Tag Archives: respect

Twenty Years of Greatness

No, I haven’t been writing for twenty years.

I’ve been married to the same wonderful man for 7,305 days. We’ve had our ups and downs (obviously), but the truth: I’ve never been happier than I am right now. Despite my flaws and his flaws and my strengths and his, we have vowed to make this thing called marriage work. And work it does.

Cat’s Guide to a Happy Marriage

  • Never, ever go into it with an out. In other words, ditch the idea that “if it doesn’t work, we can always get divorced.” This thought process dooms you from the start. Marriage isn’t to be taken lightly. It isn’t a passing fancy. It’s a commitment. So either commit or stay friends.
  • Never, ever go to bed angry. And no, I’m not talking fight so you can have make-up sex. That’s twisted and wrong. Instead, discuss your feelings openly and honestly. What is working and what isn’t? How can you fix what’s broken? How can you make what’s amazing even better? It might be hard at first, but the more you talk, the better you’ll get at it.
  • Never, ever hold a grudge. If you truly go to bed each night without anger, this should never be a problem. If it is, you’re in for a poisonous relationship. Grudges don’t help. They strangle any and all things good. Translating this further, when you do fight, leave all the old crap behind. Don’t bring up “that one time when we were dating and you said….” Deal with it. Get over it. Move on.
  • Always respect your significant other. Always. It doesn’t mean you have to agree all the time. It simply means that you are two individuals with two distinct personalities and each of you deserve to be handled with care. Marriage is not the place to ignore each other, throw temper tantrums, manipulate or abuse. It’s a partnership.
  • Which brings me to this: always remember that marriage is a partnership. It’s not a tit for tat. It’s not you against him. It’s not a tally sheet or a check book. It is, however, a relationship of give and take. You give because you want to. He will do the same. Trust me on this, nothing is more satisfying than your partner’s happiness and when he’s happy, he’ll do everything in his power to make you happy.
  • Always keep in mind your goals. Raise kids. Buy a house. Own a dog. Vacation twice a year. Financial freedom. Career growth. When you know what you want, it’s easier to achieve it. If you have no goals, you might find yourself mired down in the quicksand of “then what’s the point?”
  • Never, ever forget that anything worth having in life takes hard work and dedication. Seriously. Marriage is hard. It’s not all butterflies and rainbows (or bloody Mary’s and martinis). Sometimes it’s more like pole skunks and port-a-potties.  But, going through the bad makes you appreciate the good. And even if your neighbor makes marriage look like a constant beach party, I guarantee you even they have moments where Hell would be a preferable vacation spot.
  • Always keep your distance. (Say what?) Marriage brings two amazing spirits together in one union. Without the spunk and individuality of the two, your marriage is doomed. Give him his time to hang with the boys. Let her savor quiet moments of uninterrupted time to read a book without guilt. Keep your distance or your personalities will merge into one gloppy, boring mess.
  • And for the love of all things dear, do not act like a parent. I am not my husband’s mother. I have no right to tell him what he can or cannot do. I have no right to micromanage his life. Conversely, he’s not my father. I don’t have to ask permission and I don’t deserve guilt trips for making “wrong choices.” Why on God’s green earth would anyone marry his parent? Repeat after me: marriage is a partnership. Equality reigns supreme. We ask each other’s opinions and we never act without the consent of the other–not because we have to, but because we respect each other.
  • Always have fun together. When the kids are gone, the house is paid for, promotions are received and you hit that existential time in your life to reflect back on what it all means, you don’t want to roll over and wonder who the heck is sharing your bed. The opposite of keeping your distance is to get to know your partner, be with your partner and share your life stories with her. Don’t lose yourself, but also, don’t lose each other.

I love my husband. I respect him and care deeply for him. I truly look forward to the next twenty forty years.

Happy anniversary to anyone in a committed, loving relationship. You rock my socks off!

Please share your tips and trick to making your partnership work.

