Archives: writing

Under Construction

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It is a commonplace observation that writing and construction are analogous. I’ve made the comparison myself a time or two. Yesterday I had reason to consider it again. I’m having a house built. It’s in a nice subdivision of a far Portland suburb, right across the street from a park. Ideal for the Heir Apparent to grow up in.

Pacific Northwest Coastal Thoughts

Good — even great — writers develop and thrive in every climate and every locale. I’m not going to pretend they don’t. But, as I’m writing this in my hotel room on the beach in the Pacific Northwest Coast, I’m going to ignore all that pesky reality and posit reasons why the PNC matrix grows and nurtures superlative writers. N.B. I’m not counting myself among them; I’m a long time resident of Portland and its environs (soon to stretch the practical definition of ‘environs’), and not a coastal denizen.

Gloomy leaden skies threaten rain and reliably deliver on those threats. Monotonous drizzle, wind-driven sheets of icy sleet needles, torrents. Sodden evergreen forests soak up the constant precipitation, storing it up to deliver bucket loads to the fiddlehead ferns and assorted undergrowth below that turns the ground to an unbroken stretch of sponge. It’s wet, is what I’m saying. People stay indoors. Might as well write.

And what goes on in those vast tracts of rainforest? Dense, trackless. Why not Sasquatch? Elves or aliens. There’s a reason Mulder and Scully spent so much time blundering about through Pacific Northwest forests, right? Couldn’t just be the Vancouver, B.C. shooting location. Don’t be a cynic.

Over the dunes the gray expanse of the Pacific beckons. Waves pound irregularly on the rocks and sand, suggesting to the imaginative a syncopation one could grasp if one listened long enough. It is tantalizing. What is the rhythm? The off-beat drives the offbeat imagination.

The Pacific Northwest Coast restaurants abound in clam chowder, Dungeness crabs, fresh caught salmon, beer brewed not too far from that very spot. Fuel for the imagination.

The funky little towns tucked into coves and straddling headlands offer quirky antique shops and used bookstores. The kind of tiny, bric-a-brac filled establishments that seem to promise a long-forgotten magical relic or tome of lore, if one searches long enough through overlooked alcoves.

The people who wash up on the coast from inland like flotsam and jetsam offer model fictional characters. The burnouts, ex-hippies, retirees, seekers of second, third, fourth chances, the eternal optimists who think this business venture will really get traction.

Are any one or combination of the above the answer, or even an answer? I don’t know. All I know is that recent series of crashing waves had a pretty catchy hook.

Cute Little Baby New Year Already Has a Tattoo and a Piercing

The Earth has circled the sun once more. Congratulations: if you’re reading this you survived the trip.

A traditional post-New Year’s Day activity is the listing of resolutions, followed by the traditional failure to adhere to the resolutions. I’m bypassing that tradition like it was a steaming pile of dog poop on the sidewalk. Instead I’m limiting myself to some writerly aspirations for the year. There’s a difference, really.

Hello Blank Page, My Old Friend

Beginning a new project is both exhilarating and daunting. The notebook or the blank document sits before you, an expanse of empty white space waiting for you to fill it with words.

There is a great degree of freedom promised by the empty page. You can put anything there. No limits, no boundaries. A new world to create, new characters to invent, new actions and motivations to develop. Of course, once you start writing, the constraints grow, each a byproduct of the decisions you make. That world will dictate rules, the characters will delimit likely responses, the actions will suggest counteraction. The great idea you had will approach the test of praxis. Does it make sense in the context you’ve established? Would such-and-such work given the rules of the world you’ve built? Would so-and-so really believe X, or perform action Y? The freedom dribbles away as the plot begins to constrict potential options.

Increments

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My wife endured a car accident yesterday. She’s fine, for the most part. I took her to a clinic for evaluation: She probably suffered some minor whiplash, and I’m watching her for signs of concussion. Puts me on nurse duty and full time baby care for the weekend. Dole out the pills, serve up the meals. I don’t mind, my two ladies are worth it. How’s the car? Not so fine. I’m not looking forward to the diagnosis. A cursory visual inspection doesn’t reveal any obviously significant vehicular carnage. I’m not so sanguine. It wasn’t driveable and that doesn’t bode well.

I wrote just last week about entropy. Yeah. Kicking fate in the shin. Good idea.

But this is what we sign up for upon exiting the womb. Pitfalls. Slings and arrows. Wicked right-crosses. What you do is leap the pitfalls, dodge the slingstones and the arrows. Roll with the punches. And keep moving on. One step at a time.

Transitions

The current work-in-progress, a short fantasy novel, looks to be near completion. First draft completion, anyway. I expect to write “End” by next weekend, in time for Orycon. We’ll see. The point is that the time has come to move on to the next project.

I don’t want to bore anyone with the sausage making aspect of writing, but I should probably explain why it is time to start something new. A first draft is far from a final manuscript. If you picked up a novel in the bookstore printed directly from an author’s first draft, you’d set it back down before you got through the first page, wondering how such crap could make onto the shelf. A novel requires several rounds of drafts and revisions before it is ready even for the publisher to see. More revisions follow.

Tucson

imageI returned yesterday from three days in Tucson. My lovely and talented wife attended a conference held at a resort just outside the city limits, the resort an oasis of swimming pools, golf courses, and room service. I went along to tend my lovely and talented newborn daughter, with the optimistic plan of completing a second draft of a novel while sitting in the sun. Turns out the former obligation curtailed the completion of the latter. I jotted notes and made corrections on less than half the manuscript.

But the sun was nice after months of Portland winter.

Writer and Child

 

Snapshot of the part-time writer with a newborn: Wife, exhausted, hits the sheets shortly after eight. The time varies dependent upon the baby’s needs/whims, of course. The almost equally exhausted part-time writer feeds the baby. Then begins the drama – suspense builds as the part-time writer watches anxiously to see if the baby will drift off to sleep. Or will she instead remain stubbornly alert until the wee hours? If the latter, the writer will consider himself lucky to get in a hundred words, pecking one-handed at the keyboard while supporting the baby in his other arm.

The Sleepless Writer

This may not come as a shock to anyone, but the care and feeding of a newborn tends to cut into one’s free time, the time one might normally spend – say – writing. That’s not a complaint mind you. The frequent rising in the middle of the night to feed or comfort, dealing with the maddening refusal to just go back to sleep already, do you have any idea what time it is is all worthwhile. In the light of day, jaw cracking with yawns, dragging myself to the gym and to work, the previous nights frustrations fade.

So, yeah.

But I’m still finding time to write. A matter of desire, I suppose. If you want to do something, you’ll make the time.

Discipline

The simple fact is I don’t wish to write today. I am tired. I woke early to pick up my wife at the airport. She is understandably tired: travel in addition to pregnancy. So I handled the shopping and the preparation of the coming week’s lunches. Now my feet ache – my dogs are not exactly barking, its more of a whine. Along the lines of what I’m doing here.