Masochism, Chess and Expertise: Part One

masochism |ˈmasəˌkizəm; ˈmaz-|
the tendency to derive pleasure from one’s own pain or humiliation.


I’m not a masochist, I’m really not.

And no, I won’t rewrite this opening even though I’m totally self-conscious about using adverbs (particularly the words “really” and “totally”) ever since I read that annoyingly judgmental Rules of Writing article this summer.

It was a compilation of guidelines from bestselling authors who can sneeze into a tissue, mail it to their agents, spend the next 3 weeks in Thailand chanting through tantric yoga instruction, only to eventually log into their bank accounts to watch the direct deposits roll in. I know: the sneezing part is an old Joyce Carol Oats joke and the assumption of fast money is pure fallacy, but I’m not cutting this paragraph either.

I’ve OD’d on instructional tweets and advice for writers. Skimming experts’ admonishments against adverbs was merely the gateway to a multitude of free e-books and newsletters about how writing my free e-book and newsletter will help me get more readers for my free e-book and newsletter.

If I were deriving pleasure from my own pain, I would be reading some such e-book or newsletter right now about how to compose a query letter or draft rejection-proof dialogue. Instead, I’m writing. Sure, there’s pain in writing, but it’s good pain, right? Wait. Where was I? Tweets . . . Pain . . . Antidote!

I’ve found a remedy for perpetually consuming the counsel whirling around our screens. Certainly, a variety of activities would work. Friends of mine swear by kickboxing and swimming at the Y. No one has admitted it to me, but plenty of writers must turn to actual masochism to take the sting off attempting to utter unique prose whilst following Five Manuscript Musts and Seven Principles to Publishing. Me? My cure is chess.

What voices online have you feeling overwhelmed?  What do you do to recover?

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