Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Girls

      My husband and I can’t have children, which works out since I've never really wanted them anyway. I’ve replaced that part of my life with my writing, and my work, and the girls that I manage. Jamilah, Cassie, Michelle, Lynnique, and Sheena. These are my girls, and I love them all. It feels silly to love people you work with, but I really do. These girls are like sisters to me. I have three younger sisters and I wish I had the kind of relationships with them, that I have with these five women.
Jamilah is quiet, serious, and shy. She’s responsible and acts with foresight. She’s the kind of girl that is hard to get to know, but once you do, you know it was worth the effort. She’s creative, introspective, and insightful. She really sees the world around her, and challenges the status quo. . . quietly. She’s very guarded. When I talk with her, it feels like I’m being let in on a secret, or admitted to an exclusive club.
Cassie is exuberance personified. If I had known her in high school, she would have gotten me into a lot of trouble. I call her my baby deer. Her arms and legs are so long that she tends to trip over her own feet, and then laugh hysterically at herself. She’s an open book. It’s impossible to be in a bad mood around Cassie. Even when she’s in a bad mood, she’s makes it into joke, or tells the story in a fascinating way. She’s so extroverted and fun. She’s always having some new adventure. I can’t get any work done with Cassie around, but she’s so much fun that I don’t mind.
Michelle is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She adapts to any social situation she encounters like a chameleon, but never in a fake way. She makes everyone around her feel like part of the group. She’s a truly kind person. She possesses a rare level of empathy that I envy. She’s quiet when you are mad. She’s gentle when you are sad. She’s funny when you are happy. Michelle is the kind of person everyone should have as a best friend.
Lynnique is the oldest of my five “girls”. The others are all between twenty and twenty-two. She’s only a few years younger than am, in her early thirties. It’s hard to get to know Lynnique. She doesn't let people in easily. It would be easy to call her hard, but it’s not that simple. Lynnique has had one of those lives that you think only exist in television, full of hardships, cruelty, and abandonment. She keeps people at a distance. I don’t know if she does it to protect herself from getting hurt, or if she has just relied on herself for so long that she doesn't see the benefit of letting others in. Maybe it’s a little bit of both. She’s like one of those trees that survives a hurricane when all the trees around her gave up and were ripped from the ground. She sees the world like it is. She has the kind of honor and integrity about her that you only find in truly passionate people. People like FBI agents, priests, doctors, or artists. People who dedicate their lives to making the world a better place. Lynnique is one of the strongest people I have ever met.  I’m proud to have earned some level of her trust and I sincerely hope that she doesn't see this post as a betrayal of that trust.
Sheena is the hardest to describe, for two reasons. Firstly, she is a person made of opposites, fire and ice, oil and water. She is compassionate, but has a quick temper. She loves deeply, but does not forgive easily. She feels intensely. She reacts intensely. She lives her life with intensity. She would give her last dollar to help a friend. She would fight to the death to protect someone she loves. She is fiercely loyal and expects the same from her friends. That level of devotion is rare. Secondly, of all my “girls” she’s the one to whom I am the closest. I pride myself on being able to stay objective in any situation, but I have difficulty doing so with Sheena. We have a connection that I can’t define any more than I can define her. I’m not sure why she and I have been able to bond in the way that we have. We’re as different as night and day. Everything about her is all or nothing. Love or hate. Friends or enemies. Her perception of the world exists in stark contrasts, while mine is grayscale.
Do you see the dilemma? The problem? The reason for this post? With so many strong and independent women working in the same place, sometimes there is friction. I’m hoping if they read this, they can see each other the way that I see each of them. I love all of these girls and wish that they all loved each other. We don’t always have to like each other but in a way, we’re a family.
Jamilah is like a still lake. Cassie is a bubbling brook. Michelle is a warm pond. Lynnique is a deep ocean. Sheena is a winding river. And me? I sometimes feel like the rain, simultaneously a part of everything, and apart from everything. But in the end, our differences don’t matter. We are all water.



Friday, February 22, 2013

Gamify Your Life


      I found an awesome app in the Google play store. It's called Task Hammer. Essentially, it's a to-do list, but with a twist. It exploits a loophole in your brain to keep you motivated and on-task. 
   
