...aaaand we're back--

>> Monday, November 19, 2012

So I did about three weeks of reruns, and now I think we'll get away from that and back to the grind.  Whether that's a permanent restoration of the Giant Midgets schedule or not, I just don't know.

I'm going through something of a rough patch, writing-wise.  I'll write something I'm damned pleased with, collapse into a mire of displeasure with it, and abandon the thing--or, worse yet, restart it.  There's a lack of confidence, not in my potential but in my actual accomplishment, a gulf that yawns between what I think I might be capable of and what I actually am able to get done.  And this sucks, as you may well know if you've ever been there.  I'm not looking for anyone to butter me up, by the way, though some of you have said very nice things to me when I've moaned and groaned on Facebook or elsewhere about my personal creative crisis; I'm just explaining where I am or think I am, and how all my charts out of this Sargasso have managed to get me little more than a few days' seeming progress followed by the discovery of several tons of seaweed jammed in the rudder during a dead calm beneath the white, white sun.

I should also, before anyone feels too sorry for me, point out what I just did there: I took my feelings of creative inadequacy and expressed them, not for pity or sympathy (though solidarity, any of you fellow creative types, is always damn nice: fist bump, my sisters and brothers), but because that act of writing was something, or, more precisely, was itself.  I.e. that act of writing about writing was writing, which may be very boring to some of you (sorry!), but from my POV with my fingers on the keys was me trying to come up with a metaphor for feeling static and becalmed in my creative works and spinning it out into a classic nautical reference and what maybe could be a nice image, if I'm allowed to say that, or at least an image that isn't bad and could be polished if it isn't too cliché (and, okay, it's a little cliché, but I still like the bit about the rudder).

That was one of the things this blog was supposed to do, originally, and sometimes still does.  Get me writing.  Keep me writing.  Obligate me to write.

Except that obligation might be self-destructive sometimes, hence three weeks of reruns while I did some mental sorting and started--and abandoned--NaNoWriMo.  (Which wasn't a total failure, either, though I won't be finishing the crap I started, at least not in the form it's in right now.)

This was, blink, blink, blink with the audible tinking sound characters blinking their eyes in surprise make in old Warners' cartoons.  You know, the sound Wile E. Coyote's eyelids make when he abruptly notices he's out of cliff and there's nothing but many vast impossible miles between his toenails and a picturesque canyon floor.
Go to the link.  Read the comic.  It's not something I can just reproduce here or anything.  Go on, new tab, I'll still be here when you get back.
...oh Mandy

Well you came and you gave without taking

And I sent you away, oh Mandy
And you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
And I need you today, oh Mandy....
Oh, hi!  Are we back?  Okay, so... what?  Hhhh--alright, fine.
...oh Mandy

da-da, da-da-da, da-da-da-dum
dum-dum-da-da, oh Mandy
di-di-da, di-di-da, di-di-dum
And I need you today, oh--
Now are we settled?  Comfy?  Empty bladder or full cup or whatever that was all about?  Finally?  Thanks.  So, okay--

Sometimes Matt Inman is kind of full of it (his current Tesla fetish is less than endearing, honestly--am I allowed to say that?), but here, in the comic at the link, I think he's very wise.  The whole damn comic.  And one of the provocative things in there, for me, is his explanation for why The Oatmeal updates so sporadically:
I'm a firm believer that if you don't have anything to say, you shouldn't be talking.  And if you don't have anything to write about, don't write. [emphasis in original]

Which is simultaneously excellent advice and absolutely terrible.  Because what we hear a lot of, those of us trying to write, is that you need to write through those periods when you have nothing to write about.  That, to some degree, writing is like playing an instrument or doing anything else where practice equals proficiency.  That you could at least be doing one of the ten thousand thousand writing exercises--twenty first lines, five first paragraphs; a flash piece based on five random words; write about this random name in this random place with this random obstacle; etc., et al. (there's all kinds of software to help you come up with all these little myriad etudes, finger-flexes and breath-control practices).  Our heroes get up every morning, they tell us, and write so many words or hours before lunch; they take a break to have a meal and maybe walk the dog or go have a look at whatever inspirational sight-to-see they happen to have around at one end of their rustic ranch or up the road from their front gates (just don't get hit by a truck); then they go back to the typewriter and pound out a few thousand words before dinner and an early bedtime.  Or that's how they are late in their careers; early on, it's maybe go to a day job--maybe in a record store, or making sounds about William Faulkner towards the general locale of a bunch of really bored and apathetic teenagers, say--then they come home and, again, here's several thousand words before bedtime and a novel a year or something.

I don't know how they do it.  I mean, I know how they do it, or say they do it.  I just don't know how I'm supposed to do it.

But so.  Here's another void.  Not writing because you have nothing to say, and writing despite having nothing to say because that's supposedly how you refine your craft or something.
The really successful writers talk about what hard work it is and yet still manage to make it sound easy in spite of themselves.  Gods know, they still aren't half as bad as all the lower-tier writing advisers who publish helpful writing tips between all their genre novels in which plucky, bosomy heroines fight and fuck werewolves and mummies and pirate vampires (or vampire pirates; whatever).  Those folks cheerfully tell you writing is easy, anyone can do it, and then pop up a list of seventy-five things you can do if you want to be a writer, such as, for instance, write about things that interest you.  (Which is the kind of thing that never would have occurred to me.)

I flog myself with the essays of truly successful writers and religiously subscribe to the "helpful" mass-spammings from the hacks, and in between I occasionally visit the blogs of various writers in-between.  Sometimes I tell myself, "I could do that," meaning what these various writers produce, not the method they use to do so, and then, quite frequently, I don't, because--I don't want to make excuses or anything--I have a career that "pays my way and corrodes my soul".

