writing

Sticking To Your Guns

So, I got into Film a few days back. You know, Film. Movies. Screenplays. Trailers. Special FX, which I used to think was an acronym for an alternate Fox TV channel. I had a desire to make a movie, to film some weird crap, and other random stuff.

Then I stepped right back out.

One thing I have always known I wanted to be is a writer. A legit pen-smith–hey, it’s the best I could come up with. The writing thing is my life; tis’ my breath, and a bunch of different Shakespearean linguistics.

We have film, and we have writing.

I could devote time to teaching myself the art of making films and directing movies, or I could continue to devote my time to pursing a career in writing, one of which I am heading towards as fast as possible. There is a decision, then–what is the answer?

Now, before all of you start shouting at the top of your lungs to tell me your viewpoints, your varied and seasoned perspectives, look at the decisions you have made in your life thus far:

Are each of them making you happy?

Are you good at what you have decided to do?

If your life were to be just that, and only that, would you be satisfied–at least for the first three days?

Writing makes me happy. It is my dream to never want to retire because I am doing what I love to do, so long as I keep up the hard work and strive to be the best, in my eyes. Plus, I’d be satisfied for the first four days before I went looking for people to watch and listen to.

Hint-Hint: We’re writers. It’s what we do.

Not much of that would be true for film, and; in thinking about it from an outsider’s point of view, why shouldn’t I want to stick to what I’m good at in the first place and become a professional in it?

I’m sure there’s tons of people out there who have followed their dreams and followed their talents, cause’ why not? We’re supposed to be better at certain things and worse at certain things. If we were one way or the other, we probably wouldn’t be human; at best, we wouldn’t be from this planet…at all.

Imagine tons of aliens walking past you everyday. The guy at the water cooler today, the one who made the burbling noises right when the cooler was doing so? Yeah, definitely a spacer.

Oh, and the guy who stole your donut off your desk this morning.

Never mind, actually, he’s just of the species Asshole.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

Photo Credit: Boris Vallejo

An Open One-Year Anniversary Letter

Dear The World,

Once upon a time, I started a blog. This was to be an ordinary blog; in fact, it was a summer assignment for my high school English class. I had always expressed interest in blogs and the art of blogging–it seemed so down-to-Earth and personal, at least from what I had read and seen.

I started this blog with the intention to complete my assignments and talk about the books I had been told to discuss. That intention carried me somewhat far, but, a few weeks into the process, I thought of writing a post about a random horror movie I had recently watched on Netflix, and so I did.

Even though the movie post didn’t get many views–to be honest, there was no attention to me at all on the Interwebs–I still had the spark of wanting to write differently, to write out of my own head, which is what I do. This is stream of consciousness writing, no planning whatsoever.

The thing that strikes me now is how ashamed I was of wasting my time on a blog that was obviously going to go nowhere fast, when I could have been spending my writing energy on the novel I was finishing. It was, to me, an act in futility: simply write out the assignments and be done with it.

But that is not how I saw it, that is not how I see it.

There was a moment, a singular moment, that changed my point of view. See, I was sitting in my high school library, reading as always, when a senior guy walked up to me and said one of my posts had touched him.

The post in question: Small Town Losses. It was a tribute to a lost friend and the effect it had had on our small town; and how, despite the tragedy, we still banded together as a unified people. I think that post touched a lot of people, perhaps it is still touching them whenever they read it for the first or the second, or the fifteenth time. If so, all I can say is it is my pleasure.

His comment threw me into a loop. I don’t generally believe most of the stuff I write is heartfelt or touching, let alone therapeutic. I see what I write as the thoughts of my psyche, always revolving around instances which may have no outlying significance, but which, within, are bursting with importance.

His comment caused me to evolve. Where previously I had been writing for the sake of my own sanity, I was being forced to realize the impact of my words. It is not for my sake that I was given the ability to write, it is for those who read the words and receive some emotion, some feeling which reaches to their core. It is for those who cannot themselves speak of what they experience, and who would rather see their beliefs and desires and fears expressed for them.

Writing isn’t for the writers. Writing is for the readers.

