The Muse (On Writing & Editing)

We take certain things for granted I think. Art especially, I guess. One reason I think Art is criticized is because children seem to be so good at it, predisposed to it in fact. The force of shame is a remnant of the Industrial Age, where men were supposed to do man’s work and woman were supposed to stay home. Thinking about it, this may only apply to the rich folks, poor people have to work all the time. Maybe it is this confused historical paradigm which has lead to Art being seen as such a base, sophomoric pursuit. All that is probably subject for another blog, what I want to writer about is the figure of the Muse.

In Homer and other ancient works the muse is invoked at the begging of the poem. This idea had carried into the present if you look close enough. Read a bit of the writers talking about their process and the Muse will come up.

What is the Muse? It is this strange sense one gets when doing Art, where you sort of turnover to this purely creative force, which can speak and act on its own. The writer can become possessed as it were, by the Muse, and stuff can sort of just bubble out?

Now as you play with this you begin to realize the Muse is a lot like you! Whouda thunk it? So this means, it likes what you like, chocolate, coffee, music, good smelling incense and candles. So you realize quickly that if you share some of your goodies with the Muse that the gift can kick it into high gear, in your own work.

Be cautious though. Don’t see the Muse as some hedonist that if you overdose on chocolate it’ll give you a Masterpiece. The Muse does not like to be fucked with. That means it appreciates a tight, closely followed schedule. If you really want it to show up for you, you’re best to show up everyday.

I also believe it is the Muse that requires as the extracurricular reading as well. For two points, one the pleasure principle we first discussed. Second though and more importantly it wants you to beware of certain works, so that you don’t go wasting its time trying to rehash the same old thing. The Music is a critic and rational. Sloppy business will begin to agitate it. This is connected to writer’s block I imagine, and it is the Muse which is doing the blocking.

The Muse is a free agent, and the business is good. It is best to recognize this and be very considerate of your Muse. When proper order is maintained a healthy relationship can occur. If its not found, things can be dangerous. A runaway Muse can be deadly, no more evidence of that is needed than the deadly history of Rock and Roll. Breaking up with the Muse, or worse fighting the Muse, all can have disastrous ends. Therefore it is helpful to recognize what you’re dealing with, and don’t be demanding. Offer the gifts to the gods and then write it as it comes!

Source for Nine Muses:

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Snippets #2

Cormac McCarthy- No Country For Old Men

Do you care if I call you Carla?

I go by Carla Jean.

Carla Jean. Is that all right?

That’s all right. You dont care if I keep calling you Sheriff do you?

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Snippets #1

Ray Bradbury-Fahrenheit 451

He stared at the parlor that was dead and grey as the  waters of an ocean that might teem with life if they switched on the electric sun. 

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Poem For Three Hundred Words (On Writing & Editing)

*This was from one of my days of the September challenge, where I had to write a new thousand words everyday.

Trees leave fragments like broken crystals
Babylonian concrete road, leading to artificial Benbens
Meat suited automatons riding in steel boxes, with balding tires
Kaleidoscopic addiction syndrome, self appointed Psychiatrist
Boiling mass in cratonic sphere, crystalline center of nowhere
where has the burning light been replaced with a stone pillow
Measurer doesn’t measure up
Primordial android, drunk on psychotropics, ranting at the world, while he tears pages out of the Bible.

Prime Time Television Sycophants, wasting away on Grandma’s couch
Human history is a cul-de-sac
The conspiracy ended in Cheetos
Man sold his soul for a chocolate bar
Rusted sex bots are our future, children our are past.
Mars is our future.

Beads of light, running on grass, wielding plastic rakes as weapons.
Subconscious preparation for life.
Hectic beehives called neighborhood, Predators are squared.
Wave of control wash in and out, the self pushes freedom out
Small ways, chalk on the street, bold word “Stop”. No addressee
I’m cultivating a brew of schizophrenia, claimed on the mountains of culture,
inspired by whores and maniacs. Embraced by no one, spectacle to the world,

I have found the cave of the Ubermensch and it is filled with dirty tissues and back copies of Hustler magazine. A box of abandoned toddler’s toys are pushed into a corner, next to empty cans of Budweiser and ash tray refuse.
The wasted poet humps the ground, slurring some pitiable narration about a YA vampire novel,
“She put on the dusty gown. Its beautiful pearl color had turned the yellow of over buttered theater popcorn.”

