Writing Is Not A Zero-Sum Game

Writers are a cutthroat bunch. Not all of them, of course, but a whole lot of them. It seems like every other day, I see a writer (or wannabe writer) put down some other writer for one reason or another.

Statements like these are just too common:

  • Writer X is a hack and doesn’t deserve half the praise he gets.
  • How does Writer Y sell so many units? It amazes me.
  • Erotica writers are sellouts.

I admit that I used to have thoughts like these, especially during my first year of serious writing. I was jealous, I was angry, I was arrogant, I was scared. I used to put down other writers because it made me feel good.

And then I put out a few stories on Amazon, made zero sales, and my Insult-Other-Writers Module went into overdrive. I downvoted everything I saw on Reddit. If I couldn’t have success, then why should they?

Part of me believed that I could raise my chances at success if I brought others down. According to my faulty logic, every successful new writer meant less room for my own success. Only a handful of writers could “win” per year, so if I dragged another writer down, I could rise above them. Right?

NO.

I’ve since learned that writing is not a zero-sum game. There isn’t a fixed pool of “success” that gets depleted when a writer “wins.” The success or failure of Writer X has no direct impact on the success or failure of Writer Y. Indirect influences? Sure. But in the grand scheme, it’s negligible.

Writing is not a competition. For someone who’s deeply competitive (like me), this can be a hard truth to swallow. Truth is, when one writer wins, all writers win.

The best attitude is to be supportive of others writers in the same way that you’d want them to be supportive of you. Writing is a dream job, but it’s stressful and mentally taxing. We all need as much help as we can get.

Bottom line? Spend less time worrying about other writers. Spend more time writing. Celebrate writers when they win. Support them when they fail. The world isn’t kind towards writers. If we can’t help each other out, who will?

Subreddits For Writers: Rejuvenate Your Words Now

If you’re prone to procrastinate, then you should skip this post.

Reddit is known for being a highly distracting website that kills productivity, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a lot of good that can be scrounged from it as long as you separate the wheat from the chaff. The baby ought not be thrown out with the bathwater.

So where can you find the good stuff on Reddit?

  • /r/WritingPrompts: When your well of creativity runs dry, this is a great place for a refill. You’ll find tons of awesome writing prompts that you can use for warming up. Since these are throwaway pieces, you can write unhindered by your inner editor. Plus, for extra fun, you can read the responses from other writers.
  • /r/OneParagraph: Similar to the writing prompts above except your response can only be one paragraph long. The constraint makes these to be pretty interesting.
  • /r/WritingGroup: This sub isn’t as intimate or close-knit as a real writers group, but it’s useful if you need some critiques on a piece you wrote. They won’t be professional, of course, but good enough until you can build up a solid group of beta readers.
  • /r/FantasyWriters: A community of writers dedicated to fantasy.
  • /r/SciFiWriting: A community of writers dedicated to science fiction.
  • /r/ScreenWriting: A community of writers dedicated to television and film.
  • /r/SelfPublish: Want to get caught up on the latest developments in self-publishing? Check out this subreddit. You’ll have to sift through spammers trying to promote their stories, but it’s not so bad.
  • /r/Writing: I don’t like the content of this subreddit. Most of it is chatter about writing rather than anything related to writing itself. Lots of reposts. Lots of shallow dogma. But it’s nice if you’re feeling lonely and want to surround yourself with a lot of aspiring writers.

These subreddits are unrelated to writing but still worth visiting:

  • /r/GetMotivated: Writing is hard. Sometimes you need a boost (or if you’re me, you need one every hour). This is a great place to get on-demand kicks in the butt.
  • /r/NoSleep: Lots of scary stories. All fictional. If you want to write horror or if you want to study writing techniques that lend to suspense, thrills, and frights, then these stories are pretty good to analyze.
  • /r/EarthPorn: Awesome photographs that showcase the multitude of sceneries around Earth.
  • /r/AbandonedPorn: Similar to EarthPorn but photos of abandoned buildings and locations. Great for inspiration, too.

Know of any other good writing subreddits? Post them in the comments. I’d love to discover and subscribe to some new places!

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee the Easy Way

Cold brew coffee is not the same as iced coffee. You can hot brew coffee and ice it down. You can also cold brew coffee and heat it up. Cold brew describes the way in which flavor is extracted from the beans rather than the temperature of its consumption.

And let it be known: cold brew is awesome.

What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

Simple, cold, and delicious. Image by Dennis Tang

Simple, cold, and delicious. Image by Dennis Tang

Think of a French press. You grind your beans (or buy them pre-ground) and immerse them in hot water. The water extracts the flavor from the grinds over the course of a few minutes. When it’s done, you throw away the grinds and you’re left with a delicious cup of morning energy.

