I Wish the Monsters Would Stop

For the second night in a row, it happened. This time, I was standing in my kitchen consulting my Google Home on how long I could safely thaw raw meat at room temperature before bacteria began growing. The moment the shrill, public alert alarm broke through the locked screen of my smartphone as it sat in the living room, I felt my heart sink and my eyes shut involuntarily. Oh, no, I thought, and inched towards the living room as if through wet sand. Oh, no. Oh, no.

End of a Beginning: My Rookie Year as a Voice Actor

“And, that’s a wrap on Kesha Charles!” It was writer/director/producer Zachary Vaudo who delivered the final hatchet chop on my last act as lead and cyberpunk demon slayer of the third season of horror audio drama, The Blood Crow Stories.

From the viewport from within the soundbooth, I watched his wife and fellow writer/director/producer, Ellie Collins, slump in her chair and let out a soft whimper. “Aw, I’m gonna miss her.”

As I stood there, my Kindle hovering in my hand with the last season 3 script loaded on its black and white screen, I realized that for me, “Kesha Charles”–the quirky, determined heroine–was still too close to say goodbye. Maybe that was why I had yet to feel the sorrow at its heaviest levels.

Would I miss reading for her? Obviously.

I knew the loss would sink in by the time the last episode of the season aired on October 15 (*ahem*check your local listing podcasts on iTunes, SoundCloud, GooglePlay Music, and more to listen*cough*).

In fact, I think the ever-ballooning sense of that loss is what prompted me to write this post on the eve of the last episode launching.

It would be a bittersweet ending–not just for my first full-time audio character (though I did have a character in their Season 2–which I adored playing). It would also officially mark the end of my first “rookie” year as a professional voice actor.

(Talk about a blog post that is LONG overdue.)

The Beginning of the Beginning

It was February of 2018 when I had my chance to audition for The Blood Crow Stories. I spent an entire morning in my walk-in closet, trying different voices and praying the quality was good enough for the audition I would be sending to Ellie by the end of the day. Do I go southern? Should I try something more guttural? Deeper? With gravel?

Or…do I simply read in my normal voice?

In the end, I sent her a couple of examples and, as I hit send on the email message, prayed harder than I ever had that I would get the role. I was realizing more and more how I wanted to truly live my life–not just for fun, but as a career.

The creative arts were calling to me–screaming at me, actually. If I got this role, it would be a sign that maybe I actually could live the life the way I wanted to.

All of the singing drills my mother put me through as a child.

All of the choral performances in Oklahoma, Illinois, California.

All of the drama classes and competitions in Florida.

They would all actually mean something.

Over a decade had passed since I’d even thought of touching that side of myself again (Hehe…sorry). A weekend of a voiceover class and an unexpected stint onstage in 2017 had reignited that desire like a will-o-wisp flitting across a swamp. I wanted to walk, I wanted to run, I wanted to play all day in the suuuun—

Aaaand, I moved into the wrong desire (and story). Double sorry.

Ellie sent back her response to my audition in four days, but those four days might as well have been four weeks. Within seconds of scanning the email that I had been selected for the part, I called my mother and blubbed on the phone like a baby.

“Adrian!” I wailed, virtually extending my proverbial boxing gloves across the distance. “Adrian, I did it!”

“I don’t know who you’re calling Adrian,” my mother said, “but I am so, so happy for you, B.”

Personal Pride

…making the conscious decision to train as a voice actor was the first time I had allowed myself to be 100% selfish and decisive in what I wanted to do with my life, anyone else’s opinions be damned.

It’s not that I’ve purposefully avoided the topic of writing about my feelings of being a voice actor. I think I just never felt comfortable believing that I was legitimately part of such an amazing industry. It was like how I felt/feel about writing: despite the positive feedback I’ve received, I was/am still navigating my fears and inhibitions, along with a heavy dose of Imposter’s Syndrome.

Nevertheless, all of the feedback has helped me realize that some of the most valuable lessons I’ve received, both from The Blood Crow Stories and my voiceover courses at the Atlanta Voiceover Studio, were very much true.

  1. The microphone is a sponge. If you think you’re putting enough emotion into your voice–triple to ensure it shines through.
  2. Slower…is better (ahuehue–jeepers, I’m in the dirtiest of moods today!☺️). Don’t be afraid to pause and read more slowly than you think is normal. It’s surprisingly easy to unconsciously “speed up” the reading more than you mean to.
  3. Follow your directors. Feel free to go improv if they’re all about it. If not–their directions are LAW.
  4. Trust your clients. If they tell you your performance was good–or if they say nothing at all and are good to move on–believe them and move on.
  5. You’ll never be your level of “perfect”…
  6. …BUT, when you can’t hear “yourself” in your own performance, you’re not doing half bad.
  7. Confidence (or lack thereof) is audible. If you don’t believe your performance, neither will anyone else.
  8. Your voice is your tool. Any lifelong self-esteem issues you have over it being “too high” or “too nasally” will only be an obstacle to you listening to it objectively. Besides, what makes your voice unique is what will get you the parts NO ONE ELSE will get.
  9. But also, treat your voice like a precious gem. Treat it to water, warm lemon/ginger/honey drinks, xylitol mints, regular vocal exercises, regular training classes, and–of course–rest.
  10. And seriously–work on your feelings of self-value, self-worth, self-esteem…self-everything. Discrediting your own voice to the people who hired you and are paying you and are excited for your voice to be in their production–helps no one. Especially not you.

