How the Grinch Got His Shit Together

(image courtesy of DeviantArt user TheChairmanofAwesome)
Poem by Andrew Elsass and (mostly) Dr. Seuss

Every person down in Presentville liked their lives a lot…
But the Grinch, who lived north in High Horse, did not.
The Grinch hated the Presents, and found something to bitch about every season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one knows quite the reason.

It could be he always thought things would be better next year.
It could be perhaps, that his mind was just full of fear.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his consciousness was two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason for him always being snappy,
He sat there on social media, hating those who were happy.
Staring on from his screen with a sour, Grinchy frown,
He felt jealous of his ‘friends’ living ‘perfect’ lives out on the town.

For he knew that every person he followed,
Was living a more exciting life while he sat and wallowed.
“And they’re getting married and having kids!” he snarled with a sneer,
“It’s like we’ve reached adulthood! It’s practically here!”

Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to get this happiness to me forthcoming!”
It was an obsessive thought, this he knew,
But an easy life full of wealth he felt he was entitled to.

But then! Oh, the thoughts! Oh, the thoughts!
Thoughts! Thoughts! Thoughts!
That’s one thing he hated in his mind! All the THOUGHTS!
THOUGHTS! THOUGHTS! THOUGHTS!

Then the Presents, he would see, would post and hashtag!
And they’d hashtag! And they’d hashtag! And they’d HASHTAG!
HASHTAG! HASHTAG! HASHTAG!
They would hashtag about what they were grateful for, and hashtag about their dreams,
Which was something that made the Grinch want to scream!

And THEN they’d do something he liked least of all!
Every person down in Presentville, the tall and the small,
Would assemble at bars where the jukebox would be blaring,
They’d stand in circles, snapping pictures they’d start sharing!

They’d share on Facebook! And they’d share on Instragram! And they’d SHARE! SHARE! SHARE! SHARE!

And the more the Grinch saw of all this happy sharing,
The more the Grinch thought, “How is my life comparing?”
“Why, for 24 years I’ve put up with it now!”
“That’s it, I must finally arrive! But HOW?

Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
THE GRINCH GOT A NARCISSTIC, AWFUL IDEA!
“I know just what I’ll do!” the Grinch laughed, creating a Tinder account,
Dreaming of the stories he’d have and his incoming match amounts.

And he chuckled and clucked, “What a great Grinchy trick!”
“With some fresh pictures of me, I’ll get all the hot chicks!”
“All I need is a name brand on myself…” The Grinch looked around,
But since he was still hourly, there were none to be found.

Did that stop the old Grinch? No! The Grinch simply said,
“If I can’t find any cash, I’ll put it on credit instead!”
Because no matter the angle he stood at in front of the mirror,
None of the filters could make his clothes fresher or his skin clearer.

So he put on the best outfit he had and hopped in his ride,
A 2003 Civic with fat rims on each side.
Then the Grinch said, “Swerve!” and his car started up,
Toward town shooting fat bass sounds from his sub.

Everyone was talking at coffee shops and bars like noisy larks,
All the Present people were talking together, generating sparks.
No one discussed office drama or feeling overworked,
No one discussed Kim Kardashian’s ass or Miley Cyrus’ twerk.

“This is stop number one,” the young Grinch said,
And he walked into the store, full of swagger from his toes to his head.
Few people’s heads turned, but the cute barista was at the counter,
The Grinch thought, “I’ll finally get her number, and shut up all the doubters.”

He stalled a few times, for a minute or two,
Checking his phone for inspiration and to see what was new.
Then the moment had passed and she went off duty anyway,
“Just as well,” he thought, “she’s not skinny enough to be my bae!”

Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most loathsome,
Collecting the right goods so he’d no longer be lonesome.
Boots! And watches! Raw denim! Peacoats!
Tweed pants! Wool socks! Wayfarers! Shoes for boats!

Then the Grinch and his new debt put on each item,
And began to snap some selfies, adding Sutro, Inkwell, Walden.
Then he uploaded them to see whose eyes he could catch,
Along with the perfect bio, “Hit me up, just looking for some snatch!”

