Choose your own adventure

There you are one night, doing stuff, just doodling really, and you spy that dazzling someone. Within moments, your imagination is afire. You peer across the darkened room (isn’t it always a darkened room?) to get a better look. There’s no doubt – that hottie is looking right back at you. Your heart beats faster; your mouth goes dry; you feign looking cool. After a moment of panicked deliberation, you stride on over and buy that sizzler a drink.

So, um, what’s your name?

Idea

That’s – so exotic

Idea merely smiles.

You have one drink, then another, and one more. You could sit here forever just gazing at Idea. By some stroke of amazing luck, Idea agrees to see you again.

Writing hug

Awwwwww

First dates are awkward, but it’s obvious that Idea is just as into this as you are. From your enthusiastic dialogue character traits emerge, and small vignettes and personal histories are shared. You converse well into the night, and it’s undeniable there’s something between you. How much you have in common! Idea’s quirks are utterly enthralling – you can tell you’ve never encountered anyone similar. You desperately hope that Idea will spend the night…

You see a bit of each other, casually of course. No need to jump into anything serious straight away. You each have separate lives, other commitments. But your friends know that something is going on. You’re more of a daydreamer than usual, and have become prone to whipping out your moleskin (or ipad) and scrawling secretive notes. You’ve cancelled a few lunches lately, piked on a party or two – not your usual style. Confidently, you strut around, head held high, smiling knowingly to yourself. You won’t quite admit to anyone yet that your mind is afire with the nuances of Idea.True love

You just can’t get Idea out of your head. At home you rush through your chores just to sit down with Idea over dinner and a glass of red. You listen to Idea all night and get through the day only because you are fuelled by pure adrenalin. When you are not immersed in Idea you anticipate the moment you and Idea can meet again. You spend more and more time in each other’s company. Finally, you admit to yourself that Idea is your first thought in the morning, and your last thought at night. You scratch your head and wonder how things became so serious.

You are brimming with Idea. You can’t think of a time when Idea was not around. You have no wish to return to that aimless existence. Although not as mysterious as when you first met, you are completely comfortable with each other. You are proud that Idea has chosen you. You even have pet names for each other. Sweet nothings such as ‘Novella’, ‘Bestseller’, or even naughty names like ‘Thriller’, ‘Big Bad Adventure’, or even ‘Racy Novel’ really set the mood. Not that you don’t have disagreements. You know Idea likes a lot of attention, that Idea gets jealous when you stay out late with your mates. Idea doesn’t mind a drink, but becomes sullen and uncommunicative after one too many. You once called Idea ‘Paranormal’ under your beery breath – the fight afterwards was epic. But you know that what you accomplish together is worth all the tetchy arguments. There’s nothing the two of you can’t overcome. By now you’ve introduced Idea to your close friends and family. Perhaps somewhat wary at first, on the whole they’re happy for you both. Passion remains, but generally, you just snuggle down together. Too many late nights aren’t a good thing, so you go to bed early and dream of all that you can be – together. It’s nice knowing what to expect of each other. You feel lucky to have found someone that brings out the best in you, and you only hope you can do the same.

The two of you are a formidable team. It seems hardly a big decision at all to make that lasting commitment – you know you want to be together until the end, and you couldn’t be bothered to waste your time with other fickle notions you’ve seen. You and Idea agree on the name change – Novel. The two of you are driven by plans and goals. You know what you need to accomplish day by day. Novel is very insistent about not slacking off, but sometimes – just sometimes – you feel you do all the work. There are times Novel isn’t to be found. You wonder where on earth Novel could be, but you battle on alone. Novel likes to see results. The two of you argue a little more. Disagree over nuance, perspective. Some days you don’t even talk at all. You begin to wonder how the thing that put wind in your sails became your anchor. Your friends seem to be getting on perfectly well with their significant others – where did the two of you lose inspiration?

No ideas

The honeymoon is over . . .

You spend a bit of time apart. Make quality time for your mates. You catch up for drinks, go to a few parties, flirt with a concept here and there, nothing serious. You try not to be bothered by Novel’s stone cold silence when you return home. You’ll make time for Novel…tomorrow. You fall in with a hobby. This catapults Novel into a mad jealousy. There’s nothing going on, you explain, it certainly doesn’t compromise the commitment you’ve made to Novel. You need independence just as much as Novel. You don’t ask for explanations of where Novel’s been all weekend, do you? Come to think of it, where was Novel all weekend?