Embracing the “End”

Aside from beginning classes in taekwondo in 2009, making the conscious decision to train as a voice actor was the first time I had allowed myself to be 100% selfish and decisive in what I wanted to do with my life, anyone else’s opinions be damned. I know that may not sound like much of an achievement, but you’re reading about someone who switched her college major to accounting just because someone mentioned that she liked numbers…and accounting…has…numbers.

I know. I know.

I don’t know what year two holds for me–or year three, or year four. Heck, I don’t even know what life will hold for me this week or this evening.

But I know that voice acting will be a part of it. All of it.

And I will remember my rookie VO year and everyone/everything involved in it with eternal fondness.

Here is a convenient window to The Blood Crow Stories, all 3 seasons. 😁 Get caught up just in time for Season 4 to drop on Halloween, Oct. 31.

5 Literary Classics Under 200 Pages

[Reposting an old favorite. Read and enjoy!]
Original post date: October 2013

Months and months and months ago, I was having a conversation with my friend Jen about how short Mitch Albom’s novels are.  “I don’t know how he manages to put so much emotion into so little space,” she said, and I agreed, awed—and maybe just a smidgen jealous.

The day after that conversation, I had an interesting discussion about Ray Bradbury with a coworker, what with it being the anniversary of his death at the time.  I noted how my favorite book of his (okay, the only one I’d read so far) was Fahrenheit 451.  When I looked up the book later, I was shocked to discover that it, too, was well under the 200-page mark.

So, I got to thinking—just how many other classics/bestsellers have also managed to keep their masterpieces so short, yet imbued each page, each line, each word with so much life?

The list I developed—albeit far from complete—was kind of surprising when I took a step back to review.

Note:  the page numbers listed below are based on copies of books that I have in normal print.

(All books are available on Amazon.com. Go check them out!)


Fahrenheit 451 (by Ray Bradbury)

Book Length:  179 pages

Imagine a future where firemen create fires instead of dousing them; where literature is outlawed and shunned for full-scale entertainment systems; and where the superficial is celebrated and the knowledgable is literally chased out of society.  That, pretty much, is Fahrenheit 451.  It’s  a truly cerebral literary piece that, when I reread it as an adult, had me wonder just how Mr. Bradbury managed to get me so worked up over the stupidity that could possibly occur in the world, and the hope he left in its ruined entrails.  Good stuff.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold (by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Book Length:  128 pages

First of all, the title itself is brilliant.  (Okay, brief fangirling over.)  Seriously, what title better sums up just what its story is about?  (Okay, now it’s really over.)  We enter the book knowing full well that a man has been murdered.  For the rest of the book, we listen to accounts throughout town as nearly everyone claims they could have stopped the murder—but they didn’t.  Was it through malice?  Not really—and that’s where the brilliancy of the story lies.  No one could have done it better. 

Five People You Meet In Heaven (By Mitch Albom)

Book Length:  192 pages

This man has literally made a career of writing novels approximately 200 pages and still maintaining the integrity and reality of the human spirit.  In this story, a despondent, aging man gives his life to save a little girl and, in doing so, embarks upon a journey where several personal “landmarks” lead him through the choices he made and how he indeed made a difference.  It’s not many books that make me tear up and treat each page turn like a commercial break. 

Night (by Elie Wiesel)

Book Length:  109 pages

I’ve only read this book once, and that was over 15 years ago in high school.  That was all I needed.  In this true account of Mr. Wiesel’s horrid confinement in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, every event stayed with me and to this day makes me cringe.  From the image of a prisoner so hungry, he risks crawling towards an unguarded pot of stew while bombs fall around him; to the hanging of a man so small, he is forced into a squirming, desperate, prolonged death; it all remains fresh in my mind.  It’s a haunting, amazing work that I highly encourage everyone to read at least once. 

The Time Machine (by H.G. Wells)

Book Length:  125 pages

Consider the franchise behind this book.  Consider the movies, the action figures, the spinoffs, the TV shows, the third-party sequels, the scientific concepts, the everything that resulted from this book—and look at that book length again.  Remove this book from the equation of the world, and you remove an entire universe of imagination.  Though a simple enough plot—a man recounts at a present-day dinner party about how he traveled through time to spy into the evolution of the human race—it continues to spark conversations as the decades pass.  Score two for scifi. 

The End of Eternity (by Isaac Asimov)

Book Length:  191 pages

What the hey—score three for scifi.

Isaac Asimov may not be as universally well-known as H.G. Wells in terms of a household name, but he is no less influential.  If you watched Data on Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Bicentennial Man, or I, Robot, you are viewing the art of Dr. Asimov, one of Mr. Well’s direct successors as the next-generation Father of Science Fiction.  (Okay, the fangirl is back all the way.)

In The End of Eternity, a “Time Keeper” from the future discovers that his existence and the existence of the world in which he lives may just be what has destroyed the potential of what could have truly occurred in the past.  He even has time to fall in love during this plight.  A wallop of work in under 200 pages, and a wonderful way to end this list.

For now!


Honorable Mentions

For One More Day (By Mitch Albom)

Book Length:  208 pages

A man gets one more chance to see his departed mother while reevaluating the importance of their relationship.  Very poignant, very heart-ripping.  I might have cried again.

The Great Gatsby (By F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Book Length:  208 pages

A “modern-day” tragedy detailing that, just because you have everything you wanted in life, it doesn’t mean you’re happy.  Also a tragedy detailing that, just because you get money, it doesn’t mean you can get everything you want.  “Great” Gatsby, indeed.

Heart of Darkness (By Joseph Conrad)

Book Length:  96 pages

Warning:  Ending Spoiler!

