Category — writing
Staying in for most of today and writing…writing everything, seemingly, as I have a lot to catch up on. Final edits done on one story…hopefully finishing the one I'm 2/3 done with…got a flicker of an idea for the next one…and a few more poems, which I'll spare you. ;) There's also another song forming in the wings of my brain, and this excites me greatly — I've only ever finished one song before, but it's awesome and I love singing it and I've been eagerly awaiting its sibling(s). (Yes, yes, at this rate I'll cut an album when I'm 75. So what? I'm hoping that gives me time to get over my crippling mic-shyness too!)
I'm also just one line away from my attempt to write an additional verse onto the end of an old protest-song I learned recently…it's a great song, but it badly needed an update, so I took it upon myself, and it's been educational and shockingly hard, even though rewriting lyrics has always been something that I love to do…my early worship of Weird Al wasn't just because he was weird and still cool (much more of a feat back in those days than now)…but because he was making a living doing something I did when I needed a bit of mindless writing fun.
This land is your land
This land is my land
Except for Ford Field
And Garbage Island
Except the Ren-Cen
Is owned by GM
But this land was made for you and me*
…Yes, of course I tend to rewrite for Snark. Who's surprised?? (The one above won't make much sense unless you know some stuff about Southeast Michigan, by the way, so don't worry if you don't get it. Local snark. ;)
So, the big thought / lesson-y thing for today is a master is just someone who's put in 10,000 hours of practice. The 10,000-hours estimate comes from somewhere else I don't remember, but it sounds right. Ten thousand hours is 600,000 minutes, or about 417 days straight. And I would amend that "practice" means a certain quality of practice, too. In kungfu training, you throw a kick or punch x number of times for practice, but only the ones with good form count — and if your teacher is properly strict about it, then if you throw a bad one, you have to start over counting from 1 again. Mine, who is more forgiving than some, stands there saying One…two…eh, do two again…okay, three…no way that was four; start over. One…two…nope, one…one…two…etc. I think a master is someone who's done at least a solid year of that.
I think the reason so few people who could write, do write, is much more about fear than talent or lack thereof. Ten thousand hours of practice…of facing the horror of the crap you wrote the night before, of wading through it again and again, of letting other people read it when you think it's perfect and realizing that it still sucks…
Writing has come hard, lately. It's hard to find the time, and the guts; the bravery to face the real emotions that need flaying and pinning to paper, and the concentration to actually do it all the way through. But it's been easier since I started realizing…what I'm committed to here is not "writing the bestest novel ever", nor "making a hundred million whuffie" — it's to "getting ten thousand hours of real practice in before I die".
Present tense practice. Neither the suck produced in the past (and oh, there are mountains of it) nor the suck or glory produced in the future, are actually the point. The point is, did I wrack up another hour of real practice today, or didn't I?
(Yes I did!)
*this is not the one I'm working on today…
February 12, 2011 4 Comments
…Just sticking this here… ;)
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one woman in her time plays many parts,
Her acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the shy school-girl, with her sandwich
And solemn morning face, creeping like a snail
Determinedly to school. And then the lover,
Turning like tornado, with an arrow aimed from
Every suspicious eye on her. Then a mother,
Full of desperate needs and calloused to the bone,
Fierce in love, deep and quiet in long fear,
Seeking the bubble home and haven
Even in abusers' arms. And then the matron,
In fair round hips with stained apron hung,
With eyes like storms and hair of silver wire,
Full of wise recipes and hopeful patience;
And so she plays her part. The sixth age shifts
Into the frail and housecoat'd doyenne,
With spectacles on strings and knitting on hand,
Her youthful dress, well saved, a world too busty
For her shrunk shoulders; and her high proud voice,
Turning again toward childish whispers, pipes
And creaks in her sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
February 5, 2011 Comments Off
Okay, so sleep was extra mean to me yesterday.
In the morning, I napped, but faded in and out a few times (and as many people will tell you, a broken nap is nowhere near as good as a whole one). Then I followed that with a 1.5-mile walk in the shin-deep fresh snow, an hour of Sanda (now with extra pushups!), the 1.5-mile walk back (still nobody had shoveled, grr), and then did the shoveling for my place, since I was so covered in snow by that point that I knew if I took off my coat and gear, I wouldn't want to put the sopping stuff back on. I was wiped.
