#IWSG: We’ll Fly When We’re Ready

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop created by Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosted this month by Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise – Fundy Blue.  To sign up for IWSG and to learn more about this amazingly supportive group, click here!

In my last two blog posts, I wrote about the Indian space program and the American space program.  Both have suffered recent delays and setbacks.  Both are still moving forward with their space exploration plans, despite those setbacks.  Whenever I read about real life space programs, I’m always struck by the parallels between space exploration and writing.

Whether we’re talking about space or writing, we’re talking about big ambitions.  Big aspirations.  We’re talking about a lot of hard work (but the fun kind of hard work, the exciting kind of hard work).  We’re also talking about constant setbacks and delays, with certain financial realities looming over us at all times.

A couple years ago, I published my first novella-length Sci-Fi story on Amazon Kindle.  My plan was to follow up, quickly, with a sequel.  Around the same time, I also launched a store on RedBubble so I could sell prints of some of my art.  And then… setbacks.  Delays.  Real life problems.  It was like trying to plug fuel leaks on the Artemis 1 rocket.  As soon as I fixed the problem here, I’d discover liquid hydrogen was spraying all over the place over there.

I can report that 2022 has been a better year for me.  Slowly—very slowly—my writing and my art have gotten back on track.  I’ve been blogging more.  I’m making progress on my next Sci-Fi novella.  Also, I’ve started uploading new art to my RedBubble store for the first time in two years.  But writing takes time.  Art takes time.  As much as I want to rush forward with all my creative dreams, I need to be patient with myself.

After NASA scrubbed the launch of Artemis 1 not once but twice last week, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson had this to say: “We’ll fly when we’re ready.”  Right now, as I get back into the rhythm of writing and illustrating, that’s my mantra.  My muse and I… we’ll fly when we’re ready.

Artemis 1: Haters Gonna Hate

Hello, friends!

My gosh, certain people sure do love doling out criticism.  Even the slightest mistake or delay, and the critics come out in droves, robed in all their smugness.  I see this all the time as a writer and an artist, and on Monday I saw a smattering of critics online smugly criticizing NASA’s Artemis Program.

On Monday morning, NASA had to scrub the launch of Artemis 1, an uncrewed test flight of the spacecraft that will soon return American astronauts to the Moon.  Apparently there was trouble with one of the engines.  Most people, I think, understand that technical problems happen and that safety must come first.  But a few folks out there saw this as an opportunity to take cheap shots at NASA, the U.S. government, and America as a whole.

Now look… (heavy sigh)… okay, there are some valid criticisms to be made about all those things.  The United States has problems.  NASA has problems.  The Artemis Program, in particular, has been politicized from the start, and whenever things get political in the U.S., bad decisions ensue.  But even if none of that were the case, even if NASA could somehow operate independently of Congress and politics, problems would still crop up.

Taking time to stop and fix the problem with Artemis 1’s engine—that’s not a sign of weakness.  That’s not a failure.  If anything, it shows that the people at NASA are doing their jobs, taking the proper precautions, and learning from past mistakes.  Ignoring the engine issue—plowing ahead with the original plan, regardless of the danger—potentially allowing a multi-billion dollar spacecraft to blow up on the launchpad?  That would have been a real failure.

But no, a few people out there think delaying the launch for a few days is a “huge embarrassment” for America.  There will always be people like this who act super smug while lobbing lazy criticism at others.  Whether you’re a national space agency or just some writer/illustrator on the Internet, try to ignore this sort of criticism if you can (or rant about it on your blog, if you must—just don’t dwell on it for too long).

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Fran, from My Hubble Abode, posted a wonderful video on YouTube reacting to some of the nonsense people have been saying about the Artemis 1 launch delay. Click here to check it out!

#IWSG: Do the Write Thing

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop created by Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosted this month by J Lenni Dorner, Janet Alcorn, PJ Colando, Jenni Enzor, and Diane Burton.  To learn more about this amazingly supportive group, click here!

One day, I told my muse what was happening in the news: all the bad stuff that had happened that day, and all the worse stuff that I feared was soon to come.  In response, my muse had only one thing to say: “Do the write thing.”

I tried to make my muse understand how frustrated I felt, how angry I’d become.  I tried explaining how fearful and helpless I was in the face of all these bad things happening in the world out there.  My muse nodded sagely as I talked; then finally, when I ran out of bitter words to say, my muse said again: “Do the write thing.”

She doesn’t understand, I thought, so I started up again.  I told my muse how there’s so much hatred and greed, so much war and disease.  The oppression is relentless, and at some point they (whoever “they” are this week) will even come after me!  How can I protect myself?  How can I protect others when the world is so cruel and heartless?

