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Yo, not everything you write will be a straight banger. This month’s title was a line I nearly wrote down. Instead I wrote “Tension hung in the air like mist on the pond, curling into my lungs.” Normal cheese does not hang in the air, and it’s weird to think about it just floating there like “Hi, I’m symbolic of tension! Nice to meet you!” I do not advise eating the floating tension cheese. I would eat anything for love, but I won’t eat that.
There was another one of mine, that I did write down: “The people were like turtles.” I used to drink quite a bit, and I’d wake up with my face glued to freshly written pages, more often than I’d wake up with a real hangover. So I’m blaming addiction on that lil’ gold nugget. It took me forever to puzzle out what I meant. (Me, being Sober Helen. I’m mostly Sober Helen now, but not Cold Turkey Sober Helen.) Anyway, it finally came to me in this super annoying, yet funny viral video that was popular years ago. It was a hamster doing an impression of a turtle in his little hamster house. “They poke their heads out, then they put them back in… Then they poke their heads out, and they put them back in…” I did that in a boyfriend’s car until he broke up with me once. It took several hours. George, if you’re reading this, leave your wife for me. What we could’ve been was as beautiful as a red slider’s belly!
Actually, while we’re on the subject, I once got ghosted because I ate a fake mustache in a snapchat video. We only went on one date, so it wasn’t a huge loss.
Anyway, what I’m trying to tell you is that sometimes you will write straight bangers and accumulate a small, but loyal fan base, that stays with you through several dry years, when you can’t find a publishing house you want to work with, and sometimes you will write so crappily it will scare off potential lovers. Sometimes you will write massive run-on sentences. Write anyway. You can always edit later. You cannot edit a blank page. Floating blocks of cheese do not exist, but you can make them cannon in your books if you’re bold enough, and if it’s done right. You cannot tell a story about a floating block of tense cheese, if you never start to write about a floating block of tense cheese. Embrace the cheese.
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The art you’re looking at is the second installment in a series of short stories (one that I never expected to be a series)! A young lady gets super into lucid dreaming and has a series of odd dreams, that almost feel… Too real.
Years ago, one of my buddies approached me and asked “What’s a plausible goal for words written in a day? 1,000? 10,000?” She wanted to write a devotional book. (She blogs instead, check her out.)
“I mean, if that’s what you want. I do one sentence.”
She was like “Whaaaa?”
Yeah, straight out. So far I’ve written at least five books, three of which are published, by forcing myself to write one sentence per day.
And you’re probably thinking, much like my home girl, how in the fresh, Kentucky Fried, Heck did I get by only writing one sentence per day? That’s the real trick. I didn’t. I fooled myself…
You see, one sentence sounds manageable to your addled brain. You can do that on the train on your way home (aaah, glorious public transit. This is America! Buy a car, you bum!), you can do that while cooking dinner instead of trying to watch a pot of water boil, you can do that while pooping. You say “I want to write a thousand words” and you’re like “A thousand is a lot! You ever lose $1,000? So many! You ever gain $1,000 unexpectedly? Also so many… I’m too tired for this junk.” You’re not too tired or too busy for one sentence.
If you saw this Instagram post, well, first of all, here is the promised blog post. Second, you’ll notice that, as I said, I told myself to write one sentence… Then an entire paragraph came tumbling out! Yes, everything in red fell out of my head, and on to the page. That’s what I’m trying to tell you you could have.
If you stop fricking beating yourself up for not being good enough, and not writing 10,000 words like some highfalutin author who’s already made it. The one that makes so much money off of their series, they can afford to live on their writing, writing will be easier for you. That’s not you, and that’s not me either. Let’s stop beating ourselves up for it. Chances are, we’re gunna be broke blue collars for the rest of our lives. Let’s stop thinking like victims, and start thinking like survivors. Let’s make goals we can manage.
I believe in you. I know you were writing in that bunker, in quarantine, in that hospital waiting room. You’ve already been here, and you already know what you need to do. Now you just need to break it down in to manageable pieces. Write one sentence a day.
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Okay. We’re doing another writer’s block post because it’s happening again! I am full of funny Tik Toks, advertisements, I have energy for editing, I can still make poetry, I’m writing this blog post right now! But the thing of it is, I don’t know where to take the book I’m writing now. Should I just scrap it and start a new one?
