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

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Writing Process (menu tour)

#6 is obviously groupie threesomes
Also, this is obviously a complicated metaphor for
creativity and not just a license free image for the word
Image description: simple chemical distilation

As my bass ackwards week continues, I offer you Friday's menu tour on Tuesday. Today's menu about process has clued me into the fact that I desperately need to take a break for a day or two some day soon and spend that time just updating all the menus. There are definitely some articles that I need to add to this list.

Generally, there is a great deal of confusion about the difference between process and craft.  A lot of folks who enjoy writing and have a refined process, are not particularly good at the actual craft (like me) and a lot of people who are quite adept at craft struggle with the process for their entire lives.  Many excellent writers have written only a few stories, and cannot motivate themselves to write more.  Or they write brilliantly, but only when under deadline for a class. 

Very often the trouble here is that writing well is only half the story and usually only a small portion of the difficulty most writers struggle with.  If the technical skill of writing is not married to a good sense of process, then what you end up with a very good writer who does not produce very much.  Indeed, most writers have more difficulty just sitting to write than they ever do with the prose itself.  (Although, unfortunately, most writers focus on learning the technical skill almost the exclusion of working on their process.)

While concrete imagery, dialogue, or characterization are craft elements, how many times to draft, when to write, how important research and how to sit down and produce every day is process.  These are articles about the process of writing and whatever insight I have gleaned about it.

The Lessons of Brande.  Dorothea Brande's book Becoming A Writer is the best process book that I know of. 
1 One Book To Rule Them All (And With Oversewing Bind Them).
Cultivating internal dualism.
Morning writing
The Floating Half Hour of Writing

Do What Works For YOU It's not just a concept in martial arts, but about writing in general.
The Witching Hour When Magic Works Write when you enjoy writing, not others.
Free Writing--Why it Rocks There's actually a neurological reason
Should I Outline? (Mailbox) Authors have mixed feelings.  I weigh in.
Revision Land (Mailbox) Charlie the unicorn goes to the magical Revision Land
When to Revise (Mailbox) What to do when revision feels like not writing

Monday, August 29, 2016

Bass Ackwards (Personal Update)

Image description: Writer looking just a little bit harried.
Or like he's about to cut down a mighty tree with a herring.
Definitely one of those H words with lots of Rs though.
On the one hand, I did it!

I got moved.


In two days.

With a Toyota Prius (C model).

Well it was sort of two and a half days, and there was a "desk adventure" this morning with a toddler. Also, there's still a king sized mattress in Oakland that I need to retrieve after I get back from Denver, and right now a queen sized futon is on top of a king sized box frame. But you know, let's not harsh my squee with all these bullshit trivial details.

It was still epic.

On the other hand, I'm just the tiniest bit ready to have a nap, put my feet up, eat some salt and pepper Kettle chips with store bought French onion dip in front of a shitty movie, and engage in the sort of stress relief that requires enthusiastic consent.

Not that I'm done. Oh no my friends. My room looks like a Total Recall set piece from the future sequences with the twisted steal beams and the chunks of concrete. Oh and the skull being crushed by a robot, but the skull is my free time, and the terminator robot is my schedule. Arnold shows up and says "Come with me...if you want to play No Man's Sky before all the planets are colonized." Then there was a fist fight over molten metal...symbolically.

Hasta la Vista.......free time.

Oh I'm not even close to done, and I don't just mean the installation of the bead curtain or the disco ball. Every inch of floor space is covered with shit I need to unpack. From unbuilt Ikea bookshelves named Billy to clothes to random power strips that somehow outnumber the actual outlets by a factor of three. (How the fuck....?) There are collapsable plastic banker boxes and even old Costco Sun Chips cardboard boxes crammed full of everything from organized stacks of all my writing/craft books to the hodgepodge "Fuck it" box of everything that isn't easily organized, but is still there when you're running late, tired, and ready to be done with goddamned fucking packing.

Included is an actual piggy bank, my mother's 50 year old flute,
a CBEST practice test workbook, a reading stand, and something that
if I'm not mistaken is an as of yet unused vibrating tongue piercing.

As if that weren't enough by itself, today until Wednesday, I will be doing 8 to 10 (or more) hour shifts with The Contrarian and tonight and Wednesday, that's before I go to teach for another five hours. I also am feeding two sets of cats for folks who are at Burning Man, and have to make at least an appearance in Oakland and Hayward in the morning and at night.

I'm glad I'm filling up my car for roughly the same amount as my Geo Metro back in '94. (Did you just "Back in my day" us Chris? Shut up whippersnapper. Get off my lawn.)