My muse was patient and kind as she looked me square in the eye, and she said again: “Do the write thing.  A well-told story can do more good than you think.  It can open a mind that was closed.  It can make people think, make them see from a new point of view.  A well-told story can inspire someone to do better, or it can give comfort to someone who needs comfort most.  At the very least, a story may give someone who’s suffering an escape—a brief respite—from all those troublesome things that keep happening in your human world.

“So the best thing you can do, both for yourself and for others, is set your fears and anxieties aside for a while, get your pen ready, and do the write thing.”

#IWSG: The Planets Make Me Write

Hello, friends!  Welcome to another meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a monthly blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosted this month by SE White, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguire, Joylene Nowell Butler, and Jacqui Murray.  To learn more about this amazingly supportive group, click here!

I read somewhere once that every writer has a “thing”—something that they’re desperately trying to say.  It’s something that’s hard to put into words, a feeling or an idea that defies the conventional use of language.  If this “thing” could be said in a simple and straightforward way, we writers would just say it and move on rather than spend the bulk of our lives writing.

What is that “thing” for me?  I wish I could tell you!  It would be so much easier if I could just tell you the “thing” that keeps poking at my mind, but of course I can’t.  All I can say is that my thing has something to do with the stars.  It has something to do with the slow and stately motion of the planets.  It has something to do with that feeling I get whenever I look up at the nighttime sky.

Is it curiosity?  A sense of wonder at the vastness of the cosmos?  I guess that’s part of it, but those words feel wholly inadequate.  Wonder and curiosity are nice, but there’s something more.  There’s so much more!  The planets and stars inspire something in me that simply must be said—something that must be put into words, no matter what—it must be!

But no words ever seem to express this “thing” well enough.  So I keep trying.  I keep writing, in the hope that maybe someday I’ll find a way to say the thing I don’t know how to say, and maybe somebody else will read my words and understand what I’m talking about.

So, friends, do you have a “thing” that you’re trying to say through your writing?  Care to give us a clue (if you can) about what your “thing” might be?

#IWSG: The Spice of Life

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop created by Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosted this month by Kim Elliott, Melissa Maygrove, Chemist Ken, Lee Lowery, and Nancy Gideon.  To learn more about this amazingly supportive group, click here!

“Do one thing and do it well.”  I’ve heard this aphorism over and over again throughout my life, and there’s a certain common sense simplicity to it that I find appealing.  Whenever life gets complicated and I feel like I’m being pulled in too many directions at once, I really wish I could pick just one thing to do—I wish I could be permitted to focus all my time and energy on just one thing, without any distractions, so that I could have a chance to do that one thing exceptionally well.

Last month, I participated in the A to Z Challenge.  For anyone who doesn’t know, the A to Z Challenge is a month-long blogging event.  Participants post twenty-six blog posts, one for each successive letter of the alphabet.  All of my posts were about humanity’s future in outer space, or perhaps I should say humanity’s potential future in outer space.  Our species has so much potential!  But I do realize there’s no guarantee that we’ll live up to our potential, though.

In order to ensure my success with the challenge, I canceled any other plans I’d made in the month of April.  I used up a bunch of vacation days at my job.  I made sure I got my taxes done super early this year.  I put a few of my other creative projects on hold, temporarily.  I engineered my whole schedule so that I would able to do just this one thing: blogging.  Did I do it well?  That’s a subjective thing, of course, but I feel that I did the best I possibly could on most of my posts.  And it felt good.

However, there came a point when I started to miss working on my other creative projects.  Being able to “do one thing and do it well” feels nice, but to really thrive, I need variety in my creative life.  My muse was kind enough to hold back on new ideas during the A to Z Challenge.  Now, however, there’s a backlog of ideas that my muse would like me to work on—and I am eager to get to work on those new ideas!

“Do one thing and do it well” can be good advice, for a short time.  When life gets complicated, sometimes we need to stop and have the simplicity of doing one and only one thing for a while.  But when I think about my lifelong goals, when I think about my own future as a writer/artist/blogger, there’s a different aphorism that I’d rather live by: “Variety is the spice of life.”

#IWSG: How to Talk Business with Your Muse

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  Are you a writer?  Do you feel insecure about your writing?  If so, then this is the support group for you!  Click here to learn more!

So I promised myself that I wouldn’t talk business here on the blog, but today I’m going to talk business here on the blog.  You see, I’m in the process of developing a new business plan for both my writing and my art.  Last weekend, I had a meeting with my editor.  I’ve also been doing a bit of research about S.E.O.  I’m starting to put together an outline of goals and strategies.  I feel good about all this stuff I’m doing.  I feel confident.  My muse, on the other hand, is getting very nervous.

As you know, muses come from a land of pure imagination, and (for obvious reasons) nobody needs money in a land of pure imagination.  My muse has heard of money before, but she doesn’t fully understand what money is or how it works.  She’s never used it for anything except as a plot device.

