January 15th 2018

My birthday is in 4 days.

I guess you could say I’m not content to turn 28, despite what some people have told me about my accomplishments thus far.

Someone once said to cherish every step of your creative journey.

The Buddha compared the the life of a human to a river.

Whether by climbing or by current, life keeps moving and changing.

Let me tell you something I’ve discovered about myself in relation to something that once obsessed me. In fact, I tend to discover this eventually about everything that obsesses me eventually.

Let me tell you, I tend to realize, after far too much investment of time and energy into an activity, that the premise I approached the actions I took under was completely false.

It happened to me with tabletop war games like Warhammer 40,000. I played for years, invested a good chunk of my limited time and resources. I figured out how broken the game was after years spent on it.

The digital card game Hearthstone recently met this realization. I haven’t played it since.

One addiction. Yes, I might call these addictions, I desperately need to kick is my old habit of listening to advice shows by other writers. Mostly these take the form of podcasts, and I have been listening to them religiously for over 14 years.

While I have removed the ones I feel are most egregious from my diet, I know (And my brother has often told me) they aren’t worth hanging onto.

Over fourteen years of listening, the advice podcasts, even when they don’t sound repetitive, often simply make me feel uncertain about what I already learned. I’ve kept searching for some means of ‘fixing’ my writing, my style, my characterization… The list goes on, but I won’t bore you with that.

I’ve been realizing, and I use the word ‘realizing’ because I think I already knew this on some level, the amount of pain that comes from rejecting what you love in favor of what someone else has told you is necessary to be loved.

While there are characters in fiction I enjoy reading about, I’m ready to disagree with the idea that only people matter to readers.

I’m a reader, and knowledge of these characters often does not appeal to me as much as the worlds they live in.

While I can rail against stories and their tellers for not abiding by doctrine of character and conflict, I’ve always been a liar when I did. Self-hating world-builder. Self-loathing designer.

I’m not an actor, not a performer when it comes to wearing the minds of my characters.

I want to write what I love.

When I was an English Major I tried to write a book that would please both me and my professors. Foolishness, for sure, I see clearly in hindsight. However, just last year I tried writing books for snobby writers, people who ‘know’ the rules of storytelling. Doubly foolish I’ve been.

Eventually only one piece of writing advice remains for me to follow if I want increase my joy in what I do.

I must write. I must write what I love.

Analysis.

Structure.

Sympathetic and well-developed characters.

None of these things are the vital component of my process.

The only piece of advice left is that most simultaneously transcendent and trite truism: Just write.

It pains me to add just after writing the previous line, even this advice could use some revision.

Or perhaps that is not the kernel of truth.

It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, or what any writer does. Someone is going to hate my work, their work, your work.

Someone already does.

I’ve met other writers eager to tear each other down. In fact, I believe most of us enter that stage, but not all get out of it.

Be wary of advice. Even this advice.

Doubt every fragment of advice, even the oldest one.

Don’t JUST write.

Bye.

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Nanocast and Writing Advice

Lately, I’ve been listening to J. Daniel Sawyer’s nanocast over at nanowrimoeverymonth and I’ve even sent in a few questions, as questions are what sustain this podcast and I have a bunch of respect for Sawyer’s opinion despite not having read much of his work.

That’s kinda what this post is about because writing advice is a tricky thing both to give and to take.

See, a lot of writing advice sounds absolute, so the first piece of writing advice every writer should know is something a lot of people have impressed on me over the years: No ‘rules’ are absolute. What works for you, works for you.

I like that bit of advice because it puts the power in the hands of each writer as an individual. It is up to each of us to make the decisions and the discoveries of what works for us. I consider the above advice the ONLY indispensable piece of advice, but (At risk of getting WAY too meta) it is possible some writers will do just amazingly by taking advice as absolutes.

Don’t know if I’ll ever meet one of those people, but I’m open to the possibility they exist.

This advice about advice is almost to studying writers as Ganesha is to Hindus who believe in many gods. I remember learning that Ganesha is the gatekeeper of the gods in Hinduism, so one always prays to this elephant-headed son of Shiva before addressing any other gods. Boy, that was a tangent, but I kinda like it.

Anyway. Always consider what works for you. Try new things, but don’t forget that no technique, rule, or guideline is absolute. Different stuff works for different goals and different people.

I’m writing super well today. Getting caught up on this chapter of Tenlyres.

Anyway, I hope you are all well.

Thanks for reading.

Introspective Post #372

Happy 4th of July! I’m blogging today, because I decided to work in spite of the holiday, and then found myself roadblocked. I know I’m unlikely to get a whole lot of feedback or even views on this one because of the day I’m posting, but thats just like normal writing so I’m going to see how it works out.

