My Dirty Little Secrets

I don’t like babies.

There, I’ve said it.  I find pre-verbal children irritating and a little unsettling.  God forbid I should ever wind up in charge of one; I’m sure I don’t exude the love and support needed to keep the then-screaming-poop-bag from turning into a later-stabbing-people-with-prison-shanks teenager because it didn’t get the love it needed in childhood.

A baby (artist's rendition)

This is something in the order of a dirty little secret (bet you were hoping for something better when you read the title, huh?).  I’m also sort of unsettled by the notion of professional soldiers, and think we ought to be giving them counseling to help them make better life choices (like picking a career where you’re not trained to kill on command unquestioningly) instead of venerating them as heroes.

These are the sorts of opinions you can’t just casually drop at cocktail parties (and I know all about what writers can and can’t say at cocktail parties).  They go beyond good-natured misanthropy and smack of outright irreverence.  People can’t help but get unsettled when you stray from really broadly agreed on truths like “babies are wonderful” and “soldiers are doing the right thing.”

I like unsettling issues.  They make for good themes in faction (they make for less ideal non-fiction, mind you, unless you’re a professional pundit, which I strive not to be on this blog).  But while I mine them for content and watch for them in social interactions I don’t go out of my way to bring them up.

Outside of this post, of course.

Are you hiding your own dirty little secrets?  Will you share them here?  Or do you just want to send me pictures of your own squalling poo-bag asking HOW ANYONE COULD NOT LOVE THAT WIDDLE FACE?  I’m up for the challenge if you are.  Dirty little secrets that we mine in our writing!  Discuss.

How to Make an Easy Roasted Tomato Soup (That Will Utterly Destroy Your Kitchen)

From the cooking files of MA101:

Disaster Soup

  1. Slice about a dozen farm-fresh heirloom tomatoes in half.  Place on an oiled baking sheet.
  2. Roast tomatoes at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until soft.
  3. While tomatoes roast, heat about 3C of bouillon or other stock to a low simmer.
  4. Crumble dry, dark bread into stock and stir gently.
  5. Remove tomatoes from oven.  Load into an old Cuisinart food processor with a slightly sticky blade.
  6. Puree tomatoes and dump into pot with broth and bread.
  7. Realize that the spinning blade is jammed slightly up on the stalk.
  8. Yank futilely up and down for a few minutes.  TIP:  Burn your fingertips on the hot tomato puree still clinging to the underside of the blade rather than slicing them on the sharp outer edge!
  9. Finally give up on freeing the blade from its stalk.  Go online and Google “stuck Cuisinart blade.”
  10. Follow the advice to fill the bowl past the height of the stalk with hot water.
  11. Realize belatedly that the work bowl has been slightly loosened and now has an opening of about a quarter-inch at its bottom.
  12. Watch helplessly as about six cups of boiling water filled with mashed tomato bits pours out over the counter, the drawers, and your feet.
  13. Scream a bit.
  14. Carry the whole damn thing out to the trash, still leaking hot water all over you.
  15. Eat your fucking soup.

So that was my weekend.  How was yours?

Important Lessons About Word Choice (Poop Edition)

Let me paint a picture for you here.

Imagine yourself at the kind of the party where people get drunk, smash holes in the wall, and then patch the holes up with cardboard from spare cases of beers.  Drunken but not thoughtless, as it were.

Now imagine that the owner of this newly-perforated home comes staggering out of the bathroom in the very latter hours of the party, when everyone has comfortably transitioned from their mostly-vertical simian hunches to a sort of protoplasmic horizontalness, bulging with veins pumping pure, red-hot anger through his body.

In the awful silence that follows his arrival he screams:  “WHO SHIT IN THE TOILET?!”

Man we've been talking about toilets a lot on the blog this week.

If you’re good at imagining things you should have come to the same conclusion all of us present did:  stupefied confusion combined with the immediate nagging fear that yes, somewhere in the course of the drunken evening, we probably had shit in the toilet.  It was a long party, after all.

Apartment Owner, veins still bulging, repeated his urgent query as the first few hands began to rise:  “WHO SHIT IN THE TOILET?!”

Enraged repetitions followed.

I have no idea who finally managed to struggle to his feet, skirt carefully around A.O., and peer into the bathroom.  Whoever it was would have seen the problem immediately:  the lid of the toilet tank was askew, and floating in the tank next to the small inflated bladder that usually floats in toilet tanks were three or four things that do not usually float in toilet tanks.

I like to think I learned something about word choice that day.

Sometimes It’s Important to Not Write What You Feel

One of the things writers like to talk about is feelings.  Writing what you feel; expressing the inexpressable in words.  That’s the name of the game, right?