But hours later his confidence came crashing down quick as a flash,
Why that Grinch actually thought all these clothes would get him some ass!
With only two matches from bots, he deleted everything faster than you’d believe,
“I really wish,” sighed the Grinch, “I would have kept the receipts!”

And the Grinch beat himself up, and started home disgraced,
When he bumped into someone, looked up, and a saw a familiar face.
She was 5’5″, had nice lips, and blue-green eyes!
Little Jamie Clark, an old classmate from whom he once borrowed school supplies.

The Grinch had always had a crush on this tiny Present girl,
But never had the guts to give it a whirl.
She smiled at the Grinch and said, “Hi! I remember you!”
“What are you up to these days, is anything new?”

Nothing was, but that Grinch thought he was so smart and so slick,
He thought up some lies, and he thought them up quick!
“Why, my old friend,” the Grinch tried to be debonair,
“Life has been amazing, it can’t really compare.”

“I make close to six-figures, I guess I’ll declare,”
“With vacation, full benefits, and even dental care.”
And his fib bored the girl, “That’s nice,” she said,
“It was good seeing you,” and as she left the Grinch felt misled.

While some of what he said was a lie,
It was still a fact that he was looking extra fly!
Defeated, all he wanted to do was go home and get high,
But he didn’t even know anyone to buy from, he had no guy.

Trying to do what they say and count his blessings in life,
His mind just kept looping back toward how to bag a wife.
Wanting answers, the Grinch stayed up all night,
Switching between looking at addiction and inspiration, between dark and light.

And when he finally tried to call it a night and lie down,
He received a text from his old pal named Sal! He was here, back in town!
He wanted to hang! And catch up! And go downtown!
7 o clock that next night! At the back bar of Fox and Hound!

Like was habit, when they met the Grinch began mindlessly gossiping,
Not noticing his friend’s disapproval and that he had been blossoming:
“I am glad you say you are doing well, but I can see it in your eyes,”
“You feel like something is missing, and covering it up with lies.”

“That’s bullshit,” scoffed the Grinch, “that I simply don’t need to hear!”
And with shifty eyes he anxiously sipped on his beer.
The conversation tempered and changed subjects, and then his friend had to go,
And then a sadness in the Grinch emerged—it started in small. Then it started to grow.

But this feeling wasn’t making sense! He did everything he was supposed to do!
Frustrated, he ordered another round of Bud Heavy, in fact, make it two!
Perhaps maybe he could have gotten a little more swole and a little more fit,
Or perhaps…maybe everything he thought he knew was complete bullshit.

And the Grinch, walking home with his Grinch-sneaks cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How the hell could his be so?”
“But I had the threads! I had all the swag!”
“I got my jeans to have just the right amount of sag!”

And he refreshed for three hours, til his refresher was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe happiness,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a kind of social score.”
“Maybe happiness…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

And what happened then? Well…in Presentville they say,
That the Grinch’s small consciousness grew three sizes that day!
And the minute he started appreciating what he had right then,
He started to the view the world through a whole new lens.

So he took back the clothes and ignored his accounts,
And he himself, the Grinch! Began to take on the world, scorning his self-doubt.

A Confidence Carol: One Year Later

A year ago today, I released my second ebook, A Confidence Carol, on Amazon. Amongst fanfare limited to mostly friends and social media (although this tweet still makes my life), the book quietly rose to the 12,298 spot on Amazon’s sales rankings before purchases sputtered and ACC became exiled to the isle of misfit ebooks (or, where most ebooks live).

While I am still patiently waiting for the phone call about the movie rights, from start to finish I still consider the project one of the most fulfilling and rewarding things I have ever done. And of course the experience didn’t come without a takeaway or two about book writing, amongst other things:

1. Hire An Editor

Truthfully, as I was writing the first draft, I wasn’t quite sure if I would actually need to hire an editor or not. I mean, I wrote and edited HTGAJISPR just fine by myself and amazingly sold 20 copies. “Why would this be any different?” I thought.

And then I gave the manuscript to my editor for a free trial hour of editing.

