It Was a Dark and Stormy Month: Conquering NaNoWriMo at Last

NaNoWriMo Starting Line

One month of novel-writing commences in T-minus six minutes and counting …

It’s been a bucket list year for me, well compared to most other years anyway. Sure, my plans to put on a tux and drop a couple hundred in a Nassau casino on my birthday, a la James Bond, did fall flat. On the other hand, I did get to play my very first rooftop gig last summer — which was a lot hotter than one would imagine, and last month I finally participated in, and won, my first NaNoWriMo — which was a lot … harder? … well, different … than one would imagine.

I’ve been wanting to do National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for at least ten years, but the best of intentions have usually been beaten out by 1) not having a story, 2) having a story, but not being excited enough to write, or 3) having a story and being excited, but forgetting it was NaNo until halfway through the month. This year was different, however. I started out in late-September deciding on a story and then meticulously making lists, outlining story points, and writing down little witty sentences to use. By the first week of October, I was chomping at the bit so bad that I almost cheated and started early. Instead I passed the time by reading a couple of books about writing (No Plot; No Problem and How to Write a Damn Good Novel) even though I was pretty convinced this was overkill, since the point of NaNo is simply a quantitative one of producing 50,000 words of a draft with no concern for editing, style, or making it in any way “good.”

The Pessimal Design

My best pass at a front cover: A subtle take-off on Addison-Wesley’s nonsensical technical manual cover photography. Except, mine’s meticulously thought out.

So, as an analyst who normally writes 15-20 thousand words a week of technical nonsense anyway, I wasn’t overly concerned about the pace. Hell, my nickname at one of my jobs was “Tolstoy” because, while I’ve got 99 problems, being able to spew thousands of words in very short order isn’t one. The minimum path of 1600 words per day (fewer than are in this blog post, ironically) is about an hour of typing for me, and hell, if it doesn’t have to be GOOD, I can give you 1600 words about what I ate for lunch. In fact, my habit of just going off on tangents and typing wild rants about stuff completely unrelated to the plot came in handy for NaNo. It’s just going to suck if I ever decide to edit into a polished first draft. My big concern was, as with most things I’ve written, keeping the enthusiasm up and the thoughts flowing when I invariably decide about a third of the way in that it’s crap, I’m crap, my life is crap, nobody has ever loved me, and I’m wasting my time when I could be out drinking beer … alone. I had hoped the outline would take care of that part, since theoretically I had done all the thinking, and could type on auto pilot to the finish line without having to stop for anything but a caffeine refill.

I started off with the idea of doing a techno-thriller novel that borrowed Hitchcock’s “wrong man” formula, since I’d taken a class in Hitchcock and had seen just about all the director commentary tracks on the DVDs, that described his crafting of the story, the use of McGuffins, the escalation of drama, and all of those tools and tropes in great detail. For my take on the genre, I decided that, as an analyst, former software engineer, and 30-year veteran in the technology field, I would destroy the “Hollywood convenient” version of how computers and technology work (that drives me insane when watching a movie) and tell my tale with unrelenting technical accuracy — no gimmicks or eye-rolling leaps in logic. So, as you can expect, my serious techno-thriller quickly became a thinly-veiled satirical comedy about life in the software development industry, where most sinister people of power are too incompetent to hatch grand schemes, and even if they weren’t, the nerds that develop their dreams into reality are generally ten times smarter than they are, just not as rich. In the end, I gave up watching Hitchcock analysis videos and ended up rewatching movies like “Foul Play” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” to try to capture my new tone.

NaNoWriMo Kickoff Party

Finally, Halloween night rolled around, and for once I was thrilled to have an excuse to do something other than put on a silly costume and hang out at the local watering hole with a bunch of drunken amateurs who were way too proud of their “slutty version of _____” costumes. (Seriously, I’ve endured “slutty clowns,” “slutty nuns,” “slutty Crocodile Hunter,” “slutty Cookie Monster” … well, that last one may have been intended as “plain old Cookie Monster” that she failed miserably at. Wait … I just sidebarred into a different blog post.) This year I was thrilled to be hanging out in a big co-working space with a bunch of severe introverts, sipping tea, and discussing our favorite authors. Believe it or not, I’m good with this. I read a buttload of books every year (in fact the worst part about NaNo was not having time to read for a whole month), and I decided that while I’m generally not extroverted enough to be the talkative one in a group of bar-dwelling beer buds, I compensate for this by instantly becoming the outgoing one when surrounded by people who are more interesting than me. I refer to this as “alpha-introvert.” Oddly enough, the socialization ended abruptly at midnight and the room went deadly silent except for clacking keys for the next several hours.

