Category Archives: Articles

Ifs, Ands, Or Buts

ifs ands or buts acrostic poem

Not your biggest problem
Of the day

There’s this song from the musical Working called “If I Could Have Been.” The first time I heard it, I laughed to myself a little because it’s so gloriously vague (“If I could’ve been what I could’ve been, I could’ve been somethin’.”), and all I could think was “That’s why you didn’t – you never had a specific plan or goal.” Harsh, yes, but true.

Even as I was enjoying the irony of the song, however, I was struck by the power of one line in particular:

“I never took no for an answer – it was tougher to fight all those ifs, ands, or buts.”

I think an artist of any kind has faced that struggle of being henpecked to death by other people’s doubts, ideas, and fears. In fact, I think it’s a common problem in any job. And in many ways, all those little attacks are much harder to deal with than a single “No.”

You see, no ends. The rest… not so much.


My Top 10 Posts: Happy 6th Month Anniversary!!!

I still can’t believe I wrote that right, but, yes, today marks the 6th month anniversary of starting this writing experiment. I am officially halfway through my year-long challenge of writing and posting something new every day. And what a trip it has been so far!

This blog has been through short stories, poems, bits of plays, ongoing novels, and even a webhost migration. Not to mention lots of new readers (thank you!!!). It seems only fitting to do something special, so why not celebrate with my 10 favorite posts from the 6 months so far?

I’ll tell you why not. That means I have to pick 10 favorite posts! (What? How?!)

Instead, I’ll say that I picked 10 of my favorite posts, and to be honest, the fact that it was hard to choose delights me. The fact that I still like and enjoy most of these posts months later means that I must be doing something right – however hard it makes picking out 10.

To make it easier, I removed the novels from the running (as an ongoing story, they get so much extra effort that it simply wouldn’t be fair to compare them to the rest!), and here are the 10 I finally decided on in no particular order:

10. “Not a What

There are days when I wish I’d actually said this in response to people. On the other hand, it always sounds a bit Dr. Seuss-ish to me. I may like the idea better than the poem.

9. “Can’t

I chose “Can’t” because I like the two angles it explores and the ambiguity between them. Plus, it’s a pretty universal issue, which I like in a poem. It’s also one of the earliest pieces from this experiment.

8. “Love

Speaking of universal issues, this is a requisite for poetry. If you’re writing poems, at least 1 has to be about love, right?

7. “Tangled Web

Spider-like, they sit and watch
Subtle, deceptive
Camouflaged
Hidden

read more.

6. “See the Headline: ’45 Minutes Stolen’

This is a bit lighter and fluffier than most of the other poems I’ve chosen, but it makes my literal mind happy. And it’s always fun to see evidence of my struggle against constantly rhyming.

5. “Or Not

A little more recent, this poem is another with an appealing ambiguity for universal issues. I wrote it in September, and I have a feeling I was facing some sort of decision at the time – but that’s a pretty safe guess (I was alive at the time, so…).

4. “Teatime

Although I’ve been choosing poems so far, “Teatime” is a little different. After months of promising to do a play or a bit of a play, this was the first to be posted. Even though it’s a better script for an online comic than an actual stage production, I enjoy it (although I have been told that my humor is a bit warped).

3. “The Fields

I love the idea of this poem. It’s a bit twisted, and as a writer, there’s little quite as gleeful for me as hiding coarse, inelegant meaning in poetic language.

2. “The People Paradox

The longer I live the truer this poem seems. I’m not really old enough to say that yet, but still…

1. “When IDEAS Attack

Finally, the post that started it all. You may not know this, but the very first post on this blog was an article (a slightly NSFW article at that). It’s a wonderful feeling for me to read it again 6 months later and enjoy it as much as I did when I first posted it on Weebly. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Here’s to another 6 months!

Time is short, but we go on
With words and thoughts and feelings.
I’ll keep on writing (please, forgive the slant rhyme)
And thanks so much for reading!


