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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

history_spork on the Disney The Three Musketeers. Which I rather like, tho 'tis not Dumas. But it is dumb and has Tim Curry in it. Two big selling points.

I, of course, am still contemplating this writing thing. And why I'm stuck, and have been stuck for a while now.

I'm not blocked (oo, scary word). What I am is stuck, and I've been stuck since last summer some time. It doesn't stop me from writing; what it does is make the writing a profound effort. It's, you know, hard. And I've been busy for the past three months, and haven't written much of anything (which is not an excuse, but it is a reason, just as it's a reason that I'm drained and uninspired and having a belated second-novel freakout wherein I have to convince myself that really, I do not have to save the world; I just have to write the book.)

Now, admittedly, I've written two books while "stuck," and I happen to think that they're among the better books I've written. (I just finished rereading Carnival, after all, and I was only intermittently convinced that it was a career-ending mistake, which is pretty good for me; usually, I spend the CEM moaning softly to myself and contemplating why I didn't go into nursing, where the worst that could happen is that I could kill somebody with a nosocomial infection transmitted on my plastic fingernails. So when I say "stuck" and not "blocked," I speak honestly.)

It's kind of a plateau thing, where I've gotten to the point where I know so much about craft that it's hard to remember to do it all at once, so the ease of just telling a story is not there. And I need to just tell the story. It's really very straightforward.

I think I'm having a hard time accepting that maybe my learning curve is allowed to level off a bit, or something, and I'm still scrabbling at the glass mountain of craft, and, yanno, it's not like I know everything... but it's not all always about challenging yourself.

Sometimes it's just about telling the story.

I need to quit steering so much, and just drive.

Hal Duncan, in his "Ten Things He's Lerned About Writing" (honest, I wasn't meaning to make a meme, just a funny) gives a whole bunch of advice I don't much like. But hey, it's HIS BRAIN AND HE CAN RUN IT HOW HE LIKES.

Also, he's probably right about a couple of these things. (And because I love irony, I love the irony that most of what I was talking about was about the writer's relationship with the work, and the reader, and the people picking it up are talking about, you know, actually writing and important stuff.)

Then there's Jenn Reese's "Growth Cycle of a Writer," which doesn't click for me, but jaylake liked it. (Confidence? Hah! I personally think that most of these things happen in tandem, if at all, and some of it is just being too damned stubborn to quit.)

Meanwhile, Jeff VanderMeer and his co-author, Evil Monkey, comment on same.

There. Now you know all that I know. Let's have a nap. And some salad.

...not all at once.


A nap salad sounds like a good idea right now. That or some coffee.

When contemplating stuck-ness, do consider also that you underwent major life changes last summer and fall, then moved across the country. Major alterations of interior and exterior space can clog the pipes pretty effectively. They'll clear in time. We've all been there, done that; if this is your first cloggy-pipes period, just be assured it will get better. And so will you--because every time we hit a rough patch, we learn a little more about how to do it.

Had to smile at "I know so much I can't keep it all in my head." You don't know a tenth what you'll know in ten years--trust me on this. ;> This is where my riding homework from this week comes in handy. Feel. Be. And NO WORDS!!!

Yes, there's irony in a writer being told to forget the words. Do it anyway. The words come out on the other side. Really.

your words are not as encouraging as you mean them to be....

*hides behind an arras*

Thankfully, for me, the learning curve started to taper off after about the tenth novel, and frankly, I'm hoping itcontinues to taper. I can't stand this ongoing "I hate everything I wrote more than six months ago" thing. Especially now that it's been joined by the "I hate everything I'm working on now because I can see how inadequate it all is" thing.

Not, mind you, that I want to stop learning. But I'd like it to slow down enough to get this head full of unprocessed craft stuff internalized so I don't have to think about it.

Conscious competence sucks. I would much prefer unconscious competence to take over now.

Re: your words are not as encouraging as you mean them to be....

Conscious competence sucks. I would much prefer unconscious competence to take over now.

Heading up to 40 published novels (I've stopped counting the juvenilia), I can say it does eventually. And epiphanies will still come and craft will change and new angles will appear. Whenever you think you've hit the final wall, you're about to discover it's a staircase and you're on your way up to the next riser.

Just curious: Have you always written compulsively or is it something you came to as you matured, with more of the conscious than unconscious mind? Or from another angle, have you always thought consciously about craft, and was there a time when you didn't?