When I received the first 10 redlined pages back from Marilyn, my wonderful editor, she had already uncovered major plot holes, character inconsistencies, and grammar problems that I probably would have otherwise overlooked. While some of my cultural references went over her head or just otherwise confused her, without her polish I never would have felt comfortable enough to…

2. Share With Friends

I can only speak to writing, but I imagine this applies to all forms of art. Sharing your shit is freaky. Never mind that it is an open invitation for criticism; moreso I just felt pretty damn selfish asking six friends to not only read 30,000 words of unknown quality, but to then give me their honest feedback and opinions, no matter how harsh it seemed. And you know what? They were more than happy to do it, and it helped me more than I could begin to express.

My favorite comment (compliment?) came from my friend and reviewer, Dana (who told my brother who told me): “You know, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but this is actually pretty good.” While ebook reviewers can sometimes be soul-crushingly blunt, friends being blunt with you provides value that no anonymous reader can ever give.

3. Fruition

On February 14, 2013, I went to the Starbucks next to my apartment to write the initial plot outline and character descriptions for ACC. Almost exactly 10 months later, I took a day off work to camp out in a Starbucks on the other side of town, solely so I could publish the book and compulsively check sales without having to feign doing work at my office job.

And I have never told anyone this—but in the few weeks leading up to release day, I slacked off. Bad. I let myself become distracted with some other things going on in my life, and the flame for my little-big project—my baby, if you will—dwindled, and I almost feel apologetic for not sticking around with it until the very end. I let up, and in a way I feel like I let it (and myself) down. ACC required a seasonal release given its subject matter and source material, but for future projects (if possible) I plan on getting much more of the legwork done long before even thinking about a release date.

It was nothing with the story itself but more finer details, such the formatting and layout within the .ePub file that would have made the whole thing slightly more professional looking. Which is especially disappointing considering I refused to settle on other aspects, like the cover, which went through many revisions:

Cover 1cover_skyline_window cover_skyline_blue copy
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, the story became what I envisioned it to be, but those few weeks leading up to the release left a sour taste in my mouth that I hope to never experience again. However, that all taught me another lesson…

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Outsource

Sure, there is nobility in DIY and all that I guess, but I’ll be damned if I ever code another ebook again. The plan for the next book is do print-on-demand or just go the traditional publishing route, but I have made a promise blood pact to myself that if I do ever write another ebook, I am hiring out for the coding work.

Another thing I plan to outsource is the marketing. The promotion I did do was limited, partly from a lack of time due to working on everything else involved with the book, partly because of those aforementioned distractions, but a main reason is just because I am…me.

Yes, every job and every freekin’ thing you do in life is “sales” in some manner of speaking. However, this is not a strong suit of mine, nor something I think I will ever enjoy. I don’t think I’ll have any qualms in the future about having someone else do this particular part of the trade that makes me feel irrationally dirty. I did some teaser posts on my blog and social media, and gave away the first chapter for free, but beyond that…not much else. I am starting to feel like the ebook “bubble” has burst anyway, unless you are a great series writer and/or a marketing genius (this is probably a limiting belief somewhat, but others have made this observation, too).

5. A Strange Kind of Love

The project and all it entailed—the 6AM wakeups (a habit that has stuck), the late nights at coffee shops, the compulsive email-checking for messages from my editor—was only something I could describe as a weird kind of…love. Not romantic love of course, but love of some variety nonetheless. I rose early with the project, went to sleep with it on my mind, and saw all of its ugly flaws and appreciated it anyway.

And when I finally let it go, I experienced some sort of weird postartum depression I had often read about but never experienced myself. During the winter I typically feel a little down as it is, and while I enjoyed the relief that came with finally setting free this project that was frankly, a pain-in-the-ass at times, there was still a small void in me that never really started to fill again until recently, when I started writing the next book.

6. Free That Idea

They say everyone has a book in them and/or one million dollar idea. I don’t know if either is true, but I do know just about everyone has that idea in them. That one idea, whether it’s a book or a screenplay or a Rube Goldberg concept that won’t leave them alone, that pops into consciousness at the weirdest times, continually, for months and even years.

