Tag: writer’s block (page 3 of 7)

Choose Wisely

Courtesy somethingawful.com

Dichotomies of personality are fascinating to me. Studying Jungian psychological theory and philosophy could eat up a great deal of my time and probably make my reviews of films like Dark City, Inception and even The Dark Knight more interesting. But I tend to be a lazy slacker, while wanting to do things that require intellectual effort. My own dichotomy is one I need to study and discern, because lately it’s kind of been pissing me off.

I’m a dreamer. I look up towards the stars, away from the mundanity and mediocrity of the world, and I see what could be. I envision things that haven’t been created yet. I feel urges within myself to create those things, to bring them to life. I’ve almost always got an idea on my mind, a snippet of fictional conversation or a scene of drama or flashes of action, even as I’m going about mundane tasks. I’d like to think that this little touch of insanity is what’s keeping me sane.

On the other hand, I’m a slacker. After expending energy in a day’s work, especially when it’s at a job I attend just to keep my bills paid, I want to relax, to enjoy not pushing myself, to treat or reward myself for surviving another day. I’ve already burned a lot of lean tissue over the course of the daylight hours, I tell myself. Stress just makes my already dwindling lifespan shorter, and spending more time making myself miserable is wasteful.

Nights like last night make me stop and correct myself, examine my thinking. Both writing and playing games became stressful. Granted, at one point I was trying to do both at the same time because a lot of time had already been lost in the afternoon and evening, which probably didn’t help matters. The point is this. The game ceased to be fun; it felt like a job. The writing was going nowhere; the blinking cursor of the document seemed to mock my creative impotence.

Every day is a series of choices. We choose to get up and go to work, or not. We choose to pursue what’s important to us, or put it off for another day. We choose to push ourselves to excel, or hold back for fear of the critics. We choose to reach for the stars, or just watch those who’ve already achieved orbit because our arms hurt.

I think lately I’ve been making the wrong ones, from how I spend my time to how I view my projects. Last night was bad. Today should be better, but only if I choose wisely.

The Epic Is In The Details

Courtesy Scott Pilgrim vs The World

It’s amazing how moving something small can make a huge difference.

We’ve been in the process of rearranging our apartment. The latest change saw a large stack of things by the lower corner of the bed, meaning I’d have to crawl out of it in a somewhat awkward manner. Over the weekend (Sunday night in fact) we moved things again, and I took it upon myself to shift that stack a bit, resulting in a much easier way for me to get up and about first thing in the morning.

I woke this morning with more energy and determination. All because I moved a couple boxes.

It’s hard to say how things will turn out when you start rearranging things, cleaning them up, putting them in a different order. The same thing could be said about writing, especially the revision process. Move a couple of words, put sentences in a different order, and hey presto, something that was just a brain-dump of information becomes taut and dramatic. Clean up a few things, and a mess becomes a masterpiece. It can even cure that thing we used to call ‘writer’s block’ before some sagely men in manly beards told us writer’s block is a crock.

Has this happened to you before? What are some good examples? Do you have particular days when you clean things up, be it around the house or in your writing?

On Lethargy

Epix took this.

This is Lazy Seal. My wife loves Lazy Seal. The entire time we were at Mystic Aquarium this past weekend, that seal didn’t move. It lay on that rock, sunning itself, near cool water if it wanted a swim. It knows a human will be coming around eventually to feed it fish. It doesn’t have to hunt or defend its territory. That seal’s got it made.

There are days when we, as humans, feel like Lazy Seal. The humidity goes into triple digits, the temperature skyrockets, oil falls from the sky to kill the wildlife and we question the relevance of our actions. We do this mostly by being unmotivated to do anything significant. We play games. We look for amusements on the Internet. We sit, we sweat, we suffer from lethargy.

Unfortunately, unlike Lazy Seal, we don’t have it made. (Not all of us do, anyway) We have to work. We have to do something to make money. Bill collectors, landlords and creditors are unsympathetic towards lethargy. So, we need to fight it. We need to get off the couch, peel ourselves away from the leather office chair that faces our monitors, and go out to do something.

This is something I could use help with, folks. I’ve been feeling rather lethargic lately. How do you fight it? What sort of diet keeps the lazy seal feeling at bay? Should I be working out more? Lay some knowledge on me.

The Home Stretch

Courtesy Corner Balance

Maybe it’s just me, as I amble towards the end of my current project, doing my utmost to follow my own tenth rule of writing fiction. There’s something that I’ve noticed over the past week. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting into ‘conference’ mode, or maybe this is a side effect of continuing to get everything squared away with the new flat.

The impression I get, however, is that the sooner we get to that finish line, the more things crop up to grab us by the ankles and trip us up before we cross it. Like hitting the wall only with the goal in site.

I mentioned this last week but I might have given the impression that I see a large portion of the entertainment industry through a somewhat cynical lens. I occasionally have to remind myself that the same industry that produces The Human Centipede or Jumper also produces Schindler’s List and District 9. For every Twilight, there’s A Song of Ice and Fire. You might hear a bit of Nickleback on the radio, but there’s bound to be a little Muse right around the corner. I guess what I’m driving at is that I don’t hate the industry, and it’s unfair of me to paint it with a broad brush.