You see, I am currently theorizing that my roadblock may be from the lack of feedback I receive on the text I produce.

When I write a blog post like this, I normally enjoy more immediate feedback than any of the fiction I churn out. In fact, I receive almost zero immediate feedback on anything I write, and as I am yet unpublished I find the solitude and obscurity discouraging. I’m trying to think of a way to solve this issue without resorting to alpha readers I may or may not be able to reach often enough.

But I suppose that question may lead to a different one: “Why am I striving so hard to live up to standards of others either real but subjective, or completely imaginary?” Or: “Why do I put so much pressure on myself to produce a lot of words, or high quality words, or whatever?

Finding a good answer to the first one is tricky.

The next one, however, has a very glib line I’ve been using over the past two years: “It’s my job.”

But is it? Is it really?

I don’t want to be a freelancer anymore. I want to tell my own stories. But even so, writing is not my job. It pays zero bills. It attracts zero input from others. I hardly even submit to publishers or agents. I am a writer. But writing is not my job.

Many writers tell new writers to ‘treat writing like a job’ but I have been trying to do that, and I’ve found it simply depressing. I’ve also experienced a dramatic drop-off in writing rate, coinciding with my discovery of the writing excuses podcast and delving into the approach from the more systematic approach Brandon Sanderson uses. I don’t blame Sanderson mind you. He’s a good writer and probably a decent teacher.

But every writer has their own approach to the craft.

I don’t write like Sanderson, who is a slow and steady grinder when it comes to prose production, as well as very systems-focused as a storyteller.

Even if I wasn’t so wildly different in temperament, worldview, and age from someone like him (or pretty much any of the other podcasters I’ve listened to on these writing shows), I need to pursue this art through my projects, and my goals through my own way.

I’m heavily addicted to listening to writing advice. I should probably stop listening to it altogether, but I doubt I will. So I shall work to limit the amount I pay attention to the advice that gets crammed into my head.

This post is pretty long. Happy 4th of July, once again. I’m out. For now.

Creative versus Showy, Classic versus Commercial

Here’s an analogy to start us off: When I was in alternative school I played a lot of chess with the other students. At the time I was actually pretty good, and thus I was the de facto master for my time there. At one point a few of the others would try t make nice-looking formations of pieces that didn’t serve a purpose in winning the game. In some cases their moves would end up costing them the game.

Showiness can be like the use of these intricate yet largely pointless movements. Though often less innocent, it is usually as inefficient. A utilitarian approach is often effective in a way that isn’t particularly pretty. I think this is even true in art much of the time.

In fiction I’d equate showiness with overconfidence (in essence every writer who has an overly complex plan for story or structure of a piece), but also with a lack of confidence.

In my case I’ve suffered from both at different times. In my overconfident phases I’ve been guilty of thinking every trick of the setting or involvement between character and theme is golden. My second novel ever was a great victim of this, in particular. I had set out with an elaborate mystery and a relatively complex but broken family relationship. But it all made no sense because I couldn’t deliver on the characters, the primary workhorses of the story. This was almost all born from overconfidence, and a desire to be fantasy’s new Earnest Hemingway and therefore seeing no need to explain enough of the story. Hemingway got away with minimalism, but it isn’t right for every writer or even every story of a given writer.

As far a lack of confidence, this will often lead to hammering the reader on the head with an idea or theme so as to keep the story firmly in their mind. I don’t think I’ve swung as far this way as I have toward overconfidence at any point, but one good example from published fiction of someone who comes close is Khaled Hosseini’s novel, the Kite Runner. The book makes its themes clear with the force and subtlety of a runaway train, often reiterating parallels explicitly. In this case it doesn’t ruin the book, but in fact, renders it more accessible (a generally positive trait). The issue of going so far is that the writer risks making the book trivial to more skilled and experienced readers. While that’s hardly a concern from a commercial standpoint, it does make the book less rereadable, less classic.

As I may have mentioned here before, I was once accused of wanting to a write a classic. I didn’t say it at the time, but my reply really should have been: “So what?” Shouldn’t all writers aspire to something greater than they are at the time? Especially when unpublished I find that my striving for greater heights becoming a target criticism baffling. In context it seems that the one who said it had already given up on his creative drive, that of music, in favor of a secure job. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it only supports my opinion that the critic was more influenced by money than by quality. But adding flourishes wouldn’t make a book a classic, unless they are executed perfectly. It is important to have a realistic view of one’s own ability, but also to push oneself to further heights.

Today return to writing the rough draft of a young adult novel that is near completion. I hope you all are well, whenever you read this. Attitude is a lot of life. Consider going easier on yourself if you’re under personal pressure.

