31 January, 2017

Writing With My Old Friend Epilepsy

Well, my episodes are back.

Last time this happened, between about 2010-2013, I became fat, I accomplished nothing, and I forgot many useful skills I'd learned.  Treated at long last, I woke up hardly remembering those three years at all.

Here's hoping that doesn't happen again.
Image result for cheers

Already I find myself sleeping too much, perpetually a bit tired, and forgetful of even the most basic things.  As I write this there's a pile of cat sick outside my study door that's been there for a day now.  I intend to clean it when I get up, but will almost certainly forget within the next 90 seconds.  Isn't it grand?  I lose my zest for life, in short, and I find it very hard to force myself to be a hardworking, healthy professional.

But people who suffer with a disease have to learn to find the good in things.  I really think people with a neurological disorder have to learn to master themselves, in a weird way.  I know exactly how to use schedules and alarms to trick myself into acting like a healthy person, and how to look at things to keep my chin up. 

This latest bout has actually taught me something pretty neat.

A lot has happened in 2017 already for me, and I won't let the post get unfocused, but suffice to say I've felt compelled to edit a few adult novels into shape.

For me, writing is fun, and editing is work.  I know it's the other way around for some writers, and I envy those who find everything fun, if they exist.

Now, for weeks I was beating my head with one of these books.  I found no joy in editing it, wound up getting very little done, which made me more depressed, which made me more tired, more lacadaisical, and the cycle perpetuates itself.

People in my position must take very active steps, and be very self aware, to avoid falling too far.  I've allocated myself 30 minutes per day for "professional development".  That means either writing for my blog, or editing my book.  Odds are strong that when I sit down for 30 minutes, I'll want to stay longer, but it's important that I don't have to.  Yesterday I sat down at 3:30 and stopped editing at 7pm.  I got plenty done and felt great.

It's not the first time in my life I've learned the importance of those little tricks, but it is the first time I've learned this:  you don't rule the creative mind.  It rules you.  It's of tremendous importance to spend each day writing something that makes me happy, whether that's reading some favourite adult fantasy books for inspiration, or writing a midgrade idea that came to me in a dream a couple weeks ago.

I always maintained that art doesn't happen when writers write, but when readers read.  It isn't in the pianist's fingers pushing keys, but the listener's ears.  But there's more to it.  I think art is found in the love of the creation, whether it's the artist's love or the audience's.  It's in the spark of joy that teases the pianist's fingers to life, too.

Less eloquently, I've realised why so many artists become childish, diva bastards.  It seems I have to let myself join the ranks just a little bit.  I have to follow that joy, especially now, or else succumb to the depression.  I'm inspired to link to an old Radiohead song.  Not sure why but screw it.  It's a good song.

DO NOTE:  This incredibly weird and arguably naff video must be viewed through the lens of 90s playful sarcasm, or else it's nauseating.  We did it first, hipsters!  And in the right spirit!  Stop sullying our good name with your sleeve tattoos and "ironic" t-shirts!

Here's to you, epilepsy.  Even if you make me forget something every day, I guess occasionally you help me learn something too.


22 January, 2017

Meaningless Meaningful Methods and Fruitful Formulas... and arbitrary alliterations...

Most writers can boil down their method into a few words.  These words will mean almost nothing to anyone else, but can be interesting to hear.  They've certainly be useful to me.

Neil Gaiman:  "Make good art."  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYkseI)

Paul McAuley:  "The reader follows the character, not the story."

Scott Bradfield:  "It's all about point of view and narrative time."

Elmore Leonard:  "F**k you!  I'm working!  I wrote a book with 10 of these epithets already!"

If you haven't read it, get it:

(Do note that this book is extremely short and simple, and it's entire contents, roughly 1,000 words, can be found on the internet.  Personally I enjoy having a hard copy and found my investment, some 7 years ago, valuable.  If I'd just read it online, it wouldn't be there calling to me and I wouldn't be reminded of its importance every time I look over my bookshelves.)

Anyway, most of us have a stupid epithet because it helps us.  Einstein said if you can't explain something in simple terms, you don't understand it.  What that means in this context is, explaining something in simple terms helps you understand it.

And I think I've discovered my formula, so:

Wm. Luke Everest:  Something you care about, written in a simplistic way.

Let's break it down.

Something you care about doesn't have to be about politics, or culture.  It can be that you care about your fantasy world.  Or, as is usually the case when I write, it's caring about a character and that character's journey.  Either way, before you sit at the keyboard, ask yourself why you care.  When you type, do care.  The objective here is to make the reader care, too.

Writing in a simplistic way doesn't mean it looks simple, or even that it would be simple for someone else.  What it means is, it's a story you have a handle on, and it all seems simple to you.  This doesn't even have to be from the start.  Maybe you're really pushing your boundaries.  Great.  But by the end of it, if you can't look at your story and go, "It's definitely all about this stuff here, and it all works because of this," trust me, the book needs work.  Why and how it works should be very obvious to you, the creator, by the end.  If it doesn't work for you, it won't work for anyone else.

There will of course be exceptions to everything, and I do not claim the above to be all inclusive for everyone.  The whole point is, it's inclusive for me.

So there it is.  My little method might not help anyone.  It almost certainly won't be your phrase.  But I've always found reading other writers' methods interesting and useful.

My pointless picture for pinterest is of a kitten at a keyboard.  I thought about a monkey at a typewriter, because that's what I feel like sometimes, but then I thought, kittens are cuter, so why not?  This is the sort of thing I frequently wake up to, anyway.  The joys and tribulations of living with a cat.

Image result for kitten at keyboard