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Thread: Bit of Practical Advice, yeah?

  1. #1
    Suutomaiyeh!~ Ashranei haas ben-ii~ Shirokirie's Avatar
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    Bit of Practical Advice, yeah?

    Help.

    I'm a disjointed, abstract thinker.

    Also, I just so happen to be a disjointed, abstract writer.

    So what now?
    What I'm wondering is how to get around something like this -- you know, not come off as a disjointed, abstract person wielding a pen like some newb going up against dragons with a toothpick -- and at the same time still enjoy doing what I do.

    As a reader I like filling in the blanks, thinking about bits and pieces that stick out -- I like paragraphs where the sentences don't always flow together... I like digging for things. I don't like being lead by the hand because leading by the hand and shown everything because show everything.

    So, as a writer I think that may just be my problem. I just don't take you by the hand and... well for Pete's sake, you're grown. Do it your damn self; you got a brain, use it.

    Am I wrong to assume everyone has one of those?
    Or is it the wrong assumption to think that I can write something, and know that someone else might just get what I'm saying without having to sit down and spend hours crafting a single sentence that explains everything in the excruciating, vivid detail provided by visual and audio medias...?

    Back to the question at hand:
    The above is an example of what I mean. That being, the way in which I tend to think. And, how it is what comes out in my writing. (Derp.)

    So is there any advice on how to think the way I do and yet write like everyone else... who doesn't have this 'problem'?

    I wish I knew, because this is severely exasperating.
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  2. #2
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    Nothing wrong with having the reader work things out but he must have a setting, have a clue as to where he is and what's happening to whom and in whose head he is supposed to be, and be able to understand what it is he is supposed to be working out.

    It's very easy to forget that the reader starts off with a blank canvas.

    The reader knows nothing other than what he reads, whereas the writer knows from the outset where he is and what's happening to whom (and why) etc..

    There's a difference between my puzzling over an intriguing situation and my being lost in a confusing fog wondering what the hell is happening to whom and where I'm supposed to be.
    Last edited by Bufty; 11-23-2012 at 07:45 PM. Reason: Added a second 'my' to last sentence.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bufty View Post
    Nothing wrong with having the reader work things out but he must have a setting, have a clue as to where he is and what's happening to whom and in whose head he is supposed to be, and be able to understand what it is he is supposed to be working out..
    Yes, this. As long as you know, and you're very much in control of the piece, the disjointed style can be very effective. But you do need to know - and you do need to be in control.

  4. #4
    Travel biologist, piss-poor fluffer quicklime's Avatar
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    there are plenty of works where the reader has to do some legwork of their own. many of them are well-loved, too. So if you are giving readers fits, I doubt the fault lies with the reader. I also suspect that arguing they may just be too dumb or lazy may soothe, but isn't likely to help you improve your writing. There's an obvious caveat there, as the guy reading 50 shades may not read House of Leaves or stick with Rebecca or some other work--not every piece appeals to every reader. But you can't disappoint everyone. So you need to figure out if you are finding the wrong critiquers, or you are not delivering.

    Assuming you want to write commercially, you are offering a product--you either offer one an audience wants, or your business model fails--you aren't entitled to do anything you want with the expectation a reader owes you any more than someone gets to make a 3 mpg, shit-brown station wagon and then complain about the elitist, money-grubbing consumer market that won't "give them a fair shot." Nobody owes you.


    EDIT: Shiro,

    part of why I'm not exactly mincing words is this is not the first (or even the second, i believe) thread you've started to lament your readers; you had one like 4-5 months back as well. Someone downthread said it better than I have, but your contempt for the readers will permeate your text.

