Coming back to the grind and other notes

your name comet taki
One of many spectacular shots from your name.

It’s Sunday mid-morning as I write this and both A. and I have been up for a few hours now.  I think we’ve both somewhat adjusted to Pacific Time again, having spent the last few days in a jet lag haze.  We’re both going over our work inboxes to clean them up at the moment, and I’m streaming some new music releases over the last few days.  [Best find so far: Moscow-based Life on Venus with their album Encounters, which I would describe as Slowdive if they had MBV’s volume.  So yeah, right in my wheelhouse there.]

Our two-week vacation in London was quite enjoyable if a little exhausting — thanks to my phone’s pedometer app, I figured out we walked just a little over eighty miles.  Lots of places seen, friends seen, cats petted, and lagers or tea ordered.  And somehow within all of that, I was also able to work a little on some of the index card notes for Secret Next Project!

And if you’re wondering why I chose the above gif from the anime your name., it’s because I watched it on the plane twice (once each way).  It’s become one of my favorite movies on many levels.  This makes three times I’ve watched it — so far — and I’m sure it’ll be one that will get even more views in the future.  And yes, I’ve already decided I’ll be writing a blog post about it here soon enough, as I find it an excellent example of detailed, layered storytelling and how to successfully unfold each subplot and hint of characterization so it all fits together perfectly.

Speaking of writing, I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things as soon as possible.  I’m still feeling exhausted, but only physically, so I think I should be able to get back on the horse with little issue.  I’m particularly excited that I’m about to start the last act of Meet the Lidwells (and working on the cover!), which means I can start up the revision quite soon!  I’m also hoping to get started on further work with Secret Next Project as well.

As for non-writing creative stuff, I finally got the drawing models that I ordered online a short time ago (half off, so basically two-for-one!) that are made by Bandai.  They’re small but they’re detailed and pretty versatile, so I think I’ll be able to use these for future drawings.  Check ’em out:

Taki Mitsuha
I’ve named them Taki and Mitsuha, of course.

They come with some nifty accessories like different gesturing hands, katanas and handguns (because why the hell not), cell phones and tablets, and so on.  The directions are entirely in Japanese of course, but they’re super easy to use anyway.  I’m sure I’ll get more work out of these than out of Wilhelmina, the simple articulated model I got from Ikea for like six dollars. 🙂

So yes…we’re back from vacation, autumn is nearly among us, and I’m eager to get back to Doing All the Creative Things.  Hell, I may even record a few more Drunken Owl demos if time permits!

Now, if I can just shake the remnants of this jet lag…

 

Frustrated

dr tennant annoyed

Feeling frustrated by my less than stellar output lately.  It’s the same damn thing, too…distraction and procrastination.  A tiny bit of it is a not-high-but-consistent volume of work for the Day Job, which I can deal with.  What’s annoying me is that I’ll have few spare moments to breathe and realign myself, and waste those moments my fucking around online.

Even more frustrating is that I’m even doing that off the Day Job clock.  Time for my nightly writing session!  Woohoo!  Let’s go check Twitter first.

NO.  NO NO NO NO.  STOP THAT, DAMMIT.

I swear, if this keeps up I’m going to have to enforce another internet hiatus.  Mind you, I’ll sort of be having one in a few weeks anyway, while we’re on vacation.  It’ll be mostly fly-by blog entries and Instagram posts.  Writing will most likely be a bit of longhand work on the Secret New Project, as I don’t plan on bringing a laptop.  Hopefully I’ll get all this frustration out of my system and start anew upon return.

So!  Let’s just get this all behind us and soldier on, shall we?

On Being a Writer: Document Retention

cat copier
Thats…not how it works, kitty.

I’ve been meaning to scan my longhand writing for quite some time.  For one reason or another, however, I’ve barely gotten around to it.  The Great Trilogy Revision Project took up a hell of a lot of my time, enough where I couldn’t squeeze any of that in.  Now that my work volume isn’t nearly as large as it once was, I believe I should be able to squeeze a little bit in now and again.

I used to be a pack rat with my writing, to the point where I had multiple copies of the same printed documents.  I also had a lot of spiral notebooks that only contained maybe a few dozen pages’ worth of work.  One of my first projects when we moved out here to San Francisco in late 2005 — mainly to keep myself busy while I waited for job openings — was to go through these countless printouts and shred what wasn’t needed.  I had two large storage tubs, a few milk crates and two wooden boxes full of stuff when I started.  As of today, I have everything in manila folders on two shelves of the bookshelf next to my desk, plus a few straggler folders elsewhere.