So began an amazingly fun month of going to “public write-ins,” participating in daily midnight “virtual write-ins” via Drupal, and conversing with local and international NaNo participants on random side-topics in the message boards, Facebook groups, and chat rooms. Honestly, the amount of group participation and interaction among the Indy participants was a big surprise. I had no idea how popular NaNo was, much less that there were a few hundred people participating in Indy, and a few hundred thousand worldwide. There were multiple virtual and real-world meet-ups every day of the month and someone who wants to chat at every hour of the day.

Hypothetical Back Cover for eBook

Spent far too much time planting easter eggs in this photo that can’t be seen and/or won’t be looked for.

Speaking of which, just to punch back at all the “successful writers” who published bile-filled articles and social media posts insisting NaNo is a bad idea and a waste of time that reinforces bad behaviors from shitty writers (sometimes even using less-polite words), let me counter with, in addition to the aforementioned social and psychological joys, I actually tried out a few new things and learned a lot. First off, outlining. Turns out this is very handy. I never tried it before because I somehow expected characters to come alive and stories to unfold by themselves, which I now see is why previous attempts sort of ended right after character introductions and right before the main action would have started. Second, write first/edit later. Writing analytical stuff, you don’t get this luxury since you’re constantly on a deadline and waiting on other people’s numbers and research to put in your document anyway and don’t have time for multiple drafts. Doing a novel, or even something like a blog post though, I would spend hours crafting a paragraph and days editing a chapter, insisting each was perfect before moving on, and all the edits really weren’t making things better, they were just slowing me down. With NaNo, I never once looked back at anything I wrote — still haven’t; that’s next month. I just went down the outline, checked off the stuff as I put it down in the story, and made a few notes of things I changed that needed to be paid off later or retroactively set up. Anything can be fixed, added, or pulled out in a later draft, but until you have a baseline, it’s all second-guessing. Finally, and this was a big one for me, I never once had a breakthrough moment sitting around thinking about the novel. There were two or three places at the end of the second act where I was just stuck, and I spent the first couple of weeks dreading the day I reached that point because it looked like a boulder blocking the otherwise smooth train tracks. I sat up nights thinking about possible twists, I tried to plot out story points while driving, I even went to the gym and tried to mentally rewrite sections while on an elliptical. In the end, I still had nothing. The only time inspiration ever came or when problems ever got solved was when I was sitting down at the computer writing. This gives me hope that some of my other stuff doesn’t need to be abandoned, it just needs to be revisited.

Got the T-Shirt too … and a coffee mug!

Almost exactly as planned, I hit my 50,000th word on the 26th, leaving me without the pressure of a big rush job on Thanksgiving weekend. I managed to clean up on all the badges, though I admit, I did log a couple of 10-minute writing days to maintain my path to the 21-day streak badge. But hey, got the certificate, got the T-shirt. What did you do last month? Grow a beard? The only shortcoming is that at 50,000 words, which is technically “the win,” I’m only about 80% of the way through the draft, and without the contest and my new peer group pushing me on, I fear losing momentum. Obviously I will finish it, just so I can change “wannabe writer” to “author” on all of my social media profiles and whip out my manuscript when I’m drunk in a bar — in much the same way middle-aged women whip out naked pictures from their college years.  Once that’s done, I have a number of rewrites and edits before I decide whether to self-publish or bury the fucker, since let’s face it, a zeroth draft where once does not review, edit, or rewrite at any point is really just improvisation, isn’t it?  I’m just saying, for a comedy/thriller this book is about as original as something from one of the later seasons of Matlock, and about as funny as Saturday Night Live after 12:45.   Therefore, I am encouraging everyone to encourage me by offering up the unedited, as-written on Day 1 first chapter on my website at If you enjoy it, then by simply performing a random act of kindness and submitting evidence, I will add you to the list to receive a free copy of the finished eBook.  You’ll find all the details on the site.

Meanwhile, I’ve got friends I haven’t seen in a month to catch up with, so thank you for encouraging my behavior.

