I Stopped Fooling Myself, Since I Wasn’t Fooling You

I updated my About page recently to include my name.  After three years, I was still reluctant to do that.  I realized a couple of things, though…

I’m going to need to connect with my real name in preparation for releasing a book, whether it’s traditionally published or self-published.  This means that any distance I thought I was keeping between myself and my online persona is probably counter-productive.

Also…there really isn’t any such thing as privacy when you decide to have a presence on the internet.

You Should Be Happy is now going to include the humor that I’ve been posting, and my author’s blog.  I won’t bore you to death with daily updates about The Tiny Giant, but I will be talking about the process and teasing some of what the book is about.

Major milestones, too.  I’m getting close to the end of the big heart-rending rewrite.  More to come on that soon.

So…hello.  My name is Rebecka Ratcliffe, and I’m a writer.  Nice to meet you.


On Being Thankful That I Am Not Getting Paid To Do This

I’ll start off by letting you all in on a big thing.  I have written thousands of words in the last few months.  Some of them are very cleverly put together.  Some of them are put together as if the dictionary had the stomach flu, but I’ll fix that later.  But… BUT…If I’m writing all these words, WHERE ARE THEY?!?  Right?  And why am I writing about writing when I said I wasn’t going to do that?

I’m not publishing anything because I am writing a novel.  Given that I am also caring for Things One and Two full-time, this is being accomplished in the three and a half hours a week that they are both in preschool at the same time.  It *is* being accomplished, though.  As I dig my way through Chapter 3, one stolen prison dining hall teaspoon at a time, I believe it’s actually going to make it all the way to Chapter 12.  It’s a fantasy novel.  I’m not at liberty to go into detail, because the idea is…well…novel.  I don’t want to spill the beans until I actually have the thing in hand.  It’s outlined, timelined, and I know what the two follow-up books would be in major plot strokes.  I love the main characters.  I think fantasy readers will, too.  I can’t even say it’s “insert famous book”-like.  It’s new.  It’ll be interesting as long as I just let it be what it needs to be.

Given that I have the opportunity to take a wonderful idea and fully realize it (at least to the extent of my capability), I’m putting the blog on official hiatus.  I’ll post a thingy here and there when the mood strikes me, but I need to reserve those three hours a week to work on the novel.  At the rate I’m going, I expect to have a first draft in about a year and a half from when I started writing.  If I can speed that up, I will, but hey….that really isn’t that long.  I’ll leave the blog open, and if something strikes me funny, I’ll share it.  I probably won’t be doing any of the long pictures and humor posts for a while, though–while I love those, they take a lot of time.  It takes me hours and hours to sound quite that slap-dash, and even more time to carefully plan and stage those most professional pictures.

So… I’m not really writing about writing.  I’m writing about how glad I am that I can just say, “Not this year, honey,” to the blog without impacting my financial outlook.  If there’s someone who is disappointed that they won’t see more of the humor pieces…I hope you’ll like the novel.  There’s plenty of wry humor in it so far.

I also wanted to say how thankful I am for this blog.  I was encouraged to do this by several friends, one in particular, and it made me think that writing was something I wanted to make time for.   That opened the door to the bigger possibilities… I think if I hadn’t already been writing, I would have let the idea for the novel wither off into the ether.  For everyone who is following me, or has liked or commented on something–thanks, man.  You’re the best.  I also know that you’ll understand why I am choosing to spend my limited time where I am.

Light a candle for me every Thursday and Friday between 9:00AM and 10:45AM PST, excluding holidays and teacher inservice days.  That’s when my Martha Stewart lifestyle gets put on hold while I live the dream.

Optimism Is the Powdered Sugar On My Bitter, Cynical Doughnut

I  suppose I owe you an explanation of what exactly an “optimistic cynic” is, should one exist beyond hipster irony.  I have branded myself this after a great deal of thought.  The question about the glass–half-full?  half-empty?  It seems a little simplistic to me.  If it does it for you—“I’m an optimist!  Super big YEAH for a half a glass of something!”—then I am a little suspicious of your intelligence.  If you are going to get all weepy about the glass being partly empty, well, go suck that egg somewhere else.  Sure, it’s half-empty, but I’m pretty sure we can DO something about it if you stop whining for a minute.

