craft, creative writing, creativity, experience, process, writing

Patience and Process

Sit down, listen and I will share something I’ve learned.

I have learned this through pain and upset, which is how the best lessons are learned. Ask a thwarted lover, they will tell you, if they can manage to stop crying long enough for any degree of clarity.

The most difficult thing to learn when pursuing a goal, artistically or otherwise, is patience. Society is geared towards instant gratification, to the point that it sinks into the unconscious and you are unaware of how that desire has been stitched into you. So, for instance, when you’re writing and you want to get feedback even as the first draft resembles a hostage demand written by a dyslexic clown with a crayon between its teeth.

You know what I am talking about but you need to breathe through it.

I got your back on this. Trust me.

It never goes away, but you make your peace with it. It is a long game, and you have to approach these long periods as part of your training. Think of a montage in an action movie and use that time to educate and improve yourself. Develop a practice that can sustain you through those times. My patience is being tested whilst waiting for a nod from a publisher about the second book so having a process inures me to that, to a certain degree.

When I say that, I will break that down into stages so that we are clear on this matter, together, okay?

By that I mean, something that you commit to daily/weekly/monthly for an amount of time where you focus either on the act of, or learn something about your art form.

I write two pages a day, sometimes it is done in one heady rush, it can be awkward or slow but it gets done. That two pages can be part of a first draft, it can be editing towards a later draft, it can be two pages of a short story but it gets done.

Why?

OK, so my reasoning, and it is sourced in research and experience,

  • It gives you something to do whilst waiting for the time to pass. The devil makes work for idle hands, and all that. If you’re always working on something, you’re using that ambient emotional energy in a productive fashion.
  • You improve over an organic period of time, by working on it in small (manageable) increments without being consciously aware of it. I don’t believe in the idea of natural genius. There is talent, there is hard work that gets you to a level of talent and genius is normally the perfect storm of the two.
  • A little each day builds up courage, like saving pennies. I think it’s a good antidote to ‘writer’s block’ which I prefer to frame as resistance, and in turn, think it’s a fear of writing poorly. Don’t worry about it, get it down and get it done.
  • You get used to the idea of being productive regardless of circumstance. Writing to inspiration is great, but it is inconsistent and doesn’t lend itself to a professional mind set. I believe in being professional, it is a source of my personal enjoyment in the craft. Behaving like a professional tends to get you treated like one, and I believe in that attitude for a number of reasons. One, it lowers the pressure if you do get to that point and two, it lends itself to a better nuance of enjoyment when you are honing in on different levels of craft or the project. That’s before we get into things like manifestation and goal setting, which I probably won’t. A man has to keep something back, you know?

OK, so hopefully that gives you something to think about. Montage over.

If you have any questions, then please use the contact form and I will answer them. Anonymity is assured, should you wish and please put that in the body of the question so I know.

 

 

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Basics of Writing

Ok, so I have been writing a little while now, and have things to show for it, some of which are in arenas beyond here. Infernal Ink in April of this year and the For Her anthology in Cleiss Press (release tbc). I have an agent (Kelly Marshall at SMART Talent Agency), a writing practice and I must stress, I’ve written things, other than reams of material about writing advice. It’s a small distinction because the theories and practices of writing can generate a large amount of theories and esoterica related to it but I’ve learned there’s no substitute for doing and failing/succeeding.

Most writing advice offers the idea that you can avoid or circumvent mistakes and you should not do that, nor should you view them as mistakes or failures.

They are setbacks, roads taken and discarded. If you consider how we learn anything, it is through repetition, from walking and speaking through to everything else, then you should apply the same approach to writing. I don’t believe myself to be especially gifted or blessed, other than understanding that there is work and determination involved. What tends to happen is that you enjoy it enough that your brain forgets all the dead ends and you get lovely rushes of dopamine and serotonin when you get it right.

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, he tried and discarded thousands of variations that did not work until he found the one that did. Look up or around and see a light bulb, it is a tribute to the determination of one individual. See the same with a book or a short story or a poem.

Don’t worry about being good to start with, don’t worry about it at all.

Here’s an analogy I really like, it comes from the bass guitarist Victor Wooten. When you play air guitar, do you play any bum notes?