    Miles Davis got to play with his back to the audience when he was in a sulk, but that was A) Miles Davis (if you're a fucking genius, you get more leeway...if you're a commoner, you aren't special, and won;t be treated like you are) and B) after folks already knew he was a fucking genius. He was still a pain in the ass. If you're really, really good, you can be a superior, contempt-filled pain in the ass, although I'm not sure why that would be an aspiration in the first place, but again, you can either decide if the audience is beneath you and so sales don't matter, or you can give them what they want--if your writing isn't what they want, that is not their fault, failing to offer a suitable product NEVER places the onus on the consumer. And frankly, I think you're not doing the job you believe you are, and the sooner you accept that and work on changes instead of blaming the reader, the sooner you can move on. Right now, blaming the audience is a wonderful salve--it prevents hurt feelings, personal insult, etc.....but it also works especially well to prevent personal growth. If you're ABSOLUTELY sure the reader is at fault, find a new reader...that simple. But if you can't find that "right" reader, you may want to look inward a bit.
    Last edited by quicklime; 11-24-2012 at 01:13 AM.
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  5. #5
    Obsessive Plotting Disorder Parataxis's Avatar
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    The problem really isn't that some people don't have brains, it's that everyone has different brains. If you want the reader to come to a conclusion given bits of data, they will do so...but more often than not if you aren't careful it will be a significantly different conclusion than the one you wanted.

    Thus, for the main plot, having "touchstone" points where you confirm what is going on to the reader is important. Now, the number of them can be few--and there can be none for relationships/sub-plots, just don't whine when people don't get your implication exactly right straight off. It does not mean they are stupid, it means you aren't implying clearly.
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  6. #6
    I should be writing. Alpha Echo's Avatar
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    I wouldn't worry about it so much during the first draft. Write as you normally think and/or right. Then, set it aside for awhile and work on something else. Get it out of your head for awhile (if possible, I know it's easier said than done).

    When you go back to revise, try to read from the point of view of your readers. Ask yourself: Does this make sense? Did I introduce the character properly rather than just dump him into the story? Can I rightfully deduce that x+y=z based on what I have read, rather than based on what I know in my head as the story's creator?

    Also, having others who have no idea what story you're trying to tell read it, especially those who aren't writers, would really be beneficial, I think.
    "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible"
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    delicate #!&@*#! flower Perks's Avatar
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    I think you may be mischaracterizing the works and the readers you disdain. Certainly there is See-Spot-Run and there is also Chuck Palahniuk in the world, but you don't need to concern yourself with the size of everyone's brain, or how their tastes in recreational reading may indicate that size.

    What you need to do is be the best writer you can be in the style you choose and prefer, then find where the writers you admire get placed on the bookstore shelf, and pursue the path through those agents and publishers (assuming they are current works) that you find there to try to end up in the ranks you wish to accompany.

    If everyone who is reading your work doesn't get it, make incremental changes until they do or try a new crop of beta readers.

    My critique partner and I have an agreement: if we feel the urge to explain why a certain passage works once it's been critiqued as not working, it probably needs to be rewritten. Now that doesn't mean we scrap it and turn it into a picture book, but something needs an adjustment.

  8. #8
    delicate #!&@*#! flower Perks's Avatar
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    This conversation brings me back to one of the most fascinating things about writing fiction. The writer imagines what he needs to convey, then comes up with a scene that will get the job done. The imagined scene is almost guaranteed to be made of more detail than is needed (or indeed wise or practical) to be included on the page.

    For me, one of the trickiest things when I'm working is looking at that scene and picking out a bouquet of balance - what in this sequence is important and what in it is interesting. Everything that isn't selected for the page is still in my head as seasoning, hopefully adding to the general savor by influencing what words I choose, what mood I strike.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Shirokirie View Post
    As a reader I like filling in the blanks, thinking about bits and pieces that stick out -- I like paragraphs where the sentences don't always flow together... I like digging for things. I don't like being lead by the hand because leading by the hand and shown everything because show everything.

    So, as a writer I think that may just be my problem. I just don't take you by the hand and... well for Pete's sake, you're grown. Do it your damn self; you got a brain, use it.

    Am I wrong to assume everyone has one of those?

    Like a few other people here, what I'm reading here is a whiff of "Why don't stupid readers understand what I wrote? Do I have to spell it out for you stupid readers?"

    Most readers (if they read even a little bit seriously) don't mind text that makes them work a little. But if you are consistently getting feedback that suggests that readers aren't getting what you write, there are two possibilities:

    1. Everyone who reads your work is stupid.
    2. Your writing is not effectively getting the job done, however "abstract" may be the intent.

    Which one do you think is more likely?


    I know I have gotten more than one critique where a reader said they didn't understand something that I thought was obvious. Sometimes what they didn't understand was explained in the previous paragraph! I always have to step back and ask myself: Okay, did this reader just miss something, or is it not as obvious to the person who didn't write it?

