Monday, January 28, 2008

Rough Drafting It

I'm doing things a little in reverse again tonight. Doing so somehow ends up being a lot more productive, which certainly goes against some financial advice I once read: "Focus on your long term goals then work with what's left over [which includes bills and leisure]." I think the rationale behind is that people make do with what they have and adjust to their situation, so that's what they'll do with their finances.

Time management, though, I think works a little different. Depending on the situation, addressing the small things first then moving onto the bigger projects can work better. Then there's situations like at my work, where flipping back and forth between big and small projects can provide a nice balance. The small projects provide a sense of accomplishment while the big ones break up the repetition (at least, I like to think so).

But now that I've got a bunch of chores done and have, ideally, two hours until I hit the sack, I plan on writing pretty badly. Yes, I mean it, I'll write some crapping and be BSing my novel as bad as a college student writing a term paper the night before it's done. As much as I hate to do it, it has to be done.

Oddly enough, the situation kind of excites me. It makes me feel kind of like a professional writer, even if I haven't published anything in a long long time. . .and not in any publication worth its weight in copper.

In the end, simply put, what separates the successful, professional writer from the amateur who doesn't get anywhere is that successful one will force themselves to sit down and slug out a certain volume of work or work for a certain amount of time because it needs to get done.

The amateur on the other hand, will generally just work whenever they feel inspired or not force themselves to work it. Sure, there's always exceptions, but that's someone with more talent than any one person should have. Most people, even most successful writers don't have that kind of talent. They, like me, will write crap then make it nice, pretty, worthwhile and good to read through numerous rewrites that feel like they take forever to do.

Writing isn't so much so much in the writing, it's in the rewriting and revising. I don't know who said that, but it's a wise saying.

At least, I like to tell myself all the above. Maybe when I become successful, I'll say something else.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bizarro Night Thinking About Writing Workshops

Tonight, I've decided to take things in a little reverse. I've had a few sips of a homemade not so great whiskey (bourbon) sour when I should be responsible, getting stuff done fast and being responsible. Usually, I would wait to write in the blog until I've done my writing for the night. Today at work was relatively hectic and yesterday sucked, though, so why not?

Besides, I might not actually get to writing in here, at all, if I keep telling myself that I'll do it when I'm done writing, at the end of the night or over the weekend. Maybe if I involved myself in the online writing thinking scene, even just partially and a little in blogs and such, as I did about a year ago. That's when I wrote quite a bit on here.

Ahhh, well. . .such is the life of the struggling writer, I guess, who also has something of a professional career that I don't care so much about.

One thing I do care about, though, is workshopping writing. Currently, I'm interested in comparing and contrasting two strategies: getting involved in just one workshop at a time or submitting your work and editing it according to the reactions of many workshops at once.

My initial reaction to the latter strategy is that it could lead to writing by community and attempting to please everyone. I think this can become an issue for someone writing science fiction or fantasy who ends up taking part in at least one non-sci fi non-fantasy workshop. Yes, there's something interesting and cool about writing the groundbreaking genre book that catches the eyes of non-genre readers.

Nonetheless, writing for the genre has its advantages, especially when good writing for the genre attracts non-genre readers. I know ER isn't a genre TV show, but it broke ground when it first came out, it used all these "medical" terms without explaining them to the audience. It threw the audience into the action and expected them to get with the program or turn off the TV. Now look at the show. It's pretty popular and probably because it respected the audience enough not to dumb itself down.

That's pretty much my one criticism of having too much of a simultaneous audience while writing, especially in the development stage. The piece can end up go in so many directions it goes nowhere. I wonder if a writer has more of a tendency to write for the community and not to follow their own instinct when they have such a big audience.

Is that why creative artists eventually sell out once their audience gets big enough, even when they're not doing it to make the big bucks. Does their own instinct for taste change because they've become influenced by the audience?

In comparison, I can't really think of any different disadvantages for working with a single workshop that I couldn't think up for any kind of workshop. Actually, maybe I can think of two issues: easily getting into a rut because the writer doesn't get challenged enough, at least, not in enough different ways.

Then there's the issue of writers in a workshop ending up writing in a homogeneous style, too similar to each other. I guess that could be similar to entering the rut because of not getting enough challenge, though.