A year in, I have changed, contrary to the thoughts of my younger self. This blog is more than just an outpouring of random thoughts of a southpaw–it’s an outlet that can help people understand themselves, so they can be what they were meant to be, or do, or create. It took almost a year for me to see it, others, I suppose, less; but don’t we all at first ignore the perspectives of others towards ourselves?

I think we do, but, I also think we eventually see the validity in the opinions of those others, as well the vitalness of what they say and how it relates to us. A matter of perspective, really.

Thank you, Readers, for helping me see the weight of words on the heart.

Thank you, Readers, for sticking with my cheesy voice for a whole year.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

Novels Are Tough

Well, I finally finished writing it. It’s simple now, right? All I have to do is send in the manuscript to a publishing company, say, “read my shit,” and it’ll be accomplished, right?

Riiiiighhhht?

God, talking to you guys is like talking to a brick wall. Seriously, do you need some water? Are your throats parched? Worst. Audience. Ever.

I was saying–look at that, you threw me off track. Novels are not an easy task, and I learned that the hard way, having written two in almost under a year. Young amateur like me, I thought, “boy, oh, boy, I can’t wait to get these ideas down on paper!” And it’s not a bad idea, just a lot of time to work on one book over another.

It’s like a coin flip: you have to decide which one you want to complete first, usually that is the one with more promise–the one with a story that makes you sob whenever you read a particular scene. Hard choices, I tell ya, not one of them is easier; however, it is so worth it.

Novels fulfill you in some crazy writing way, as if Buddha and Gandhi had a brain child, and it was the nirvana that comes from scrawling all those thoughts down on paper, or laptop, or tissue/napkin–hey, it happens. You put so much of yourself into the darn thing, once you’ve finished it, a piece of your heart has broken off and is left in the book forever…or, until you rewrite it, again and again and again and–

Actually, I never get it when people are always complaining about how many rewrites they have to complete. Average Joe says he has to do seven rewrites. How in the holy hell is that possible? Then Average Joe’s cousin, Simple Bob, talks about his eleven rewrites! Oh Lord, get me an oxygen mask–I’m running out of air because I’m screaming my lungs out!

I could not stand it if I had to rewrites over the number three, maybe that’s just me–and yes, it probably is just me. Please excuse my out-of-this-world perspective; it’s only a little  strange, like me, in general.

But I’ll let you all get back to your reading and writing and eating and shi–whoah, let’s not go there, shall we? Getting a tad tipsy, aren’t we? Been drinking too much off the water fountain?

How about we get that book published, then you can go crazy.

Unless I already am crazy…

Think daily,

A Southpaw

This Time I Confused C.J Box

A week ago–don’t ask me why I didn’t inform you guys earlier–I met a writer named C.J Box, an interesting dude. Have no idea if any of you have heard of Mr. Box, let alone read his books. Honestly, until then, I had not read one either, so…joke’s on me. Ha ha. Funny.

I was invited to an award luncheon by my local library. The primary reason: I got third place in a mystery story contest. Fun stuff. Anyway, got there, met some folks–isn’t that awkward table talk just the best?–and ate a tasty salad, a tasty chicken, with tasty potatoes and green beans; and, oh, don’t let me forget the delicious chocolate something that looked like a cake, yet tasted like a fondue. I got full pretty fast–but, I am a runner, so…

The luncheon was created around two artists receiving awards, one of those being C.J Box, and the other a kind, local artist by the name of Charles Rockey, who is also a spectacular person, and I love his views on what art should be. It was a meeting of the minds, in other words.

So, get this, I show up to the thing, thinking, “okay, not the only teenager here–won’t be that awkward;” and, lo and behold, there is nothing but a mass of middle-aged men and women putting their fancy fur coats on the coat rack and fawning over the stack of C.J Box books. Then there’s me, a bearded teen in an enormous leather jacket, with a book in one pocket, and two bouncy balls in the other. I smiled at people. Those same people smiled back–some rolled their eyes after smiling, but that’s not the point.

For the most part, I stood around, humming to myself, until the doors opened and we were allowed to go take our seats in the ballroom. A bunch of kids and a few adults sat beside me, and we talked. Thankfully, the awkwardness died out around minute fifteen of companionship. All of the kids were writers who had placed in the contest, but I cannot tell you how the adults got there. I never did ask.