    If it's just one person and no one else seems to have a problem, maybe it's just that reader. But if several people stumble on the same thing, you're probably not being clear.

  10. #10
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    So is there any advice on how to think the way I do and yet write like everyone else... who doesn't have this 'problem'
    1) Why would you want to write "like everyone else"?

    2) Contempt for your readers will always show through in your prose.

    3) Resign yourself to a life of publishing one exquisite novel every five years with presses that either have "University" or a body of water in their names, winning prestigious awards, and selling 500 copies each.

    4) On the other hand, James Joyce is still in print.

  11. #11
    In the end, it's just you and the manuscript job's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shirokirie View Post
    What I'm wondering is how to get around something like this -- you know, not come off as a disjointed, abstract person wielding a pen like some newb going up against dragons with a toothpick -- and at the same time still enjoy doing what I do.
    It's great to enjoy writing.
    Enjoy writing good prose and you're in luck.
    If you only enjoy writing sucky prose -- not so much.

    The need for exactitude, intention and clarity is not related to the style of writing. Hemingway pares language to the core. Oscar Wilde, Ernest Bramah, or Woody Allen charm us with their clever, wandering-everywhere verbal shenanigans.

    What these guys have in common is not the spare directness or discursive indirectness of their writing. It's that they have control. They place every word with conscious purpose.
    They worked like hell at their prose.

    "I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." Oscar Wilde

    I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied. Hemingway

    So yes, if I pay money for a book, I expect the writer "to sit down and spend hours crafting a single sentence."


    Quote Originally Posted by Shirokirie View Post
    I just don't take you by the hand and... well for Pete's sake, you're grown. Do it your damn self; you got a brain, use it.
    Obscurity and ambiguity work well in LitFic, where the writing itself is the point. However LitFic is particularly exigent when it comes to demanding elegant, purposeful writing worth the effort of deciphering.

    It doesn't sound like you're planning to write genre fiction, but in genre -- giving only my own opinion -- the reader wants to access the story unimpeded by difficult or obscure prose. She wants to see, hear, touch, taste and smell the fictive world -- not grope around in abstract. She'll delight in working out who murdered Colonel Mustard, but, no, she does not want to puzzle over library versus parlor, rope versus candlestick or knife because the writer is unclear. Basic to the craft of writing is getting the nuts and bolts tight and in place so the story car drives without rattling.
    Last edited by job; 11-23-2012 at 09:43 PM.

  12. #12
    living in the past ishtar'sgate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amadan View Post

    I know I have gotten more than one critique where a reader said they didn't understand something that I thought was obvious. .
    I had to laugh when I read this. I had one reviewer say that they and another reader had no idea why I titled my novel "The First Vial". Immediately before the first sentence is a quote from the Bible, "And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore." As the book was set in medieval England during the black plague, an awful disease that covered people in horrible ugly black sores, I thought it was pretty obvious. Guess not.

  13. #13
    that's what it's all about.... I_love_coffee's Avatar
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    practical advice:

    1.write the best novel you think you can write in the way that you write.

    2.get a few beta readers that like the genre you are writing in.

    3. get some feedback.

    4. edit.


    good luck!
    The Waitress(mainstream/contemporary) 78k, in the editing process. Kind of looking around for a beta.

  14. #14
    Whatever I did, I didn't do it. Phaeal's Avatar
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    Heh, I think lots of people skip those prefatory quotes.
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  15. #15
    living in the past ishtar'sgate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
    Heh, I think lots of people skip those prefatory quotes.
    I suppose. The publisher made it as clear as possible though - a few spaces below 'CHAPTER 1' and a few spaces before the first sentence. Maybe they should have used a different color

  16. #16
    delicate #!&@*#! flower Perks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
    Heh, I think lots of people skip those prefatory quotes.
    I love epigraphs. The one for mine made me so happy when I found it -


    All places are alike, and every earth is fit for burial.

    - Christopher Marlowe


    Sorry for the derail. I just love that so much.

  17. #17
    living in the past ishtar'sgate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perks View Post
    I love epigraphs. The one for mine made me so happy when I found it -




    All places are alike, and every earth is fit for burial.


