• Saturday, July 30, 2011 2 comments
I'm taking a hiatus from the blog. My plan is to be back on here and posting regularly around the time of August 10th-12th. The reasoning is pretty straightforward - I'm not writing a lot, and the writing I do have to do is mostly private in nature [reviews, letters, other correspondence, etc]. I'm also having someone come and visit me soon - a rare occurrence in the post-college years, and I'm treating it a like a vacation

I wouldn't normally do this, and I might not stick to it. But for those who do check this space and support me, I want you to know that the two weeks or so that I'm gone aren't indicative of anything, and that I will be back. I can still be reached by all the usual methods, and don't take this as a sign to not bother me with things - I'll still be available, I'm just taking the pressure off myself here while I apply it to other areas.

This is probably all for the best. I'm clearly struggling with some things as far as my creative output goes, and even though I'm not the optimistic sort, this seems like the right move to make to help fix that. I'm big on saying the obvious things - my previous post was all about saying what I didn't want to say, that I was dealing with writer's block. This post is me saying that I need some time to get other things done, regroup, recharge the batteries, and then come back serious about getting into a groove with my work again.

I'll be back soon. Promise.

The Doldrums

• Wednesday, July 20, 2011 2 comments
Just polished off a book review. I have taken way too long to do this one, considering the book was finished ages ago, and getting out ahead of these things tends to be how I like to operate. Also, I get paid more. Which is plus.

Let's talk about accomplishments. Back in January, I had kind of a moment. I was watching an episode of "Always Sunny..." where The Gang wanted to buy some cocaine... actually, I think they wanted to by some pills, to sell, so they could afford some cocaine... which they actually sold to the guy they were trying to buy it from in the first place. Anyway, there was this moment where they needed to come up with the money, and Mac, Charlie, and Dennis didn't have any to chip in, prompting Sweet Dee to chime in with "How do three men in their thirties not have eight hundred dollars between them?"

I don't know why that bugged me, because I am neither three men [despite the rumors] nor am in my thirties yet. But at the time, my bank account was not what you'd call... ah, flush, and a couple of other things came up that made me realize building up a little money to have in the bank was not the worst idea for a New Year's resolution. So, the boy who never made New Year's resolutions made a couple, and that was one of them. I didn't announce any of them, not "officially" and if I have mentioned them, I'm sure I haven't mentioned them in this context and I won't.

Anyway, my point. And about a month and a half ago, thanks to a little luck, I achieved that resolution and then some, which is really no small feat if you're like me and you lack full time employment or the hustle which allows good freelancers to make full time employment money. I set a goal, and I accomplished it, and I feel better for it. A little padding. A little protection. Not a lot. But definitely enough.

And I feel okay.

Now, why am I mentioning this now? Hell, why am I mentioning finishing a book review, when that too usually does not make the blog in any significant way.

Honest fact, I kind of need to look on the bright side a little, as far as achieving goes. Which is weird for me. I generally find "achievers" kind of sickening. Oh, look, Facebook status message about what I got done today. Oh, hey, Twitter post of my word count. Oh, here, blog post on how you can be as successful as me. Gag. Fist pumping for accomplishment I get, encourage, and do not begrudge [and trust me, if you are suddenly worried I'm calling you out, I am not, and you are in this camp that I get, encourage, and do not begrudge], but celebrating achieving instead of the achievement, just for the sake of showing how well you achieve is what keeps talented folk up at night worrying that because they don't work like you, they are not really talented folk. But today, exception. I've done a few things. Need to focus on that.

Why? Good question. I'm suffering here, and I've been avoiding using the term "writer's block" so much that I think it's safe to say that is what has afflicted me. I don't feel particular well, talented, or creative. I spend hours staring at the blinking cursor, getting to a paragraph and a half and deleting... well, utter, unsalvageable garbage. I can't get traction, and I haven't really even had much luck when it comes to transcribing notes, or even doing edits on old work. The people I tend to have creative conversations with are not around, and I have not been seeing much movement on the projects I do have going. There are good reasons for all of this.