"No Words" comes easily to me because I was not a conscious writer until, as an adult, I started teaching it. I always just did it. Talking about it gets in the way. I did go through a period of intellectualizing it, which coincided more or less with the PhD program, but it didn't last. Too much time spent tripping over concepts. not enough time spent doing it.

It seems you need to practice shutting off the words. Change from analytical brain to intuitive brain by whatever method works for you. Climbing rocks, dance, aikido, for me it's dressage. Something that isn't you and the words, but you and the physical world, one on one, no barriers.

One thing about the Ivy/Brit education, it has this obsession with mens sana in corpore sano--they force you to take PE in some form, and teach you that you have to have a physical outlet for the intellectual exertion. It pays off come word-overload time.

these are excellent questions

Oh, yeah, juvenilia totally doesn't count.

I don't know if I've always *written* compulsively. I started writing in first or second grade, and I have always generated words compulsively. I didn't learn to tell a story with an arc until I was about 25, however. Before then, I wrote scraps of things, and poetry. I came to an understanding of narrative late, in other words.

I can turn off writing for a while, but I have to find another outlet. Role-playing games are good. And as far as I can recall, I've always had to talk about and intellectualize to learn anything. I have a very clear memory of, when I was ten or eleven, taking the book I was reading and rewriting pages of it in my own words in an attempt to understand what it was that the writer was doing with those words, and why he was picking THOSE ONES and putting them together in that way, and what they were doing other than just telling the story. This was something, as far as I can remember, that I came up with on my own... because I didn't have that ability to construct a narrative, and I was desperate to figure out the mechanics of it.

My learning process seems to be: try to do something. fail. intellectualize the failure. try again. fail-or-succeed. intellectualize either. repeat until what one is intellectualizing is more success than failure. practice until the success becomes reflexive.

In other words, experiment, theorize, design, practise, internalize. *g* My problem right now is that I have so much in "theorise" and "design" that I constantly feel like I'm running along behind myself shouting instructions. ""Hands up! Heels down! Don't choke up! For Christ's sake stop THINKING about it!" Except, alas, not thinking about it doesn't work, so I find it very frustrating.

I totally need physicality to write. I currently lift weights, take fairly regular long walks (four to six miles), and do some yoga, in addition to health club cardio (ski machines, etc.) If I don't walk, I can't think. It's a law of the universe.

I actually successfully quit writing for about three years, for various personal reasons (I found satisfying amateur outlets for the storytelling urge) and came back to it after 9/11, for more pressing personal reasons. I took the last three months off to deal with the move and so on.

Right now, though, I have a book I have to deliver August first. And the urge to write is obviously there, given the amount of time I'm wasting on livejournal.

*g* I just need to get over my conviction that it needs to be a work of heart-stopping brilliance and tell the goddamned story.

Re: these are excellent questions

I came to an understanding of narrative late, in other words.

Aha. That explains a lot. Narrative came to me about 10 years earlier. Actually finishing anything came around age 23.

I see why there's so much Angst going on--the internalizing of narrative is still happening. Happening nicely really, but you're probably too close to see it.

I just need to get over my conviction that it needs to be a work of heart-stopping brilliance and tell the goddamned story.

Bingo. Also there's the transition from day job with writing as something you do compulsively, to writing as day job--and that's another tough one to add to the life-changes list. You don't get to take your time any more. You have to do it Now and Now is not negotiable. For a writer who is seriously concerned with literary quality, that's a bitch.

After a while, it's quality be damned, just get the words out. But you know what? The quality looks after itself. And if it doesn't, well, that's what editors are for. By the time the edited ms. comes back, you'll be in another mental place anyway, and in condition to make the quality not-suck more.

Re: these are excellent questions

I'm sure the contract does not specify heart-stopping-ness or brilliance. Just a book. A book that doesn't suck is a bonus.

Maybe if the words-and-editing thing is the hangup, you need to try a whack at a different medium to let the story out? Tell stories to people verbally, draw bad sketches and comics of things until the Ur-Story-Thing demands you write?

I highly favor insomnia for turning off the editor-brain and letting the hindbrain write. This isn't good for my sleep schedule, but if I'm absolutely unable to write at some point, I can stare at screens of stuff and edit out typos for several hours until it's the writing hour (usually 3 AM, post-witching-hour), at which point editor-brain has entirely fallen asleep and Story-Stuff pours out of the hindbrain, unedited, to the keyboard.

