Have Keyboard, Will Travel

I’m glad to say that after my last update I made some time in my life for writing my novel again.  This is quite an achievement because the distractions and tornado keeps on building around me.  The whole world seems to want to go up in flames, and perhaps it should, and I’ve got wandering random family members in transition in this funnel of frantic windy energy needing a couch to sleep on.  Thusly I have no private space where the mind can be fertile and still enough that it suddenly freely sprouts words, one upon the last, building and building, until there is a tower of words, wobbly, but upright.

As a matter of fact I am writing this now instead of working on my book in the precious morning I have before work because I can manage this kind of personal writing with the distractions, but not the real hard work of writing a novel.  I’ve set myself a quota of words each day: a measly 500.  This can count towards that goal, as well as the collaborative posts I do at Pan Historia, but it doesn’t feel as satisfying anymore, not as compelling as getting into the heads of my characters.  I miss my book when I’m not at it.

I just took a break from writing this to browse computer tablets.  I started to wonder, since I have lacked a private space of my own, a space with a door that shuts the world out, if I were to go fully mobile could I pick up stray pockets of time and privacy from my maelstrom days to dash out those few measly words, make those notes, build that tower…

Nope, they lack the essential tool that I crave: a keyboard.  I could go retro and try the notebooks, and I have done that before, but unlike those folks that love freehand and the pen or pencil, I’m a sucker for the keyboard.  I can type about 50pm if I factor in the mistakes, or maybe faster by now, and I need the speed because that’s often how fast the words flow.  When I write by hand I miss words, phrases, even passages, skipping over them as the next word crashes into me.  I paint the same way.  I can’t do it slow.  Which of course begs the question: why isn’t my output greater?  The answer is frustrating: I fritter away much of my free time (little and precious though  it is) in frivolities.  I resolve, every day and every minute, to do better, but when you’re a speed freak, like the hare, you need a lot of breaks.

I have seventy more words to find… then I’ll have fulfilled my quota for the day.

Oh my god… had another idea, took another break – could this be the solution:

 Freedom Pro Bluetooth Portable Folding Keyboard

It’s a bit pricy, but so far the reviews are good.  I can whip this sucker out of my backpack, hook it up to my phone and be on my way.  Hmmm… this could work.  Have keyboard, can travel.  It seems I’m on the eternal quest to be completely hooked up until my excuses have no where to run and hide anymore, and either I write, or I admit that I’m not a writer.

 

Haha.  556 words.


Spinning Out of Control

Spinning out of ControlLife has a way of getting in the way of art.  It sometimes seems to me that either you make your life all about art, and to hell with the rest, or you valiantly struggle through your life, crossing all your t’s and dotting all your i’s, and you never get a sodding bit of art done at all.  And then there is all the drama and chaos.  I’m feeling hemmed in right now.  I, me personally, am fine.  But between the time I spend trying to live a sane sustainable life, and the shit storm that is constantly battering the glass walls of my personal bubble, I’m finding it harder and harder to be creative.

And it’s like this shit storm just keeps getting bigger and bigger, picking up debris in its wake and spreading it across the face of my world.  You know when you buy a new car (new to you) and say it’s a Volkswagen Beetle or whatever (you pick) and suddenly you just see them everywhere on the road – or it’s because you’re playing Punch Buggy, but the point is that they go from being invisible to almost all you can see?  Is that what this storm of disaster is all about? Or is the world really going to hell faster and faster, like the spin cycle on a washing machine?

I don’t honestly know.  For me things are very much the same as they have always been: slightly better maybe, but with slightly less time.  I’m trading time for comfort.  But that’s just me.  Everyone else and everywhere else seems to be blowing apart at the seams, or at least in need of a few denim patches.  Oh yeah, and that time thing, it’s a bitch.  It brings me back to the first thought.  I spend more time working, more time fretting about things I cannot change in the lives of people who seem bent on destruction, and less time doing the things I really love: making stuff.

For me, making stuff is a huge area.  It’s writing, it’s creating Pan Historia, it’s painting, it’s learning new skills, it’s books, and museums, and pulling in inspiration from all around me to turn it into moments of insight and art.  But when life starts to feel like a buzz saw, saw dust flying until it chokes, and your eyes start to blink and tear up, where is the time to be found for the creativity?

My reaction?

Take a nap. Play a mindless game.  Lose myself in some meaningless movie made for TV.