Rockey ended up being sick, unable to show himself, but he made sure a two dimensional bust of himself was present. His daughter shared his words, and they were quite touching; for, to have that feeling of sensing great artistry is hard to come across sometimes. By the way, his book of drawings and stories–a work of fifteen years–was selling for 250 dollars.

Us writers had a chance to talk to C.J Box before he spoke his piece, so, me being me, I went up ready to ask him a question. After we took a picture, he shook my hand and said, “Now, did you have something you wanted to ask me?”

I said, “Are you a plotter or a pantser?”

He squinted a moment, opened his mouth as if to speak, closed it, and said, “A plotter or a   what?”

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a pantser is someone who uses no plans to write stories, but goes with the flow, as they like to politely say. I have confessed to being one myself, since I hate planning out stories.

He told me he outlined every aspect of his story; and, inside, I was wondering how someone could pull that off without getting bored of the story. I spend around four to five months on a novel, and that is without planning. How on Earth can a person plan as long as it takes to plan, then actually write the thing down, and add in a few rewrites afterwards?

Now, I know some of you are shaking your heads at my close-mindedness, but you gotta remember that I’m a teenager, and it is hard to come by these things adults call brains sometimes. I mean, do we have to get a surgeon in here? Feeling empty!

Mr. Box had some great advice in his talk, so I told him after the luncheon had ended and  he was signing my book at his tiny table. I think I was the second to last person in the line. See, I had been smart and waited for all the other guests to get their books signed in the beginning–how’s that teenage brain working now, huh? He said the expected good luck and all that jazz, but he had one more tidbit I thought was hilarious.

Want to know it? Do you really?

Get ready for 25 years of hell.

And I thought, “Buddy, I’m already going through it.”

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

 

 

 

Sunshine Comes Around

Sometimes it can get dark, and, for most of us–if not all of us–that is a relatable fact. Life is not always this rainbow filled paradise that someone stirred up inside a milkshake, it’s actually a road that changes quite often.

Some say it’s a tough road, some a pleasurable road.

Me?

I think it’s just a road, dependent on what you yourself call it. I am not walking the same road as someone halfway across the world–no way is that possible; but they could be wishing they were walking my road, I could be wishing I was walking theirs.

As I sit here and chomp on Easter chocolate, I think about times I’ve wished to walk another road, or, even, to stop walking it entirely. Grim, I know; and, trust me, I never want to find myself thinking thoughts like that again. But you can’t build a wall around everything.

For me, I think, that can be easy to forget, maybe for others it is, too. Acting as if you can move through the world and be indestructible–I’m a teenager, whaddya gonna do, sue me?–it can size you up pretty well in your mind, then, when you think you have it great and the troubles are all fading, the tiniest thing breaks through your defense and crushes  you.

I had dark thoughts. Thankfully, they passed, but when I thought them, when I was in that stage, where it feels like a million dumbbells are pressing on your chest and you’re suffocating from the immense weight so badly, that any chance to remove the weight, the insanity, the stress, is taken, and it is taken with haste.

I felt decrepit, an old man walking in a teenage body; there were times I felt weak, unable to accomplish the routines I was committed to so fondly; and there were times I wanted to get away from it all–would a miracle show up and transport me from this hell that seemed never-ending?

Folding inwards was the route to my happy place, going deeper into my mind than I had in years. Night after night, I plugged away at a novel in which every dark ingredient of my conscience was added to this infesting depression–it was, at times, heartbreaking, blissful, tragic; and, when I reached the ending, both satisfying and saddening.

If you lose yourself, lose who you are, not who you think you are–the grit and bones of yourself–it can be shattering: you can look at the world in such a way that the sky seems to always be cloudy, that it contains these tumultuous emotions and is waiting for the perfect opportunity to barf it all over you. No one around you reveals their true self, that it’s always one mask or another, then you realize you’re the one who is wearing different masks, and now they’re worn and battered from constant use.