The Risks of Writing a Novel Online

            Although I do not follow a strict update schedule (other than something has to be added daily), those of you who have noticed my writing patterns may have expected a Wind Town update today. I do try to update both novels weekly, but I also haven’t assigned days to update each one. And that was a very deliberate choice.
           You see, there are several major risks to posting a novel online as I write it. One of the major risks is getting pretty far into it and realizing that I’ve gone in the wrong direction. I’ve seen this problem with several online comics over the years. They get to a certain point, and then, they just stop. I understand time commitment changes and things like that, but sometimes, the authors just wrote themselves into a corner or realized that they didn’t like where the comic was going anymore. I really don’t want to do that to these books, and having been through the experience, I really don’t want to do that to you readers.
           I can promise that if I run into that problem (knock on wood), the story won’t just stop. Instead, I’d make the necessary revisions and update the changes. Unfortunately, that may not be too pleasant for readers either.
           The goal is to avoid those revisions altogether – either by planning ahead or by finding ways to make any issues that come up work anyway. To do that, I really need to know where the story is going. Usually, I’m more of a discovery writer following a loose outline. The further I get into these stories, the more dangerous that method is going to be.
           That’s the main reason I haven’t dedicated myself to specific posting days for the novels. If I start to work on one of them and feel like I need to do more worldbuilding and planning before I try to post anything, then I would rather delay the post than mess up the story. I may mess it up anyway (it’s a challenging experiment), but if I do, I’m going to go down fighting.
           Thank you for bearing with me while I do.


Happy Belated Anniversary

            Well, the three month anniversary of this project skipped right by me (actually, the second one did, too). It’s hard to believe that it’s been 3 months already (and at the same time, it’s not hard at all). I wasn’t sure I’d make it this far, but although there have been some late posts (and some technical glitches), I’ve been pretty consistent about writing for this every day. Yay! Break out the party favors!
            It’s been a little strange – I don’t usually let anyone see my rough drafts as I’m writing, so that’s pretty nerve-wracking. I’m still not sure how far I’ll get before I break and go back and make revisions… But I’ve said that before (and probably will again). Other than typos, it hasn’t happened… yet.
            Also, writing and posting each morning means that my brain tends to focus on the same subject matter. I have been trying hard not to give you too many poems and short stories about needing more sleep or caffeine. That’s about all my brain wants to think about first thing. If you see me trending in that direction a lot, feel free to let me know. If it becomes too much of a struggle, I may end up switching it to nightly posts, so be forewarned about that possibility.
            On the plus side, I did get some short stories up. I didn’t get any plays written for this yet, so that’s my goal for the next round. Since the major goal is to keep the experiment going for at least a year, I have 9 months to get a play added. (I shouldn’t have told myself that.)
            And, of course, the most important part of an anniversary: Thank you all again for reading! You guys are awesome! It’s so exciting to know that people are reading these posts, and I’d love to hear from you! Seriously, you’re welcome to send me prompts or comments at any time. If I get super ambitious (or find some free time stacked away somewhere), I may put up a survey or something. But for now, thanks for reading, and I hope you keep enjoying the random things I write!

Sorry for the Delay

Sorry for the late posts the last few days! I have been working on other projects with deadlines and nearly forgot to write for twytte both days. I will try to be more disciplined about posting in the morning. This morning’s post is almost ready and will be along soon. Thanks for your patience!

Facing Reality about Writing a Horror Story While You Watch

            The more I plan Bloodletting, the more I begin to think publishing it piece-by-piece as I write it is a bad idea. It needs to be much more orchestrated than the other two novels. Publishing one detail out of turn and finding out three posts later that the reader shouldn’t know that yet could dramatically change the overall effect of the plot – which could give you a bad experience with what I think could be a really good story. I don’t want to risk that if I don’t have to (and I don’t).
            Plotting out the details to slowly build each twist and turn to the level that the story deserves will be enough of a challenge (it’s a new level of intricacy for me), so Bloodletting is not going to be part of the daily post-as-I-write experiment for the foreseeable future. Sorry about that. I’ll probably post updates or more tidbits related to it later. I’ll definitely post something when I finish it (an announcement at least).
            I’m still not 100% sure this method will work for Deathwalker and Wind Town for the whole process, but I will keep updating those as part of the experiment for as long as it does work. And I will continue trying to write without modifying already-published scenes. After all, this is meant to stretch my brainpower and strengthen my writing skills. I have to make it at least somewhat different from how I usually write.
            On the plus side, having one fewer novel will free up more time for short stories, plays, and possibly more frequent novel updates (no promises). That said, sorry again for the change in plans, and thank you for your interest in these stories. I hope you enjoy them.