Freelancing has a way of shattering writerly illusions like a sixteenth-century Dutch church window.  When you are being paid to write for a wide range of employers you often find yourself pouring expression into ideas that you do not actually share, and may in fact with grievous bodily harm upon the holders of.  Case in point:

now i get to write about newborn baby photography all day. i did not sign up for this.

what i have been writing: “blah blah blah precious moments.”

what i would like to write: “newborn baby photography is basically like sack of potato photography. you will pay us and we will place your sack of potatoes in a variety of places and take pictures of it. we especially like putting a little hat on your sack of potatoes and placing your sack of potatoes on a stack of folded towels. in fact, we always place your sack of potatoes there at some point, with a little hat, whether you like it or not.”

I promised I would be good and not share the author’s name, because he/she would sort of like to keep that job for a while (don’t ask me why).  But I think it captures the problem fairly neatly.

Here's that window-smashing I was talking about.

Different freelancers seem to deal with this different ways.  I know of professional writers who come home (well, stay home, usually) after a hard day of work writing for other people and pour their heart and soul into novels or other creative writing.  Others spend extra time and effort making sure they’re querying for articles they want to write and building leads with people in the industries they’re interested in.

Me, I drink heavily.

But I assume at least some of this self-editing has to go into fiction too; we can’t wear our hearts entirely on our sleeves.  Or can-we-slash-do-you?  And do you have any interesting thoughts on baby photography?  If you do, I might know someone who can get you a job…

How Long Since Your Last Shower?

It’s really very important that I know how long it’s been since your last shower.

Ok — it’s not actually important for me to know.  But are you aware?  Because if you have to think for a minute, chances are your own O Best Beloved (or whoever else you might live with, or work with, or otherwise offend with your presence) thinks it’s been too long.

One of the joys of the writing life is, of course, that you can do it in your bathrobe, or whatever else you like.  (And there’s a good question for the comments section — what do you write in?  Baggy sweatpants and a T-shirt?  Work clothes to make yourself feel more professional?  The locking bondage pants your Mistress left you in?  Inquiring minds want to know!)  But the freedom to be a slob has to come with a bit of responsibility, at least if you plan on interacting with other human beings.

So I don’t really use how often I’ve showered as a metric of how busy my week has been (although it’s not a bad one); rather, I tend to use how long I have to think to figure out when my last shower was as the indicator.  That way you get a useful cross-section of your personal hygiene and your processing power all at one go.  Very representative, I find.

These are things you discover about yourself when the work is good and you have a lot on your desk each week.  When do you know that your work week is getting out of hand?  And are those locking bondage pants starting to chafe yet?  Leave a comment…

If All Else Fails, Publish a Coffee Table Book

Do you remember that Seinfeld storyline where Kramer wanted to make a coffee table book of coffee tables?  (I don’t, as it happens, but I know it exists because people bring it up whenever I advance this theory of publishing.)  The joke was basically that there’s already a big, glossy-paged book of full-page images with text captions for almost anything you can think of.

Well, that was before the internet.  Or not before it, but before the internet of lolcats and Michelle Bachmann’s eyes superimposed on other celebrities and, to pick the example that put this post in my mind, hipster puppies.

Hipster Puppies is out in large paperback format for $14.00, and it is a wonderful example of how you can make picture books of anything, especially if it’s something that’s been on the internet first.  Of course, they’re also publishing it as an e-book, which sort of seems to defeat the purpose of a photobook unless you leave your Nook lying around the coffee table.  I suppose soon enough we’ll be able to hook it up directly to the HD viewscreen built into the table.

So if you’re currently struggling with creative writing and publishing — just can’t seem to get a book out there — grab a camera and start clicking.  A coffee table books of coffee table books, perhaps?  It’s a thought.

A Question of Blog Advertising

I’ve never set up any kind of advertising on MA101.  It’s more professional vanity than anything else; I just don’t like blogs with lots of random keyword-generated crap popping up all over the place.  It looks cluttered and, to my mind, makes you seem a little less authoritative.

And as you can tell from all the potty humor, we strive for authoritativeness here.

So imagine my surprise when O Best Beloved (who has heard me ponder my way through various money-making strategies, including discarded ones) said “Oh, you’ve started advertising on the blog?”

To the best of my knowledge I have not.  I wrestle with the temptation from time to time — traffic is high enough that I could actually make a few bucks that way, not to mention write a few of the things I talk about off on my taxes — but so far I have not given into it.  To the best my knowledge the bottom of a post should look like this:

But apparently on O Best Beloved’s screen (which is in the bedroom now, and she’s sleeping, so no screenshot!) there’s a large, rectangular ad with externally-generated content right below the “Like This” option, above the comment form.  And I ain’t getting paid a cent for it.

Needless to say this makes me a bit cross.  If I’m going to have a cluttered, money-grubbing looking blog anyway I’d like to grub some of the money myself.  But it’s possible that it’s just something that’s worked its way into her own browser somehow and isn’t showing up on other people’s screens.

Has anyone else ever had sometimes-but-not-always-there ads cropping up on their blogs?  Is this a more common thing than I’m thinking?  And more importantly, should I just give up my foolish vanity and start putting paid ads on MA101 anyway, or do you want me to stay pure?  Let me know as I weigh my options!

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