Of Words and Notes

I mentioned a lack of self-discipline in my last post, and that it is one of the things that keeps me from being the writer I want to be. Continuing with that theme, this post is about practice.

“Practice makes perfect.”
Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? A: Practice.”
“Practice what you preach.”

Adages about practice abound, and it just makes sense to practice what I want to be good at, but I have a mental block about practicing writing. For some reason, I feel like I have to produce something when I write, and that creates pressure, pressure that shouldn’t be there during practice. Pressure is common in performing, or in producing a finished product, but it shouldn’t be a part of practicing. Journal writing and blogging are forms of writing practice, I suppose, and I should probably count them as such, but when I sit down to practice writing fiction or poetry, I feel compelled to produce something of quality, rather than just writing in a stream of consciousness or even basic expository style.

There is no shame in writing throwaway fiction from a daily prompt. Sometimes ideas might flow and the practice might lead to something bigger; other times, I might wind up with a loosely connected bunch of words that serve no other purpose. Why don’t I think that’s okay?

I play guitar, as well, and when I practice, I usually do so off-the-cuff, improvising, launching notes into the air to fade and disappear, with no record they ever existed. Unless I’m specifically practicing for a gig, I don’t feel the need to have a product at the end of my practice. I just play to get better and enjoy it, and there’s not nearly as much inertia for me to overcome before I start playing. It’s much harder for me to get the wheels rolling when I sit down to write.

But why? Functionally, there’s not much difference between throwing notes into the air and throwing words onto the page, so why do I have such a block against practicing writing, or more accurately, why do I feel the need to produce something of value when I write, but not when I’m practicing guitar?

I think I’ve turned fiction writing into my own personal bugbear, and with my recent story publication in Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence, I’m forced to challenge that bugbear. I want to capitalize on the momentum of this sale, and at first I was enthusiastic, even starting a new story from scratch for a different Mad Cow Press anthology. But after only a couple of days of writing, my momentum faded, and I stopped writing the story when I hit the brick wall mentioned in the last post. I know, I know, I should continue on with the rest of the story and figure out how to deal with the brick wall later. If I were in the rhythm of writing every day (or often, at least), I think I could do that.

Hence these blog posts. I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions this year, but I did set some goals. I want to write something at least five days a week. I also want to write 1,000 words of fiction on my WIPs each week. If I combine those goals, I could write 200 words a day and meet that goal easily, but I’m not going to lock myself into just doing productive writing. Some of those five days should be simple practice, probably from a writing prompt. An extended goal is to write one short story per month in 2018. At 1,000 words a week, that’s a reasonable goal, I think.

Heck, this blog post is about 630 words already. 200 words of fiction five days a week shouldn’t be impossible.

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MileHiCon Schedule and Publication Announcement (Updated)

MileHiCon is just around the corner again. This year marks the 49th occurrence of this magnificent convention, and the first year where Ed Bryant’s presence will be more of a memory than a staple. A number of events are planned to remember MileHiCon’s favorite toastmaster, and I will be involved with several of them.

Of those events, the one I’m most looking forward to is a selection of readings from the upcoming Ed Bryant anthology tribute, Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence, due out in November. My story “Chesterfield Gray”, which I’ve referenced in this blog multiple times, is in that anthology, and I’ll be reading a selection from it. My story is in esteemed company; several pro-level and best-selling authors are also in the book, including Connie Willis, Kevin J. Anderson, Steve Rasnic Tem, Mario Acevedo, Lucy Taylor, Gary Jonas, … the list goes on. In the end, I think this will be a fantastic tribute to our mutual friend Ed. Thanks to Chuck Anderson and Jim Lemay at Mad Cow Press for all their hard work in putting this tribute together.

My MileHiCon 49 appearance schedule is below. As usual, MileHiCon is being held at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center location. The dates are October 27-29, 2017.

Friday, October 27, 2017
I won’t be on any panels on Friday this year, but I will be attending the con, so catch me if you want to say hi!

Saturday, October 28, 2017
1pm — Roundtable: How Can Creativity Transfer? (Bristlecone) — A discussion about how creativity can bridge or transfer between mediums and genres. I’ll be moderating this one, with panel participants Boom Baumgartner, R. Alan Brooks, Kirsten Imani Kasai, et. al.

6pm — Iron Hack (Mesa Verde B) — UPDATED — I learned what this panel is about, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. From the description: “Our fearless contestants–given four ingredients by the Audience: a person/occupation, a thing, a place, and a time period–will then write a piece of Flash fiction. Results will be read and winner chosen by audience acclaim.” I’ll be moderating this panel, too, with panel participants Chris Barili, Nathan Beauchamp, Greg Hyde, and Author Guest of Honor Jane Lindskold. (Gulp! I’m going up against Jane Lindskold in a flash fiction contest?!)

9pm — SF Poetry Slam (Avistrum Academy, 12th Floor) — It sounds like this year’s poetry panel is more of a competition than a reading, as it has been in past years. We can either prepare a poem beginning with the line “In a hundred years” or compete in an improv “slam” format. Tim Anderson will be leading this panel, and I’ll be participating with Jane Bigelow, Rob S. Rice, and others.

11pm — Group Reading & Discussion: The Ed Bryant Anthology (Avistrum Academy, 12th Floor) — Traditionally, Ed Bryant used to hold a late night reading at MileHiCon. This year, in honor of that tradition, Mad Cow Press will be presenting readings from several of the authors in the forthcoming anthology Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence. I will be reading from my story in the volume, “Chesterfield Gray”.

Sunday, October 29, 2017
1pm — Southwest Regional Authors (Wind River A) — What impact or flavor does the Southwest give to fiction written here, or by authors who live here? I’m honored to be on this panel with Paolo Bacigalupi, Robin D. Owens, and Aaron Michael Ritchey, moderated by Dana Bell.

3pm — Ed Bryant Remembered (Mesa Verde B) — A panel for all to talk about memories of Ed, similar to the remembrance that was held for him earlier this year at the Mercury Cafe. This is an opportunity for those who couldn’t attend the remembrance to tell their stories and listen to others’ stories about how Ed affected their lives. A memory book will be launched here, curated by Deena Larsen, and other projects involving Ed’s work will be covered, like Jean-Philippe Gervais’ massive three volume compendium of Ed’s collected works. I’ll be coordinating the speaking at this event, and a number of people are expected to attend, including Cynthia Felice, Greg Hyde, Ronnie Seagren, John Stith, and many more.

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