I’m currently writing Book 2 of The Tooth Fairy. Krysathia, her boyfreind, and Marlene all share one brain cell in Yuma. Marlene’s house is haunted. There’s a witch somewhere in there, with a massive garden in the desert. The city can’t pin excessive water usage on her. Marlene gets someone special. All these components, a story does not make.
The second is a very rough idea. It’s another Gishlan book. There’s a prince. He is the younger brother of the beautiful princess. Where she is dark and beautiful, he is pale and ugly. Where she’s tall and thin, he’s short and fat. Oh, and she’s 3/4 mermaid, while he’s 3/4 human. Genetics! They’re each going to inherit one half of Gishlan. Because no one ever notices him, he goes around playing super hero (vigilante?) until the little dude gets way over his head. I feel like we don’t have enough awkward boys with chub and stutters in literature. I want to make a human human-merman.
Anyway, I’ve been sitting here like “Huh…” for a few weeks. But you know what? It’s not a writing problem.
If attacking your writer’s block on the page isn’t working for you, try this advice instead: Fix your day to day life! Figure out how to work smarter at your day job! Eat a whole pie at three in the morning! Wear your favorite dress for absolutely no reason! (Yes, even you people’s who be like “BuT i’M a MaN” Go find your favorite dress!) Go to the movies in furs and diamonds like it’s 1940! Fall in love with a lovely mistake with brown eyes. Bring the brown eyed lovely one of those giant roses from Hobby Lobby! Join an underground art club!… Suddenly leave that underground art club because commitment is terrifying! Get a tattoo to prove you’re not afraid of commitment. Go hiking, and take a bunch of pictures for the Insta of Gram so you can look cool. And ope. Look. A book just fell out of you during your potty break.
My solution to writer’s block is to start living life out loud. Honestly, I am just busier than a cat on a hot tin roof, and I’m about to make myself late to work trying to finish this blog post, which is also work. ADIOS, MIS AMIGOS!
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Yes, folks, we’re really doing it. I’m looking in to it. Right now, I’m only trying to get a feel for my small, but mighty, fan base’s enthusiasm. Please take a minute to do this two question survey. Thank you!
Ha! You fell for my click bate! This was a trap to attempt to show you how to set boundaries between your writing career and your personal life. Bamboozled again! I want to show you how to set firm boundaries and keep your private life private. This is something I’ve been asked through the years, and I have two big methods you can apply to various aspects of your life.
Just say “no”. This is what I did at first. Because I’m a mean and scary cowgirl. “I’m a fan of your work. Can I add you on Snapchat?” “No, but thank you.”, “I literally just met you 10 minutes ago. You wanna go cruising tonight?” “No, thank you.” “I wanna see your family’s ranch.” “No.” You can just do that. You can just say “No”. But politely. “Can I meet your kids?”, “Can I have your discarded tissues?”, “Can I read your WIP?” No, no, no.
It’s all about misdirection. Completely different than “No.”, you can just have two of everything. Like, a personal social media account, and a business one. You can easily get a PO Box for about $60/yr so you don’t have to tell everyone where you sleep. I did that because I come from a village of 20, and if someone road tripped, walked into town and said “Where’s Helen?” to one of my neighbors, they’d be like “Oh, she’s up the tree out back. Go on over!” because that’s our culture. Not telling people where I lived cut down on unpleasant confrontations like “Helen, I’ve come to kick you like an old pair of clown shoes.”
“Say when, you scoundrel.”
What’re they gunna do? Wait at my PO Box, in the next town over where I went to school, until I show up?
Anyway, I’ve been doing this more and more. Things like having one social media account for the people who love me and want to know how I’m really doing, and the other I just use to be obnoxious and talk about my career. I don’t really want “I feel like a giant blood blister” to come up when someone Googles me, because I had strong opinions about getting a normal, healthy, period; But I do want all three of my books that are in print to come up instead! The thing I love about this method though, is that it’s helped me stop putting up so many walls between my heart and new friends. We have time to get to know each other, and talk, and actually build a relationship, before we plunge into the depths of my full-lilt crazy… Or you know, garden variety vulnerability.
Anyway, you’re going to have months like “Two of my close friends died, and while I’m grieving I’m also waiting for the other shoe to drop, because Grandma told me death comes in threes, but now I have to go on tour and act like I’m the happiest person alive… Aaand one of my favorite cousins is on hospice.” Not showing your friends you’re struggling is a crime, because you’re isolating yourself, and cheating yourself out of deeper relationships. Particularly the devalued platonic relationships! But no one wants to break apart in public. So. Two accounts.
