Thinking About Writing

I didn’t write today. I did do a helluva lot of thinking about writing, but I didn’t write. The thinking started in the shower this morning. Unconsciously using techniques from Bruce Holland RogersWord Work, I imagined myself reading poetry to an enthusiastic crowd at an open mic. I imagined which poems I would read, how I would read them, and how they were received by the audience. When I left the shower, I was wide awake and bounding with enthusiasm for writing, which I couldn’t do because I had to go to work. Grrr ….

After work, I stopped by Old Possum’s Book Store and spoke with Jeff, the owner, for a while. We discussed writing groups, manuscript submission, writing and publishing conventions, and how different authors (particularly Ed Bryant) can be so inspirational and encouraging to us fledgling writers. Rogers discusses this in Word Work, as well, and it’s interesting to note that he also lists Ed Bryant as one of his primary mentors. The man is certainly the hub of SF and horror writing in the Denver area; I don’t know how he finds the energy to do it, but I’m thankful that he does. I wish he had a website so I could direct some traffic his way, but the closest I can get is the Wormhole Books website. Go there. Buy books. Now.

I did finish Word Work today, and I will post a review tomorrow if I can get it done. It’s a great book, and I hope I can use it to sustain the commitment I must make to my writing. When I finished it, I felt a pang of sadness; a miniature post-partum depression, if I can get away with saying that. Or maybe it was more like the feeling young adults get when their parents say, “Okay, you have to move out now. You need to support yourself.” It’s kind of a rejection, but at the same time, it’s an affirmation of belief in their ability to survive and learn about the world.

Stories Everywhere

Story ideas are everywhere. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you his idea service.

Today, as I was leaving the grocery store, I pulled up next to a nice black car at the stoplight. The driver was a young blonde woman, her hair pulled back in a professional-style ponytail. It was about 6:00 PM, and she looked as if she had just gotten off work. She was very pretty, and her face was scrunched in worry. That, in itself, is enough to spark a story. What would make a young, successful businesswoman worry so? What is happening in her life?

As she waited for the light, she got a small box out of one of the grocery bags and opened it. She pulled a sheet of paper out of the box and unfolded it. The sheet had a pink border; it was instructions for a home pregnancy test. She was still waiting at the stoplight when I drove into the intersection.

You can’t tell me there’s not a story there. I guarantee it’s a very important story for the young lady. I couldn’t see if she had a ring on her left hand; depending on whether she did or didn’t, the story could go in vastly different directions.

On another occasion, I was walking with my wife in downtown Denver one frigid night. We were on our way to an Eric Johnson concert at the Ogden Theatre. As we walked, a couple about a block in front of us stopped short, dropped their bags, and faced each other, yelling. We slowed, not sure what was going to happen or if we would have room to get by. They sparred verbally, and then the man suddenly picked up his shopping bag, turned, and walked briskly up the street, away from us. The woman stood still. She called after him a couple of times, but he didn’t turn around or stop. She started crying. Gathering her things, she began to shuffle up the street in the direction he had gone, still sobbing in the cold air.

I have no idea what they were arguing about, or whether it was right for him to strand her on Colfax Avenue on a winter night. Perhaps he had some justification, or perhaps he was just a jerk. But the scene could translate almost directly into a story or even a movie script. I’ve often thought it would be a good exercise to write that scene from different perspectives: one that paints the man’s actions in a positive light, one that paints his actions in a negative light, and one that explains what’s happened in a way that neither person looks like the villain.

Observation is really all it takes to come up with the spark for a story. The writer doesn’t have to record the events perfectly for an idea to start burning; in fact, it might keep the idea from growing if the writer sticks too closely to the details. Stories that are based in reality may sometimes benefit from tension-inducing details that were not in the inspirational scene.

Tonight, I played Morrowind for the first time in weeks. I didn’t get very far; in fact, I stopped playing it in favor of reading Word Work. I should be able to finish the book at lunch tomorrow.

Moving On — For Now

I tried a few configuration and component changes on the server today in an attempt to get it to recognize the new drive. I even manually specified the drive’s configuration in CMOS and reinstalled the operating system with the jumpers in a different position, hoping it would get the clue. Still the same 7.87 Gb limit. I did find one piece of information on the Western Digital website that says, in effect, “If your secondary drive is larger than 8 Gb and Windows 2000 is only recognizing 8 Gb of it, uninstall Windows 2000 Service Pack 1, reformat the drive, and install Service Pack 2.

This is kind of tough to do, since I installed Service Pack 3 from the beginning. I think a new motherboard is the way to go, so I’m going to stop worrying about this project and try to get back to writing.

I have been reading Word Work every chance I get over the last few days. I’m still enjoying the book. The level of personal experience that Rogers brings to the table is refreshing; he writes it as if the reader is his peer, rather than his pupil. It’s remarkably similar to having a conversation with Bruce. He anticipates where the reader’s mind is very well, and addresses many of the questions and concerns that pop up in my head as I’m reading. I should be done with the book in a few days, and I’ll be able to write a review. I’m excited to do so, actually.

Distraction or Procrastination?

I’m spending the day supervising my son as he works off a significant monetary debt that he owes to his mother. The plan was that I would set him to work, be available for questions, and get some writing done.

So far, he’s done a decent amount of work and I’ve been very distracted. However, considering what Bruce Holland Rogers says in Word Work, I wonder if my son is actually the source of my distraction or if I’m distracting myself. I doubt if I would be getting much worthwhile fiction or poetry writing done right now, with him saying “Hey Dad, you know what?” every few minutes, but I could at least be working on revisions or outlining a story.

In Word Work, Rogers outlines several different types and aspects of procrastination, and that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. However, I’m also kind of fooling myself into working around it, because I’m writing something — and that something is acknowledging the procrastination. No, it’s not a good justification for not doing the real writing, but it is making me examine and be aware of the procrastination, and that’s part of the purpose of this creativity journal.

I got e-mail from Melanie Tem today, asking if I would bring my guitar to our next writing class. She wants to examine the storytelling aspects of “Ode to Billy Joe” by Bobbie Gentry. I’ve got the music and the lyrics for that, so it should be fun. I’ve often thought that song was similar to Hemingway’s “The Hills Like White Elephants” in that it hints at serious topics without ever directly addressing them.

It’s about lunch time, so I’m going to go pick something up for Keith and me. He’s doing a pretty good job, but this will only go part of the way to paying back his Mom.

Sophie’s Wor(l)d Work

As I promised yesterday, I did write a review of Sophie’s World today. I was a little surprised that the review didn’t come out as positive as I expected; I genuinely enjoyed the book, but I’m afraid the review may not come across that way. Thanks to Michael Main for introducing me to Jostein Gaarder’s work. (By the way, Michael, I saw the picture of the neon computer on your site, and I’m suitably jealous.)

I also started reading Bruce Holland Rogers’ Word Work today. I’m definitely biased here, since I’ve studied writing with Bruce, but it felt like he was talking to my soul in the first fifty pages. I didn’t want to return to work after lunch; I wanted to read and write. The man certainly has an infectious passion for his chosen craft.

I also replaced all of the links to my old e-mail address on this website. All new mail should go to lytspeed_web@comcast.net now. If you see any other e-mail links that I missed, please let me know.