Common Sense for Writers

The internet is full of blogs and websites that tell us what to do.  As writers, we are especially prone to finding posts and forums dedicated to what every writer must do to succeed

Query advice abounds.  POV, tense and style are big items of concern.  Everybody has an opinion on web presence and platform.  It’s amazing that writers stay sane with all the differing commentary on what absolutely, positively must be done for a writer to succeed in this business.

We can spend endless hours researching our next move, only to find ourselves more confused than when we started.  In my experience, I’ve learned that we create more problems than necessary by trying to keep everyone happy.  It’s simply not possible.  Nor is it desirable.  At least in my opinion. 

I just got done writing my parent handbook for my preschool.  In it, I wrote our House Rules so parents know going in what is expected of their children.  The rules are simple and can apply to our lives as writers. 

  1. Never hurt anyone on the inside or the outside.  Kids pinch, bite, hit or call names as reactions to their emotions.  Sometimes they lash out with the intent to hurt.  Other times hurting someone is a by-product of unchecked behavior.  Writers are often guilty of loading a manuscript with messages or agendas.  We have been known to use our writing as a platform to air our side of the story.  However, our utmost responsibility in writing fiction is to give our readers a pleasure trip.  If we want to rail against abuse, we should write an article for a magazine, not couch it in the form of a novel, because ending our tales as a moral lesson will feel like a slap in the face to our readers.
  2. No Swearing.  A wise person once told me that people swear because they have limited vocabularies.  While I don’t feel this is entirely true, the gist of his statement is.  We use comfortable and familiar words when we communicate.  They might not always be the best choice, but they are readily available and therefore over-used.  When writing, we must choose our words carefully.  Every word must matter.  So, edit, edit and edit some more.  Avoid clichés and shock-value words.  Pull out run-ons and echoes.  Then edit once again.
  3. Respect the Environment.  Kids think nothing of dropping a gum wrapper on the ground or scribbling on a chair with permanent marker.  At least until they learn the impact of their actions on the world around them.  Writers have been known to forget the impact of their words on the environment as well.  It is easy to hide behind an avatar and say something we otherwise would not say.  Anonymity allows for a certain comfort level that invites heated commentary and slanderous debate.  We have a responsibility to respect the world around us and those who populate it.  To do otherwise can make the difference between getting published or not.  In short, the way we conduct ourselves can make or break our writing careers.  
  4. Respect for Elders.  Kids simply must learn who is in charge.  They must learn to follow the expectations of the adults in their lives even if they don’t understand them or always agree with them.  And if they disagree, they must learn to express this respectfully and discuss things appropriately.  In the writing biz, agents and editors are our elders.  We work hard to impress them.  We ask them to spend their time and money backing us.  Yet, writers have been known to spout off after a rejection or a disagreement.  They haven’t learned that respect is earned and that we get what we give.   
  5. Abide by Personal Space.  Everybody has a comfort zone.  Kids will come right up and stick their noses into someone else’s business.  Literally.  Writers, this is a mistake we don’t want to make.  It’s called annoying at best and stalking at worst.  Don’t submit fourteen manuscripts at one time.  Don’t slide your manuscript under the bathroom stall at a conference.  Don’t send a potential agent a box of her favorite chocolates and a picture of you in the buff.  Writing is a professional business.  If you wouldn’t stalk the principal at school or the CEO at the office, certainly don’t annoy the agents and editors who are in charge of your destiny. 

My advice: Know the Rules and Be Consistent. 

Kids want boundaries.  They want to understand how to interact with their peers and their elders.  They thrive when they know what is expected and why.  Kids inherently want to be good.  But dangit all, they also want to have fun.  So do we. 

Writer, know thy craft.  Read books to better understand the genre you are writing.  Then write the story you feel in your heart.  POV doesn’t matter as long as it is consistent.  Tense won’t make or break your story.  Don’t write to a trend.  Your job is to write–consistently and well. 

Tell your story.  By trying to incorporate every slice of advice you’ve ever read, your story no longer belongs to you.  It will be a regurgitated, lifeless lump of words that nobody will want to read.  Even you. 

If you decide to break a rule, do so consciously because you think it will better your story.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  But the point is, if you break the rules without understanding them (grammar, punctuation, POV, personal space, respect, tense, etc.) you’re just being naughty and deserve to be punished with a rejection.  If you can justify that certain circumstances require bending the rules, you just might succeed. 