I tried for an hour and a half to get my afternoon nap, and kept getting interrupted by various dumb little stuff.
Then a half-hour before naptime yesterday evening, a (far-too-honored-to-be-ejected) guest came over and stayed for an hour and a half! Augh!
I laid down afterwards, stared at the back of my eyes until the timer went off, and was near tears when my husband came to wake me from my "ten more minutes". My boy put his foot down and told me I'd better stay in bed, and–here's a funny part–almost as soon as he said it, before he even left the room, I closed my eyes and was out cold for six hours, until 4am.
I woke up feeling weird…rested, but dizzy and disoriented (probably didn't help that I was fully dressed, including a hoodie with full pockets), and with a swollen tonsil. I stayed up until my morning naptime, laid down…and slept right through the alarm, for an hour and a half.
[What is it with an hour and a half?? Is 90 my unlucky number this week or what?]
Then I woke up feeling…well, more normal. Suddenly I'm sore from all the exercise, which I take as a good sign. I still feel a bit slow, but better, including in the throat.
I'm wondering…perhaps I shouldn't have indulged that urge I had the other day, to write a poem composed entirely of post-it notes left by the denizens of Dreamland, on the mirrors of who knows how many human beings? (I have a thing about mysterious post-it notes…don't ask.)
Maybe they were a secret? Or copyrighted…?
Anyway, perhaps to exorcize the bad sleep lately, here's the poem (under the "read more"):
UPDATE: Did in fact get 2 good naps after posting this! Maybe that exorcism was actually necessary…?
Post-it Notes from Dreamland…
January 22, 2011 Comments Off
…Synthesis is a weird thing; in my brain, it's either working or it isn't. And I'm realizing that writing fiction is the thing that makes it work, that greases those cogs and applies the force to move that particular machine. I'm actually possessed of a different mind when I'm writing than when I'm not. And writing breeds writing; when I'm doing it every day, the machine is turning, and everything I encounter gets churned up in it.
Rainer Maria Rilke said, in his awesome "Letters to a Young Poet", that the question you must ask yourself, deep in the blank silent place where we are all totally alone, is "Must I write?" –And it's just true, and always has been, that for me that answer is Yes. I go slowly crazy without it; I harden; I dry out; and I lose the ability to synthesize.
Unfortunately when I am writing, I'm also crazy (just in a more fluid and happier way), and I produce a lot of strangeness that really has no place in this world that I know of…so congratulations, blogland; you win the garage-sale potluck treasure-hunt giveaway of my mind. ;)
This one's called "Grandpa Bill's Time Travel Advice". There's a story behind it, but maybe it's more fun without that. (Knowing the backstory is sometimes like knowing what that tasty dumpling is made of, innit?) I will mention, though, that I love Time as a subject, simply because it lets you have so much subtle fun with the language, just by changing tenses, or messing with things people say but don't usually mean literally. This piece is littered with little crap I did on purpose just to be snarky about the fact that it's written by a time-traveler.
Oh well. Here you go!
Grandpa Bill's Time Travel Advice
January 8, 2011 7 Comments
If you haven’t seen this, it’s worth a look: It’s a short video describing a way to visualize all the dimensions string theorists recognize as possible (ending with the tenth). It’s easy, and really fun!
If I were a scientist I’d think differently, but as a writer I find it quite easy to imagine, at least, an eleventh: If the tenth is the point representing all possible universes, then the eleventh would have to be the line joining possible and non-possible universes, yeah? (Science doesn’t like non-possible things, but philosophy sure doesn’t have a problem with them; and since once you get past our universe you’re in imaginary territory anyway, why let possibility restrain you?) That makes the twelfth easy: It’s the fold that brings the non-possible into contact with the possible, which, if I were exploring it, would certainly have something to do with imagination. The thirteenth dimension would be a point representing all possible-possible and possible-non-possible universes; or the sum total of being and non-being; and I’ll confess, I’m not sure I can imagine what a point outside that (which a line could be drawn to, representing the fourteenth) would be.
