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bear by san

March 2017



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you want *bait.*

slithytove on Ira Glass on storytelling.

Mr. Slithy is a Writers of the Future winner in his secrit other life.

Listen to him. He's smart about things.

And so is Ira Glass: "Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap... All video production...all radio production is trying to be crap." (and) "If you're not failing all the time, you're not creating a situation where you can get really lucky."

There was another artist (a musician) quoted on the radio this morning, though I didn't catch the name, who said "The deeper in I get, the further I am from the opposite shore."

And this is also true.

I am good at my job. At this point in time, I'm comfortable in saying that.

I'm not claiming to be one of the best, by any means, but I am secure in my competence to tell a story. That security only just happened recently, I should add, and it's still new and shiny and comforting. Look, I am making progress!

And I just got off a plateau that lasted years, and made everything I did a terrible, agonizing grind. Writing is often fun again lately, and that's a good thing, because barring commercial disaster, I may be stuck with it.

And the more I learn about writing? The more I learn there is to learn. If I lived to be a thousand, I might master this art form.

Then again, I might just find more stuff to learn.

What's interesting is that I can tell what the narrative portion of my brain is working on by what it fixates on. It used to fixate on what others did poorly; that passed, after a while, and now it fixates on what others do well. (And it doesn't have to be writing-related, because writing is like everything else, and one can learn from other disciplines. The current Criminal Minds fixation has a lot to do with wanting to swipe a lot of the techniques by which they handle character and self-contradicting narratives, for example, like the thing where every time a character tells some cute anecdote about his or her past, it's incredibly revealing about who they are. Hotch is the guy who picked out his future wife across a crowded room when he was sixteen, hatched a scheme to get her attention... and is still married to her now. JJ is the girl who can get a room full of FBI profilers to total buy in with an over-the-top tall tale about a slasher at a summer camp.

(So it seems my next narrative project, now that I've gotten control of my prosody, more or less, is getting control of the way I develop character. I do a lot of that unconsciously, and now my brain appears to want to get a handle on it so it can be driven where I want.)

Anyway. Back to Slithy, and Ira Glass.

I would expand, and say, all art is trying to be crap. You have to be aware of that, and keep pushing back, cutting off the bits that slide into crapdom. You have to stay on top of the crap. The crapalanche.

And as for that other thing, buymeaclue says, if you aren't falling off, you aren't riding hard enough.


Staying within one's limits never got art made.


A version of Sturgeon's Law. :nods:

Not at all what I meant, but there ya go. *g*
:) I once said to a sculptor friend, "Art ought to be 'edge play'. Otherwise, it's just home decorating."
On the other hand, edge play can become self-parody pretty quickly. *g*
I very clearly remember when I finally got a handle on emotion, which is when I started writing stuff I could sell, and endings, which is when I started liking what I'd written. I am still delighted at finally being able to write endings because I was so crap at it for so long.

Now, I want plot--I would commit unspeakable acts in exchange for plot.

Plot is easy. Just keep breaking things.

My brain wants conscious control of its narrative layering. This scares me.

Because after that, it's going to want me to learn to write in dialect like Anthony Burgess, and I could be here a while.
I had this conversation about plateaus and writing and stepping off the deep end with raecarson once upon a time:
Once upon a time, a long time ago, in what seems to me to be another life, I was a professional musician, and I was a damned good one. It was during this time that I learned what it meant to have a talent and use that talent to the fullest. Usually when I was on stage playing with a band, the thoughts in my head would run like this.

"We're rocking, we're rocking!"
"Oh, crap, we're sucking, we're sucking!"
"I'm rocking, I'm rocking, but they're all sucking!"
"No, wait, now I'm sucking and everyone else is rocking!"

This little litany goes through every musician's head while they are in the middle of a set. I have since discovered that variations of it go through my head when I'm writing.

(Here comes the mystical part, just so you are forewarned)

But sometimes, if you're good, and lucky, and work your arse off, you find yourself doing more than just rocking. Sometimes you find yourself pulling the music from the instrument and guiding it, shaping it, giving it love and form and breath, making it more than it is, and in the process, it makes you something more: something bright and shiny and diamond hard and too terrible to behold, and now you've begun to lay everything out on the table for the audience and they know it and they go dead still until it's just you and the instrument and there's no fear, no hesitation, no anxiety, and you take everything inside of you out of the box and show it to the world in a huge mix of horror and pride and you let the happy child inside out to play and you let the scared one cry for all it's lost, and it's all just there, and you've gone swimming out in the deep deep water.

It's scary as hell, 'cause the deep water can kill. It's littered with the floating bodies and shattered wrecks of others who couldn't stand it, who touched the deep and pulled away, who sought the singing joy of swimming in the deep in destructive ways and flamed out, and it's a lot like dying just a little, because you think you might never feel so alive again, and you have to keep your head above the water and clear or you really will drown from the ache of it all.

But there's nothing for it. If you want - really want - to grow and expand and become everything you can as a writer, you have to chance it. It's what sets apart the really successful ones from those of us who just "do all right."