Those are my two methods of, well, keeping people at arm’s length. (Totally healthy!) The biggest thing I think you need to watch as an entertainer, is exactly how much information you put out there. I.e. If you don’t want strangers asking about your cousin’s cancer diagnosis, don’t put it out there. You’re allowed to be a private person.
Yes, there will always be some vulnerability in writing and putting your work out there. It’s your baby, and it’s going to have a little of you in it. My friend told me she saw straight through Marlene, and saw me ranting about my situation at the time when I wrote about The Tooth Fairy. There is a margin, where, like it or not, you’re going to be exposed through your work. (Which, I would like to take this time to point out that all of my friends died after I got back from tour in March 2022, thankyaverymuch!) But that doesn’t mean you have to be like “Oh, my YA characters are doing stupid crap I did as a teenager.” In public. You can be cryptic and be like “Yeah, I knew some kids who did stupid crap like that as teenagers.”
Also, not every part of your life is for Instagram. Listen, and listen well, you do not owe anyone an explanation as to how your life. Unless they’re paying your bills. Which is why I specify on Patron that that money gets reinvested back into my career, my fridge, and this website, and on Kofi that I will be spending all funds on rum, unless I’m lying and I waste it on reinvesting in my career. I try to be transparent when people donate money to my cause. But outside of the bill they’re covering for me, I don’t tell them much.
Any who, back to The Gram.
You don’t have to post about where you’re going all dressed up like that. (I think my last dressy selfie was when I was headed to a classy event at my day job.) You can literally just be like “Ayyo, lookit me. I’m hawt!” and people will be like “Rad!” You don’t have to post a pic of you and your besty getting ice cream at 3am, during a heart-to-heart, every time it happens. You can just go do that, and not tell anyone. You can even be hecking cryptic with your posts. For example, I announced I will be letting go of the last semblance of sanity I posses, and posted a picture of my prayer journal, where I suggested to Jesus Christ that He put Josh Groban in my life so we can get married. Am I okay? No. Will I be elaborating further? Absolutely not. Am I at least having fun? You bet your sweet bippy. Bro. If you wanted, you could just post a picture of you gnawing on a different tree every week and make the general public think you’ve finally made good on your promises to fade into the woods and become a crypted. Or, you know. You could just only post about your writing…
As an aside, if you choose to take the cryptic crypted posting route, and you’re fairly active on social media, I firmly suggest you make a private account where your loved ones can see how you’re actually doing. Like, bro. There’s people who actually care about you. Let them in.
One of my bigger concerns is trying to keep my day to day life out of my career. Sometimes employers get touchy about, you know, you asking for strangers on the internet to buy you rum. Before you get called into the office, make sure you can actually laugh, when HR shows you your own post. *Finger guns* This problem could be solved by taking on a pen name, and that way, H.M. Pugsley has no day job. If you choose not to take on a pen name, you don’t exactly have to turn over the name of every literary journal and blog you write for. Stay wild, moon child. Run free through the valleys of the glorious internet.
You’re also allowed to say “I don’t want to work here anymore.” A couple of years ago, I had a job where the management made me so uncomfortable I buried all of my social media, which got in the way of trying to have a viable writing career. I think they were worried about me talking about the semi-legal things they were doing, online, to customers. Which, while I was looking into protections for whistle blowing employees, I wasn’t using social media to draw attention to them. I would’ve gone to the county courthouse, not the county Facebook page. I do highly recommend finding a new job before quitting the one you’d don’t like. However, Covid-19 made the whole situation a wash for me. Before “No one wants to work anymore” was a chant that ran wild through the streets, there were reports online about employers asking their employees for their social media passwords. Like everything else, you’re allowed to say “No. I sell you this part of my time. My personal life is mine.” or to your readership “No. I sell you these stories. My real life is mine.”
Anyway, I know what I’m doing all the time, and I always get it right my first try. Definitely listen to me. There is no way to have your privacy without saying “No” and meaning it. There are gentle ways to redirect people, but at the end, at the bare bones of it, you have to be good at telling people “No”. Figure out which pieces of yourself you’d like to play close to your vest before you put yourself out there. You’re more than allowed to have a private life, but you have to be willing to be firm about it.
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