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE ENDING A:
You know everything there is to know about Novel. There’s not a hint of mystery anymore. Everything feels aimless, dull. You and Novel are practically leading separate lives. Perhaps you can’t give Novel what it needs, perhaps you don’t have what it takes. Once you thought you had the answers but you admit you’ve both lost your way. It’s time to be honest – you owe Novel at least that much – it’s not Novel, it’s you, so you call it a day while you can still think fondly of each other.

***
Yelling
A little down the road of life, you bump into Idea (nee Novel). Idea is keeping well, looking good. You sit down together over a glass of red and reminisce over old times. Idea seems so mysterious, but you realise you still have a lot in common. You feel a mite jealous that Idea is doing so well without you. You realise you still find Idea incredibly sexy. You hope Idea hasn’t been seeing someone else – they can’t give Idea the realisation that you could. You buy Idea another drink.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE ENDING B:
One day you see someone else eyeing off Novel. They look at Novel like Novel’s hot stuff. They’re looking at Novel like you used to look at Novel – when Novel was Idea. Don’t they know Novel is spoken for? Enraged with jealousy you realise how important Novel is to you. Hell – Novel is a part of you. You haven’t come this far to give up now.
After a few tough months, you start to see your hard work paying off. Together you have created something to be proud of. What’s next? Well, you’re expecting. You and Novel have spawned a SERIES…

– Tessa

Advertisements

Keeping writers focused

Or, as I call it, keeping unruly geniuses professionals writers focused.

Gosh, writers are such hard work, aren’t they? The constant need for recognition, motivation, and a pat on the back. Does the chip on the shoulder come before or after one’s dedication to their art I wonder? Is that a Dorito stuck to your face? Get out of your pyjamas will you? Nooo – wine-o-clock is after midday. And for the love of humanity stop playing that ridiculous ukulele, I’m trying to work here.

Whines Complaints Comments commonly heard from writers:

Monkey typing

Shakespeare, anyone?

  • I know the rules of grammar – so I can break them
  • Stop stripping the personality out of my articles
  • Don’t oppress me
  • I can write perfectly well when drunk

Writers are self indulgent primadonnas delicate people. They are to be utterly admired for their dedication to their art, and their courage to pursue it as a full time career, but this is precisely why they are insecure, quarrelsome fusspots prone to the temptations of self-doubt. Even the most dedicated professionals need a bit of a kick up the arse motivation occasionally. So what kind of support does a writer need?

  • Constructive criticism
  • Encouragement to set goals
  • Recognition for a job well done

But how to recognise when a writer needs encouragement? Deviation from the artistic path often manifests in pyjamas being worn to the supermarket, a sparkling clean home/car, and facial tics, not to mention early-onset agoraphobia. Firmness is necessary to help the writer retain focus. Help them to set goals, and cheer them on as they achieve them. For example – ‘Yes Andy fellow writer, you may set a trap for the pigeon after these articles are finished.’

Sometimes writers are terribly prolific. Sometimes fifty words are used where one would have sufficed, and sometimes it may have been a better idea to use just the one. Sort through the 990 page ‘novella’ for the real gems of the piece, give these the recognition deserved, and be stern with the next Tolstoy about trimming the fat. Editing is not about destroying style but about helping authors strengthen the creative elements of their writing. Don’t oppress you? Pahleese – stop choking your own messages with verbosity.

For the blocked writer try associative or free writing. Even write a shopping list for starters. Give up on the idea that the piece has to be good/entertaining/informative. All this can come in the re-write.

For the renegade writer to whom rules don’t apply, simply ask what Hunter S. Thompson would do.

What would Hunter S. Thompson do?

hunter s thompson shooting

'It would not do to be seen under these circumstances: firing wildly into the cactus from a car full of drugs.'

Apart from imbibing a plethora of chemical cocktails, Hunter was a dedicated professional. Take the following quote – ‘It would not do to be seen under these circumstances: firing wildly into the cactus from a car full of drugs.’ The use of grammar is correct, conservative even; it is the use of language that shocks.

A favourite reminder of the correct use of punctuation is as follows:

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy–will you let me be yours?
Gloria

Dear John

John is at the mercy of proper punctuation

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Yours, Gloria

Next time you feel like breaking a rule or using sloppy prose, just think to yourself – what would Hunter do? Of course – you may substitute your favourite talented author – Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Conrad – and you can be assured that although they may not fire wildly into the cactus through a drug-induced haze, they were equally committed to upholding the use of good language.

