Whining about not Writing. Again.

I’ve been working on a proper draft my first novel (that is, the first I intend to publish, not the first I’ve written), and been stuck on the first chapter for well over a month. With so many structural problems to iron out, right at the beginning, my willpower has taken a severe hit. At first I slowed down to a few sentences a day, assuring myself that at least it’s progress, but even that much effort has slowed to almost nil. I’m back to writing around my writing to fight the inertia of not writing at all. And after all this, in a repeating cycle for years, I have to ask myself what the fucking problem is.

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Stupid Scenarios #1: Duran Hits the Liquor Store

I’m currently in a headspace where I can squeeze out just enough words to keep momentum going on my current project, but don’t have much more, so I’m forgetting about regular blog updates for a while. One thing I’m doing, to keep my head in the story when I can’t squeeze out actual story because it’s become a thick glue-like paste and clogged up my brain tubes, is putting my characters in hypothetical situations. It’s a great exercise because you should know your characters well enough to know what they’d do in any situation, no matter how unlikely. I’m writing them synopsis style (third person present tense) so I don’t waste too much writing energy on them. I figured I’d post them here, because why not. The first is my take on the prompt: how would your main character go grocery shopping? Since my main doesn’t eat human food, I had to improvise.

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Treading Water

Here’s the problem with hoping the new year will turn things around: it’s still the dead of winter. The near-constant dark has been fogging my brain. It’s been affecting my reading and writing abilities the most. I can’t word good. My thoughts are cloudy. When I read, I keep spacing out. I can barely pull a coherent sentence out of my addled mind, and when I do manage to write one down, it takes a looong time to come out properly. Just writing this is a serious effort. So I’ve only managed to write 15 minutes a day, and I have to force myself to sit that long.

I don’t have any illusions about trying to write anything good right now. Right now it’s enough making myself sit down and try to write anything. I’m working on self-discipline, because that’s the best I can muster. Everything I write turns to bleurgh.

There’s one thing to say about treading water: at least it’s not drowning. I’m managing to do the bare minimum every day, in terms of taking care of my life.

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Rocking Those Resolutions

I find New Years resolutions incredibly misguided, but it is worth staking stock at the dawn of a new year. I did that earlier today – the details of which aren’t worth blogging about. Instead I’m going to write about resolutions themselves. The problem with saying “I’ll start doing X on day Y,” is it’s a good indicator you’re not serious if you put off doing it until an arbitrary date. That’s why last year I started exercising the day after Christmas, and somehow I kept exercising right up to the end of this year. It’s not even a goal anymore – it’s a habit.

And that’s what I need to do with writing again. Putting it off for a week ended up being a month, and then almost to the end of the year. That’s why I started writing today, and not just for this blog post. Last year my goal was writing one blog post a week, and I did it! Next year I need to up my game, but instead of making goals I’m going to resolve to make writing a habit. It’s too easy to do the least work possible when the goal is so many words, blog posts, or even stories. I fared better committing to writing an hour a day. So that’s my commitment: to write an hour a day for a whole year. I’m probably going to fail, because we all have terrible days, but the effort – sustained effort – is what matters.

The new year is also a great time to clear out all the little jobs we’ve let languish. I only have a couple minor projects, which is manageable. I cleaned house in the last half of December, so I start my new year in a tidy apartment. I’m now working towards a tidy mind. I’ve dumped several things I never got around to because I don’t give enough of a damn. The rest can be taken care of in a a week or two, if I just sit down and DO them. Then it’s on to bigger things, once I figure out what those things will be.

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Merry Kitchmas!

First, I would like to riff on last week’s post with a video of Alton Brown reviewing some ridiculous single-purpose kitchen accessories. Shining above the rest in how much it it makes us shout, “Whyyyy?” is rollie, because someone actually thought, “You know what would make my life better? If all my food came in tubular form.”

