Better

I’m trying to feel better. I’m trying to make my work better.

Better.

That’s a funny word.

Better is the kind of word that suggests some kind of objective measure of quality. I used to not believe in objective quality for art, and I’ve remained very much opposed to the the notion in certain regards. Somehow I have grown accustomed to thinking of my work in terms of better and worse.

There are some possible reasons for my misapprehension of this concept. For even now, I do not want to think that some work is just better than other work. Especially when writing and comparing my work to existing material of my own or someone else’s, there is simply no benefit to evaluating quality in such simplistic terms.

I think that, partly, this issue arose from a class I took in pnecil drawing back in college. I probably should never have taken it. I’m terrible at drawing and have little interest in realism as a style. I knew both those things at the time, but still I took the class.

And in that class, the professor began the semester with having us look at various pieces of work, of varying levels of abstraction. With each piece we were told to say what we thought the image represented. It turns out that pretty much all of these works were clearly identifiable as being an image of one thing. That was the professor’s point. Truly great art is not subjective.

She convinced me. And I think this may have caused some damage to my creative drive. If work is clearly one thing or another, then I extrapolated the concept to quality. That extrapolation was a mistake.

I still agree with the professor’s assessment.

However, the idea that quality is not subjective is pure shit. It’s useless, because it inhibits my ability to write what I want.

If quality is not subjective everyone would like the same stuff. Different tastes would not exist.

If the question about art is not ‘How good is this?’, but instead, ‘What is this thing?”, the anaylsis is much more helpful.

Perhaps I felt this way last week when I got critique from my writing group. One member in particular gouged practically everything about the excerpt and what was more almost all of that was baseed on a quality-level of execution. Some was concrete. Some was helpful. Even so, this session has had me in a tailspin. And I can’t afford that right now.

I have work to do. Some paid, and much more unpaid. I can’t afford to worry about one person’s unintentionally rough critique. So I’m writing this and leaving it here in an attempt to exorcise the evil thoughts I have been entertaining far too frequently of late. I want to be free of my worry. Doubt I can handle. Worry, I’d rather go somewhere far away.

Worry is a useless emotion to those of us with easy lives. More importantly, if one does not act (Or choose consciiusly not to act) on the questions one asks oneself those questions become pointless. At Fourth Street Fantasy Convention which I attended over a month ago now, there was an excellent panel on anxiety and depression.

One panelist described the depressive episode in a way that has proven very true for me.

The goal in the example was to buy something in a supermarket. You take the product off the shelf and then become paralyzed about whether you should put it back to get something else or take it to check out. In extreme depressive circumstances you might end up dropping it on the floor instead of either reasonable option. Small details become compounded by irrational concerns.

When I sit down at my computer I have a number of options of what I can work on. But too often I browse online or play a game.

I drop my purchase in the supermarket.

In some moods, every time I have to make a small decision in the process of writing I get hung up on the possibilities. And the concept of right and wrong. Nothing inhibits my productivity more than wondering if what I’m doing is right or wrong, good or bad, or any other binary question.

Belief in objective reality is part of the issue, perhaps. I think most of us want a simple world. But if we oversimplify things we only create more porblems. Perhapsd there is no way to truly ease the mind.

I live an easy life. I work a job very close to the one I’ve wanted for years.

And even now I am not satisifed. I have expectations of great things. And those expectations are as dangerous to me as fire to dry grass. Theoretically I can control those expectations, but I find it difficult.

This post is growin long, but I feel quite a bit better.

I think I’ve ranted. But I also think it may have been helpful.

Tomorrow I leave on a trip. But I’ll see about keeping up with you while I’m away.

Thank you for reading.

Tries Taken

I’m still struggling through my rut of over two years now. Time is a funny thing, and it may also be strange to call two years where I started to get paid for writing a ‘rut’. But I feel like I’m in a rut. My own fiction has been supressed a bit and is now depreessing me.

Quality still isn’t up to the level I want throughout most of my stories. That too is depressing.

I have to keep working. But I’ve gotten discouraged more than I can handle I suppose, but if I take that attitude it means at some point I am allowing myself to be discouraged. I don’t benefit from being discouraged. I need to be an enduring worker.

Through fear and doubt I have seen my confidence whittled away. I have misplaced my forward drive somewhere in the mix.

I’m frustrated. Becasue, in spite of knowing all this, I can’t seem to get free.

I can only keep trying.

Crowded

This weekend felt weird. All sorts of time got wasted, but thats normal. The weird part was that I figured some stuff out about a story. But fixing that stuff will take a long time.

I have too many secondary characters in most of my stories. My writing group came down on that issue pretty hard last time I met with them. And I think the writing group’s advice is gonna be easily enough to help me fix this across several projects.

In any case, I felt down while I worked on the issue. I suppose its time to start paring back the numbers of secondary characters, and also beef up the ones that remain as far as significance.

Have a good Monday.

Off I go!

Into the Furnace

I posted yesterday about trying to be more gentle with myself.

At the same time, I think the things that give me the most enjoyment (Reading stories and writing stories) are intense activities, especially given my proclivity for intense stories.

I think I grew used to milder pleasures at college. Now I need to learn to appreciate powerful stories again, if only so I can spend more time with them. I duck out of stories all the time. I lose the thread of books I’m writing in part because of this aversion to darker and more emotional moments.