I know, I know.  Why didn’t I include this book up in the “under 200 pages” list?  Well, it’s quite simple:  I hate this book.  I’ve read it two and a half times, and it still doesn’t make any more sense than it did in high school.  It’s a book about going out into a jungle to find an important man who moans “The horror.  The horror!” as he dies, only pages after you find him.  I got that—but unfortunately, that’s all I got.

To those who love this book, I applaud you and encourage you to place it at the top of your list.  Unfortunately, while this didn’t even peak at 100 sheets, it may as well have surpassed 400, for all the work it took me to make it through.

I’m sorry…I’m a bad classics lover.

Are there any books under 200 that you have loved and didn’t see on the list?  If so, please feel free to share below! 

8 Classic Video Games for the Classic Introvert

(B’s Update–July 7, 2019: This blog post was completed weeks ago and already scheduled to release today, so I decided to go ahead and let it go. I’d hate to deprive anyone of the current huge summer sales they’re having on games right now, if any of these interest anyone. Please read and enjoy–and hope to be blogging regularly again soon!)

Click here to go straight to the list of games.

I have been a gamer since I was five years old. In the late 1980s, my family was one of the first in our neighborhood to own an Apple Macintosh computer. And boy, did we use it.

The first game that my sister and I played on our brand new, state-of-the-art Apple II was the pixelated puzzler, Think Quick!

Think Quick promotional screenshot
Image courtesy of Moby Games. Ermagosh, the feels.

Just doing a Google search on this game has brought back a wave of nostalgia of the likes I didn’t know I could feel. Perusing the castle mazes to find the keys that would help you build the knight who would destroy the dragon…turning doorknobs to block the dreaded slime worms before they ate you…customizing your own castle levels for your friends to try… kc%^ne9*8r5RT…

But I digress.

The reason I bring up the notion of video gaming in the first place, is because I noticed a serious gap in games that I don’t feel are celebrated enough across Let’s Play communities these days. Maybe because they’re not the most exciting or visually astonishing, or maybe because they’re old. I will hold onto my love for games long after even their publishers went bankrupt.

It goes without saying that everyone is a different kind of gamer.

My entire family are all different types of gamers. Even my parents.

Like, seriously, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen my mother (well in her sixties) rage quit over a range of games like Crossy Roads or Burnout Paradise.

I re-digress.

My personal preference of games are puzzle-solving adventure games. Give me an evenly paced, story-rich game with developed characters, clever dialogue, and an intelligent, relevant set of problems to solve, and I am a happy camper for weeks.

In short?

Give me a game that plays like a good novel. Give me a game that promotes a sense of quiet and comfort as I play it–a game that a good friend or two might sit in the room with me and do their own thing while simultaneously keeping me company.

I’ve come to realize that my favorite kinds of games are what a lot of quintessential introverts might go for. As is commonly reputed, some of the most well-known behaviors of an introvert (courtesy of Introvert, Dear) are as follows:

  • Your inner monologue is hard to shut off.
  • You do your best thinking alone.
  • You notice details that others miss.
  • You can concentrate for long periods of time.
  • You live in your head.
  • You like to people watch.

All of which go famously when playing classic puzzler adventure games.

I think non-introverts often assume that introverts might need to move slower, because we think slower.

We don’t think slower; we take more time to process the thousand-and-one ways in which we can respond to the situation at hand.

So, nyah to anyone who thinks that way.

But I re-re-digress. Let’s get to the good stuff.

With 31 years of game-playing experience, I’d like to present the list of my favorite, super introvert-approved video games. Click on each tab to read the brief synopsis, as well as why it may work for a classic introvert. Though I linked the games to their versions on Steam, some games can also be found through gaming consoles and even in mobile format.

So find, get lost in the story, and enjoy!


NOTE!  While I do call this list a list for introverts, I also recommend trying this list if

  • You’ve always wanted to try a video game but weren’t sure what to start with.
  • You don’t like violent, scary, fast-response or first-person shooter games.
  • You can never play at the speed you need to actually solve puzzles in other games. (*raises hand*)
  • You panic in games. A LOT.  (*RAISES HAND*) 

Classic Video Games for Introverts

Blackwell Bundle poster
Artwork and image courtesy and property of Wadjet Eye Games. Click the image to go to the games!

Premise:  Roseangela Blackwell is a young woman with a family secret she initially would rather forget: a ghost by the name of Joey Mallone whose soul (ahem--sole) duty is to help lost spirits to move into the next existence.  As this unlikely partnership finds their groove across 5 games, however, they realize that simply leading ghouls towards the Light may be the least of their problems.

Why Introverts will love it:  Roseangela is the quintessential awkward, reluctant (and yes, introverted) heroine who must learn to overcome her social issues just to get to the next puzzle.  Pairing her with her more extroverted spectral sidekick makes for some fun exchanges and pleasantly unique gameplay.  How ironic that the one of the pair who would love to chat up everyone--can't.

Also, if you are a fan of immaculately pixelated point-and-click puzzle games from the late 1980s - 1990s (think King's Quest, Space Quest, Legends of Kyrandia, and a host of others), you will absolutely adore this series.

Edith Finch poster
Artwork and image courtesy and property of Giant Sparrow and Annapurna Interactive. Click the image to go to the game!

Premise: Sometimes, you have to look at someone's death to learn about their life.

[Sorry, lil morbid. Bear with me!]

In What Remains of Edith Finch, that is all you have left as you return to the mysterious and eccentric Finch home to explore your legacy. What secrets are nestled in the creaking nooks and crannies of an island that housed countless generations?

And why is there only one left?

Why Introverts will love it:  The beauty of Edith Finch is that you play not as one, but as multiple characters, each on the last day of their lives. This isn't a spoiler; this is literally written in game synopses. But for an introvert, this can only begin a path of pondering that continues long after the game is done.