   Basically, a person will be perfectly happy to perform an annoying or monotonous task, if you can find a way to make it a game. I'm ashamed that for several months when I was 8, my mother used this little loophole to play a game we called "Cinderella". She would sit and watch soap operas while my sister and I put away our toys, did the dishes, and cleaned the bathroom, and whenever there was a commercial, my mom would come in and scold us theatrically for not working fast enough. I eventually got wise to this game and she created another one called "Fairies" which involved magic wands (feather dusters) and pixie dust (Windex). 

   But this app is WAY better than the Cinderella game. It's an RPG and in order to level your character, you  create a to-do list and then cross items off of it. You set the importance of the tasks, and the more important the task, the more XP you receive for completing it. I think the best part of it is that you can set a task to repeat daily, weekly, or monthly. You can also select "postpone" to move the task to the next day if you don't think you'll be able to finish it. the GUI is really cute and so far it is helping me get more crap done. . . Hence... three blog posts in one week. :)

Jimmie Hammel

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fads in Publishing

 

  Publishing seems to chase fads the way fashion does. One season it's vampires, the next it's apocalyptic fiction, then fairy tales. One season it's all about YA, the next, everyone's putting out erotica.
What's next? Fairy steam punk? That might actually be adorable.

  But my point is this... no one stopped reading YA when the 50 Shades series came out. People are still watching The Vampire Diaries, even though the Twilight craze has passed. Personally, I would rather read something new, different, and well-written, then a lame copy of whichever book is currently sitting at the top of the best sellers list.

  I think that's one of the biggest strengths of the indie publishing industry. No one is worrying about what's 'in' or 'trending'. People just want to read whatever looks good to them.

Jimmie Hammel
JimmieHammel.com

Monday, February 18, 2013

Betterment: Writing




  Despite the fact that I haven't posted anything in a few weeks, I have not actually given up on my New Years Resolution: Betterment. I took a break because the entire point of these goals was to create new habits. I want each of my Betterment goals to become second nature. I'm looking for permanent lifestyle changes, so before I move on to another goal I want to make sure the one before it is firmly entrenched. And honestly, I've been really flaky about remembering to take my vitamins. Hopefully my next few goals will be a little easier.

  For my first betterment goal of February, I've decided to focus on improving my work ethic, rather than my physical health. The goal is simple: Write something everyday. I'm not going to include a mandatory daily word count. That can come later. Whether it's one word, one sentence, or one page doesn't matter. This is just to create a habit out of looking at my WIP everyday. I'm thinking about tackling flossing for next week.

Progress:
Week 1 - Quit smoking
Week 2 - Take vitamins
Week 3 - Drink 72 oz. of water a day
Week 4 - Keep track of your progress
Week 7 - Write everyday

Jimmie Hammel
JimmieHammel.com

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fear of Failure


   "If you never try, you will never fail, but if you never try, you will never succeed."

   "Show me a person who has never failed, and I will show you a person who has never accomplished anything."

   "Failure is success if we learn from it."

   "Failure is nothing but an opportunity to learn from your mistakes."

   Why is failure so terrifying? Fear of failure is the number one reason that aspiring writers kill their own dreams. Some don't even realize that their writer's block or stalling tactics are a fear of failure. I recently read an article on the subject* and it gave a list of behaviors that could help a person recognize a 'fear of failure' in themselves. I looked through the article and then applied the traits and behaviors to the ways they might manifest in a writer.

Never Starts 
   For some this might manifest as telling themselves they couldn't possibly do it, even if they've never tried.
   There's also a common malady among genre writers that has killed many a young novel. We call that one world builder's disease. These writers might plan a novel for years without ever writing one word of it. Over planning can derail even non-genre writers however. Knowing your characters is good. Knowing that their third-cousin's cats eat Purina's 'Yummy Tummy Tuna Delight', and that her best friend's great uncle had a drinking problem and spent 6 months in the Betty Ford clinic, not helpful.Unless the third-cousin lives with her, and has 18 cats... that might make for a funny short story actually.
   Another type of 'never starts' is the person who sits down in front of a blank page and freezes. They want to write but they don't know WHAT to write.

