Writer

Remembering

I’ve been dreadfully busy, these past two weeks. Some people don’t take that as an excuse to miss blogging and writing, but… I guess I do. Some people say writing needs to be a habit like brushing your teeth in the morning, but guess what? When I get too busy, I don’t remember to brush my teeth. Don’t remember to drink water unless I’m reminded. Don’t remember to eat. Don’t remember to write. I’m that bad at habits.

To be fair, these past two weeks have been fraught. I’ve been planning trips, making reservations, driving my family around, navigating without GPS, seeing sights. Castles. Palaces. Rivers. Shops. Paris in one day. You know, the firstest of first world trials. We can’t afford to eat at most of these places. I don’t remember to eat much of what we packed. Don’t remember to drink, unless my mother, or sister-writer, press bottles into my hands and order my hydration. Don’t remember to write.

When we do eat out, I forget anything else. Revel. Carp! I forget anything else. Eclair! I forget anything else. Warm brie and pear! I forget anything else. Sister-writer remembers to take pictures. Bad lighting. Good faces. Good food.

I’m bad at all-the-time habits. But I’m good at coming back to things. Circling back around. Beginning again. Carrying on. Remembering, if not in time, in time. I walk through the woods with my mother. The light is perfect. I remember to take pictures. She’s beautiful.

I think maybe that’s how I’m meant to be. Not remembering always, maybe remembering enough. I see my mother in Paris and forget to take pictures. I see my mother in the trees, and remember. It is good.

I remember to write a blog post. I’ve forgotten dinner.

Maybe it’s enough. Maybe it’s good.

Scrap from a Slag Pile

With this document, I hope, begins a new era. But then, I’m always hoping for a new era, aren’t I? But don’t I get them? New eras, they don’t come because of one decision, one thing, but they do come, because I won’t stop trying another new thing. I won’t give up my attempts. So maybe this will languish, and falter, and fall, but it’s an attempt, and for that, I’m glad. It’s a sign that I keep trying.

Trying what, you say? Oh, a hell of a lot of things. Trying to write, to blog, to finish something. Trying to do a good work. Trying to sort out my thoughts. Trying to give my life shape, to fashion it into an arrow, aim it at an end goal, see it fly true. To change. To become more. To become great.

How will one new document, one new project idea, help me do that? Oh, it probably won’t. I’ve tried enough of them by now to know that I’m likely going to stop in a week or so. That makes me sad. But it’s… it’s almost not the point. The point is that I’ve got to keep getting up and trying something, another something, another something, until all of these attempts and false starts and unfinished stories and stories finished years after they were started add up into something, add up into MY story, the story I want to tell.

The big idea with this little concept is that if I create a slag pile, maybe I’ll be able to do year-‘round what I do during NaNoWriMo. Write. Write every day. Write bullsh*t if I must. And when I say that, I mean serious, face-to-keyboard, weeping-on-my-knees, copy-and-paste-a-paragraph-in-pure-cheating-disgrace bullsh*t. Hideous. But I do what I must to get my daily count.

And apparently, that’s something I need to do. Because for every day I write like a worthless gobsh*te, there are two other days. One is a journal day, where I write the sort of thing I’m writing right now, writing from my soul, writing to explain myself to myself. And that is good. Sometimes it becomes a blog post, sometimes it goes nowhere, but that’s not the chief point. The chief point is that sometimes, to quote Flannery O’Connor, I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.

And then there’s that other day. Zombie-mumble days, Dear Diary days, and, glory be, Story days! These are good. Hard, harder than writing like this. So much harder to be satisfied with any passing paragraph; that’s why I can’t do it every day. Some days, I just don’t have it. But if I don’t try, I don’t know. Do I have it today, or not? How many days have passed that I could have written good story and I didn’t?

