Writer’s block doesn’t always come from the lack of inspiration. Sometimes it comes from the abundance of inspiration, from having too many ideas to choose from. It’s hard to know which ones will leave you with a sense of accomplishment, and which ones will leave you feeling spent. Why invest the time, if the time is going to payoff?
Writer’s block is a fear of failure. If you never try you’ll never fail. The trick is to get yourself to try without realizing that’s what you’re doing. To grift one of those stories out of you and onto the page.
This 13 minute audio blog runs through all the cons I use to get the job done.
The instrumental version of Grift the Words Out of You is the perfect background music to write to. There are layers of ascending melodies stacked over ambient synths, with a rugged a trip-hop beat. The blog entry itself mentions The Cure’s Pictures of You. That song rubbed off on the soundtrack. Depeche Mode and M83, rubbed off on it too for good measure.
Ridicule has over-saturated the marketplace of ideas. It’s frightened off potential investors: authors, poets, and screenwriters. They bury their spark in their portfolios, when the market could be nurturing it. Investors see an abundance of taunts, and a scarcity of discourse. They horde their assets, because they know what happens to the people that share them.
Inspiration is taken apart by market analysts. They are not creators themselves. They lack the language for artistic analysis, but they fake it all the same.
Every one of them has a harsh word on the tip of their tongues, and a scathing review on the tips of their fingers. Every one of them is entitled to their opinion, and they treat their opinions like facts.
The problem is: when everyone is a critic, criticism loses its value. With the bar set this low, there is no more room for growth.
The demand for ridicule has been inflated, by a handful of traders with nothing but put-downs in their portfolio. Their sole product is their ability to defame. To ride the uptick of an artist’s epiphany, just to crash it on the way down. To pump it and dump it. To treat inspiration like a toxic asset. Continue reading Ridicule is a Bad Investment→
An author tries to solve a mystery from inside the pitch of his own story.
My story’s pitch starts in the parking lot. The lot is empty apart from a lone convertible, a rusty old stepladder, and a thick layer of slush from last night’s snow.
The convertible is a classic, fully restored to its original mint green. Too bad someone thought to wheel it out in this nasty weather. The fenders are caked with black slush. There’s an awful mess in the interior. The windshield does little to hide the line of cocaine on the dashboard. There’s nothing but powder from the wheel to the glovebox. It looks like last night’s blizzard happened on the upholstery. A log sits on the passenger seat, too small for a support beam, too large for kindling. It leans forward. Its bark is nose deep in the fresh fallen blow.
I pace around the vehicle and wonder why the log was staged to look like it overdosed. This is the weirdest damn crime scene that I’ve ever seen. What business does a log have with such an epic line? Then it occurs to me. This is a terrible pun. It’s a “log-line.” Every pitch has got one.
A logline is the main idea sentence of a story’s pitch. It’s the bait that get’s the audience on the hook. I must have staged this mobile drug den to remind myself to lead with my logline. Continue reading The Memory Palace Mystery→
Writers are always told to read more. I say, they ought to watch more movies. Why? Good films do not slip into the same pitfalls that so many novels do.
Good films do not tell you what a character is thinking. The audience has to make observations of their mood, and draw their own conclusions. Good films do not just launch into backstory. If there are flashbacks they appear as scenes. Good films put the events on display, they don’t just put them into a character’s mouth, and expect you to take their word for it. Good films show and don’t tell.
Writer’s could take a cue from this. Just because our medium allows for free form exposition, that doesn’t mean we should use it.
The limitations of film force it to tell a more compelling story. These are limitations I urge novelists to try to bring to their work in progress.
The above audio blog gets into the nitty gritty of the benefits of watching movies. The background music is like a scary movie score put through a trip-hop filter. I’ve heard it described as electro-goth. If you’re looking for good music to write to, you won’t go wrong with the instrumental version of the song.
This piece first appeared on Loren Kleinman’s blog on writing. Check it out at lorenkleinman.com, and follow her on Twitter @LorenKleinman. The above photo was taken by Keane Amdahl follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned.
Seduce the Words out of You
Writer’s are told to draft everything before rushing in. We’re told to have an outline to refer to when we get stuck. It’s a good check against writer’s block. It’s hard to lose the plot, when you can see every link in the chain. You know what happens next. You know your responsibilities. Your role in the relationship is defined. Continue reading Seduce the Words out of You (Audio Blog)→
In the previous installment of The Moderator, Jeremiah Jenkins found himself outed by a fellow cyber bully. He’d made a death threat and his rival The Straw Man called him on his bluff. That night a cyber mob hacked his accounts and warped his online identity. They posted pregnancy news on FaceBook, turned him into a rogue NSA agent on Twitter, and added terrorism to his LinkedIn resumé. They killed his career opportunities, his relationship prospects, and his reputation. The trolls put his head up on a pike for all the world to see.