But there is mediocrity out there. There’s the kind of thinking that would have you subscribe to the notion that it’s okay just to get by. That being amazing is just wrapping up another client’s project, and exemplary work is the kind that brings in more business that’ll help maintain the Audi’s suspension for another six months. That’s the kind of thing I want to get away from. And as I get a bit closer to finishing a manuscript that feels like it’s got something behind it other than my hot air and swollen ego, a bit of fiction with a brain in its head and some characters that actually have a touch of depth to them, I can almost feel that mediocrity creeping up on me, trying to smother my enthusiasm and remind me that my place is not to shine among the stars but to look up at them and dream as I remain mired in the mud down in the foundations of somebody else’s palace.

It’s like spraining a toe in the last 5 meters of a 100 meter dash. Taking the last turn a bit too wide on a Formula 1 track. Being down at least one goal as the clock hits 90 minutes and there’s not a lot of stoppage time. The well-educated, reasonable, lazy, McDonalds-eating thing to do is stop. Quit. You’ve done a great deal, but now you’re just hurting yourself and you should be content in making a good effort. Pat yourself on the back, treat yourself to a rest, you’ve earned it.

Am I just beating a dead horse, here? Am I saying anything new? I’m not just talking about this post, either. What possible difference can my work make? Do I really have a shot at producing anything interesting, anything worth reading?

I’m certainly not going to find out if I quit.

This is the home stretch. The checkered flag is in sight. A few more steps, painful as they might be, and I’ll cross that finish line. And yes, my performance will get picked apart in post. There’ll be slow-motion replay of every little mistake. People with a lot more experience than me will be all too happy to point out what I could do better, what they’d have done differently and might even tell me that I should have quit long ago.

I know this is coming. I know it might not be comfortable for me, that it will feel like I’ve just caught my breath only to have somebody punch me in the gut. But I accept this. I have to. I need to be aware of the fact that what I’ve done is imperfect, that it needs help, that it’s a lump of carbon deep in the darkness of my imagination and to truly shine it needs to be placed under pressure from a lot of outside forces. It’s frightening, on a fundamental level, and potentially painful, which might be why the last couple of days have seen me putting very few words of any significance down.

I’m girding my loins. I’m seeing the Wave coming and I’m ready to catch it. I hope some of you will come along for the ride, even if it’s just to tell me how much I suck.

I’m not quitting. I’m pounding out those last 5 meters. I’m making that last turn. I’m staying ahead of the defenders and waiting to get that pass that’ll let me slip one past the keeper. And for right now, I’m done making lousy metaphors.

It would be a hell of a waste of a writer’s conference if I didn’t do any writing, after all.


From the Matrix

No, silly, not those agents.

It’s been been over a year since I discussed The Fine Art of Selling Yourself. Other than being almost done with a novel that, while imperfect, might actually have a shot of getting some ink, very little has changed for me. I still think pitches should be simple, agents should be approached with confidence and that no amount of rejection should stop you (or me) from trying to hook one.

But there’s something else. Something I nearly forgot in the rush to finish the aforementioned manuscript.

Have something solid.

It’s very, very rare for a project in any sort of media to get picked up on pitch alone. Unless you know someone in the business, have perfect timing, and possess a supernatural awareness of what’s going to sell to a lucrative demographic, you might as well be throwing darts at a dart board. But a solid work? Something that’s been revised, edited and polished? That’s like approaching the same dart board with a shotgun.

That’s why I took the pressure of off myself to finish before the weekend. I might finish at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, in addition to attending workshops and Tweeting to make sure all of my literary friends know what the place has to offer, but I realize just how bad of a first impression it’d be for me to run into a face-to-face with an agent, out of breath but happy to have a finished work to pitch. The last thing you want from someone you might be working with is to meet them when they sweat all over your shirt.

So I’m not going to embarrass myself – any more than I do normally, shut up. Clean clothes, nice hat, fresh battery in the pocket watch, business cards. I’ll meet people, network, get people interested. If I do approach an agent, it’d be to pick their brain, see how my genre is doing and what the demand is. Maybe a quick ‘elevator’ pitch as to what Citizen in the Wilds is all about, why it might sell and to whom it’d appeal. Maybe.

But I won’t be looking for an agent in earnest until Citizen is trimmed and pruned, which might be a while.

Speaking of, however, if anybody here has been using Google Wave for their project in terms of getting collaborative feedback, can you give me any tips on how to get started? I’m thinking once I get people on board, it’ll be best to release one chapter at a time, get it fixed up, and then move on.

Finally, if I do go that route, would anybody like to help tear my writing a structurally superfluous new behind? I’ll start a list. Then when the last word’s been banged out, I’ll start dangling nice meaty chops of potential fantasy-flavored fail for your minds to nom on.

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