Doing What Scares Me

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I’m going to go ahead and post this tonight rather than tomorrow because I don’t want anyone to think it is an April Fool’s Joke. Seriously, April 1 is the day you are safest from me pulling a prank out of any day of the year.

I’m taking a 2 week break from Twitter.

There’s a bunch of reasons but none of them big or bad. One is that I want to avoid April Fool’s Day stuff as so little of it is ever done well. Another is that I now default to checking Twitter over everything. I need to break myself of the habit and I don’t think anything short of 2 weeks will be enough for that. I’ve also been noticing a lot of avoidant behavior in myself, cringing away from things I find scary, including writing. Twitter makes it too easy for me to avoid that discomfort rather than work through it. I’m not going to grow as a person or a writer if I don’t get over myself and stay in my own lane. It turned out to be a very good time for me to do this, so I’m just biting the bullet and doing it. I’m blocking access on all of my computers and deleting the apps from phone and tablet.

I’ve been really weird about being out of connectivity since 9/11 and I don’t really know why. I mean I spent the days after curled up on our bed watching Cartoon Network for 72 hours straight or something. I couldn’t stand the quiet, but I couldn’t stand the news either and it was the only channel I could find that didn’t have ANY news. After that I got into the habit of checking the news online several times a day, sometimes several times an hour. I’ve slowly gotten away from that over the last 14 years but have seemingly just traded checking news for checking Twitter and I feel really uncomfortable when I don’t, especially when I’m in front of a computer.

I’m really geographically isolated and most of my socialization is over Twitter, so there’s a real possibility this could leave me feeling more isolated than normal. That’s the reasoning I’ve always given myself for not doing this before.

I want to consciously choose the time I spend there and be mindful of it. I don’t know a way (for me) to do that without a lengthy break from it.

I’m not seeking isolation! I’m hoping to reach out via email, text, phone, hangout, letters and what have you and I hope some of you will do the same. This is a good time to make sure I have your current email and contact information. You can always email me at minervazimmerman at gmail dot com, or use my contact form.  I hope that many of you will reach out to do Conversations Between Writers  and otherwise just harass me in the time I’m away from Twitter.

Hope to hear from you soon, otherwise I’ll see you when I come back.

-M

 

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Self-Study Project Short Stories 2014

Rating System

 

  • * = has potential but has technical, cultural, or voice problems.
  • ** = Good story that didn’t quite live up to potential or could have used light revisions
  • *** = Good story, I see it as publishable quality even if it didn’t work for me.
  • **** = Great story, does some really neat things
  • ***** = I would nominate/vote for this story. Excellent quality, builds a full world, drags you into it for the full duration of the story and leaves fingernail marks on your soul.

 

Total stories read in 2014 = 504

NO STARS = 1 (I will never willingly read a story by this author again and will likely avoid places they are published)

*: 7

**: 54

***: 293 (I enjoyed many at this level greatly and disliked some of them on a personal level)

****: 146 (With a few exceptions I enjoyed these stories as well as felt an emotional reaction)

*****:  3 (I felt changed for having read these stories)

Self Study: Short Stories March 27-April 30

Rating System

 

  • * = has potential but has technical, cultural, or voice problems.
  • ** = Good story that didn’t quite live up to potential or could have used light revisions
  • *** = Good story, I see it as publishable quality even if it didn’t work for me.
  • **** = Great story, does some really neat things
  • ***** = I would nominate/vote for this story. Excellent quality, builds a full world, drags you into it for the full duration of the story and leaves fingernail marks on your soul.

 

80 Stories Read March 27 – April 30

One Star = 0

Two Stars = 10

Three Stars = 47

Four Stars = 17

Five Stars = 1

 

Year to Date: 142 Stories

One Star = 4

Two Stars = 22

Three Stars = 76

Four Stars = 48

Five Stars = 3

Self-study Project: Short Stories

Rating System

 

I absolutely devoured media in my youth. I read hundreds of books a year and saw several movies a week. I was an avid gamer and once shipped a 130lb steamer trunk full of comics rather than leave them behind in a move. (I later learned that it is way cheaper to send books via Media Mail if you don’t care when they get there. However, if you send 13 different ~60lb boxes media mail ahead of an interstate move and then show up to collect them explaining you’re an anthropologist you will end up with the post office assuming you have been shipping dinosaur bones. This will greatly annoy you especially when years later they still ask you if you’ve heard about recent dinosaur finds and you’ve never found a polite way to explain anthropologists don’t know the ass end of a dinosaur from a mammoth behind.)

I recently realized that I’ve let my reading fall too far behind. There’s always a balancing act with writing and reading. I’ve basically stopped playing immersive video games. There are no current TV shows I’m following (though I am looking forward to season 3 of Korra). I still play puzzle games, and watch streaming shows, but those are things that happen on my terms. Reading has to be balanced with writing time, and it’s hard not to feel guilty about one or the other. If I’m not reading, my writing can’t advance. I know that. There are some things you can only learn by reading and some things only by writing. I’m holding myself back by not reading enough.

I decided to start rebuilding my reading habit by working primarily on reading short stories. To give myself a Master Class in genre short storytelling both present and classical. To do this, I need to also analyze the short stories in some form. I dislike doing in-depth fiction reviews, especially when there are intangible things like emotional impact and voice involved. Since I’m doing this for my own benefit I decided to go with a 1-5 star rating.

 

  • * = has potential but has technical, cultural, or voice problems.
  • ** = Good story that didn’t quite live up to potential or could have used light revisions
  • *** = Good story, I see it as publishable quality even if it didn’t work for me.
  • **** = Great story, does some really neat things
  • ***** = I would nominate/vote for this story. Excellent quality, builds a full world, drags you into it for the full duration of the story and leaves fingernail marks on your soul.

 

Since March 1st I’ve read 76 short stories which break down on the ratings as such:

 

  • one star = 4
  • two stars = 12
  • three stars = 29
  • four stars = 31
  • five stars = 2

 

I think this will be an ongoing thing for a while, and in a few months I will go back and do more analysis of the 5 star stories. I’m at the point right now with my writing that I pretty much know what NOT to do, I just don’t always succeed with what I was trying to do. So it makes more sense for me to focus on the top-tier of stories and figure out why stuff knocked it out of the park.

I was a little surprised to realize there wasn’t really a correlation to how much I enjoyed reading the story and if I gave it 3 or 4 stars. There were 4 star stories I did not enjoy at all and 3 star stories I greatly enjoyed. There were even a couple 2 star stories I really liked and enjoyed. The difference between two and three stars in some cases was asking myself, “If my name was on the cover as editor and I had a slot this story would fit, would I have published it as is?” The ones I said, “Yes” got 3, the others got 2. I’m only reading published stories for this, so my opinions might be different if I was finding some of these stories in slush. There were a lot of stories that didn’t work for me that still rated 4 stars.

As a result of this, I of course had to rate my own published works on this scale. Most of them were in the 2 to 3 range, with one maybe 4. I have not written a 5 star story yet. Not by my own scale anyway. That’s a very motivating thought. Anything that makes me want to get better and write more is something I need to keep doing.

I think I’ll periodically put up a post with this same breakdown in it, and any thoughts I’ve dredged up in the process. What do you think?