Sunday, December 30, 2007

Resolving the Resolution Game in a Revolving Manner

It's that time of year...the time of New Year's Resolutions.

However, after a recent conversation with Shane, I'd like to think of 'resolutions' as something slightly more positive. 'Resolutions', at least the way they are practiced at the present time, seem to focus on the negative first. "I suck at this, I'm too fat, I'm not good enough" and then moves into the positive adjustment. Well, I think the thought process should be changed.

So it goes more like this:
'I will do aerobics three times a week to keep my strong heart beating.' (See? The heart is already strong in this scenario, and you want to keep it that way.)

Or that the idea is more of something you want to accomplish...a stretch goal, as the businesses say:
'Last year I finished two short stories. This year I will send those short stories out to publishers and write three new stories.' (That way it builds on work you've already done and pushes you to do just a little more than before.)

So, it's the end of 2007. Maybe some things sucked, maybe some things were great. 2008 is a clean slate. Time to decide--or at least think about--some things you want to accomplish this next year. This is the time to think of the big goals. This is also the time for dreaming. If you don't have a bigger goal, all those little goals that we set up monthly or weekly aren't going towards a bigger picture. They're a way of spinning our wheels.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A New, Fruity Metaphor

Recently I chit-chatted about 'refilling the well' of creativity.

The only problem I have with that is that I don't feel like a well. I feel more like a grape.

When I'm working on a big project, or a pretty steady stream of little projects, I begin like a grape--round and ripe and full of juice. As I type/scribble away the liquid slowly squeezes out. Eventually I reach the end. Drained and wrinkly, like a raisin. Physically I feel that way. Dried out. Less rounded.

Now that I'm not focused on the hugeness of a project I can feel the swelling begin. Soon I will be a nice, ripe grape again, ready to squeeze out new ideas, thoughts, and weird anecdotes. Makes me curious about how other folks feel when they're 'recharging their batteries' or 'filling the well' or 'gassing up the tank.'

If you were a physical object that needed to jumpstart (or whatever, you people know what I mean) what would you be? I'm totally a grape.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Nice Rejections are Nice

Just got a rejection letter from a neat magazine called Contrary. They were very polite. While it's always a bummer to get a "No", a "No thank you, but we enjoyed it" is even better.

Check out their new online content:
http://www.contrarymagazine.com/

And consider submitting.

Writing Friends...Keep 'Em

Once upon a time, I had a class with a prof who argued that writers do not write in a vaccuum--and many times directly collaborate. Her main focus was on Romantic and Victorian literature. Lots and lots of emphasis on how Wordsworth and Coleridge were buds and eventually rivals. Lots of focus on the Bronte siblings and how they influenced one another.

A little sampling of the historical evidence:
1. Wordsworth and Coleridge
2. Byron, Shelley, and Keats
3. Shakespeare (we may not know the collaborators names but you cannot write plays without players...theatre and movies are collaborative arts)
4. Henry James, H.G. Wells, and Joseph Conrad
5. The Bloomsbury Group (including Virginia Woolf)

I was so fascinated by the concept that writers, for all the 'solitary genius' emphasis on writing, are not really solitary. In general, the writers we still read and today's published writers are not writing in isolation. There are groups. Agents and editors know this too. At a writer's conference I attended in April, agent Dan Lazar of Writer's House said: "Great writers write in packs."

Recently, I finshed Year Zero by Jeff Long. A blurb caught my eye. Here it is: "A superbly original thriller. Terrifying and exquisite in a single breath. Jeff Long writes with poetry, style, and pace...crafting his twists and doling out his delectable details with exceptionally gratifying results. Year Zero is first rate entertainment." -Dan Brown, author of Angels and Demons and Deception Point

In the timeline of events, this blurb came before Brown's skyrocketing bestseller The Da Vinci Code. I thought it was verrrrrrry interesting because Long's thriller explores the idea of Christ being cloned back into life. It throws a lot of questions out into the world that Brown also explores in Da Vinci. Do Long and Brown work together at all? Reading each other's work? Darned if I know, I'm only saying that there may be more than a little influence between writers living today.

Contemporary Evidence:
1. Stephen and Tabitha King (also including the Rock Bottom Remainders: Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Mitch Albom, et al. They may not work directly together, but you can't argue against influences...)
2. Susanna Clarke and Neil Gaiman (She thanks him in the acknowledgements of JS and Mr.N and he thanks her in the acknowledgements of Stardust)
3. Chuck Palahniuk acknowledges his writing group (see Writer's Digest Interview)
4. Laurell K Hamilton also thanks her writer's group in one of her novels, I forget which one...