I’m trying to do less rah-rah motivational writing than I was prone to in the past—frankly I think that shit is overrated and I am a subscriber to this lifehack more than anything else these days—but if you have one of those ideas…it’s worth it. Even if you have no idea how the hell you’ll accomplish it or if there’s no clear ‘point’ to it…just do one small thing toward it every day. You will thank yourself later.

I look back on A Confidence Carol—something that just popped into my head one night as I was going to bed—and I feel an unparalleled sense of fulfillment and…relief, knowing that I put that particular idea that I would probably still otherwise be thinking about, to rest.

And the thing is, setting free just one of those ideas makes every idea that follows seem more and more realistic.

The Idea Honeymoon

“People don’t have a good intuitive sense of how to weigh new information in light of what they already know. They tend to overrate it.”

–Nate Silver

We’ve all experienced it.

A new set of information is learned and  all we viewed as indisputable fact is turned on its head. Our brains feel expanded; our minds enlightened. Suddenly, everything gets molded to fit into our new paradigm.

This is the Idea Honeymoon

I can’t remember where I first heard the term, but I could instantly relate to the phenomenon being described.

When I was 22, I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan, The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, and Born to Run by Christopher McDougall over the course of a few months, undoubtedly making me the most self-righteous kid on the block.

Briefly, the basic idea of all four is applying an evolutionary framework to things humans have done for thousands of years (e.g., eating and running), then pin-pointing when society started to do things vastly different (1950s for eating; 1970s for footwear/running). The conclusion of these books and schools of thought is that it’s generally healthier if we do things as we did prior to the last 50-60 years.

I still consider these books to be among the most influential I have ever read. And while I do think more of society’s common maladies are related to poor diet than most might give credit for, eating or exercising ‘improperly’ became the root of all problems in my mind.

Never mind if someone was complaining about a legitimate health issue that was beyond my understanding (or actually did have nothing to do with food), whatever it was I had no doubt it was because they weren’t eating the same way I was. Because if I saw all these benefits from eating this and not that, then these ideas must be universally applicable and give the same exact results to everyone, regardless of their genetics or medical history.

I was on my own personal honeymoon with this new knowledge, and basically a zealot. I spread (or at least attempted to) this new and exciting information to anyone that would listen.

As usually happens, this fire eventually mellowed out. Even though I still apply most of the same basic ideas from those books to my daily eating habits, they’ve become like any other personal belief of mine; something spoken about only when explicitly asked.

Despite being a regular reader and general information junkie, my idea honeymoons are fewer and further in between than they were even a few years ago. I chalk this up to age and (possibly) a maturity thing; observing this phenomenon in others, I see that older people are (generally) able look at new information more objectively and not become blindly consumed by it.

Parallels can be made to the honeymoon period of a new relationship. Everything is exciting and wonderfully anew in the beginning, likely altering or even enhancing how we view the world in certain ways. If the relationship lasts, that flame eventually gives way to something more grounded and solid. This is probably the reason old couples don’t brag about or advertise their relationship the way young ones are prone to do.

The same idea can be said for new passions or ‘kicks’. How many times have you thought you’ve discovered ‘it’; what you were going to devote the rest of your life to doing, only to have your interest wane and fizzle a few months later?

Just in my twenties thus far I have been absolutely convinced that I was put on this earth to become a CrossFit trainer, life coach, sports information director, and brewpub manager, to name a few. I am grateful I went through all of these infatuations, as I have always viewed figuring out what I like most as a process of elimination.

And again, like dating, honeymoon periods are necessary (for many) to find that true, grounded love.

Figuring out what to do for the rest of your life is another post entirely, and probably not something I am even qualified to speak on. But throughout all of those professional interests, my love of writing was the one constant. I think this is how I knew, and how I still know that it’s what I need to pursue most.

But it’s always felt like a different kind of love—whereas the others were hot and all-consuming flames that I think deep down (at least in retrospect) I knew might not go the distance, I knew that writing would always be there in my corner, ready for me whenever I decided to settle down. I knew it wasn’t going anywhere, and it didn’t even mind that I went and played the field for a while.