With dabbles of fantasy elements thrown in and gorgeous artwork styles customized per character, you can't help but be emotionally drawn into the legacy that the Finch family left behind.

The Longest Journey poster
Artwork and image courtesy and property of Funcom. Click the image to go to the game!

Premise: Your name is April Ryan. You are a young, small-town girl who was accepted into art school in one of the most bustling cities around. All you want is to make a name for yourself in the art world, dress stylishly, and enjoy your big-city living.

But fate is literally cruel. You are troubled by nightmares--nightmares that bring whispers of prophecy and promises that you will bring balance to the dual worlds of chaos/magic and science/order. Suddenly, with the help of a strange mentor, you are (literally) thrown through a portal into a world where science doesn't exist--and where you are expected to save all worlds.

Why Introverts will love it:  This game can literally be summed up by its title--it is a long game. But personally, I found it to be a game that has easily stood the tests of time. Its playability is awesome; its dialogue and daring to stick a horde of backstory in is refreshing; and its puzzles make sense--which makes getting from point A to point B a heck of a lot less frustrating.

Though The Longest Journey is only the first of a trilogy of games (check out Dreamfall and Dreamfall Chapters, if you like), I found TLJ the only one that didn't have any cliche elements or try to play up to any trends at the time. For example, slight spoiler: Dreamfall played to the popularity of the time with adding a horror-esque "mysterious girl from the Ring" trope. They also added quick-response fighting gameplay. If you are into that, great. But if I'm reading a novel, the last thing I need to do is suddenly toss my book aside and MMA fight one of the characters just to turn the flippin page.

Blackwell Bundle poster
Artwork and image courtesy and property of Freebird Games. Click the image to go to the games!

Premise: What if you could have one wish granted? Any wish at all? For Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts of the Sigmund Corporation, this act is their bread and butter: fulfill the last wish of their dying patients.

But this fulfillment isn't easy--especially when the patients themselves don't divulge all of the needed information. In this (current) two-game series, Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene must figure out a way to break through all the internal, proverbial red tape just to grant the wishes of two of their more difficult subjects. Oh, that, and get out alive?

Am I joking? Muahuahua...

I mean...why not?

Why Introverts will love it:  Surprisingly sweet, surprisingly funny, and surprisingly original, this game is another one with the makings of "book reader" quality. Though the gameplay itself is pretty linear, the game does a tremendous job of making you mentally double-take and think harder about what could happen than you'd ever expect.

Also, did I mention the re-playability of their soundtracks? Seriously, I'm listening to them right now.

Myst 25th poster
Artwork and image courtesy and property of Cyan Worlds, Cyan Worlds, Presto Studios, and Ubisoft. Click the image to go to the games!

"I realized the moment I fell into the fissure that the book would not be destroyed as I had planned. It continued falling into that starry expanse, of which I had only a fleeting glimpse. I have tried to speculate where it might have landed, but I must admit that such conjecture is futile. Still, questions about whose hands might one day hold my Myst book are unsettling to me. I know my apprehensions might never be allayed, and so I close, realizing that perhaps the ending has not yet been written."

Premise: An ancient, mysterious book lies at your feet. You open it and are stunned to find strange, moving images fluttering the page. Entranced, you can't help but reach out and touch it. Suddenly, your home, your family--your life--fades into nothingness, and you fly instead towards a remote island full of peculiar structures, deceit, entrapment and revenge.

You have been called, dear friend. The world you left, you may never return to. All you know for sure is that the story of the future is now unknown and yet to come.

Why Introverts will love it:  This, dear introverts, is THE GAME that lauched the success of a thousand first-person, single-character, adventure puzzle games--and for good reasons. With a first-person vantage point beyond its time, you were not force-fed into being a random character in a game. You were YOU--and it was YOUR job alone to solve the puzzles hidden across MYST isle. Nor are there other characters to meet and chat to get your clues. Using only torn letters, book portals to other worlds, and the power of your own mind, you have to uncover the MYSTeries all on your own.

This, ladies, gentlemen, and all others, is an introvert's dream game.

(Also, note that I only recommend playing the games through Myst IV: Revelations. There's good reason for that. It's kinda an unspoken rule amongst Myst enthusiasts--Myst V does not count. Myst IV was the end of the series. That's my story, and we're ALL sticking to it.)

Syberia Bundle poster
Artwork and image courtesy and property of Microids. Click the image to go to the games!

Premise: You are Kate Walker, a New York attorney with a rising professional future, a fastidious fiancé, a loyal best friend, and a doting mother. So why and how, pray tell, did you end up stuck in the middle of a miserable French village, just because the owner of a toy (sorry--AUTOMATON) company whose signature you need to complete a high-stakes merger, JUST died?

Oh, but it gets better. When Kate learns that there is still an heir wandering the surrounding tundra, she must embark on a wild goose chase just to find him and finish her mission. But she has nothing to worry about, right? After all, her firm, her future, her fiancé, her friend, and her...mother 😒...are no more than a phone call away.

Why Introverts will love it:  Despite being a third-person clicker with plenty of characters to select for attention and aid, the Syberia games still manage to play with a heavy sense that everywhere you go and everything you do is something that has been long forgotten. One of the major components of the game is a fully automated train that takes you--who the flip cares?! It's fully automated and taking you to an unknown destination! Get the freak outta mah way! *shoves you aside and scrambles onboard*

(Oh, and yes, there is a Syberia III game that was released in the last year. Have yet to play it, and probably not gonna. Why, you ask? Please see my note under The Myst series for explanation. Kthxbye.)

