The Evening Muse 7 | A Writer’s Plight

~ This is #TheEveningMuse on #ruckology ~ *Written late last week when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.

The irony, the frustration is this: when you’re young with less responsibilities and obligations taxing your free time, you’re not quite skilled enough to be the writer you will eventually become as a seasoned 30-something and beyond. But by the time you hit those 30s and 40s years, you’re consistently working a full-time job to support and maintain the family and life you’ve acquired over the years while also trying to actually live and enjoy that life.

You see, that’s the part they don’t tell you about, the fact that to write well and to write often, you have to chain yourself to your desk and do a whole lot less actual living. That’s the other irony: you should absolutely live and have experiences to enrich your writing – yet when are you going to actually have the time to do that living while working a full-time job and also writing full-time, or more realistically, part-time? I suppose we can circumvent our actually gaining life experience directly by doing a lot of reading and living vicariously through books, right? And that’s the thing about reading as well, to do that often enough you essentially have to cut yourself off from interacting with the world, while holed up hermitically on a lazy-boy in a quiet room, devoid of real-world happenings. Devoid of interpersonal relationships. Devoid of . . . people.

The way I’m wired, that’s the only way I can read and write consistently, I have to be free of all distractions and interruptions. Urges and responsibilities. I hate that my muse is easily distracted by the frequent disruptions of life. There just seems to be no co-habitable option between the two there.  I mean, how can I continue to pursue my first love of making and playing music with my band, while simultaneously continuing to purse some kind of – hell, I can’t really call it a career can I? – vocation in writing fiction?

Sure, you could probably say “Well, if you spent less time writing nonfiction/blogging, you could spend that time writing fiction,” and I suppose you’d be fairly correct in that assessment. Yet, part of being a writer is to cognitively process and express oneself through any kind of writing on a regular basis, which is why years ago I devoted myself to documenting, editorializing and journalizing my life, interests and observations via this blog (as well as actual journalism elsewhere). If I were to eliminate my periodical writing here, I don’t know that I’d alternatively be getting more creative writing done given the situation, the aspects of life I described above.

I don’t know. It’s clearly a Catch-22, my friends. And I don’t mean to share this in any way to dissuade or discourage any of my fellow writers here. I envy your abilities to rock the writing life despite whatever odds and challenges you face. You inspire me and I envy you.

I just need to find a way to filter out and turn off the extraneous things in life that present the roadblock I’m constantly encountering. Does that mean I live a little less? Cut off my social life? Eliminate my entertainment? Abandon my first love, music? Sacrifice more family time?

The struggle is real. And this is my plight.

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The Evening Muse 6 | The Need for Speed & Selectiveness

Expedience – I read a lot. Of course that goes without saying. Just the other day I heard Stephen King say he is an omnivorous reader, and I agreed I am the same. Voracious, in fact. However – and because of this – I need to do a lot of using the speed-reading technique (as well as bypassing the boring parts in larger works). In the past as a short story editor I’d speed read a lot of short stories out of necessity. Nowadays, if I speed-read a story it is because to my tastes it’s wasting time getting to the compelling part. If I speed-read a novel, it’s not just because I tend to check out so many of them from the library and need to boogie through them swiftly, but it may also likely be because I am not quite enamored with the prose style, or it has a weak or non-existent plot, or worse yet, a plot that is simply not compelling. A lot of times novels are not paced as well as they should be. This is often a problem of structure, but unfortunately it’s sometimes the problem of the author’s narrative intent and approach.

Pickiness – Admittedly I am a particular kind of reader these days. I do not need to be wowed by a writer’s diction, quirky prose or clever turns of phrase. All I need is compelling stories piloted by likable, sometimes charming and charismatic yet always compelling characters. Purposeful dialogue. Though I do like to see lots of dialogue, I am not a fan of aimless, pointless chatter. Minimal prose. Though I don’t mind thorough description and (pertinent) details, I prefer narrative that doesn’t meander and rather gets on with it, preferably using a ticking clock. That tends to be the bigger draw for me, which is probably why I prefer crime and suspense thrillers (and the occasional horror tome, though like sci-fi and fantasy I prefer it on the big and small screens). I like immediacy and immersion. If the story, especially a novel, takes its sweet time getting to the rising action or the crucial character development then I’m more than likely to become impatient, uninterested and will look for the exit.