So the first basic is just to write it, put it down somewhere and go from beginning to end. Enjoy it the way a child would, without expectations or notions of quality. It is the simplest and most difficult notion attached to art, because you compare yourself to those who have been doing it for decades. It will not look like the work of anyone that you admire or even hate, but that’s okay.

The second basic notion is that you are not in competition with anyone other than yourself. The person you were yesterday.

No, note that I am not selling you anything, or even going that deep into it. The basics are there, within you. Flannery O’Connor once said a couple of things that stayed with me.

“Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”
Flannery O’Connor

It feels quite bitter that, but don’t let anyone dissuade you. If you enjoy it, then write or draw or paint, because art is healthy. If it gives you a reason to go on, then keep doing it.

If anyone wants me to continue these, let me know. There’s enough of this sort of thing out there, and I don’t disparage that, but I just want to give my version of it, which reflects my experiences thus far.

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If you have any questions that might be useful to other writers, please contact me and I will answer them in future editions.

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Spark

20161128_123452

Trials lie in wait

On every corner

I hold within

A spark of purpose

I am earth, air, fire, water

And all things

Within it

Undefined

By anything

Beyond will

And purpose.

Each quiet hour

Before dawn

Pen makes

Love to paper

Fingers seduce

The keyboard

If you would

Find me anywhere

Find

Me

There.

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Beneath An Open Sky, We Dance

20161125_123225

Skies open

Brilliant with light

True as anything

You’ve known

Dancing beneath as we

Grace one another 

With

Feelings

Rushing through

Pores and veins

Magical in it’s intensity

Huge in it’s intention

Mutual kindness continuing

Unwavering

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A Bridge For The Furies 5: Performance and Cocktails.

alienabar

(This is a photograph of a bar designed by HR Giger. I know, right?)

Previous episodes are here, here, here and here.

Cara ushered them through a set of double doors into a small lounge, where chairs shaped like clam shells were arranged around rectangular tables. Which would not have attracted anyone’s notice aside from the fact that everything floated a good foot above the floor.

Cara caught their mutual expressions of disbelief and laughed.

‘Rare earth magnets and molybdenum. They can take the weight of a Gysterfanica warpod, so we’ll be fine, I promise.’

She gestured towards the bar.

‘Now, I will get us drinks, and you have to trust me here. There are at least eighteen things on the menu that will kill you and about thirty that will turn you blind or insane.’

Drea chuckled and shook her head.

‘Sounds like my kind of bar. Although what the fuck is a Gysterwhatever?’

Gloria saw that Olivia had turned tense and pale, she put a hand on her shoulder and asked if she was okay. Olivia gave a tight nod and took a deep breath.

‘It’s a lot to take in, you know? My biggest concern was keeping the farm running and maybe someone to run it with, ya know?’

Gloria saw the pensive light in her eyes and expressed a true pang of sympathy for her. At least her and Drea had some form of pop culture to inoculate them against all of this, but Olivia was experiencing the cognitive dissonance that would result from giving a Victorian lady a Hitachi Magic Wand.

‘If it’s any consolation, I am ready to run around screaming at any possible minute. So look, let’s keep this in perspective. If you’re mad, then so am I and if we’re not, then we see what she has to say. Deal?’

Olivia managed a terse smile and put a callused hand out to shake. Gloria shook it and grinned, surprised at the strength she manifested in a causal handshake. Farm girls, she thought. The contact was enlivening and grounding, reminding her that she was not the only one going through this.

Cara came back with a black slate tablet and gestured to a nearby table.

‘Drea, a warpod is a species of an intelligent mollusc race that used to cause all kinds of shit, but they’re absolutely hilarious once you get over the whole cultural barrier. Now let’s sit down and I can fill you all in on the next bit.’

Drea frowned and pointed to the tablet in Cara’s hands.

‘Where are our drinks? If I’m going to listen to more space cosmic shit, then I want at least one entertaining anecdote to wake up with.’

Cara rolled her eyes and placed the tablet onto the table, where it sank into the surface with the ease of a pebble dropped into a body of water. Four tumblers emerged from the mass of the table and immediately filled with an orange carbonated liquid.  In the centre rose a small column that began to glow and hum with a sequence of different colours. The air around them vibrated and became tangible against their skins as they sat down.

