Are you procrastinating right now? If so, stop reading this and go do whatever you need to. Yes now. You can always read this later.by
A Good Voice Will Travel
“No digressions allowed!” is one of many pieces of writing advice I’ve read from the horizontal climbers, which is no doubt good advice if you want to write thrillers to formula. However, many books I admire are full of digressions and asides. In fact, such digressions sometimes make those books stand above the crowd. It’s one of those things that made me realize the best teachers are often books themselves.
The thing is, if you’re reading a “how to write” book written by someone who makes more money selling advice than their fiction, you’ll end up making the same mistakes they do. Yes, I get the irony of my own advice, since I have yet to sell a damned thing—but my advice isn’t to listen to me, it’s to listen to the good writing that sings inside you as you read. Anyway…by
One of Many Steps Towards Becoming a Writer Worth a Damn
This post may become a series on revelations of craft that struck me in the gob like the shmuck I was before I knew any better. This week: how I learned to put a fresh spin on an old hat (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?) and how originality arises naturally from having an interesting character who doesn’t see the word the same way as everyone else. Basically: the whole point of literature. I mean hell, if you’re not doing that you might as well program your ebook compiler to replace all your words with fart noises, because that’s the only way you’ll entertain anyone.
So what kind of idiot was I before I figured out that writing a scene meant writing something new? It started with a wedding, and how much I hate them. My first novel required a wedding scene and I dreading writing it. In my head flashed all the weddings I’d seen in the movies: the costumes I’d have to describe, the happy faces, the spoken vows. The picture in my head was a wreck of smashed together cliches, and I had no idea I didn’t have to write it that way.by
If You Want to Go Anywhere, You Need to Go All The Way
I’ve heard that great art comes from conviction so many times it’s become an internal mantra. It wasn’t until I properly reflected on the statement that I realized conviction is the wrong word. Making art well (and I’m including writing) is a matter of commitment, conviction be damned. Here’s what I mean:by
The Value of Dicking Around
What do you do when your drawing skills are so rusty you can barely draw a straight line and get hand cramps in less than half-an-hour? Discomfort with my drawing tools (including learning all new illustration software) has been a big hurdle to getting back into design. So I’ve been doing something about it: going back to basics. My first step is drawing exercises that are equivalent to practicing scales.
After spending a week repeatedly scribbling on my tablet and clearing the page, I started noticing interesting textures coming out of it. I opened a large page in Pixelmator and scribbled until I’d almost filled the page with black. Then I hit save, and the scribble journal was born.by
Word Aren’t Precious When They’re Pretentious
Ever come across a word and think, “Why would anyone use that?” Ok, most people probably don’t care, but I sometimes find a word so ungainly, so inappropriate to its meaning, or so ill-used that it makes me wonder if the people who came up with it ever hear themselves talk. I’m talking about the musical quality words have, something every poet pays attention to and almost everyone else ignores.
Yet it’s something even the oblivious respond to. Some words, some phrases, are better remembered than others. This is why poetry was the most effective way to pass on knowledge before the written word. Besides rhythm, poetry has flow – created by putting words in the best order for ease of speaking or emphasis. It’s why one of the most useful editing techniques is to read your work out loud.
But this article isn’t about sentence flow, it’s about the visceral chewiness of words. Some words jive with what they mean and others kind of suck. Take the word coruscate for example:by
Do Our Dreams Help Reveal Who We Are?
Dreams, and the mind in general, still baffle science. I’ve read quite a few theories about why we create surreal simulations of the world in our sleep. The current theory is we dream to process memories, but on top of that we dream to process emotions – in particular, to numb emotional pain and prepare us for it by creating safe scenarios of our worst fears. So I wonder, is this how our brain tests our mettle?by
How the Talent Myth Hurts Everyone
“Some people are just naturally good at some things, and other people aren’t. If you’re no good at something, don’t give up. You just haven’t found what you’re good at yet!”
If you’ve heard that, or any variation thereof, feel free to roast whoever said it over an open fire because that person is feeding you a comfortable lie. It’s bullshit – especially that “don’t give up” bit, because that’s exactly what they’re telling you to do. Here’s a similar quote to put the first one in perspective:
“Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”
—Homer J. Simpson
How are those quotes even close to the same thing? Here’s what the first quote really says: “If you’re not good at something first try, then give up and keep giving up until you find something you’re instantly good at, because that’ll totally happen. In the meantime (meaning until the day you die) you can pretend your genius is all pent up inside instead of taking a big scary risk to do something you actually enjoy with your life.”
The above sentiment is often trotted out when someone complains that something is “not fun” or “too hard” and desperately looking for reasons to give up instead of useful advice about how to tackle the problem. However, the most pernicious lie is in the first sentence: “Some people are just naturally good at some things and other people aren’t.” Because this plays on the myth of “talent” and the idea that skill is innate instead of learned.by
How I Stopped Smoking: The Slow Habit Shuffle
I’m an impulsive, all-or-nothing type person. What’s moderation? What’s discipline? How the hell did I quit smoking? Especially since I loved smoking. Well, here’s the story, along with some motivational bullshittery because it’s New Years, the time of year where people vow to quit smoking and get in shape – and I’ve had some success so far.
First Some Background
I first attempted to quit smoking about 12 years ago, when the taste of cigarettes had become utterly foul to me. I managed to get all the way down to one cigarette a day, but just couldn’t give that one up. So I gave up. I said, “Screw it. If I’m going keep smoking, I’m going to damned well enjoy it.” And I bought myself a pipe and 25 grams of some shitty vanilla tobacco.
I smoked that damned thing for 10 years, until all I could stand was the finest Virginia tobaccos. I loved it. Other people loved it. The same people who used to do that “hack hack, cough cough” routine as they passed by would take a deep breath, fill their lungs with the stuff, and say, “Mmm, that smells so good!” It was like burning incense, with nicotine, and I still get a twinge of nostalgia thinking about it – but I don’t get the craving.
The thing is, I haven’t touched a cigarette since. I’d completely transferred my habit to the less addictive, less additive-infected pipe tobacco. The cravings were different. They didn’t come with the same pain and urgency. It’s probably the same reason vaping helped my SO stop smoking around the same time.
Vaping didn’t help me quit the pipe though. I was definitely addicted, smoking on average about 50 grams of tobacco a week. I had a pipe in my mouth the whole time I wrote my first novel. I didn’t want to quit, but I had to. The reasons were piling up: my teeth are trashed, my SO developed an allergy to my favorite tobacco, taxes raised the price to $1.50 a gram and I’d lost my day job due to chronic migraines.
So how did I finally quit? I’ll break it down into a nice little listicle, because everyone loves listicles!by
This week I’ve been working on the new Uvirith’s Legacy Website, using it as an opportunity to better get to know WordPress because I have a lot of content for that site ready to go. I’m quite impressed by the Ignite theme, and may switch to it for this site as well—we’ll see. I’m also using a different slide-show plug-in that has touch responsive options, and may switch over my galleries here. It’s been quite an undertaking because I’m editing the content as I convert it into the new format. One thing I wasn’t as good at, half-a-decade ago when I wrote most of it, was brevity. No wonder people asked some of the same questions over and over. It’s not like what I’d written was crystal clear. Hopefully it is now (it’s certainly more searchable in this format). Though there’s still enough information to fill a book. It’s a big mod.
The next bit is TL;DR, but it’s maybe worth a laugh:by