self-doubt and fear aren't negatives when you're a writer; it just means you're starting to take yourself seriously.  After all, if you aren't sharing your work, you're not VERY serious about it, and if you aren't the least bit nervous about letting other people read your writing then you're a machine.  And you know how we feel about machines around here ... THEY'RE GOING TO KILL US ALL!!!

    Back on topic:  If you mix in a little industry turmoil and a few changes to 'The Path' to becoming a a so-called legitimate writer--well, let's just say I've seen headless chickens with more grace under fire.

    I'm like so many other aspiring writers.   I want a solid footing for my dreams to launch from.  I need to know that I can not only reach the stars, but somehow stay in orbit once I'm up there.  Unfortunately, an already winding path has become mired in deep fog, and clearly seeing the destination is no longer possible.  In fact, just anticipating the next bend in the road has become a challenge.

    Where will my chosen profession be in 5 years?  How about 1?  Will I be helped on my way by a professional, or will I do as so many are doing and make my own way?  Will I even have a choice?  Interestingly enough, I'm not even sure this kind of thinking is limited to aspiring writers.  I read so many blogs of longtime authors trying to resurrect their careers and find some sort of foothold in the morphing industry.

    As a fan of history, I tend to look to the past when future answers are elusive.  While I'm certain the publishing industry hasn't ever quite faced a change like the current one, some of our artistic kin have.  I think we can look at the music industry, the art business and the movie industry for a few landmarks to indicate where this old trail is taking us.  Today I'll talk about the music business, and in coming posts I'll examine the other two.

    MUSIC - The First Frontier ...

    I was perusing a recent issue of Sound + Vision magazine (it's a mag for tech geeks and Audio/Video nerds--like me!), and stumbled across this excellent interview with Smashing Pumpkins singer, Billy Corgan.  If you aren't hip to the 90s grunge music scene, you should know 'the Pumpkins' were alternative music icons from the decade.  They had numerous hits and were prone to doing experimental rock albums in a time when it wasn't welcome.

    You see, by the end of the 90s record companies were looking for radio-friendly pop (think 'NSync) and wanted bands to focus on creating 'sure thing' music that would inspire teens to purchase Compact Discs.  The myopic thinking was a result of this called the Internet, which was starting to catch on to the point that many people had it in their homes.  Some people were even choosing to consume their music digitally.  It was a turbulent financial time for the industry, and it simply wasn't prudent to take risks.

    (Does any of that sound familiar?)

    Fast forward 10 or so years.  The Pumpkins didn't make a lot of music in '00's.  Like many bands they lost members, weren't interested in shifting their musical sensibilities with the times and simply got old.  Corgan is now 43.  I guess your perspectives will change some from the age of 25 to 40.  At any rate, Corgan still wanted to make music, and with the social media boom started by MySpace, he saw an opportunity as so many musicians have.  It was a opportunity to go directly to the fans.

    When asked about it by S+V interviewer Mike Mettler, Corgan responded, "You build your own world with your own rules.  And people will visit it, believe me."

    How profound is that?  You carve out a spot, and do what you do.  The people that want what you're offering will find it, and those that don't won't.  The thing is, in the modern music business this is simply how things are done.  Are there record companies still around?  Sure, and they're still responsible for most of the music you hear on the radio.  But I have to ask: how many serious music listeners get their content from the radio as opposed to 10 or 15 years ago?  I'd wager not many.  Most of the music aficionados I know go directly to their music of choice via iTunes.  They listen to what they want, when they want, with their portable music players.  They rarely set foot in a store to browse for music, and instead rely on word of mouth and iTunes suggestions to find new music.

    Don't get me wrong, the music business has definitely had its share of casualties in the transition from mainstream to global-stream (so to speak).  Major record companies have downsized, and obtaining their support as a musician is more competitive than ever.   The adjustment hasn't been easy for the artists, either.  Particularly when it comes to defining success.  It seems a big record deal and a multi-city tour are no longer the industry standard of success.  Or as Corgan states in the interview, "How do I ascertain success in the modern era?  I just feel it.  I have to feel it."   

    So here's what I propose.  Let's learn from the music business.  As writers, perhaps we need to re-think our definitions of success.  Maybe success is more fluid than what we've known in the past.  For some, it will undoubtedly be the same; you'll be a success when you land that agent and see your book on a shelf.  For others, it might mean having 1,000 dedicated readers online who lap up every .99 cent offering they upload to Amazon.

    While many have decried the Internet as depersonalizing, based upon what Corgan says in his interview, I think just the opposite has happened.  The Web has deeply personalized everything.   Artist no longer need to strive to reach everyone.  They simply need to reach their fans.    

    In the end, maybe the path to publication isn't quite so clear, only because there are now several paths to choose from.