It almost happened to me, for about five minutes. It was draining, and; frankly, I have never been in a darker place. From my point of view, however, what else had I to do? A family member was going through cancer, suffering so often, and so much, it got to be unbearable to stay in the house. All of our solutions were going to shit, one after another the doctors kept coming up with blanks. And I felt it was up to me to maintain happiness in my family, each member dealing with their stress in their personal ways, while I was stuck in between a rift of sunshine and darkness–and eventually the darkness overcame the sun, as much as it hurt to know.

“How do you get around that?” I asked myself, and the truest answer for me was, keep writing, keep doing what you love, what keeps you sane. I did. I finished my novel, the darkest story I have ever written, and within those words was the five minutes of total surrender. I still get a chill when I read the scene, as it is personal and full of hatred at everything, regardless of how much these things had supported me beforehand.

I write this because I know I’m not alone. Millions of people go through the worst times of their lives, worse than my own experiences by miles, and many of those people have trouble finding a crack in their storms of darkness.

I write this because I want you all to remember sunshine comes around. It may not seem so at the present, but it is fighting to reach you, all the people surrounding you, who love you, would lay down their lives to help you see the light, if only for five minutes.

And sometimes, five minutes is all you need.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

Oh, Boy, Another Writing Rejection

This has to be, what, the thirteenth or fourteenth time I have been rejected by a short story magazine? Just so you know, I keep count–there’s this stack of rejection sticky notes hanging on my cork board, stuck to it by a thumbtack. They’re accumulating, so, in a way,  I suppose that’s a good thing, getting my stories out there and what not, even if they don’t make it.

I got this batch of short stories, at least seven of those puppies, waiting on special opportunities to free themselves and go out to those great readers that I will have someday. You see, there is no way I’m giving up. I’m gonna shoot off stories until I get published, damn it! And you can take that to the bank, or the publishing company…or wherever you stow your own stories, be it in a crate or a refrigerator.

Fun Fact: Tom Wolfe wrote on top of a refrigerator. Yeah, try that one on for size, you chair lovers.

Rejection is not so bad to me, most of the time. I view my failures as stepping stones, telling myself, “okay, buddy, you didn’t get in this time, but what can you do next time to make sure you receive a personal rejection instead of a form rejection?”

Oh, don’t you just get sick of those? It starts off all kind, “Thank you for submitting, such-and-such to our splendid magazine,” then comes the hammer to the gut, “but we do not think it exactly fits our tastes,” as if, instead of being publishers, they pursued a life of culinary critique. Ah, yes, hand me the fried lobster, would you, dear writer? In the end, they sometimes give you a little compliment, wish you luck, the sort of stuff that makes  you want to nod your head while gorging on a Klondike Bar, not me personally, but, hey, whatever works.

I persevere, however. I fight the good fight and write once more into the night. Ah-ha, it did rhyme! I then search the darkest corners of the Internet for magazines accepting stories and blast ’em off, like Buzz Lightyear blasted Toy Story to the top of the Box Office. You go, Buzz! Be a friggin’ incredible Space Ranger! I’m gonna stay here and write some more stories.

Just can’t wait until I get done with these two novels, then we’ll see how hard it is to get published. Oh, you betcha, it’ll be a trial–several trials, in actuality–but I am ready to kick it old school and get my stuff out there!

Whoo! Whoo-hoo! Writing rocks, dudes! Cowabunga!

Ah, crap, I think I stepped too far into the surfer lingo, ’cause all of a sudden I’m in the ocean. Well, the laptop’s sinking now, so…I guess…wait…I think…I’m…breaking up…the connection…seems…to be…going on…the fritz…

Later…dudes…and…dudettes…

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

Brain Vomit: Creating and Editing Stories

There comes to me to be two great parts of writing. The Creating and the Editing.

Creating is fun because–well, why is it fun? Is it that we’re bringing to life these splendid, and sometimes not so splendid, characters who, in a way, are foggy representations of ourselves and those around us? Is it that we can meet people without even leaving our office? They are real, really! Or is it that we have a drive–an insatiable hunger–to produce   stories to change the world and spread global peace and cure the hunger epidemic and hand out Nobel Prizes like Hershey chocolate bars?

I think that applies to all but the latter.

I can create for who knows how long. One novel took me nearly six months to complete–and that was the first draft, currently it is in its second draft. My other novel took me four months; and, truth be told, it was harder to write. So, it depends. A single short story may take you a month. A single novel may take you five years, make it six if you want to beat Tolstoy and Hugo.

