Archive for January, 2009

Writing Wramblings

January 8, 2009

Moving to the door, I thumbed off the light in the room and walked blindly down the dark hallway to my bedroom. An exaggerated yawn stretched over my features, and I blinked slowly as the fatigue saturated me. Not bothering to turn the light on, I pulled off my clothes and flopped into bed. The gravity suspensors hummed and ached, adjusting for the form and shape of my weight as I lay down. I glanced at the clock. Although I didn’t need to be into Vinny’s until the cold shift, I was supposed to be up in four hours to help with the paddock. I groaned and rolled over. Maybe I could make it up to her later.

I’m siting in a coffee shop off Hamline trying to figure out what I should blog about. The atmosphere of this place isn’t all that conducive to The Creative Process.

Its four walls also contain a low stage, at which a hunched old bluehair is currently stroking some sort of grotesque flute crafted out of a gourd.

I don’t know what he’s planning but I’m fairly certain that it’s not going to be good for anybody.

Feeling the weak and tender sprouts of creativity in me already beginning to wither, I take a few full, hot mouthfuls of the top of my espresso — one thing I’ve found is actually very conducive to the Creative Process.

The Creative Process, (known to Nobody as “The CP”) is important to me.

You see, I’ve been trying to write a book lately.

Actually I shouldn’t really use that word, “lately.” That would imply I’ve actually been working on it recently. Which I haven’t. After a little prodding I’ll admit to you that I haven’t written a single word since the first week of November.

So let’s just say I’ve been trying to write a book… before.

And to be truthful, I shouldn’t really use that word either.  Book.  It’s just not an accurate description. (And if I, as a budding young writer, cannot provide Accurate Descriptions – what then do I offer to Society At Large other than a misguided sense of Holier Than Thou and a Vague Distaste for Nightly Television?)

So let me be accurate. What I have worked on before is not a Book. Primarily due to the fact that there are more than one of them, but secondarily because what I’ve created are a number of words and paragraphs pounded hastily into more than two dozen different text files.

These files are saved in any of four different locations: a folder on my work laptop, a folder within an external hard drive (which received a number of bad reviews on and allegedly could experience a crippling hardware failure at any moment), or one of two folders within my desktop computer, both of which are thoughtlessly labeled “Writing.”

The contents of these two folders are almost identical, with just enough variation as to render confusion in which is the current working revision.  Many of these files have similar names such as “ch2.txt” and “ch2_cont.txt.” They may be direct copies of each other, or, in other cases, revisions in which a number of changes exist scatter shot within the text with no real clear characteristic of being the Newer or Improved version. Also there are two large, ragged legal pads kicked scornfully under my desk filled with slashed and crazed notes that often repeat themselves.

Listen: it’s all very complicated. The point is neither of them at this point could be accurately, (or even generously) classified as a Book. Let’s just call them Piles.

I’ve been trying to write some Piles… before.

Dear God in heaven, that squashflute Mr. Bluehair’s wheezing into sounds like a titmouse on Salvia peeping out tangled strains from Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.

Must maintain The CP! Must drink!

I awoke later to the tinny, fast-paced rhythms of Binwalli music pumping throughout the domipod. My mother would not be pleased that I had slept in and neglected my chores. She liked to turn the music up loud around this time every day if I hadn’t gotten out of bed yet. My vision was blurry and incoherent, my lids crusted thick with sleep, the oily taste of Fishtarone coating the inside of my tacky mouth.

Wandering upstairs, I deposited the remnants from the previous nights’ VR session on the counter, building a small shrine of cans, packets, and wrappers. My mother was sitting at the kitchen table in her tinwok robe, white and fluffy in the late light of the morning. A twisting finger of cinnamon-colored smoke curled its way to the ceiling from the lit end of her cigarette. I poured myself a cup of caffeine from the dispenser and sat down next across from her dumbly, still shaking the sleep away as I stared at a small puff of blue lint lounging happily within the dark hairs of my belly button.

So we’ve got two Piles, spread over three hard drives, within four folders.

And one hell of a case of Writer’s Block.

This blasted Writing! I haven’t been doing it lately. Lately I’ve been spending a fair amount of time… out. You know. Doing things. And that’s ok! There is nothing wrong with spending time out doing things.

But doing things isn’t going to write these books. Excuse me, these Piles.

Writing is not easy. It is hard. Hey listen: take it from me. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the subject! All the experts agree. Writing is hard! If one has half a mind to actually spill enough words into a pile so that it metastasizes into a book, then one must obey the following Commandment:

  • Make writing a habit, every day.

It’s a short list of To Do’s, but an effective one. You simply cannot succeed by writing only when the mood strikes. On this the experts are quite clear.