Over the years I’ve been meaning to create pdfs or something similar so I at least have a digital image of my work.  The most obvious reasons are the security and the ease of access: I save all my writing-related things on a cloud already, so this would put everything in one place for reference, and so I wouldn’t have to worry about losing it.  And if the apartment went up in smoke, the only thing I’d have to grab is my external drives where my music collection is!

I’ve attempted it a few times in the past, of course.  The only failure those times was due to a low-end scanning device that took one look at the amount I wanted to scan, LOL’d at me, and decided not to work anymore.  I now have a much higher-grade printer/scanner/copier — not to mention a lot more time to work with — so I have no excuse to put it off any longer.

So is any of this writing worth the work?  On a personal note, sure.  I have mostly fond memories of writing most of this stuff, even if I did end up trunking a high percentage of it.  It’s part of what made me the writer I am now.  You can definitely see the evolution of my writing style, the themes I often revisit, the imagery I like to use to tell my stories.  My own writing also shows where my mind and emotions were at the time, and my attempts to make sense of them.  I’ve even come back to a few of these trunked works to steal a scene or two for one of my successful books and stories.

Is any of it worth saving on a ‘donate my papers to a public/college library’ level?  Maybe not, but it’s worth saving for my own reasons.  It’s not just my stories, it’s the story of me as well.

Out on the fringe

abitw

I still think about that bit of graffiti we used to see in the back parking lot down in Northampton in the 80s, spray-painted impossibly high up on a brick wall and perfectly visible from Main Street if you looked directly down Cracker Barrel Alley, just around the corner from Main Street Music.   It was just one word, deliberately spelled:  ANARCY.

For some people, it was pure collegiate thinking so typical of the Pioneer Valley — next-level meta tagging against The Man as well as against the Rebellion.  For others it was simply a bit of clever smartassery.  For me it was a bit of both.  I liked the idea that not only were they rebelling against the mainstream, they were also rebelling against the ‘alternative’ mainstream, so to speak.  It made me think about what it means to be a nonconformist:  there’s more to it than just being the opposite of whatever the prevailing crowd is doing, even if that particular crowd is full of alternative-minded people.  I also loved that it made you look twice and say “Heyyy, wait a minute…”

I’ll be honest, I wish I’d taken a picture of it at the time, because it’s one of my fondest memories of the 80s.

Why this ongoing fascination with nonconformity lately, you ask?  Good question, and I think I have more than a single answer for it.

First, it’s a part of my revisiting some of my old ideas that worked out really well that I’d put aside for a while, for one reason or another.  It’s not just reminiscing about my teen years of listening to college radio and wearing weird tee shirts and ugly duster jackets and being a weirdo.  I’m not trying to recapture that.  It’s me thinking about why I was like that, how I felt when I gave myself that sense of emotional, intellectual and social freedom.  Thinking about it thirty years on, it’s less about trying to recreate that mood — an error I made countless times over the years — and more about following up on the philosophy behind it all.  Maybe there’s some truth to what I was thinking back then, that I can finally act upon, now that I have the knowledge and experience and a different setting.

Second, it’s part of coming to terms with why I didn’t completely follow up with it all.  I had reasons for holding back how far I could go with it.  It clashed with my instinct for wanting to please others before myself (which would get the best of me more often than I care to admit).  I didn’t necessarily want to make waves within my own family, not when I really had no reason to in the first place.  And it’s kind of hard to rebel against a mainstream when the social cliques of a small New England town in the 80s couldn’t be bothered either way.  They just call you a weirdo, make fun of you for a few moments,  and leave you alone.  In the end, sometimes you just wanted to be a normal kid and leave it at that.

Third, it’s part of figuring out who I am now, within the context of the society we live in at this time.  I’m now seeing a lot of parallels between my past and present, what with all the talk about a popular idiot I can’t stand, who delights in ruining the days of others because it makes him feel better about himself, pretending that he’s the alpha.  There’s also the parallel of the incurious, unquestioning followers of said alpha, who’ll just join in on the fun of punching down.  My instinctive emotional reaction wants to take over, now as then, only this time take it to the white noise of social media, and I would not be alone in taking that route.  But I no longer want to take that route.  As I keep saying — I’d only be adding to the noise that’s already there.  [I’m not dismissing this soapboxing as a valid step here…I’m just saying it’s something I no longer want to do.]  I could hide behind my notebooks (or go online) and bleed out my emotions just like I did thirty years ago, but I no longer want to do that.  It’s therapy, but it’s not entirely productive for me.

