Thursday, October 13, 2011

Voice of Reason

Sometimes it takes an obvious observation to make sense of the Inner Critic.

And sometimes you have to keep pushing forward no matter what.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Desconstructing the Pause

Okay, not everything I write is crap. I know that. Yet, after finishing a project I can’t avoid the disappointment. Every time.

Even though I’ve had many compliments on my writing (thanks to those of you who know who you are), the Inner Critic (as it is labeled) is louder, more insistent, and knows exactly what buttons to push.

In the long, drawn-out past of my writing career (er … endeavor?) I have thought it was my “fear of failure” which stopped me from ever completing a project. Oh, by completing, I mean finished to the point of real life publication. Now, as I’ve aged and, frankly, as my writing has become less of an escape clause and more of a feature to my life, I realize that it’s not fear of failure which causes this sudden screeching halt to actual production.

I’m not afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid I’ll never succeed.

Is there a difference? Yes. As many self-help books/websites/gurus/nags will point out, there are hundreds of examples of famous creative people who were rejected time and again for their masterpieces. They didn’t fail, the advice goes, because they never gave up.

Well, as any regular reader of this blog knows, (all two of you!), I don’t give up on my writing. I can’t. It’s an addiction. If it weren’t, I would have stopped years ago and never looked back.

So, I can’t fail in that sense of the word, as in surrendering to my lack of talent.

My writing-seizure right now is more based on the “I’ll never be good enough” doubts: I can spend another 40 years on my writing and still won’t be able to reach that plateau of …. what? Greatness? No. Impact. That’s the success I want. My writing should have impact on whoever reads it.

So what now? Work through it all, I suppose. I still have tons of ideas. I’m still determined to finish E2. I know what to do. And eventually, I’ll sit down and do it.

Meanwhile, to tease my addiction, I write this blog. Sort of like taking a hit of methadone when I crave the smack.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Disappointment of Reality

When I wrote of my disappointment in BoTS, it was the reiteration of a common theme of my writing.

I don’t mean to imply that all my fiction is crap – as a writer that’s really not my decision. In fact, I believe that anyone who truly dives into writing as art eventually places him/herself outside any normal perspective. I'm totally unable to judge the quality of my writing because I'm so deep into the structure and style and voice that I’ve lost any other viewpoint.

My writing may be genius. It may be crap. I have no idea.

When I talk of my disappointment, it’s meant as the overall feeling I get when comparing the final product with the creative arc. Or more plainly: the “what it could have been” to “what it is”.

That might not be fair, yet it’s the way it is.

BoTS is not even close to the dynamic organic mystery I wanted it to be. I’m not out to tell a story. I’m not even striving to entertain. I’ve always endeavored to develop much more in my fiction. I love to work in layers. I want complexity. I want mystery. I want my reader to wonder what the fuck is going on … until a moment clicks and then suddenly it’s all “Aaaaah, I see.”

With BoTS  I hoped to dissect a life, and then join it all back together in some sort of Frankensteinian monster of memories. We all selectively remember our past. That makes us who we are. I wanted to show that. I wanted to blow a man apart and put him back together.

Overall, I think I’ve fallen far short.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Back to the Beginning

Instead of a blog about writing, Word Curse seems to have evolved into a blog about reading … judging by the last 2 months of posts. Well, there’s a good reason for that. While I continue to read voraciously, I haven’t written anything since end of July.

August was a travel month, so that’s a legitimate excuse for not sitting down in front of the laptop. Then came September and the beginning of teaching … which is a so-so excuse. But now it’s October and yet, I just can’t seem to get myself in the fiction-writing mode.

There’s a reason for this. It’s taken me a few days to dig it out and accept it. I’ve lost the impetuous to write due to one event: Based on a True Story.

Last summer was a major push to finalize Based on a True Story Part 1 and Part 2. In fact, I did complete both of them. They are done. Uploaded. Digitally published. And available or purchase. It was a major goal of mine for this year and I accomplished it completely.

You’d think I’d be broadcasting this accomplishment far and wide, in this blog and elsewhere. Well, that was my plan. I had structured a publication rollout for September, but when the time came … I realized something: I’m just not happy with the way BoTS came out.

The short stories, individually, are fine. But I had higher hopes. I wanted the collections of shorts to form pieces of a much larger, more complex puzzle. As the reader dove into each scene, an encompassing picture would emerge of the main character. Each story was meant to be an exercise in how the smallest, seemingly insignificant event of a man’s life builds momentum, clumps together like a snowball, and in the end overwhelms. A person’s life is no more than a series of memories. BoTS was meant to show that.

Yet, I don’t think it works. I’m unsure if each story propels the reader to continue. An overall concept like this requires patience. It also depends on trust: the reader must believe that I’m actually leading someplace, even though each story seems so disconnected and out of sequence. However, that trust is just not there. Of course not. Why should it be?