Example. Ok, you know that Dude? The one who wrote all those successful law novels about the attorneys who take on the big dogs against seemingly insurmountable odds, come up against a death threat or two, only to meet a mysterious informant who gives them the case at the end? Yeah well, that Dude went into work every day at 4am and wrote his fingers numb for three hours before work started. And now he’s rich and famous. He’s got a goddamn movie!

I forget his name. But the point stands!

Ol’ Grampa Appalachia has retired the gourd flute and now he’s playing a drum. One of my personal rules is that every time a shaking suburban shaman strikes out a shambling beat on a drum head crafted of the dried skin of the Forsaken: I have to drink.

Up late?”
Yeah a little.”
“Remember what I asked you to do today?”
Yeah, sorry. Just slept in I guess.”

She huffed a short audible breath, not believing my weak alibi. This scene had repeated itself endlessly over the last handful of months of my residency here after completing school. It was nothing new: it was all steps in a familiar dance.
“What time you have to be to work?”

I groaned. I had been working at Vinny’s for four spans now, and it had grown as stale and dry as cone crumbs shoved under the broiler. I needed a change, and badly. Lately I had been showing up for my shifts late, not caring about running hard to pull in extra flips, leaving early when I could. Even Yash’s death threats had lost some of their unique pizazz.

I need a change. I hate that job.”
Well maybe you should have thought about that before you decided to spend four galyears becoming a, what is it? Hyper Nematoad?”

She was especially snippy today. The Binwalli music chittered and chattered in the background, rapid plinking notes from the octolute sparking from the speakers in enthusiastic audio cascades. The man on the recording was shrieking some tune about a lover he had taken to bed and never seen again. I knew every word, every note in the song. I would know them even if I hadn’t heard it every single morning for the past six spans.

Hyper Mnemonics. It’s a good field Mom.”
Right. A good field. It’s just that no one knows what it’s good for.”

I’ve learned another Commandment as well. This one comes from my own personal experience.

  • Don’t feel obligated to stick to shitty first ideas.

While beginning to write my first Pile I found myself expending countless hours trying to fit this or that idea into the storyline for a character. Needlessly! It was completely and fully without Need. The idea I’d be struggling to jam into the story, desperately trying to make work, really had no business being there in the first place. It had no call or claim to privilege. It was simply the first thing I had thought of. Demetrius the Prince didn’t need his blood poisoned with the magical essence of a Cormorant so he could become the Ice Lord.  It was complete and utter shit, and had no place in the story at large.  

And when I realized I owed it to no one, not even myself, to include it… it was tossed.

That was a big step.

The shamanistic drumming has now given way to a story about mammoths. Sweet Jesus, who gave that man a microphone? Where am I? I came here for peace! I have no need for mammoths!

I took a long drag off of my caffeine. It slid hot and wet down my throat, splashing into my empty stomach, seeping into the cracks. My muscles ached.

You look like trash. You shouldn’t drink all that… that slime. You know they make that stuff out of fish eggs and squid testosterone don’t you?”
Well yeah, but it has chromium in it too. Which is, wait, that’s bad for you too right?”

The caffeine was kicking in. I drained the cup and got up to refill it.

“Anyway if you don’t like your job then you should get a new one. What about with your uncle?”
Aw geez, what, at the warp dust mine?” I scoffed. “Busting my rear, getting that stuff worked into every crease of my clothes, every wrinkle of my skin, all in my hair? No thanks. Uncle Frank smells like engine wash all the time.”
It’s not a mine. And besides, he said if you came on you could make up to twenty an hour.”

Visions of piles of cash flitted through my mind. I took another sip of my caffeine and decided to play it cool. Maybe I could by succumbing to her idea I’d buy a little leeway for the missed chores.
Hmm. You’re right. Maybe I should look into it.”
She smiled. “You’re still going to work on that foundation today.”

Writing is hard. Don’t let them fool you. It’s work. That’s another realization that was beneficial for me to stumble upon amidst the piling. Writing is Work. And because it is Work, it is made easier if one is under the influence of caffeine. Or alcohol.

I learned that from the experts too, although they didn’t state it directly. It was more an instance of Leading By Example I suppose. But there’s a balance there. If you go under the influence too much you run the risk of writing a lot of pages about nothing much at all. You also run the risk of blowing your Holier Than Thou face off with a shotgun. I don’t own a shotgun, but when I’ve really been drinking I often churn out several pages impassioned drivel about driving at night on lonesome highways. No focus whatsoever!

There’s probably some altruism there under the covers but I can’t be bothered to look for it. You see, I’ve got these Piles to organize.  I have got to focus.

But first I think I’m going to head home and cook up some bacon.