So this is what it’s for. A thousand words every day, a thousand words of I-don’t-give-a-crap. Just to see… can I do it today? Can I write something that means something today? Can I write a story today? If not, ah well. But now I know. This is a grab for the brass ring, and whether I reach it or not, I mean to lean out, stretch my fingers, and snatch at it on every single go-‘round.

Will this 1K-a-day challenge collapse? Probably. I’m bad at doing anything every single day. But another challenge will rise up after it. I’ll find one, or make one up. One desperate gambit at a time, I will drag myself into authorship. This is my story.

Deerstalkers and Hands-Free Blackberries

*Walks along in rain, contemplating Serious Decisions in my Writing Career Plans*

*Stares down at rainwater rushing past feet in a stream, begins by extension to contemplate the condition of the universe, man, chaos, order, and art*

*Angst and ennui* *Everything is so much vague but potent feeling or something*

*Glances up and sees a deer, freezes*

*Deer glances up, sees a me, freezes*

*Deer goes back to grazing*

*Swallows whoop of excitement, begins stalking deer*

*Freezes every time deer glances up*

*Crouches in brush, creeps through trees*

*Scares deer away*

*Laughs and runs back through grass, thoroughly soaked*

*Sees drips of water on leaves, licks them off*

*Sees blackberries, makes game of eating them off their bushes without hands*

*Ow ow ow thorns*

*Walks home in rain, contemplating serious decisions in my writing career plans*

*Green hair plastered to head, can’t stop grinning, can’t take self too seriously because just stalked deer for no reason and ate hands-free blackberries*

*Yay for rain! Yay for the universe, man, chaos, order, and art!*

And so my quest to become the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to my own Angsty Serious Artist carries on swimmingly.

Web of Art, part III

Web of Art

Rapture in the story,
power in the strands,
beauty in the blood and sweat and tears.
The web in all its glory,
the best of men’s laid plans,
ensnares us in our greatest loves and fears.

The Spider

The third critical part of the Web of Art is the spider, the one that spins it all; the writer, director, sculpter, painter, carpenter or lutenist that made it all happen. The spider is, in short, the artist.

When it comes to considering the spider, there is much to be wondered at. What did they go through to create this? How much did they suffer? How much joy did this bring them? What was going though their heads as they wrote or played or chiseled? What more did they know that they didn’t tell us?

Sometimes, these questions can be partly answered by interviews or memoirs or behind-the-scenes documentaries. Often, the questions will remain forever in our heads to be wondered at. But answered or not, the wonderings are wonderful—in themselves, a deeper reach into the well of human experience.

How often is the spider in the wings, the man behind the scenes, appreciated? How often even noticed? Not so much as seems warranted.

Sometimes the Web has a single weaver; a writer or a painter, perhaps. But many Webs will have several spiders—a song; composed, then conducted, and played by every member of the orchestra. Who is the spider of this Web of song? Every artist who spun a thread.
A movie; scripted, directed, acted, filmed… There are more artist plying their craft in movie making than in most any other art; set designers and makeup artists, prop builders and techies; if you don’t believe me, watch the credits roll sometime.

So many of these spiders go unnoticed—who would have lauded the chainmail-linkers in Lord of the Rings if the behind-the-scenes footage hadn’t pointed them out?—and it’s understandable. It takes a great deal of awareness to look around and spot the artist in the wings. But the experience is so much richer when you can appreciate all three aspects of the Web of Art, so how to gain such an awareness?

My favorite way? Do. Want to be able to appreciate the craftsmanship and the craftsmen behind a movie? There’s no better way than to get behind the scenes yourself. Want to be able to understand the workings of a novel and the noveling life? Write one. Yes, I mean it.

But you can’t do everything you want to understand, so there’s another way—try to understand. Awareness is, as usual, the first step. If you want to watch, you’ll be that much more likely to see.

Look past Story alone, and see the whole glory of the Web of Art.