So where am I now?  Where I am is relearning my intellectual instincts. I’ve had those in the past, I just didn’t always follow them, often to my own annoyance or misery.  I’ve cleared the road of as many distractions and pathetic reasonings as I could, and the path is a hell of a lot clearer than it was in the past.  Owning up to who I am and what I want to be, and doing my best to stick to it.  And most importantly, any response I have to events and situations has become thought-out and processed instead of reactionary.

And how does this tie in with my writing, you ask?  Another good question. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately as well.  As I’ve said, it’s one of the main reasons I chose to self-publish; a lot of my stories are interstitial, meaning that they don’t quite fit perfectly into the expectations of more mainstream stories.  I don’t mind that I don’t quite fit in; in fact, just like my personal life, I embrace that.  The few times I have tried writing mainstream, it was disastrous.  I’m a fringe writer.  Not necessarily writing about the fringes, but being a writer whose style doesn’t quite fit in to the mold of mainstream publishing.

It wasn’t a path I chose lightly, but it was the one that was available to me, and the one that made the most sense to me.  It’s not exactly a harder road to take, but it’s a lot of work and I have to be up for it.  There’s a lot to learn and remember.  I’m still learning to this day.  It’s a strange balance of figuring out how the mainstream pros do it and implementing that into your own production.  It’s okay to imitate the cool kids if it gets you were you need to be, you just don’t have to be one of the cool kids in the process.

A bit of anarcy never hurt anyone, when used correctly.

A product of my generation

1984
courtesy of 1984, Michael Radford 1984 version

Somehow I found myself listening to 1984 the last few days.  It may have been sparked by hearing my favorite song by The Fixx, “Deeper and Deeper” (the end credits song to the movie Streets of Fire from that year) on an 80s Sirius XM channel.  This in turn influenced yesterday’s Walk in Silence, with the various songs that I was listening to at the time.  And as is my wont, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole and am listening to various songs and albums from oh so long ago.

I was thirteen at the time, seeing the back end of junior high and entering high school as a freshman, hoping that life would be a bit more exciting and less drama-filled.  [Seriously, what is it about middle school and everything in life sucking?]  I’d just started focusing seriously on writing, to the point where I probably spent more time on the Infamous War Novel project than I did on my homework.  It just seemed a hell of a lot more exciting to me.

Thinking about it now, I’m fascinated by the parallels between then and now.  A resurgence of ultra-conservatism, American exceptionalism, international terrorism, sexism, ism ism ism.  I’m even a bit weirded out that we could fit Russia into this equation again.

With the current administration doing whatever it thinks it’s doing, I’ve been sort of preparing myself mentally to get through it.  I could easily fall down the other rabbit hole — the one where I fall prey to the doom and gloom and feel like shit until it’s over and done with — or I can learn from the past and know that there will indeed be a light at the end of this tunnel soon enough.  [Granted, this tunnel is a detour that we really truly did NOT need to take and it’s a big pain in the ass for all involved.]

Personal point being — to get through the troubles and frustrations of today, I’m thankful to have a decent memory of the past.  It helps me to stay one step ahead of the beast.

In the context of writing: this is part of why world-building is so important to me, and it’s also why I’ve been working on future projects with the 750 over the last few years.  When I was first starting out way back in the 80s, figuring out how it all works, I just sort of made up the scenes as I went along, with a somewhat vague overall plot line being nudged ever so slowly forward.  The end result was patchy and inconsistent at best.  Writing these practice words for a project I haven’t even started yet gives me just enough of a world and a plot to base it all in.  It helps me to stay one step ahead of that beast.

It’s tricky, and you really need to know yourself and your own thought processes, but it’s worth it in the end.  It’ll keep you sane, that’s for sure.

 

 

 

 

“I am sick when I do look on thee.”

Hiddleston Henry V a
Tom Hiddleston as Henry V

I’ve said it before: I really don’t want to wax politic here, I really don’t.  This blog is about writing.  It’s about my love of writing, the things I’ve learned that I want to pass on.  It’s a part of my lifelong career.  I don’t want to wax politic because a) that’s not what this blog is about, b) I don’t want to bore you/chase you away, and c) I try to avoid said waxing as much as possible these days for health reasons.

So I’m just going to say this about Shakespeare in the Park’s recent interpretation of Julius Caesar:  to be honest, when Shakespeare is reworked and set in a more current context, quite often it’s bloody fantastic.  We saw a recent version of Hamlet that took place during an extremely paranoid Cold War that worked perfectly.  West Side Story (aka Romeo and Juliet, of course) is one of the best musicals ever made.  The Globe Theatre’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in present time that we saw last year was absolutely hilarious.  So a version of Julius Caesar in which JC is a very clear interpretation of Donald Trump?  Totally makes sense to me.  [And yes, it is true that the same troupe did a version some time ago using Obama, to little or no controversy.]