Why do I feel like I’m on Life Support?

This is another whiny post. I bet whoever’s reading this is either getting tired of me being downtrodden and struggling or eating it up. The latter at least would explain why you are still here. Anyway, enough bashing myself for feeling the need to write this post. Basically ever since graduation I’ve been in a funk. Maybe it’s because I told myself that 40,000 words in a month just isn’t enough, which caused the whole thing to turn into a 40,000 words in two months as I psyched myself.

I’ve been told a few prevailing things by people over the years in regards to writing. They are all fairly understandable, make a certain amount of sense, and at times they all drive me insane with rage or annoyance or both.

The first one is the three words I hate the most for some reason: “Never stop writing.” Why do I hate this? I hate it because it simply implies that I’m morally weak (which perhaps I am, I suppose), and therefore need the encouragement of people who do not respect the sort of writing I do, as those are the people who feel the need to say this to me. Of course, the worst one was being addressed by name and told this by a speaker during my high school graduation, but that’s probably just because I hated high school altogether (stopping digression… now).

So this is turning out to be a bitter-sounding post indeed. I’m in a bitter mood, so maybe I should just switch off my internet… but if you’re reading this it means I didn’t.

Second of the things I’ve been told is the ubiquitous piece of advice that amounts to: “You should write something other than science fiction or fantasy.” Now, I know this is well-intended, just as any piece of advice usually is well-intended. The problem is that I may not always know what I like, but I know what I want to do in my gut. My gut has never told me to write fiction set in a so-called ‘realistic’ world. For one thing, realism is a sham. Every character anyone ever read about in fiction is a fake, even those that represent real people. Even realistic fiction has more in common with some kind of telepathic dream-state in which one person’s version of reality is absolutely true than it does with reality.

Those are the two big ones, and I’m afraid I’ve been mulling them over for a while now. They are far less irritating to me than the far less frequent advice I’ve gotten to get a real job and (more or less) to give up this whole thing because I’m not good enough, which I’ve only received once. At least most people seem to want to be encouraging. ‘Seem’ –That’s a funny word. It’s funny, because ‘seems’ are all people can tell for sure about each other–and the only reason they can tell for sure is because the seeming is coming from within the brain of the assumer not the assumed… if that makes sense. But I seem to be wandering further and further from the original point of this post.

My original point was that I have no clue why I am stuck, but I am stuck. Let’s see, possible problems. Lately I think too much about past events down to a minute level, like a character in a James Joyce story. In addition, I get angry at people I haven’t spoken to in weeks or months because of this messed-up phrase making. I’m feeling some of the most intense hatred I’ve felt in a few years now, and I’m not even being harassed by anyone worse than Michelle Obama (via proxy-written email in her case). So I don’t have anything to rail against. But rail I must, it turns out. Being the peculiar kind of autistic that I am, I have always had trouble with disliking people more than is helpful. I would scream at people about how weak they were, and even if I was right in my assessment the rage was and is completely useless. But rage I do.

Another problem I’ve had for my whole life is my issue with waiting. When I’m waiting for something I often fail to accomplish anything. I think that’s what’s happened to me pretty badly this summer. Only, unlike my usual problems with waiting for packages, or rejection letters, or whatever, I feel like I’m waiting for Godot right now (Hint to self: He doesn’t show up).

So where is my drive, where is my ambition? I don’t know. Once upon a time I was told by an acquaintance that he admired how I went out and did what I wanted. I’ve been told by others I am brave. Do I not have any bravery anymore? My motivation couldn’t be worse. My inspiration is here, so I have built a rocket with a fuse leading to the launching mechanism. Am I really just waiting for something to light that fuse and wake me from this angry coma?

Every book I’ve finished felt like this to one extent or another before I started it. But it’s been too long, and this system is not working. I need to be in at least some control of my emotions and my goals and myself, but the pressure always crushes my resolve when I set goals these days. Whatever happened to my joy? Whatever happened to my ambition? My bravery? Sweet crap–look how long this post got just because I let myself write whatever popped into my head. Everything I wrote in this post has pushed me forward to this point, so bear with me a little longer.

I think I may see part of the problem with my fiction writing. I try to be positive in my outlook when I write fiction and it has made my attitude, dare I say it–apologetic. I have not embraced the things I like in fiction, for I appreciate violence in stories, but have shied away to avoid setting a bad example. Quite apart from that, I appreciate active characters but I always end up writing people like I AM, not like how I WANT TO BE.

Well would you look at that. A long post about what a miserable bastard I am. Oh well, I’ll try to be more upbeat next time. No promises though.