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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

On Holidays, Flossing, and Writing

I stumbled into a metaphor not too long ago that resonated with me and has been packed into the top tier of my writing platitudes toolbox ever since. I share it now because my article about what Dungeons and Dragons taught me about writing will have to wait until at least tomorrow. And that's because frankly I needed a damned day off. (Uh.....other than this, I guess.)

I was having my teeth cleaned after a particularly busy period of my life. (Funny how often I seem to have those.) The dentist was remarking how good my flossing was and how good my gums were looking. This is notable because it was literally my first "Looks good. See you in six months," check up since I was a child. Usually I have to sit there and listen to how my every oral hygiene routine is actually completely wrong.

"I haven't flossed in like two weeks," I admitted anyway, wanting to absolve my guilt. I couldn't live with all those sweet golden compliments built on a turpitudinous throne of lies.  "Like maybe once or twice."

Thinking back on it, that exchange kind of reveals a lot about who I am as a person.


"It doesn't matter if you do it every single day. It doesn't even matter if you skip a few days. What matters is that you usually have the habit of doing it daily."

"Oh like writing," I said.

OH!  LIKE WRITING!!!!! I thought.

Here at Writing About Writing we're pretty staunch advocates of writing every day if you're trying to make it to The Show™. (Contented hobbyists are a whole other story.) Every writer whose name we recognize probably wrote every day or close. And while legit excuses are out there, there are few so beleaguered that they can't set aside fifteen minutes or so from Facebook or Zelda: Breath of the Wild to write for fifteen to thirty minutes.

However, as the holidays loom here in the States, it's also important for writers–particularly the kind that haven't carved out a paycheck from writing and have day jobs on top of everything else the Holiday season packs on–to remember that it's the habit they're cultivating that matters rather than whether or not they missed a couple of days here and there (or had to write a couple of paragraphs and call it good) in the days around a major event.

If you find yourself saying "I don't have to do it every day," to the mirror five days a week for six months, you might need to do a brutally honest inventory about who's fooling whom. But if you've got six hours of shopping and cooking and that's before the first guest arrives, and a boss who wants you to clear out a five day week of work in three days if you want Friday off, and the verge still needs trimming....be kind to yourselves.

Remember your writing doesn't have to be grueling hours on your work in progress. Tear someone a new asshole on a political post, redirect all that rage you have about your childhood to someone who thinks Trump isn't risking an irony fissure to the time space continuum to mock Al Franken, (or, you know, maybe send an email to Nana thanking her for the cookies if that's more your speed), and call it a day. The writing will all still be there on Monday.

It's not one day that's going to hurt your chances as a writer. It's forming that habit.

Like flossing.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Post Postponing

I mentioned this on Facebook, but I'm packing up one pet-sitting job and heading straight to another today (and the past two weeks of nannying haven't given me the time to have something mostly cobbled together already), so look for today's post this weekend.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Who Ordered The Extra Salty Mailbox (Mailbox)

It's not quite hate mail, but I'm not exactly putting up with this shit either. 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will (eventually?) answer on my weekly reply.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. I do not bother with the kid gloves if you don't sign your name.]    

Anonymous writes:

All you ever write about is writing. For five years you've been writing about writing. How much writing can be done about writing? How much longer can you keep this blog going and have it be just about writing?

My reply:

If you're not having a good time, I have a couple of suggestions for alternative activities. One might require a cloning machine, but I hear we have one of those in the basement.

Here's the deal. I have a couple of "notes" files of articles that I'm reminding myself I need to write and a lot of brainspace dedicated to future articles. A number of serial posts remain unfinished but I haven't forgotten about them or abandoned them (whether they are literary reviews of Skyrim or some of my own creative nonfiction). And there are far more entries for things like The Basics or Craft of Fiction that are yet to come. There are so many unwritten posts–so FUCKING MANY–that were I to experience some kind of trauma or injury or simply the all time mother of writer's blocks and stop generating new ideas....TODAY, it would be over three years before I finished up the backlog.

That means that if I only finish up loose ends, half written, and conceived but not yet put to pixel posts. If no one writes in a new question for the mailbox. If I don't manage to watch another movie and review it. If no news in Trump's America manages to invoke a Social Justice Bard response about narratives and sociolinguistics. If not one single new guest blogger ever steps forward. If no one tries to take a viral litsnob swipe at someone like Pratchett or JK Rowling. If I can't think of a single thing as the plot for Season 3. If I don't read a single new writing book or try out a single new thing of which I would want to do a product review. If I read no "lesser known" books that I really want to give a shout out to. If absolutely no ideas for a listicle  jumps into my head as a great idea for a post....

....at all....

....ever again.....

It'll be about 2022 before Writing About Writing closes up shop.

Frankly, I wouldn't count on that. I can get inspired watching those commercials they run at the gas stations while you're filling up.

Art and life are inseparable, and like life, you can declare that you've got it pretty much figured out or you can delight in the infinite complexities of endless variations on the themes.

A commenter writes:

How could you possibly claim to know everything there is to know about Loki's character if you missed one of the movies with him in it?

My reply:

(Dark World and Ragnorok spoilers ahead)

If only....

If only there were some sort of central repository of knowledge that we, as curious media consumers, could access with all these new fangled machines that have become so ubiquitous and we are so accustomed to.  Somewhere where someone who was watching an "Including Movies" run of Agents of Shield and couldn't get the Roku to work would be able to find some sort of synopsis of The Dark World and read about Loki's tricking everyone into thinking he's dead so he can abduct his father, usurp his power while pretending to be him, and abandon him in a situation that will eventually lead to his death noble sacrifice.