Something for which possibility and non-possibility have no meaning? The inevitable, maybe?
In any case, a fun video if your brain likes to splash in the really BIG mud. o/
At the very least, it makes flippant sci-fi talk of “infinite dimensions” sound a bit more incredulous, doesn’t it? I mean, string theorists poop out at ten, and at my best and most wide-flinging I’d be stymied by twenty. Wow.
August 19, 2009 4 Comments
Here’s a strange little essay I wrote on Eating, trying to resolve the question of how to steal the Life from other beings for our own sustenance in a moral and non-icky way. It’s a bit…visceral, and off-the-cuff so it contains swearing. Thus I’ve put it under a cut.
Click “read more” to read it. Or don’t! Or maybe write your own. \m/
[Edit: Here's a fun article that explores some of these issues from the robot perspective (because what's an issue without the robot perspective??)]
July 7, 2009 3 Comments
So, my short-story “Long Live the Fish” went through its second round of critiques this week. They were really useful! Gods I love the Critters group. They’re a lot of work, but the best fiction crew online by a long shot. And I never fail to make friends there. (I still talk to some people that I met doing Critters last time, years and years ago!)
Last time, I got a slew of negative critiques, and only one really convincing positive one (some are always “oo, I liked it”, but you know they’re just saying that to meet the 200-word limit and get their credit for the critique). This time, I got almost entirely positive responses — several that made me blush! — and only one really nasty negative one.
But AGAIN this time, my worst critique also came from the worst critiquer; i.e. someone who just has no freaking idea how to do it. I don’t mind critiques that didn’t like the story; especially since I know my stories are a little…odd, or at least nonstandard. But the purpose of having your story professionally critiqued is to get advice you can USE, and badly-presented good advice is about as useful as good food cooked in radiator fluid.
Last time I ignored the critiquer and shook off the critique…but this time I thought I’d perform a bit of a public service and offer a metacritique. If you do or receive any critiquing, you may benefit from reading it, either for your own education or, you know, schadenfreude. ;)
(It’s under the cut — clicky!)
July 6, 2009 2 Comments
Well, well, well! Look at this! Writing has been polished, scary new things have been done with microphones (oh shush, you), and mad panic and Wild Disclaiming has been engaged in in public…and now it’s time.
I’m telling you, if this wasn’t for a good cause I’d have scared myself out of it ten times by now. But Silence is the Enemy is an important cause on so many levels:
- it seeks to raise awareness on a global scale about the problem of mass rape in war-torn countries, which, if successful, could save the lives and mental health of thousands upon thousands of innocent women and girls;
- it funnels money to Doctors Without Borders, one of the very few organizations providing front-line medical and crisis care for the victims of this and other atrocities;
- and it’s making the point, and giving us all a chance to get behind the point, that rape is not okay no matter what. Even when the women affected are dirt poor, brown-skinned adolescents — people the media would have us believe are the least newsworthy people in the world, just about — it’s still not okay and we are not okay with letting it pass in silence.
For many of us in the global community, supporting the Silence is the Enemy movement is the best chance we’ve ever had to step up and make it known that we are not okay with letting these rapes go ignored, and that we are not willing to do nothing, even when the governments and the media of the world have provided us with basically no options for speaking up or helping out. I, for one, am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have a chance to meaningfully speak up.
So that’s what I’ve done — spoken up. I’ve never recorded an audio version of one of my stories before, and in spite of having been published in print several times, let me tell ya, this was pretty terrifying. But the nice thing about an opportunity like this is that even if my performance is awful and ruins my chances to ever work in audio format again, it’ll still have been worth it. Yay!
Here it is, then — my previously-unpublished story, titled DRAGONS WITHOUT BORDERS, in DRM-free MP3 format here and OGG format here. (The .mp3 file is almost twice the size, FYI. They’re both high-quality recordings, and thank you again to my husband for the fantastic editing work!)
The story runs nearly half an hour. Let me know if you like it!