Then–[lightning sounds and a hissing cat]

IT IS TIME FOR…

EDITING!

Yes, scream, scream and bang your heads against the wall! The dreaded editing monster has returned to wreak havoc on your precious little writing brains and hands–and, worst of all, your time!

But I don’t have an hour and a half to spare! 

Wipe up those tears, crybaby, and make it ten minutes a day! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Side note: I was having fun just inserting those laughs, had to force myself to stop.

Editing was a hated task of mine…when I was fourteen. I’d finish a story, usually between fifteen or twenty pages; read it to my family, who sometimes fell asleep during those times; and stuff it inside a binder or send it off to a publishing company.

Random House, here I come! What? A piece of shit? Excuse me? 

Now, quite obviously, I have seen the error of my ways and am editing constantly. Seriously, dude, it’s an eight hour grind, totally not tubular or radical at all. I finish a short story and start the editing process the night after. For me, the whole set of writing and editing one of those takes near to nine days; some of you may be different, and that is A-okay.

What works for you, works for you.

Yeah. I can feel the inspiration surging through us. Go Writers. Blow the trumpets.

You can be a Creator or an Editor, or you can be both. But those guys are nerds, am I right? Eh? Anyone want to laugh? Who honestly edits and creates? It’s too much of a chore. Everybody knows the surefire way to becoming an excellent writer is by watching crap loads of television, pouring grape juice on your manuscripts, and shouting at your computer because it won’t invent the story of the century at your command.

Sure, I know that club. It’s called Dead End.

Think daily, 

A Southpaw

Note: We made it to eighty posts! Let them eat cake! Thank you for staying with me so long!

And I don’t really have cake. That was a joke. Sorry.

Brain Vomit: Pantsers and Seaters

All you writers out there; yes, I am even talking to you, Man Who Uses A Fountain Pen On All Of His Manuscripts, I have a revelation–writing is a flooding of the mind, the gates open and the brain is drowned in tidal waves of words.

That sounds badass when I put it that way, not to toot my own horn–

Any who…

All of us have varied methods of writing, some like to write a certain number of hours or minutes–two hours is a good amount for me–and others prefer a trusty word count limit between 1000 and 2000 words…some go to 6000, those are the outliers…don’t tell them I said that.

Whatever methods we use work for us; well, they have to–what the hell is the point of organizing all this writing shit if it turns out to be Dumpster material in the end?

Of course, organization can take its own forms. Most like to call them Seaters or Pantsers–I am wondering who came up with those because the latter seems like it was meant to sound immature…I identity with the Pantsers, just unbuckle that belt–but I am kidding…in reality a Pantser could not give two coal heaps about a written plan and decide to, like the Hippies of old, go with the flow, dude–cause, why not?

In a world of Seaters I have been criticized as a Pantser–not many like to take a leap of faith and rely on the good ole’ Muse to supply with them a Pass Go and Collect $200 dollars card. Those who do know how relaxing, and, unavoidably, how stressful, it can be. For Chrissakes, you’re writing in your underwear, how can it not be more stressful?

But I am not here to convert writers to the dark Pantser side of the Force.

Sometimes, and this has happened frequently to me while writing novels, I curse my Pantser beliefs and decide to migrate to the realm of the Seaters; but each time I get freaked because I’m worried the story is going to suffer from my change of perspective.

It is difficult to plan out a novel, let alone a short story, and I commend the writers who take the extra time to do so. Being a Seater means sketching out the characters and the setting and the conflict all before actually writing the first draft–I wonder they don’t get bored from figuring out how the story ends and who the characters are inside and out so early.

See, for every fifteen Seaters, there are thirty Pantsers.

The writing world has to have both perspectives to ensure different types of literature; one can never be the same as the next, as they say.

Because repetitiveness is just plain dull.

Writers reading this, tell me one thing–when you are Pantsing, that sounds bad, or Seating, your stories, when does it get to the point where you ask yourself, “What the hell am I doing?” and change faiths on a dime? Or does it ever get there?