Basically, all I'm saying is that as much as we think we're in this writing thing alone--and we are when we physically put the words on a page, we're never really alone. So, pay attention to the conversations that you have with other writers and be open and constructive with what you say. And always write your best. You never know when you're helping to build a masterpiece. Or at least a bestseller.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ha! I get the party crowd...

All righty...

It's great to have friends that are smarter than you. It's true. They keep you from doing the dumb things you would otherwise, of course, do. But it's still a bitter pill to swallow when every last one of them is apparently smarter than you. Take the following example:

cash advance

Cash Advance Loans





Apparently, my blog is not as difficult to understand as some other 'genius' blogs I know (and love...or at least moderately tolerate). Yes, smart friends are good. They can tell you what a dangling participle is. They can explain string theory and why 7-11s are opend 24 hours a day.

But people who are drunk, high, and/or tired from midnight cram sessions can understand what I'm saying. Oh yeah.

Filling the Well, as it were

Julia Cameron, of Artist's Way fame, recommends what she calls "artist dates" in order to "fill the well"--meaning you can't create something if you are tired or empty, as it were. That state of "I have no ideas!" can be remedied by taking yourself out somewhere: to the movies, for a walk, working on something completely different.

Recently, on another writer's group there was a writer who said he couldn't put pen to paper. The biggest advice from everyone else? First: write anyway. Second: you may be burnt out and need to switch gears.

All of it boils down to the idea that when you put so much of yourself into such a large project for such a long time (a novel, a piece of music, a painting) you use everything up. Having just finished the rough draft of FJR I was feeling similarly to this writer. What was I supposed to do? I couldn't imagine putting pen to paper.

So I picked up books instead. Right now I'm bouncing between two different books. Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez. And Year Zero by Jeff Long. Let me tell you about different writers! I'm halfway through Year Zero and about a quarter of the way into Cholera--which is further than I've made it in any of Marquez's other work (excepting short stories). An interesting thing happened.

While driving, I had clear scenes for one of the books I want to work on next. In the shower I got another one. When talking to my writing buddies, just about everything they talk about is now short-story fodder. I wanted to reach for a pen. And I have made notes.

However, I'm keeping from starting the next big thing because the well is not nearly full enough yet. Right now I feel like I'm in 'Receptor Mode' (ha, sounds like a trasformer of some kind). The reading is triggering that inherent love of words and stories that I think is so necessary for a writer. And it's fun. No pressure, no deadlines, just read and read again. If I'm getting this kind of material just from reading two books...well, let's just say I'm really, really happy to have decided on a reading spree!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Place for the desk, take 2

This last week has been a trial, let me tell you. Yes, everything mechanical was breaking...car, toaster, you name it.

Now my desk will be in a new corner in a new place. The house has become far too expensive and, of all things, we are having to move in with family. Yep, and right after Christmas too. Let me hear a big yee-haw!

The good news is that I just finished typing up the end of FJR and it's now off to the first readers for their perusal and critique. The rough part is that the space that has turned out so conducive to writing will be moving and I'll have to adjust to another space.

Right now I have a table set up next to the desk that I bought way-back-when and the table is going to have to go, so my work space just got halved. Yesterday I played around with the desk set up and figured out how to get all of my office supplies (my mother's life-long lament) into one smaller space. If you think writing is creative, try space-saving. Interior designers get paid the big bucks for stuff like that.

But I wonder if moving your writing space around isn't a good thing in the end. After all, it comes at the perfect time. I just finished. Time for a new project. New project. New place. New energy. New spaces for new ideas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

If It's Mechanical, I'm Breaking It...

My car refuses to start. (Twice now, totally dead.)

My computer at work has to be restarted at least four times a day.

My printer is out of toner.

That's this weekend in a nutshell. Let's see what other kinds of damage I can do. I better get off the computer pretty quick because if this breaks...well, I don't know if there's enough hot chocolate in the world to make me feel better.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Heroics for Beginners

For those of you looking for a fun, quick, fantasy read, then I recommend to you: Heroics for Beginners by John Moore.

And when I say quick, I mean this story moves from point A to point B quick. You just get to know the hero--or wannabe hero in this case--and then it's off to the races to save a kingdom and marry the princess (quite the buxom babe...).

Moore takes all the cliches and uses them to their fullest. The bad guy is a dude named Voltmeter--"he who must be named." I mean, what more do you want? The whole story leads off with a man named "Thunk the Barbarian" and then there's "Eric the Cool." No, I wouldn't count it 'high literature' but, damn, sometimes you've just got to read for fun, right?