So, I hear you sniffle indignantly – do all writers become pyjama-wearing, obsessive compulsive alcoholics, starved of company and attacked by evil pigeons?! Yes. But eccentricity has its perks. No! The rest of he world is simply envious that you are unemployed living your life’s purpose. Just remember your editor is not your enemy and to take a shower every couple of days.

evil pigeon of deadly death

Evil pigeon of deadly death that haunts Andy's nightmares (and courtyard)

Until next time,

Tessa

Lexicon Press

* Disclaimer – no writer or evil pigeon was harmed in the making of this blog. I am also a writer and thus felt qualified to heap derision on my kind.


Perils of running a home business

With the first year of working from home safely under my belt, I like to think I’m becoming well acquainted with the traps and pitfalls of the home office.

It’s fairly important to be showered and dressed by 9am, ready for a day at work, even when enduring a monster case of writer’s block. I’ve heard it said that pyjamas can be worn until midday and beyond, but this is akin to holding a death adder up to your face and poking it in the eye with a stick. Unwary victims have ended up watching Breaking Bad episodes and shoving their greedy, slimy faces full of Doritos until 4pm like a huge putrid slug. At least if showered and dressed, the said writer can maintain the tentative illusion of dignity and professionalism.

It is also important to banish all access to gaming consoles, mobile phones and internet connections whilst in your work zone. Finding all the hidden packages on Grand Theft Auto is all very well and good, but doesn’t help pay the bills.

However, here are the largest dangers I have encountered whilst working from home. Beware, readers.

Noise

Generally, I can work with all kinds of noise. 90% of the time I can listen to heavy metal, have the washing machine whirring away and sit there writing happily without a worry in the world.

However, there are times when the words just don’t flow. When that tap that feeds them stops running, and all you get is a trickle of non-related verbs that end up sounding like George W Bush. The industrious tapping on the keyboard slows, the washing machine enters the spin cycle, and cabin fever threatens. Through this haze of frustration two sounds are likely to intrude that push me over the edge.

evil pigeon

pure, undiluted EVIL

That stupid pigeon

I hate this pigeon with all of my might. This fiendish rat with wings can pinpoint the exact moment when the words turn off in my head, and invades my back courtyard with coo-cooing and ridiculously loud wing flapping. It never desires a stand-up fight though, always flying off whenever I run out to do battle, red faced and swearing. This is because it is a filthy coward.

The leafblower Nazis

I live in a complex of apartments and town houses, and as such there are gardeners who visit once per week to blow away leaves FOR 10 HOURS at a time. I am not sure what qualifications you need to possess to operate a leaf blower, but I am sure some rudimentary aiming skills and the ability to blow away said leaves would be right at the top of the list. Blowing them around and around in an infinite loop can’t be helpful for anyone. I am also unsure whether a leaf blower needs to have the volume of a small passenger jet? Has it been turbo-charged?

Procrastination

When you find yourself scrubbing the oven or mopping the roof, you may just be on a cleaning bender. When you are delighted to see a Jehovah’s witness or two, and invite them in for a cup of tea and biscuits, you definitely have a procrastination problem. It only gets worse the more you procrastinate, though, so suck it up princess and get cracking.

Cabin fever

Leave the house once per day. And I’m not just talking about hanging out the washing. Go for a walk, grab a coffee, chase a duck down the street. Otherwise, you’ll be living vicariously through family members and flatmates, greeting them with a desperate look in your eye as they arrive home, begging for news about the big bad world outside. If you’re not careful a Vitamin D deficiency will kick in, you’ll get the shakes and all of a sudden you’ll be hallucinating about the roof mopping itself. Take my advice. Get OUT.

Deadly tree frog of death

Deadly tree frog of death

So, I hear you asking, “what are your solutions for these fiendish issues?” Well, I’m sure you’ll all be pleased to hear that I am taking some drastic steps to improve my home office situation. (Valium . . . just kidding!)

As we speak, I am constructing a series of cunning Home-Alone style traps for both the filthy pigeon and the relentless leaf blowers of doom. They may very well involve tripwires, bear-traps and the venom of the deadly tree frog of death, but I’m also all ears (eyes?) when it comes to your suggestions.

As for the procrastination, I’m still working on that… just gimme a sec.

Stay well,
Andy

Tips for surviving the first year out on your own

That’s right folks . . . Lexicon Press is well over the first year milestone, which (due to the catastrophic failure rates of small businesses) puts us somewhere in comparative age between Clint Eastwood and that weird guy from Beetlejuice. Hopefully we’re over some of the teething hurdles that can jump out of the gloom like a drunken footballer attempting to hail a taxi.