I also want to be quite intimate with the protagonist. I want to be immersed in their psyche, which is why I prefer the subjective third-person point of view. It’s my favorite to write from as well.

I wish I was a more patient reader, maybe even a one-track-minded reader like my wife is. She can’t read multiple books at a time, whereas I have to for the aforementioned impatience and other reasons. It may also stem from decades of reading multiple comic book series – it conditions you for a wide array of episodic but diverse reading scheme. And yes, the correlation between the scattered focus in my reading and the same in my writing is not lost on me.

The Evening Muse 5 | Cause for Alarm?

Last night, for the first time ever, I honestly had the thought that I wish I did not have any talent. You see, if I had absolutely no talent then I would not have the burden of it. Now I’m no psychology expert, but a thought like that from someone, anyone, is certainly cause for alarm, amiright?

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this particular burden.

The Evening Muse 4 | Tick-Tock

As we entered Daylight Savings Time this past week and gave up an hour of our lives to Spring forward, I was reminded that I have a strange – or more specifically, strained – relationship with time. I have often felt an unending urge to beat time, somehow, someway. There has always been this ticking clock in the back of my mind, pushing me forward with an incessant urgency to get certain things done, as if I am acutely aware that life is terribly fleeting, that our life force is an elusive, unmanageable thing. It’s not like we can ever truly master or control time. We cannot reverse time to put hours, days, weeks, years back on the clock. The day we’re born is the day we start dying. We don’t get do-overs, we can’t time-travel (yet!) and we do not have the power of pause. Temporal stasis is a science-fiction theory at best (for now). This is why Father Time is a cagey mad bastard who remains undefeated.

Tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock!

The Evening Muse 3 | Fuckitall!

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Photo taken by the Significant Other with digital art work by Joshua S. Hooten.

Ever wanna just bury your head in the sand and say fuckitall? Then maybe hideaway in your underground bunker and just play videogames, watch art house movies about existentialism, play your guitar, write tortured poetry in a jumbled journal, listen to ambient music on a repeated loop, draw disturbing images in an unused sketch pad, record random stories of your past life regressions with a digital voice recorder, grow a grizzly beard, and at some point simply die alone in a puddle of your own piss and fecal matter because you couldn’t be bothered to give much of a damn about anything else anymore?

Yeah, that was me for a day this past week. So glad it’s over.

-B.

The Evening Muse 2 | Lost the Plot

As I prepare to put ass to seat and fingers to keyboard for four hours of work on my own novel tonight, I contemplate the aspects of fiction that are most important to me.  One particular thing that’s absolutely essential for me, particularly in long form fiction is plot.  I’ve recently come to realize that I have a strong aversion to plot-less fiction.  Actually, I’ve always known it, but recent reads have reminded me that this is a big deal to me.  Most noticeably, I think a larger number of novels told in first-person narrative are fairly plot-less and meandering.  The narrator often lacks the necessary flair nor a captivating voice with which to tell a compelling story (naturally this becomes an indictment on the author’s prose, but that’s another conversation).  Even when serving as an outside observer to the events the narrator merely witness . . . they still somehow end up circumventing or meandering around the plot that should be, in my opinion, inherent in most stories that aren’t simply and blatantly being literary in purpose.  For me as a reader (and I guess a writer as well), it breaks down like this: have a compelling story to tell with characters that are as compelling as they can be within their roles, and tell the story in the most engrossing, immersive and compelling way possible.  Stay on point.

And, I suppose, like the late great Elmore Leonard said in his 10 Rules of Writing: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”  Of course his final point sums up all ten of his “rules” with this: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”  I’ve been doing this a good while and depending on the genre and style, that edict can be easier said than done.  But regardless of styles and categories and all that minutiae, I rarely if ever work without some semblance of a plot, an aggregate series of events that takes the character(s) from Point A to Point X and also makes the story a compelling read.  Maybe underneath all that it’s a bit math-y, but hey, life is series of unseen mathematical equations.

Listen, if I ever lose the plot – in my fiction or life – please smack some sense into me.  I don’t anticipate it but I’ll thank you in advance.