I have been thinking about this quote from Ira Glass concerning the gap between your abilities and your taste when you’re starting a creative project for a while now. It’s a sensible thing, and as someone who has spent what feels like an eternity in the beginning phase, it’s the truth. My taste is dramatically more advanced than my ability to write a story.
I was thinking about this quote the other day, about what fuel you need to get through this period. The answer is obvious, as many such answers are, but it can be less obvious if you allow yourself to listen to some of the voices that take the writing world so very seriously, and that is: to start down a creative road, you have to have fallen in love with something so deeply that you couldn’t tell which direction was up, and you didn’t care. The love that you bear this initial incident transmutes into a desire to give that love to someone else by way of another instance of that thing that you made.
So: do the thing you love, with the desire to give this love to someone else. You can figure the rest of it out later.
I went from reading Dave Barry books and articles to reading Terry Pratchett during my early teens, and it was a revelation. It was the difference between writing funny to make jokes, and writing funny to open the door on more serious, heart-tugging truths about life. He did this without sacrificing the jokes, and without sacrificing the visceral punch of his stories. One made built up the other in intricate, tiny ways. That is an incredibly fine line to walk, and he made it look effortless, in book after book after book. He didn’t want you just to laugh, he wanted you to feel, and then he wanted you to think about all of it. Sir Terry was a cornerstone of my adolescent life. I knew that this parting was coming, but I wasn’t ready for it to happen. Not just yet.
I never met him, but I will miss him.
Thanks to Twitter, I’ve found interesting books that are coming out, at one or two a month, for the next ten months. This is either sorcery, or I’ve find the right people to follow on Twitter. (Spoiler: it’s the latter. Follow @ghostwritingcow for more excellent book recommendations. He also writes reviews for Lightspeed Magazine, which is a great short science fiction and fantasy site.)
I had no idea that someone was going to be rebooting the Fantastic Four movie franchise, though I shouldn’t be all that surprised now that Marvel has gotten its cinematic legs underneath it.
It’s a good trailer, too! The movie looks a lot better than the movie released in 2005. (I didn’t see that movie. I probably won’t see the new Fantastic Four movie. C’est la vie.) But, desperate nerd that I am, watching a good Fantastic Four trailer only makes me want to see a well-realized TV version of Planetary.
Planetary done as a limited-run show, on Netflix or HBO/Starz, would be amazing. It’s X-Files meets the multiverse. It’s about preserving our past, and protecting our future as a species. It’s weird, and it’s beautiful, like a fractal snowflake made out of 196,833 unique, independently rotating planes.
(It’s also go the best Batman one-off story I’ve seen since The Killing Joke: both taking the piss out of the various incarnations of Batman over the last several decades, and validating them at the same time. Though I doubt that would make the cut for a potential TV series.)
It probably won’t happen. There are a lot of variables that go into making a TV show, not the least of which is “Does anyone think they can make money on it?”. But hey, who knows. The world is a strange place.
(If you don’t have Hulu, and haven’t seen their recent Dailyburn add, then this will make no sense. I tend to eat cookies while watching Dailyburn ads, so maybe Hulu’s targeting the wrong demographic.)
As someone who is trying to move from a professional writer with a single sale to mostly part-time writing professional, I’ve read a lot of writing advice. Some of it very good, some of it fairly generic. Writing advice can be a bit of a crap shoot, because not everything works the same way for everyone; one man’s brilliant nugget of wisdom is another man’s fool’s gold. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying, or that you should stop reading writing advice.
But the thing that I have learned so far is: writing advice is great, necessary even, but it’s not a magic wand. It takes time to work. Going from a somewhat dreaming, inactive amateur to someone who Is Doing This Thing requires that you change as a person.
(It required me to change, anyway. I had developed a lot of bad habits that needed defeating, and the only way to crush bad habits is to counter them with good ones. But YMMV, and that.)
For example: you can decide that you’re going to write for 4 hours a day, with 5k in the bag by the time you shut off the computer pretty easily, but getting the creative part of your brain to follow along takes time. It doesn’t sit up and start generating searing dialog or lyrical description on command. You have to train the back of your head to know when it’s time to work. Which is why any writing advice worth listening to starts with: put your butt into your favorite chair, and write.
Even then, after you are sitting in a chair and trying to write on a regular basis, the magic may not happen. Some days are good, some days are bad. But it’s your job to maintain the container (the time and practice of writing) so that it gives you the time to play.
It can seem trivial, finding and protecting time to play. We get trained through our adult lives that playtime is for kids; we are adults, and we have important things to do. Breaking that habit takes work, and time, to retool your priorities.
So, keep reading writing advice. But also, keep writing, and keep giving that advice time to work.
Parenting is an uphill battle against a foe that neither understands what it wants, or why it wants what it wants. It is arguing with the weather, patiently explaining to the sky that NO REALLY, YOU SHOULD EAT SOME FOOD, oftentimes tricking the earth underfoot with something shiny when all the soil has been doing is being really upset all day (and knowing there isn’t any way that this trick is going to work again, because all of your tricks eventually stop working, but lo, it WORKS and you breathe a sigh).
Until one day, the very thing that you have been fighting against, the behavior that you know in the core of your soul is as immutable as the law of gravity, is suddenly integrated into the pantheon of physical laws of the universe. And you panic, because you have no idea what the topic of the next argument is going to be.