A life of writing for me has more than lasted the idea honeymoon; you could even say we just had our silver anniversary together.

What have you had (possibly annoying) idea honeymoons with?

Open for Business: Elsass Editing

Over the past year I have taken on a great deal of copy editing work, both inside and outside of my office job, and discovered it’s something that I have a knack for and also really enjoy doing.

So much in fact, that I considered this a green light to myself for launching my first ‘real’ business venture: Elsass Editing.

While I have made some money off of my books, this kind of freelance work is refreshingly enjoyable, as the interaction with customers is much more personal. The feedback is immediate and I get to plainly hear what my clients like and what I can do better.

I of course love writing and will do so until the day I die, but I recently had the epiphany that I more enjoy contributing to others’ successes as opposed to being in the limelight for myself. In youth soccer, defense was my position of choice, I played a low brass instrument in band, and now, I take pride in improving other people’s writing.

Taking someone’s draft and getting to mold it into something they are proud to turn in or show off gives me the best feeling in the world, and I genuinely love doing it. I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me, as I was the kid in college that would volunteer to look at my roommate’s essays.

Currently my focus is going to be on articles, blog posts, research papers, resumes, and cover letters. My skills as a practiced researcher are also for hire. And for now, the first thirty minutes of work on any kind of project will be absolutely free, just to make sure my input is deemed helpful.

In addition to my corporate experience with the craft, I am also currently completing the Poynter University/American Society of Copy Editors Certificate in Editing.

I have also done a few odd copy writing jobs, which have also been great experiences and something I might take on more of in the future, but for now my focus is going to be on growing the editing side of the business. Eventually I will probably brand Elsass Editing into its own thing outside of this site, but for now it will all live on the landing page here.

So if you or anyone you know needs something they’ve written polished up, pass my name along–the family and friends discount is considerable.

My Favorite Word

Every writer has to have to have one, right?

My favorite word in the English language is esoteric. Enlighten us, Webster:

es•o•ter•ic (esəˈterik): designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone

requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group; limited to a small circle 

I first read this word (or at least wondered what it meant) on a trip down the YouTube rabbit hole several years ago. For some reason, I ended up looking at covers of “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind, a 90s classic and karaoke favorite of mine.

I stumbled across a clip of a group of friends in a darkened living room all standing in a huddle, jumping, singing, and completely losing themselves in the song. For whatever reason, I was moved enough to leave a comment, probably just something along the lines of “that looked like a ton of fun”.

The video’s uploader replied a few days later saying, “Thanks- it was a very esoteric moment for all of us :)”

I don’t know if the video was documenting a group of friends after high school graduation, a college spring break trip, or a home-for-the-holidays reunion, but after looking up “esoteric” it was clear this was the perfect word to describe their moment.

The clip has since been taken down, but the video and the word have stuck with me. As I write more and more, I have realized that it has always been my goal (whether conscious or not) to write things that have a kind of esoteric appeal. Things that people in my generation will relate with, things they possibly thought only they experienced.

Despite how much research I do, I will never be able to fully describe what it was like to live through American prohibition, San Francisco in the 60s, or the London punk scene in the 1970s as well someone who was there.

However, I can describe in great detail what it was like to grow up with the internet, the energy of a mid-2000s underground pop punk show, and the enjoyment of a night drive with your best friends through a sea of developing suburbs.

While some of those may (currently) not be the most glamorized tropes in pop culture, when they are described correctly, they are no less meaningful to those who were there. And if written well enough, they can become almost as meaningful to someone who wasn’t.

Inside jokes, the funny memories and one-liners that will forever be tied to a particular friend, the songs that are anchored to a specific time in your life. . .all esoteric experiences, unique to the select few who were around. To me, the best art bridges this esotericism and makes the reader feel like they were there in that moment, even when they weren’t.

Ever try enthusiastically describing a special moment to someone not involved, only to find that they aren’t even remotely as amused or interested as you are? What do you say to save face?

“You just had to be there.”

What is your favorite word, and why?