This year I’m baking a cheesecake, a recipe my mother modified to use dark chocolate making it a hundred times more flavorful than anything I’ve had at the Cheesecake Cafe. (I’ll add the recipe to this post along with pictures later.) The last cheesecake I baked was one of my best, due to the pizza stone I shoved in my crappy old oven to help regulate the temperature, as well as the crust I made from scratch.

I used to use Oreo crumbs, as everyone else does, but when I dug the box out of the back of my cupboard I noticed its best-before date was sometime in 2012. Good thing I tasted before using them, because they no longer tasted like food at all. The desiccated crumbs tasted of nothing but bitter chemicals that made my lips slightly numb. I was damned well not going back to the store, nor giving Nabisco anymore money for that crap, so I spend over a couple hours trying to find a substitute recipe online.

It was ridiculous. Almost every recipe out there calls for pre-made cookie crumbs. I wasn’t about to spend a bunch of time making chocolate wafers only to crumble them up then add extra butter and sugar to bind them together in another form. As I said, it took a couple hours, but finally I found this recipe. It turned out better than any cookie crust I’ve ever made. It’s funny how it’s called a “mock” cookie crust, seeing as cookie crusts probably started out as mock crumbles. But, as I said, cookie crusts are now so ubiquitous it’s difficult to find a recipe for making them from scratch.

As a final note, the complete antithesis to what I’m doing has to be this miniature hamburger kit from Glorious Nippon. It’s another video that makes me go,“Whyyy?” It probably takes twenty minutes to assemble, in meticulous detail, this tiny abomination they dare to call food. I can see a kid enjoying it exactly once and, after tasting the first flavored playdoh hamburger, letting the rest dry out to become proper play food instead of trying to pass it off as something edible.

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thosefuckingspoons

Pier 1’s Tasting Spoons are an Abomination

I’ve had this misshapen lump of inert matter shoved in the back of my cupboards for a few years, after receiving it from people I didn’t know who were hosting a Christmas dinner and felt they had to give everyone something. It would have been better if they’d given us nothing – they’d already served a nice dinner after all. Why spoil it by foisting junk on people? I admit I didn’t receive it well, with a quiet exclamation of, “Tasting spoons? What the hell?” It was an obvious regift, bought by the kind of idiots who buy idiot junk for other people thinking, “I’m sure they won’t have this!” Yes, I’m sure no one would have set of “tasting spoons” because it’s possibly the dumbest fucking idea ever conceived out of a brain-diseased foodie’s asshole.

I’m going to sound like a total ingrate, because we’re all supposed to receive gifts gracefully no matter how ill thought out they are. No matter how much of a burden they’re inevitable to be, cluttering our cabinets while serving no function other to annoy us with their existence. My hatred for this shit can’t be measured in magnitudes of any scale. There is no hyperbole large enough to contain it. If you share with me the idea that all things should be either beautiful, useful, or otherwise consigned to the scrap heap, join me on my joyful rant as the yule tide floods us all with more crap we never knew we didn’t want until it lands in our laps with a shiny bow and dares us to confront the void of brain-dead consumer spending and the society that pisses away people’s lives to make literal garbage. Fa la la la la la…

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Wastefulness: the Eighth Deadly Sin

The movie Bedazzled (the original with Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore) had a scene where the devil complained of his lack of creativity since the old days in coming up with new sins, listing advertising as the only one he’s come up with after the last seven. I can think of one more, and find the absence of wastefulness among the originals disturbing. Besides greed its one of the greatest sins destroying us today.

Wastefulness is so commonly chided, it’s surprising not to see it listed in any religious texts (so far as I know). It’s related to greed or gluttony, but it’s not quite the same thing. Greed means accumulating more due to excessive want, but wastefulness is the lack of want. It’s not giving a shit about the things you have. Gluttony is closer, when it means over-consumption, but again it seems to assume you actually consume all you take rather than acquiring it only to throw it away.