Drea picked up the tumbler and took a sniff. It carried an oily, citrus scent and when she brought it to her lips, it was thick and warm with the aftertaste of bubbles. She set it down and stared into space for a second then looked at the three of them in turn.

‘When I used to watch Star Trek, they all used to drink these fruity, strange looking drinks and I always wondered how they tasted.’

Cara picked hers up and raised it.

‘Here’s to mayhem.’

The three women looked at one another, with mutual apprehension before Olivia and Gloria took sips of their drinks. When their powers of speech returned to him, Gloria asked if she could have a drop of water added to hers. Cara chuckled and said that she could, but only if she wanted it to explode in her lower intestine. Gloria set the drink down and it melted into the body of the table.

‘That’s a perfectly fine Undara Surprise you’re not drinking.’

Gloria winced and shook her head. She leaned forward, forearms resting on her thighs, afraid to touch the table in case it did something to her. She had always believed that the future would appear bizarre and at too high a velocity for a traveller from the past, but she could not say whether this was the future or not. Cara was the only recognizable human, and Gloria noted that her syntax and intonation had an odd, stilted quality to it.

‘I’ve had enough surprises to last me a lifetime. So, now that we’re all settled, why don’t you tell us what we’re supposed to do.’

Cara downed her drink in one and set it onto the table.

‘I like a woman who gets down to business. So, I’ve chosen the three of you-‘

Olivia coughed as she took another sip, with her eyes glazed over and a beatific smile on her face.

‘This stuff is…yeah…it kind of creeps up on you, don’t it?’

Drea tried to give her a thumbs up, but the brain-body connection that she took for granted had surrendered to whatever was in the drinks. Instead she gave a sloppy grin and tried to arrange her features into some kind of order that denoted mindfulness and concentration. She failed, but she figured it was worth the try.

‘It’s okay, it wears off in a bit if you just have the one, plus I’ve got RB’s if anyone’s a bit too off their tits.’

‘Arby’s?’ Gloria said.

Cara shook her head.

‘Receptor blockers, basically sobers you up  instantly. I swear by them, especially with the diplomatic functions I have to attend.’

Gloria sat back and decided to go with the confusion. Source yourself in nothingness, she told herself and let it all happen. She remembered the retreat at Spirit Rock meditation centre, how it had removed the thorn of grief left in her heart’s paw, but it still stung when she moved.

‘Anyway, so what makes us so special?’ Gloria said.

Cara pointed at her with her index finger and the platinum ring there began to glow with a soothing amber light.

‘You in particular, or in general?’

‘THIS BOY WEARS COVERS, KIND OF HIM TO FAINT.’

The four of them turned as a Klee cloud from earlier billowed into the room exuding drunken indignation, which resembled in it’s scent signature, a gas station bathroom at four a.m. Cara rolled her eyes.

Olivia raised her hand.

‘The guy said it was because ah can shoot.’

Gloria fought to keep the consternation from her face, for fear of offending Olivia, who had inspired a protectiveness in her even though they were roughly the same age. There was a lack of sophistication to her that Gloria warmed to, from the very first. Cara gave her the thumbs up.

‘Yes, you, my dear, are a regular Carlos Hathcock. Also you give off a tremendous amount of potential energy when viewed from my particular perspective.’

Drea sat back in her chair, cautious because she realised that she was sitting in something with no apparent means of support.

‘There’s better fighters than me, out there. No shame in that.’ she said.

Cara nodded, in agreement.

‘Again, I’m working from a particular set of criteria here. Sure, you may not be Ronda Rousey but all my data centred around you three as a cluster of possibility.’

Gloria chuckled.

‘You’re using English, but I will be damned if I know what you’re talking about.’

Cara’s humour left her and she fixed Gloria with a look that could freeze the blood in her veins.

‘I could give you reassuring techno babble, none of which you would understand and we could waste time. I chose you because all the horribly sophisticated intelligence arrays and the experiences I have had, most of which will have shortened my life expectancy by centuries said that you three would be the most effective means of subduing -‘

Olivia cocked an eyebrow.

‘Y’all said kill.’

Cara nodded and waved her off, her attention focused on Gloria like a magnifying glass on an anthill.

