Monday, February 28, 2011

Gamblin' Man

For a long time, I've posted about my writing goals, and about my 3rd degree black belt in procrastination that keeps me from meeting them. All this talk and such little action is making me sick. I'm tired of my own bullshit excuses, but without drastic measures, I'm not sure I'll be able to meet my own semi lofty goals.

Today, I signed a writing contract. In it, I will have to write 27,000 words over the course of March, or I have to donate $200 dollars to my most hated terrorist group, PETA*.

I'm sure you have a few questions, so let me clear them up if I can.

The biggest reason is simple, my production this year has been unacceptable. I haven't done enough real work to call myself a serious writer. I'm terrified of being labeled a fraud, or a dilettante. I want to be more than a hobbyist, I love it too much to treat it so idly. I love to write, but I need a little spark to put me in the chair.

Secondly, I am a terrible cheap ass. I'm not the type that will toss money around casually. On top of this, I would be donating to a cause that I hate. If I fail, I will be crippled financially for a month at the benefit of my enemies. The stakes are set.

Is it a gimmick? Yes. Will it work? It damn well better. Now, here are the rules.

  1. 27,000 words written from 12:01 am on March 1st until 11:59 pm on March 31st, 2011 (I'm taking sundays off, essentially its 1,000 words per day, six days a week).
  2. This can be in the form of short fiction, novels, and blog posts.
  3. Journaling, notes, and outlines do not count.
  4. I will appoint a referee to check the word counts, this way the final decision is out of my hands.
  5. If I fail, $200 dollars cash will be donated to the evil fuzziness that is PETA.
  6. My sister is currently managing this. She is awesome, but also brutal and has an affinity for fuzzy creatures. You know the type. She cries when that Sarah McLachlan commercial comes on.
I will post my progress each Wednesday. Lets see just how foolish this whole project is.

*Watch Penn and Teller's BULLSHIT! on PETA. I am an adamant omnivore, which is contrary to every policy ever put out by PETA. They are also big enough jerk offs to support arsonists from the Animal Liberation Front. Please note, I love animals, and grew up with many. I just enjoy eating some of them too. If only I were dextrous enough to blog and cook bacon at the same time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Moving the Office

A few weeks ago I talked about how I needed to change my writing environment. The location I was in could most accurately be described as the under decorated basement lavatory of Dracula's castle. This isn't to say that I am worried about pale bloodsuckers in my office (I have work for that), but writing in the lonely and uninviting dark was not helping me.

So I moved. I packed up the writing essentials and made a space upstairs. Suddenly I was staring at a backdrop of white walls and heated rooms. I had made it back to the first world so to speak, and it felt great. The first few days up I managed to pop out over 1,000 words, which hadn't happened back to back in more time than I would like to admit.

In the spirit of making this a better, more useful office, I am getting ready to redecorate on the cheap. Working for a school district has some major advantages when it comes to inexpensive surplus office equipment. I plan to put a full sized white board on the wall behind me, to outline / brainstorm / draw inappropriate sexual pictures on. I'm also going to get a massive desk. I want some desktop real estate this time around. Enough that I won't lose shit by virtue of everything being in plain sight. The current piles are killing me.

So, dear readers (all six of you), if you could add anything to your office, what would it be? Do you have any unconventional items that make your office unique? Or certain whatsits that you can't live without? Sound off and let me know.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Your Feature Presentation: The Backwater Gospel

The Backwater Gospel from The Animation Workshop on Vimeo.

In the spirit of keeping with schedules, I present to you a badass animation. I'm trying to get a blog post out, but today has been a crazy mess of Mac's running windows and general tech duties. I'll see if I can get something up a bit later.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pressure and Time

Each thing I do I rush through so I can do
something else. In such a way do these days pass -
a blend of stock cars racing and the never
ending building of a gothic cathedral.
Through the windows of my speeding car, I see
all that I love falling away: books unread,
jokes untold, landscapes unvisited. And why?
What treasure do I expect in my future? 
-An exerpt from Stephen Dobyns "Pursuit"
As with most writers my age, I struggle with obscurity, commitment, and consistency. We scrawl and type with mad intensity, hoping to cash in on our prose while the eBook gold rush flourishes. We read the long odds and struggles of publication, and the continued hardships thereafter. Pressure from unseen forces, subconscious and otherwise, start to crush the creativity and fire from our work. Under all of this weight, self doubt diminishes our will and confidence

Then again, maybe it's just me.

I know that I have let the frustrations, failures, and long odds of the publishing industry get to me. I've allowed it to affect the work that I do, even though I stand outside of its walls. I let the business come before writing, even though I am lacking a final draft. I haven't had the chance to query an agent or book publisher, but I let their presence haunt me.

Yet, there is something I am just now starting to realize; I have all the time in the world. I'm an apprentice, not a journeyman, so it's okay for me to make mistakes, or to get overwhelmed at times. I'm allowed to botch a short story, or to run ten edits before I actually finish a piece of fiction. This is the time to learn from my errors, not to rush each word toward a publisher or market. I'm slowly earning my way toward that journeyman level, and each day that another 1,000 words hits the page brings me a step closer. I can't let the bloggers and tweeps dissuade me from writing based off of their experiences.

Wednesdays are supposed to be about my current works in progress. I apologize for the departure, but being that the entirety of my writing life is a WIP, I felt it was appropriate.

