What To Blog About If You’re Not Published

Some great tips from published Y.A. author K.M. Allan. These are specific to author/bloggers (a bit of a niche) but still extremely useful. Unpublished writers are urged to “build a platform”, but it can be hard to come up with content ideas when you lack the authority of previous publication. These are all great content topics she’s listed. I say that because many of them are the type of content I posted myself here on Suburban Syntax prior to becoming published myself. The system works!

K.M. Allan

While June might remind us were already halfway through another year, it is also this blog’s blogiversary month!

I published my first post in June 2017. That kicked off the 117 posts I’ve published since.

I launched my blog to extend my writer platform. I’d already begun querying agents and publishers and had been rejected, but was still two years away from signing the small press contract I was offered in January 2019. I wasn’t published anywhere and didn’t have a book out to plug.

So what does a writer who isn’t published write about?

Writing, of course! My first post was titled Just Start, which was, and still is, a life motto of mine.

While I’m still another 6 months away from being officially published (the first book in my YA series, Blackbirch, is coming early 2020), I’ll continue to practice what I preach and blog about…

View original post 1,103 more words

Advertisements

Building a Modern Home Library

woman choosing books at library

A Random Assortment of Texts

Almost everybody has a bookshelf in their home.

Whether you have a huge house or a tiny apartment, you probably have a few texts sitting spine-out, or piled haphazardly on a coffee table.

But have you ever given a lot of thought to the books you own, or what they say about you?

As part of my overall move to be “more intentional” with my choices and object ownership, I sorted through a bunch of old books on my shelves (and in boxes) to sell or donate. It got me focused on my book collection, or personal library. It turns out the internet says those are different things! This article on AOM and this piece over at BookRiot are solid starting points on the history of, and differences between the two.

Suffice to say, I seem to fall into the “personal library” category since I’m not any sort of enthusiast collector looking to round out a focused, complete set. I prefer a varied flavor of interests, spanning fiction and non-fiction.

How To Choose Your Books

I’ve hung on to a number of books, mainly paperbacks, through school and book trades. Once I started filtering, I realized many of them would go into the donation pile. Being older and more settled means I’m not averse to adding hard covers into this more curated personal library. I used to move around a lot, and my fear of immovable boxes full of hard covers was intense.

This is the tough part. Defining what I really want to keep. What really deserves a spot on that limited shelf space? What “sparks joy”, to get all Marie Kondo about it.

My hardbound edition of Moby Dick and overly extravagant copy of Lovecraft’s Complete Cthulu Mythos were easy picks, and there were some hard fought paperbacks that ended up in the Goodwill stack. I have been selecting keepers using a system of “what would this library fundamentally say about me to a stranger?” So far it’s shaping up as a potpourri of horror, early 20th century American literature, and books on writing craft and photography.

An unintended goal of a personal library (or book collection) is accumulating value. Part of me feels like when I die, it would be embarrassing to have called myself a writer and not have at least a few books that are worth something on my shelves, even if my relatives just sell them on eBay or at an estate sale. Nobody wants a 9th edition paperback of Gibson’s Neuromancer scrawled with my insane margin notes…

Lists To Get Started

pexels-photo-1148399Back in 1998, a (now) controversial list of the Top 100 Novels was released by Modern Library. It has been criticized as not diverse enough, and also as a guerrilla marketing tool for Penguin Random House’s classics division.

I have to say, at least for me, there is some good stuff on it. I might have a hardbound copy of As I Lay Dying on its way from eBay. Might.

You might have already read a bunch of these books as required from school and formed an opinion of them. If they aren’t your speed and you want something a little more contemporary, I have been plumbing the list of Man Booker Prize award winners. This Goodreads list puts them in a nicely rated chronological order, and you can peruse details. Honestly, you could do a hell of a lot worse for a personal library OR a book collection than to get every Booker winner inside four walls.

Beyond big lists, I’ve found that social media groups, forums, and Reddit are great if you’re looking to shore up more specific genre tastes that are outside the mainstream.

Do You Collect or Curate?

I foresee my personal library as a long-term, ongoing effort. Being a frugal Yankee, most purchases now land on my Kindle, but that only makes the physical books “worthy” of a shelf slot all the more special.

Do you have a book collection or personal library? Do you have any tips or a specific system you use to grow it? Or is your home just filled with teetering towers of unread tomes? Feel free to share down in the comments!

Balancing Creation and Consumption

pexels-photo-355863

“You cannot create when you are consuming.”

Pragmatic writing advice if I’ve ever heard it.

It sits at the opposing end of the spectrum from “read widely” and “refuel your creative tank”, which are also widely accepted as good advice for authors.

I’m still deep inside the second rewrite of my dark fantasy novel, and prioritizing it against other creative pursuits. I wrote a post a few months ago about writers having other hobbies, and I still stand by my opinion that two hobbies is the “right number”.

