Monthly Archives: February 2019

Getting Stuff Out There

Since I wrote last, mostly what I’ve been working on is trying to find a home for Heretic Blood rather than creating anything new. I’ve just not been successful at finding a regular time when I have both the minutes and the energy to keep working at the new project, so I’m trying to be successful at something else. Querying is a little easier to fit into briefer windows and pick away at when I can, so hopefully I can be at least a bit productive over the next while this way.

That’s not to say it isn’t difficult, because it absolutely is. Finding the right people to query is hard. Writing a good query is devilish. Hitting send is (for me) the hardest thing of all.

It’s kind of silly, because all I’m doing is sending writing to people who want to receive writing, but I also know that they are either going to say Yes or No to my story and, of course, I’m fairly heavily invested in that Yes. I think putting your work out there for judgment is always hard, because you’ve done your best with it, woven part of your soul into it, and then people will either like it or they won’t, and if they don’t, it’s never going to feel like nothing.

It is something common to basically all art. At some point, you put the picture up on the wall, or put the pages in front of someone, or get up on the stage, and you see what they think. That act takes courage, no matter what the context may be.

And yes, absolutely, you can write just for your own enjoyment and never do anything with what you create and you’re still a writer. I take great joy and satisfaction in the act of writing and I’m pretty sure I would do it even if I knew that absolutely zero people would ever read it. On the other hand, I have always wanted to share my stories, and hope that people would like them. It has never been easy, giving my story to people, whether a single individual or sending it off to a professional that I hope will like it.

But, I believe that stories want to be told, and read.

Get your stuff out there.

It’s a little scary.

Your art is worth it.

Thanks for reading.

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Starting Points

Struggling a bit for a topic this week, so you’re going to get something from Evan’s Barrel of Random Writing Thoughts. Enjoy?

Anyway, I read some conversations talking about the starting point for a new story. A lot of very good points were made about starting with the protagonist, what they want, and how they’re going to get it. Or a character, their challenge, and how they feel about it. You establish those things, and then you can start writing. And it makes perfect sense, and is perfectly sound.

On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever followed that process. The story that became The King in Darkness started with the ending scene. I had that ending in mind, and built the rest of the story backwards from there. What characters do I need, and what circumstances can construct the path that gets us to that point? Very different process.

For the story I’m working on now (for some values of ‘working on’), my starting point was an article I read on the BBC website talking about how FTL travel is not only impossible with current technology, and current ideas about technology, but is probably just straight-out impossible, even allowing for tech we haven’t thought of yet. ‘Well that’s no fun,’ I thought, and then proceeded to think about how well, if it can’t be done with science, how could it be done? Magic, obviously. That idea, and my hard SF-writing friend’s probable reaction to it, made me smile, and I created all the rest of what I’ve got from there. There’s dragons now. Very different process. As far as I can recall, I don’t think I’ve ever started from the starting point a lot of authors I respect agreed was their baseline for being ready to write. Man, creativity is endlessly fascinating.

And look, none of this is to say that I’m doing it right, or that I’m clearly doing something wrong. The main reason I mention this is just as yet another piece of evidence in the growing case that there is no Correct process for writing, or even a Correct part of the writing process. There’s only what works for you, and what doesn’t work for you, and even that may change from project to project. There’s certainly something to be said for modelling what other artists do, especially if you admire their work or if you feel like you don’t know how to proceed. At the same time, there’s no need to feel constrained by what other artists do, or to feel bad about your own process if it’s different. In the end, all that matters is that the creation happens.

God, that’s perilously close to advice. We’ll stop here. Thanks for reading.

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Stormy Night

As I write this, a pretty big winter storm is just getting started outside my window. It seems as though it’s going to lay a pretty big sock of snow, ice, and wind on us before it finishes up sometime tomorrow. I’m fortunate to be home and safe inside, writing this with my stupid cats. And tomorrow, I’ll shovel out from what the storm threw down on me, and everything will continue on.

It kind of fits nicely with how I’ve been feeling, writing-wise, the last while. I haven’t really figured out how to fit regular writing into my schedule this term, so I haven’t been real productive, which is always a bit of a downer, especially when I had a nice stretch of momentum for a while.

And if I allow myself to compare to the things I can observe other writers are doing, with publications coming out, awards being won, and new deals being signed, it’s easy to think that I can’t possibly get there. It’s easy to think that I could just stop, and that maybe that would be kind of a relief, to not be worrying about my writing, any more.

However, if I follow that trail of thought along, I always reach the point where I remember that I absolutely don’t want to stop, because I love to write. I love to create imaginary people and places, and I feel a kind of joy I don’t get anywhere else when I’m doing it. So, no matter how the rest of it works out, if it ever does, it doesn’t matter because I still love to write. Things will either flow from that, or they won’t, and it’s ok because the joy is still going to be there.

So, yeah, kind of like the weather today. When the storm of a busy schedule and rest-of-life stress blows out for a while, I’ll dig out and get back at the writing, just like I always do. It’s important to remember that I’m not writing *because* I want the publication deal or whatever else (although: clearly won’t say no, heh), I write because I love to write. That’s mine. It’s what is always going to be left, no matter how the rest of it breaks.

Tonight I’ll enjoy watching the storm from a safe place, and think about how to get back to crafting something new out of nothing at all in the morning.

Thanks for reading.

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Power

This is not really even tangentially about writing, but what the heck – if you came for a tightly-focused blog I figure you ran screaming a long time ago. This one’s going to be about something connected to the start of a new school term, and a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago now. I was telling them about some interactions I had had with some students that seemed strange to me. My friend said the students were probably afraid of me.

I have to admit, at first I didn’t think that could be right. I don’t think of myself as being intimidating, and I certainly never set out to try to scare anyone. I like to think that I’m open and approachable – but then, probably everyone does. I didn’t immediately see how I could be the sort of person that someone would find frightening, but (as my friend pointed out) as a teacher, I do exert (some) control over an education my students are presumably taking seriously, and what happens in their studies can have very real effects for things like scholarships, further academic placements, and job opportunities.

So despite my first reaction, the idea stuck around for me, and I started to think about my interactions with students in a way I hadn’t before. Which brings us to the present day, when I know my friend was right. I think I’ve gotten to the point where I understand interactions that I used to think were just awkward, or perhaps even that the student was being disrespectful, and interpret it differently. On what I still think are relatively rare instances, I have students who do find me intimidating.

When I read that off them, I try very hard to slow things down, be as reassuring as I can and emphasize that whatever concerns the student has are valid to me. I like to think I always do that, but you can always turn an extra light on things. I think, and hope, that this has made me a better teacher. I definitely think in a different way about my position relative to the students: I have an obligation to be fair in everything I do, and to help them learn of course, but also I need to actively create a circumstance where they feel comfortable interacting with me.

I guess the point I’m thinking of tonight is that even when we don’t necessarily realize it, most of us do have various kinds of power that we may be using without thinking about it as much as we might. To a reasonably humble extent, I do have a position of power over the students in my classroom. I think it’s important to recognize that, and to do our best to use the power we have kindly, when we can. I can’t necessarily prevent my students from ever finding me a little intimidating, at first, but I am pleased when, by the end of our time together, I can tell that they’re seeing me differently and bringing me their issues with confidence and comfort.

We’ve all got power. Let’s try to be kind with it.

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