But I am... discouraged.

My plan to "fix" this is pretty simple. Rachael has sent me a script of hers to check out, which I'm sure will be excellent, and I have a stack of unread books, and a lot of comics to get through. It has always been my philosophy that the work of others is the best inspiration. I've also got a stack of notebooks and moleskins full, or at least half full, that I'm going to pick through, while hoping something can get me excited and working again. I wouldn't mind getting "The Tagalong" into a few more hands, either.

Because let's face it, I have not accomplished much - this blog has a lot of dead or unfinished projects cataloged in it, but that fact is so much easier for me to stomach if I'm producing. And right now, I'm not. I want to write. I'm trying. It's not coming. That's right, the kid who could barely function when his dad died, but could still start penning "Nova" can't write when he wants to. No. I don't care for that.

I've looked back at the last couple blog entries, and seen myself falling into that cliche habit of apologizing for not posting more. It occurs to me now when I do that, I am forgetting what this space is for - as it was not just meant to be a chronicle for my process, but it was meant to stand as a public forum where I could hold myself accountable to the projects I decided to undertake. Blogging less has nothing to do with blogging - it means I'm working less, and therefore I have less to blog about. As defeatist as the whole end of this post may sound, I am kicking myself the most for not remembering that. I blog when I'm writing. Blogging keeps me writing. This is not a chicken or the egg kind of thing that I'm talking about.

If it were possible to just flick myself in the brain for that one, I would.

I needed the week.

• Tuesday, July 12, 2011 2 comments
Woke up from a couple hours sleep, realized I should really get back to this.

Yeah. A whole week not blogging is not great coming from the guy who gave the big speech about getting back into it. Baby steps? No real excuse.

There's also no good way to say that some things just came down the pipe on me, and I think I was more than a little exhausted from all the paying work, so the past several days have just been days which I haven't wanted to write, and when I tried [I had a really good angle on one of those essays, I thought], it really didn't come. And that's... just what happens. We have dry periods.

It's really fashionable with nearly all the writers I know to write no matter what's going on with them - whether they have writer's block, or don't, whether they're dealing with emotional shit or not. Some quote about how you find you won't be able to tell what you wrote when you forced it, as opposed to when it comes naturally gets passed around on Twitter more than chlamydia on college campuses, and it's probably valid but it's just not how I work. Maybe, if that's actually true, one day.

But until then.

Right now it's more about just getting back on track. I felt like I was on a tear before my grandmother went into the hospital, and since then I just haven't been as productive. I had a plan then, actually a couple. Getting back to "The Tagalong" should be priority one, but I've been looking a lot at my outline for "Cherry Stone" when I wake up every morning. It's probably just because that moleskin is easier to pull into bed than my laptop, but still. There's no reason I can't work on both. I just need to get motivated again.

Haven't heard from Ander, but again, I haven't really been talking to many people this past week. No link this post, his website is private at the moment, probably an indication he's shaking some things up again, as I'm sure he has a ton of new pieces to post from working with Eric. So no word on "VHS Generation" - though, honestly, he might be waiting to hear from me. I spoke to Justin the other day, he and his wife Staci had some amazing work in a gallery in Huntington, and I went to that [ran into Kyle too - always good to see him, he seems well]. Justin is currently doing some drawing for other projects, but he's also picked up the comic [Re: Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name] again, and things seem to be progressing. He also gave me something of his, a rough outline for a project he's been talking about doing for as long as we've been working together, and I'm going to take a look at it for him.

I have spent entirely too much money on myself the past few days - mostly what you'd expect from me, books and the like, but I also picked up a new tie, as my woven ones seem a little lowbrow for the wedding coming up, and also a new pair of shoes, not for the wedding, but more because my current pair are awful to walk in, and I'm trying to get a little more active. A lot of my best inspiration came while on long walks, and even though it didn't improve my physique, I felt a great deal healthier when I actually got out, moved around a little more.

