Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Workspace Wednesday #2 – The Battle Station



In the often repeated words of Stephen Colbert, this is where the magic happens. I’ve logged many an hour at this desk, pounding out words for the word gods.

I’ve tried to keep my set up simple to promote efficiency. There used to be two monitors on my desk, but after trying for many months, I have found that having dual monitors makes procrastination too easy. More often than not, a YouTube video on the other monitor is just a little bit more interesting than an open word document. E-mails can pile up right in front of you, and it all seems more urgent when you watch them land in your inbox.  

The desk is also intentionally small. I wanted an area that couldn’t hold the clutter that seems to follow me around. I also only keep tools for writing in this desk. I have another section of my office set up for printing and other miscellaneous work. When I am at my desk, I want absolute focus.

I expect that all writers have a different idea of what works and what doesn’t. I’d love to hear about or see your workspaces. Hit up the comments section and tell me more.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Power of Getting Pissed Off

I don’t like the idea of turning my blog into a place of negativity. I shot off the last post with a little too much urgency, and didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to. That being said, having a little extra piss and vinegar in my life makes me want to write more.

It allows me to sit back, and cut out my inner editor, as well as shut out the bits of self-doubt that strike all writers from time to time. Instead of beating myself up over not hitting consistent writing goals, I sit down and pound the keyboard until results happen. Sometimes it also makes me a little crueler to my characters, which have often been coddled in the past.

Creativity is an odd thing. In high school, the whole act seemed to be a delicate procedure, more akin to watchmaking than construction. Perhaps it still is for some people, but my writing is always at its best when I start swinging the sledgehammer around. Construction is only a delicate process at the end, when the trim goes up and the caulking gets done. Before that, it is a menagerie of power tools and loud noises. Even surgery isn’t as delicate as I once thought. Have you ever seen a hip replacement? That surgeon isn’t just about smooth cuts and a steady hand, sometimes they have to break something before they can fix it.

I’m not one to extend a metaphor for too long, but that is the long and the short of it. Instead of being disappointed with myself for missing a self-imposed deadline, I have to get mad, bust out the right tools, and get some damn work done.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tradesmen

The idea of real work has been lost by many in this country. Somehow, the people who tip shovels, run electrical wiring, and keep our plumbing in order are being demonized as a lesser class. It would seem any profession in which you break a sweat on a regular basis is considered to be the consolation prize of the ignorant or weak minded.

Fuck. That. The strongest men I’ve ever known woke up clean and came home dirty every day. They sharpened their wills and their wit on jobsites, on roofs, and in crawlspaces. They could stop at the end of the day, stare at the work they finished, and know that they accomplished something.

I used to be there. I worked as a plumber since I was 12. I learned what it meant to turn the earth, to lay the foundations of someone’s home, and to learn how tubes and fittings were pieced together. I could walk out of a house at the end of the day, covered in blood and grime, sweat and flux, knowing that I helped build someone’s home. There isn’t a single office job that has ever given me that satisfaction, and I doubt there ever will be.

We used to build things. We used to know how to change the flapper on our own damn toilets. We used to face challenges as they were presented to us, not delegate responsibility, or make an action item list to improve compliance with the standard operating procedures set by executive overlords.

Our destiny was whittled from life by our own scorched and bare hands. We were everything we could make for ourselves, not the byproduct of some new South Korean born electronics, and we certainly weren’t the numbers on a bank ledger. Wealth to a man of skills and labor isn’t just a paycheck (which is much more ample than most laymen know), it’s being able to assemble civilization. To create a sanitary world, and one that will always illuminate when you throw a switch.

Humankind may have only built a few structures that can be seen from the heavens, but the slow accumulation of our labor glows in the perfect outlines of our cities. The dark side of the globe isn’t so dark any longer. Remember that the next time you feel the need to disparage a young man working an honest living. I heard “You don’t want to grow up to be a plumber do you?” far too many times in my life. I’m sick to death of people mindlessly ignoring the tradesmen that make their civilized life possible; that look down on those who chose a life of labor over the air conditioned bliss of monotonous paperwork. An accountant doesn’t shit in the woods. Perhaps they should be a little more gracious to the people who made that possible.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Following a Dying Trail

My current work in progress is proving to be quite difficult. I’ve adjusted and tweaked the plot countless times, and I have an ending, but something isn’t right. It just isn’t resonating with me in the way it should. It makes me wonder if moving forward with this project is a good idea, or if I need to scrap it.

I’ve dropped ideas before, even some that I liked better than this one. I want it to work, and I think it can if I simply start the writing phase. These shaky thoughts have made me nervous though. Am I going to work on a project I dislike all summer? Will I find out that I like it again when I’m not just staring at the map of the story?

More than anything, I’m trying to decide if this is an early burnout stage that comes from knowing the story before it is written, or if it is a poor idea. Other novel ideas have crept up on me, as well as rewrites for previous works, so I could switch gears if I need to.

Perhaps a bit of patience is necessary, but this continued uncertainty isn’t helping my output.

I have a couple questions for the writer types out there. What does it take for you to give up on a story? Have you ever finished an extensive outline and not finished a project? Should I just buck up and write the damn thing? Any and all feedback is appreciated.
 
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