Genre Issues: Bloodletting

            Of the three novels I started here (or novellas, who knows?), one has proved much more challenging to move forward with than the others. The goal was to try out three different genres: science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
            The science fiction and fantasy have been much easier to move forward with (ideas, purpose, overall plot focus, etc). I think the reason is familiarity and complication level. I’m definitely more familiar with science fiction and fantasy, and while some books in those genres have extremely intricate plots, others don’t. It depends on how many twists, turns, and dramatic reveals the author wants the book to have. If that isn’t the emphasis, you can move forward without too much planning.
            I’m not sure it’s possible to have a successful horror book without twists, turns, and dramatic reveals.
            As a result, I’ve been doing a great deal of research into the horror genre (with lots more to go) to help me feel a bit more grounded on reader expectations – especially what not to do. I may break those rules anyway, but I’ll have tried. Anyone who wants to share rules, favorite books/movies, etc, please, feel free. This is a genre I’ve never tried, and it requires a level of intricacy that hasn’t been my usual style so far. While I truly believe that writing challenges are good for a writer’s brain and skills, I also know that listening to other perspectives and techniques is very beneficial (seriously, I will take whatever tips/links you want to give).
            You see, to make matters worse for myself, when I finally came up with a focus I like for the horror story, it turned out to be something that I don’t know much about. So that’s requiring a good amount of research, too. That’s partly because it may require an ensemble cast. Like usual, my brain isn’t taking the easy road when it comes to ideas.
            This may be the one that makes me break the revision rule.
            In any case, I haven’t posted on this story since July 3rd, (and it didn’t even have a working title at that point) so here is a refresher before we move on:

Bloodletting 0

            Cinnamon and blood. The warm spicy aroma once associated with cake and cookies mixed with the metallic wrongness until the once bright room blurred and bile burned its way up the back of her throat.
            Sudden pain in her head broke through the dizziness, and when she reached one shaking hand to her forehead, she realized that somehow she had ended up on the floor. She immediately pushed up to her feet only to stumble backwards, hitting the counter hard with her shoulders before sliding down the smooth cupboards to the cold tile. The shaking made the dizziness worse, and the quivering weakness of her muscles made the fear spread through her like blood.
            The reminder brought the smell back so strongly that she would have whimpered if she’d had the strength. There was something… Her shattered mind didn’t want to remember, so the images came like flashes of light through a murky haze. Unwillingly, she turned her head to the right and the pooling horror lying there. Tears and bile swelled as her small body shuddered. Gasping breaths racked her as she spun back and desperately tried to crawl away from the desecration of her childhood.
            Every inch was a struggle as she forced trembling muscles to reach and pull. She didn’t hear the footsteps or the hissing curse, but the warm drops down her face made her raise her head and whimper.
            “Mom.”


Me? An Artist?

