Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When All Else Fails, Make A List

There's something very calming about a list. A simplistic structure to corral and confine information into an order that can then be mastered and utilized can turn the whole world into a different color. Instead of dark, tumultuous charcoal flashing with sparks of red, suddenly everything is calm and serene, a soft, sunlit off-white. Maybe that's why I like parchment so much.

Every now and then, I have a moment of utter terror. What am I DOING?! I'm writing a blog! Who told me I could write a blog?! I don't know what I'm doing. Why would anyone bother to listen to me? Holy crap! I'm a fraud!

I had one of those moments yesterday. Other than a bit of griping on Twitter (which everyone bore admirably), there was nothing I could do.

So I made a list. Four lists, in fact. It was supposed to be just a list for me and is in no way comprehensive, but I thought I'd share.

These are the things I do not understand:
- How to find out what books are coming out months in advance (is there some magic list floating around that I don't know about?).
- How not to pester publishing houses for ARCs. Everyone says to send one email requesting all the books you want, but see my first point, then add my natural aversion to sounding greedy...
- Why I would bother setting up a Facebook page for my blog.
- How some people manage to rake in HEAPS of books and review copies (heaps, I tell you!).
- How to learn and ask for help without sounding whiny (do I sound whiny? I'm not sure, and that's the problem).
- The appeal of vampire books.
- How to NOT inwardly freak out a teensy bit when my numbers drop. ("I went from 70 followers to 69 followers on Twitter! Why? What did I do? Why don't they like me?!" Mass hysteria ensues.)
- How exactly the whole meme thing works (even though I have one!).
- The differences between and the various uses of em-dashes, en-dashes, and hyphens.
- How to make people comment more. What do I have to do, offer free Pixie Stix?

Here are the things I cannot do:
- Write a concise review. Either I gush for a page, or I say what I don't like and then hem and haw trying to find something nice to say.
- Finish a book that bores me.
- Push for an automatic renewal at my store. (It's just a colossal waste of money. I refuse.)
- Read 50 Shades of Grey.
- Remember whether it's 50 Shades of GREY or GRAY.
- Code HTML without minor bouts of panic and copious research through Google.
- Live without lists.
- Paint my toes without making an ungodly mess. (I'm a failure as a girl.)
- Read tweets from people I respect and admire (editors, agents, writers) without sighing softly. Out loud.

But there are some things I do understand:
- Various aspects of sentence diagramming (which made college Spanish SO much easier, let me tell you).
- How much fun Twitter can be.
- How useful it is to be unfailingly polite (the importance of being polite is another topic entirely).
- How to fluff an entire college essay and still get an A from a strict professor.
- What information to highlight in a fat stack of research articles that a psychology professor will find useful.
- The protectiveness an author feels toward her work and how important it is to treat said work with respect, even if you believe it's a bunch of sloppy drivel.
- Some of the big no-nos of query writing (love you, Query Shark!).
- How absolutely delicious a song in minor can be.
- How one good book can blow your mind's door off its hinges.

And some things that I can do, with varying degrees of success:
- Write a blog post. See? This is me writing a blog post!
- Wield sarcasm like a surgeon's scalpel.
- Use rudimentary Photoshop skills to make a button.
- Use fun words like "expectorate" and "ubiquitous."
- Spot a wheat penny mixed in with hundreds of other pennies.
- Talk nearly anyone into buying a book if I really like the book I'm pushing.
- Give my Don't Be Stupid look at fifty paces.
- Use Goodreads.
- Use Twitter.
- Rattle off Lord of the Rings facts like nobody's business.
- Scoop up a cricket with my bare hands.
- Wax voluminously about books that I like (see my reviews for proof regarding that adverb).
- Run backwards.
- Be very, very adorable when I wish.

So, you might ask, what good does that do? First, it gives me order. Instead of being buried under a steaming pile of "I'M A FRAUD!! IT'S A HERMITAGE FOR ME!!", I instead am granted a sense of balance.

Then, I get to do something with these lists. The things I don't understand, I continue to question and research (most likely after a Big Bang Theory break for some levity). The things I can't do, I either chuck as ultimately unimportant or break down into lists of their own as things to conquer. The things I CAN do, I celebrate, and the things I understand I cycle back to help inform the things I can't.

And that's how I deal with my moments of insanity.

Now it's your turn. What things do you or do you not understand? What things can you or can you not do? What do YOU do when you're caught in that awful moment of terror?

And for all you caught in that newbie cycle with me, be it blogging or writing or just flat-out living, I have one thing to say to you...