Considering I am somewhat oblivious to danger and stupidly walk face first into pitfalls of all kinds, I have learnt a couple of things by trial and error. I have now compiled a small list of dos and don’ts when it comes to the first year of a small business.

Double projected costs, halve projected revenue

That’s right. You heard me. I don’t care if you’ve got Donald Trump flying in on a diamante-encrusted elephant for the launch of your new business, throwing wads of hundred dollar bills at your sophisticated urban crowd (all turtleneck skivvies and flashing teeth) whilst a flamboyant yet tasteful mariachi band plays in the background.

Somewhere, at some point, you are going to have a “for the love of humanity will someone please bloody pay me” moment. This will generally be at the time when petrol prices have hit the roof, your electricity bill is due and the bum is falling out of your last half-decent pair of pants. Your options may look somewhat limited at this time, but there are a few things you can do.

Don’t:

  • Flog your entire CD collection down at Cash Converters.
  • Start supplementing your breakfast cereal with sawdust to string it out.
  • Donate various bodily organs to scientific research.
  • Get all sulky and listen to Enya whilst crying in the bathtub.

Do:

  • Change your billing terms to 7 days instead of 30.
  • Charge in stages where possible (i.e. 30% upfront, 30% at half way point) to minimise bad debt.

Double time frames, be realistic about projects

So, you’ve got a project on the boil that you’ve been nurturing for some time like a precious lotus blossom. It looks like it’s going to come to – oh no, no it hasn’t. False alarm. It’s still just sitting there, not blooming, like a useless pile of stupid withered compost.

Milton

Milton in the basement

Maybe the corporate giant that is green-lighting your project has decided to retrench everyone you’ve built a relationship with, including the janitor, the Spanish lady who empties the vending machines and even the weird Milton-like guy who lives in the basement.

Maybe unavoidable personnel issues (i.e. staff absences, wrong skillsets, long liquid lunches) have caused delay after delay after delay, pushing the estimated completion date of your project out past the next return of Halley’s comet.

Maybe the large aforementioned corporate has decided to review the terms of contract for a record eleventh time, giving a healthy boost to the legal profession in the region whilst delivering a hefty kick to your backside through your wallet.

Whatever the reason, there’s a couple of things you can do to try and salvage the situation.

Don’t:

  • Stalk the project heads by hiding behind their bins at night and making strange howling noises. This is not constructive.
  • Try to hurry things up by agreeing to any new revised contract terms without reviewing them first. You could quite easily end up working for 20 cents a day, or as a guarantor for a West-African golf course.

Do:

  • Salvage what you can. Sometimes lowering the scope, or introducing stages, can help gather some momentum on a complex project.
  • Be realistic about your corporate partners. Sometimes it takes a while to turn a large ship around.
  • Never neglect smaller projects or jobs in favour of larger opportunities. Small stuff is your bread and butter until you get settled. Large projects and ideas are great and always have a couple on the go, but be realistic about timeframes and implementation chances.

Above all, don’t be proud. Take the small jobs, contract out for one day a week, work nightshift at a bar or restaurant. Every cent that you keep inside your business and don’t use on living costs can be used for growth, and that’s the name of the game in the first year.

If you’ve got any further tips feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Stay well

Andy

And now, it’s done . . .

That’s right folks.

After approximately four weeks, twenty pages of hastily scrawled handwritten notes, two prolonged sessions of frustrated swearing (tip: if you’re not a web developer, don’t try to code your own website . . . it’s not worth the drain on your sanity), one hundred and twelve cups of strong black coffee, seven bouts of prolonged procrastination and one swooping attack by a ferocious magpie who caught your writer in an unguarded moment, the new Lexicon Press website is up and live!

In all honesty, I can’t take a whole lot of credit for it. The wonderful people at Charles Elena Design deserve that, after I finally ate a large slice of humble pie and admitted to myself that

a.                 I have the web design capabilities of a dropped cabbage
b.                Five minute youtube tutorials on how to use WordPress are usually advertisements for cheap pharmaceuticals in disguise
c.                 It’s hard to conceptualise a stunning design when you can’t even draw a proper stick figure (see attached figure).

So, we’ve now started thstick figureis blog. We have all intentions of updating it fairly regularly, so please feel free to get on our case if it is ignored for more than a week or two. Tessa’s posts and observations are most probably going to be fantastic insights on the nature of language and the world, written with breathtaking skill and absolute mastery of the English language, whilst mine will probably consist of topics like “I met a pigeon today” or “Why bacon should be eaten at every opportunity, including when asleep”.

Again, another huge round of thanks to the CED creative team – guys and girls, we salute you!

Stay well,
Andy