The issue here is not using a sitting President (a term I presently use with a bitter taste in my mouth, natch) in a play in which a major plot point is that he snuffs it.  I mean, come on — remember Primary Colors (the book and the movie), which was supposed to make Bill Clinton look like a moron?  LOLs for days from the right wing, as I recall.  I saw the movie myself — it was pretty bad quality, but its ham-fisted attempts at cleverness didn’t give me the vapors.

The issue here, at least for me, is the willingness to be so incurious, so impassive, so willing to blindly idolize a person to the point that logic flies out the window.  Or as Darrin Bell’s comic strip Candorville put it so wonderfully yesterday, “I’m starting to think you’ll say anything just to win an argument.”  The vocal backlash was boggling.  Blessedly short, but boggling.

On the plus side, it’s ridiculous situations like this that empower me even more to keep on writing.  I don’t need to fight against pointless agruments like this.  These voices may be loud and have a network megaphone, but they’re also a shrinking base.  The longer this play goes on, the less comedic it becomes.  There’s the unfortunate byproduct of all this, in which certain people will find this claptrap as God’s Truth and hurt someone, and I do sometimes fear that will escalate if this keeps up.

BUT — I refuse to lay down my quill because of it.  More to the point, I want to pick it up more often.  To keep sanity alive and kicking.

Regeneration

doctor who regeneration
If it were only that easy, Doctor…

My original plan to take the week off from blogging was simple: I had a lot on my plate, my energy was tapped, and I’d run out of things to blog about.  I’d earned it, considering I’ve had a solid updating schedule over the last five months.  Just a week off to focus on Day Job and personal deadlines, and not feel guilty about it.

It seems I chose to get all philosophical instead.

The week before, I’d been using my daily 750 Words to type up a sort of 90s version of my Walk in Silence riff — just writing about the various things that had gone on in a rollercoaster of a decade for me personally.  As with the 80s riff I’d posted over at the WiS blog, this was partly about the music but mostly about me purging things out of my system once and for all.  By purging, I mean this:  writing it out for the final time, coming to peace with it, learning from it.  And then moving forward.

I finished up that riff on Monday and briefly thought: what am I going to write about for my daily 750 Words now?  I thought about it some and realized that the overall lesson I had to learn from my life in the 90s was this: stop trying to fit in where you so obviously can’t and don’t want to belong.

It’s a general statement to be sure, but the reasoning behind it makes sense.  It started way back in my senior year in high school, actually; there’s a reason I half-joked to one of my friends with the following:  “It’s hard to be a nonconformist when there’s no one else to be nonconformist with.”

I said that knowing full well how oxymoronic (and moronic) that sounded.  The reason I’d said it was because my closest friends at the time, who were all a year ahead of me, had all left for college.  They’d all been on my wavelength, something I hadn’t been able to find with anyone else, to such a degree.

I started riffing on that with my Daily Words.  It reminded me of something one of that group had written sometime in 1989 along the same lines.  He’d talked about being a nonconformist — not so much in a political sense but as a personal decision — and what it took for that kind of mindset to thrive.  Like me, he grew up in a somewhat conservative small town where rebelling against the mainstream didn’t take all that much effort: listening to college radio, liking weird things, wearing odd clothes, and giving up all intentions at trying to fit in with everyone else.  No mohawk, piercing or tattoo necessary, unless you wanted to go that far.  [To my knowledge, none of us did at the time.]

One of his points kind of resonated with me after all these years: it’s kind of hard to be a nonconformist in a vacuum, because the energy behind that mindset tends to dissipate.  Why rebel against the mainstream when the mainstream doesn’t care about you either way?  And on the other end of the spectrum: if the only reason you’re rebelling is to be among your own kind — other nonconformists — you’re kind of missing the point.

My mistake in the 90s was that I was trying so hard to achieve the latter.  I was looking for a surrogate crowd to take place of my old circle of friends.  [Remember, this is well before the Age of Social Media, so the only way we could remain in contact was by phone (too expensive), by weekends off (too iffy due to different schedules), or by letter writing (too much of a pain in the arse and a super slow turnaround).]  That itself was a dismal failure, and while I did end up finding a great group of friends a short time later, it wasn’t exactly the same.  I always felt a bit out of place.  And would continue to feel this way throughout the rest of the 90s.