Waste the precious moments even as I scream about losing the time: it was so hard to find, and as I get older it is an ever vanishing resource.


I Have Never Shot a Gun…

“Write what you know.”

Boy, that’s getting to be the old chestnut of writing advice.  It’s also hugely misleading.  The kernel of truth in it is that whatever you writing should have authenticity.  Don’t let people catch you out in ignorance.  It trips up the reader when they totally figure out that the author has no idea what they are talking about.

This advice is not about, however, only writing from personal experience.  If we all did that the fictional landscape would be one helluva a boring place.  The whole point of fiction is to take you someplace you <b>don’t</b> know.  At least it is for me and probably the majority of readers.  Very few people pick up a book to escape into a reality so like theirs it is indistinguishable.  What they want to do is be able to relate to the characters in the book, but not meet any old regular joe.  They want to go to the far reaches of the galaxy, or to ride the Pacific Union Railroad with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid waiting for them around the bend to blow up the safe.

Even if you’re reading something that is contemporary you want to peek into the mind and heart, or maybe the madness, of someone you don’t know.  You might be able to relate, but you aren’t them, and they aren’t exactly anyone you know either.

The real key to writing what you know is to research and make sure you get the details right, even if it is pure and utter fantasy, and then inject your personal experience into the story to render it authentic.  You might not have been born in the 1900s but you can relate to something so tight fitting it makes it hard to breathe, you understand what riding a train is like, and you know the fear that the threat of violence brings.

Every character should be a little bit of an autobiography because you’re reaching inside yourself to imagine something completely, but that doesn’t mean you know what’s like to be a serial killer, or vampire, or a space cowboy 400 light years from home.  Every character is also a little bit of biography because you’re grabbing stuff from people you know.  Even the most ordinary friend has a bit of the extraordinary you can pilfer to bring your characters to life.

Always authenticity is key, so really the old chestnut should read: “write from the heart, and then even what you don’t know will come to life for your readers”.


Procrastination Bites!

You know the score. You’re supposed to be writing. Instead you find your eyelids drooping and a powerful urge to sleep coming on. Or you start clicking those stupid little games in FaceBook or you open your version of Spider Solitaire. Just a few games… honest. Then you’ll get back to writing. Or maybe you’re the type that will start cleaning the house or doing the laundry… oh shit, hold on, I just have to put the wash in the dryer now, be right back…

Ok, now where was I? Oh yes, procrastination – the bugbear of the would-be writer. Or maybe even the nemesis of all writers? Possibly so. Wait? Do I hear the siren call of a completely different writing project all my name? You know, something like a blog, or maybe even a new collaborative writing project at your favorite online writing community? Whatever it is – something is always keeping you from finishing your novel, that is, if you are at all like me.

So what are your favorite distractions? What’s your laundry list of things that suddenly need doing urgently every time you sit down to write and how the heck do you conquer those distractions and interruptions?

Games? Close the program. Delete the software. Social networking? Turn off the Twitter. Other writing projects? Perhaps time management is required. Too tired? What do you need to eliminate from your day that is a waste of your time so you’ll be able to find the time, space, and energy to write?

I want to hear from YOU.


Killing, It’s the American Way

I’m finding it really alarming how fast the discourse on the recent tragedy in Arizona is retreating to safe ground.  Only the FBI seems to be taking the young troubled man who sent a bullet through Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s brain, before turning it on the crowd, seriously.  At least they have charged him with attempted assassination.  Right now pundits of the left and the right are quickly dismissing the act as that of a senseless madman.

You know why?  Because it’s far safer that way, it’s far less troubling.  We can all remain in our comfort zone, and once the furor has gone down and we have all issued sufficient sincere platitudes towards the families of the victims we can go back to business as usual.  In this country we seem to be digging a huge divide between red and blue, left and right, conservative and liberal—only it’s a divide that has always been here.  Even the briefest glance at history will reveal to us that we once had a little war between states.  There were over a million causalities in that war, 620,000 deaths, which was significantly more than the number of American soldiers that died in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam combined.

In other words we have died more fighting amongst each other than we have in all the other major conflicts we have been involved in.  In some ways that battle still rages on.  The lines have shifted but at core it seems that there are two extremely different views of America, and we seem no nearer to drawing those two visions closer together than we ever did.