In part 2 of this 3 part tale, we catch up with Jeremiah in the middle of a psychotic break.
I owe another debt of gratitude to @Raishimi for catching many of my grammatical mistakes (I love it when people point those little buggers out to me).
The Moderator PART 2: The Straw Man
That night, Jeremiah dreamt he was sprinting down cobblestone streets. Oil lanterns passed by in a blur. He swerved as a horse drawn carriage barreled down on him. He dove to avoid being trampled. When the horses past, he heard his pursuers’ feet stomping behind him. Their numbers had grown. Minute men had answered the call. Pedestrians had been enveloped into the horde. Street workers dropped the tools of their trade, and picked up other ones.
I’m afraid of the kind of traffic this story will bring to my blog. There’s some nasty buzz words lurking in these prose. Words I wouldn’t want to show up in a search engine, or across a national security agent’s desk.
The characters who use these words have no regard for their meaning. They sling vulgarities at the wind, with the glee of infants hurling smartphones onto concrete. They make casual death threats. They reference acts of terrorism with the enthusiasm of screenwriters referencing pop culture.
These characters speak their minds with not a filter, but a megaphone. Their real life counterparts have been jailed for things they’ve said in jest. They’ve ruined lives, or worse, played a part in ending them.
If the government makes revisions to the First Amendment, it will be because of something one of these people said.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to berate you with racial or homophobic slurs. These characters have used them so often they’ve lost their meaning. They have to resort to craftier insults to get their points across, to scrape the bottom of the barrel clean through, to mine it for new depths.
They’re a case study for etymologists. Linguists will cite them as the ones who broadened our definition of profanity.
Their real life counterparts will desensitize us to things we hope to never see. They don’t pull punches. If I’m to tell their story, neither can I.
Tragedy plus time equals comedy. The hero of this story has interpreted the quote to mean that making fun of tragedy is funny. He’s about to learn that some words are sacred. Some invocations summon things that won’t go back into the depths. Some threats have consequences.
Especially when he makes his threats here, in the Twilight Zone (sorry I had to do that).
I owe a debt of gratitude to @Raishimi, @FoodStoned, and many others who post under the hashtag #AmWriting. Many of you were eager to let your inner trolls go on a rampage. You helped come up with many of the cyber pranks featured in this story. You’re all very evil people.
I cannot stress how much hair this story had me pulling out. At seven-thousand plus words, I decided to break it up into three different parts:
Ever lean on your support system only to find it can’t support your weight? Ever vent only to find yourself plugged up? Ever put yourself out there only to learn there’s a curfew for people like you? Yeah, I know the feeling. You ask for a hand, only to get the low five. Either they don’t get what you’re going through, or they don’t want to.
It’s hard to find a sympathetic ear when they’re all wearing headphones. It’s hard to rest your weary head when they all have such cold shoulders. It’s hard to get the storm cloud out of you when all you’ve got are fair weather friends.
This is a story about my first attempt to wow people with my work. I was a kindergartner hosting a Halloween carnival in the middle of July. I poured my heart and soul into the project and got negative returns.
There’s a lesson to be learned in failure: if at first you don’t succeed, you’re doing it wrong. If humiliation teaches us anything it’s how to wear humiliation better. Every artist has to learn to take feed back. Every artist has to develop a callus around their heart, a skin so thick they could stop bullets with it.
This is a piece for those people brave enough to put themselves out there. The ones who go out among the trolls seeking validation. The ones whose bright eyes never dim. The ones who no matter how many times you knock them down, they scramble back up to their feet, and brush their shoulders off.
This is for the people who look to the Internet and say, “I have something valid to contribute and I’m going to keep trying until it finally resonates with someone.”
Persuading yourself to write is like pulling off a long con. You play the parts of both the mark and the convincer. The mark has something you want, time and dedication. Neither you, nor they, want to give those things up willingly. Time scheduled is time spent, and you want to keep your options open. You’ve got a Netflix queue that isn’t going to watch itself. Dedication requires persistence, and you already have enough on your plate. No one wants to feel like they’re clocking into a second job.
You’ll have to swindle the time and dedication out of yourself. You’ll have to get yourself to write without realizing that you’re doing it.
Don’t spend too much time on foundation work, or you’ll get wise to what you’re up to. You’ll see all of those character biographies and get nervous about meeting new people. You’ll see the settings mapped out and your agoraphobia will kick in. You’ll see the scene list and imagine your calendar filling up with X’s. If you let yourself realize how daunting the task of writing can be, you won’t want to do it. Continue reading Grift the Words Out of You→