    - Christopher Marlowe





    Sorry for the derail. I just love that so much.

    Ooh that's very good, especially given the title of your novel. Can't wait to read it.

  18. #18
    resident curmudgeon
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    Never mind how you think. As a reader, I want to know how your characters think. The story is about them, not you.

  19. #19
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    My writing strikes a lot of folks as too ambiguous, but it also strikes a lot of folks as the sort of thing they like. It's fine to have bunches of readers who won't like your work, imho. You just need some group to like it the way you do it

    If it's difficult to find someone who really likes the way you do it, you are probably being confusing or unclear. Even folks who love playing with ambiguity can be unclear and not know it. I had one story where my first beta was confused because I hadn't made it clear that I was talking about a real human boy. Doh! The rest was great, so all I had to do was add one sentence that let the reader know that tiny little fact
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  20. #20
    Always curious. juniper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perks View Post
    My critique partner and I have an agreement: if we feel the urge to explain why a certain passage works once it's been critiqued as not working, it probably needs to be rewritten. Now that doesn't mean we scrap it and turn it into a picture book, but something needs an adjustment.
    This was the big difference between my first in-person critique group in the past few years and the second -

    In the first, if something wasn't clear, everyone would ask questions and then say, "Ok, I see" after the writer explained. And the writer would often (usually) think that it was the error of the reader, not the writer.

    In the second, that's not allowed. The readers state their comments (good and bad) and hand over their edits, and the writer is only allowed to say, "Thank you" at the end, and then maybe ask a few questions. But never defend the writing.

    The second group, I think, was more helpful in improving one's writing. The first one was more emotionally encouraging, for fragile writers.
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  21. #21
    Huh. kkbe's Avatar
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    Shirokirie, is this the same person who wrote:
    I'm sick of trying to write like a pro, and excuse me, but I want to be a writing nooblet right now.
    and
    It may offend you (and frankly if it does, I'm sorry. But, take it as what it is: a story. Or you could always opt-out. I mean I'm always a little more prepared to lose readers for one thing or another).
    Methinks you have writer's remorse. Or a severe case of waffling. Do you care or don't you? Do you want to write, or do you want to be a writer?

    Abstract is one thing, but abstract without context is something else again. There has to be something that takes a reader from point A to point B, some thread, some meaning. I like what you write but, more often than not, I don't get it. I read your stuff and feel I'm reading disjointed bits presented in isolation. There's a lack of cohesion to your writing. Do you really expect your readers to make sense of the nonsensical? You say you don't care, but clearly you do--

    So what now?

    Right now it seems you're indulging your own whims, daring the reader to accept your writing "as is," chastising the reader who tells you he doesn't follow or worse--he doesn't appreciate your art. I think you have to decide what you want to accomplish here. Do you want to write without consideration of your audience, or do you want to connect with your audience on some level, some intelligent level that invites discourse beyond what you've been getting? If your goal is to shock people out of their complacency you can do that, a lot of writers do that successfully, but they write with purpose. They think it through. Right now, I don't think you're willing to make that effort.

    You wrote:
    Or is it the wrong assumption to think that I can write something, and know that someone else might just get what I'm saying without having to sit down and spend hours crafting a single sentence that explains everything in the excruciating, vivid detail provided by visual and audio medias...?
    but look at your own crit of somebody else's work:
    Look, storytelling is a learned art. Learned, meaning, that you have to trash and redo, trash and redo, trash -- and -- re-for-the-love-of-derp-do until you get something solid, something right.

    Clinging to the old method of how you've chosen to relay all this important information is not working. I don't want to dive into a fantasy book, and have some mystical narrator explain it all to me in the second chapter. It ruins the illusion of the story-being-revealed; you lose the mystery; you lose the wonder; you lose my desire to read your stuff.

    WHAT YOU NEED TO DO, Mykall, is GUT the living hell out of this -- strip EVERY IMPORTANT DETAIL -- then sit down with your plot overall, and find places to put them, where they fit. Then get your characters together, and find where you can weave it in with what they do, say, react, know, etc.

    And if that isn't working, you need to make adjustments to your plot so that it does, eliminating a whole freaking chapter of infodumpy here and there, and moving the story along smoothly.