And when it comes to businesses and business plans, my muse has only the vaguest of notions about what all that means (I only have vague notions about it, too, but I’m learning).  Don’t be wasteful, don’t be inefficient, do be competitive and aggressive, do cut costs anywhere and everywhere you can, do ramp up production and increase your sales, always deliver value to your customers (whatever that means), never forget about the bottom line—that’s what businesses do, right?  But that sort of super strategic, super economical mindset—that is totally anathema to how muses operate.

The creative process is inherently inefficient.  It’s inherently messy, chaotic, and unpredictable.  A muse and her writer/artist must feel free to make mistakes; they must be able to experiment and take creative risks; they must allow themselves to waste a whole bunch of time and energy on ideas that almost certainly will not work out.

The last two years were something of a wake up call for me.  I really do need to take the business side of writing and art more seriously.  But as I go about putting together my new business plan, I know I must also keep my muse happy.  In fact, I’ve decided that keeping my muse happy should be job #1 in this new business plan of mine.  Even if it means missing the occasional deadline, even if it results in earning less money, even if it does not seem (at first) to be good for the bottom line, allowances must be made for the “wastefulness” and “inefficiency” of the creative process, because if I cannot make those allowances, well… then maybe this is not the right “business” for me after all.

Arguing with Myself: The Search for Alien Life

Hello, friends!

So a certain argument has been playing out in the back of my mind for a long, long time now.  Whenever I write, there are really two different versions of me who do my writing.  On the one hand, there’s science enthusiast me.  On the other, there’s Sci-Fi author me.  And these two versions of me view science, space exploration, and the universe at large in dramatically different ways.  One of the biggest ongoing disagreements I have with myself involves alien life.

Science enthusiast me believes that extraterrestrial microorganisms are pretty common in the universe.  Science enthusiast me thinks we will find evidence of extraterrestrial microbes in the very near future, perhaps hiding under the ice on Mars or swimming around in the oceans of Europa, Enceladus, or even Titan.  (I almost wrote unambiguous evidence there, but science enthusiast me also expects that confirming the discovery of extraterrestrial microbes will be tricky—just ask the researchers who found (or thought they found) microfossils inside a Martian meteorite back in 1996).

As for complex multicellular life—plants and animals, or whatever the extraterrestrial equivalent of plants and animals might be—science enthusiast me is far less optimistic.  While microorganisms have proven again and again that they can survive almost anything, even direct exposure to the vacuum of space, multicellular organisms seem to be far more fragile, far less resilient.  Earth may be one of the very few worlds where complex, multicellular organisms like us are able to survive and thrive over cosmic timescales.

And intelligent life?  Science enthusiast me believes intelligent life must exist elsewhere in the universe—surely it must!  But the universe is an awfully big place.  Our nearest intelligent and communicative neighbors could be many galaxies away.  Humanity is not alone in the universe, according to science enthusiast me, but we may as well be.

Sci-Fi author me, however, sees things from a different perspective.

Sci-Fi author me wants to write stories where encounters with alien life are commonplace, almost routine—stories where the aliens are sometimes friendly and sometimes not so friendly—stories where all sorts of weird and wacky interspecies adventures are possible!  And Sci-Fi author me takes a particular and peculiar pleasure in handwaving away all the concerns and objections science enthusiast me might have, not just regarding alien life but also in relation to faster-than-light travel, time machines, cybernetics, et cetera, et cetera.  Part of the fun, for Sci-Fi author me, is thinking up clever excuses for why impossible things are now possible (in the context of the story world, at least).

So there is this ongoing argument happening in the back of my mind.  This argument is never going to end, and I’ve decided that that’s okay.  Not every argument needs to have a winner and a loser, nor do arguments necessarily need to end in compromises.  Sometimes a house divided can stand after all.  Science enthusiast me believes the universe is like this; Sci-Fi author me would prefer (for story reasons) if the universe were more like that.  And the tension between these two different versions of myself drives my creativity, both as a science blogger and a science fiction writer.

P.S.: For those of you who might be interested, both the “I Heart Science” and “I Heart Sci-Fi” designs in this post are available in my RedBubble store.  Click here if you heart science, or click here if you heart Sci-Fi.  And remember: nobody’s stopping you from clicking both if you heart both!

#IWSG: Never Say This to Your Muse

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  Are you a writer?  Do you feel insecure about your writing?  Then this is the support group for you!  Click here to learn more!

So the other day, I got into an argument with my muse.  I said some things that I regret, and she called me some names that I, quite frankly, deserved.  The whole debacle started because of the Internet.

Almost every day, almost every single time I go on the Internet, even just for a few minutes, I am bombarded with bad news.  Certain headlines pique my interest.  I feel this sense of morbid curiosity.  I start clicking things.  I start reading comment threads.  And slowly, gradually, all that bad news transforms into worse news, until everything becomes the absolute worst news ever.

