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.
I ran across a bit of artwork recently that put me over the edge on understanding what it is that appeals to me about pieces like that one. They posses so much depth and richness that even in the shadowy unseen parts of the painting you know there is detail. In most art I don’t feel like I could dive into the landscape to discover the reverse side of the subject. These paintings that intrigue me convince me that I could. Could enter the painting and find more flowers among the shadows of the trees; find beetles crawling in the cool grimy shade; find the fox that just ducked behind the barn as the artist brought out her easel.
Ok. So, great.
Some paintings bring out an emotion through lack of detail. Or through condensing that detail to iconic representation. These paintings I have in mind go to the other end. They amplify the detail—appropriately. I’m not sure this is good practice in writing. Or I’m not sure I’d be able to pull it off they way I’d like.
The trouble I see is that I’d feel like I was cataloging the landscape not incorporating it. I do something similar to put my kids to bed sometimes. Starting in one corner of the room I verbally tour the items in their room in monotonous sleepy detail.
But I’m reminded that I’ve seen this pulled off well by others. I’ve got no examples because that’s not how my mind works, but I can imagine reading the description of a fantastical market. The author plumbing the origin of each bizarre fruit or meat or trinket. Infusing the reader with the characters’ experience. Sure she overstuffs the reader with non-essential storyline, but she pulls it off. We like it—I want to recreate it.
I’m thinking it’s often about timing in the story. Knowing when you can slow the reader down. Let them soak up the atmosphere and just coast for a bit. But I’m also thinking that it has to do with technique. In the faster parts of a story you need to capture the quintessential ‘thing’. Show the reader the absolute canonical object or action. Once you set that up you need to torque it just a little by marring the canon a bit.
Well that’s enough talking about writing for today.