So.  What’s the point of this current riff?  What’s with the sudden resurgence in fascination with nonconformity?  Well, I would be lying if I didn’t say it might have a little to do with the current presidential administration.  In an odd way, too me, he and his cronies are a shocking parallel to the jocks and the popular kids at school.  They weren’t always causing harm, but they certainly knew how to fuck with people’s heads, and they could not deal with the square peg.  Or they’re the eager followers, willingly ignoring reality and/or other people while desperately trying to claim their role as part of The Gang.

Part of it is also me revisiting my fascination with nonconformity, but on a more stable, creative and positive level.  It’s no longer about rebellion just for the sake of it (“What are you rebelling against?” “Whadda ya got?”); nor is it about achieving a reactive response.  As I’ve said before, I’m trying to avoid falling into the reactionary trap; I’ve wasted far too much time and energy playing that game.

The nonconformity I started riffing on, and what I’ve been contemplating lately, is really about relearning how to ignore outside influence that I don’t need or want. This is more about shedding all the extraneous bullshit in my life, the distractions and the irritations that derail me from what and who I am, and who I want and need to be.  I’ve already figured out who I am at this point; I just need to make a more concerted effort to be that person.

This is why I’m the kind of writer that I am, writing stories in the way that makes sense to me creatively, publishing them in the way that makes sense to me creatively.  I’m the kind of writer who will hear certain ‘don’t do this’ writing advice and immediately think, well, why not?  And then follow up with an attempt at proving it wrong.  I go with what my soul sings to me.

In the end, with this bit of recent insight and clarity, my long-game plan is to regenerate a bit (to borrow a Whovian term) and return to that True Self I’d had in my head for years but hadn’t been able to achieve.

 

“When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” – Doctor Who (11th Doctor, Matt Smith)

Sometimes you just have to call it.

anime-tired

Taking a week off from blogging, folks, starting yesterday.  I’ve pulled myself quite thin lately between Day Jobbery and Writing Projects that I forgot I only have so much energy to spare.

I’m going to take some time to reorganize my schedule and activities so I’m not running myself ragged.  I may have been able to do this in the past, but age and stress does do a number on a person after awhile.

I’ll be back on the horse on the 22nd.  See you then.

Old habits die hard, but…

python anfscd

…new habits are even harder to keep, especially when you’re trying to reorganize your life.  It’s terribly easy to slip back into the old ones when you’re trying your damnedest to get rid of them because they don’t work for you anymore.

Still, I can’t expect them to change overnight.

I’ve been doing my best to reorganize my life so I’m not wasting so much time passively surfing the internets.  There are a few goals here, of course: I can still get easily caught up in the latest imbroglio on social media, fall down the rabbit hole of You Tube (I wasted a good ten minutes right now looking for other Monty Python gifs and then finding the Spectrum skit, one of my favorites), or staring at the screen trying to think of what the hell I’m going to blog about for tomorrow’s entry.

On the other hand, I have great days when I fall into a groove and I get all sorts of things done.  I’ll close down the browsers and only have my mp3 software running (or a single browser playing a radio station or one of the Sirius XM channels).

So what to do about it?

I’ve tried all kinds of things.  Closing down the browsers.  Knowing the difference between enjoying an unencumbered weekend afternoon and just wasting time.  Obsessive cleaning and reorganizing.  Facing down the Don’t Wannas by doing the damn thing regardless.  Putting my current writing project front and center on my screen (or in this case, on my desk) so I can’t avoid it.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Regardless, it’s a matter of actively working on changing those habits.

It’s a slow evolution, but it’s getting there.

my neighbor seki
SEKI YOU’RE NOT HELPING

Even if it’s been that sort of week…

eeyore

I was originally going to just give you all a fly-by today as I’ve had my ass handed to me all week at the Day Job and I’m just about out of fucks to give running at half-speed right now.  My writing schedule has been all wonky, thanks to having to head into the Day Job office yesterday (which I’d forgotten all about until the night before) and not having time for Daily Words or other fun things.

And you know how I am when my Best Laid Plans get waylaid by annoying unrelated things like Day Job stuff or something not working.  Or just being plain tired.  I get cranky and irritable that time’s been wasted.  It’s a mindset that grew from my Belfry schedule back in the day that I haven’t bothered to get rid of.

SO.  Do I go online and kvetch about it and then waste the rest of the day doing nothing?

Well, no.  I get it out of my system, muster up the extra energy, and soldier on.  Because I want to keep a solid writing schedule, damn it!  Is that too much to ask? 🙂

Anyway.  Don’t mind me, folks.  Just having an off week.  I’ll be back to normal soon enough.

yawning