I thought I’d work my way into this thing again. Getting over a hump of this magnitude is a little tough. Imagine skipping Mass for most of your college life. Then imagine trying to get up one Sunday morning after graduation and drag your ass to church again when all you want to do is sleep late. You can easily praise Him with biscuits and gravy at brunch rather than the Eucharist at 8:44. Today, writing feels like that.
Worse, tomorrow, trying to write is going to feel like the next Sunday when you weasel out of the ecclesiastical trip on the grounds that you don’t want to over do your renewed zest for religion lest you return to your collegiately imposed heathenistic ways.
Or imagine an air-conditioned pick-up and a humid South Texas parking lot. The brightness outside a theater after a matinée. Someone requesting, “Smell this.” Then shoving a carton of milk toward you. Worse, “Taste this.”.
At first your return writing is a little mechanical. Little more than a proper arranging of words on a page then capping them every so often with a period. Maybe even less, a mere stretch of the fingers across the keyboard. All uninspiring; all easily ignored well before even your most dedicated of readers makes it four paragraphs in. That’s fine. You’re actually searching for the habit, the pattern, the rote familiarity of I before E (except after C). Casting for creativity or color too soon stirs gentle waters and those shiny fish dart for the coverage among the roots and shadows.
Just drop in the line. Just watch the bobber. Just repeat.
I’m not too proud of the last day’s effort. I’ve also not been in the mood. Early on I would muddled through, but these past many weeks I’ve given up, given in, or plain not given a shit. I’ve moved on.
Not altogether. Not for good. Just at that time I’ve moved on. A variety of uninteresting things conspired lately to make that easier for me. I let them.
The first object I meant to paint with words here goes untouched. Not a post, not a sentence, not an allusion, not a word exists to suggest I ever held the idea. I keep the object hidden from view uninked untyped so I don’t mar the object and so that you don’t read my marring.
Protecting the object makes sense. Leaving it unintroduced allows me to write it when I finally feel up to the task. Till when I finally feel good enough to paint it well with the words of an experienced writer. Except one thousand days never meant to be about safety or keeping any topic untouched. What I’m doing here meant to uncork a new bottle of interesting each day, swig it down, then move on. Why would one vintage remain unopened for so long?
Some topics reside in my thoughts as hybrids between feelings and pictures. A picture I can translate into a scene. Same with a snip of dialogue. Or even a name. These hybrids—there are more than the one at hand—trip me up because they are potent seeds. Special seeds unlimited to a single plant. Seeds meant to grow a whole forest or glade or garden or patch, but not just one simple thing. I’d rather not waste them.
Which is dumb.
I’m wasting them now by hording them.
But I’m wasting quite a few. Each one of the half-stories, scenes, or paragraphs here that trail off after a flourish of writing are the same as these hybrids. They just got further along before I recognized their potential and shutdown to protect them from my stubby clumsy words.
Lately and long ago I read that writing is about taking risks. I don’t know what that means. Using big words? Using strange tenses? Atypical persons? Risque topics? Swear words when you know you Mom is reading? Writing humor when you know you’re not funny? Romance when you’re satisfied? Writing about one thing instead of one thousand?
I’ll drag these precious hybrids into the light. Tear them up or tear them down. Maybe that’s a risk. Maybe it’ll be worth taking.
I write bad guys infrequently, but I have written about writing them a couple times. A common situation I have not written not written about writing at all is dialogue with more than two people. This morning I explore archetypal third speakers.
These speaking roles just come to me as I write them. I’ve got no plan and make no assurances to the completeness or accuracy of the list.
Agreer – this is the ‘me too’ voice of the conversation. They serve no purpose in the conversation content but to reflect one of the two main speaker’s already made points. As repetitive as it may be for the conversation itself, for the story it can be useful in many ways. The third voice adds color to an otherwise factual conversation. Aping the material for laughs or for reducing the impact of those facts. Emphasizing the content by providing timely and wise reinforcement. Or simple staking the odds against the second speaker.
The agreer probably needs to be a secondary or tertiary character employed more as a foil than a main actor in the story. What symbolic role they represent will be how the first speaker’s words will be interpreted when the original speaker is unable to produce that effect on their own.
The Nag – Like the agreer but clearly devoted to a specific speaker. Essentially this role is an external conscience or simply a functionary of the plot. As functionary of the plot—”Be careful that plate is hot,” said the waitress—the content of their contributions holds less importance than the timing of their contributions. Over used these could become deus ex machina.
Interrupter – The first and second speaker attack each other directly from opposite sides of an argument, the Interrupter tries to disrupt the conversation. The intent of the third person may not be what they accomplish. Their attempts meant to cool an argument may heat it up by simply annoying one or both primary speakers. Alternately the Interrupter may help each primary speaker see the absurdity of the argument.
Distracter – This role parallels much of the interrupter’s effects but in the opposite manner. While the interrupter inserts points into the conversation trying to be part of the activity, the distracter pulls the two primaries away from the conversation toward a new target.
Well this will need polishing it may never get. Plus I’ve concocted but not created some images to go with each of these. I didn’t even get to the hole class of third voices that contribute equally to the conversation but from a fully formed and independent third perspective—probably because I think those are the hardest to write.