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Ten Things I Want to See In My Next Job

This week marks two years since the great crunch at my last job left about 20% of the employees, and my entire department out on the street. While this is partially due to my advanced age, a computer science degree that predates the personal computer, and a major shift in the market from employee to employer-focused, it’s probably also that, being constantly hit by or barely surviving downsizing exercises at my last five companies going back a decade, I’ve just been a little pickier about saying yes to jobs that exhibit the same destructive behaviors, or that I just have a bad feeling about going in.

I’m increasingly convinced the type of job I want doesn’t exist anymore. Certainly if it does, it’s only found via one of those “inside networking” things and isn’t going to land in my lap courtesy of a recruiter who has my best interest at heart and really wants me to be happy and successful. (You read that one, right?) So, as long as some know-it-all recruiter can force me to sit through his boring “Ten Things You Need to Do To Land the Perfect Job” post on Linked-In, allow me to retort with my own “Ten Things I Want to See In My Next Job.” On the off chance that I’m wrong, and my dream boss is out there scouring the Internet for me (probably sitting next to my dream girl in a locally-owned coffee and sandwich shop somewhere), “Hi, boss. Call me. Let’s get something moving.”

1. Don’t make me retype my resume in your on-line job application. We live in the 21st century. I carry three different versions of my resume on my phone, and I have professional profiles exhaustively detailing 30+ years of my professional history on three different job boards, Linked-In, and PMO-Elite. If you’re using antiquated HR software that can’t parse a Word document or pull data via API from a job board, and your HR department isn’t capable of converting it in the one format they need to work in, then sorry, we’re done before we even got started.

2. Don’t ask for my desired salary on the application before I’ve even gotten to speak to you about the job. First off, this just screams “looking for the cheapest person we can get to negotiate from a position of weakness.” Second, a lot of your answers — even knowing what your benefits and vacation package looks like — will affect my salary requirements. Finally, as a thirteen year business analyst and sales support engineer, I can make very strong arguments to back up my numbers. I do know how to put together an effective argument and cost/benefit analysis, after all.

3. Sell me on your company vision. This is becoming more and more important to me. When someone asks me what my company does, I would love to be able to say something other than “insurance,” “pharmaceuticals,” “mortgages,” or “makes these three rich guys who own it even richer.” Not that it needs to be anything altruistic or honorable. One of my favorite jobs of all time is best described as, “made a bunch of people happy.” At least that I can get excited about.

4. Have free parking nearby. I am sick of freezing, roasting, and soaking, before I even start my day, but most of all, I’m really sick of having to factor the walk from my car to my desk into my commute time. I don’t need to scratch my car door on the side of the building when I get out, but I do require that I be able to SEE the building from where I park.

5. Put a ring on it. This is the one that’s apparently really killing my prospects. Have I mentioned that contracting work is a career-killing racket? I have finally put my foot down on changing discount insurance companies and wrapping my sports-loving child in bubble wrap any praying for the best during the “benefit grace period” every couple of months when I switch contracts. I’m sick of being treated like a disposable second-class citizen by co-workers, and I am over having a “likely extension” or “possible conversion” dangled in front of me like a carrot.

6. Give me an opportunity to add to my skillset, or at least tell a new story. I might as well laminate my resume for the past thirteen years. “Worked as a liaison between business and IT … Effectively captured requirements … managed a portfolio of complex projects and directed development teams … blahblahblah …” If you’re going to make me do that stuff again, at least make the projects more interesting than “modified a program,” “developed a report,” “built a dashboard.”

7. No damned ping pong tables, indoor basketball courts, or video arcades at work! If you need these kinds of things to get through the day, put your company next to a family recreation center, or better yet, go work for one. I had my fill of “Oh, you need to talk to me, let’s have a ping pong meeting.” No, I need to talk to you, not compete for your distracted attention. “I’m not going to have that ready by the next sprint, your time estimate was completely unreasonable.” No, my time estimate was generous, and I just happen to notice you wasted all of Thursday afternoon in a Galaga tournament with the Finance department knowing you had a deadline on Friday morning.