Now, on to the link dump:

The poem at the top is incredible, you can find it here.

Today's post was inspired by Zoe Winters, and her post entitled Slow Down, the Tortoise Won.

Austin Wulf makes his second appearance on the link dump with Zen and the Art of Bullshit.

A reading recommendation from me, John Dies at the End. Seriously fucking good. So far.

I know its a bit of self pimpage, but here is my twitter. Hows about a follow?

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Lost Post: Cosmic Horror

So maybe you read a short story about a plumber's trying day, or just got done watching some show with a shitty theme song about two men and a kid living under the same roof. Sure, their quips might make you feel like putting an end to the earth, but lets be real, its trivial in comparison to the scope of cosmic horror.

It all begins and ends with the stakes.

In true cosmic horror, our species is so significant we might as well be bacteria to these ancient gods, who are both lunatic and evil. Our pitiful and fragile minds can't even handle the utterances of these Old God's names, much less the destruction that they could summon at a whim. A mere glance on their true form could leave you a hulking mass of blubbering psyche ward material. Even the architecture of their aeons old civilizations is too much for our primate brains to comprehend. In the best case scenario, these abominations of reality won't even acknowledge our existence.

This trope isn't scary just by the monsters that drift through our universe or slumber under the oceans; it is frightening because it trivializes our existence even further. It makes humanity less than an obscure polyp on Carl Sagan's mote of dust.

Our brains have so compartmentalized the truths of our existence that we cannot see the bigger picture. We are already existing on a small rock hurling through a void. We don't let this bother us, though we stare into the thousands of dying stars each night. We muddle in office jobs and put our fuzzy pets in sweaters, even though the cosmos threatens to rip this planet apart. Cosmic horror simply breaks down the barriers between our neat and tidy perceptions, and assaults you with the truth of your insignificance and obscurity.

Now, the question is, who will be eaten first?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Woah, my schedule hasn't abided well these past two weeks. Even with a couple of snow days, I managed to stay incredibly busy. Unfortunately it wasn't all on the writing front. Until work fully calms down, my focus must remain there. At least that's what I tell myself.

Sleepless nights have been pressing me into turbulent thoughts about my life and writing. I snap back and forth between being good enough to get published, or self publish, and get brought back to reality by all the fantastic writers that are out there.

It's not that I'll never be as good as them; I know that if I put in the work I will get better, and I'm arrogant enough to think I might be their peer someday. The problem is in the primal monkey part of my brain and its constant need for instant gratification. That primitive quadrant (lobe? cortex? wrinkle?) doesn't understand that I am a novice in this field. I am an apprentice trying to become a journeyman, and the only way to get there is with my ass planted in the chair, and my hands on the keyboard. The stupid circus monkey would rather spend three hours watching youtube videos and reading articles.

Ahem, bitch session over. I get a little too introspective when I don't sleep. Moving on.

We will be returning to the regular Monday - Wednesday - Friday blog posts this week. That cosmic horror article will actually get posted this Friday, and all will be right with the cosmos. You know, except for the whole existence of cosmic horrors.

Lets close out with a new Wednesday feature: The Link Dump. Like most aspiring writers, I read more blogs about other writers than is probably healthy or a practical use of time. Each weak I will dump my favorite articles here for everyone to check out. If you have a link you want featured here (I'm easily bribed by foodstuffs and @mentions), hit me up (@tsouthcotte) on twitter.

The Link Dump:

Chuck Wendig breaks down the dark and phallic stuffed side of self publishing at Terribleminds.

Kristen Lamb will straight up make you better at social media. Her advice is to powerful to confine to a single link, so check out her whole blog here.

Austin Wulf asks for your business card.

Amanda Hocking sells more books in January than Jesus.

Aaron Polson wants you to win a copy of his new book, The House Eaters, at Goodreads.

See you on Friday my digital friends.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Importance of Working Tools

Some of you may have noticed that my Friday post, as well as yesterday's, never saw the light of day. This is my fault, as well as old faulty hardware's. After several failures and restarts, the documents simply would not reopen, and were lost to the nether.

During this past weekend, my writing equipment was in such poor condition, I had no business using it.

I've been using the same computer since my junior year of high school (class of '05), and RadamusCrunk, as it has been named (I was seventeen, don't judge me), has been a reliable companion. It has made it through at least a dozen formats, hundreds of literal days of gameplay, and hundreds of thousands of words typed. I'm a bit attached to the old thing, so it pains me to watch as its processor fails, and the freezes make it an unusable system. I've put up with it for a long while, but now that files are starting to break down, I need to move on.

Beyond all of this, I should have found another way to retype the articles. I'm sure they will eventually make it on to the site. I spent too much time researching Cosmic Horror for the friday article to simply let it die. I allowed myself to get frustrated, and then to get indignant. I let pieces of failure throw me into a rut, and that is a quick path to writing self destruction.

As much as I, and my wallet hate to admit it, the time has come to move on. RadamusCrunk has been the most enduring and best computer I have ever owned, but I cannot let my tools become the reason I miss my writing goals. I'll eulogize him properly one of these days. Now excuse me, I have to take this sad little HP into the back yard. Last I checked, my favorite tools, the shovel and rifle, still worked perfectly well.
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