The Beginner's Guide poster
Artwork and image courtesy and property of Everything Unlimited Ltd. Click the image to go to the game!

Premise: You have an hour and a half to explore the inner workings of a creator's mind. What does it look like? How is it structured? What would you do while you're in there? As you are guided by a friend of the creator through a maze of creative processes, you might be surprised as to what you uncover--not of the creator, but of yourself.

Why Introverts will love it:  I'm not gonna lie. The first time I started this game, it went momentarily intense on me--so much so, that I turned it off immediately and didn't reopen it for weeks. When I did, I highly regretted stopping it at all. This game affected me harder than many of the other games, but for different reasons.

I can't say any more without giving something important away, but I will say that by playing it, dear introvert, you will not be disappointed.

The Room poster
Artwork and image courtesy and property of Fireproof Games. Click the image to go to the games!

Premise: You are known only as the player--the one chosen by some knowledgeable predecessor to follow their footprints deeper into the unknown. Clues are left to you in the form of letters, and you can only move forward, deeper into the rooms--and the secrets--by solving clever puzzles embedded within intricate boxes. But are you wiser for going deeper, or for finding a way back out?

Why Introverts will love it: Let me tell you. If any game ever nailed the Myst-like aesthetic and atmosphere, it's the Room Series. Unlike the other games on this list, this compliment stands true to all four of the games in the series. There is only one player--you, in first-person--and though there are memories and letters of people long gone, you know that you are fully alone. And as an introvert, that leaves you to ponder, explore, and solve in the peace of your own mind.

As an added bonus to these games, they were originally designed for mobile platforms. So, if you want to get the experience that Fireproof originally intended, I recommend heading to Google Play or the App Store and checking it out.

Have you played any of these games? Which one(s) is/are your favorite?

Or, if you know of a game that is perfect for introverts that you didn’t see on the list, please recommend it in the comments! I (and I’m sure others) would love to know what games we should try next!

Reasons Why I Write

In my last major post, I discussed my fears to pursue my lifelong sleeping desire to be a novelist. I call it a sleeping desire because, although I have literally been writing, illustrating, and narrating stories since I was in the single digits, I didn’t have the confidence to believe that I deserved to be a published author until about five years ago.

Even now, as I sit on a “completed” novel that I still hold fondly (and securely) to my heart, I still struggle with believing that my work will be enjoyed by the mass public. But that internal struggle isn’t getting me anywhere–and it sure isn’t getting my novel anywhere closer to publication.

I lost my way in the fear.

Heck, I lost myself in my fear.

A few days after posting “I am Afraid to Write,” I was reminded of something very important, something that encouraged me to look beyond my fears. Not just beyond, but across the grander expanse in which my fear was not far-reaching enough to extend. For someone who has been writing nearly her entire life, I know that fear is not the reason nor the catalyst as to why I started writing in the first place.

So, then, what was? What is?

In summary–why do I write?

I write this post to reflect my own writing journey, but the questions that serve as headings below hopefully also serve as signposts for any writer who may have also lost their way in the landscape of fear and insecurity.

(On a side note…d’you see that extended metaphor up there?? D’you see it?? That’s some durn sexy metaphor work right chere! 🙌 I’m gettin’ my creative mojo back, baby!)

(Ahem…sorry.)

Why Do You Write?

Believe it or not, but in my 30-something years of writing fiction…I never really thought about why I do it. Throughout the M.o.B blog, I’ve sprinkled my enjoyment of writing in my lessons, analogies, and explanations.

A few notable posts:

I won’t reinvent the wheel in what I’ve already shared. However, the primary, easiest, and obvious answer is this:

I write because it’s a part of me.

When I move through extended periods of time without writing something, I begin to grow irritable and annoyed with…well, everything. When it first happened, I couldn’t understand why everything was suddenly ticking me off.

Then, I had a weekend to write in a novel I had put on hold for a few months. For the following week afterward, my productivity at work improved. I became more aware, intuitive, and even more spiritually in tune. The world made sense. I was content.

Then again, as the weeks passed without a chance to write, my irritability returned. And 2 and 2 made 4.

Writing is the most gentle, calmest way to release what’s bound up inside you. When you write your innermost self down, whether it’s in the form of a poem, a story, a blog post, or even stream of consciousness, no one can negate those words. They exist, and you watch them come to life as your pen scratches paper, or your fingertips tap keys.

I write because it’s an escape.

In the post “Writing Is…” I tell the story of the moment when I consciously began writing to free myself from the tyranny that was my parents’ attention and love. As I grew older and experienced the hills and valleys of life, I met each obstacle with varying amounts of success. By the time I reached college, bouts of depression were prevalent. I graduated, got a job, had a breakdown or two, moved to a new city, got another job, got fired, and juggled around until I ended up where I am today.

No matter what happened, though, even if I couldn’t physically will myself to leave my dorm room, my apartment, or my house, writing was always an option to get away from it all. The characters that I’ve developed over the years were fully formed. The worlds they inhabited were rich with problems, but they were problems that I’d manifested and therefore could also resolve.

I could write for hours and become pillowed in depths of imagination. There wasn’t a concern of good or bad writing; it was just writing. Here, not even depression could find me. For just a few hours (maybe more), I was safe. I was needed.

I was home.

I write better than I speak.

The other day, I was chatting with a friend about communication. I came to a revelation just as I was telling her my truth:

“I hate talking,” I said. “I feel like I’m always stumbling over my words; I miss a lot of the social cues of when to start talking and when to stop. And when I do talk, I feel like I’m being normal; but people just stare at me after I’m done. I feel like a freak!