So Loughner was troubled, a loner with issues?  Does that absolve him or us of complicity in his actions?  He was certainly of sound enough mind to carefully fill out forms to aid him when he attempted to buy the weapon.  Did he have a history of mental illness?  Perhaps, but surely the toxic environment we are all living in these days is just the right kind of Petri dish to grow hate, violence, and home-grown terrorism.  Just because he was less competent to reason between right and wrong does that mean we can all just go on spouting hate speech, intolerance, and drawing crosshairs over the names of people we disagree with?   It’s ok – keep hating, America— because it’s all just the work of a lone madman.  The rest of us know the difference right?

Or is it?  Perhaps it’s just a harbinger of things to come?  After all rhetoric, historically, has proven to be powerful stuff.

I have to stop here.  I was going to post some examples of rhetoric influencing nations and creating wars when I was stopped in my tracks to the point of physical nausea by the amount of ignorance and hatred that exists on the internet masquerading as free speech.  Is it all from crazy loners?

It’s the human cancer, and it’s growing deep.


Jerk that Pistol: Firing into the New Year

I was talking with someone the other day about New Year’s resolutions.  The person I was talking to was negative in response – citing their unwillingness to succumb to peer pressure to state unattainable goals.  I made some kind of blithe return that I didn’t necessarily believe in ‘resolutions’ as such, but I did try and set myself some goals.  Here is one right now:  I resolve not to talk out of my ass so much.  The concept of resolutions and making goals are so similar as to be totally interchangeable.

 

Having stated I would make no resolutions (but would have goals, insert eye roll here) I immediately started making resolutions.  This got me curious.  Where does this tradition of New Year’s resolutions come from?  A quick google around the internet revealed that it goes back to Roman times, and involves making promises of good deeds to the Roman god Janus.  Janus is the one with two faces, one looking back and one looking forward.  Ok, I can totally get behind a Roman tradition.  Romans kick ass (please don’t tell my Egyptian characters how much I love Romans).  Of course for hundreds of years New Year’s resolutions were quite attainable: I will a pile of gold to the poor, I will return the chariot I stole from my neighbor, I will marry the girl I knocked up, etc.

 

Somehow, over the years, the resolution came to be some personal goal of self-improvement.  Which is, apparently, the reason that fewer and fewer New Year’s resolutions actually get followed through on, with most people giving up after just a couple months.  Giving a charitable donation is a very achievable goal; becoming a better person is not.  Just think of all the people determining right this minute that they will lose weight, write every day, be nicer to the people they despise, or exercise more?  Are you going to be one of them?

 

I resolve to write a novel this year.  I already started it.  I have the books I need for research.  I’m not going to tell you how many hours a day I plan to write, or any other writerly self-improvement resolutions that I will probably break before I get a week or two into the New Year.  I am simply going to set myself an achievable goal: I will finish my book.

 

There.  Done.

 

What about you?


Runaway Stage Coach

I gotta stop letting life jerk me around. Take control of the reins, and pull up this runaway team. That’s what it feels like some days when I look around me, jangled and jarred by the verisimilitudes making ends meet like boulders and rocks on my roadway, and see that great chasm opening up wide before me ready to swallow me into obscurity. Will I find myself, soon, clinging to the edge of that cliff, or maybe a couple feet down on some gnarled root where my friends can’t see me, and believe me finally gone?

I exaggerate. Wildly. For Effect.

It’s a nice image, drawn from countless westerns, the stagecoach out of control. It reminds me why the western is so appealing as a genre—where people were their own law, and lived by their own wits. Grab me a gun, a horse, and a saddle, and I could find my own way in the world, seek my fortune. It was wide open.

Modern life just ain’t like that. Each and everyone of us, less the Bill Gates of the world, are being pushed and pulled by external forces we have little to no control over. We’re living in a subprime world where our overlords, the world financial system and the greedy corporations, have so crassly fucked up both our economy and our environment that it feels like we’re all passengers on that stagecoach, and the chasm is only a few feet head of us.

My only consolation is that the stagecoach driver and the guy riding shotgun, in this metaphor, they’re going with us because there sure as shit ain’t no way out for any of us if they don’t pull up those reins quick, and turn those ponies around.

And that, in one metaphor standing in for my life as a passenger in the stagecoach of the 21st century, is the reason for my retooling of my blog. It’s time to skin that smoke wagon, and get to fighting. I’m fighting for my life.

Are you fighting for yours?