8. Let me control my environment. Now we’re getting into the big ones. Also previously mentioned, this agile seating thing is only good for me about 25% of the time. In the early phases of a project, it’s great for getting a cadence going, disseminating information, and building rapport. The other 75% of the time, it annoys me with having to hear office gossip and bitch sessions, getting drawn into other teams’ meetings two feet from my head, listening to people directly in front of me lead conference calls I don’t care about, and generally makes me claustrophobic when I can’t stretch without poking the guy next to me (who is breathing too #@$&-ing loud) in the eye. Most of my job is thinking, reading, and typing. I like quiet, no interruptions, a diet coke, and maybe a bit of bebop music during these situations. It just makes things go faster and keeps my blood pressure at a reasonable level. Which brings up …

9. Do not micromanage my time on task. I love working for multinational corporations that write off amounts ten times my salary as rounding error, but then want to jump my ass if they determine a task should take no more than 40 hours, and I logged 42 hours to get it done by the deadline (it was actually 50 hours, but I didn’t count the 8 hours I worked at home), especially if the extra time required was due to the stuff in #8. This also ties into …

10. At least pretend to listen to employee opinions. I usually pick this up studying your responses to a few carefully placed questions during the interview, but it’s surprising how often I find hiring managers (particularly younger, insecure ones) are so easily put on the defensive when an employee offers an opinion or *gasp* suggestion. I think my favorite example was when, as a contractor, my 20-something millennial boss cut me off mid-sentence in a meeting with the phrase, “Yes, that’s all well and good, but in my experience…” Like, look, ya little pipsqueak, I’ve been doing this since you were in diapers. When was this experience, last week?! Even if you ignore my opinion because you think I’m an idiot, you will let me finish my sentence when we’re in a public setting.

So there ya go. Ten demands. Maybe it makes me sound like a cranky old fart, maybe it’s the reason I’m blacklisted by most hiring agencies in the city, but life is to short to put up with a job you’re not happy at. I’ll pay a finder’s fee, or take a discount on my salary, if anyone can prove to me that jobs like these are still out there.

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That Time of Year …

100% true exchange …

Me: Alexa, play Christmas FM…

Alexa: Playing Christmas music on iHeart Radio…

♫ Have a Holly, jolly Christmas… ♫

Me: Ew … FUCK NO … not iHeart … Play Christmas.FM on …

” … is currently listening from St. Michael’s hospital in Dublin. So, we dedicate this song to her. Here’s ‘The Christmas Shoes’…”

Me: Alexa, what the f*ck is wrong with me?!

Alexa: I’d rather not answer that.

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What’s Going on Here?

It’s scary to think that, decades later, in a completely different part of the country, 3rd graders still magically wake up one morning knowing about these paper fortune teller things and how to make them. Okay, in the south we called them Snapdragons, she calls them fortune tellers, the most-common name is Cootie Catcher.

Point being, like so much playground culture, this is oddly universal, varies less than an accent might from region to region, is usually taught to you by a peer (not as curriculum), and few people can remember how and where they acquired the knowledge. What is this?! Jungian collective conscious? DNA memory? Darwinian survival instinct? Alien telepathic transmission.

Screw common core and iStep … figure out how THIS apparently subconscious anthropological communication works and teach them THAT way…

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Has Anybody Seen My Youthful Naivety?

Recruiters Ate My Brain

FYI: Anybody who says they have a deep-rooted passion for InfoSec is just lying to you in order to get a job.

Sorry, Lisa. I’d love to move to New York, and the money is awesome, but the only things I still have a “deep rooted” passion for are creme horns and about half the Venom Mob catalog. I can offer you “likes it better than EDI mapping, but not as much as domestic lite beer.” Sorry, after 25+ years of dealing with recruiter promises, I just can’t engage enthusiasm for a “day job,” no matter how hard you try to make it sound like a cross between a Carribean vacation and fulfilling my life’s purpose.

Seriously, why do all postings and email solicitations suddenly read like this?! “We need someone who LIVES AND BREATHES to perform regulatory audits!” “The right candidate is someone who gets fired up to write technical specs!” “We have an EXCITING OPENING for someone who spontaneously orgasms at the thought of offshore project management.”

The warning flag going off in my head finishes these sentences with, “… because anyone doing it for the money will be sorely disappointed.” Can we just be honest for once and make the post read, “You need a health plan. We want your soul, but will settle for some of your moderately-specialized experience and skills. We promise we’ll be nice about it and ‘occasionally’ let you have a life outside the office.” Because, that’s how these things really end up in my experience.

