Love and Loss

I'm in my ex-girlfriend's mansion. It keeps changing, morphing, bringing her parents into view, then her sister. It's a mess. What am I doing here? My ex is married. She doesn't even live with her parents anymore. Door closes. She takes me and sits on top of me as we have sex. I'm not even hard. House morphs again. I'm still in her room and the big elephant in the my mind is her marriage and the fact that we've broken up...six, seven years ago. Why doesn't her mom tell me to get out? I wake and remember my muse.

Am I in an Escher drawing?

Am I in an Escher drawing?

I’ve heard the unconscious has a lot of weird things in there. Last night I had a dream of one of my ex-girlfriends. To say the relationship was like oil and fire was an understatement. So why did I dream about her? It was a long time ago. She’s married, which I knew in that looptee loop of a dream. Her family knew she was married and didn’t say anything when I spent the night in their mansion that kept morphing its floor plan. Shit! My ex and I had sex and she didn’t say anything! What the hell is going on? Too much cofffeeee.

In my last post I wrote about my pet peeve: Experts telling writers to write what they know. And I stated that what writers know is the human condition, if you’re human. Which is absolutely true. We all have access to the experience of life as humans, until we’re dead. Then the experience would probably be something else.

These are real

These are real

I do agree in a certain aspect of writing that what you know should be taken at face value. I was listening to John Irving talk about his writing process. He outlines—needs—to know where the story goes from start to finish so he can just focus on pacing: the length of the sentences, paragraphs, etc. But when he comes onto a subject that he knows nothing about, he spends a massive amount of time researching, after which he now knows and will be able to write.

Eh?

Eh?

So. If you want to write FLIGHT, starring Denzel Washington, researching how to fly a jet liner is important. Researching what it’s like to be an alcoholic is important. But do you have to have a pilot’s license or be an alcoholic to write FLIGHT? No. Can it help? Anything's possible.

Often times the nitty gritty details isn’t important because those don’t lend to the actual story being talked about. In FLIGHT, the actual terminology in regards to piloting an airplane could fit within a ten minute segment, less even. Rest of the movie focused on the tug and pull of alcoholism. And even then people can understand addictive natures. And if they don’t have any experience with it, then research is key. I’m not an alcoholic, but I do understand the addictive behaviors of humans. Even as a kid, I had some of my own. Could I write about drug addiction then? No. Could I write about the addictive nature of playing vs. doing my homework? Hell yes.

Now comes the one thing that I think certain stories require: life experience. Certain experiences in our lives can help us become better wordsmiths if required. If I’m writing See Jack Run, that ain’t gonna need life experience. But if we’re talking about having loved and lost, then it’ll be good to have actually loved and lost, whether it be a favorite toy or lover. Aren’t those things the same? Sorry. Bad joke. But I know that puppy love can be just as intense and “real” adult love...uh...grown-up love. And losing it can be devastating whether you’re a child or an adult. I would venture to say that children are more equipped to handle that better than adults can. They tend to let things go more easily.

Your six pack?!

Your six pack?!

Words, in my opinion, can have emotional impact, while their synonyms may not (in context of course). A method actor (what I like to term as Methodist…bad joke?) experiences their role as if they are truly happening. They may never have given birth to a child, Arnold, but if they’re good actors and can understand the pain of delivering a turkey out of a teeny tiny hole, then we can understand the pain.

My book, NIGHTFALL, centers on a couple who tragically loses their baby boy and must contend with their children fighting an impending war. I’ve never been married, don’t have children, or fought in a war. Having loved and lost, I used that particular relationship in my dream to drive my words in my book. I do believe that helped a lot. But you know what they say about beliefs? They work when you believe and don’t when you don’t.

Stealing from Jobs

I’m an Apple fan. Call me a fanboy. Accuse me of drinking Kool-Aid, despite my vice for diet soda. What I love about Apple was Steve Jobs’ philosophy on life, summarized well in 2005 Stanford commencement address. Many Apple centric sites are writing articles about the man who died only a year ago, his legacy, how he changed the world. But I’d like to talk about his autobiography and what a sheep is. Many non-Apple fans call us sheep.

You callin' me sheep, sucka?

You callin' me sheep, sucka?

Sheep – a four-legged animal covered in wool.

I’ve never seen a sheep use an Apple product. Though, I have not seen every sheep in the world.

An article in Wired discussed whether the autobiography Walter Isaacson wrote on Steve Jobs could be used as a path to success and management.