("I'm a sickening wreck.")

Again, not looking for pity, or (worse yet) advice.  Just trying to explain how my eyes were going, doik, doik, doik at the very idea that it might be alright to not write something when I have nothing to write.

"Wait--I can do that?  That's allowed?  Really?  Noooo--yes?"
This is all such a long way to go to suggest that maybe I ought to update the blog less and stress less about not writing more outside the blog, and really focus on writing when there's a story to be told and not because I have some kind of silly idea about how one goes about writing.  Part of this sounds like a New Year's Resolution, not to be kept.


Anne C. Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:04:00 AM EST  

Solidarity, brother. (Heh. Life of Brian. :)

I've tried the "not writing" method for a while and I'll tell you, it's not getting better. My current theory is that I don't read enough (same reason I don't write - too exhausted by the end of the day and my current reading task is something extracurricular for work).

"The really successful writers talk about what hard work it is and yet still manage to make it sound easy in spite of themselves."
- yes, yes, a million times yes. I just watched the Sword and Laser interview with Jim Butcher. Damn it, the man makes this all look effortless. And have you started watching "The Storyboard" Hangout at Geek and Sundry? So cool.

I'd make an analogy of writing to Sisyphus, but I'm Sisyphus lying underneath the rock at the bottom of the hill. Is that cliched?

Anyway... Solidarity.

Phiala Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:30:00 AM EST  

I don't know how they do it. I mean, I know how they do it, or say they do it. I just don't know how I'm supposed to do it.


Carol Elaine Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:59:00 AM EST  

Anne, I think the "not reading" part is the key for me. I do read books, but not every day, so the reading goes at a glacial pace. When I read at least a few pages of a book every day, I find I'm more inspired to write.

Mama Karen Monday, November 19, 2012 at 12:03:00 PM EST  

I want to add my tiny bit of solidarity and maybe even add a dollop of if you think that's bad...
I have loved to write since I was a very small child. Somehow expressing something that only existed in my head in a way that makes someone else really feel it, really realize it...well, there's something about that that nourishes my soul (talk about cliche!). And I've been told I'm not bad at it. I've even had some actual evidence in grades and what not of not being bad at it. I was on a roll with my blog for a while and then grad school hit and well, grad school will supposedly pay off monetarily someday and the blog will not likely.
And yet, EVERY time I sit down to write anymore...whether it's a paper for class or a blog entry or an inspired poem or rant about a political ridiculousness...it's like torture! I may have brilliant ideas and I may even have a structure for it in my head but actually pulling it out of me feels like something I'm resisting with all that's in me.
It feels similar to the reaction I have when I go into a really great bookstore. I get a little queasy and feel like I could have an anxiety attack. Because the literature/literary part of my brain just starts to go on overload and I feel like there's just no way to even START. Writing has become a bit like that...and I think it's worst when I really have something to say. I don't know if I'm just overly anxious or if anxiety is just the curse of the writer....your blog suggests it's the latter.

Eric Monday, November 19, 2012 at 8:42:00 PM EST  

Thanks, all.

Carol Elaine, that's a really great point about the reading side of it--I do seem to write more when I have more time to read more. I hadn't noticed that. Thank you.

Nick from the O.C.,  Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 11:09:00 AM EST  

My very favorite movie of all time is only 46 minutes long. It's the "Life Lessons" vignette directed by Scorcese in the New York Stories mashup. Coppolla and Woody Allen directed the other two pieces.

But Scorcese's piece stands out for mastery in every detail, including the acting by Rosanna Arquette and Nick Nolte.

Your post reminds me of their dialog about creativity and why painters paint.

Rosanna's character asks Nolte's character to give her an honest opinion on her artistic talent. Just once, be honest. Tell her the truth.

And he looks at her, completely confused. "What does it matter what I think?" he replies. "What does it matter what anybody thinks? You paint because you have to paint."

Or something like that (memory slightly fuzzy).

Effin amazing piece of movie-making, that. Lots of applicable life lessons. Kind of like your blog, sir.

LucyInDisguise Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 12:02:00 PM EST  

Full disclosure: I'm not a writer. (As I am about to demonstrate.)

What I am a Professional Driver. I can only offer my sentiments as a reader (and infrequent commenter) of your work.

Frankly, some of the best stuff you have written lately is your introductions to your "Best Of" posts in the last few weeks. I read every single one of them and the related post and here is what it feels like: It feels like 'you' talking to 'me'. What it does not feel like is a 'writer' trying way too hard to create 'content' for readers of a blog.

Yeah, more like that.

I don't have even the first clue how being a Driver relates to that, except, perhaps, that I do my best driving on "autopilot". I don't think about it, I just do.

If I'm on ice, with 80,000 pounds under my ass, and several dozen cars with (mostly) innocent people in front of me, I can't be thinking about the technical aspects of regaining control of the rig. I can't be looking at what I don't want to hit or where I could (consequently) end up, I have to look at where I need to go and I trust my experience and training to take me there. My bona fides:1,255,952 incident free miles.

I guess, what I may be trying to say is simply this:

Stop trying to over think it. Re-read those recent introductions, and those related posts. Don't 'Write' to us - talk to us. Tell us your stories, offer your heart felt options and observations. Especially the parts where you have lent your expertise and inside view of the law. That is the Eric that attracted me and keeps me coming back.

Perhaps others will echo my sentiments. One thing I know you can trust us to do: we'll let ya know if too much of what you're posting starts turning into a train wreck.


LucyInDisguise Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 12:05:00 PM EST  

I am also not a proof reader.



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