‘Subdue, kill, either way if we don’t stop the Leviathan, there will be months of diplomatic wrangling, some messy and futile military action and then nothing.’

‘Nothing doesn’t sound that bad.’ Drea said.

Cara blinked slowly and sat up, pulling her shoulders back and lifting her chin.

‘When I say nothing, because my fear is that Leviathan will eat creation itself, or enough of it to make sure that our lives, inconsequential as they may be, are no longer around to be mourned.’

Gloria tried to imagine nothingness, much like the concept of zero, it took a great deal to approximate the idea of it. Endless possibilities, ended and she would never see or experience any of it. She thought about it on a smaller, more manageable set of concepts. No more running in the mornings, no more books to be written or read. No more ‘I love yous’.

‘So come it falls to you?; Gloria said.

Cara winked at her.

‘You know how Bond was the bastard of the British Empire, you know, everyone knew it was him coming if you messed with the empire and he was going to kick seven shades of shit out of you, raid your liquor cabinet and shag your girlfriend?’

Gloria smiled, warmed by the endearing swagger that Cara projected.

‘You’re the alien equivalent.’ she said.

Cara winked at her and made finger pistols.

‘Got it in one, but part of it means that I get a degree of levity that means I can move resources around faster than organisations or governments can. You three are assets that all my intelligence shows to be the most effective, least messy way of sorting this out. I outfit you with the kit, point you in the right direction and we all go home at the end of the day. That’s really about it.’

Gloria chuckled and shook her head.

‘I write books, what possible kit do I think I can get from you?’

Cara reached inside her jacket and retrieved a slim case, the kind that you would find a decent fountain pen within, a gift set that looked classy but showed little to no consideration. She slid it across the table to Gloria.

Gloria looked down at it, then back up at Cara who gave her a challenging, smug expression. She opened it slowly then looked up and sneered.

‘False nails and contact lenses? How the fuck am I meant to save creation with that?”

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 

 

 

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A Bridge For The Furies: 2

gloomybridge

Part 1 is here

Gloria’s life could be measured in rituals. Her first was to get out of bed, throw on sweats and trainers, drink a cup of coffee and then hit the road. She ran to the bridge and back. It was a quiet stretch of road, and that time of the morning, no one was around. She lived out here precisely because there were vast stretches of silence that she could shout into and know that it was absorbed.

Perfect conditions for her writing.

She liked people, but was never sure that she could stand to be around them for any amount of time. She locked up, even though she knew that she didn’t have to.  She had learned about that the hard way. She started to run, to get away from the memory.

 

Gloria had whittled herself down to sinew. She knew how far she could push herself, but always wanted to go further. The writing was the most sane application of that impulse and that would come later. At that time of day, though, she ran.

The mist clung to the road and a bank of cold air met her as she started her run, letting her body remember the pain, then the pleasure. She could not say which she preferred, if anyone asked her.

She went deeper inside herself with each mile, focusing on the deep engine of her breath and letting the quiet majesty of the trees work their magic upon her. It was her hundredth run without him.

He had gone to get groceries, cook them both breakfast because she had forgotten to pick up eggs and he had rolled his eyes, called her a goofball and put on his shoes. She had sidled up to him with one of those side way bump and grinds that she did, pushing her warm hip against the small of his back and said she would keep the bed warm for him.

In the washed out, grey days and nights afterwards, she slept on the couch to keep the warmth of him still in the sheets. She would try and write, but nothing came out of her. So she ran, went back and looked at the blank page, smooth and devoid of anything. She wanted to trade places with it so much that she could not bring herself to mark it.

She started to feel the dull ache beginning in her hips and hamstrings, which meant that she was close to the bridge, she would stop and walk off the lactic acid build up, then run back to the house, shower and eat breakfast.

The bridge had always been there. It had borne endless winters and humid, torrid summers without complaint. She would walk across it, holding her breath until she got to the other side, make a wish and still believe that it would come true. She would talk about the running until her voice gave out, but the truth of it was that she did all so that she could walk across the bridge and make a wish.

