A writer’s blog seems to be one of those ubiquitous things that, like fire insurance, you just have to have even if no one ever uses it. As I have many thoughts about process, here we go.
If you read any of these, please comment, say Hi, say anything at all, especially if you disagree.
December 02, 2021 Talking to Myself (In Conversation With Me)
There have been many times when someone in my family has caught me. My facial expressions give me away, along with that middle-distance look I get. They want to know what I am discussing with myself. I will never say. Those are my private thoughts oozing out through my face and it’s nobody’s business.
Of course, I’m just talking to myself.
December 08, 2021 Creative Silences
The elements of experience move around each other – aural, visual, kinesthetic and finally verbal – and, without understanding where it came from, there it is – a new formulation, a new context, a new thought.
December 16, 2021 Writing what you WANT to know.
Some people say, “Write what you know.” Many people do.
Fair enough. I get it. Experience informs creativity.
But it seems to me that most of us who try to write fiction live in our heads.
January 09, 2022 The Curse of the Comically Common Name
When I tell people my name, they don’t laugh, usually, and they don’t ask me how to spell it.
They do pause, almost as if I had said my name was Harry Ball or I.P. Knightley. Well-trained people keep their comments to themselves, while others conjure up something like, “Well, that’s an easy one.”
January 14, 2022 The Scariest Words
Eat your soggy vegetables first. Always good advice.
Rip off the band-aid. Just practical.
Always get the bad news before the good. Goes without saying.
Write what scares you. Scary.
February 14, 2022 What’s It All About?
There are people, and I have no idea if they are just a vocal minority among arty types, who claim to have been on a mission to fulfill a vision, something so compelling that it was there, fully realized from the first step, first word, initial brush-stroke, or notion of a gesture. They were focussed, single-minded, on a path, answering a call, on a pilgrimage to a mysterious site known only to themselves.
And, after their arty work is done, they say, “Look! See what I did? That was my vision and now it exists!” It is left as tribute, then, to Art. There may be light snacks and beverages served.
We mere mortals gather, are suitably impressed, then aspire to emulate the artistic act.
If only we had a vision. How do we start if we don’t have one of those?
March 8, 2022 Words Suck
There are loads of adverb haters, people who say they would like to exterminate them.
I agree only to the point that you often don’t need them if the rest of the page is okay.
Take, for instance, this:
“Clearly,” Beau said, “this is a really bad sentence.”
March 21, 2022 One Title, Over Easy
A chapter title means that you, the author, know what the chapter is about. For me, it helps grease the wheels in the ol’ writing garret when I want to bang out another few thousand words before the week is out and I need above all else a direction. If I can come up with a title before writing the chapter, I know where I’m going. If I invent it later, after the writing, it means that I know where I’ve been, equally important in becoming the path I’m on.
April 19, 2022 Writing and Revising: Having a Good Scratch
When I think I have something to say, a scene that needs describing, for example, it gets written fairly quickly. The result communicates effectively, the scene is set and I move to the next bit before I forget what it was that I really wanted to write about, normally some point of plot that needs establishing. That’s how I keep going, more or less from one plot point to the next. My composing brain is motivated by narrative. It wants to tell a story.
May 31, 2022 I Just Have One Question
If the death of Socrates doesn’t force some useful questions about the weaknesses of democracy, then you’re missing the whole point of Socrates.
August 25, 2022 To Observe and Imagine
My trip to Costco was so much worse than I had imagined and, at the same time, so much better.
Funnelling past the membership sentries at the garage door entrance, I dutifully tailed my sister closely, and there at the threshold held my breath, the space I perceived at once evoking feelings of both claustrophobia and agoraphobia. There was row upon row of stacked boxes preventing me from seeing any distance. At the same time, the starkly white ceiling over my head soared many stories high, empty space to spare. As I navigated this contradiction, I had to be careful not to spend too much time gaping slack-jawed at the profusion of single-item displays, the towers of TVs, the pyramids of pyjamas, lest I be run over by a bargain-hunting scavenger who knew their way around and had long ago forgotten what it was like to step in this place for the first time.
December 05, 2022 The Illusion of Creative Control
It’s a well-known theme.
It starts with a scientist or tinkerer or god. An act of creation. Thought and purpose become reality and some … thing exists, whereas before there was only intention. The more interesting the thing is, the more likely that it takes on a life of its own, achieving some form of independence from its creator.
That’s when it happens.
December 22, 2022 Read On, or Die Trying!
A seven-word opening sentence.
It could be shorter, like, “Call me Ishmael.”
Or …, “In the beginning.”
February 25, 2023 Spread the Alarm
As I hammer away on my little keyboard, keeping myself out of therapy, composing characters and trying to keep straight my beginnings from my middles and my ends, I keep stumbling over challenges, issued by online writing types, that encourage people to write to a goal, like 5000 words in a day. Sometimes they suggest writing 5000 words, biking 50 km., and running 5 km.
Like a triathlon, vomiting included.
September 18, 2023 Another Fine Mess
Rolling boulders, chases and shootouts, an unexpected confrontation with a soused postal worker, maybe even murder hornets all sound good. But these are narrative tight ropes and they are perilous; most often, there is no way to plausibly escape the landslide, the hail of gunfire, or the acid whip of a mother-in-law’s tongue. Murder hornets, I hear, are a bitch.
October 7, 2023 Who AM I?
There was once a clever guy called Shakepeare who wrote about a lean and hungry Roman who asked his friend, “Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?” After giving it a good try, his mate Brutus says, “No Cassius, for the eye sees not itself but by reflection, by some other thing.” Cassius goes on to be Brutus’ mirror, laying it on a bit thick if you ask me, but the point is made that we have a hard time seeing ourselves, in knowing who we are.
November 6, 2023 A Big Mistake
Assuming a reader’s, or an audience’s good will or support for a character has to be fatal. We have to have a reason to care. If your protagonist is going to save the universe, we better care about them over and above the saving part.
February 8, 2024 Unbearably Ubiquitous
Guns are tools that, in American film, no self-respecting criminal or cop can do without. Today, now, there is a newer tool, and another cue for writers or actors and directors to follow as they make transitions. It’s the smartphone. In film, the smartphone is out everywhere – at home, in the restaurant, in the car, in the bathroom, and the last thing anyone does is to pick it up, pocket it, or tuck it somewhere.