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The Power of Writing

Writing is powerful because it mimics thought. So when we read someone’s work we are experiencing their thoughts and experiences. The Author’s expertise in their own world allows them to unpack it for us in interesting and informative ways. Some people might argue that Art generally has lost some of its force. This is a dangerous contention in a time and place where were are saturated in other peoples thoughts and stories, their Art we could say.

In tracking “Literature” if thats what we want to call it, from ancient oral traditions to when it was finally put down on paper, and then again reborn in Cinema and Modern Media,  you can follow all of known human history. Not creating in our understanding discrete descriptions of each of this different epochs, could lead to a misunderstanding of the true power of the Word and Imagination. Media has become so commercialized, so ubiquitous, that people take the abilities and skills of the Creators for granted. And this is not good, because human civilization is now predicated upon these things.

I think there is a real anachronism to modern interpretation of older and ancient literature. The dismantling of the true meaning of “Myth”, reduced that great Art to mere Fiction. Somehow great minds of the past have been put on the same level of hackneyed James Patterson novels. Worse actually, they are not considered at all. To reemphasize my original point here, doing this to ancient literature, has also led to a great forgetting about our collective world history, again a point for the great power of Art.

Writing is unique as it works both as a time capsule and prophecy.This is the power of reading because it allows us glimpses into all sorts of key moments in history, and lets us evaluate everything from hindsight, with updated knowledge.

Any writing no matter how benign is part of this process. This is why journals are so important, because they data sample specific days and peoples. We can use these “primary materials” to build our collective histories. We can see with all these points, how writing/reading are the grounds of understanding, the basis of understanding.

Writing and reading are powerful because they make you smarter. Trying to articulate your interesting ideas in a comprehensible way will makes you a better communicator in other probably less demanding situations. The limits of our vocabulary are the limits of our ideas. Reading another person’s interesting and particular history can give us new tools to face our own issues, and give us needed perspective.

Lastly, but most importantly, writing is important because it is effective. Books like Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, or Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stow, exposed the horror of a specific life and made other societies take notice of the issue. It was the ability of people to read these experiences, and live them themselves that built that relationship of empathy, which was necessary for change.

I think it is important for us as writers to take back the power of writing. This is occurring in the trend of ebooks, I think. They allow greater access between cultures classes. Same time this new form only to a inflationary bubble of information. We as creators of the written word need to start thinking about evolving the Craft itself.  Of course this is exactly what we are finding in Comic Books, Graphic Novels, and online videos and animation, people that are pairing the written word with other stimuli and creating new artistic tools. I even think something like Stephen King’s interconnected archetypes and characters in the Dark Tower series is another way that we can really multiply the power of the written word.

The point was though, people are overloaded and so they look at Art as mostly entertainment and escape currently. The problem and awesomeness remains, good Art works whether or not people want to pay attention to it. You ignore the mechanics of Art at your own risk. Just like if you don’t know how to change a tire, but drive a car. That’s my point I think, we as writers need to recognize and cultivate this powerful Craft, because the world depends on it!

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Rejection letters trickle in


A courageous artist moving forward, “So come on down, you rejection letters. Come on, if you will. You won’t stop me. You just encourage me to gather more strength and try again. And you are teaching me to let go of fear.” That’s the spirit!!!

Originally posted on Letters to Cameroon:

This summer, I submitted my poems to several poetry contests. I didn’t have to give myself that extra heartache, but I decided to try anyways. And I am proud of myself for trying. It motivated me to put together small portfolios and send them out. It motivated me to think about an audience at each contest and tailor a set of poems to that audience and what the contest rules required. So I am glad I did it. And yes, the rejection letters are trickling in. Three have come in, so far. Sigh. But they have been polite letters. Notes encouraging me to resubmit and keep writing. Oh, I knew I didn’t really stand a chance. But I am glad I tried. My trying and my hopefulness says a great deal about the kind of writer I am. It .says  that I believe in my work. Believe in the…

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What I Learned in My September Challenge (On Writing & Editing)

There is always enough time to write-It was about middle of the summer when I started feeling that I was spread a little too thin. From house duties and raising my two children, to my volunteer days at the Farm, and everything else, I just didn’t feel like I was spending enough time on my craft. Dedicating my time to writing everyday this September has taught me that you can always make enough time to write.

The words are always there-There was only a couple days in the whole month where I really struggled to sit down and write my words. What I discovered was that no matter how I felt starting out, usually around the 500 word mark, my brain would be clicking and the stream would be flowing. A couple of those struggling days I wrote about struggling, and it was interesting because that created some of the best material.