She turned the corner and saw the man stood there, waving to her with a cigarette burning between his fingers. She missed cigarettes but she had managed ten years without them, and the constant test of will had smoothed over the jagged peaks of her withdrawal. That was also when she had subsisted on a diet of coffee, cigarettes and diet cola to keep her skinny. The smell of it wandered over to her, and she shook her head, upset that someone had to be out here, an absurd anger at the cosmic coincidences of life that made her feel petulant and small inside.

‘Hello, Gloria.’

She stopped. Her heartbeat fluttered with concern. She had dealt with convention crud, online reviews and all the forms of ugly compulsive interaction that a woman writing dealt with but this jangled her nerves. Her phone was back at the house, but out there there was nothing but the silence. It swallowed her cell phone signal as ably as her screams.

He finished his cigarette, stubbed it out on the heel of his shoe and pocketed it with a practised, smooth gesture. His smile faded, noting her apprehension and already moving to address it.

‘It’s okay, the last thing I’m here to do is cause you any trouble.’

She stood there, feeling the aches gathering together and telling her to run.

‘You don’t just walk up to people like that. I don’t know who the hell you are.’

He put his hands up and raised his eyebrows. He had dark-blond hair, streaked with charcoal and platinum and a crop of stubble that highlighted his angular, sharp features. She went dizzy when she saw the pointed ears peeking through the hair.

‘You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you. But I know you, Gloria.’

He had jewellery on his fingers, twisted and burnished into spirals and knots at which sat gleaming precious stones. He wore an olive-green leather coat over a crumpled white shirt and blue jeans, faded at the knee over black polished shoes.

‘That’s not helping you, whoever the fuck you are.’

She could punch, aim for his eyes, the jewellery on his fingers would cut her if he was going to hit her.

‘I know that you’re thinking that if I hit you, these rings would do a lot of damage.’

He put his hands in front of him, started to chant and stare at a point on the road a few feet ahead of her.

‘SOWAHIMTIPSNU’

The air sparked and seethed with an organic, ambient light like the luminescence of deep undersea creatures. It undulated and he splayed his fingers again.

‘SOWAHIMTIPSNU’

Gloria desperately wished for a pen and a piece of paper, to commit this to memory. The energy began to coalesce into the shape of a small bird.

‘SOWAHIMTIPSNU’

It held the shape well, but sacrificed the details of beak and feathers, for suggestions of the craft and the shifting, rainbow patterns of the matter that formed it. He stood back and swept his hands upwards. He grinned like a child and gazed into her eyes.

‘Tell me where it goes, Gloria.’

She sucked in a breath, watching it circle overhead.

‘It returns to the flaming forest, there is an egg that needs it’s attention and inside that egg lies the child who will grow to rule -‘

He tutted and shook his head.

‘Oi, no spoilers.’ He laughed with a confident chuckle and lowered his hands to his side.

Gloria shuddered. That phrase had been taunting her, afraid to leave the skull prison of her head and mark the page. She had not been able to even speak it, but here it had flowed from her lips like an unguarded criticism.

‘Who the fuck are you?’ she said. She sounded distant, subdued by this florid burst of insanity.

He watched the bird before clicking his fingers and on cue, it shot upwards into the sky, past the limits of her vision.

‘I’ve had a few names through the years. Bragi. Brahma. Manjushri. I like the way that the ‘bra’ sounds, but I’m just going by Manny today.’

Everything felt so far away and incredibly close at the same time. This was not insanity, this was like finding out that your whole life really was that cosmic joke that everyone else was in on but you.

‘What if I said that you writing again is the reason I came here?’

She put her hand over her mouth and started to giggle with hysteria.

‘Oh if Kelly’s put you up to this, you’re really really good.’

Manny shook his head and smiled.

‘Kelly has nothing to do with this. I’m here because some people need you to start writing again.’

Her laughter died in her throat and she stopped breathing.

‘Who are these people?’

Manny’s face looked pinched with concern.

‘Everyone.’

TO BE CONTINUED.

 

 

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Teeth

20161117_175100

My erudition

Is not deference

Let me show you

My teeth

The fur upon my chest

My thick thighs 

Broad back

To sweep you

Into my embrace

There is earth not dirt

On my soul

And you cannot wash it off

Once you surrender

Some small part

Of you remains

I clean you with my tongue

Words that speak

A fine, deep knowledge of you

And all your secrets are toys

For me to enjoy

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