“I would rather write, sing, dance, touch, eye contact, gesture, or pantomime to express myself than to talk,” I concluded. The irony that I was talking when I said this was not lost on me.

I feel like my innermost strengths lie more in expressing myself through my work than engaging in small talk. And it is no secret that verbal cues play a very small part in actually communicating with others.

Writing gives me a moment to collect my thoughts before I respond. As an introvert, I need time to process many of my thoughts, especially if the question reflected to me is multi-faceted. That’s not saying that I can’t talk; I just know that a truer form of myself is better replicated in the written word. Usually.

Or, you know what? Just cuddle me. That should work, too.

Additional “Why I Write” Questions

A few other questions came my way as I was contemplating the big WHY, and I thought I should share them here and at least touch on them for a moment.

What do you want to get out of writing your work?

Many authors and writing “experts” claim that, once you publish a book, you should detach from it, let it go. That way, any attention you receive (or don’t receive) won’t affect you as hard. I don’t agree with that philosophy.

A quote from one of my favorite movies said it best, I think:

Joe Fox:
It wasn’t… personal.

Kathleen Kelly:
What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?

Joe Fox:
Uh, nothing.

Kathleen Kelly:
Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

–You’ve Got Mail

After all, that’s why we read.

Isn’t it?

We read to find the personal. We read to be personal with someone–even if that someone is a fictional boy who avenges his wizard parents and defends his magical school and friends. Or that someone is a young woman who, despite her lack of dowry and poor upbringing, asserts her presence as an intellectual equal to that of a handsome, well-endowed, yet seemingly standoffish man. Or that someone is a little hobbit whom no one expected anything from, yet endured almost more than anyone.

The gifts that writers selflessly offer to the world, they give because it is the story that only they can tell. Though I’m sure all of them will have different answers, a story is told because it must be told.

In college, I took a specialized, one-on-one course with a professor while I developed a fantasy novella. Though I rushed a bit on the writing, I was quite proud of the story and submitted it for her scrutiny. I also gave a copy of the story to a counselor that I used to see but had become friends with.

When I met the professor for her unbiased feedback, she didn’t hold back. “It’s under-written and unrealized,” she told me, tossing my manuscript onto her desk. “It reads like something a child would write.” The feedback stunned me silent for so long and so hard that the notoriously hardened instructor finally amended that perhaps she’d “read it too fast.”

For weeks, I moved devastated throughout my days, unsure of how to proceed with other books that I’d had in my mind for years. Not only that, but English was the fourth major that I had switched to since being in college. If I, a lover of the written word and grammarphile since 5 years old couldn’t make it as a writer of any sort, what was I good for?

Then, as if by cue, I received an email from my counselor in the middle of her vacation. Apparently, she hadn’t been able to wait until she’d returned from her time off at the beach before she could tell me how much she’d loved my story. From the moment she’d finally begun reading, she’d taken my manuscript everywhere, breaking it open whenever she had a free moment.

So, what do I want to “get” from writing?

Nothing.

What I want, however, is to give others the same sense of pleasure and peace that I feel when I read a good book. Knowing that I helped contribute to someone else’s positive state of mind means that I shared an intimate piece of myself–and it was happily received. Perhaps even welcomed.

What do you expect to happen from writing and publishing your work(s)?

Honestly? Not a clue.

I hope that I can make enough income from published books to allow me more time, freedom, and security to write fiction and nonfiction on a full-time basis. This would also allow me more time to dedicate to other areas of my life. Tend to my family. Travel. Goodwill. Love. Life.

I could go on, but the focus for the sake of this post is writing.

The goal isn’t to be rich, but to have enough energy and time before I’m decrepit and senile to record all of the stories that have crossed my mind. And there are a lot of stories in my mind.

Since last year, I’m even realizing that some of my stories would do better in screenplay form. So I want to have enough time to see those to fruition on the big screen and the Netflix stream. I want creative control to see my vision in the format that I always envisioned it.

I’ve begun writing like I’m running out of time, because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Are you looking to see how your work is received or viewed by others (impact)? Are you looking for fame and fortune?

I’m not going to lie–would it be cool to win a Nobel Prize for Literature? A Pulitzer for Fiction? A Hugo Award? A Nebula Award?

Would I be ecstatic to disover that I’ve made the New York Times Best Seller list? #1 for more weeks than anyone ever?

Would I stare, speechless, from receiving an invitation to meet Oprah as she unveils me as her latest top addition to Oprah’s Book Club?

…Why yes. It would all be quite lovely.

But, that’s not why I write. If I wrote with that mindset all the time, I’d be scared excrement-less.

When I was in high school and my friends would peer at me as I bent over my journal, scratching away, I got a sick sense of superiority from my seemingly unique stance. There were not many kids that I knew who were writing at the “uber-cool” level that I was.

Them? They were doing generic teenager things like dating and going to parties with friends and shopping and…and hanging out n chilln.

Me? I was 15, listening to smooth jazz on a Friday night while burning sticks of sandalwood incense, scribbling pages upon pages of character profiles for my fantasy/science fiction magnum opus.

You couldn’t think of anyone cooler than me.

There have been times when I’ve shared my writing with people whose opinion I valued highly, only for them to come back and tell me, “Actually, I got a little bored, so I stopped.” The feedback was devastating, and I would throw the story at the bottom of the pile for it to collect its proverbial dust.

And yet…the stories never left me.

It’s only by writing this now, do I remember that

  1. One person’s opinion is one person’s opinion. Just because she/he didn’t like it doesn’t mean the rest of the world won’t.
  2. It’s not my place to determine the rest of the world’s likes and dislikes. Let them read and decide for themselves.

