Category Archives: Writing

Writer’s Log: 2007 The Spiral

[REF: my comment on Zarah’s blog]

I’m of a mind that, like many endeavors, the process of learning to write is a spiral.
LearnApplyReview
Learn -> apply -> review …

Hopefully, at each loop, one expands the spiral outward with the assembled knowledge and skill from the inner circles.

For writing, the complexity of the inner circles is limited: use proper grammar and spelling, use active voice, reduce the use of adverbs and dialog tags.

The further one gets from the center, the more nuanced the rules become — more like guidelines. Although the lessons become less specific, they become more challenging. One of those is finding one’s own voice.

What I find compelling about this visualization is that a spiral never ends: around and around we go, ever outward.

Lately, I’ve hardly written a thing: I’m in a wide curve, rounding from Review through Learn, approximately two-thousand hours from the center. (2000 on my way to 10k.)

This lull, I tell myself, is me digesting some of the more nuanced guidelines — like that of finding my own voice. That, as well as focus on the refinement of the writing itself. Story, not so much. Plot? Nope. Just the writing. The sound, the flow, the cadence.

Here’s some random exercises I’ve used to inch my way around the pivot-point:


Creation vs Discovery

Over there on The Memoir of a Writer, Zarah and I got into a discussion on the concept of creating anything “new.”

She had her points and I had mine and in the end I believe the conversation boiled down to: are we just discovering “new” or are we creating “new?”

During our exchange I gave her a a few examples of new, one being Calculus. I originally held that Newton and Leibniz “created” Calculus but now realize that they really only discovered it. So the concept of discovering any scientific fact, math, physics, chemistry, etc, is just that… discovery. There’s been a boatload of discovery that historically might have been called creation, but it is really just the revealing of what exists in the world.

So what is creation? I would posit that only an elevated intellect can create. From nothing, something.

Ideas often come from example. A log floats down a river. With sharp tools, that log hollowed out becomes a boat. Was that boat discovered or created? What of the tools? What of the mast and sail and paddle and rudder? No doubt there is creation in there somewhere. And the “new” part is that at some point in the past the very first woven sail had to have been attached to a stick that became the mast of a sailboat. Someone made something new. Even if the entire Universe is taken into account, some being somewhere was the first to create that new something.

Nothing new under the sun was the theme of Zarah’s original post. Can we really create some new story line, plot, or theme? Don’t all stories, today, leverage what already exists? Can we really create or write something new?

My position is that: all that we take for granted, at some time in the past, each thing or idea was created anew. And that today, even though we have billions of minds constantly trying to dream up some novel invention or concept, someone, somewhere will no doubt create some as-yet-unknown newness.

 


Grave of a child

I’ve stopped reading and writing.

childsgrave

My kindle is chock full of “To Read”s yet, there they sit. I’ve got a dozen story ideas listed on a whiteboard each one glaring down at me. My blog inbox is bulging. My outbox is crickets. My fingers creak as I write these words. In fact, penning this post feels like digging the grave of a child. But it has festered and begun to stink and so must be put to rest.

I spend my time now, wasting it. Youtube, Netflix, and of course the job — I have to teach myself Accounting 101 in the next few months. It’s killing me inside.

And yet, there’s this tectonic ache building within me. The stress between artistic plates strains as I attempt to ignore it. But when the slip finally comes on what will I expend my efforts? What topic, concept, or endeavor deserves my time? And herein is the thrust of this post…

Why do we read what we read? Why did you choose to read these words? What drove you to select that novel? That Aeon or Medium or WordPress article? And, more importantly, should I consider your underlying needs for written entertainment as I choose my next writer’s work?

There’s no end to online explorations as to “why we write and/or create” — what the muse whispers in our ear — what inner force compels us to imagine, sculpt and produce.

But what about the flip side? What drives you to consume? What notions worm their insidious threads of quest, of exploration into your mind? Notions that will not be suppressed — that insist that you read that novel, research that technology or phenomenon, study and probe those people, places, events and ideas until you are satiated?

And shouldn’t such factors influence what creative topic or concept I choose next? For I prefer (as do all writers) to write words that will get read and enjoyed, celebrated even. Sure, we write foremost for ourselves. But if we didn’t care to have our work consumed by others, we would write it — and then delete it. So of course writers crave readers.

But what do readers crave? And why? Why do you read what you read, watch what you watch?


Death to Amazon

October 8th, 2018
• Submitted The Gribble’s Eye to Draft2Digital publishing engine.

Days elapse…
• All of the publishing venues approve the submission — ACCEPT Amazon.

Why? No one can say. “BLOCKED” read the publishing segment in D2D. Well, fuck me sideways. Thanks you, you Bezosian troglodyte. No email from the Big ASS, sorry AZZ. No indication as to why. Just “BLOCKED.”

