Phil’s Official Writing Challenge Guidelines

I would have titled this “How to Write In Ways That Will Make You Feel Like Your Soul is Dying”, but I realized that might be a hair melodramatic. Special thanks go to my college pal Andrew Webb for texting me last night with the following texts, as he was inadvertently responsible for this topic.

Phil, I have done a terrible job with writing since I stared working full time, how do you do it?”

I responded by saying I force myself to find time every day to write, even if it’s just a little. If I get stuck working on one thing, I focus on something else. Above all else, it’s important to find time for writing. That resulted in this response:

Do you force yourself to a genre or anything goes including journaling?

My phone had conveniently been switched to Do Not Disturb mode by that point, however, because I had to be awake at 6a.m. and those texts first arrived after 12:30 last night. Feeling somewhat guilty for not answering, and finding this to be a good blogging opportunity, I decided to give a long-form answer in the form of a proper writing challenge anyone can hold themselves to (for the sake of self-destruction, really). Keep in mind that I may be a subject matter expert of sorts, but I am by no means a be-all, end-all source of wisdom on writing and so this is mostly just issuing a challenge to help writing in the same way I’ve been keeping up with my writing. Feel free to adjust it in ways, and let me know what works best for you in the comments below. It can be a sort of note-comparing among creative folks who also like finding their limits and then using those limits to inflict torment upon themselves. I’m joking, mostly.

Also, I really should note how much of a gigantic ego-boost it is to have people asking me advice on writing. Holy shit, folks, that is awesome. Right. Moving on… Continue reading

Artistic what-ifs

It’s really easy to ask someone what they do for a living, and the typical response to such inquiries usually revolves around their job. Sometimes, and I emphasize sometimes, the response will have to do with something a person is passionate about (IE: I consider my writing how I make my living, while my day job is the way I afford said living). As I’ve said a million times before, and will continue saying forever: there’s a certain magic when a person talks about what really makes them tick; the thing they’re most passionate about doing in the whole of all creation.

However, I would argue that everyone also has at least one other passion, but one they’ve never gotten to pursue (or, perhaps, one they’ve not gotten to pursue to the extent they’d have liked). It may be something they talk about openly, with a sense of longing, or something that is quietly yearned for in those moments before sleep. I’ve talked about wanting to act before, so I figured I could offer a little more insight into myself. And, of course, I’d love to hear what you folks all wish you could get around to learning, doing, and so on.

If possible, and I realize there’s the small matter that everything is possible with the right amount of time, money, and patience (and other things, but that money one is what really kills me), I’d love to learn how to play the cello. I’d be very happy to really sit down and learn any instrument, really, which is one regret I have from not staying with my piano lessons. There’s something about cello music, though. I’m having a hell of a time really describing the feelings cello music cause me, so instead I’ll just share this:

I think the first time I heard that was onĀ House, M.D., and I was hooked. There’s something inherently soothing, I think, to cello music, and so learning to play it would be like a nice, musical form of meditation. That all said, cellos are really goddamn expensive and, quite frankly, I have a hard enough time finding…well, time to accomplish all of the things I need to in a day without adding learning an instrument into the mix. Or perhaps those are just excuses.

What kind of other adventures do you folks dream of embarking on? Are they things you really can’t achieve, or are you, too, just making excuses?

Become your own hero

And other one-sentence platitudes straight from the School of Shallow-Thinking Drivel-Poop.

I jest.

A very big influence in my writing, which is the same very big thing that can be applied to most any artist and their works, is the works of authors I hold in very high regard. Pratchett, Gaiman, Moore, and so on. People who have written works (books, short stories, and anything else) that have left me wanting to create something just as amazing as what I’d just read. Writing with words blended in such a masterful way that I just had to sit down and get to my own creative processes. This is both a wonderful and treacherous thing as it makes creating a balancing act.

On one hand it would be very easy to follow in the footsteps of one or more of the previously mentioned writers, borrowing bits and pieces of their styles and voices as it suited me. I imagine, with the right level of effort and patience, such writing could yield a very strong end result that would read almost entirely (but not quite) like a work of my own hard labors. Continue reading

Slowly, somewhat unsurely, recovering

There are plenty of ways I could talk about how this week has been off to a bit of a tumultuous start, which would be putting things in fairly mild terms to say the least, but I’m choosing to now focus on that. I’m instead choosing to focus on victories.

Here’s a big for-instance regarding victories:

Seen above: not the best track record, but it's still something

Seen above: not the best track record, but it’s still something

I’ve not done a lot of writing lately, and I know there’s still a very deep, ingrained fear of failure and rejection playing a decent-sized role in my stagnation. I logged onto Submittable to remind myself of a couple key things regarding creative writing. Continue reading

A breakfast of champions

Not to be mistaken for Breakfast of Champions, which I haven’t read in years and now suddenly find myself wanting to find and reread. Not even sort of the point of this post. And now a pause for the appropriate number of gasps incited by today’s post happening before 10pm or later. Only the appropriate number, however; I’ll have no excessive or exaggerated signs of shock on my posts, thank you very much.