    Look, Mykall, if you can't get that done the first ten tries, try ten more times for each time you tried, and then do it ten more times for every time you attempted it; don't stop trying to get it right.
    You've answered your own question, I'm thinking.
    Last edited by kkbe; 11-24-2012 at 02:07 AM.
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  22. #22
    just thanks tko's Avatar
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    well, its kind of hard

    So you want people to work at getting it a little. Not hand it to them on a silver platter. I like that too, but there's a problem. Not every reader has the same intelligence, the same type of intelligence, the same life skills, and the same experiences. And you'd like your novel to appeal to as many people as possible (assuming you want to sell something.) Plus, people have different personalities. My wife has degrees in computer programming, chemistry, and law. She's not dumb, but not comfortable with ambiguity, doesn't like little mysteries in movies or book. I'm the opposite. Feed me a puzzle, I'll wait carefully till it's explained or I figure it out. I'm very happy with not knowing right away.

    Bottom line is, you have to write very carefully. Difficult writing to a wide audience while keeping things subtle. Since you're the author, it's written for someone with your exact mindset -- and of course you always get it, and it seems so obvious.

    The problem wasn't with killing people, she mused. The problem was in killing only one.

  23. #23
    Impractical Fantasy Animal sunandshadow's Avatar
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    Rather than doing the reader's thinking for them, I kind of think of it as a battle, where they would naturally be thinking something you don't want them to think, and instead you have to overwrite that with what you want them to think. Yeah, you're leading them by the nose, but it's more challenging and worthwhile to lead a recalcitrant, distractable mule somewhere than a brainless cooperative one. But either way, I do think creating a smooth experience that pulls the reader through a piece is an important goal of the editing and rewriting process.

  24. #24
    Suutomaiyeh!~ Ashranei haas ben-ii~ Shirokirie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kkbe View Post
    Abstract is one thing, but abstract without context is something else again. There has to be something that takes a reader from point A to point B, some thread, some meaning. I like what you write but, more often than not, I don't get it. I read your stuff and feel I'm reading disjointed bits presented in isolation. There's a lack of cohesion to your writing. Do you really expect your readers to make sense of the nonsensical? You say you don't care, but clearly you do--

    So what now?

    Right now it seems you're indulging your own whims, daring the reader to accept your writing "as is," chastising the reader who tells you he doesn't follow or worse--he doesn't appreciate your art. I think you have to decide what you want to accomplish here. Do you want to write without consideration of your audience, or do you want to connect with your audience on some level, some intelligent level that invites discourse beyond what you've been getting? If your goal is to shock people out of their complacency you can do that, a lot of writers do that successfully, but they write with purpose. They think it through. Right now, I don't think you're willing to make that effort.

    You wrote: but look at your own crit of somebody else's work: You've answered your own question, I'm thinking.
    Actually, I don't at all see how what I had said to Mykall regarding that specific work has anything to do with context and my lack of it. Obviously his was there, to the extent that it was -- and that was fine, except for the Fluffy McFiller parts.

    Which is what I was referring to there.

    No, let me be a little more precise.

    I'm on the fence about success and money -- I really am. I almost fear it more than I do the idea of being shot, or ran over with a steam roller, or whatever other horrible way a person can wind up dead.

    As for writing and understanding -- yes, I really do care about that. So much so that I get horribly frustrated (obviously) when what I'm thinking makes logical sense... doesn't. And it refuses to, repeatedly, despite my efforts to try and make something cohesive out of it.

    My thought becomes this:
    What is this thing you call context and why is it always absent when I think its right there?
    Can you show me this animal I keep butchering, so that I can at least know what not to hack next time?
    If 'no', abandon all hope ye who reside here?

    As for waffling on a whim...

    Well you can't have too many waffles, can you?
    Golden and soft, buttery, slathered in hot fudge and whipped cream -- ouuuh, yessss~

    But you don't mean that kind of waffling... I know.
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  25. #25
    delicate #!&@*#! flower Perks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shirokirie View Post
    I'm on the fence about success and money -- I really am. I almost fear it more than I do the idea of being shot, or ran over with a steam roller, or whatever other horrible way a person can wind up dead.
    Hope you're not actually losing sleep over it. All of us are more likely to be shot while being run over by a steam roller.

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