But honestly here's me looking for the place where I claimed I knew everything there is to know about Loki. Nope not there. Nope. Not there either. Are you sure I claimed that? Because I know winning arguments is a lot easier when you are arguing against claims someone never made, but there is a name for that sort of thing.

Nope. Not seeing it.
Look I know what the real crime here is. I had the temerity to evaluate Loki on a scale other than "Awesome," "Totally Awesome," or "Tragically misunderstood but nonetheless totally awesome." People really like Loki and want to put that whole murdering entire cities, slave trading, totally would have murdered that guy who didn't kneel, multiple betrayals, was-about-to-sell-bro-out-to-slavers thing behind them because he cracks wise, sometimes makes tenuous alliances, and rocks the curved horn look.

I like Loki too. I totes do. Too many villains don't have that depth and nuance and you know too well what they're going to do. I REALLY like that he brings nuances of biculturalism and "otherness" to his portrayal. His motivations are more complicated, and I think that's really cool. But while he might be on track for some very interesting MCU redemption arc action, is certainly a complicated character, absolutely OOZES charisma with Tom Hiddleston behind the wheel, and has some very interesting change-of-heart moments, he does most things most of the time mostly because they are going to help Loki to acquire power.

Anonymous writes:

As someone who's a literary major, maybe you should spell your literary references correctly. It's Chekhov, not "Chekov". 

As someone who's a literary major????  Do math majors not have to spell theater references correctly?

Oh wait. I get it. I see what's going on. I'm savvy.

This was an attempt to embarrass me because I should know better. How could I, a lit major, not have an eidetic memory with regards to the spelling of every major literary figure that I would have run across in the course of my studies. After all that's what I spent most of my four years of college doing right? It wasn't writing papers–it was spelling tests of notable figures.

It must really burn some people up when a guy like me shows up, someone whose dyslexia and ADD leads to grammar and spelling errors left and right, yet who still manages to get straight A's in his English major, gets invited to dinner with professors to discuss theses even as an undergrad, gets paid to write, and has a huge international audience.

"Why that guy doesn't even know his Jane's from his Texan cities!!! Balderdash!"

Since we're in the catty zone though, "Lit" stands for literaTURE major. Literary is an adjective. A "literary major" would be a high ranking officer in the army's book reading brigade. Also if you were paying attention instead of just giving your red pen a workout, you might have noticed that I was a Creative Writing Major so clearly I am simply lost without an editor. Though really, at the undergrad level, there's a lot of overlap, and they're all just English majors with various emphases. I still wrote rings around most of those lit majors though. Even if I misspelled some names along the way. Oh yes.

Because at the end of the day I can fix my Chekhovian flaws with two presses of a button (thanks Bee Tee Dubs), but confronting the sort of snide elitism that'll make someone try to shame a writer because their autocorrect recognizes Star Trek will take a bit more effort.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Semifinal 2)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?   

Behemoths continue to duke it out for the honor of going forth to the final round. We're almost there, and the end of literally months of nominations and elimination rounds is in sight.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. The top four titles will go on to the finals.

Now is the time to make one small reminder. Many of the books in question have some kind of adaptation to the screen. It's time to stress that while CGI dragons are goddamned spectacular, this poll is about BOOKS, and writing, and not about how much Peter Dinklage fucking rules. So please vote for the best book, not the best thing you've seen on DVD or HBO.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author."

My apologies in advance. Gaiman got three titles into the semifinals, so one poll was destined to have some hot Gaiman vs. Gaiman action going on.

Also, seriously, I know there are a lot of people on WAW's Facebook Page and the laws of large numbers are starting to dictate that a certain number of people won't read anything but the preview text before commenting, but y'all are hurting my soul. "Oh how could my very, very favorite fave not be here?" Well....chances are it is, or was. Please know that 1) this is only half the titles in the semifinal round ("Oh my god how could Harry Potter not be on any credible poll????" It is. Check the results of the first semifinal. It'll be on the finals.), 2) there were rules that disqualified titles that came out before 1992 ("Why isn't Wheel of Time on here?" Because it's not modern according to the definition of this poll.), and  3) there have been twelve rounds getting to here and that was after the epic-est nominations process I've ever seen and I controlled literally NONE OF IT, so if a title got voted off the island or never got nominated, I'm really sorry, but showing up when we're on the second to last round and declaring that if it doesn't have your very favoritiest title, it's not a good poll kind of makes you look foolish.

For mobile users you click on "web page view" and then scroll ALLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom.

These semifinals will only be up a little over a week (we're going to end up going into December despite all my hopes and dreams, so I might as well give people a little more time) That means that the IP logging will expire. Since I can't really stop shenanigans, I encourage it. Vote early. Vote often.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Semifinal 1 Results)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years? 

The semifinals open with some giants falling off the polls. I'm as surprised as anyone.

It's 11pm and I might be getting sick, so I'm just going to leave the results here, and hope to hell that a good night's sleep does a hard night's sleep.

The top four titles will move on to the semifinals.

And thank you to so, so, so many of you for getting involved. I suspect there was some Pratchett networking love going on, but the results are the results.

Text results below.

Small Gods- T. Pratchett 993 30.18%
Malazan Book of the Fallen series- S. Eriksen 458 13.92%
Harry Potter- J.K. Rowling 450 13.68%
The Kingkiller Chronicle- P. Rothfuss 384 11.67%
Song of Ice and Fire- G.R.R. Martin 308 9.36%
The Graveyard Book- N. Gaiman 262 7.96%
The Dresden Files- J. Butcher 239 7.26%
The Mercy Thompson Series- P. Briggs 196 5.96%