On the eve of Thanksgiving I was up in my bedroom alone while all the girls were downstairs watching this season’s Hallmark Christmas movies with their mom/aunt. I was getting sleepy really, having burned the candle longer this week than I should have. So I was starting to come to terms with the possibility that I was going to finally miss a day (night, really) of NaNoWriMo productivity after going a RECORD 20 DAYS STRAIGHT this year. I truly did not want to break the streak, which is just a personal goal of accomplishment, but I was a little too drained to muster the mental energy (I’m sure that whatever mental reserves I had left were exhausted after getting home from work and reading seven or so chapters of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis).
An easy distraction for me in general is listening to music, whether it’s old favorites or discovering new-to-me artists and their tunes. Last night I was listening to various acoustic songs and since I have my two acoustic guitars in my bedroom at all times I wound up grabbing one of them and learning an old song I’ve always loved and wanted to be able to play someday. Mission somewhat accomplished . . . I can play parts of the song, but it’s a bit of a struggle since I’m not a great fingerpicking guitarist (on the bass I play with my fingers quite proficiently).
And lo, a little later as I’m contemplating surrendering to bed, I grab the guitar again to just see what comes out of me spontaneously and I just happened to come up with two parts of a new song, another in a long line of simple acoustic songs that I need to ultimately finish and record to make another collection/album. Immediately I had a vocal melody for the verse part and so as not to lose this unexpected burst of creativity, I grabbed my phone and hit record on the audio recorder app because at my age there’s no way I can leave it to chance that I’ll have the total recall of anything, especially brand new notes to a new song. Case in point, this morning I can’t for the life of me even remotely remember what I wrote last night, so it’s a good thing I recorded it. Afterward I laid in bed trying to conjure some lyrics for the verse melody, but it was to no avail. I threw in the towel and gave in to sleep with the light still on.
I write all of this simply to say that it’s real easy for a musician to be distracted and tempted to play when a guitar is always nearby.
Oh, an what was that song I learned? “Desolate Ways” by MORBID ANGEL (sample below).
And now it’s time for morning tea.
We have art so as not to perish from the truth.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
Back in the early days of social media, and I mean way back to like 2002-03 when I was on Live Journal (and not yet on Friendster, then MySpace and later Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress and Tumbler — sheesh), I went by the handle of “Artjunkie”. It was fitting because that’s exactly what I was and still am today: a junkie for the arts.
My primary art jams are the literary arts (reading books and writing prose) and graphic literature (comic books and graphic novels) and, of course, music. Naturally, movies and television factor in as well, but Read! Write! Rock! is my mantra, they’re the activities I do most often in my spare time (wait, spare time exists?). I consume and create a lot art (although I hoard a lot of my own artistic creations). I’ve been writing fiction and nonfiction seriously for about 25 years and have been a musician/songwriter for 30 years as of this past Summer — the Summer of ’88 was when I started playing guitar to get the musical ball rolling. Now I’m a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist with a dozen local bands and solo projects behind me. [See About for publishing credits and My Music for selected streaming tunes.]
These days it seems all I want to do is consume and create art, my social life (and work life if I could) be damned! Sure, art is a great source of entertainment (and we’ve been in a golden age renaissance of television the last decade-and-a-half at least), but the arts are a great coping tool for the many things that ail us. Art can be good for daily stress, mental health, exorcising personal demons, enlightening oneself on life and helping us better understand the world and understanding our place within it.
The late great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is notable for saying that “Without music, life would be a mistake.” I wholeheartedly agree with that one.
In addition to the quote at the top about art, he also said:
I’ll leave it at that.
~ Notebook #11 ~
When you’re looking to reincorporate lean muscle to your prose and you turn to the maestros of the minimalist, clean, no frills, straight-to-the-point (and straight-to-the-heart) narrative technique. I have a tendency in daily speech and writing to use a lot of complex sentences (and parenthetical asides) and when I’m not mindful of it, I tend to let that creep into my prose, especially when I’ve not been writing fiction narratives for a good while (an obvious drawback to mostly writing in a nonfiction capacity daily for so many years now).
I’ve been reading both Elmore Leonard and Bob Thurber since the late 90s (starting with Thurber at an online workshop just prior to his entering award-winning publishing success). Both of these authors cite Ernest Hemingway as a major influence on them. Only makes sense that I finally dig deeper into the guy at the top of this literary family tree I’ve adopted, so I hit up my local public library for Mr. Hemingway’s collection, and since I don’t (for some odd reason) own Mr. Leonard’s collection, I grabbed that too.
On my bookshelf I already have a few novels of Mr. Leonard, and naturally I have a personally signed copy of Mr. Thurber’s dysfunctional novel, Paperboy. On my hard drive I have a couple of Mr. Thurber’s collections of short stories, most of which are micro and flash fictions — hence the reason I dubbed him the Maestro of Microfiction over a decade ago, also because he writes with absolutely no fat in his narrative prose — it’s lean with only the most essential nutritional literary ingredients.
If I’m going to attempt to finally re-engage myself in pantser writing, and writing actual first drafts again with little regard to upfront editing (I’m an obsessive on-the-go editor), then I will need to help curb that OCD tendency by writing as plainly and as succinct as possible. Taking a refresher course with these three professors will help immensely.
Who are some of the writers you turn to when you’re needing to recharge your batteries?
~ Notebook #10 ~
bibliophile – a person who loves or collects books.
bookworm – a person devoted to reading or studying.
Guilty as charged. When you can swoon at the olfactory interaction of books–burying your nose in them to inhale their great scent–then you (I) might have a book-loving problem. I can’t get enough of them. I also can’t read them fast enough. I’m a bit of a collector–not quite a hoarder, but I do: 1 — prefer to have things in a physical, tactile form, and 2 – physically keep the things I like. I’m that person who would, if he could (and maybe someday) line a room in his home with nothing but bookshelves filled end-to-end with books, a collection of mostly yet-to-read books. Nothing represents potential quite like an unread book (just like an unfilled, blank page).