Finding Balance

Further prioritization of  limited time has found me exploring  how to balance pursuits that create versus consume. It has meant letting go of some things that I used to enjoy doing, but honestly can’t justify devoting time and resources to anymore.

Video games were the biggest sacrifice on this list. I used to be an avid gamer, and I still love gaming, but the industry seems to have moved in a direction where the games became huge time sinks. I can’t justify putting 25-60 hours into something that, while it may grant a feeling of accomplishment, doesn’t create any sort of tangible creative product.

25-60 hours is a lot of writing. That is short stories, revised chapters, posted submissions, or even a few rolls of film on a photo shoot or two. These are efforts that create, or at least advance, a body of creative work. It’s why in January I made a “silent resolution” to stop buying new games.

Making Art

It’s a matter of creating your own art versus consuming that of others.

I stopped purchasing games to throw into an ever-growing backlog for the same reason I let go of trying to voraciously speed read through my TBR book pile. I had become obsessed with trying to consume “all the things” and it was stressful and detrimental to my creative process. Anyone who can afford an internet connection is lousy with entertainment choices these days, and there seems to be a strange quasi-guilt emerging with it. Is that FOMO? Is that why Marie Kondo is so popular on Netflix?

Maybe I’m becoming more aware of my own mortality, but the older I get the more I desire to establish an artistic legacy. Adult responsibilities always seem to get in the way of creative time, so it makes those free hours even more precious. However, you can’t be creative all the time. That is a sure-fire recipe for burn out. So it requires balance.

A Process

The balancing of creative output and what I’ll pretentiously call “artistic consumption” is a matter of scheduling, routine, and determination. By creating an intentional routine, I’ve learned that I write far better in the early mornings, when my brain is still energized and fluid with ideas. Once I’m burnt out from the day, I can relax in the evenings with a book out of that TBR pile for a couple hours. It’s a process I’m always refining, and in other odd moments I eek out submissions, the occasional blog post, or a little promotion.

I’m curious what other authors do to balance their creative output versus consumption of media and art. No matter what your process is, I think it’s a good problem to have. The luxury of available means and ability to hone a craft is still a valuable commodity in our fast-paced, modern world.

Happy New Year 2019

Father_time_7765

Just wanted to drop a quick note to all my readers here, new and old, and say have a safe and happy start to 2019.

I’ve had a bunch of new people follow this blog and comment on it, and it is consistently one of my favorite internet outlets, because the quality of discussion and discourse here is so much higher.

I’ll be taking a short break (like many do) over the next week or so, and be back next year with plenty of new posts about writing, a bit of film photography (got a new camera for Christmas!) and some site updates.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

-BLD

Flip Phone 4 Lyfe

dumbphone-hero-100568807-large

I switched back to a flip phone a few months ago.

After my 3rd smartphone in 4 years broke, I got frustrated with such expensive products being so fragile, and on a whim at the store I said “screw this, do you have flip phones?” The girl at the store laughed and said, “Yes. Those still exist”. I now have a phone that makes calls, texts, and can sync email and calendars, plus some other basic things like an alarm clock and FM radio. It costs $20 a month.

I wanted to save money on my mobile bill and have a sturdier device, but this is the stuff I didn’t expect:

  • That I’d spend a few days freaking out in some kind of weird “smartphone withdrawal”, habitually touching my pocket, while trying to remember how to use T9.

  • That my social media usage would basically dwindle to nothing (a few times a week) because that urge to scroll was no longer there.

  • That my attention span and focus would slowly improve over weeks, to the point I’m way more productive at work and at knocking out long overdue “to do” lists.

  • That I would notice friends, family, and like 50-80% of random strangers with their heads buried in a screen FAR more than I ever had before.

  • That I am becoming intolerant of people replying “huh?” or “wait, what did you say?” in conversations when their faces are buried in those screens.

  • That I would start consuming art & entertainment & news much more deeply. Reading text more slowly, and not half-watching movies while looking at IMDB to figure out “what else that guy was in”.

  • That I would pick up the nice digital camera I received a few years ago as a gift and rediscover a love of photography – capturing fewer photos with an intention of artistic expression, not just mindless snapshots of food.

  • That Garmin GPS have a McDonald’s button in 2018 (What a time to be alive!)

  • That a pencil and 50 cent notebook works nearly as well as Google Keep.

  • That I can be bored again, and boredom is a good (and sometimes scary) thing that can be filled with creativity and introspection.

  • That being the only person in a Starbucks not on a smartphone makes you look like a WEIRDO since people watching is apparently rare and frowned upon these days?

  • That only charging my phone about once a week, and not really caring if I forget it at home are quite freeing.

  • That smartphones are really cool, and super convenient, but convenience comes with costs that I don’t think society has fully recognized yet.

  • That it is really, REALLY satisfying to snap your phone shut when some annoying telemarketer calls you.

TL;DR – I went back to a flip phone and it had a bunch of unexpected benefits. You might want to try it out sometime.