Tag Archives: creative

Drawing from a dry well

Frustrated beyond measure. It’s almost a physical feeling, a rage borne of confusion. I’ve at here at my keyboard for forty minutes trying to start a story, and I have produced nothing but three false starts, opening sections that inspire me to continue writing about as much as they would inspire someone else to keep reading.

It’s like being sat at a potter’s wheel, unable to do much more than prod the damp clay with a desultory finger, knowing that the world is full of plates and vases already crafted by craftsmen more original, disciplined and inspired than yourself. Or like joining a degree course in its final week. Or like, or like, or like.

Yeah, I know, “keep writing”, all those clichés. Finish what you start; just type and see what comes out, don’t be critical, just free-associate. That’s what I’m doing here; this is the third day in a row that all I’ve been able to write about is my inability to write; pointless self-castigating screeds, the sound of someone marinading himself in his own inabilities. Finally, I have an hour set aside every day in the quiet of the morning so that I can CREATE, and all I can do with it is the literary equivalent of banging my head against the door of my padded cell.

It’s ludicrous. A whole sixty precious minutes, reserved for my mind to do what it wants to do rather than what it must. And I sit here wanting to get on with my other work, because at least there I know where to go, what to do; there’s a clear route forward. There’s none of this terrifying void of inspiration; none of this horrifying thought that, perhaps, I really am kidding myself about this whole being-a-writer gig, and that I’ve spent a few years talking a good game and bluffing the basics only to fall at the first true hurdle. I really can’t understate the sense of anger coursing through me at the moment, this urge to throw things and shout formless words. Nor can I channel it in any useful way, so it seems. At least not today.

Maybe tomorrow will be different.

[ Regular readers please take note — I’ve posted this up as a record, a message to a future self who, I sincerely hope, will look back on it in a few months’ time and chuckle at how hard it was to start the routine. It’s not a bid for sympathy; I just need to have something other than a handful of half-page word processor files and some scribbled-on notebook pages to show for the last few days, so as not to feel it’s been an utterly wasted effort. ]

Career tips for writers, redux

The old feed reader is full of useful advice for writers once again, so time to share them with the people.

Jeff Vandermeer’s Evil Monkey delivers the second short sharp installment of his Guide to Creative Writing:

“Alas, market predictions aren’t like assholes, because everyone has two or three, and they usually serve little purpose.”

Luc Reid tries to nail down what it is that makes certain stories rise from “good, but not quite what we’re looking for” to “sold”:

“So what makes a story rise above its fellows, inspire love, stand out? The intuitive response would be that it does the things we talked about better. The characters are stronger, the plot is more compelling, the description is more vivid. But usually standing out is going to mean something else, and it’s going to differ from writer to writer and sometimes from story to story. The stories that rise above are not just more competent than the stories that don’t, although more competent is always better.”

Moving beyond the writing itself and into the territory of promotional work, Charlie Stross explains the dos and don’ts of public readings with his usual dry humour:

“The water jug isn’t an optional extra. I usually take the precaution of bringing along a drink of some sort, simply because my throat dries out after ten or fifteen minutes of speaking and if I’m scheduled late in a day of readings, the folks providing supporting facilities such as jugs of water tend to be getting a bit erratic themselves.”

And finally, David Louis Edelman has some advice on how to self-promote with ethical integrity:

“3. Avoid glaring sins of omission. This is a difficult guideline to follow, because it’s very subjective. Don’t use ellipses to claim that your book is “an absolutely terrific… thriller” when the actual review states that your book is “an absolutely terrific example of what not to do when writing a thriller.” Don’t try to sell to a group of Vietnam vets by claiming that your book has a Vietnam vet in it, while conveniently forgetting to mention that said character gets run over by a truck on page 4.”

Ah! The intarwebs: helping aspiring writers (to avoid writing by supplying them enough advice from genuine writers that they can convince themselves reading it is a more valuable way to spend their time than actually writing) since 1997!

[Cross-posted to Futurismic]

My thoughts on being Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ 2006

Time Magazine is no stranger to controversy as regards their ‘Person of the Year’ feature. Some folk have never forgiven them for once giving the dubious accolade to Adolf Hitler, but they have failed to realise that it’s not necessarily a valedictory honour – the Person of the Year is the one deemed to have been most influential on world events, for good or ill. Continue reading My thoughts on being Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ 2006