In the end, though, I think it comes down to the writer's instinct. Sure, a writer can gain something from criticism and "empirical research," but without the instinct to discriminate what works and doesn't work and what you think will grab the audience or not, not amount of criticism and empirical research can help. I guess depending on all that, a writer can fall into the issue of writing for everyone instead of to the people who will get the story or, in the end, writing the story for the story.

I remember reading in a social psychology book about making meaning or man's need for culture that without emotion, a person will have a difficult time making a decision. They can weigh facts forever and not make a decision, unless there's an obviously logical answer to the issue. But, even then, what makes the decision obvious? Emotion, silly, emotion. . .which, in many ways, is an instinctual aspect of ourselves.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Evangelical Pheonixes

The title really doesn't have much to do with anything except for what I've been reading lately. . .the Marvel Age of Apocalypse arc, which only just mentions a phoenix in a pretty cheesy allusion; and I've been reading about The Second Great Awakening and some of the moral parallels with the Transcendentalists, which has a lot to do with people being born again. So, yeah, the title just popped into my head.

Then again, I just experienced some inspiration that had been building up. Last week, I had to return Dr. Roy Baumeister's Meanings of Life to the library without having finished it. Not really a big issue, since I can just check it out again and resume reading it.

I've just been dealing with a backlog of frustration because I couldn't really write an outline for the last paper in my bachelors project, I've been dealing with a motivation (but not a writer's) block writing in the novel (whereas I could write four pages on a Sunday, now I'm only able to write two), annoyed with the emotional drain from work and the holidays and, frankly, fearing that I may have been falling into complacency. . .which felt extremely ironic, since I was reading a book called Meanings of Life. Sure, I can see some loss of, well. . .hope and sense of purpose. Reading about the truth of meaning in human experience essentially must lead someone who wants to know the truth to the conclusion that there's not necessarily any inherent meaning in life.

I consider myself smart, on some level, though, because I can trick myself into thinking that there's some meaning out there. Being human, though, with limited perception and knowledge, I just haven't the power to know what that meaning is. Thus, my meaning in life is gather information and knowledge and also to get people working together to develop all that information, knowledge and technology (to explore the outer and inner reaches of "space"). It just so happens, though, that I also have my immediate physical and emotional needs to distract me every once in awhile.

So while getting exhausted at work, frustrated with writing and researching, running myself thin traveling and being social and gnawing at the bit of existential angst and having had reached a useful conclusion (I even wrote it down one night with some further expansion as the beginnings of an outline) just before returning Meanings of Life and taking the final notes from a book about Brook Farm, I told myself at the end of last week that I would sit down and write an outline for the Brook Farm. I knew that I didn't have all the information I needed to make a good argument, but I had a enough to make a sketch.

I had originally intended to write that outline in a short time over the weekend, but I ended up reading the Age of Apocalypse saga and spending a whole day Saturday researching time travel and parallel universe logic, in general for literature and in the Marvel Multiverse. . .only to have to conclude, like from my research on these themes in Heroes, the story simply had some bad writing, lots of fridge logic and too much mythology to provide a good consistent logic for, after changing history, a whole bunch of characters disappear but one remains.

Or maybe I'm just not familiar enough with the Marvel Universe to make an educated opinion.

Either which way, after calming down my hyperfocusing on this tangential research and coming to a possibly false conclusion, I sat myself down to write my skeleton of an outline. I thought it would be something like 2 pages with hints of the facts I have and need (since I haven't fully integrated the information that well).

Instead, I get 4 pages of some great ideas. Most of those ideas come out in the conclusion and introduction, sure, but that's a good start, I think, especially after the uninspired dry spell that I've had for writing. Now I'm going to type up this outline, have a bit to eat, deal with some e-mails then pretty much head to bed. I've finished a good goal tonight. Sure, it's just a step and has taken awhile to reach, but I'm going to bask in my accomplishment.

Then, tomorrow, I get back to scratching away at the novel and doing research here and there for the paper. The outline doesn't have much about the how the Transcendentalists and the evangelists of The Second Great Awakening followed some of the same trends when it came to morals and the conception of man. Something tells me that bit will help to add some more color to the paper.