This sticker adds 5 horse power

This sticker adds 5 horse power

I had bought the audio book, unabridged version, from audible.com. As I listened, my ego started to make links between the ways Jobs did things to how I did things. I think we all do this, try to make comparisons with great men and women to assure ourselves that we are somehow on the right path. I stopped myself and knew. I am no Steve Jobs. And no one else is either. I think of a boy in Uganda and know that no other boy in the world will be like that boy. As human beings, we are all different, individuals. That is our biggest strength as a species.

Shut the Fuck Up

Shut the Fuck Up

There’s an app called iTunes U. Basically, it has courses that you can take, a lot of it is free. There’s a section called Creative Writing: A Master Class. There are 10-15 minute snippets of audio/video from famous writers. I’d listened to Michael Crichton, John Irving, Khaled Hosseini. But the one that caught my ear was Sue Grafton, author of best selling mystery novels like “A” IS FOR ALIBI. She said about writing, “There is no path. There is no course you can take. It’s not gonna help if you go to an Ivy League school. It might not hurt you, but it’s not gonna do you any good.”

Now, I’m not playing down education. I certainly don’t want a dude off the street operating on me. But when it comes to paths to success, we rarely know how to get there. I think the important thing is to know where you are, the starting point, and where you want to end up. That way you’ll have a better idea of where you wanna go. Two points make a line, right? Math. It’s an Asian thang. But if you don’t know where you are, how can you know which direction to head? If you don’t know where you want to end up, then are you even asking the question? For most people, no.

After finishing Jobs’ autobiography, my take was success in any form has no prescription. There isn’t a right way nor a wrong way. Sometimes the wrong way will teach us lessons the right way can’t. But going the wrong way all the time won’t get us to where we want to be. If you want to follow Jobs’ path, then listen to your intuition. For that path is unique to you.

Force or Not to Force

Chaos Theory...huh?
Chaos Theory...huh?

Today is 10/10/10.  When I searched for images based on today's date, here's what I got.  An explanation of chaos theory.  Kinda like writing.

Although, I'm not sure what the significance is. I thought I'd use it to announce that I haven't found that 'yes' from an agent who will help bring my story to the world, yet.

But I've been told that I can't force a tomato plant to grow by yelling at it, throwing money at it, or by giving it an ultimatum.

"Grow or I'll send you to your room!"

Attack of the killer tomatoes, attack of the killer tomatoes...

Attack of the killer tomatoes, attack of the killer tomatoes...

The tomato will grow on its own with the right environment. Basically, dirt, water and sun. Dirt is pretty much free. Water is cheap. And so far no one is charging for sunshine.

Is getting published, breaking into Hollywood if you're an actor, finding your soul mate, soul searching for your passions like growing a tomato?

I was talking to a fellow writer from work. He's a rabid reader and especially loves fantasy. I'd talked to him at the beginning of summer about his book and he had finished writing chapter five. He asked me how long it took to write mine. I said about four years.

A few months later, I asked him about his progress. He said he was at about chapter five. So either he's been doing some serious rewriting, or he hadn't written much. We had gotten onto the subject of forcing art. He still loved the idea of his book, loved writing, but needed some balance in life. I asked if he used an outline, and he said he wanted to, maybe it would help the flow of his writing and story.

Steven King starts his books with an idea and writes until it's finished. John Irving starts his book with a very detailed outline. He needs to know where the story is going before writing.

Who's method is right?

Both.

I told my friend to find a method that works best for him and just go with it. He agreed but stated that he didn't want to force the creative process. I totally agreed. But is knuckling down on your work forcing?

With any creative undertaking, the artist only has to provide the most minimal of ingredients. Just like the tomato plant, it just needs dirt, water and sun. Everything else happens by itself.

Damn it's cold up here.

Damn it's cold up here.

One of the challenging things about writing fantasy is the creation of things that doesn't exist in our world. Many fantasy writers use Tolkienesque creatures, which is great. My story came to me outside of that, and I've spent a lot of time wondering what to call the different things in my world.

My process was simple: I ask the question. Like, what do I call this bug that my character eats? Then I wait. Sometimes it comes to me immediately. Sometimes it comes to me in a month. Nevertheless, it comes to me.

But it comes to me not just because I ask the question, but because I show up for the answer. I spend a lot of time each day fantasizing about my world. I imagine the feelings each character goes through. I think about the conversations they have, their goals, and their character arcs. Since the majority of my days are spent at work, I tend to find a lot of dead time that allows me to do this. Don't tell my boss.

The point is show up. I show up to write. I show up to think. I show up and work. Forcing something would be like sticking strictly to my outline and not coloring outside the lines. Have an outline, but let the idea sprout. Let little surprises in. Let mistakes enter. For those are the things that can make any artistic project grow into something amazing like a tomato plant. Just watch out of the killer tomatoes.