And of course this all naturally extends to what I like to call my Comic Book Fetish as well.
Speaking of comics, I saw this the other day (ignore the 2015 date — there’s no expiration on this kind of initiative for literacy).
You can even support this initiative annually without spending a dime when you participate in Free Comic Book Day, every year on the first Saturday of May. This year it’s on May 6th. It should be a national holiday.
I’m baaaack! Yeah, I wasn’t gone long and as I stated last week, you know what this quick return means. Details below.
How ’bout that NaNoWriMo experiment?
So what did I learn within my first couple of days of NaNoWriMo?
- My new fiction prose is VERY rusty. I seem to be sharper when working on my previously written prose when revising and editing. And I can flow here in a nonfiction or even a journalistic mode with ease. I suppose my previous years in the role of a fiction editor as well as spending the last 5 years mostly writing nonfiction will do that to a fella’s fiction flow.
- Contrary to my optimism, I can’t use a first-person POV for a long-form prose narrative like a novel.
- Aside from very short fiction, I am far outside my comfort zone when stuck with the lack of narrative control that is 1st person POV. That lack of narrative authority.
- My best prose writing days might just be behind me, or so my mind, lacking confidence, has been whispering to me. At least in terms of long prose fiction. We’ll see how it’s looking once I (someday?) shake the rust off.
- It turns out that what I’ve been writing for one long-term character of mine has actually been the story intended for a different long-term character of mine who belongs to a different and even more aged unfinished project of mine (which originates as far back as the mid-to-late 1990s).
So what does this mean moving forward?
- Well, at a mere 1,426 words in the first week on a troubled project, it’s safe to say I’ve failed NaNoWriMo 2016 and have effectively bowed out of the initiative/contest.
- You can say that all of this is a litany of excuses, and that’s fine, but at 43 I know full well how my psyche works against me.
- Serialized fiction seems to be the ideal setup for my wayward, unsettled self. I’ve been telling that to myself for a while now. Get in quickly for a short intense burst of creative output, get out and back to life, come back to do it again, rinse and repeat.
- My online library, archive and de facto publisher RUCKERPEDIA could be the perfect venue for that mode of operation. Stay tuned.
Shit. I’ve gotten into that weird mode of only wanting to write. I had planned on reading tonight and sat down with a couple of books, a novel and an anthology, and couldn’t bring myself to turn the pages. Grabbed a stack of comics and they couldn’t keep my attention past a couple of pages either.
Maybe it’s just the stressful day at work that’s soured my mood and made me listless this evening. Month-end is always intense and the flurry of needy emails severely grate on my nerves. Friday and Monday at work will no doubt be their own special versions of Hell.
Or maybe I’m just anxious about starting NaNoWriMo in less than a week. Since I’ve been trying to wrap and tidy up other things prior to starting, I haven’t exactly prepped myself for THE literary endeavor of the year, aside from mentally. Well, I do have a summary written and some other conceptual notes from the summer when the idea originated in my noggin. I need to tweak the summary some. Write a skeletal outline.
But I’m supposed to be working on a short comic script for a talent search as well. I think the anticipation and mental build-up of writing a novel, uninterrupted for a month at least, has diverted my attention from that. Like NaNo, it also has a November 30th deadline.
I suppose it’s possible NaNoWriMo has got me ready to forsake all else. Which is fine because that’s pretty much the only way I’ll be able to achieve a modicum of success with it.
All else must be shunned!
No squirrel is going to distract this eager, happy-go-lucky dog . . .
~ This is a #notebook entry on #ruckology in which Brandon L. Rucker kinda, sorta admits he’s mentally unwell ~
Last weekend I had a plotting breakthrough on Project: One Shot (formerly Project: Crime Time), the codename for my developing crime comic with my artist partner and best friend Joshua S. Hooten. Finally actual scripting had commenced. The plan was to take Monday off and resume writing on Tuesday. Tuesday became another off day. The rest of the week was compromised by family obligations and work exhaustion from the day job. But the mind stayed active with some fine-tuning of the plot happening in my subconscious.
That’s not the problem. The problem is my mind got more active on character and plot details for the romantic crime-noir novel I’m planning on finally starting in November during NaNoWriMo (codenamed Project: Dame Game, a project featuring an old character of mine in a new story I cooked up this past Spring — details in next week’s Workbook). So even if I had managed to sit at my desk and write this past week, it’s very possible I would have been writing notes for that project rather than the one I should be actively working on (which I’m doing today immediately following this missive).
By week’s end this got me thinking about how the mind is a wayward thing, wild and unbridled, doing whatever the hell it wants and not necessarily what you need it to do, when you need it to. I’ve always conceded that I have what I like to call creative ADD. As a highly active thinker I’ve always been hardwired that way, juggling an insane amount of information and ideas in one sitting than the average bear would. There are definitive pros and cons to it, no doubt. One of the cons is as I get older and more forgetful (hush, you) many ideas become like transient ghosts if I don’t get them jotted down quick, fast and in a hurry. And that’s the other rub — a notebook is not always handy, the ability to stop whatever you’re doing to jot down notes it’s not always an option. In fact, more than often it is not.
The silver lining I suppose is that I am almost always in a creative state of mind and at the end of the day I cherish this overactive gray matter of mine, no matter how wayward it may be at times.
You know that old proverbial saying that writers are slightly insane because they entertain multiple voices in their heads while also muttering to themselves when they think no one else can hear them? Yeah, it’s true.
I’m willing to bet you knew that already, didn’t you?