             I never thought of myself as an artist. Maybe, growing up in rural, conservative Ohio, I got this from the image that artists are flighty people who shirk responsibility and live with their heads in the clouds.
Don’t get me wrong – the opinion wasn’t that overt, and that it existed at all is ironic since I have several relatives who make their living mainly through one artform or another. Interestingly enough, I don’t know that they think of themselves as artists either. They consider it very much a business and are more likely to reference their careers in those terms.
Possibly because they grew up in rural Ohio with the same conservative image in their heads.
To be clear, when I say, “artist,” I mean anyone who focuses a large amount of their life on a creation: graphic art, music, dance, theatre, woodcarving, jewelry, etc. I don’t make a distinction between quote unquote high arts and low because from what I’ve seen, that’s a cultural construct to separate the upper and lower classes – or simply raise prices.
But that’s an argument for another time.
I’ve dabbled in many of these arts over the years. My family is what you’d call crafty. I learned to sew buttons before I was 7, I knew how to crochet (badly) by high school, and I’ve sung before I could read. I’ve studied drawing, dance, dramatics, writing, pottery, and more. I enjoy all of it, and when I have an image in my head that I need to make real, I use whatever medium works with the image. Some work better than others, and the only two I’ve ever done well at are music, writing, and dance.
Up until the past year, that’s the limit of how I thought of art. It was a pleasure that everyone should experience. It was a honed skill to be highly respected. It was a requirement of life. Despite that, I did not think of myself as an artist. Having those opinions didn’t make me a flighty, ditzy shirker.
Stereotypes are hard to shake, especially when you don’t realize you have them.
Then, for reasons too long for this post, I decided to dedicate my time outside of work to some of those arts: mostly music and writing. I applied for and got 2 jobs with entry-level pay and M-F banker’s hours so that I could pay bills and also have time to focus on those arts.
I still didn’t think of myself as an artist. I guess I’m dense.
It wasn’t until I was sitting at my standard, reliable job with absolutely nothing to do that I had the eureka moment. I had already made up all the work I could think of, and I was out of ideas. Everything was up-to-date, and I had to wait on others to get back to me before I could do anything else. Well, I was raised old-fashioned, and if I’m getting paid, I feel like I should be working.
You and I both know that there are slow days in any business. If the managers had accepted that and given the ok to write or whatever so long as I was ready for customers when they arrived, that would be different. As it was, I was stuck doing someone else’s make-work (a total waste of time done solely for my hourly wage), and all I could think was that I could be doing something important with that time.
Like working on my music or my writing.
I resented every moment that draining, dull, pointless work took away from my life. Every second of it was a waste of time, and the frustration built and built with each hour and each day that I was faced with it. In that moment of frustration and resentment, I understood why an artist would quit a perfectly “good” job once they’d earned enough to buy their paints or materials. Their real job is the art – not the frustrating hourly wage they put up with to fund their art. Every instant spent putting energy into something that painful and pointless – instants that could have been poured into making something I care about – takes a will and determination for internal struggle that I had never realized.
I guess there’s more artist in me than I thought.


What It’s All About

A couple of years ago, I started writing again after a big gap. Writing was always fun and easy (relatively) for me, so I wasn’t worried about getting back to it. Well, it was harder than I thought. I didn’t end up writing whatever I was trying to write that day. I wrote this instead.

            I’ve heard many people say that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. After too many years of wasting mine, I can only say that a mind is a terrible thing to waste away. I tried to think today, and I felt like someone who’s been lying in a hospital bed for months, trying to get up and walk. I can remember being able to do it, but my body doesn’t remember how.
            I used to think. Honest. I remember being able to think. To reason, even. I remember being able to create words on a page, create stories, bring what I imagined to life. I swear I used to do that. Now, I’m staring at this page thinking… Well, trying to think. Mostly I’m staring at the page. Head in my hands, I’m looking at the screen as if I expect it to do tricks. I know it requires my input. Words will not appear on the page if I continue to sit and stare at it. That would be nice (pretty awesome and freaky, actually), but it’s not going to happen.
            So how to relearn to think? The hospital patient would get physical therapy for their muscles and weight training to build then up again. I picture weight training for the brain, and all I get is an image of a hand weight in a pile of gelatinous goo. Oops. That’s not it. Maybe it would be reading serious books, well-written books with big words in them. Maybe I should do math problems. Heck, maybe I just need to write. Write everyday. Write and write and write whatever crap comes out until it starts to be good again.
            And hope it’s not too late.

That’s what this blog is about.


When IDEAS Attack

             Anyone with the smallest creative bent has had that moment when an IDEA kidnaps your focus. And I do mean IDEA. Not a measly little idea that makes you think, “That would be cool,” but a Russian dominatrix IDEA that grabs you by the balls and demands fulfillment now and on her terms. Metaphorically, speaking. The point is you will do it, and you will do it now.

