Dang it: I published a book and did not become A Cool Author

Writing

People are always surprised when they find out that I have published a book. I say “find out” because I don’t really drop that in conversation – it is rarely relevant. I also have a lot of complicated feelings about my book. Let’s try to explore that for a bit.

First of all, the book I published was a nonfiction book and was created primarily out of spite. I was frustrated by the lack of help with essay writing in my high school, so I decided to something about that – and someone actually wanted to create a book out of this, for some godforsaken reason.
That is all good and cool, but not exactly how I imagined my debut as an author would be. I’ve dreamt of publishing an actual book since I was 10 years old (and sent in the most horrible manuscript to a publishing company) and I always thought it would be a cool, original novel. My own characters, universe, everything.

I always had the idea that the book would be “show, don’t tell”. If people saw the value of the book, they would buy it. Well, guess what – if people don’t know the book exists, they won’t buy it! And I am absolutely horrible at marketing, I’d admit to that straight away. I made the facebook page, made some posts, but I was absolutely clueless. I did not hear a word from the publishing company either (more on those people later on), so I felt alone with a book and embarrassed to scream about it.

Most shocking of all, somehow, you just don’t magically turn into a new person once a book has your name slammed on it. I didn’t have my life more together – now people just think I do if they don’t know me. I didn’t magically become a mysterious Cool Author with a pretty notebooks, clean computer screen and a coffee cup by my side, while the dough was just rolling in, along with the fans and facebook likes.
If that had happened, I would probably also have been mortified and never gone outside my room again, but I did perhaps expect that my perspective would change a little with a book. I would have more confidence in my skills, maybe – because, ya’ know, I published a book! Instead, my gallopping Imposter Syndrome has never been worse. Because now I have a book out there and people can read it. And judge it. And think about me what they want, because I put myself up for this. No inner zen, no more coolness, just the same me. Now with a book that pops up if you google me. Who would have thought that I didn’t magically undergo a transformation overnight?

Now, it might sound like this is a long blog post about whining and feeling sorry for myself. I am not, just very entertained about how I thought it would be versus how it actually turned out. I would not even say that I preferred it in any other way. I helped people – I know, because they have reached out to me. They have told people who told people who told me that they enjoyed the book. Someone came to get their book signed by me and I will carry that memory forever in my heart. A lot of people want to write a book, but not a lot of them ever end up having a book in their name – I am very grateful that I had that chance and also could help some people along the way. How awesome is that? It is the best kind of win-win. And now, almost a year after publication, perhaps also a bit more realistic kind of win-win.

The book has brought in a lot of good things, also a lot of worries. I still feel weird talking about it. I have a book, but please don’t talk about it, you know? It makes me sound better than I am and that makes me uncomfortable.
But it is there. It is not going away. And even if it is a bit complicated, then it is an achievement to be proud of. If I can sit down and write enough pages for a book once, I could probably write something else, something different. And if not, well, at least I gave a helping hand to a couple of high schoolers out there.

Using NaNoWriMo as a force of good

Writing

It is November and the annual Nanowrimo is currently being pursued by thousands of people all over the globe. It is quite an amazing event and the enthusiasm and support for writing gives me a nice reminder of why I like creating my stories and aggressively typing on my keyboard in the first place.

I am undertaking Nano – not with a single story, but with two stories. I also count in my two essays for university and articles, because otherwise I may just smash my screen with a sledge hammer already. Although my time is very sparse these days, I have kept a little tabs on the rest of the community.

There are a lot of things I do not like about Nano. One of them is the fact that I have tried for several years and always fail to win. Another is self-loathing people who want to a) write a novel but b) don’t want to and c) moan about it.
Listen here.
No one is holding a gun to your head (I mean… I hope not). Nano is voluntary and it is supposed to be absolutely wild writing for a month, but also just fun. If you really feel pressured, just stop. Take a breather and ignore the imaginative goal someone else set up for you. Many writers seem to be happy about rambling on and on about their Story and their Characters and all the Details, but when it comes down to writing it, it changes. I feel the same thing, we all do. But instead of moaning about it, here are some things I suggest instead, that will perhaps turn Nano into a productive, postive experience instead. Take it from someone who has been that cringe and got a bit of her shit together instead:

