Woke in dusty-nosed haze, wondering why some days I wake with energy and grace, others with a pile of sticks for bones and a cord of low burning wood in my chest: heavy and can’t remove without trailer. Browsed Facebook for a moment with Kickstart my guide, found too much Trump, and too much fake, and not enough real. Thought about my (fake) book, book of fiction, literary but real enough.
I recently made two major changes to my life. One, I had the good fortune to catch the eye of a phenomenal woman (who I call Orchid, on here), and Two, I began pursuing alternative ways to keep my work from overwhelming me. I can’t write while I work: no access to a computer, a desk, or anything resembling a stable surface. I can’t read while I work: too little time, too much work to do, and the job is rarely finished until I’m driving down the road and onto my next one.
So what did I do? I listened, and in more than one way. My coworkers have been bugging me to buy a bluetooth earpiece so we can talk while we work, and Orchid mentioned how much she enjoys listening to podcasts on her long drives to and from work (1/2 hour each way, if traffic cooperates). I bought the bluetooth with two things in mind: socialization with others and listening to music/podcasts.
Podcasting has changed the way I see almost everything. Continue reading
This’ll be a short post. As a writer, and as a seasoned critic (well seasoned. Old Bay is my favorite), I’m constantly fighting a tug-of-war battle with reading and writing and other forms of research. We all have jobs. We all have passions outside our jobs. And we all love to write (or want to love to write). It’s not easy for me to read for long lengths of time, mostly because I have so many other things going on (like diligently testing new video games as they come out. haha I could manage my time better).
The good news is I take as well as I give, and although I’m a pretty hard critiquer, I’m not a jerk. I’m actually a really nice guy. So, every writer should read. It’s powerfully important. Why SHOULD I be reading?
In an effort to organize the craziness that is my writing/reading/professional editing career, I tried to stack my unfinished books in a pile to figure out how to get through them. My current reading list is As Follows:
Silentium by Greg Bear (Yes. It is a Halo book. It is the first fluff novel I’ve read in a long while. Don’t Judge!!! haha)
*Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore
*The Long War by Baxter and Pratchett
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
*Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
*Wise Man’s Fear by Rothfuss
Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
*Ilium by Dan Simmons
*Olympos by Dan Simmons
The Terror by Dan Simmons
*The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Legend of Sleepy Hollow and other Short Stories by Washington Irving
*The Reincarnationist (Maybe)
Liber Novus by Carl Jung
along with several re-reads of books like
The Angel of Darkness
Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
Lovecraft stories (I’ll never stop re-reading them, I think)
(* Denotes I haven’t started reading yet)
While I find most of this of high literary value (with a few, um, exceptions), I’ve spent a lot of time recognizing my interest, and love, of reading scifi/fantasy. Which is good, and important, given my love for writing it. My favorite cyberpunk novel is Starfish by Peter Watts. My favorite Scifi is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (even though I’ve read none of the subsequent novels written in the same universe). My favorite novel of all time is Drood by Simmons.
It gets such a bad rap. Disinterest, perhaps, given this day of Science and Realism. Yet some of the biggest movies are scifi and fantasy, with superheroes thrown in to mix the two together. I’ve been in enough homes to know how important the murder/mystery genre is, how important the horror genre is. How important the romance genre is. But I also recognized how much of it is simply fluff. Something to do in the free time. A hobby to fill the space with silence.
I don’t know where my tangent is going, but everything I do goes back to my writing, what I pursue, how I pursue it. People like Simmons are so few and far between. People like Card, as well. I’m torn between reading and writing, mostly because reading takes up so much time. Writing takes up three times as much. Or, it should.
The single piece of advice I hear from other writers is to read read read. It doesn’t help me. Real life stuff, people being people interacting with each other, works a little. Dreaming at night, surprisingly (or not), alters everything about the day after. Living like this blooms my writing to great heights. When I was younger? High school to younger? I read everything I could get my hands on. But now? Most of what I read? I know I can do much better.
Except for that damn Simmons. So good.
The writing market, and those in charge, tell me I need to write simpleton books. To be taken seriously as a writer, I must simplify my ideas to one, two, or at most three parameters (more on this in a second), and pare down character personalities so far that they are plot devices. Thus, I am expected to play to society’s second-grade reading level if I want to be successful.
I recently read a comment on a blogger’s entry about keeping entries simple. His exact words were, “Keep it simple, stupid!” I know he wrote it in humor, and I know it was sarcastic, to a degree, but he also spoke truth.