Oh by the way, did I mention that I moved this weekend for the second time in a month? Yeah. I did that.

Anyway, I'm so frazzled, I can't even come up with a contrived pretense of connective tissue this this has anything to do with writing (except maybe that I kept doing it no matter how busy I was, and so should you) but mostly I wanted to let you know that this week will be back loaded instead of front loaded (as weeks usually are). I'm going to do the soft shoeing early in the week and put up the heavy hitters later on. Thursday morning I get on a train to Denver and will have little to do but sit and write (and read) for 36 hours. So that's when all the meaty posts will be coming.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Should You Choose to Comment....

Image description: Major battle with the caption "Meanwhile
in the comment section."

A post in two "parts."  The first its inspiration and explanation:

Last night I got home, sat down to write, and experienced a familiar feeling that I often get at the end of vacations that have gone on just a little too long. I was homesick. I wanted to go home.

I was home.  

I love my new place so fucking hard and it's going to be spectacular once I'm in there (just yesterday I discovered two stores I love and the Lafayette reservoir–which is just a gorgeous place to hang out with some trees or jog or walk–are all within walking distance), but this move is dragging out and I was literally JUST getting settled when I started to move 2.0. This feeling of being DEEPLY in a state of transition has been going on for almost three months now (and has been building since I was asked to leave earlier this year). I didn't realize how much it was affecting me not to feel the ground beneath my feet.

So today I'm going to put in Herculean effort to be mostly done with this move by the end of this weekend. If all goes well, I'll be writing to you from Lafayette by Monday morning. I'm going to post something I already spent this morning working on anyway. It's from my Facebook page. I woke to discover some pretty nasty comments about an article I posted last night, and I realized it was probably time to remind everyone that they weren't going to get away with saying anything they wanted in the comments. I've made some edits to have it fit here.

I don't get a lot of comments here that aren't nominations for one of our reader polls, but I do get a lot on the social media where I cross post my articles--particularly Facebook. The only admin tool I've ever had to use on Blogger was to turn off anonymous commenting for a couple of weeks after Creepy Guy. But my basic rubric isn't going to change from medium to medium, so if one day we start getting robust activity in the comments, it'll be nice to have a comment policy written that I can cut and paste.

I don't like banning people.

But every time I post an article that deigns to intersect with how writing and writers affect social issues or about how language reflects societal prejudice, a few people end being shown the door.

It's not that they disagree. The comments all over this blog are filled with disagreement–it's definitely no echo chamber. The problem is they either decide to react in the most dismissive and derisive way possible ("This is SJW crap!") in which case this page is not for them, and I don't want to have to deal with them post after post, or they outright lose their composure and abusively attack other members or me for taking the time and energy to try to explain an issue or share their personal perspective on a topic. If what essentially amounts to free tutoring is going to be shat on because you wanted to "win" an argument and have the last word, Writing About Writing is not for you.

There is a one-on-one echo that exists within this reaction that I am pretty sensitive to: abusers gas lighting their victims. Instead of taking a moment to consider why someone is upset, that they are accurately able to assess their own mental state, that they can be trusted to relay when they are feeling hurt, or that their life experience may be something worth listening to, often they are told they are being hysterical or ridiculous and dismissed outright. Their feelings and even their actual experiences are invalidated. We see this in a relationship and it raises our hackles (hopefully), but when a group in social power (like men) do it to a group they have social power over (like women or gender variant folks) on a massive scale, it is considered perfectly normal behavior. And it can even cause the people who are constantly being dismissed and derided to question their own perceptions of reality.

(I think abuse and oppression have a number of shocking parallels, but maybe a post for another time.)

Let me be blunt about this. Y'all are writers. You ought to know better than anyone that words carry tremendous power...possibly even to invoke harm. No body ever silently went to war or committed genocide without words first fueling them. No one ever articulated a justification for racism or sexism that caused people actual PHYSICAL HARM without using words to do so.

And if you sit on your couch every November 5th watching a dude in a Guy Fawkes mask bloviate between the fight scenes that, "Words offer the means to meaning," and then starts a revolution because the "truth and perspectives" of his words are bulletproof, and then you imagine yourself leading said glorious revolution with your own martial arts skill and throwing stilettos, yet you then roll your eyes at those Social Justice Warriors being all "oversensitive" to  some slur you intended only to insult one person, you are DROWNING in the irony of social power dynamics and their double standards.