Regular readers may have noticed I pulled my “Seinfeldian Chain” page. It got good hits—likely due to the celebrity of the name itself—but I rarely updated it and let’s face it, the idea that I actually write every everyday is a lie I tell myself. One that didn’t need a fancy tracking device to expose my shame. So, gone.
In it’s place you will soon find a Cast of Characters page. I dreamed this up last night as a way of avoiding productive speculative writing, but I’ve got an angle. A trip through this last year’s writing plucking green, ripe, and rotten fruit from the branches of my posts ought to help me find a new thread to pick up on or an abandoned thread to revive. Also, I intend to try my hand at one or two-line character sketches.
I know I have characters for whom my description in situ fell short of full and even short of what I held in my head. Doing this harvest should preserve whatever considerations I’d given these characters at the time and probably expose details you’d not known before.
Lastly, I’m curious to reveal my character demographics. My writing feels physically diverse, but I’m thinking I have a number of Mary Sues out there that need to take a few strides away from their creator. At the very least a head count may be amusing.
I use the tag ‘inspire’ when reading various blogs and producers of content to note intriguing content I find. I mark between three and five items every day that give me pause. While the tag isn’t exclusive to visual inspiration—at least it’s not supposed to be—I haven’t yet found enough inspiration from the written word to pin ‘inspire’ on any.
Recently I ran across two blogs listing prompts for writing. I jump when others recommend such tools hoping they will have found some widget or technique I haven’t. As I recall both these listed word based prompts. I checked them all out thinking something might tickle me. None did.
Part of me wants to find the irony. I write yet I cannot find inspiration in the words of others. My attention drops off of this conclusion like a cat skidding down the windshield of a parked car it’s not longer interested in perching on. So far I’ve found written prompts fall into two categories: questions or demands and poetical near gibberish phrases.
“Someone has replaced your regular coffee with Folger’s Crystals. How do you feel?” I feel like hitting the Next Prompt button.
“Describe a garage sale at a haunted house.” What for?
“thrice packed inside” Ummm…
So these turn out to be mechanical aids that don’t much aid as annoy. I end up distracted by the inanity asking myself what I’m supposed to get out of that effort. Maybe exposing my bitter feelings about coffee betrayal will help me cool down after being steamed? I just don’t understand where I’m meant to go. Maybe I’m not meant to derive any real use out of the effort. Maybe I’m just warming up my muscles, stretching out my fingers. I’m not much for throw away writing. At least not throw away writing prompted by external forces. I’m certain I can trash the crap my internal muse dishes out quite easily.
Anyhow, I like pictures. I can read a beginning in them I can’t discern in canned words.
Ouch! Just looked at the original Google Doc starting 1000 Days. My first entry is dated August 13th. Which means I’ve been at this daily writing thing more than a year and only have 284 entries to so for it. I don’t recall abandoning weekends so early in the game. I am a little afraid to check the math to see how many weekdays I must have missed too but I will anyway.
20080813 to current date equals 394 days. 110 days short of a full compliment. In that time there have be 56 weekends encompassing 112 days. Since I know I didn’t start dropping weekends till about halfway through this means I’ve missed more than a few weekdays of writing. Being just two days ahead of the ‘just weekends off’ line is not pleasing.
I am certain a year ago I had higher expectations for more writing at this point. In both quality, length, and regularity I’ve missed any mark I explicitly set or implicitly projected. None of this surprises me.
I’ve not set standards for output.
I’ve not set goals for length.
I’ve not set rigid times for writing.
I do have a job and a life and a great number of kids to balance. And while that combination of an excuse might seem tired to you, for me it feels both valid and improper at the same time. Everyday is busy, but in much the same way. With that kind of homogeneity in my distractions I should have been able to schedule around them better than I have.
This is my endeavor so I won’t embarrass myself by listing the fruitless distractions of the Internet. Minus those I may have completed and sold my second novel by now.
This weekend I completed my stalled reviewing of the Matrix Trilogy. The gap of time between one and two measured in weeks, if not months. The gap between two and three only a few days. If you’ve seen them you’ll not be surprised.
Turns out that the second and third movies improved with the gap. Directors shoot for the best perception possible for their movies but I doubt they factor aging into that equation. It worked for me in this case. They still didn’t excel, but they didn’t bomb the way they did when I first saw them.
All this is a clunky lead in to what I really wanted to highlight. In the third movie there is a tertiary storyline with Tank and Dozer’s sister—Link’s wife—and an incidental woman with a shaved head. The second scene with them together has one asking the other if the other is scared. Dressed in homespun garments they crouch in a mechanical access line waiting with the other newly volunteered infantry members. These ground troops wait in line to die.
I recognized this scene as similar to how I like to start much of what I do here at 1000 Days. If I can, I really enjoy starting just a little late in a story so the reader is already missing out on what’s gone before. In the Shanty arc I’ve significantly written on here I have one character coming in for a landing, another about to board a gondola, and a third hitching a ride in the middle of the desert. Elsewhere I’ve dropped in on hunters atop a perch watching prey approach. Soldiers being shot at. Voyageurs dragging a frozen body through marshland. Old teachers overlooking the gathering of the tribe to safety. I rarely start with a wideshot—an establishing shot. I almost never start out describing scenery then follow with placing characters in that set. I guess this is my style.