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Bad Game Design: Limiting Play

There’s nothing I hate more, when playing a video game, than being railroaded. When a game tries to force me along a set path at a set rate, I only go kicking and screaming. Being cattle prodded is not fun to me, and what else would I be playing for? (Well, besides pain management, because gaming is something I only do when I feel like utter crap – it’s an easy way to crank up the endorphins.) The worst form of railroading is setting a ticking clock to artificially create a sense of urgency. It’s fine for casual games like Bejeweled, because there’s nothing to focus on but a few shiny tiles, but in a game where the devs built an interesting world to explore, rushing the player through it is bullshit.

The only thing I bought from the Steam Sale this year is a package of all the old Fallout games for less than ten bucks. I was feeling nostalgic, but one thing I wasn’t nostalgic for was the time limit on the first game in the series. My brother bought it back around its time of release, and I wouldn’t touch it for that reason. I played the second, which didn’t have a time limit, and enjoyed the hell out of it. I only went back and played the first after they removed the time limit in the patch, because by then the game developers realized how much it was a bad idea.

For you see they added all this cool crap you could get as you gained levels, but the original game wouldn’t let you get much past level 12 before the entire game world went up in flames due to a hidden timer that destroyed one town after another as you wasted time, you know, having fun playing the damned thing. They originally designed the game for the type of player who burns through the main quest and doesn’t give a crap about anything else. Then they realized, after tons of people complained, that there was a whole other type of player who likes building a character, exploring, and generally dicking around. These were the people who enjoyed it as a game rather than an interactive movie where you get to shoot things on the screen until the credits roll.

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Taking Out the Trash

I dedicated myself to getting rid of all my useless physical stuff earlier this year. I think now (though this could just be a symptom of general frustration) it’s time to take out the mental trash.

Desperate to come up with a blog post this week (because of course I waited until the last minute in the current state I’m in), I went through my idea bin and found almost all of it crap. Every stray idea I had to write down, yet didn’t feel compelled to elaborate on at the time, has less worth than a penny – that is, it took more resources to generate than it was worth. I took the time to write this crap down. Should I waste more time going through those ideas and deleting most of them? What’s the point?

I suppose writing the dumb ideas down in the first place helped me get them out of my system, so it saved my brain more energy than if I’d let them idle in my mental parking lot. Going through them now has also been enlightening, because I can tally up how many ideas I turned into something worthwhile and how many lingered unformed because they’re utter crap. I could work out a ratio of garbage to good ideas – and I don’t know what the point would be other than making myself feel better.

Going through my idea bin, chucking things out, feels as therapeutic as doing the same thing with physical junk. Maybe this is what the end of the year should be for. Why not? I spend way too much time feeling guilty over such compulsions, telling myself I’m dicking around, when maybe I have this compulsion for a reason. I suppose, for a week (no more), I’ll follow it and see where it goes. If I find my mind lighter after cleaning out my files, I’ll consider it time well spent – and then get on with more constructive things. Stupid brain.

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Clash of the Obsessions

Octavia Butler once wrote about “positive obsession” – something constructive you do because you just can’t stop yourself. It completely takes you over. For her it was writing, and led to a great career. But what do you do when you have more than one, and they keep wrestling with each other?

I’ve struggled with this for ages. I keep bouncing back and forth between one art and another. For a while, one takes over – and I’m driven to do nothing but. It feels great, but at the same time I neglect my other passions when I’m fully immersed in one of them. I can’t seem to find a balance.

This is why I’ve had a problem finding a career, because a professional has to focus on what pays, and keep doing it even when it’s a chore. Instead, when I’m feeling unchallenged, or over-challenged, or bored, I jump into something else entirely and get all caught up in it.

I’ve read all kinds of advice like, “Write down five things you love to do. Now figure out the one you want to do most and AVOID THE OTHERS LIKE THE PLAGUE FOREVER.” Maybe that’s the only way I’ll ever be a pro writer, if I give up all other art forms completely – but it feels like I’d be losing a richer life. I don’t want to be single-minded. I want to have hobbies as well, but it’s a little like having dessert before a fantastic feast. You fill up on the guilty pleasure and have no room for just-as-tasty food that’s good for you.

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