Using Your Characters to Improve Yourself

Jon Snow - Self Improvement for a Writer

As writers we enjoy creating characters. I prefer those on the evil side – like David in the novella Dr. Meg and I just finished. But we also write noble, admirable characters. Sure, they have some flaws, but they are brave, in charge, confident, ethical. They work out, eat right, do their jobs well.

At the same time, we as individuals are often not.

Writers like us tend to be escapist. We live vicariously through our characters. THEY are the ones who are beautiful, wise, confident. We enjoy sitting in our underwear, drinking coffee, eating donuts.

But I wonder…what would happen if I started “pretending” like I was one of my fictional characters? If I adopted in my own life the standards that one of my brave, noble characters displays?

My character has standards I do not have. He watches what he eats. He works out religiously. He is kind even when he is treated poorly. He is noble.

I wonder what would happen if I adopted those same standards? Can I become the heroes I write about? Read about?

I’m ponding this today and I believe the answer might just be yes. Your mileage may vary.





Exhaust(ed) Vent


This is me.

OK, not really. It would be me:

  • If it were daytime.
  • It it were summer.
  • If I were actually done working.

Instead my marathon week continues.

In real life (yes, I have one) I own a small digital publishing company. We help people create books and “value added products” they can sell along with said books.

Some of the books are actually good – one of our writers hit the NYT Best Seller List back in November. Got to number 3. Not too shabby.

Our team does things like building websites, producing videos, writing advertising copy, schmoozing the rich and infamous. They’re a good team. We enjoy one another. Nice people. Joe is a little gassy, but we hold our noses because he brings the best food to Potluck Fridays. Come to think of it, the two may be related.

Today we launch a book. Good book. Written by a wonderful woman who is right now the bane of my and my team’s existence.

Built her website to her specs back in ’13. Yup. Every month since she’s been going to get us the content, going to get her book out, going to cover everything.

First week of January she tells me “got a firm date – we’re launching January 21.” She asked me again for a list of all the things she had to get to us – things like press kits, digital photos, content for her website pages. “No problem.”

Why do I always believe them?

Timeline is set. Deadlines for content pieces. They come. They go. We get her site – sans much of the content – “finalized” last Friday. She can’t walk through it with until Saturday. That was OK, I wasn’t seeing Waco last weekend. She said she would want some tweaks.

But she didn’t want tweaks. She wanted to tear down and rebuild the Hoover Dam. Damn.

I kindly explained to her in a Steven Hawking like fashion how time works. She stared at me blankly. “It’s just a couple things” she said. We negotiated what was actually possible for humans – even super-humans like us – to accomplish.

We whittled her list of 1,674,238 items down to a little less than 300. Yeah, I know. Late Sunday night (my time) the Indians dug in. Monday us US peeps joined the fight.

We did well. After a Monday of diligence and another night by our brown-skinned Asian neighbors, by Tuesday morning it was done. FINAL final walk through.

It was a 2 hour marathon call of “the sweetest little voice” demanding the most unreasonable things. She has the uncanny ability to convince you she’s just asking for a little more sugar in her tea.

Again, we compromised. Some of her recommendations had merit. But we still lacked content. We still needed a ton from her. She was working on it, “have it to you by noon.”

We went about the new list. Moral was flagging. I circulated (again) the picture of me dancing in my underwear at last year’s Christmas party to cheer them up. We rallied like Iwo Jima.

Now it is 6am Thursday. The book drops in a few hours. I have had a grand total of 90 minutes sleep since 8am yesterday and only 5 hours the night before. I’m beat. We’ve made it, just need to “turn the key,” but I am spent.

I am looking forward to a warm bed, a warmer Waco and a deep sleep tonight.

Vent over.

Update, 7am:

While trying to complete a simple task, the Indians destroyed the site.

Update, 8:27am:

Client calls to make sure the book sales pages are ready to go! Fortunately, we had already fixed those.

Update, 8:42am:

Client calls to tell me the video she gave us yesterday wasn’t exactly what she wanted, but in an act of God’s mercy she already had a replacement at YouTube.

Update, 10:00am:

Indians are finding more problems they created on the site. YAY!

Update, 10:51am:

Book is number 3 on Amazon. Can someone say BOOM?


Margaret Atwood



This is the kind of writing I want to be doing – I love the word pictures in this piece, written by one of my blogger friends:

Jealousy and Anger

I have a sick feeling in my stomach listening to Kevin, Wayland and Jasper. Three smug punks are missing a squash partner. They are inviting me to play. I hide under sunglasses and this stupid cap, indoors because I’m a coward tapping a screen in the middle of a panic attack.

I can’t play now. I want to throw up but not in front of them. You should hear them talking about you. They are so attracted to you. You’re beautiful, charming, fit. They brag about what you said to them, as if every word were an annointing from the Holy Spirit. I loathe them in Jesus’ name on a Sunday morning, because I think you like it.

I want to know what they whisper to you in private corners and in dimly lit chambers. I imagine you texting them huggy emotions, revelling in the attention, wanting them to want you, hoping they’ll crave you.

I can see you picking through them like fruit at the market. Caressing this one, squeezing that one, sniffing that one until you put them all in your basket for a rainy day.

Remember that mug you gave me? With all of my might, I slammed it against the wall thinking about that. Last night.