And here's the final thing. Yeah, lots of writers, musicians, poets, artist, whatever, swim out there and never make it, but you and I also know many who have.
I don't know if that makes any sense, but there it is.
It's pretty much true, yeah.

Again with the buymeaclue quote. "You must have suck and not-suck at the same time."
Staying within one's limits never got art made.

You know, I learn so much from your posts and your links to others' posts. Not necessarily because you are Always Right (or Right For Everyone) but because when you look at something, it occurs to me to look at it, too, and I always discover traits I never knew were there.

That's highly nifty. And addictive. I learn more about the way I work, and about the way that story works by reading LJ, and it makes me want to find out even more. And learning how things work makes me want to tinker with them again, which I haven't for a long time. And if/when I Get Stuff Done and, y'know, whatever, it'll be due in no small part to you and other LJ folks who don't even know me. And that's pretty cool in my book. :)

So, here's a random thank you on a Saturday afternoon, just because. :)
And here's a random you're welcome!

(and yeah, what I say can only ever be true for me.)
I believe that all art must always develop. If it stays constant it becomes dead.

OK, now I sound so pretentious I must go and read some slash fics... ;)
It's a good icon. I believe in it. *g*
You have to stay on top of the crap. The crapalanche.

This is so true. A sentence comes out without your consent and you have to say "no, damn you!" and kill it before it multiplies...like crickets.

I forgot to say before how much I like J.J. That story she fed Reid and Morgan in "The Boogeyman" was classic. And I love the way she ruffles Reid's hair and calls him Spence, and her scene with Garcia in "The Fisher King" about Sir Kneighf was adorable. ("See if he has a fictional brother." "Yeah...he doesn't." "Cousin, uncle...grandfather. Something.")
JJ wasn't really on my radar until, oh, "The Popular Kids" and "What Fresh Hell." And then I was like I LIKE YOU.
>And as for that other thing, buymeaclue says, if you aren't falling off, you aren't riding hard enough.

I will be back to read the rest o' this later. But I'm pretty sure I have never said that. *g*
(I am, remember, not really a fan of suffering for my art.)
I thought I'd throw a two-headed comment down here among the late arrivals:

A friend of mine once got cursing angry over the various artists he knew talking about the risks they were taking.

(Cut the man a little slack, though. I think an over-sensitive African regime had just strung a writer up that week. And, you know, he'd had snootful of non-contact suburban typing/finger painting/poetry slamming/macrame/crocheting folks and their hyperbole).

Still, I'm basically with you.

Who else but a wannabe typer takes courses in Old World prehistory, anthropology, Chaucer, social psychology, & etc. with a straight face? Or works nights and frozen winters on the highway to save for a writing master's?

What is there but quixotic harebrainery? What do you do when you aren't trying to come up with the weird, the wild, and the wonderful? (The true, the mad, the deep?)

Yeah. That and a soul squeezing day job.
...what on earth are you responding to? That's not what I'm talking about at all.
I've realized how true that is for me only recently. It's true with writing, of course, but even more with painting and drawing. For over a decade I mostly stayed within my safe little boundries, only pushing a little bit on certain things - anatomy, expressions - that didn't scare me to push at, and almost completely neglecting, oh... colour theory, composition, settings, perspective, everything that I found really confusing and hard, which was pretty much 3/4 of what I needed to know.

Then in late January or so I hit a mental wall and realized that I'd been buried under the crapalanche. So to speak. Now I'm slowly, slowly, going back and forcing myself to do all of those boring little drawing exercises, drawing from life, drawing scenes that make my eyes cross and something in my brain whine "but I'm too good to waste time on this!" - up until the point I compare the drawing to the real thing. Eesh.

For me, the enroaching crap is complacency regarding my weak areas. I have to keep working on them, even if it's only a little bit, to keep them from growing weaker and me from growing avoidant about them.
Wow. This is an amazing post I must say.

Firstly, Because I am slow and shallow, I find I don't understand a good portion of your posts. Don't ask why. It just is.

But this one I get. I, as I have said, teach and practice yoga. It's amazing the parallels to me in the two. You have this constant practice, one which never ends, is constantly being honed and sharpened and may never become perfect (for there is no such thing). But it's constatly developing and evolving and then - oh then! - there is the suckage!!!

You truly have to show up and suck before you show up and shine. In both teaching and practicing yoga. This works for writing as well. I literally felt myself get out of the way so I could write some baaaaaad prose, knowing full well that I did not have to develop it into a shiny bauble then and there. I could wait and refine it later, working it into something smooth and flowing. And it led to such an amazing outpouring and development of the story. I've been kind of walking around in amazement the last couple of days - not in an "Oh, I am rather awesome in my awesomeness" way -- but just at how it developed of its own.

This is the other thing that I am amazed by. The development of the writing muscle, whatever that may be. Recently, I've had characters suddenly do things on their own that I don't understand and come to realize is something totally in keeping with my vision of them but something that came from within them. It's jsut astounding to me.

I am such a baby writer. but to read your LJ and get these insights and understand your workings a little better means a huge deal to me. So here's a lazy Sunday AM, unshowered in a bathrobe thank you from me.

It's a learned skill. I swear. All this romantic bullshit about the muse is for, well, Romantics.