This is an important lesson for me to learn too, because I am quickly approaching the stage where I need to worry less about getting new idea on the pages, and start to focus on finishing things. Knowing that the reserve of new words is just sitting there waiting to be tapped, lets me know it is okay to go ahead and pretty up some of my work for ya’ll to see.

Enjoying Marginal Gains Over Beginner’s High-I know when I seriously started writing I really liked the frenzied creative fit that I would go into. ODing on Coffee, with the music pumping, feeling the surge of ideas and adrenaline as I smashed my keyboard, that is what I liked. Being forced to treat is more like a job, and put the work in each day, challenged me to face the reality of what writing is, which is work.

In those earlier stages you are just so mystified and eager that you’re just impressed you got something down on the page. But after writing for a month, and only noticing the slightest improvement in my writing, that taught me I have to learn to appreciate the small progress forward. Its like working out. If you are seriously overweight and unhealthful you might be able to drop ten pounds in a week of training, but as your training goes on it will be more difficult to reach your goals. The big payoff disappears and you could be left struggling for motivation.

To me this is what separate the “Greats” from the rest of us losers. I really struggle with it too. When I can act crazy and just puke this stuff out on the page I am all right. But when I am faced with the day in day out prospect of marginal progress, it just zaps the passion right out of me. This month long challenge made me really aware of this, and take notice that writing is a game of inches, and like all things your determination, not your skill, will determine your success.

The Benefits of Working Ahead-So when I wasn’t writing on the new book, I focused on writing new blogs. This has allowed me to get a little ahead of my blog, and create a backlog which I will be going through in the future. Going back and editing blogs which I wrote days previously is great practice as an editor.

Having the supply of blogs and being able to make posts has led to a slight uptick in views. This taught me that if I want more people to check out my blog I need to work for those views. Having blogs done in advance allows me to focus on reading other people’s work and making meaningful contact with those writers too. It becomes less about getting my new post up and more about contacting other bloggers.

Working ahead means on the days motivation may escape you, that you do not regress. It also means that there is always material to work with and edit. Working ahead also helps you mature your work, because everything has some time to chill. This is especially important for heathen like myself, who are prone to the flame war.

Take a Break-So this meets up with the last point, we need breaks. Writing for thirty days has improved my abilities, making my writing clearer, making me a better reader, establishing my work ethic, etc., but after thirty days straight, you start feeling a little punch drunk.

I would say it sort of dampens the passion, but that seems to not really capture my experience, because in so many ways I am more fanatic and in love with the whole thing, more than when I started, because my appreciation for Writing/Reading is so much deeper. It’s more like an addict type problem, where of course you love and completely need the thing, but same time moment it takes hold, there is this new bubble of experience, which is sort of bored by the whole thing. It’s contradictory.

Why are we scared of this crazed pursuit of goals? Because we see that it creates both Michael Jordans and Howard Hughes. This tells us it is better to stay in the middle of the pack, because we can’t be Mike and we don’t want to end up Howard. Just like sports and business there is competition out there in the writing world. Its not even necessarily monetary, though that is a major issue, but it is fundamentally a competition for attention. Reading is seen as a form of entertainment. The amount of entertainment time is proportional to the amount of time it takes you to survive, therefore entertainment time is a fixed sum, relative to each person. In other words your story has to be great to get attention. To know what’s great we have to check and compare ourselves to the greats, and then you realize true level of the competition is in the craft itself. And you probably don’t got it, so…

But yes, final point, take breaks. Take long, winding breaks. Play more X-Box, read more stuff, enjoy time with friends and family. Hell, have a BBQ! Don’t end up some psycho trying to be great, because you might just do it.

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Real physics is just weird sometimes. Like, totally.


Great thinking about Sci-Fi

Originally posted on M J Wright:

One of my pet irks as a reader of science fiction is the way some authors play fast and loose with science. Sometimes it works. But usually, for me at least, the suspension of disbelief in SF is carried by the science as well as by story and characters. Goes with this particular genre.But that doesn’t preclude imagination. Physics sometimes gets very weird. Especially where our friend Albert Einstein is involved.

Albert Einstein lecturing in 1921 - after he'd published both the Special and General Theories of Relativity. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Albert Einstein lecturing in 1921 – after he’d published both the Special and General Theories of Relativity. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

One of his principles was that nothing can travel faster than light. The end. And that’s been proven over and over and over. Of course, this spoils interstellar SF plots, so finding plausible ways around this annoying limit has been a focus for SF authors ever since Einstein came up with it. But very few have explored the…

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