I recently watched the preview for Cloud Atlas, a movie on reincarnation made by the same guys who made The Matrix trilogy. It holds a lot of promise, and could be the next Fountain (Rachel Weiss, Hugh Jackman. Greatest movie ever made, IMHO). Yet on the Youtube page, the most liked comment (145? Maybe?) was, “I have no idea what this movie is about.”
Really. I know this movie will be a flop, just like The Fountain and The Fall and Stay and Baraka. I know it will get dismal reviews and be touted a failure in the big scene. Even if it’s brilliant, perfect, and exactly what I expect out of it, society will not understand it. Too complex? No. Too foreign. Too misunderstood. But yes, label it Other and move on.
I was made fun of quite extensively for studying English in college by friends and family that said I won’t make money, that it’s pointless (“Why study English? You know how to speak and write it, right? Who the hell cares?”). Yet I find myself above so many others in the understanding of the system. Not in a capitalistic way (and, of course, in America, the only way that counts), but in a societal way. Culture is bleeding out to Science and Money. I am blessed, through study and dedicatoin to this nare-laughingstock word English,to sit and understand all the brilliant depth of good writers/moviemakers/singers/performers while the businessmen, engineers, lawyers, and accountants say, “That’s too complex for me.” (No offence to anyone in those fields. They’re needed, and I have great respect for them.) People don’t understand the importance of complexity, of mental hoops, of digging down the convergent depths of quantum possibility. (Example: my brother, studying to be a mechanical engineer, posted a great flash video of a physicist explaining, in very simple terms, the 10 dimensions and how they correlate to one another. Yet, when I open my mouth about reincarnation, he laughs as if it’s some kind of religious voodoo. The two are directly connected.)
What’s the point of studying English, literature, or any other language? We study the connective tissue. We study the ligaments that tie the great civilization-being together. We study all those things that make all the other things work. Yet the connective tissue is disintegrating. The ligaments are tearing, popping, and for some strange reason (not strange to me), American society is falling. Why? Not because the moneymakers are making too much money–they’ve perfected the art. Not because engineers are getting lazy at engineering–power output is at the highest it’s been… ever. But because all the things that tie Science, Technology, and Culture together are being disregarded, disposed of, and removed.
Now, back to the parameters. 1) My MC for IGMAN is about as multifaceted as they come. He’s dark-skinned, adopted many Eastern spiritualistic traits, and has a world consciousness. He’s a loner, suffers from PTSD and high anxiety, is hyper-sensitive to criticism and his own reality is an amalgamation of real, imagined, and the Astral. Oh, and he’s a vegetarian. 2) My MC sees Astral energy, and has abilities most don’t because of it. 3) My MC lives in a world where death isn’t seen as permanent, but transitory, and all the things that come with knowing death isn’t the end. 4) My MC fights demons with archaic, obscure magic. 5) My MC wants to help people and simultaneously also wants to die. Someone recently told me to “tone it back.” Tone what back? Remove all but one of the ten aspects of him that makes him different from most Americans? Change this to a non-fiction fiction literature novel? I didn’t understand: Except for two traits, this character exists in the real world. As a real person I know. This book is nearly biographical. When reality is more complex than fiction, Something is Wrong with the Picture.
The advice of “Keep it Simple, Stupid” has its merits. I understand where it comes from and why it’s important. If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t have a firm enough grasp of it. Overexplanation is the death of good flow. Yet the world is full of 9 to 5 retail clerks with big dreams and small wallets, where the only tool is the written word. The world is full of complex, complicated people in simple, dynamic environments. I’ve yet to meet a “Simple” thinker. Even the guys I know that have burned out on hard drugs are complex enough to merit a complex book–maybe even moreso.
Keep it simple unless you have a story to tell that requires many simple things adding up. Keep it simple until you realize you’re writing caricatures. Keep it simple if you’re pursuing genre fiction created entirely out of your imagination. Keep it simple unless you’re writing research papers, compiling data for companies, or mapping assets/expenditures for a business (no other professional field writes simple, and just because I’m a writer doesn’t mean I should dumb down what I have to say for everyone else to feel comfortable reading it).
I refuse to settle for mediocrity just because bigwigs tell me I should. I have too much faith in society: my goal is to raise it to my level, wherever that may be, and show everyone what they’re missing by ignoring the writers.