Story Sculpting

Sure, I enjoy the first draft– botching whatever I like, breaking down the fourth wall, chatting with my characters, amusing myself. For example:

“Upon entering the city, Sy and Mysst made for the best recommended inn.
Since their author was, most unfortunately, failing in her authorial pursuits, they found themselves walking inside the tavern below the inn with nothing to observe about their surroundings or interactions to that point.”

Because anything goes, the imagination is released from its straitjacket, and the soul spills out in incredible plot twists and inspired prose. These geysers of ink are unmatched by the editor’s stern red pen.

However, that wonderful, freeing Anything Goes is also the worst thing about the first draft. Within all the loveliness of this great release-of-soul, there bursts a dungheap.

This is where the red pen shines.

This is where dead prose is resurrected, where rants and brambles are cut away to reveal the fairy glade. This is where every stray thread of plot is wound up, or snipped, or new threads woven throughout, till they stretch across your loom to form a tale…

From the cold-hearted, cold-minded task of the red pen leaps the glory that the first draft only dreamt of.

The first draft is a miracle. From nothing to something. From blank page, to ink. It is the pure creation of a block of finest marble– fine, shapeless marble.

The editor sculpts, taking hammer and chisel to this unrealized dream, shattering the creation in horrifying sprays of stone. And then, beneath the careful pen, the dream begins to emerge. With every cautious, destructive stroke, the editor frees the story from its first draft, then smooths and polishes till every sentence gleams.

Then, art.

Yo-ho, yo-ho, a writer’s life’s for me!

A meager year ago, I didn’t want to write as a career. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I wanted to write– a book, or two or three, as an aside, while I built a business that would actually bring income.

I’d heard too many tales of The Struggling Artist, of the many, the talented, and the skilled, huddling over their icy typewriters while stereotypical Scrooges of landlords breathed down their necks.
Write for a living? If you enjoy bailing water from a sinking ship.
I knew that lucky breaks (ever heard of Harry Potter or Twilight?) were as rare as lottery-winning unicorns getting struck by lightning twice.

So I thought; great side venture, fun hobby, but I don’t want to spend all my days writing desperately to meet a deadline to make ends meet. I’ll focus first on a good business, secondarily on my writing.

And why on earth did this practical, sensible viewpoint change?

It was the middle of National Novel Writing Month, last November, during my annual writing voyage.
I was slumped at my tiny desk, fingers moving sluggishly and independent of purpose. I had been at it for hours, and I was still over a thousand words away from my daily word count goal.
The plot was dragging its heels, the scene was as stilted as it was directionless, and the prose varied from gag-slimy to choke-dry.
I knew I would have to trash the whole day’s writing hiddeous spew.

That’s when I realized I love writing.
All of it.

I looked at myself then, and said “Tirzah, if you really love it this much, from the golden-fountain days, to this deadline-driven drudgery, why aren’t you planning on doing this for the rest of your life?”

Unable to counter my own passion (not, admittedly, that I tried very hard), I chose the unthinkable. A writer’s life.

Still didn’t fancy the cold apartment and colder landlord, though, so I knew I would need a good business, not to mention a job for immediate income and investment money. So I typed away at my manuscripts, all the while keeping my eyes open for a venture I could get excited about.

Finally, I found what I was looking for: the publication and promotion of my book.

That’s right, I came right back to my writing. But this time, I saw it for the business it really is; creating and marketing the best art possible. Lucky breaks are not just for gambling unicorns– as with any business, the harder and smarter you work, the luckier you get.

So, keyboard in hand and a couple hundred guidebooks under my arm (slight exaggeration. Seriously though, many thanks to The Essential Guide to Getting your Book Published), I now set out into the authorprenuerial life!
Anchors aweigh! Run up the skull and crossed pens!

So, you may ask, is this blog a publicity platform for my work?
…Good heavens,  why ever would you think such a thing?

By hook or Facebook or by tooth or by nail,
The world will read o’ this author’s tale,
Yo-ho, yo-ho, a writer’s life’s for me!