            This is when the artist becomes the slave to the art, and it’s not the type of moment that happens conveniently behind closed doors when you ask politely for inspiration. No, IDEAS come from outside stimulus. Whether it’s a Youtube video of a band, a comment from your boss, or a passing action by a stranger, something about the turn of phrase or thought catalyzes a reaction in the brain and gives birth to a cerebral traffic cop, re-routing priorities and upsetting any plans or schedules. This could be a brief delay or an entire detour that you cannot escape without consequences.

            Let’s say you’re in the weekly office meeting, and in your boss’s prepared comments, some offhand remark flips the IDEA switch. Suddenly, you’re designing in your mind: colors, shapes, sounds, and textures. You’re adding layers: shaping, melding, removing, and shifting until a rough model glows in your mind with context and materials, notes and lyrics, shadows and light. Your body may still be in the meeting, your eyes open, but your awareness and your sight are so completely internal that only when that rough draft is done, the IDEA sated, are you again aware of the reality around you.

            Shit, he’s still talking. How much did I miss? How long did that take?

            It’s no wonder much of society thinks that artists are ditzy and flighty. So often, we can’t even have a conversation without getting lost in our own minds. Even those with artistic bents who’ve had occasional IDEAS consider the frequency of artists’ side trips self-indulgent and weak-willed. But when you have dedicated yourself to an art, when that is your career and your focus, IDEAS are the moments you live for. They are the treasure you struggle to find buried in yourself as you work and sweat in your home. They’re the dropped coins on the street that hunger has trained you to look for or the forgotten child that you shelter from the world.

            IDEAS are an artist’s career. Focusing on one in conversation is like excusing yourself for a business call. Ignoring one is like a retail clerk ignoring a customer to talk to a friend. You can’t guarantee when another customer will come or that another one will come at all. It may be rude, but it’s both the business we’ve chosen and a result of how we’ve trained our minds to see.

             Unfortunately, stepping out for a moment (mentally) is still easier for most people to understand and accept than the second, stronger kind of IDEA. This isn’t the brief delay where you seem to space out for a minute and then come back. No, this kind of IDEA is even more consuming and cannot be appeased by a rough draft or few moments of thought. It must be explored now, created now.

            My first experience with this strength of inspiration came in my Junior year of high school. My English teacher drifted off-topic and told us a personal story that touched a chord in me and fired a need to create that I had never experienced before. It was a poem. It hadn’t been written yet – it didn’t exist in any way, shape, or form – but I knew it was a poem. I had to write it. It wasn’t something I could ignore or put off, I had to write it then. Like a compulsion or spell, it pulled at me and commanded I obey, or I knew the poem would be gone forever.

            I wrote through that class and the next and the next. I forced myself to write class notes on one side, as quickly as possible, while the poem took form on the other. Even then, I don’t think I really heard or understood what anyone said to me, it passed through a part of my brain and on to the paper even as the rest of my mind shaped and sculpted words and lines to appease the fever that held me.

            When the last line finally sat on the page, that terrible pressure disappeared like a rough storm at sea finally releasing a battered ship. Disoriented, dazed, the crew recovers and slowly starts putting the ship to rights, returning to normal life. My classmates may have thought I was drugged or ditzy, I don’t know. I only remember feeling drained as I emerged from my mind and took in the world again. Maybe an exorcism is a better example, and the spirit possessing me finally fled. The stories of séances where the ghost takes over the host’s hand and writes until his/her story has been communicated to the world certainly rings with the feeling of that compulsion.

            Not that I blame IDEAS on ghosts.

            But that compulsion to create shows the strength of this kind of inspiration. Ignoring one can be painful both in resisting the compulsion (think of an addict resisting their drug of choice) and in trying to recreate it later, at a more convenient time. For those who cherish the art inside us, trying to breathe fire into embers of what was (you swear!) a really good idea and being unable to rekindle it to equal flame is another pain and grief.

            So the next time you see someone staring off into space or scribbling on a napkin and muttering, know that you are watching an IDEA attack and pay your respects to the artist in its thrall.


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