So, yes, I’m greatly disappointed in how it all turned out. That sort of feeling lingers. It’s been too long on this road. I’m so tired of ending up in the same place. For now, I need to think. I need to reflect on why I write and where I need to turn. The desire is still there. I’m filled with stories. Somehow I need to let it all out without the disappointment. I don’t know if that’s possible.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What I (Couldn't) Finish Reading: The Leftovers

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta has an interesting plotline: What would the world be like if one moment millions of people simply disappeared? Is it the rapture? Is it aliens? How would the survivors carry on?

That’s my type of story, where I believe the real truth is found in the details.

However, by the second chapter the actual disappearance and initial reaction is rushed through, with barely any development of characters or any chance for me to savor the oddity of the situation. The novel begins 1 year later (or so) and before I hit page 30, it’s skipped to 3 years later.

That was so frustrating. I really wanted to see this unfold. I wanted to immerse myself in the chaos of that time. Yet, I’m never given a chance.

Oh the writing (technique and style) were good. The imagery was sharp. But I couldn’t overcome the feeling that I walked in on a movie halfway through. While I was reading, my imagination kept going back to what might have happened, what might that first week been like when so many people vanish. I couldn’t focus on the author’s present because I yearned for more details of the past.

I suppose this was a conscious decision by Perrotta. Maybe this time frame was meant to push us forward. Yet, I can’t help but feel that it was an easy way out – sidestepping the emotionally turmoil by mere summarization. That’s not what I’m looking for.

I want the minutia. I need those tiny moments of an altered life. Then, and only then, can I feel invested in what comes next.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

You've Got 10 Minutes ... Impress Me!

Never judge a book by its cover … but can I judge a novel by the first 30 pages?

Lately, I’ve been doing just that. I love my iPad and its digital library. Hear about a novel? Just search, find, and download a sample.

However, I’m old enough to remember the days of searching books stores, used and new, trying to track down something highly recommended. There was a time (mainly during my late teens and early 20s) when I spent much of my weekend browsing and perusing and simply enjoying the feel and touch of the books. This is way back in the day when the only “search” available was to ask the bookstore help, who may or may not have a clue to what you’re talking about. Eventually, I’d come home with a bag full of paperbacks feeling somewhat superior to … well, everyone else.

And now, what took hours simply takes minutes. I love the convenience. I love the accessibility. And I love the downloadable sample … being able to get a feel for a book before opening my wallet is great.

Yet, at the same time, sampling means I’m no longer invested in a novel. The time it took decades ago to find a specific novel created a social contract, in a way. “I’ve tracked the damn thing down; I’m reading it from cover to cover goddammit.”

That’s no longer the case. If I don’t like the tone or writing or character voice or whatever in the first 30 pages, then poof! it’s deleted. Gone. Not a thought about it again. In many ways, that’s sad. I can’t help but think I’m missing out on something – yet at the same time, there are so many great novels out there, why waste my time on one that doesn’t grab me at the beginning?

This instant (well, almost instant) need-for-gratification affects my writing immensely. I fret over the beginning of my novels so much. I’m terrified that the first few pages will simply bore my read just enough so that the rest of my energy and ideas and creative endeavor are tossed away. I know how I’d feel if I saw that happening…but even this connected sympathy can’t stop me from doing the same.

Maybe that might make me a better writer?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Misdiagnosis

A few friends (here and there) have commented to me about my “writer’s block”, offering a few helpful suggestions. I appreciate the advice, except that it doesn’t apply to me.

I know writer’s block. I’ve seen writer’s block. This funk I’m in is not writer’s block.

In my experience, writer’s block is the emotional hell of wanting to write, but being unable to form the words or find that creative thread. The image that links to this is the cliché of sitting in front of the laptop, blank screen oscillating, and not having a single word pop to the forefront. Sort of like insomnia of the creative mode. Having struggled with writing fiction for (gulp!) 30 years now, I understand my moods and difficulties completely. What I am facing now is not at all like that.

I have good ideas. I have momentum. I’ve always had direction and plot and characters. Sitting down and hacking out 3,000-5,000 words is easy for me. I’m a fast typist and it’s simply of matter of translating the  images in my head onto the paper. I know that the moment I place myself in front of my laptop, the words will easily pour out.

So, if I don’t have writer’s block, then why haven’t I written anything in weeks?

I know what I want to write … but I simply don’t want to write. I have no desire to continue onward with my current novel. Not out of boredom – I still believe in this idea and the project as a whole. My snag is a lack of energy and determination to forge ahead. Maybe it’s the mid-project blues?

However, like I said, I know myself as a writer. This happens a lot to me. It will pass. I will (soon) sit down and continue onward, due to pure stubbornness.

Until that moment arrives, this blog will basically be me bitching about how I’m not writing. Maybe the boredom of writing on this theme (and you reading it!) will get me moving?