But above all, be consistent.  If you break POV, don’t do it one time when the MC is knocked out cold and simply cannot relate what must be relayed to the reader.  This is a cop-out.  Find a way to break outside your POV in a way that is consistent and works for the story you tell. 

If you must send an agent a box of chocolates, do so because it makes sense.  For example, the recipe is your award-winning concoction that you sell at your own confectionary boutique and will be included in the book because the unique candy is the key to solving the murder mystery. 

But always, and I do mean always, withhold the picture of you in the buff.

What have you learned along your writing journey that you wish you had known before starting out?

Verbal Warfare: do you engage in conflict?

Conflict is good in a novel.  However, I’ve been finding more and more of it on the internet.  Blogs and forums are filled with differing opinions.  Which, in and of itself, is good.  It allows us to learn other perspectives and understand things outside our limited views and experiences.

What isn’t good is when discussion crosses the line.  At times, I quietly lurk because I’m afraid of taking a shot to the face for writing the wrong thing.  It’s like a bad game of Nerf darts–one where you don’t know if your allies are your enemies.

In my real life, I wear many hats.  Almost all of them are in a conflicted arena.  I try very hard to impress upon my clients that they don’t have to agree.  They simply need to listen, understand and respect the other side.

I do this because I have learned the only universal truth in the world: there is no such thing as truth. 

Oh, we each have our own truths and we vehemently hang onto them.  But the reality is there are more opinions than there are people. 

In this respect, the writing arena has many truths.  One for each writer, and all based on personal experience and moral convictions.  Yet we continue to ask loaded questions, looking for the “right” answer.  And others continue to answer these questions with their own truths. 

Most often, people are respectful.  Yet every once in a while, a huge conflict arises.  The mob mentality takes over and we end up shooting darts at each other.  Feelings get hurt, things are said that can come back and haunt us and we leave communities we once loved.

I would like to offer a gentle reminder for myself and others.

  • Respect the other perspective.  This doesn’t mean we have to accept it.  We just have to accept that there are more versions out there than the one we currently believe in.
  • Listen and validate.  It  never hurts to say, “Hey, I can see your point.  I’ve never thought of it that way.”  Again, this isn’t agreement.  It is simple respect.
  • Agree to disagree.  “Those are all valid points, however, I still believe XYZ.” 
  • Hold a conversation, not a war.  When we exchange ideas, we grow as people–even if we never change our minds.  Just listening to and learning from others gives us depth and enriches our lives.  Warfare takes away from that.
  • Remain professional.  Seriously, this is vital for those of us commenting as writers or other industry professionals.  Do not engage in verbal warfare.  Do not name call.  Do not attack individuals.  Ideas are separate from the people who voice them.
  • Don’t let the conflict elevate our emotions.  If we find our hearts racing and our fingers itching to shoot off a response, we need to walk away and save our comments for another time. 
  • Lastly, don’t ever say, “It’s just common sense.”  There is no such thing as common sense.  What seems universal to one may be completely foreign to another.  That doesn’t make others stupid, it just means we all come to an issue with a different set of life experiences.

I don’t know if you’ve visited Layinda’s blog, but she’s a great one to ask questions that really make me go hmmmm.  I love reading her perspective and the responses she gets.  Better yet, everyone who comments there already seems to know that their truth isn’t the only truth.  It’s a refreshing break from the snippiness I’ve seen elsewhere in the cyberworld. 

Another favorite blogger who handles herself and her controversial topics well is Michelle.  She always prefaces a loaded post with a reminder that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and that we need to be mindful of those differences.  I love how she does this. 

And, in the words of one of my favorite AQers, “This is just my opinion.”  It may or may not be right, but it works for me.

Do you engage in conflict or do you avoid the hot-button topics altogether?  How do you handle yourself when you read a comment that makes your blood boil?  Have you ever left a community/blogger that has too much warfare?

Also, do you know of other great blogs that respectfully discuss difficult topics pertinent to the writing world?