I'm not going to sit here and have a conversation every single time I bring up an issue of social equality with folks who's main conceit seems to be: "writers should be able to write whatever they want." You already CAN write whatever you want, and if you're in a situation where you can't (politically or socially), it's certainly not upholding the status quo that you can't do. And writers often do write whatever they want no matter how harmful or objectionable. Rarely are their careers even impacted, and if they stay off the pages that criticize them, they don't even have to have their feelings hurt. So if you're going to react with hyperbole and loss of composure to anyone asking you to consider how and what you write....on a blog about writing, Writing About Writing is not for you.

Also, I'd rather have a smaller following where folks who aren't well represented in the wider world feel comfortable speaking up than a large following where the Status Quo Warriors speak over and run roughshod over anyone who has the temerity to suggest that maybe arts and humanities affect social perceptions and that once in a while we should think about that. The whole damned world will let the people in power decide what is ridiculous to care about (spoiler: it's anything that challenges their behavior in any way). If you want me to be vapid about the impact of writing and stick to grammar lessons that sneeringly judge people without the education to use the proper your/you're and craft essays, Writing About Writing is not for you.
Maybe arts and humanities affect social perceptions...
This is primarily a blog about writing, but because it is me writing (most of) it, I will constantly post things ABOUT writing that I find compelling, interesting, and worthy of a writer's conscientious introspection. This includes craft and process and insights from my life, but it also includes pointing out how much of the writing that exists (even wildly popular writing) often reinforces harmful status quos like racism, sexism, heteronormativity, transphobia, and more–things are engrained in many of our narrative tropes.

If we can't at least consider and think about these things, we're just telling the same stories again, not new ones.

If you want a typical writing blog with some linguistic prescriptivism that makes fun of legitimate English dialects (often in a vaguely racist and definitely classist way), drops the same dozen articles (and their knock offs) over and over on how to publish your novel/find an agent/write a query letter, and never really asks you to think hard thoughts about how powerful writing is in creating the stories shape our culture, there are just SO many pages to choose from. But that's not what I'm doing here.

And I want those who normally run screaming from the comments sections on most of the internet to feel comfortable participating in my comments. I want that more than I want hostile dismissiveness of one more voice reinforcing the status quo that actively silences such voices.

In case that was too gentle, let me be absolutely clear about this: If your reply is nothing more than "This is PC bullshit!" or "This is crap. You're the real sexist!" or "Shut the fuck up with this pandering crap!" (or any of the thousands of variations on this theme I've heard over the years) or if you use bigoted slurs or double down on your "right" to be sexist, misogynistic, racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, or fatphobic after you've been asked to stop, I will use my admin tools to show you the door.

You don't have to agree with me. You DO have to play nice in my playground.

If you don't want to think about it, skip the post for that day. If you want to disagree, you can do so without being abusive. If you can't do either of those things, Writing About Writing is not for you.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Best Modern Science Fiction (Semifinal 1)

Image Description: The Martian
by Andy Weir
What is the best modern science fiction book or series?    

Our Aug/Sept poll is live. With twenty-two nominations, we will have to do two semifinal polls to narrow down which modern sci-fi will end up on our final poll. And let me tell you I don't envy you having to choose between some of these titles. This is like a restaurant where everything is your favorite.

Remember you may use any criteria you wish for "best" from most fun to most compelling to best written.

The semifinal polls will go pretty quickly. I'll put this one up until late next week and the following one a similar amount of time. Then we'll run the finals to the end of September.

Round two will include:

Snow Crash - Stephenson
Ready Player One - Cline
Never Let Me Go- Ishiguro
Consider Phlebas - Banks
This Alien Shore -Friedman
Old Man's War - John Scalzi
Commonwealth Saga -Hamilton
Honor Harrington Series - Webber
The MaddAddam Trilogy -Atwood
Use Of Weapons - Banks
Ancillary Series - Leckie

Everyone will get five votes (5). The top five names of each poll will go on to the final round. Before you simply vote for your favorite five, consider that, as there is no ranking of those votes; each vote beyond one dilutes the power of your choices a little more. So if you have a genuine favorite–or pair of favorites–it's better to use as few votes as possible.

The poll itself is on the left side, at the bottom of the side menus.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Absolutely Last Chance to Nominate

Since I don't have a guest post that's slated to go up tomorrow and I'm doing about 4 hours today worth of running between old place, new place, and cat sitting places today, I figured I would nudge everyone to take this absolutely last chance to nominate for Best Modern Science Fiction* (novel or series).

I will compile results and set up a semifinal round tomorrow.

*Please go to the original post to vote. It's easier on me and that is likely the only way you will get "seconds."