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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stick a hose in my ear and I'll do your drapes

Science tells us that 99% of all matter is empty space. While this fact may boggle and bewilder some folk, I find it quite easy to grasp this concept, for nowhere is this vacuum more evident than within my own brain.

I've been having a lot of "empty brain" moments lately, mostly when I try to write. It's kind of a literary version of the "then a miracle occurs" cartoon: I am at a starting point, usually a blank screen, and while I know what I want to say, the procedure of how I intend to say it utterly escapes me. I'm certain this happens to everyone, but what is mildly frustrating to the average person is A CRISIS OF INFINITE PROPORTIONS, A DISASTER BIBLICAL IN SCOPE, DOGS AND CATS LIVING TOGETHER WHILE THE UNIVERSE EXPLODES OUT YOUR RECTUM AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT for someone who intends to make a living out of talking pretty and speechifying.

Calliope can be a fickle bitch. In my life, I can count on one hand the number of times I have been infused with the Holy Fire of Creation that impels me to WRITE NOW NOW NOW lest my brain explode and my fingers immolate from the Sheer Awesomeness (tm) of the idea they contain. In lieu of these "muse moments", my writing reduces to two main categories: talent and skill.

Talent is that cool, showing-off writing that I do when I have a neat idea and I let myself run with it, consequences be damned. This is my best writing, and I think it's because I don't set limits upon myself; when I sit down to write them I don't have any goal other than "Here's a neat idea! Either I'm going to develop this to its natural conclusion, or I'm going to run it into the ground in a disaster of fire and smoke. Let's see what happens!" The best examples of this kind of writing are Dentata, Hints from Hell-oise and Chuck Palahniuk's Batman. Oddly, there are no poor examples of this (not in my opinion, anyway) because if a talent-inspired story fails to have that certain je ne sais quois then it becomes a skill piece.

Skill is the uphill writing. The essay, the book report, the talent piece that took a tragic turn; they're all skill, because I spend 80% of my time muttering "Fuck me, I have no idea how to make this work. Is there something wrong with my keyboard? Because I keep banging on these little letters and nothing I consider intelligent is coming out." This is a constant state of flux, as words are written, moved about, edited, deleted, un-deleted, re-deleted, and so forth until either A) something I am vaguely happy with finally begins to emerge, at which point I'm on the downhill side of things and get my writing banged into place and polished, or B) I delete the whole fucking thing and start over. Again.

The other 20%, you see, is me screaming at the top of my lungs. I've found it's the best method to reboot the Voices In My Head and get them to shut up, if they can't be bothered to help out. (Incidentally, Talent is what occurs when all the VIMH are singing in glorious harmony. I'm reasonably sure that it's what it would feel like if an angel took a dump in my skull.)

Some skill pieces are quite good. I'm very fond of Aquaman, written so that he does not suck, and The Sisters Weirde took nearly a week to develop but the result was worth the effort. Others, however, range from the rather weak to the "My god, why did I post that?". The worst offenders, of course, never see print, because I have way too much pride (warranted or not) to post what I feel is utter rubbish.

I bring this up because I'm currently in the grip of a Skill problem. My current QMx assignment is proving more troublesome than it's worth, and my Witch Children story (it's coming soon, I promise!) is threatening to spiral out of control into incomprehensible rock & roll occultism.

Blog posts, incidentally, don't fall under the Talent/Skill dichotomy unless I label them as creative writing or I'm trying to make a specific point. Rambling like this doesn't qualify as writing, in my opinion; it's more like a journal entry.

Honestly? Most of the time, I don't know why you people read this shit in the first place... anyway, demons having been dispelled, it's now time for me to return to my Serious Writing.

Let the screaming commence.

3 comments:

Jeff said...

Misery loves company and so I love this post. Every time I've tried to write something other than a blog post in the last month or two, I cannot do it. I freeze or lose my train of thought or obsess over minutiae until I'm paralyzed.

JD said...

It's a great post PalPal. Not every single thing one starts really falls together or is 'divinely inspired' Most of it is that little idea and then the work nurtring it, writing and re-writing to build it up. And even then it may not be right. It's immensely frustrating, but for me, when I'm able to put something up and enjoy it, the effort is all worth it.

Troy Hickman said...

If any of the kids in my classes use the phrase "muse," they know I'll get them in a painful submission hold. We don't wait until inspiration comes to us. We sit down and get the job done. I cringe when I hear folks talking about writing as "Art" (capital A) rather than "craft." Those folks are the ones who sit around cafes telling each other about the great idea they've come up with, but never seem to get it written.

I go about it totally as craft, just as any other craftsman. That's why writer's block doesn't exist for me. You don't hear carpenters saying they have "wood block" or electricians saying they've hit the "power grid."

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