Starts but Never Finishes
   There are a lot of this type.
   People who rewrite the first chapter over and over.
   People who get half way finished, decide it isn't any good, and start over.
   People who get half way finished, decide it isn't any good, and start something else.
   People who get half way finished, decide it isn't any good, and just quit.
   People who get writer's block.
   People who wait for "inspiration".
   People who procrastinate.
 
Finishes but Never Shows Anyone
   This type is rarer than the others. These people have finished a novel, maybe even several, but they're too self-conscious to let them out into the world.
   The over-editor falls into this category as well. This person finishes the rough draft but never seems to be done "fixing" it. They rewrite, change, and tinker to eternity. They just never quite seem to be able to let their work out of their hands.

Let's Rejection Become Truth
   This type can happen anywhere along the route to writing a novel, during planning, working, or upon completion. Someone says they can't do it, or they aren't good enough, and the person takes it to heart and gives up. It might be a teasing friend, a nagging spouse, a critical beta-reader, an uninterested editor, or even the writer's internal critic, but someone says something that destroys the writer's confidence... and they give up.

   I can't say that there's one universal fix. For some people it helps to imagine their goals. For others that seems to paralyze them. For some people it helps to set themselves 'rules' like... "Write for x minutes every day" or "Only do x number of edits" or "Only spend x number of hours planning a novel". But some people don't work well with rules or can't seem to follow them.
   I only know what works for me, and I have had almost ALL of these self-sabotaging problems at some point, so here's my secret... just write. Forget all the other crap. Forget about people maybe not liking it. Forget about how long it's going to take. Don't worry about the fact that you don't know what you want to happen in chapter 35 when you're still writing chapter 10. Don't stress over the AWFUL paragraph in chapter 2, you can fix it later. Because no one will ever like it if they never get the chance to read it. No matter how long it takes, a finished novel is still an accomplishment. Once you get to chapter 35 you'll find a way to fill in the hole in your timeline, just trust yourself. You'll get the chance to go back and fix those broken pieces but if you never finish, then it doesn't matter anyway, so just write. For now, at this exact second, don't worry about any of that, just write.


Jimmie Hammel
JimmieHammel.com

*Fear of Failure article at MindTools.com.

P.S. I would also like to say that after scanning through several articles on MindTools.com, I actually subscribed to their Newsletter. It has been years since I subscribed to anything, ((I think the last one was for OfficeMax sales and coupons)) but Mind Tools offers loads of really helpful tips and tricks to keep yourself focused, and motivated.




 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Things You Learn

   I had to do a little research for my novel today. It's the first time since the initial planning stages that I really wasn't sure how to describe something, and whether it worked the way I thought it would. Today, it was the ocean.
   The question from my research was this... What are those long piles of rocks that jut out from the shoreline called and what are their purpose? Now, I thought I knew what they were for. In my brain those were called breaklines (they aren't) and they served the purpose of breaking waves before they hit the shore (which they do). My search turned up two terms, breakwater, and seawall.
   My next question was obviously... What is the difference between a breakwater and a seawall? And what did I discover, you ask. A line of rocks that juts into the ocean is called a breakwater. They are used to reduce the currents and wave heights in a harbor. A seawall completely encloses a section of ocean and prevents damage to the shoreline caused by high waves or tidal flooding.
 
   If you'd like to know why this was information necessary to my science fiction novel, my main character crashes a flying car into the ocean during a hurricane.


Jimmie Hammel
JimmieHammel.com



Monday, January 21, 2013

Betterment - Progress

   Week 4's Betterment Goal is a simple one: Write it down. As my "Betterment Goals" get more numerous and complex, keeping track of them is going to become more difficult. So, this week's goal is to get a journal and keep track of every goal for every day. If I make it through to the end of the year, keeping track of fifty different goals will get complex, so best to start recording them early on. Plus I'm always forgetting if I've actually taken my vitamins or just think I've taken my vitamins.

Jimmie Hammel
JimmieHammel.com