  1. Set off specific times to write
    I know life happens. Despite all the “we all have 24 hours in a day” bullcrap you are hearing from here and there, then that is just not true. Maybe you share household responsibilities with a partner, maybe you do all chores yourself. Maybe you are like me – a full time student with a job and volunteer work. While it is tempting to let go of all personal responsibilities and just crash through Nano, the world does not stop spinning because of your little project. Parent yourself. Plan ahead, so you can both clean, eat real food and know when you can write. Whether that is on the commute, in the break, or half an hour when you first wake up. Set up the routine. Set the alarm.
  2. Pick a different goal
    50.000 words is some number that someone dropped during a brainstorming sesh because that sounded like the size of a novel. It does not mean you need to follow that, not even if you write in the hopes of getting a script to send to publishers. If you feel overwhelmed, you can pick a lower number. It will still be more words than what you would have written otherwise.
  3. Stop procastinating, you silly beansprout
    I realised that I do two things when I am stressed out. One is social media. Another is online window shopping. I was quite aware of the first, but checking out online shopping sites did not feel as time-wasting because “it was just a couple of pages”. Figure out what you do when your brain goes idle, so you avoid wasting an hour just scrolling on Twitter or worse, moaning about how far you are behind with the word count. Time is precious. Make use of the Podomoro method, if that is something for you, that allows you to take designated breaks.
  4. Allow yourself to rebel
    The romantic version of a Nano’er is a Writer with glasses, a cup of warm tea or coffee, sitting in front of their laptop in a cozy room. Maybe wearing a chunky jumper. They have one story and they know exactly what to write (and also they do not have any interruptions or other responsibilities). Ah. Isn’t that the dream?
    You do not need to break your neck trying to squeeze out a story, especially if you a) do not really plan on doing much with it or b) have not planned it very well. I have a couple of stories, but I also see my essays and articles as contributing to the word count – because they are all adding to my portfolio and I probably wouldn’t be producing that much without a word count to reach.

Here’s what I have done in November so far:

  • Written an article for Financial Times (it will be blasted on LinkedIn and ya’ know it)
  • Written a position paper for a conference
  • Written several blog posts
  • Finally developed and getting to write a story that has been in the back of my head for a while and that I could actually see being published out on the web
  • Got a shitton of progress in writing a story as a gift for a friend
  • Written two assignments for university

I can assure you that this is 1454596873495% more productive than I am otherwise. Who cares that I did not write on a SINGLE novel for a whole month? Look at all these words that have been churned out! I am like a printer gone rogue that spews out iliterate words en masse! It is wonderful!

What separates you from being an actual Writer and not just another beansprout in a field of beansprouts that just want to be a Writer?

You write. You produce content. You tap on that keyboard and you churn it out. Nano puts a focus on quantity over quality. Of course your material is not ready to be published on the 1st of December, but sometimes we get so focused on writing everything perfectly, that we don’t get anything written at all. Because we are not in the right mood. Because we only have fifteen minutes and cannot get the creative brain in gear. No, instead, just tap things out and allow it to be absolutely terrible – and then edit once the month is up.

I look forward to share all the shit writing I’ve been doing in an edited, polished and glammed-up version. I hope you do the same.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Review of Macbeth, or: I Don’t Know Shit About Shakespeare

Reviews

So I managed to read the second book from my Penguin Book-binge. Honest to god, it took me longer to read the commentary than the actual play itself. Why the frick am I reading commentary? Well, you see…

I don’t know shit about Shakespeare.

Or what all those fancy English words are supposed to mean. I am simply not a human being that can get on such a deep level of understanding and interpretation and nitpicking, so I have to get it from someone else. It is kind of like when they ask me during yoga to ‘let go of my thoughts’ or find my inner zen or whatever – listen, people, I ain’t got shit going on inside here! There is nothing, okay!
Anyway. Back to Macbeth.

What is it about then? – spoilers I guess?

Sooo basically Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are power-hungry. Macbeth murders the king to be crowned, which so far so good, but it only triggers the medieval equivalent of a security dilemma because now he really, really needs to stay on that throne, although he does not have an heir. Shit goes down, Macbeth turns absolutely bonkers, and his wife is screaming in her sleep because, well, they murdered people. And then when the other noblemen are feeling a bit uneasy about Macbeth trying to assassinate everyone, Macbeth just decides to kill some more to keep the peace and the throne. Everyone is mad, and I’d dare say that this is one of the most violent plays that Shakespeare has written. My favourite part is, hands down, the ending [SPOILER ALERT! lol] where Macbeth has, just like several thousand poor students across the globe, wrongly interpreted some fancy poem. This wrongful assessment causes him to get an ass-whopping by no other than the great Macduff. Not only is that totally justified, since Macbeth did murder his wife and child, but I just find it so freaking metal that he has the time to declare how he was ripped from his mother’s womb. Fuck mate, you were just BORN hardcore! Then a dude named Malcolm, whose father was also murdered by Macbeth, gets on the throne and his bloodline goes apparently all the way down to the King James VI of Scotland (also named James I of England later on). How wonderful!

How did you like it?

Well, I was quite challenged since English is not my first language. Shakespeare is always hard work, and Macbeth was no exception. That is why I love the commentary, and the different takes the authors had on how the different scenes could be interpreted, and it made it SO much easier to understand what the heck they were blabbering about.