I don’t write to make masterpieces. I don’t write to prompt a room full of English majors to debate the significance of a green bottle in Chapter 3.

If I write for anyone, it’s for the readers who pick up my book to help them detach, relax, unwind, escape.

I’m writing for the introverted outcast who always feels like they are too “them” to belong anywhere.

I’m writing for the reader who is trying to find that one “perfect” novel that makes them laugh, cry, and scream at the same time.

Does that make me a writer who isn’t reaching high enough?

Who the flip cares.

This world has enough crap happening for people to not be able to just enjoy a good book.

I write to write. And I must write.

Because, at this stage in my life, to not write is to deny me of myself.

And I’ve wasted enough time doing that already.


Why do you write? I would love to hear your thoughts.

I am Afraid to Write. Here’s Why.

A few days ago, I was talking on the phone with someone I admire greatly and who is, among many things, a talented writer. As I was explaining the plot of a story I’d outlined a couple of years ago to get his thoughts on it, he suddenly cut me off.

“Did you notice,” he said carefully, seeming hesitant to call me out, “that every time you mention one of your stories, you end by saying how much it sucks?”

I hadn’t noticed and flushed with embarrassment, grateful that he couldn’t see my reddening face. Jokingly, I tried to downplay my self-condescension, explaining that I used to be more creative in my childhood and adolescence. Why, I’d even written 30 short stories and two fan-fiction manuscripts over the course of two years in college!

But then, life happened. I graduated and, in my eyes, failed to integrate into adulthood. Through the struggle to stand on my own two feet and several bouts of severe writer’s blocks, it wasn’t until now, in my 30s, that I’d finally decided to place more attention on how I truly wanted to live.

Despite this newfound desire, my creativity is still recovering. The mental freedom I used to feel as a child is nonexistent. Even a 400-page manuscript that I’d completed four years ago was shoved into limbo after I dozed off in the middle of editing it–twice.

Now, I’m lucky to draft a 10-page story outline, let alone a full-length novel. I was too afraid to write beyond that.

“What are you afraid of?” my friend asked.

I paused, running the question through my mind and letting the silence on the line balloon between us. When the answer formed, it was a lot longer–and more heart-rending–than I’d expected it to be.

Why I am Afraid

This isn’t the first time I’ve explored my fear of writing. It has been, however, seven years since I really looked at the root of the problem. While some things remained the same, time (and neglect) have allowed the number of fears to multiply.

As each reason poured from my mouth, a new one flooded my head right behind it:

  • There are only a finite number of plots and themes that are recycled throughout storytelling. What would make anyone read mine when they could read somebody else’s? Someone much more talented?
  • My plot will be stupid.
  • My plot will be boring.
  • My characters, setting, climax, and resolution will be an amazing conglomerate of boring and stupid.
  • I’ll start drafting a book, then get bored and stop. Therefore, I’ve wasted my time getting started in the first place.
  • Everyone (fanatics and critics alike) will ridicule every book I write, calling them crappy, mortifying, and just plain awful.
  • I don’t have the intelligence, maturity, or skillset to write the story the way I want it. The premise will sound good, but then I’ll have to flesh out the details. Of which I will do a miserable job.
  • I should be putting my time and energy into “more important, productive” activities. Like a full-time corporate job, and socializing with friends, and…um…laundry.
  • All the time spent writing the book, editing the book, submitting the book, promoting the book, publishing the book…will all be for nothing. No one will read it.
  • I’ll get a literary agent who doesn’t represent me to his/her fullest, and my book will end up in horrifying obscurity, not seeing the light of day until 500 years later, when I will be adored only because my book will serve as the only remnant of an otherwise forgotten time.
  • I have a former very close friend whom I knew throughout high school who is now a lauded, bestselling author. I have other friends, family members, and clients who have also published books. So, then…what void is left for me to fill in the writing world?

This list is more complete than the one I gave my friend during our call. After reciting about three or four, I trailed off, again embarrassed to be exposing this part of myself that I hadn’t realized ran so deep.

My friend, to his credit, remained matter-of-fact. “Well, you need to get them out somehow. Otherwise, you’ll run them through your mind over and over again, and you’ll never get out of your own head. You might also be surprised at how many writers share your fears. Maybe it will help you and them to get them out. Maybe you could add it to your blog.”

And, well. Here we are.

Writing Full Circle

I have re-written this post about three or four times in the last few days.

Why?

Because I was afraid to write about being afraid to write.

Throughout the years, I’ve written about my issues with social anxiety and chronic depression without much hesitation. That is probably because they are more familiar issues to address. I know the signs for when they onset; though I can’t always regulate them, I’m somewhat learning how to keep them under control.

What I struggle with now is different. Being afraid to write doesn’t disrupt my life in the same way anxiety and depression do. I’ve been able to ignore the urge to fight it by writing in other ways to satisfy it. Writing prompts. Fan fiction. Blog posts.

Other people publish books. I wasn’t meant for that.

Logic tells me that most of my fears are unfounded. Common sense tells me that they’re all ridiculous. Practicality tells me that, even if any of these fears were founded, writing is a skill that I could easily improve upon.

The first step to overcoming a fear is admitting that you are afraid.

The second step is to embrace the fear.

And the third?

Grab that fear by the hand and dance in the rain under a waxing moon until you’re both laughing and twirling, and the fear has faded among the heated mist that rises from the earth during a sweet, smoldering summer evening.