I certainly don't recommend insomnia attacks or sleep-deprivation to anybody else, but it works for me if I can't find my groove. Maybe going for a long walk and making a story in your head, where it's harder to see the individual words to critique them, might work.

And consider that you've had a lot of editing to do lately; your brain is probably stuck in CRM-panic mode.
I too love the Disney 3 Musketeers--that chase with the coach right to the blowing up of the stockpiled gunpowder is just great swashbuckle.

You've done so much on the writing front (not to mention the move) you really need to take time to relax. Watch Napoleon and Ilya. Read for the fun of reading. One thing I've done, and may or may not work, is write something "just for me"--the good bits part of a story, no craft allowed, just write. Mary Sue, every trope I love that the critics scorn, just revel in it and have fun, and the hiding Fred always sneaks up to listen--and then takes over.
Heh. I haven't written a word in three months. *g* I'm ALL ABOUT the NOT WRITING.

Unfortunately, I am also a Bear with deadlines in April, June, and August.

And bills to pay.

So the NOT WRITING needs to stop now.
You're doing a lot really. In the back of your brain.

I bet your erudite flist could come up with a whole slew o' challenges to get the bread-and-butter writing jump-started. (You're talking like me last spring. Stuck, yep. I couldn't even do lj.)
Three months, eh? C'mon, Fred. Time to wakey wakey!
But I don't WANNA!

it's just sheer laziness and avoidance, really. Stupid brain would rather play video games and plow through the to-read pile.
Of Course It Would.

What do you think I'm doing here? Deadline in June. Revision due April 7th. It's this or Saturday-morning tv.

I've got as far as opening the MIP file. Blank chapter heading. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

*sends video games*
No. No no. Do not send crack. No. No. No.

Failing crack, we can always send rude Latin epigrams.

Owie. I have been blocked, and now I'm just stuck, so I deeply appreciate your distinction here. Stuckness is an improvement, but it just really isn't any fun. And I know that there has been fun, so where the hell is it? If I find any I'll send you some.

As for heart-stopping brilliance, I always tell myself that that can go in later. Just make it a nice box, maybe it'll hop in all on its own. Thinking this way may be productive of even more frustration, so if that's the case, then stop it at once.

Hee, no, that's good.

This is where it helps to remind myself that I cannot force myself to be a creepy genius. I just have to turn in an honest effort.

*sits wih pam*
First off, the "stuck" thing resonates like a bowstring - I think I am stuck in editing mode, what with the current work-in-progress coming home to roost with new batches of edits (however minor) eevery time I think I'm done with it. And the second book isn't going as quickly and smoothly as I might like, although it's good stuff, when I do make an effort. But as you say - deadlines, bills - must get off my duff.

Just as soon as I get this verdammt copyedit off my desk.

As for the writerly memes - the Jenn Reese thing didn't quite work for me, either - or, to clarify, it simply makes me feel all oogy and hubris filled because, you know, all those humble comments saying they're at stage 5 or stage 6 and all I can say, having read it, is "I'm at stage 8" - and it sounds like I am inviting a fall, because, you know, pride goeth before it, as it were. But I *AM*. According to those parameters, I am. Am I being a snob by admitting to it...?
The Disney Three Musketeers is great to watch through an ADRPG filter. The first horseback chase? "D'Artagnan's horse: Paid for. Gerard's horse: Not Paid For."

Tim Curry, Kiefer Sutherland, Michael Wincott, and pretty costumes... I have a fondness for it.

And own it on DVD. Want to get together (with kidlet, even) and laugh at it?
*g* I'm not much for rewatching movies unless I really love them, but thank you.
No craft in rough draft!

Edit only after you write. If you try to edit while writing, you will have very little to edit; if you edit *before* writing, even less happens.

You know that. I'm just cheerleading and reinforcing.
Salad nap: nap in bed of lettuce, sleeping greens, or healthy alternative to burger nap?

pls inform asap

v. important

(o lord no more gimlets for me [lime juice and vodka i love you so!])
yes. please send likker. stop.
alas! i drank it all.

perhaps when all of the lettuce is grown there will be more.

does that sound as nonsensical as i think it does?

can i spell nonsensical when i'm toasted?
honest, I wasn't meaning to make a meme

i probably didn't help that by saying 'make a meme out of it' ;)