Okay, I’ve become a curmudgeon. I have a low tolerance for insults to my intelligence and I can’t fake enthusiasm. I don’t think I fit in the modern workforce anymore.

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Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Specialization

So, I guess somebody horked off their developer the other day …

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Pet Peeve #14

UntitledWho do I hate more here? Is it PayJunction, who seems to think their policy of gaming the system as a standard business practice will endear me to change Lifelong Credo #27: Never work for, or trust, a company with ‘Pay,’ ‘Quick,’ or ‘Easy’ in their name, or who thinks that redundant repetition of the same ad will somehow make a career in sales and resulting pay cut and loss of 50 IQ a viable option for me at this stage in life?  Or is it LinkedIn, who in addition to not being able to respond to complaints of phishing from multiple, identical fake accounts on their site, also can’t seem to spot multiple irrelevantly-tagged job postings. Seriously, a part time intern should be able to ensure than when I search on Project Management jobs in Indianapolis, that I don’t get flooded with over 60 copies of the same post for a “100% Commission Sales” position in every other city in central Indiana?

Update:  Worse, they apparently PayJunction RE-posts these every day, because this is now day 3 of the great flood, and my filters specifically ask only for jobs posted within the last 24 hours.

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Pet Peeve #10 …

The latest “fantastic deal” from Comcast/XFinity …

L. Schweber Can Kiss My Ass

Hey, L. Schweber, nobody is falling for this bullshit. You’re insulting both our intelligences.

Seriously, I would like to believe there is a special place in hell for people who package their corporate junk advertising to look like priority mail coming from an individual.

I’m thinking they go somewhere on the 8th circle, in one of the bolgias (malicious fraudulents) … right between people who auto-roll video loudly at page load, and people who claim to be “fans” of a band but secretly only like a couple of their most-popular albums.

Seriously, your first interaction with me is to deliberately misrepresent yourself and deceive me into opening your unsolicited sales pitch? Oh, sign me up for whatever “limited time offer” you’re selling.

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Gotta Love Facebook

Facebook:  Your last post is performing better than 95% of your other posts.  You should boost it.
Me: …
Facebook: Your post continues to perform well.  For $10 we can show it to 1500-3000 more people.
Me:  …
Facebook:  No really! Boosting your post will drive more hits and likes to your business.  Boosting your recent popular post will enable you reach thousands more people for just $5.
Me:  Okay, fine.  Here’s $10 bucks.
Facebook:  Your boost is rejected!

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A Rare Parenting Post …

17191499_10155129297615802_693229583783904952_nEpiphanies do seem to come suddenly and from the strangest places … I suppose that’s why they call them epiphanies instead of “thoughts you just have because they make sense.”  Case in point, I have this kid — or small proto-adult — living in my home.  We call her “Lil’ Q.”  She’s six … soon to be seven.  Her hobbies are, for the most part, drawing and writing.  I mean, seriously writing.  Most little girls this age, based on my observation, like to play with dolls or Barbie’s or whatever and play-act scenarios.  Not mine.  We were at the store the other day, and like any completely pwned father, I took her through the toy aisle, thinking I might let her pick out something, seeing as how she was being very well behaved for a six-year-old who had been dragged to at least four stores by her father who was attempting to run weekly errands and such.  So, half-expecting we’d be picking up our forty-fifth or forty-sixth Barbie doll to complete the small army she’s attempting to assemble, I was completely taken aback when she declared, “Actually, I need a new secret journal for my stories and a new song lyric notebook.  I filled up all the pages in my old ones.”

Ummm … those were 100-page composition books your grandmother gave you for Christmas.  That was only, like, two months ago.  Come on, kid, we’ve got a whole toy department.  Are you sure those are full?  Did you write on the backs of the pages and everything, because that comes to something like fifteen pages a day on the days you’re with me?  (She insisted she had, and I later confirmed she was mostly correct.) Sure, whatever. I can buy ten new notebooks for the price of a Barbie doll.  Heck, kid, take four.

Now, it’s not like this was a TOTAL surprise.  She’s got stacks of papers with little poems, song lyrics, and stories she’s written.  I will admit, at one point she shocked me by presenting three pages of a story, complete with punctuation, spelling, and a vocabulary well in advance of a first-grader – that was until I realized she’d spent an entire afternoon diligently copying pages out of a Robert Ludlum novel I was reading.  Not to mention, I’d already been called to a conference with the teacher about Lil’ Q’s … prolificacy.  Apparently, when you give her a writing assignment like “write two lines about what you did last weekend,” MY kid takes two lines PLUS the entire back of the page to craft some weird, semi-surrealistic Madeline L’Engle short story that mashes up Nickelodeon sitcoms, DC comics, and Disney Princesses.  Her teacher admits she has never seen anything like it, and unfortunately, there is no real curriculum in the first grade for encouraging and developing future Kerouacs (who I’m sure she has never read, though she can imitate his prose style with surprising fidelity).

As with most of the things our kids do, this got me thinking back to my childhood.  Sure, at her age, I suppose I too was a budding storyteller.  I had just discovered the joys of the Hardy Boys and Star Trek, and my earliest creative tendencies probably did involve the same odd mash-up storylines acted out by various completely unrelated action figures.  I just don’t remember the driving urge to write them down.  Of course, I had other distractions – piano lessons, little league, friends constantly knocking on the door wanting to go ride bikes.  Hell, it was Mississippi.  We didn’t have that three or four-month stretch where it was too cold to go outside, and kids back then didn’t tend to sit around in isolation playing video games or watching 200 channels of television the way HER friends seem to.  So perhaps this is, in a way, a strange evolution for a 21st-century kid whose dad doesn’t watch or encourage the watching of television.  I’m starting to think we might need to have mandatory TV time.

So, this much sussed out, the next question is, what the hell do you do about it?  Instinctively, I know encouragement is key, and assuming her personality is like mine in most of the other ways, formal instruction or correction is guaranteed to put her off faster than anything.  It took me a while to figure out that this was a key underlying motivation that drove me to computer science (which my parents know NOTHING about) and turned me off of any kind of organized instruction in music or sports (which they were experts in and ALWAYS had a critique of).  Sure, at her teacher’s recommendation, I will offer constructive challenges like making sure stories have beginnings, middles, and ends.  As for spelling and general trivia, I simply direct her to the non-judgmental tutelage of Amazon’s Alexa, although the latter is notoriously bad with homonyms, resulting in a disturbing story last weekend about “meating friends,” which I can only hope was an honest mistake.

As for the rest, I have no idea.  I can very clearly remember my creative bursts as a third or fourth-grader, recording various and sundry “radio plays” on a shoebox cassette recorder, constructing epic D&D modules as a fifth and sixth grader, or attempting to write a sprawling sci-fi novel as a teenager.  Back then, inspiration came from everywhere.  I remember when the briefest glimpse down an alleyway or throwaway line of conversation in a crowd could explode into a million ideas for stories – half the time already played out in my head before I got home to commit them to a more permanent medium.  I also remember the cruel wall of self-awareness that came in high school, when the post-puberty version of me began to ask that most-defeating of questions, “Wait … is this any good?!”  By the end of high school, creativity was quite literally shut down.  Practically overnight, I went from editing fanzines in my bedroom with my buddies to pretty much hating every book, record album, or movie I consumed thinking, “I could have done THAT, and BETTER even.”

Yeah … but, you didn’t.  You were — and by the way, decades later, STILL ARE — too busy worrying about whether it’s any good instead of just producing something you can call “Draft 1.”

So, what’s a proud father to do? Go all “Leopold Mozart/Billy Ray Cyrus” on her? I’ve read/seen/experienced enough to know that you can’t push, discourage, or otherwise interfere with someone else’s creative process. Heck, she’s already given up on ballet lessons and decided she’s going to get her black belt next.  Who am I to stop her?  (Yeah, never finished karate lessons either.)  I could warn her about the Hemingway-esque self-doubt and creative bankruptcy that looms with impending adulthood, though who in the heck ever listens to signs and portents of doom? Hell, if that worked, pretty much every novel ever written would be a LOT shorter … and more boring.  I could just clear her path and let her go, hoping she gets enough momentum to break through or steer around the wall she’s on a collision course with, but would that be enough? Or is there more to be gained letting her clear those paths herself? Or heck, she’s six, maybe by next week she’ll want to be an astronaut or something and will have forgotten all about her writing.  Obviously, I’m Dad.  I’m never going to stand in her way, and I will give her whatever she needs (or asks for), it’s just a weird feeling of helplessness wondering if that’s the most I can do, and should I even be doing THAT.

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