Now, if you’ll excuse me–I have to get back to Pantsing.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

Brain Vomit: The Fragility Taboo

Hemingway once said, “You should never talk about writing.” I am, of course, paraphrasing–Hemingway said something alike to that; but I was not fortunate enough to be alive in the twentieth century. Had I been…well, let’s not consider the outcome, shall we?

I believe his words…on some level, some level deep beneath all these cobwebs and dust piles in my brain–can we get a janitor out here? I paid the damn fee, man; you think someone would tidy up.

On another level; however, methinks Hemingway was reserved–wait, that’s a lie; he wrote about anything he did, from fishing to drinking. He chose to refrain from conversations about writing because, for him, it was taboo, not the all-the-rules-of-those-teeny-tiny-writing-groups taboo…the oh-shit-my-work-is-going-to-be-ruined-if-I-spill-the-smallest-word taboo.

That taboo. The one I used to suffer from.

When you’re sitting in a room alone, with but a laptop or a word processor or–if you’re going Stone Age–a typewriter it is too easy to start questioning all of it: the word count, the story, the characters, the size of the documents, page count, the writing itself! You go deranged–quit the writing and establish a smoothie stand in the middle of the Ozarks. Maybe a tad extreme…

Questioning. You question it. The writing. The writing questions you–crap, I screwed it up.

Get this: it is not like talking sports results. I cannot go into a bar–for one reason I am seventeen–and engage the bartender in lively conversation, like, say, “I loved how the game went last night. It was so wickedly cool when So-and-so knocked the thing into that bigger thing.” Put a spin of writing on it: “Loved how the words came rolling out of my head last night…you know, I was doubting myself…but now I see…”

All is well and good if you have a person to whom you can confess your writing aspirations and failures–they must be great listeners; but the reason most writers are not too keen on  sharing their favorite activity of the day is because of fear: they are frightened that any spoken word will shatter their fragile story and its routine.

The Fragility Taboo.

Just so you know, I am totally copyrighting that. You heard it here first, from me…here…in a blog…Yeah. Let’s move on to other things, shall we?

You cannot completely cure a writer of the Fragility Taboo. It’s like drinking–take away a pint for a week, in this case let the writer voice his doubts and concerns, and they will be slobbering after a cup and an area of silence. And do not try to cure them…they won’t appreciate it.

All a bystander can do is watch them think: day in and day out thought probing within themselves. If, at any point, they feel up to speaking, listen, and listen well, because they trust you enough to talk about that which makes them exceedingly nervous.

But what am I–a doctor or a writer?

Think daily,

A Southpaw

Brain Vomit: How To Write

I am a writer. Shocking news…I know; please, don’t all of you have a heart attack at once–I cannot stand writing induced heart attacks. Look at all those other writers who caused heart attacks: Stephen King; Guy De Maupassant; Bram Stoker…Dr. Seuss. It goes on for a while…

I am a writer and I like writing.

Enough said.

Time for the “Think daily”–what’s that? I didn’t talk about writing? Of course I did–I mentioned how writing is an escape route; and, in a story, it is not you who controls the characters but the characters who control you. Dun Dun Duunnnn! Excellent B-horror movie material for all you fledgling movie directors…enjoy, be merry; but remember I accept checks of up to 200 dollars. Toasters just ain’t that cheap any more, folks.

Not as if I wrote a list or anything: I may have some pointers; but, listen, I’m a seventeen year old–what the hell do I know about writing? You put a pen on a paper and let your brain vomit. I really can’t say more. Okay…maybe you scrape off the vomit–the little carrot giblets– and spread some tofu on that sucker, adding a bit of tasteful flavor to your literary work. I forgot–then you turn on a box fan to the highest setting and spray paint your artist studio in tofu vomit…it’ll be hard to tell the difference…Whatever picture shows up, be it a portrait of Jesus Christ or the McDonalds arches; that is the personality of your story.

Then…if you feel up to it…you take a fork from your silverware drawer, a nice thick fork; and walking up to that beauteous Michelangelo-died-of-shock wall stab those prongs into the glob and pile it into…a manilla folder–for storage.

What, did you think I was gonna say your mouth?

Get your head out of the gutter.

Think daily,

A Southpaw