Cold brew is like that except you use room temperature water and you let it steep for much, much longer. Usually overnight.

Why Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee is fundamentally different than hot brew coffee in a few ways.

  • Less acidic. The difference in water temperature and steep time causes different flavors to come out of the beans. As a result, cold brew coffee tends to carry a more pleasant, less harsh taste.
  • Quick and easy. You don’t need a percolator, a French press, a kettle, or any of the usual coffee equipment. All you need is a closed container like a jar or some tupperware.
  • Set it and forget it. Hot coffee requires your attention. Even when it’s done, there’s a small window when you can fully enjoy its flavors before it turns lukewarm and stale. Cold brewing only requires you to steep the grounds and tuck it away until you’re ready AND it will last up to 2 weeks afterwards in the fridge.
  • Brew in bulk. Hot coffee is often brewed by the cup or by the pot. Cold brew coffee can be made in bulk — gallons at a time if you want — which can be much more convenient in the long run.

Easy Cold Brew Coffee Recipe

Delicious and refreshing. Absolutely amazing. Image by Sharif Sharifi

Delicate and refreshing. Image by Sharif Sharifi

Convinced? I knew you would be. Here’s the easiest cup of coffee you’ll ever make. Are you ready?

  1. Fill a closed container with 1:3 grounds-to-water ratio by volume.
  2. Stir well.
  3. Let it sit for 8 to 24 hours at room temperature.
  4. Filter the concentrate. Do not drink this straight. Keep refrigerated.
  5. When serving, mix 1:1 concentrate-to-water ratio by volume. Adjust to your tastes.

Feel free to personalize it with cream, milk, sugar, etc. I tend to drink mine black but I’ve been known to sweeten my cups from time to time depending on the weather. The concentrate stays fresh for 1-2 weeks, so only make as much as you can consume in that time.

Relax and enjoy!

My Writing Setup: Netbook, Linux, FocusWriter

Sometimes you just have to switch things around to rejuvenate your mental energy. It can be as simple as changing your desktop wallpaper or as involved as installing a new operating system.

I went with the latter and it’s made all the difference.

My old setup consisted of Windows XP, HexChat, and Scrivener. Well, I’d flip flop between Scrivener and WriteMonkey depending on my mood. Both programs have their merits but neither one really satisfied my needs. Or maybe I’m just easily bored.

Nevertheless, I’m the kind of person who needs a new environment every once in a while. I rearrange my room layouts all the time. My wallpaper changes weekly. Keyboards, mice, monitors? Yeah, I switch them around when my desk starts to feel stale.

Linux is a proper work environment. Goodbye, Windows.

Linux is a proper work environment. Goodbye, Windows.

My new setup is awesome. It makes me want to write. It’s comfortable and beautiful and I suspect I’ll get sick of it soon enough, but for right now, it’s everything I ever wanted.

  • Lubuntu because it’s lightweight. On my netbook, it starts up faster than Windows XP and doesn’t freeze up as much, which is paramount for productivity.
  • Weechat for my IRC writing group. Simple and easy to use.
  • FocusWriter because Linux doesn’t have any good distraction-free writing programs. I’ve gotten sick of Scrivener, otherwise I might’ve tried running it under Wine. As it turns out, I now prefer FocusWriter over WriteMonkey.
  • Pithos for music. It’s a Linux client that taps into Pandora and lets you listen to your stations without a browser. The Pandora site is slow on a netbook, so Pithos is a real lifesaver.
  • Midori for web browsing because it’s lightweight.

And that’s it. Done!

What kind of setup do you use for writing? Paper and pen? Desktop computer? Do you like to use all-in-one solutions like Scrivener or do you prefer to keep it simple? Please share. Maybe I can learn a thing or two from you.

“Nara” by E.S. Posthumus

Artist: E.S. Posthumus
Track: “Nara”
Album: Unearthed (2005)
Genre: Epic Orchestra

Many years ago, when I first started dabbling in writing, this was the song that pretty much made it all click. There’s no helping the fact that when you hear this song, worlds open up before you and your imagination runs—especially when you listen with big bulky headphones that make you one with the music.

When I hear this song, I see vast plains of lush green grass with a band of adventurers crossing from end to end (or maybe a lone wolf launching on a new quest) as the camera flies overhead from a distance. Maybe you see something different, but one thing is for sure: this song marks the beginning of something wonderful yet mysterious.

It’s a shame E.S. Posthumus is no longer active. They made some quality music over the years and it’s arguable whether I would even be a writer today if “Nara” was never conceived.