Experiences of trauma and violence are important parts of traditional adventure storytelling at the very least. Conflict is part of all stories. And I shy away too much when reading.

Perhaps this can be related by the Seinfeld Character of George Costanza. In the show George is embarrassingly slow and socially inept. He is so awkward he can be embarrassing to watch, even though I’m not the one making the mistakes on the show.

That is one kind of intensity I’ve never been comfortable experiencing, and find oddly hard to watch. But I think there are more kinds that have become difficult for me to read.

Certain kinds of violence I find difficult to read or watch, though most gore is not a problem for me.

Most insidious is the intensity of enjoyment I feel reading and writing. It supercharges me. I pace and ponder after reading, yet I have difficulty going back to the works that inspired my excitement. Possibly I have grown used to a duller inner life than I once had. In fact, that could be part of the reason I constantly turn to others for entertainment. I used to be good at making my own games and enjoyment. Now, I flounder. I make systems, but never use them. And this is likely related to my habit to bore myself.

I enjoy some forms of boredom plenty. But I need more. And I need to attend to my own push toward excitement more often. Whether its reading or writing, things change as stories continue. I’ve often been afraid of change in the past, but now… I fear its worse than ever. And near completely irrational at the moment. I don’t hate my current lifestyle, but I have a long way I could climb to my ideal.

So I am going to mandate more completing of books read. I am going to mandate taking more mental risks where I could be emotionally sore afterward. The important thing about this great mandate is that I approach it gently. Suggest myself to keep reading a book I’m in the midst of rather than starting a new one as I so often do. If I don’t like where the books goes, I can always write my own and make a story of my own.

I’ve got nothing to lose by reading more. Nothing, except time that I’ll waste in some way.

And who knows, maybe reading more thoroughly and intensely will help me break through the wall built by my duller side.

I am off.

Have a great Friday, and enjoy the weekend.

Becoming More Gentle

I am pretty hard on myself sometimes, especially when it comes to writing.

Among other things, this can slow down my process, or paralyze me with fear.

On a recent reread of one of the later chapters of The Artist’s Way, I began to realize how harsh I can be in my own mind. I don’t need to inflict pain on myself to achieve things. In fact, self-inflicted emotional pain can slow me down. So its time to be gentler with myself.

This gentleness doesn’t mean being less critical, but I think it means having less expectation for how I should be at any moment. A clear mind can accept reality, rather than constantly trying to force an ideal existence. Existence is not ideal. I have to accept what are not precisely limitations, but rather where I am at currently. A state of being. A level of skill. An amount of endurance.

From the point of acceptance perhaps things can change. And I can change.

A Defined Goal (Post 9 of 9)

I admit I’ve been lazy for most of the time I originally aimed to work on this book. I need to get things in gear for real. But I know there are great problems in my life that need to be addressed even as I keep working on this and other projects.

I have gotten used to denying myself two of the things I most love and need to do. These things are reading, and of course writing. I think with my slowed pace of reading over the last few years I need to rehabilitate my reading habit. When I manage to read, it feels amazing. But I am, perhaps, overstimulated by my imagination when I read. I put the book down, too easily satisfied.

The same thing is true for me in writing fiction. I gotta be hungrier, more selfish, and more indulgent towards literature. I love to read and to write. I think I’ve gotten used to filling my time with activities less intense and less powerful. I still like intensity, but I think I may be afraid of change and how powerful these activities are for me. Ridiculous, I know.

Perhaps the solution is to force myself to keep going instead of giving up to intensity. The solution is to change and grow with the stories I write if thats wht it takes.

Even, no especially, the ghostwriting gigs demand more of my attention. I can learn things even from stories I did not generate whole-cloth. In fact, I must do learn, or the work is not going to benefit me enough, even considering the monetary compensation.

All this is to say, I am ending this silly sprint. I am beginning a new daily challenge. To write for more time than I listen. To read more often than I watch. Story is afoot. My ideas are running amok, and I have work to do. What am I waiting for?

It’s Wednesday. I hope everything goes well for you today. And I hope you’ll wish me the same.

Slowed and Spinning (Post 8 of ??)

Okay, I’m having a hard time getting back into the freelance project.

I should have known I’d have a hard time returning after 4 days on break. My work is important, so I’ll do it. I just don’t want it to take forever and drag down the profit margin. I’m not being paid by the hour, after all.

Anyway, that anxiety is probably part of what’s been slowing me. And I keep thinking about my own stories, my most common of afflictions.

So I’m gonna try to work out the way to return here.

Ideas
1 – Emphasize what excites me about the freelance project.
2 – Start writing and see where it goes.
3 – No timers. Work without expectation of finishing.
4 – Relax. Meditate if necessary. Focus and relax at the same time.

Those all seem like good steps, though I’m not entirely sure of the order.

It’ll work out. I tried yesterday, but distractions dominated. And my day rushed past. Not to say it was a bad day, but it was stressful because I constantly felt my own lack of focus on the work. So I think its time to rearrange those earlier parts:

1 – Relax
2 – Emphasize the exciting parts
3 – Start Writing
4 – No Timers

I’m gonna try it when I’m done here. I’ll try to remember to tell all of you how it goes.

Have a good day!