This is a food post, entirely and apologetically. I’ve been trying to cook more lately instead of opting to go out for dinner, which is just as well since it’s less expensive to throw together ingredients in the hopes it will transform into something mostly edible (I’m working at about a 75% success rate here, so I’m going to say I’ve been doing something right). I really enjoy cooking, if only because it gives me a chance to revert to the days I spent dreaming of being a mad scientist. There are, quite sadly, far fewer robots involved in cooking meals, but I’ll think of a way to change that up sooner or later. Continue reading

Find your own kind of brilliance

Warning: posting this from my Android phone. Who knows what kind of silly shenanigans will follow?

Short summary of my day, better known as The Movening: I got very little done compared to my goals. This is thanks to me finding a groundhog’s dwelling with my foot, falling back on my left leg, and spraining my ankle quite badly. It’s been a symphony of swearing today. The ankle in question is bundled up neatly in an AirCast. It still really hurts.

I also started rereading Stardust for the hundredth time. There’s something in the magic of Neil Gaiman’s writing that fills me with such a yearning to get off my ass and do some of my own writing. The moving mentality I have seems to blot that out a fair bit, sadly.

And then there are the inevitable pangs of envy. Wanting to be able to create something as fantastically brilliant of my own. Lindsey, beta-reader extraordinaire and terrific writer, told me Joshua Harkin and the Wicked Nightmare King read like a collaboration between Neil Gaiman and the author of Howl’s Moving Castle. That is, without a doubt, some of the highest praise I have ever received, but it also got me thinking.

There’s nothing wrong with never achieving Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett level brilliance. No matter how much I try, I won’t. What I will, I suspect, eventually manage is to create my own kind of brilliance. Even if it’s never on a massive scale, it’ll be me and the creative style that is entirely mine. That’s something I hope all creative folks can embrace.

Find what you do well. Make it brilliant. Make it your own. Love it and pour your soul into it, and then rip it apart and fix it until you reach such a point where you can’t bear to look at your work anymore. Let it rest, and do it again.

Above all else, be happy with creating something. There are so many other, similar artists out there, but none of them are exactly the same.

One Hundred Days of Blogging – Day Eighteen

Today’s been a nice day, and I have to admit it was spent mostly discovering just how gluttonous I can be. That wasn’t actually the plan when I woke up, by the way. There was no conscious thought process that went, “Wonder how much food I can stuff down my face-hole before I need to trundle off to some distant cave and go into a deep hibernation”.

There was, however, a very nice lunch outing with my sister, step-father, mother, and the Grandmooses (grandparents on my father’s side of the family).

I feel like I could sleep for a couple weeks, but my writing schedule doesn’t permit such snoozing.

Day Eighteen – Focusing too much and accomplishing too little

I can be pretty focused at times, believe it or not. It’s rare, and usually leaves me a little surprised. Such creative tunnel-vision is usually a pretty good thing, as it has gotten me through plenty of projects (for college or otherwise) on time. In the case of school-related things, oftentimes it happened the day before a paper was due.

There’s clear and definite downsides to this focus. I’ve been churning out daily posts for One Hundred Days of Blogging, but not letting myself get to any creative writing or other projects. One one hand: hooray, I’m blogging very regularly. On the other hand: boo, I’ve not been writing very much otherwise. It becomes a weird, frustrating balancing act with my day-job, other personal obligations, and other leisure activities. Since I don’t believe I’ve admitted it on here yet: I’ve resurrected my WoW account. I feel no shame in this fact (I will forever be Kazadiel, the shittiest Warlock to ever kill things in Azeroth).

I do not have a brain fit for multitasking. That’s not to say I’m dumb (although I can be a touch obtuse from time to time) so much as merely acknowledging I’m better off when my attention is devoted to one task. My biggest problem isn’t trying to multitask, though. It’s when I get distracted by another something that needs my attention. My cleaning process from this past week, for instance, is a good example of that. I would be working on cleaning out the cabinets, and then I’d notice a dirty spot on the counter. I’d start scrubbing down the counters and then notice something else. And so on. I’m quick to bounce between multiple things at once, which probably accounts for why my posts take a little longer when made from my computers (I’m on my family’s home PC presently, free of most distraction and wondering why there’s a piece of electrical tape over the webcam). The writing process on Aperture Surface involves Microsoft Word, the Twitter app, the Facebook app, Facebook’s messenger service, my e-mail app (which is connected to my three Gmail accounts), and the occasional glance at the television. Can’t forget my phone, either. Good lord.

What I think I’m getting at here, since I’m still admittedly feeling like a great beast who is thoroughly prepared for a long winter’s nap, is that I need to get back to writing short stories or working on my novel projects while getting this done. And maybe I should learn to juggle better, while I’m at it (I don’t mean that in the literal sense, although this sentence started out with that intention for the sake of snarkiness).

I dare say there’s not much else to say on the subject, as I’m far from an expert on finding the right balance of focus on one thing versus focus on side-projects. There’s also the small matter of company arriving, and me wanting to not be an entirely rude, anti-social computer-hermit while they’re here.

Eighty-two days remaining.

PS: Today’s post was sponsored in part by parenthetical asides, which are my second favorite kind of asides. First place goes to a liberal use of dash-separated appositive phrases.