A D2D agent was kind enough to inform me (after my befuddled email) that the Big AZZ had blocked my submission because the story was “already available as a blog.” WHAT? You mean the promotion I tried, in vain, to do months ago — they thought “that” was the part-‘n-parcel of the novel I was publishing? You bloody-fuckin’-lame-ass-toads…

(The CME can NOT come soon enough — centered on northwestern Washington state.)

So… I’ve privatized all the Gribble’s content. “No, CrapAzon, I wasn’t trying to infringe upon some website blog with a year’s worth of work in the form of an illustrated novel. (You idiots!)”

– Oh, Amazon is mostly automated (by algos written by bonobos, (sex crazed chimpanzees)) so they can’t really respond, or realize their egregious mistakes regarding prior content on the web… (Bullshit)

– Oh, Amazon is so large that they can do whatever they please when it comes to content. (NoShit – time to die, Amazon!)

– Oh, Amazon YOU SUCK! (Yeah, we suck, every living dollar from the world’s pocketbooks.)

 

 


Telling is easy, showing is hard

Kill me now. Right fucking now. Alright, wait a moment, but just a moment. Have that shiv ready.

I’ve said it before. As have a million bloody armchair writer/teachers. I’ve said it to myself a dozen-fifty times. The truth is: this is a truth that never stops being true.

And you can beat your head against it, and wrestle with it, but the bottom line always comes down to the fact that the best stories go the distance, spend the effort, take the time to show the reader and not tell the reader.

Everyone died.
The end.

There. The ultimate “telling” story line.

What more do you need, really, to get the point across about this story? If that’s all you wanted to convey, the fact that “everyone died,” then you’re done.

But if you want to entertain, and here, I think, is the crux of the matter, if you want to entertain a reader then you must lead them purposefully on a storytime journey.

Yeah your story is complex and the physics and chemistry and technology and geology and climate and every gottdamned natural (or unnatural aspect) is integral to your story and you just have to get that knowledge into the reader… Or do you? Maybe it’s our assumptions about what WE, the writer think is important — just isn’t.

And if it is, then the information should must come from one of the characters. If the CHARACTER thinks it’s important to dwell upon, then that must be the test as to whether the reader should dwell upon it too.

Phil says: get out of the damn way and let the story tell the story.

But it’s so much damn work. Christ on a swizzel-stick, can’t I just TELL the reader some stuff? Sure, but apparently only, like .004% of your story should be of the flavor, “And so it transpired, Job felt he must succumb to his wife’s beatings, lest his lord think him a braggart and a louse of the lowest level.”

Showing is work. Telling is not. But telling is not entertaining. Showing, reader discovery through envisioned settings, behavior and events — is. Sorry.

So, get back to work you mewling Mole!

 

 


Writer’s Log: 1885 Pedalin’

Back when I used to ride a street bike through the hills of Marin County.

Pedalin’

I pedaled long,
barbed fence after fence raced my fleeting form.
I pedaled smooth,
muscled metronome, one revolution per second.
I pedaled steep,
shady redwoods grew at impossible angles on the mountain side.
I pedaled quick,
a blue Mercedes grazed my left hip.
I pedaled hard,
salty beads slid down from my armpits and temples.

I coasted.

Black and yellow bees, large enough to hurt,
buzzed at my head.
Thin strands of weeds, tanned in the summer sun
whipped at my ankles.
Flitting brown sparrows, trim ones with sleek profiles,
air danced at my side.
Heady scented wind, warm but touched with ocean mist,
streamed into my lungs.

I pedaled slow,
cool sweat chilled the nape of my neck.
I pedaled on,
under bolls of clouds hanging listless in an achingly blue sky.

I stopped.
I had reached the cheese factory and it was time for lunch.
I ate.
I pedaled home.


Writer’s Log: 1885 Floatin’

Back when I used to strum a 6 string…
Chords are:
E then A (repeat), Chorus is B7, A, and E, then B7 — E

Floatin’

Lazy we’re layin’, an afternoon snooze.
Cast the balloon, our inflatable cruise,
begins with a whisper, the touching of lips;
sparkling smiles that launch fantasy ships.

Floatin’, floatin’ with you,
Floatin’, stayin’ next to you.

Lift me up, and set me on high.
Sift down a kiss, from a piercing blue sky.
Nudge me to moving, coasting on clouds,
shout to the wind, our love bright and loud.

Floatin’, floatin’ with you,
Floatin’, keeping close to you.

Sailing with seagulls, drifting a breeze,
a feather traced, along taboo a tease.
Weightless we hang, in a passion filled fever,
Dreamin’ together, ’cause never I’ll leave her.

Floatin’, floatin’ with you,
floatin’, holdin’ onto you.

Floatin’, lovin’ with you,
floatin’, lovin’ always you.