.I ran once again into an old issue: the way a story doesn't look remotely the same in the trenches as it does at the 30,000 foot level.
Here's something that'll either come as a shocker or Jack's Complete Lack Of Surprise: I've already started outlining my next novel. No title yet -- I had a title, a leftover from a previous project with some distantly similar DNA, but it no longer fit the flavor of the new project, and so out it went. But I have an idea, a story, and a cast. And in the process of jiggering all that together to see how it could fit, I ran once again into an old issue: the way a story doesn't look remotely the same in the trenches as it does at the 30,000 foot level.
It doesn't mean the present moment is the only thing that exists, or that plans are foolish things.
Dean Sluyter once had a cute formulation I've made use of myself. Instead of saying "Today is the first day of the rest of your life," he suggested substituting like this: "Now is the only moment of the rest of your life."
It's an extension of an idea you ought to know from me pretty well by now: the present moment is all we really have, and the only moment in which we can actually do anything. But it doesn't mean the present moment is the only thing that exists, or that plans are foolish things.
On "volume equals value for money" in books.
One culprit can be the misguided sense that volume equals value for money. Another is the odd association between physical heft and artistic or intellectual merit – “weighty” is a compliment, “slight” is an insult.
Pretty familiar points. It's easy to be misled, in any number of directions, about what the length or left of a book (or lack of same) can signify.
Heard you missed us?
Sorry about the protracted silence there. I had to travel for work (got to see my folks in the bargain) and ended up spending the following week swamped with all manner of things. But I've continued to work on that last, protracted round of edits for Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. "Protracted" does not suggest just how much of a Zeno's Paradox this experience has been; each successive round of edits leads to another, even more fine-grained round. At this rate I'm going to quit talking about a specific release date and just say, it'll be ready when it's ready.
Steve has some notes on why authors (him included) come down with Impostor Syndrome.
Steve has some notes on why authors (him included) come down with Impostor Syndrome:
First, writing is not an exact science unless your subject is very exact and like a science. Because of this there’s no exact way to know you’re doing it right and certainly no way to know you’re doing it perfectly. This makes it easy to imagine all the things you could do differently and never think of “right enough” – or developing your own standards.
Secondly, writers are imaginative. We can come up with all sorts of ways to decide how bad we are. We turn imagination on ourselves.
I was talking before about how we need to think of creative work in terms of palettes and not hierarchies, and Steve's notes feed back into that line of thinking.
Kevin Drum dropped an aphorism worth repeating: "When you write, pretend you’re writing for people you respect."
Kevin Drum, in a recent piece on the way Twitter has degraded online discourse, dropped an aphorism that's worth repeating: "When you write, pretend you’re writing for people you respect."
A world where we mandate weirdness is just as unproductive as a world where we mandate its removal.
Kenny Shopsin died earlier this week.
New Yorkers would know him; I don't know if his legend spread much beyond that burg. He ran a grocery store that eventually turned into a restaurant, and both places (from what I've gleaned of the way people talked about them) were direct reflections of the man who ran them. Not easy to like, not always palatable. He tossed people out for violating rules that changed often, like the use of cellphones in the place, or saying things like "I'll have what s/he's having."
You didn't go there for the food or the service. You went there because Kenny was an original and the number of truly original experiences in the world is minute by definition, and originals are always a pain in the butt.
"...there’s a chance if you’re inspired by an author or a creator, you won’t do it quite right."
Steve makes a tremendously important point:
... my major influences were also ones influencing my flaws. Allow me to explain:
First, there’s a chance if you’re inspired by an author or a creator, you won’t do it quite right.
Second, you may make the same mistakes your inspiration makes – and likely being less polished than they, you’ll make them worse.
Third, your inspirations together may not sit quite right. You need to find a way to fuse them into a whole.
All of these are things I've realized at one point or another on my own, in different ways.
I have long held a motto of my own that I think is an echo of what Steve is putting out here: Palettes, not hierarchies.
Every so often Steven Savage writes what amounts to a manifesto of creativity. The latest is "No More Heroes – But A Legion Of Them", and it is essentially an attack on the idea of big creative tentpoles as the model for others to follow. I liked the points he made and the recommendations he offered, this one in particular:
I do believe we should share literature and media, but no more preaching. Let’s encourage people to enjoy things but let’s stop pursuing the next big thing – it’s wearing us out and wearing us down. It’s tiring to have so many must haves. Let’s make offerings not demands.
"Beginner's mind" is not something we can impose on others.
A karate teacher I met years ago came from Okinawa and was trying to give us American students a pep talk. He said that to be really good—at anything —you have to be a little stupid. It’s the same idea. He used the example of digging post holes. It’s repetitive work—there’s a tool you stick in the ground to pull up the dirt, and that makes the hole. You just do it again, and you do it again. He said, there’s a particular kind of mind that can do that, that can say, “I’m going to wake up today and I’m going to dig post holes, and I’m going to do that until the end of the day, and then tomorrow, because it’s my job, I’m going to wake up and I’m going to dig post holes again.” Smart people, he said, can’t do that. They’ll overthink it. They’ll ask themselves in every gesture, why am I doing this? Why am I here? What does this mean? What does this mean about me? What does this mean about my life? If you’re thinking that way, you can’t do it for a day, much less for a lifetime.
To dig really deep—into Zen, into an art, into a relationship, into your work—you have to be able to just do something over and over and over again, without asking why. This is true from the moment of waking up. If you’ve ever heard the alarm in the morning and lain in bed thinking, “Why? Why do I even get up in the morning?” then you’re being too smart for your own good.
This page contains an archive of posts in the category Uncategorized / General for the month of September 2018.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind