Random acts of kindness

This post is a shout out to Carol, the nice customer service person who handles my federal loans. Thanks, Carol. Though you may never see this, I remember you fondly.

So much of our lives depends on random acts of kindness.

I wouldn’t say that kindness is something that comes naturally to me all the time. Kindness is different from not being a jerk, of course. I’m mostly okay at not being a jerk, because I think it takes some effort to intentionally try to piss people off. This means that I try to be conscious of when I would, in fact, be pissing someone off, and I don’t do that thing. Unless I think it might be beneficial to piss you off anyway, for reasons. It’s not that I’m against conflict, or that I tiptoe around people, just that I don’t want to make your day terrible in order to make my day better.

Kindness, to me, is a little bit more than that. If not being a jerk is the baseline of human compassion, kindness is a level up. It is taking the time to put yourself into someone else’s headspace, someone who may not have your wants or values or concerns, and realizing that, that thing you were doing? The thing you really wanted to do and enjoyed? Maybe you should take it somewhere else, or cut it down a notch, because you are hurting this person and it is not helping anyone. Kindness is when I go out of my way, to no real advantage of my own, to do you a favor and make your day better. I like to think that I am kind sometimes. Regularly? Probably not.

I’m certainly not always kind to my characters. But here’s the deal. I’m not always a jerk either.

I think there are certain genres that lend themselves, at least a little, to throwing your character under a bus just to keep things interesting. This is a terrible thing. There’s so much missed opportunity in that. I like to throw my character under a bus, but it should serve a purpose other than just to keep things interesting. It should take your character somewhere. Or take another character somewhere as they watch their friend die horribly. There should be an emotional transformation, a natural jumping off point. Jack was hit by the bus, and now the plan to save the world is bust because Mary needed his strong arms to wrestle the troll guarding the portal to the world tree…or something. Being a writer means that you can’t just be mean to your characters for no reason, but you can’t be kind to them either. At least, not too often.

Sometimes, it’s important to let them heal. It lets your reader heal, too. Really everything you’re doing to your characters, your doing to your reader, too.

So sprinkle in that kindness when it’s right and good.

Writing Bootcamp

I did something unusual this weekend that I’m hoping to continue. I walked down to my local coffee shop and camped out until I had produced a lot of words. About 4,000, to be precise.

One of the things that surprises me about my productivity is how inconsistent it can be. This is a direct function of time and distractions, I suspect, and of how much awesome regenerative activity I’m engaged in. I came into this writing day with two weeks of awesome dinner parties and heavy physical activity to prop me up. I came into it having meditated for days on where my characters were going, and gave myself a day off of writing to finish reading a book I had been nibbling away at the night before. In essence, I came into this weekend of writing rested and brimming with experiences that could be made into words.

There were other factors, of course. I have been writing every day for the past two weeks, even if I only managed a few sentences. That kind of regular exercise of my writing muscles keeps me in shape. But while I blasted through the first 3,000 words on Saturday, and slowly meandered through another 1,000 that evening, I had to scrape the last 1,000 words out of me on Sunday. I really think, given that, that rest and reading and good food with friends was a large part of the equation. It has the advantage of being an element that I’m more than happy to repeat.

In any case, it was a wonderous, 5,000-word weekend, and I hope to capitalize on my new profligacy.

Surviving a Con

Every conference or convention is individual. This means there are different rules and tactics you, as an attendee, can use for success. You also might have different goals than another person attending the same event.

I, for example, am almost always going to a con trying to make connections that will further my writing career. At this early point in my career, mostly I go to conventions in order to meet other writers, literary agents, and publishers. I also hope to meet readers, of course, though I’m still getting my feet under me on the marketing front. Depending on who you are trying to meet, you may undertake different activities or go to different conventions. For example, I regularly attend the World Fantasy Convention, which this year will be held in Columbus, Ohio. WFC is predominantly an industry convention, so most of the attendees are writers, agents, and publishers. The best way to meet the people you want to meet at this convention is often to hang out in the bar or go to panels. However, if the goal is to meet readers and sell books, I would be more likely to head to a fan-oriented convention such as DragonCon. There an author might get a table or be on a panel (as opposed to attending one) in order to attract readers.

Obviously there is some overlap between conventions and the kinds of things you can accomplish at each of them, but its important to be clear about what your best chances are for accomplishing your goals at a given event.

Regardless of which kind of convention you are going to, there are some things I always try to do in order to be prepared and have the best experience.

  1. Pace yourself. I am an introvert who really likes people some days. That means that it’s really easy for me to overextend, especially at big events where a lot of strange people are crammed into a tiny space. Big conventions like DragonCon are essentially tiny cities that pop up overnight inside a series of hotels. You might never see the sun, but you won’t get bored. It’s best to not push yourself too hard and know your limits.
  2. Go with a friend. If you can, try to make sure you know someone at the convention you are going to. It is hard to constantly be wandering around looking to meet new people. But don’t get bogged down in your existing relationships either – you’re there to meet people, after all, so it’s important to put yourself out there occasionally. I sometimes go to conventions with my boyfriend. He gets to tour a strange city while I’m in panels, and sometimes gets invited to the parties with me afterward to help me break the ice as my personal extrovert and conversation starter. Plus it’s nice to have someone to talk about ideas with after the fact, part of that whole INFJ processing method.
  3. Bring a tote. You need a comfortable bag of some kind that you can pack all your stuff in. Stuff you might put in your tote includes: water, for hydration; emergency snacks; a notebook; pens and other writing materials; business cards; promotional materials; and anything you’re trying to sell. So it needs to be a pretty comfortable bag, as it is going to be heavy. At WFC, they also give you a giant bag of free books (squee!) which is awesome, but you are either going to need to find a place to stow that quickly or carry it around all day so that is something to keep in mind when selecting your bag. No one wants two heavy bags, one on each shoulder. Other conventions don’t give out decent bags at all. In either case, be prepared to carry some weight.
  4. Make sure you eat. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I sometimes forget to eat when I am stressed or really engaged in some exciting thing, so make sure that you take the time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’re going to be going full speed for several days and then probably jumping right back into your work week. Not to mention that if you’re going to be hanging out in the bar drinking, you’re going to need some food to absorb that alcohol. Which leads me to the last thing.
  5. Don’t get drunk. Buzzed is fine. But if you are acting a fool, it’s not going to make you any friends. And alcohol on an empty stomach is a guaranteed way to vomit on someone’s shoes.

Let me know about your convention-survival tips and tricks! And have fun!



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