Thursday, October 25, 2007

Will I Ever Learn? The Stand Back Routine

As a writer there are many lessons you learn over time. Aside from things like grammar and following submission rules and a few other things, a lot of the items you have to know about concerning how to write can be somewhat fluid and dependent on the individual. Some revelations just have to come to you, sort to speak.

Though it took me a while, there's one lesson that has proven itself time after time after time. Even so, I stupidly still find myself every once in a while ignoring it. And it has comes back to bite me every single time I have ignored it. For the sake of this post, I guess I will call it the Stand Back Routine. (If any of you have a better name, do share! This one is somewhat of a mouthful.) :P

The Stand Back Routine is something I try to do with every work I create. Once I've written it and edited it once or twice, I stand back, give the short story a week or two, if a novel, a month or more, then once my brain's buffer has dumped, I can do a final edit and catch any of the little things I missed and wouldn't see otherwise.

For the brain buffer to be emptied is an incredibly important step in making sure a story is all that it can be. The subconscious is a tricky animal and while it thinks it's helping you out, as an author, it is actually not letting you do your work correctly when that buffer is full. Being so close to the work, the subconscious will automatically fill in missing words, will supply information you have inside and incorporate it into what you are reading, letting you miss the fact you never actually stated that very information for the reader! Sentences that don't flow will appear to and things that don't jive will actually seem to as well.

By standing back and allowing the brain time to dump the buffer, you can then look at your work again with a less biased light (or auto brain filler). The errors will be more apparent, the lack of information hopefully leap out, your editor cap more capable of doing what you want it to.

Of course, I, like most people, get very excited when something is "finished". Sometimes standing back feels unnecessary and superfluous or just getting in the way! You're just too excited to get others to look at it, or deadlines are looming and you can get this sucker out to the writer's group just in time for the next meeting if you skip this step, instead of having to wait a few weeks or months to put it before the group. (Or in my most recent lapse, loading the latest Supernatural fic to without waiting that crucial week!) ARGH!

Why can't I learn? I knew better - Oh I definitely knew. I've been bit before. And yet there I went again, thinking all was good to go! But I knew, deep down, I knew I had been bad. I kept getting urges to go read it - which if I had done my job right, and gone through it enough, I wouldn't want to be looking at it as I would have had my fill while making it right! So last Friday, I went and took a peek.

Within the first paragraph I was cursing. By the end I was beating my head against the wall. Uselessly asking myself (as I have every time I've done this): what had I been thinking?

So I went through it again and made it better. Something that would have happened in the first place if I'd had the patience to wait. Now, however, due to my lack of control, I could do nothing to take back the impressions or wrongness picked up by those who'd already read the story before it was fixed. I tell myself I won't do this again - but I know better...

Oh the agonies involved in being a writer.... or just being my usual stupid self. lol.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How an Audit made my day!

This week and last week have been...AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHIIIIIEEEEEEEAAARRRGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!! And that's putting it mildly. :P

But much to my surprise I got pumped back up and relaxed last Friday from probably one of the most surprising things ever. A visit from a Texas Sales/Use Tax Auditor! Yeppers, you heard right!

Stress has been a major meal ticket since I was sick back at the beginning of the month. Came in last Friday feeling beat down, moody, unhappy, lower than low. Brain was pretty well fried so synapses weren't firing at their best to boot. I also didn't expect the day to get any better, so this low point was probably the highlight.

Luckily, fate, the Big Guy, the Powers that Be, decided to send a little ray of light my way. This was done in the unexpected guise of a Sales/Use Tax Auditor.

Like I said, the brain wasn't firing well at all, so when I got the call from reception and they said there was someone there from the Comptroller's office, my brain registered something else entirely. (I'm sure Velina thought I was on drugs I asked her so many stupid questions about the visitor before getting down there to see her. lol.) I knew her too, as we'd met the year before on another client, but I swear at the time I didn't in any way recognize her. (Been forgetting people lately and it's getting a little creepy!) She remembered me at least.

Anyway, I dragged her upstairs, even stupidly admitting I didn't remember her at all! I think she thought it funny rather than insulting (I hope!) and we yakked until my brain refreshed on when and why she'd come by before. As our clients list us as a location, we tend to be the first point of contact for the state ones if there's an issue with their tax payments. Anyway, as she lets me know why she's there and I start pulling contact info so we can find out what's going on, she was cracking me up. She'd slept late, even though she woke up to the alarm, got up, and fed the dog - because she went back to bed! Second alarm came on - she looked at it, turned it off, went back to sleep. Then her dog got involved. Licked and bothered her, as the dog knew she was late and didn't want her to get in trouble. (How cute!!!) So she got up, threw some clothes on, did her hair in a pony tail, grabbed her makeup and went to visit the first client. She had me in stitches. (Won't even go into the how to take a nap or get off early that day part of the conversation! lol) Was even funnier when she spoke to the client's accountant and I could tell the lady on the phone got a little cheeky with her so the auditor did the "you're past the deadline and I need something done about it now or else" routine. Then mouthed to me and asked if she'd sounded too nasty! I told her she was pleasant yet firm - very nice. The Sales/Use branch can now do leans and stuff against bank accounts, so they have some definite muscle now. Never mess with the government!

By the time she left, I was feeling much better than I had before she arrived. Invigorated me enough to get me through the whole day, put up with what I needed to, and leave me in a decent mood for the evening too. Saved my day! So that old addage that a smile can go a long way, or being pleasant can really make a difference to someone's day or life, is no joke! And it can come from the unlikeliest of places.

So smile, say something nice, you might just make or save someone's day, even if you never know it. Making a difference was never easier.

And if I'm lucky, I've somehow made a difference in your day too. Hope you have a great one!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

And the Winner is....Virus!

Hubby was out sick all last week and I was out three days. Normally, I am the stubborn type and drag myself to work no matter how crappy I feel unless I am in either too much pain or too dizzy to drive. Last week I was neither and yet the virus won.

It was a weird virus. And I did stay home at least one of the days because I flipped between being hot and cold and figured I had a fever (finding the thermometer around here can be like looking for a needle in a haystack) and figured no one would appreciate me giving it to them at work.

In all honestly though, aside from having drainage pouring down my throat like an open faucet and the possibility of fever, I didn't feel bad. Yet, I seemed to have total lethargy and major lack of brain function. We literally sat on the couch all day and caught up on saved programming on the Tivo.

Hubby actually felt bad. Got dizzy pretty bad a couple of times as well - not moving being the best cure. When we went to the doctors mid week, we got told we had a virus and fluid in our ears. His had gotten infected so he go antibiotics. I just kept taking antihistamines and drinking tons of fluids to make sure my stuff remained clear.

The oddest part of the whole thing was the almost total lack of brain fucntion or initiative. While I could make intuitive leaps on the stuff we watched and think, stuff outside our little sphere didn't seem to exit or have a lot of meaning. Didn't keep me from worrying about stuff I wasn't doing at work, but I couldn't dwell on it either. Things I needed or should be doing just wouldn't even pop into my brain unless specifically brought up. Mundane things like reading/answering emails, making blog posts, reading a book had no appeal or even occurred to me.

Truly weird stuff!

Hubby got insomnia on top of everything else, so he didn't want to sleep during the day and chance ruining the night sleep in case he felt good enough to go to work. I never used to sleep when I was sick, but over the last five years or so it seems to have become a main line of defense. Thursday I totally went with it for half the day and that seemed to finally do the trick -- for me at least.

Hope this puppy doesn't come back anytime soon, cause catching up after all that is killing me! :P

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