Sad glass is sad (and pensive).  Perhaps it is thinking about when it was a full glass.

Sad glass is sad (and pensive). Perhaps it is thinking about when it was a full glass.

It comes down to this minor point: Optimism and cynicism are in a struggle for my immortal soul.  Optimism is a form of humility.  The optimist believes that others are probably doing the right things, that the world will work out, because they feel somewhere inside that they are not the pinnacle of creation.  Those sunny optimists are always ready to believe that someone outside of themselves could, probably even DOES, have a good answer.  The right answer.  This is very, very silly, but bless their little hearts anyway.

The cynic is inherently arrogant.  She can find a problem with your plan in five seconds flat, has no reluctance to tell you about the problem, and harbors a suspicion that you will pretend to listen, then go off and do your damn fool thing anyway.  I worked for a company at one time that tried to “value” this as a necessary part of progress, despite it being very annoying.  I did well there.  I also worked for a company that nearly fired me for it (that, and my lack of appropriately dangly gender parts).

Here's a close-up of dangly bits!  (No, this is not that blog, you can stop looking.)

Here’s a close-up of dangly bits! (No, this is not that blog, you can stop looking.)

That experience led to a year of pretending to be someone I was not, in order to keep my job.  It was transformative and awful.  I had to keep my know-it-all, how-dumb-are-you, that-is-the-worst-idea-ever mouth shut.  FOR A YEAR.  I still knew that the folks in charge of the projects were wrong, and I still knew that my idea was smarter, better, more efficient, etc…  I just didn’t say anything.  I learned to take orders.  I found another job and QUIT.  The partners were sort of shocked, because they hadn’t seen that the cynic was still there, chafing at every stupid command.

Let's pretend!  I'll be the Japanese schoolgirl.... (No, this is not THAT blog either!  Move on.)

Let’s pretend! I’ll be the Japanese schoolgirl…. (No, this is not THAT blog either! Move on.)

The transformation was this, however:  I listened.  I had to hear out the idea/opinion/thoughts of the people in charge, and sometimes, it was fine.  It was good enough, and it was easier.  I didn’t love it, but I learned to trust a few people, and I learned some things from them.  In this new and humbler incubator, the repressed optimist stirred, stuck her hand up out of the primordial ooze, and claimed a breath of life.  Couldn’t put the silly tart down after that.  She keeps popping up.  “That’s the dumbest thing ever, but it just might work!  Let’s try it!”

Get thee down into my belly, thou evil tart!

Get thee down into my belly, thou evil tart!

Some amount of cynicism is a requirement in the world we live in.  You could believe all the stuff in your e-mail.  You could have lots of friends in Nigeria that you help with a little cash.  If you hadn’t sent that chain letter out to 200 of your Facebook friends, you probably would be bald and impotent!  Great job!  Coconuts are a miracle!  I know, pretty snarky, but in order to avoid the bad actors with bad motives, it’s necessary to evaluate a lot of things with the presumption that the “person” on the other end is all-in for themselves.

That said, it is just as necessary to operate with a degree of optimism.  If you don’t have some hope that things are going to turn out alright, how do you get up in the morning?  How do you touch a doorknob, knowing that half the people who touched it before you probably just pottied and didn’t wash their hands?  You have to grasp that knob like an old friend, and believe that whatever germs and crud are living on there will get along with you just fine.  Having children is the Xtreme version of this.  I can’t think about all of the things that are going to go wrong there long enough to write about it.  I just hope for the best and try not to screw them up too badly.

Yes, I did just compare touching a doorknob to raising a child.  Toooooouch meeeee!

Yes, I did just compare touching a doorknob to raising a child. Toooooouch meeeee!

Where does this leave me when I face another day of washing approximately six million Disney-branded plastic dishes?  I am still going to see all the things that are wrong with your thought/idea/project/baby, and if you catch me at the wrong moment, I will tell you all about it.  Most of the time, though, there will be enough sweetness to keep you hopeful that somehow, it will still all be okay.

PS.  If you like the term, by all means use it.  I have a feeling a lot of us GenXers are in the same boat.  The same poorly constructed, taking on water, probably built by one-armed orangutans, just might make it to the other side boat.  We need some sort of secret handshake.