Honestly, if you are dealing with Shakespeare right now in high school or A-levels or whatever – READ THE DAMN NOTES. You will get ideas in your head that you weren’t smart enough to think into existence by yourself. This is how I passed my final English exam, where I had to analyse King Lear, that crazy buffoon.

Another aspect of Macbeth I do like is the role of Lady Macbeth. Here we have a great character with screen time. Apparently, Shakespeare had so much faith in the boys that played the female roles, that he could write some more extensive female parts. We stan a great female lead! I do think that she committed suicide though, which is a weird, feminized way of opting out, but hey, all things considered – I think any person would be thrilled for the opportunity to play the lady because she is not just some bleak background-Sue or Designated Love Interest that only has to exist. She is just as bat-shit crazy as Macbeth and, taken directly from the script, is more than prepared to smash some baby skulls. Honestly, this whole play could be translated directly to a heavy metal song. Someone, call Cannibal Corpse or whatever band that has a thing for gore.

Photo by Elaine Howlin from UNSPLASH

No-Buy August: because shopping will not make you happy

Personal

I am not going to ramble off about how humans are screwing over Mother Nature, how the older generation with more money, political influence and better options is fucking things up for us young ones (has done that for years). No, I’ll save that for the other blog. All you need to know is that I recently had enough with consumerism and endless shopping sprees after I visited New York City. It was not some sort of odd lightbulb moment, but I knew I needed to actively take a break once I returned to London. You are bombarded with options to spend your money on when you live in a big city, and I have realised that is one of the reasons why I sometimes long to go back to Scandinavia and just stay out in nowhere for a good while. Anyway!

The aim for my August this year is doing a no-spend challenge. No unnecessary purchases, no shopping, no excessive sweets or soda, no new BOOKS (horror!). Obviously you have to eat, buy your medications and all that good stuff, but otherwise you will have to find something else to spend your time on. And while, let’s be real, you can save a nice good chunk of money if you are usually a ‘meh why not’-spender, then it also gives you space to think about what else you could really spend your time on.

My situation is a little difficult since I have no kitchen access until the 19th. My current living situation does not allow for as much as freaking boiler, so I will have to buy lunch and dinner from outside at least two times a day. Two times a week I can eat with the Christians that I am living with, but otherwise I have to be smart about my food situation. I do want to save money but I also want nutritious food. It will be quite a big budget post already, so cutting out anything unnecessary is probably a good choice.

I slipped up on my first day, since I was returning to London and had simply forgotten I was doing the challenge – which resulted in purchasing some multi-use balm and two books. Great to mess up on the first day, sets a terrific mood for the rest of the month BUT I am all for accepting your fuck-ups and just carry on. Nothing good comes out of being upset by a small mistake.

I will probably make a mid-month update on how this is getting on. Let me know if you have any tips for it or perhaps are interested in participating as well!

Photo by Bart Jaillet via UNSPLASH

Personal writer rants incoming

Personal

Get a blog, they say. For branding. For committing. For maybe just finally finish that stupid fiction piece you have stuck in your head for the third year in a row. I wanted something that was more about writing, more about what I am up to as the selfish little prick I am, and then leave the serious business to the other blog. This is about writing, living, studying. My own little dumpster where I can skip the Grammarly and convince myself that this may just be what I needed.

I have shamelessly copied some of this text from my other blog because you bet I could not come up with anything more creative for a presentation.

Who the fuck are you?

My name is Julie. At the time of writing, I am 21 years old and studying BA European Politics. Do I like politicians? No. Do I want to be a politician? Also no. But this is not gonna stop me from throwing my opinions out in cyberspace. I live in some village they call London, where pedestrians have a death wish and your nostrils turn black from the smog.

Why are you doing this again?

Believe it or not, I call myself a writer. My creative mind feels more like a black hole that sucks out my energy than anything useful, but hey, at least I am trying. It gives me joy and I love storytelling, I love reading. All that shit. Also, I do have a book out there with my name on, yes a real one, but we don’t really talk about that.

What will this blog be about?

I will go full nerd. I have started reading books again, so I will probably do reviews, talk about writing stuff, and maybe, just maybe, post about stuff I do, in fact, write. I am still trying to find a suitable media to post my stuff, but we are working on it.

What’s wrong with your English?

First of all, I got tested and I can do this language shizzle. Go ask Cambridge Language Assessment yourself.
Jokes aside – English is not my first language. My native language is spoken by, like, 5 people, so I write wonky stuff or get words mixed up sometimes. Be patient, young one. It is all a part of a process with internal screaming as the prime principle.

What’s up with the name?

First of all, I got the name for the first blog at 1.30 AM when I couldn’t sleep. I thought about politics and the British House of Commons, had a good laugh to myself about ‘commons’ and ‘commoners’, and then decided to roll with it. As for this blog in particular, well, you may see a slight connection.