I’m not setting a price for this piece, though obviously I put quite a few hours of work into it. Instead, I’m providing this handy “DONATE” button below, and I’m asking you to please give what you can afford. I will pass all of the proceeds along to Doctors Without Borders in the name of the Silence is the Enemy campaign. You can donate using your PayPal account or any credit card.
If you can’t donate anything, please consider posting a link to this in your blog, journal, Twitter feed or what have you.
Thanks, everyone! It’s meant a lot to me personally to be able to do this. I really appreciate your attention and support.
June 10, 2009 2 Comments
Hey, I finally got an idea for how to benefit the “Silence is the Enemy” movement going on this month.
How about purchasing some sound? ;)
Synchronicitously, I’ve just finished writing a 4,000-word short story that I’m really proud of, and in putting the polish on it, I realized that it works really well as an audio story. So I thought, hey, I was originally planning to sell it, but here’s a better idea: I’ll record an audio version of my story and put it up for “sale” on this site. You can pay what you want for the story, and all the proceeds will be donated to Doctors Without Borders in the name of the “Silence is the Enemy” campaign to stop mass rape.
It’ll be an “honors-system” purchase, so those of you who can’t pay anything at all can still hear it, but I’m hoping that we can hand over a nice donation at the end of the month.
(Thanks in advance to my dearest, who runs the music studio out of my basement and will be the reason that the recording sounds far more awesome than I ever could have pulled off. Yay!)
I should have the recording posted this weekend. And I still need to think of a title! …But it’s a neat story; you’ll like it (I hope).
Happy Friday everyone!
June 5, 2009 8 Comments
From this piece by the awesomely clear-headed Lawrence Lessig:
“…I read this piece by Kevin Kelly, “The New Socialism.”
Words have meaning. We don’t get to choose their meaning. If you call something “X” people will hear the equation. They won’t read the fine-print which says (“By X, I mean really not-X).
When masses of people who own the means of production work toward a common goal and share their products in common, when they contribute labor without wages and enjoy the fruits free of charge, it’s not unreasonable to call that socialism.
That statement is flatly wrong. It is completely unreasonable to call that “socialism” — at least when the behavior described is purely voluntary. It’s like saying “Because Stalin set up a competition between different collective farms, it’s not unreasonable to call that free market capitalism.” Both statements are wrong because they point to a feature that is common, and ignore the feature that is distinctive. At the core of socialism is coercion (justified or not is a separate question). At the core of the behavior Kelly celebrates is freedom.
Kelly’s argument is like so many today that has implicitly embraced the view that free market, libertarian sorts believe that the only thing in the world is competition, or people working to non-common goals. It is the idea that we are free only if we are antagonistic, and that free market theorists have been working to create a world where individuals struggle against, not with. A world that aspires to dog-eat-dog as its central value.”
…Professor Lessig, if you didn’t know, is a lawyer and law professor and incredibly intelligent guy who writes numerous books about the future of copyright, public domain, and media and the Internet. The Change Congress movement, in which he’s heavily involved, is probably one of the better plans to get Congress to pop its mouth off the corporate teat (and it’s working, see?). I don’t agree with 100% of everything he’s ever said, but the man is a top-notch thinker on several topics that aren’t well represented by reason and logic, and more people ought to be listening to him, darnit.
Also, less people who have no freaking idea what they’re talking about should be using the word “socialism”, please. The blatant mis-uses of that word, specifically, are getting really old!
…But my favorite sentiment here, I think, is simply that words have meaning, and we don’t get to choose what it is. I totally agree with that: Unless you’re writing an analytic work and carefully defining everything as you go along (and therefore writing something that’s really only valuable to people who want to read analytically), you simply can’t toss words like “God”, “democracy”, “religion”, “freedom” and “theft” around and then expect to be given a freebie when you’re obviously wrong by the accepted definition.
Or as a brilliant teacher I once had used to say, “Define your terms,” because if you don’t, you’re defining them as ‘as commonly used‘ — by your readers, in their culture and setting. Either way, you accept responsibility for how your words are construed. That’s the price of having a voice.
May 29, 2009 2 Comments