I was in the midst of this downward bad news spiral when my muse reminded me (kindly but firmly) that I’d promised to do some writing today.  And I refused.  After reading all that bad news, doing my writing no longer seemed important.  How can I do my writing when the world is in so much trouble?  How can I do something as silly as writing when all of human civilization is burning down around me?  “My writing doesn’t matter!” I exclaimed.  “Not at a time like this!”

That, by the way, is the wrong thing to say to your muse.

As I already mentioned, I proceeded to say some things I regret, and my muse proceeded to call me some names that I deserved.  But after we had some time to calm down, my muse and I had a long talk, and my muse said to me: “So bad stuff is happening in the world right now.  Okay.  Do you know how to fix that stuff?  Do you know how to make all the bad things stop or how to make all the bad people go away?  Hmm?  I didn’t think so.  But you are a writer, and you are an artist.  You may not be able to reduce the number of bad things in the world, but you can try to add something good.”

And my muse was right.  It’s one thing to stay informed about current events; it’s quite another to dwell on problems that are beyond your power to solve.  I’m no activist.  I’m no community organizer.  I don’t have the skillset for that sort of work.  But I do know how to tell a story, and I do know how to draw pretty pictures to go with my stories.  The best thing I can do, both for myself and for the world, is to keep writing and to keep drawing—to give myself those comforts and hope that the finished products will give comfort to others as well.

With that in mind, there’s one last thing my muse said to me: “Don’t you ever—ever!—tell me your writing doesn’t matter.  Never say that to me again.  That is the most disrespectful and hurtful thing any writer could ever say to their muse.”

#IWSG: Something Must Change

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  Are you a writer?  Do you feel insecure about your writing?  If so, then this is the support group for you!  Click here to learn more!

I’m not doing great right now, to be honest.  I’m stressed, I’m tired, and I’m unhappy.  I wish I could say I’m just having a bad week, but I know the problem runs deeper than that.  This has been going on for months now… for years, even.  And so now I have finally come to the conclusion that something needs to change.

But what?  What is the thing that needs to change?  Is it writing?  I’ve been reluctant to talk about these something-must-change feelings with anyone I know in real life because most of the people I know in real life are quick to tell me that writing is the problem.

“You should take a break from writing,” they’ll say.  But that’s like telling me to take a break from breathing.  “Maybe you should try a different hobby,” they’ll say, as if writing is just a hobby to me.  One family member keeps asking me “Have you considered writing smut?” which… actually, that might be one of the few people I know I.R.L. who gets me.

Something must change.  Something is going to change.  I’m going to make it happen.  But first, I’m making two quick promises to myself:

  • I will not rush into anything, and…
  • I will not sacrifice my writing (or my art).

This post is not me looking for advice.  I’m not writing this for my own benefit but rather for the benefit of anyone else who’s having these something-must-change feelings.  Don’t get me wrong: these are good feelings to have.  These feelings can be the beginning of a new and better life.

But saying that something needs to change does not mean that everything needs to change.  Before you do anything rash, before you go upending your whole life, decide for yourself what’s really important to you.  Decide for yourself what you can and cannot afford to change (and do not allow other people to decide that for you).

For me, the things I cannot afford to change are my writing and my art.  And for you, those things are…

#IWSG: Dear Muse

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  Are you a writer?  Do you feel insecure about your writing?  Then this is the support group for you.  Click here to learn more!

Dear Muse,

2021 turned out to be one of the absolute worst years of my life.  I will not go so far as to call it my worst year ever, but I will say that it was a close second.

We didn’t get much writing done, you and I, in the past year.  Plans got derailed.  Opportunities were missed.  Financially speaking, our writing/illustrating business survived, but it will be a real challenge getting back to where we were a year ago.

Couldn’t be helped.  Under the circumstances, things could have ended up being a whole lot worse.  I want to thank you, dear muse, for being patient with me, for biding your time while I struggled, and for waiting until the situation improved.  I needed that time to deal with this past year’s problems, and I needed time to heal from this year’s problems as well.

As I already said, 2021 was only the second worst year of my life.  I’m sure you still remember the first.  I’m also sure you remember what happened next: how our writing and our art flourished, how the year that followed my #1 worst year became one of my absolute creative best!  Nobody asks for hardship, but hardship has a way of preparing us for change and for growth.  After all the problems of 2021, I am eager to see what we can accomplish in 2022.

So in the year to come, dear muse, I’m asking you for a gift: the gift of words.  All the words!  Surprise me—no, shock me with your wildest ideas.  Break the molds I’m used to for all my stories, knock me out of the comfortable grooves I’ve settled into over the years.  Test my limits.  Challenge me.  Make me write things I never imagined I’d write.

This past year was awful for me, but that’s behind me now (I think).  So muse, bring me all the words!  I’m ready!

Forever yours,
Your Writer.