The "big" purchase [the shoes cost more...ugh] was me biting the bullet and getting a webcam. I passed on it as an option when I bought this laptop originally, because it saved me somewhere in the era of eighty bucks which I could then put towards processing power. In retrospect, even with the few problems I've had with this machine, I've been wishing I wouldn't have went as budget as I did, and want to start buying a few items that will supplement it, make up for the shortcomings I've mostly just been working around, and one of those things was a web camera. I Skype with enough people that it's probably not the worst investment, and there are some projects I'm thinking about trying my hand at Kickstarter to fund - mind you, that last thing is more hypothetical at moment, but not having the camera, not being able to make a video and say "Hey, I'm Randall, and I'm working on this..." has been one of those little stopping points in my head that I just don't need there anymore.

Anything else that comes out of this is cake - I might even try video blogging. I'm not sure about that one, it was just suggested [suggested in a way that implied that video blogs are stupid, and just the fear that mine might be stupid was no reason not to try it, but still, suggested], though I never could stand the sound of my own voice played back to me. I feel a little like this is one of those things that I can sense the potential in, but might not be clever enough to tap into.

So I don't know. You ever have a time in your life where the things that come naturally suddenly seem hard? Where stuff you want to do, really want to do, feels like a chore? I have these moments. Like there's a barrier - a membrane, cutting me off from what I want to do, an obstacle that I need to push past, to break through. Which is possible, but not easy, and takes an effort great enough that I'm not always sure I can keep the momentum up once I can get through. Doubt. Doubt fucks with everything.

That's kind of topical if you know it.


• Friday, July 1, 2011 4 comments
No, not the fun ones.

I'm not much for giving "writer's advice." Short of my big thing about outlines [seriously, kids. Write outlines], I don't think I've ever done that here. A couple of times I've even spent all night writing entries about various "rules" or "tips and tricks" that I ended up not pressing publish on, just because I just don't feel comfortable doing that right now.

But I really have to get this off my chest.

First, let me say, I don’t like prescriptivism. Trying to jam everyone into a single box, trying to make everyone play by the same set of rules, it doesn’t work. Now, true, people who are coping with stringent rules will often make great things, and some folks will even go so far as to put certain restrictions on themselves willingly in hopes it will push them to produce something they wouldn't normally. And if that helps, great. That’s completely, 100% your call. And if you don't want to take that on, if you don't need that - awesome.

All that aside, if you are writing a story, and you cannot sum that story up in a single sentence, then it is probably not a very good story. Is it filled with many, many great ideas? Possibly. Is the story you’re telling necessarily bad, if you can’t do that? Of course not. Are there stories that doing this would be very hard, if not impossible, and they still manage to be good? Maybe. I guess. Occasionally.

But probably not. And if there are, it’s definitely not good to assume that you are so great, that you're story is so great, that you are one of the exceptions to this particular rule.

Look. I get it. Your story is tip-top. You’re breaking boundaries. You’re tying things together that have never been tied together before [you’re not, but you feel that way, and that feeling is important]. You don’t want to be pigeonholed, and you do not want the nuance of your narrative stifled by trying to sum it up in only a handful of words. I've been there. But here’s the thing.

That one sentence? That short, to-the-point way of telling everyone else what you’re writing about, what your story is about? That’s the heart of your story. That’s what it’s about. Okay, maybe you don’t think that’s your story’s heart, but keeping with the organ theme, it is at least the skin of your story, it is what’s holding everything in there together, and inside, and keeping your messy narrative guts from falling out all over the place, and ruining the carpet, and distracting from all the great things that are in your story.

One line. One sentence. It can be a compound sentence if you must. God created commas for a reason, after all. But make sure you can do it. It’s important. Because it’s your story, and you should know what it’s about. And if you can’t sum your story up in a single sentence, then guess what? You don’t know what it’s about.

And that's a one-liner. And if you can’t do it, then you don’t know what your story is about.