Missed Opportunity, Pt 2 – An Open Letter to the (Other) Men Who Got Away

In Part 1 of this post, I wrote to Mr. Missed Opportunity 1 and 2, who just didn’t work out.  Part of the reason was poor timing; another was personal choices.  These last two (and the bonus man) were simply circumstance.  And those can be the worst missed opportunities of all.


To Mr. Your-Hugs-Are-Awesome-But-My-Friend-Likes-You-Too

I’m not even sure if you were ever attracted to me.

But I will cherish that time when our eyes locked through a crowd of acquaintances, and you seemed to light up with a hope that I was not used to seeing on men who made me want to giggle.

You parted the crowd with your shoulders, leaning forward and extending your hands before you had a clean path to me.  Your eyes never left mine, not until your cheek passed my eye line, and I felt the warmth of your neck.

The hug was all-encompassing, full-pressed and revealing.  I recall thinking, “Good lord, does he hug every woman like this?”

Even when you pulled back, you stayed close, and I forced myself not to think about how easy it would have been to pop up on my toes and peck the underside of your bottom lip.  I tried not to think of the conversations we could have had, the fact that I’d overheard you weeks ago talk about out-of-body experiences and chakras and that you kinda knew what you were talking about.

I tried not to think about the way I’d caught you looking at me sometimes, and convinced myself I was merely feeding some narcissistic fantasy.  I mean, let’s be honest–I probably was.

Instead, I stored that epic hug in my starved memory banks to remind myself in times of settling that that–that is how a hug should be.

To Mr. Almost-Kissed-Me-By-the-Copier

Yes, I ultimately realized what you were about to do that fateful day.  It only took me three years and a thorough re-read of the journal I kept at the time, but I figured it out.

I think I regret my missed opportunity with you more than any of the others.  I liked you a lot, from the first time I met you and listened as you rejected me outright on multiple standings.  Despite our crappy start (which seriously played like the perfect opening for a rom-com), our chemistry was magnetic.  Your attraction to me wasn’t nearly as obtuse or vague as I imagined it to be.  The signs were very much there–and if I hadn’t been so naive or obsessed with seeing what I thought mattered, I would have seen the biggest sign of all that said, “I WANT YOU.”

The one you held right in front of my eyes.

Every Woman Wanted You

Every woman wanted you, even the ones who complained about your brusqueness or your arrogance.  Maybe that’s why I couldn’t believe you went out of your way to help me, even when it attracted the disbelief and sarcasm of our colleagues.

Besides, when you tell a woman, “I don’t want to get to know you,” they will turn off any type of charm they may have been trying to build as ammo against your defenses.

Thinking back, I’m a little flattered at how hard you ultimately worked to flip that circuit breaker back in the ON position.

And then, there was that dinner party you didn’t know I attended.  I was bored within ten minutes of arriving (it’s tough being a 20-something in the land of 40- and 50-somethings) and sipped my wine as I contemplated how much time was appropriate to say I’d successfully networked.  I’d seen you come in with your then-girlfriend–it was my first time seeing her; I was immediately humbled.  Out of respect, I kept my distance, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw you glance my way.

I saw you double-take. No one had ever “double-taked” at me before.

I tried to hide my pleasure as you hurried over to express your mild surprise, to introduce me to your date, to invite me to sit next to you at our select table.

The Last Time I Saw You

About 8 months later, the first words out of your mouth after greeting me were, “I broke up with my girlfriend.” Then, you glanced at me in as much anticipation as you could while navigating traffic on our way to a casual lunch.

I absorbed what you were telling me, registered why you brought it up.  I was strangely calm that day, for I was in love and knew what I wanted.  I planned my response carefully.  I opened my mouth.

“I’ve decided to get serious with this guy I’ve been seeing,” I said.

You didn’t answer.  I noticed that your driving aggression doubled almost immediately.  I jumped as we popped over several traffic cones.

After lunch, we agreed to stay in touch–but there was never any real intention to, I think.  At the time, I believed that I had found The One, someone who I was closer to in many areas.  If it’s any consolation, he and I didn’t even last another six months.

But then, what else would you expect from a Mr. You-Weren’t-Mine-So-I-Never-Cried-For-You?

Someone Like You

I imagine, a couple times per year, what our relationship may have been like.  Yours was the slow, sweet burn of getting to know someone for who they were, winks and warts alike.  It was awkward, rude, hurtful, inspiring, warming, painful, and wonderful.  Nevertheless, despite my levels of regret, I think I know that we wouldn’t have worked out.  I was much too much of a mess in my 20s and wouldn’t start un-messing until, oh…three years ago.

Be grateful you dodged an emotional bullet.  But also, know that I’m grateful for my time with you.  It set a bar in my dating world.  I will be very lucky to meet someone like you now–someone who will make me feel the way you made me feel, and more.

BONUS: To Mr. Celebrity-Who-Possibly-Internet-Searched-Me-But-Probably-Didn’t

I’ve admired you since childhood.  When I met you last year and received your autograph, I mentally fist-pumped when you called me cute.

I actually tweeted about it later.  Sorry about that.  I’m not the kinda girl who gets celebrity-obsessed, you know?

By the way–if you use the internet in the middle of the night, I recommend–don’t.  You’ll end up on some crazy sites.

Like that one where you can see people who performed Google searches on you?  It sounds awesome at first, but honestly? I think it’s rigged.

I don’t know how or why your first initial and last name came up as someone who searched for my name. Maybe I was half-asleep.  Maybe I need to get a life, and you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Actual details are cloudy.   Don’t care.

The point is…I’ll take it.

So thanks. 🙂

man walking away missed opportunity

What would you say to the Mr. (or Miss) Missed Opportunity who got away?